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September 24, 2010

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I've been figuring I should keep my sf-related posting down, since, of course, I could do dozens of links a day on sf-related issues.

I've been aching to post this in someone's open thread, just because...

We wonder, in our ObWi (and related) worlds, how it can be that so much of the electorate seems dumber than a bag of hammers, willfully so. Let me tell you an absolutely true story.

I work for a major financial-services company. An honest one. You'd recognize the name. My department is fixers, usually of customer screw-ups, sometimes of the company's. Its up to us to figure out what the customer actually wants and get it done with the least pain to the client and the least risk to the company.

A couple of weeks ago, we got a letter from a customer, along with copies of two different quarterly statements for his mutual fund. During one quarter, the account went up; in the other, it went down. He said he wanted to transfer the assets in the "bad" account into the "good" account. Really, truly, I am NOT making this up! So we wrote him back, sorry, what you want to do can't be done.

Yesterday we got another letter, in which the same guy said "perhaps I didn't make myself clear..."

So I sent him another letter...

Not suggesting I have any knowledge that the guy's a tea partier, but talk about "low information..."

@ gary farber
I've been figuring I should keep my sf-related posting down, since, of course, I could do dozens of links a day on sf-related issues.

And then you'll get my daughter involved. She has kind of dropped off ObWi since Hilzoy left.

A work song for the New Class.

...dumber than a bag of hammers...

How long will it be before "but I wore the juice" becomes a saying, I wonder.

About 16,800 results.

16,800? A mere bagatille.

[I can't remember the play that line is from; something by Tom Stoppard? Boy, this is obscure even for me.]

By the way, Doctor Science, nice link. I wonder whether von will enjoy it.

I don't read ML or CT as often as I'd like, mostly because they have way more extensive comment threads than here, but just like here, it's the comments that really make the site. Slacktivist I do read but again, don't make it into the comments.

I am not heavily into SF fandom but am of course a fan, although in late years I tend to do more reading of history than SF. It's kind of the same thing. All history was The Shiny Future to someone at some time, before it very briefly became Stuff That Is Just Happening and then became History. And in fact History is most closely approximated not by Science, as is usually thought, but by Fiction. History is a story about the past that may or may not bear a close resemblance to what actually happened.

I'm inapt to participate in cross-contact with ML since I was delisted as a Friend when there were only five blogs listed, and banned there, many years ago.

Doctor Science: Am I supposed to be monitoring all posts for Evil Trolls and Spammongers? Or just the comments to posts I make?

If you have the permissions I have, you don't have the ability to delete or edit comments on other people's posts anyway, so I wouldn't worry about it. I guess you could email people if you see something egregious, I think you have everyone's address.

I should be a bit more active now I am getting into the swing of things at my new job.

With regards to Stargate TV Series, I've come to the conclusion that Richard Dean Anderson made the show. I never found much use for seasons 9 or 10 of SG-1 and gave up on Atlantis after not-long.

I tried watching SG-Universe and the Season 1 finale was gratifying except that several characters were still alive at the end of it.

Not suggesting I have any knowledge that the guy's a tea partier, but talk about "low information..."

Since I was neck-deep in BSG the last time a new person came on board, I referred to said new person for a while as "the nugget". We now have a new employee where I work, and this employee seems to be some variety of conservative or another. So naturally he became "the wingnugget".

Wingnugget is... technically competent but not very smart, from what I can tell. On his second day here--we're an IT company with a fairly Microsoft-esque culture--he decided it would be an awesome idea to wear an Obamunism t-shirt. The next day, we had been discussing public transit, Tim Eyman's name came up, and I expressed my scatological opinion of that destructive jackass--which immediately prompted the wingnugget to start ranting about taxes and "Obama's health care".

To say that he was low-information is being kind. His complaint was that Obama's health care plan was turning the government into a big HMO. I challenged him to back that up, and he said it was in the bill. I said no, it's not, and again challenged him to tell me where he found that. He couldn't, and I had to repeatedly point out that as the person making an assertion, the burden was on him to back it up, not on me to conjure up proof that something doesn't exist.

So when we get back, he sends me a link to an article about insurance companies eliminating policies for children rather than be forced to cover pre-existing conditions, supposedly as some kind of example of how bad "Obamacare" is. In response to me pointing out that it's not at all surprising coming from an industry whose profits depend on denying medical care, he suggested that--I kid you not--maybe the insurance companies were colluding with the government to get things to a point where people had no choice but to rely on the government for health care.

Chew on that a moment.

Or just the comments to posts I make?

Hmmm. If this were the case, my job here would be easy.

I don't know from permissions, but I can do as I please with comments. I can make them into a hat, or a brooch, or a pterodactyl...

I am not heavily into SF fandom but am of course a fan

I would normally call myself a fan, but I think avid reader of some flavors of SF is probably more accurate, given what actual fans do that I don't (I don't even know the jargon for some of it, but at least part of it is actually attending conventions from time to time).

I've been reading science fiction since I first picked up Have Space Suit, Will Travel, promptly read everything else by Heinlein in our school library, and then devoured such SF as was in the juvenile section in the public library.

And then came Neal Stephenson, who hooked me on his ever-morphing fiction until he swung me all the way around and I wound up getting hooked on history.

And somewhere along the way I actually got my dad to read (and like!) The Mote In God's Eye.

I don't read ML

I don't read Making Light because the Nielson-Haydens came out of Race Fail 09 looking like crazy racists. I can't imagine why anyone who wasn't a crazy racist would want to associate themselves with the Nielson-Haydens by posting on the same blog as them, but people always manage to surprise me.

As far as your job, since you chose to accept it, a couple of observations. First, the spam has changed, so that it is less jarring to the eye, with the link hidden in the posted by: link, so the amount of effort that it takes to note and eliminate them is much greater, so I don't think anyone will begrudge the fact that you aren't a spam killing machine. Though it would be great if you could toss them out whenever you come across them, assuming that it is relatively easy to do as you are reading (I have no idea how this blog interface works, so it may be a huge PITA to switch from reader mode to admin mode)

I generally like the CT model where the poster is responsible for their own threads and participates actively in them and everyone realizes that the poster is well within their rights to kick someone off just because they are pissing them off. It reinforces the notion that it is individuals you are talking to and not some conglomerate that can be held up as evil because there are differences in the way different posters behave. It corresponds much better to the real world, everyone has their subjects that they really get exercised over, so you don't have some blanket permission to piss people off, you actually have to take into account that person's stances.

The side benefit of that is that you know your own threads pretty well and you can keep your finger on the pulse, which helps head off flame wars before they happen. It comes with the downside that if the conversation enters into some area that you, as the poster are not interested in, it puts the burden on you to keep up with it. Still, I think that model is a little more useful than the notion (fortunately rather rare here) of treating a post like an open box of cream cheese in the back of the fridge and returning to it in a week and moaning about how moldy it has gotten and complaining how this tells us a lot about the state of current discourse.

Not that this is directly applicable at this particular moment to ObWi, but with you and Jacob and the guest posting stylings of Gary, there seems to be some rethinking of the blog's identity, and I think those are things to consider.

@Hogan
A work song for the New Class.

I love it. Gonna' suggest it to my daughter as an alternative to Coulton's "Code Monkey" (she worships the stage Coulton plays on).
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E4TfDs9veis

@ Jacob Davies
All history was The Shiny Future to someone at some time, before it very briefly became Stuff That Is Just Happening and then became History.

Exactly!
When I was your age, we had books, and three TV networks (except in the towns where there were only two), and our TeeVees were black and white, and that's the way it was! and WE LIKED IT!
And I had an older cousin who had bought hundreds (literally) of scifi paperbacks, and stashed them in the attic when he finished them, and I raided the stash when I was 12-15 (before I discovered alternate entertainments, mostly Playboy)and absorbed Bradbury and Asimov and Heinlein and Frederic Brown (a special favorite!!) and a lot of crappy authors as well, and while I became a musician and writer, those books always stayed with me.

@Catsy
In my office, because we want to be following the market and general news, there's a TV every second row. Some of them are on Fox all day. Thank the non-deity they're not allowed to have the sound up. We talk a lot of sports, weather, TeeVee; but there's a general sense that we leave politics in the car.

When I was your age, we had books, and three TV networks

When I was a kid, we didn't have Excel or Matlab or any of that stuff. And we didn't have laser printers, either. What we had was this: graphics programs that you wrote yourself, in Tektronix graphics language or HP pen-plotter language. On the HP pen-plotter, there were actual pens that this little arm would reach out and grab, depending on what color you had selected for the axes, the curves, etc. It would grab that pen and start drawing.

Later, laser printers were invented and a whole punch of cool programs that just enabled you to printyour charts on these new, fantastically expensive laser printers. And then cut-and-paste, so you could embed your charts electronically instead of the more literal cut-and-paste or scotch-taping. And of course you can now draw simple figures instead of handing sketches off to the graphics design guy, going through umpty jillion iterations of fixing this spelling error plus the half-dozen new ones that somehow cropped up on the last edit cycle, having it finally get printed out and...out come the scissors and tape so you can embed it in a document.

I try to impress on my kids how much awe they should be in every day, for having a computer that actually fits under a small writing desk (as opposed to occupying most of the kitchen and living room) but they just roll their eyes and say "Oh, Dad".

When I was your age, we didn't even have word processors or email. If you wanted to write a memo, you wrote it up with pen and paper, gave it to the secretary and she would (if you were nice to her) type it up and make Xerox copies of it, and then put a copy in each of the recipients' mailbox.

Not email box. Those hadn't been invented yet. I mean, there was Unix mail, but you couldn't get your secretary-typed memos there.

And when I was your age, we didn't have this high speed internet thingy. We did the bulk of our computer at the ARC in Huntsville, AL via a 2400 baud modem line. Needless to say, output had to be...limited, in order for it to make it to the printer in a span of time not measured in days. We did have printers, but they were giant, noisy dot-matrix affairs that could quickly inflict permanent hearing damage if you spent any time around them.

But we did have color monitors: they displayed in green and black. Or amber and black, if you were using a VT240-ish model.

Don't even get me started on punch cards or the times I had to use an actual, literal TTY.

I try to impress on my kids how much awe they should be in every day, for having a computer that actually fits under a small writing desk (as opposed to occupying most of the kitchen and living room) but they just roll their eyes and say "Oh, Dad".

Wooo, I think Slart has taken the undisputed lead in the 'hopelessly optimistic' race. The thing that really puts him out there is that he's taken the time to list stuff. 'I know if I just explain one more point that they should realize that they will be convinced'. Don't ever change :^)

"Nielson-Haydens"

Just for the record, it's "Nielsen Haydens." No hyphen, no "o."

Slart:

I would normally call myself a fan, but I think avid reader of some flavors of SF is probably more accurate, given what actual fans do that I don't (I don't even know the jargon for some of it, but at least part of it is actually attending conventions from time to time).
You might say you're not an actifan, to use now slightly old-fashioned terminology.

But going to conventions has never been a requirement to be active in sf fandoms. Some of the most famous sf fans never, or only very rarely ever, attended conventions, but were active through fanzines. Naturally, this was the only way fans could be active from 1930-1937, the period between the first fanzine and the first sf convention, although fandom itself started in April, 1926, with the first issue of Amazing, and its lettercolumn. In 1934 came Gernsback's Science Fiction League.

Anyway, call yourself a fan as much as you want; there's no test to pass, nor ruling body to issue accreditation.

LJ: "I have no idea how this blog interface works, so it may be a huge PITA to switch from reader mode to admin mode"

It's just a couple of clicks. Typepad will give you a dashboard set of links at the top of the blog. One click on that to go to Typepad itself, and then one click to go to ObWi's actual Dashboard.

And, yes, the spam to watch out for is all about generic messages and a commercial URL. It's terribly easy to spot them when one knows what to look for, though.

I agree with all the rest of your points, LJ.

I am, incidentally, no longer a guest blogger, but an Actual ObWi Blogger. Who doesn't have a SuperUser password to update the names on the sidebar.

As I said in another comment in another thread, I had been thinking an introductory post was a good idea, but was then having trouble of thinking what to say.

Subsequent to that, I earlier today concluded I'd do an open post as an introduction, and had it about 2/3rds done, when it became superfluous, so I'll do it next time there's a spot for a new open thread.

So, efgoldman, do you have From These Ashes?

I'm older than Slarti, but younger than efgoldman, but my experiences as above are much closer to ef's than Slart's.

When I was a lad I made heavy use of my manual typewriters, and carbon paper, as well as ditto masters, mimeo stencils, lettering guides, and electrostencils, and, of course, mimeo and ditto machines.

Many were the debates over whether Gestetner was superior to A. B. Dick or Roneo.

If you'd like a unique typewriter.

Why the sale? Because.

Oh, did I mention that I was one of those AV geeks in high school, in addition to being a science geek, a chess geek and a jock?

I am no stranger to the beauty that is the smell of mimeo solvent. Ah, the days I spent running off copy after blessed copy, breathing that heavenly scent in and out. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

We also had this machine that scanned an original and made an ink stencil by sparking a hole through it with an electrode. It just slowly scanned the original, round and round on a drum, with (I'm guessing, here) a rather narrow field of view photocell, and when that cell saw black, it placed a fairly high voltage on a probe that was tracing lightly on the surface of the stencil, which was on the same drum IIRC.

When it was done, you took the stencil, clamped it to something that dispensed ink through it in some way that was always mysterious to me, and just ran off a lot of copies. That was what you used to get high quality reproductions.

We didn't have a copier, I think. Or it was too expensive to use for hundreds of copies.

Oh: also: real live movie projectors that used film and all. Mostly, though, I spent my time doing printing and replacing film and overhead projector light bulbs.

"I am no stranger to the beauty that is the smell of mimeo solvent. Ah, the days I spent running off copy after blessed copy, breathing that heavenly scent in and out."

I expect you're referring to the solvent of ditto fluid, not mimeo ink. The alcohol-based fluid that most often was used with purple masters in schools, though true artists knew where to find the green, red, yellow, blue, and others available colored masters.

"We also had this machine that scanned an original and made an ink stencil by sparking a hole through it with an electrode."

An electrostenciler; used them many a time, though mostly we'd do a page of illos and then cut and hand paste the illo into the typed stencil. Those didn't come into general use in fandom until the mid/late Sixties, though for a long time the technique overlapped with hand-stenciling art directly onto the stencil, using boards and styli, which made for a particular tradition of sf fanzine art.

"When it was done, you took the stencil, clamped it to something that dispensed ink through it in some way that was always mysterious to me, and just ran off a lot of copies."

That would be a mimeograph, be it of Gestetner, Dick, Roneo, or other variety. I'll stop before I start discussing the pros and cons of various models, hope to pull the ink gun from a Gestetner and clean it, the merits of flatbed versus silk screen (silk screen is better!), and so on.

Ah. Figures you would know these things.

Ditto machine...the head rush is understandable, then.

Thanks for clearing that up, Gary.

Technically a "spirit duplicator."

@ Gary Farber
So, efgoldman, do you have From These Ashes?

I don't, no, but I pointed my (almost 30 y.o.) daughter to it.

So, is this now officially the ObWi OldFarts post?

Maybe we ought to have one every day, and make all those kids (those of you under 50) get off our lawn.

[and I can hear the rest of you in my mind's ear shrieking oooooooohhhhhhhh nooooooooooooooooooossssssssss!!]

I was trying to make the rush/ditto thing work; Epic Fail, instead.

Department of Can't Stop Myself, You See, You Fool, How Dangerous It Is To Get Me Started?: Mimeos are much the superior technology, particularly because you could typically run off two or more thousand copies before a stencil would typically be apt to tear. You might even get as many as ten thousand copies out of a mimeo stencil.

But a spirit duplicator/ditto master will give out after a few hundred copies, usually starting to fade at around 300 or so copies, and continuing to fade with each successive copie.

On the other hand, it was easier to cut up your variously colored ditto masters to make for easier multi-colored illustrations in ditto than it was to do multi-colored mimeo, because for the latter you'd have to send the pages back through the machine for each separate color, after you'd used a color change kit on the mimeo to switch ink containers and ink guns.

In sf and early comic and monster fandom, thus, dittoed fanzines were not uncommon in the Fifties and Sixties, though they pretty much dwindled away by the early Seventies.

One of the rarer of hundreds of dittoed zines I used to have in my collection was a dittoed zine by a 13-year-old Gene Klein, better known as Gene Simmons.

The truly remarkable reproduction method was hektograph, in which you use a small pan of jelly, and can make no more than about 50 useable copies, but in the most gorgeous colors. Mae Strelkov, an Argentinian fan, did extraordinary work.

The small sf fanzine fan convention is named "Corflu," the shortened term fandom always used for mimeograph stencil correction fluid. The even smaller alternative sf fanzine convention is named "Ditto."

"I was trying to make the rush/ditto thing work; Epic Fail, instead."

No, I got it. I just don't tend to mention my lulz unless they're spectactular.

Gary, you are, officially and otherwise, now the King Of All Geeks!

I mean, you have somehow surpassed my daughter, who actually did a middle-earth family tree and, seperately, a thematic analysis of the music from the first LOTR movie.

Free for nothing, just 'cause she wanted to.

But ditto vs mimeo vs spirit? Having used all those things myself, and consigned them to the dustbin of memory decades ago, I can only bow before your superior geekitude!

Oh, heck, ef, any active sf fan of the thirties, forties, fifties, sixties, or seventies, could tell you any of this, as well as many more fans or other people who have subsequently read about it, which is to say, at the very least, some tens of thousands of people.

Now if you want the more obscure stuff, I'd have to move from, say, your daughter's middle-earth family tree to my once having most of the major first Tolkien zines of the sixties, including dozens of copies of some of its earlier issues, given to me by the editor, to the people I know who met Tolkien.

But I can get much much geekier than that. Explaining the distinctions of Numbered Fandoms, say.

I think I'm older than Gary and Slarti, and just a shade younger than efgoldman.

Like Slarti, I learned to program on an actual electromechanical teletype, storing programs on coiled yellow paper punchtape -- studying numerical analyis algorithms for math, we wrote programs in IBM BASIC running under MVS/TSO on a small 360 mainframe. Subsequently studied engineering computation in FORTRAN on punched cards and Com Sci data structures and algorithms in PL/I on punched cards.

I still keep a small supply of punch cards in my desk, for emergencies.

In my first job after college I used a line editor, probably "ed", under RT/11 running on a little DEC PDP-11/40 lab computer, with ferrite toroid core memory. We tended to print out hardcopy code listings along with a log file or two, and study these entrails at our desks before returning to the lab to wait for available time on one of the two terminals.


Slarti, if you actually survived Stephenson's Baroque Cycle (I liked it), you should clear your calendar and get Dorothy Dunnett's Nicolo Rising and carefully read the first two hundred pages.

That "mah jongg download" comment is spam.

Why does everyone say "punch cards"? They are punched cards. Punched by a keypunch.

Ah, that they lived on to be used infamously in Florida. See the election episode of Making Fiends.

Punch your card right. Or you will be punched.

[ tongue half-way in cheek ]
An IBM card punch is a powered, desk-sized electro-mechanical machine. That's "a punch".

The cards in my desk have not yet been punched, so they're "punch cards" -- cards that can be punched. When someone punches them with a card punch, they become punched cards.
[ / tongue in cheek ]

I really wish I'd kept my JCL job control cards and the card deck for one or two programs.

face down, 9-row in

You guys are really old, I started on punch cards, but on a 360, (after being the av guy at school for a few years of course, my best friend was the only guy who carried a briefcase in the 8th grade).

But, now that I remember my geeks days, I really got to do a few cool firsts (as chronologically as I can remember).

I tested the an early prototype fax machine (for the military, shhhh) when it was essentially a mimeo machine and a few other knick knacks the Army needed.

Then I went to college, and went on to test the first TI990's, beta test the first Lisa, beta test the first Laserwriter,
then did the initial testing on the first VAX and the Stratus used in the field.

I did software reliability studies, trying
to define MTBF predictability (really MTBMA) of software for the Air force using over 3 million lines of Fortran code written on the Stratus(one application, bet that's valuable today)

Then I quit being a reliability engineer and became a full time CICS/IMS programmer.

26 years later I long for the simplicity of being a third shift JCL jock.

ral reminds me that the desk-sized electromechanical machine with the keyboard was properly "a keypunch", and that the other desk-sized electromechanical machine without a keyboard was properly "a cardpunch", and both were punches -- the cardpunch is where the assembler output went, since disk was far too valuable to be squandered on the storage of mere user programs.

If we're going to pay homage to the technology of our youth, let's do it thoroughly.

Yeah, I remember programming a PDP8 through a teletype terminal with punched paper tape (in high school), pounding out FORTRAN on punch cards (in college), and making "blueprints" of my drawings (at my first job). And the little HP 6-pen plotter (at my second job, some years later) still has a place in my mechanically-oriented heart.

But the two pieces of ancient technology I remember most fondly are the slide rule and the T-square.

I still, to this day, distrust calculators when it comes to orders of magnitude. Not the calculators themselves, really, but myself as the user. It's just too easy to miss a zero or misplace a decimal point. Never mind, of course, that hardly anything in real life requires even 3-digit precision. It's being off by an order of magnitude that will kill you.

As for the T-square: I mean to include the whole panoply of old-time drafting instruments. Some of the cleverest mechanisms I have ever designed, and some of the most complicated part drawings I have ever made, are from my drafting-board, pencil-on-vellum days. Not that I'd give up AutoCad or SolidWorks now, mind you. But I have seen more than my share of mechanical engineers and draftsmen whose mastery of a particular CAD program exceeded their understanding of how machines work or how to make a drawing readable.

Oh, well ... time to go out and yell at clouds.

--TP

@Turbulence:

I don't read Making Light because the Nielson-Haydens came out of Race Fail 09 looking like crazy racists. I can't imagine why anyone who wasn't a crazy racist would want to associate themselves with the Nielson-Haydens by posting on the same blog as them, but people always manage to surprise me.

Without wanting to replay RaceFail 09, let's just say that opinion is divided about who came out looking crazy and/or racist in that sprawling, emotional, complex and painful matter. There are people of good will doing good service to the cause of equality who ended up on both sides of that divide, and damaging, unpleasant personalities in both places as well.

Which is not to say You Must Read a given blog, or any other place, particularly if you personally have ended up with triggering associations about it. But I think you may be casting the net a little wide to label the entire community as "crazy racists".

But then, I would say that.

And belated congratulations, Doctor Science, on the gig! I look forward to your postings (and the subsequent conversations) here enough to live with the regret that you probably won't be around ML as much.

(My commenting and personal blogging died a death when I ended up on the front page of Making Light. That "Create Entry" box is a vampire, but, um, in a good way.)

Belatedly, ral: "A mere bagatille."

Did you perhaps mean "bagatelle"? Or I may be missing your reference.

Tony,

Technology of our youths? You mean like the Atari or the 286 with DOS 3? [Innocent look goes here]

(My mother was a CS major back when it was punch/ed cards)

Never mind, of course, that hardly anything in real life requires even 3-digit precision. It's being off by an order of magnitude that will kill you.

Global positioning is one of those that occasionally requires more than single precision floating-point accuracy. Which is roughly 7 decimal digits.

We could throw that in the hardly anything bin, I suppose.

Lot of whippersnappers with their 360's here. I learned Fortran on a 1620 - all chrome and tail fins. And don't you forget it!

Yes, Gary, the reference is to a character who adopts the mispronounced phrase. I wish I could remember the rest of the play!

[grumpy]
So if computers are so much better today, why does it take longer to boot Windows than it did to IPL MVS?
[/grumpy]

Yes, I know the answer.

Oh, the 1620, my first one too! A binary-coded-decimal machine with 60,000 digits (yes, exactly that many) of core memory. And blinking lights that were slow enough to read.

The model 1 required a low-core table to be loaded with correct values for the ADD instruction to work. The machine had the internal name CADET which supposedly stood for "can't add, doesn't even try."

"Lot of whippersnappers with their 360's here. I learned Fortran on a 1620 - all chrome and tail fins. And don't you forget it!"

I found freakin codgerville, at last I'm the whippersnapper.

I am fond of pointing out to people that, in college, I worked on one of the biggest computers in the world (a CDC 6600; anybody else even remember CDC?). 30 years later, you could get more processing power, and more memory, in the average el cheapo digital wrist watch! The user interface is lacking, of course, but the computer power is there.

It is kind of spooky, isn't it, wj? A high-end 360 with a room full of disks added up to maybe a few gigabytes of online storage. Nowadays I carry around 16 gigs in an iPod Nano.

It's because we live in the Future!

That's my view every day, at any rate.

Fans used to call it time-binding, a Korzybski General Semantics concept transmitted in inevitably simplistic fashion to sf fandom via the wacky A. E. van Vogt.

Live in the Future! Yes, live in the Future, now. It's right around the corner. It stops right here, to beautiful [this area].

When I was your age, we had books, and three TV networks (except in the towns where there were only two), and our TeeVees were black and white, and that's the way it was! and WE LIKED IT!

And there was UHF and VHF, and it actually mattered.

48 states and eight teams to a league, the way God intended. That is my platform, ladies and gentlemen.

Never mind, of course, that hardly anything in real life requires even 3-digit precision. It's being off by an order of magnitude that will kill you.

Ummm...I respectfully disagree.

There are lots of iterative numerical algorithms that go badly without a great deal more precision than three digits. There's a whole field of computer science called numerical analysis that focuses on how and when iterative numerical methods will go bad.

Sometimes the errors add up and sometimes they cancel. It's all a matter of knowing what to throw away and knowing what to keep. :-)

The Future! A fair for everyone, and no fair to anyone!

ral, you broke the President.

Oops!

I have accidentally wiped more than one disk in my time.

Affairs for everyone? That could get...complicated.

Affairs for everyone? That could get...complicated.

In the Future, there will be an app for that. If there isn't already.

In the past, there was a nomination.

"In the Future, there will be an app for that."

There's an app for that.

Without wanting to replay RaceFail 09, let's just say that opinion is divided about who came out looking crazy and/or racist in that sprawling, emotional, complex and painful matter. There are people of good will doing good service to the cause of equality who ended up on both sides of that divide, and damaging, unpleasant personalities in both places as well.

The fact that Race Fail 09 involved many people behaving badly has little to do with the fact that you chose to associate yourself with PNH and TNH; it is nothing but misdirection. A rational observer can only assume that you approve of their behavior, or at least don't find it particularly troubling. Which is very much your right, but surely that tells us something about your character.

But I think you may be casting the net a little wide to label the entire community as "crazy racists".

Oh, I'm certain they're not all crazy racists. Some are probably people who don't care one way or another about racism. Some are probably people who categorically reject evidence of poor character concerning people they like or admire. The effect is the same though: if PNH and TNH faced some sanction from people around them, then presumably their behavior during Race Fail would have improved.

I am, incidentally, no longer a guest blogger, but an Actual ObWi Blogger.

It's been a long time coming.

And I have to mention that it is completely awesome to have both you blogging and Elf commenting here, both of you being somewhat deservedly (in?)famous in certain circles of fandom. :)

I had to laugh at Slart's rant upthread. I'm pretty sure he's about a generation ahead of me, but it sounded like some of the things I've been saying to people in their 20's or younger.

Catsy, congratulations; I look forward to your first post.


As a (relative) youngster, I can't participate in the techno-nostalgia. It does occur to me that all those glorious old machines could be revived on an FPGA for a few dollars. I'm not sure what you nostalgics would do with a 360 running on a system the size of a cell phone, but surely we could try to resurrect one.

I tend to be a glass-half-empty, this-will-never-work kind of guy, but my basic feeling about the revolution in information technology that we're living through is profound gratitude. The chances are good that if I were living a hundred years ago, I'd have had the job that guy in Bleak House had, making multiple copies of interminable legal documents in handwriting so mechanized it might as well have been done on a stencil. And living in whatever the local equivalent of London's East End was.

Jacob gets cited again.

A propos of that, I was recently (re)reading some of the great old Jeeves and Wooster stories by P.G. Wodehouse. Light, frothy comedy, when read for laughs. But darkly interesting, when read as sociology.

--TP

@Turbulence:

I suspect that I disagree with your interpretation of what happened then, the characters of many of the people involved (on both sides), and whether shunning is the wisest course of action in the circumstances as you imagine them to be.

However, as I said, not wanting to refight RaceFail here.

We agree on objectives, though you won't believe it: supporting the equality of all, regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or ability. Since you don't read Making Light, you won't see the things I've been writing there in pursuit of those goals.

I wish you would not be so quick to judge and so easy in your demonization of other people. But there's only one person on the internet I can control, and it's not you. I'll cope.

I don't intend to say more than this, but although I've my own history with Patrick since we were both 16, and with Teresa since the following year, I don't think they're any more or less racist than I or most people on this blog are.

If we're going to pay homage to the technology of our youth, let's do it thoroughly.

I come from the audio rather than programming world, although I did start on an Atari ST at the dawn of MIDI, and remember well when RAM was $100 per MEGABYTE. But what I remember was the hours spent getting to be an expert editor of physical tape, using a grease pencil and razor blade - no command Z (you tried to use safeties though). You darned kids! In MY day, we committed, damnit! We also produced the flange effect - now extremely commonplace, but then fairly exotic - by putting slight friction on one of the reel flanges, thus slowing down one of the tape machines.

And on the music side of things, there was the incomparable experience of copying orchestral or ensemble parts by hand, one by one, note by note. Space out? Start over. I have absolutely no nostalgia for that task.

I was recently (re)reading some of the great old Jeeves and Wooster stories by P.G. Wodehouse. Light, frothy comedy, when read for laughs. But darkly interesting, when read as sociology.

They are so delicious. I never get tired of them.

Turbulence,

I'm not sure what you nostalgics would do with a 360 running on a system the size of a cell phone, but surely we could try to resurrect one.

Miniaturizing the card reader would be tough, I think.

Very tiny cards:

Millipede works a bit like a punch card puncher. The Millipede read/write head is embedded with 1,000 AFM probes fabricated on a single silicon MEMS chip. These probes creep across the media surface to either pinch nanomter-sized indentations, or pits, such as those on a CD or DVD, that represent digital bits of information, or read back or erase previously pinched nanoscale pits.
Big Ideas for Small Devices
Catsy, congratulations; I look forward to your first post.

Argh, sorry, that was a failure of blockquote--the first line is quoted from Gary. I'm not sure what happened. Can someone fix?

Miniaturizing the card reader would be tough, I think.

Not necessarily. A cell phone camera should be more than sufficient to capture the contents of a single card. Now, if you wanted to read a stack of cards...that might be trickier. Perhaps a low power microwave imaging system?

"Can someone fix?"

It's Doctor Science's thread, so it would have to be her, or Eric, or Slarti.

I suspect that I disagree with your interpretation of what happened then

This is exactly what I said though: that you don't believe they did anything particularly wrong. Which is fine. But your belief that they didn't do anything wrong tells us something about your own character. Surely you realize that?

the characters of many of the people involved (on both sides)

You keep mentioning this despite the fact that there can be no point to it but misdirection. Until you can name someone "on the other side" who "behaved badly" and whose group blog you write for, the behavior of anyone else is irrelevant. This is not a subtle or difficult point of logic I trust.

whether shunning is the wisest course of action in the circumstances as you imagine them to be.

Um, it is my practice not to patronize establishments run by racists. I don't think this is bizarre or shocking. Surely you wouldn't continue patronizing a grocery store whose owner publicly advocated for Holocaust denial, right? I certainly wouldn't if I had a choice.

I wish you would not be so quick to judge and so easy in your demonization of other people.

Holding people accountable for their own words is demonization? OK then. Perhaps our ethical systems are simply incompatible. And I don't know what you mean by "quick"...Race Fail happened quite a while ago.


I don't think they're any more or less racist than I or most people on this blog are.

I don't find this at all persuasive. Much the same has been said regarding many racists in the public sphere. It seems quite common for reasonable people to develop blind spots regarding the behavior of those they like and respect.

@Turbulence:

What I saw of RaceFail did not make me think that Patrick and Teresa are racists. I thought they lost their tempers, in which state they had plenty of company. I am less inclined to be shocked at the loss of temper when people on both sides of an argument do it.

As to your interpretation of RaceFail vs mine, I question your reading ability rather than my own character. More charitably, I wonder if you're judging from summaries rather than original texts; many of the summaries I have seen did not strike me as accurate reflections of the original words they attempted to summarize (see loss of temper on all sides above). But I will not go further into this, because I do not want to refight RaceFail on this thread.

Also, were it to turn out that friends of mine were racists, I might very well not drop them, but rather try to persuade them that they were incorrect in their views. I've certainly tried that with a number of sexist friends, with some success.

I don't find this at all persuasive. Much the same has been said regarding many racists in the public sphere. It seems quite common for reasonable people to develop blind spots regarding the behavior of those they like and respect.

Well, thank God we have strangers on the internet to set us straight on matters wherein our own judgment and direct experience misleads us.

(It is worth stating that my direct experience of Patrick and Teresa also does not lead me to believe that they are racists.)

This is exactly what I said though: that you don't believe they did anything particularly wrong. Which is fine. But your belief that they didn't do anything wrong tells us something about your own character. Surely you realize that?

By "us," surely you're referring to you and the mouse that lives in your pocket. Is that about correct?

Because outside that, you're claiming like-thinkers who don't appear to be posting here. Or perhaps the lurkers support you in email, or something.

But if you're asking "us" -- i.e., the ObWi commentariat -- to draw conclusions about the character not only of other commenters, but of two people who do not and to my knowledge never have posted here, based on an event none of us were participants in, I'm deeply afraid you're about to be S.O.L.

My suggestion as a writer/editor: Substitute "me" for "us."

Personally, I'd rather be discussing low power microwave imaging systems and other accessories for a picomainframe.

I am but an egg; my first dumb terminal was a PC playing stupid (it was remarkably suited for so doing). And I'm young enough that my Really Cool Power Trip was having 1,000 MIPS dedicated to my stress testing one weekend. Not like you old folks who carved your 1's from sticks and used river stones for 0's.

Given what I saw of the debacle I'd say that Turb's 'we' is warranted, just not immediately clear in this (removed) context.

By "us," surely you're referring to you and the mouse that lives in your pocket. Is that about correct?

No, you are incorrect. "Us" refers to everyone. The point is that everyone judges people by their voluntary associations. You do. I do. The parasites that live inside your small intestine do. Do you dispute the point?


I thought they lost their tempers, in which state they had plenty of company.

Oh, you mean it was just a transient thing where they lost their tempers? I had no idea. Surely, once they had a chance to cool down and rethink things they'd long to apologize, right? Where exactly was their public apology? Or am I just being a nithing by asking?

As to your interpretation of RaceFail vs mine, I question your reading ability rather than my own character.

Given the repeated errors in reading and logic you've demonstrated on this thread, I find that amusing.

More charitably, I wonder if you're judging from summaries rather than original texts;

Are these the original texts that were deleted by the PNH and TNH? I know a number of trustworthy individuals who have shown me polite comments they made to threads controlled by TNH/PNH that were then deleted without comment. Quite curious behavior given that vile racist trolling comments were not deleted by PNH/TNH. Not what one would expect given that TNH's job is basically moderating discussion boards.

I've read a fair bit, but thanks to TNH/PNH's efforts at erasing the public record, I can't claim to have read everything.

Also, were it to turn out that friends of mine were racists, I might very well not drop them, but rather try to persuade them that they were incorrect in their views.

Refusing to post on a group blog is equivalent to dropping a friendship? How strange. If only the middle were not so excluded, there might be more options.

Sorry, Catsy, you are a front pager now. Don't expect to let some formatting error with block quotes to get you off the hook... ;^)

One of the things that really bugs me about this conversation is the way that the label of "racist" is so thouroughly irrefutable.

I could point to dozens of conversations I have had with one or both of the Nielsen Haydens, in public or in private, where they have displayed intelligence, awareness, and real concern about the damage that racism, and indeed many forms of privilege, have inflicted on people and on our society. I could point to threads on Making Light where we've discussed these matters, and brought previously unconscious people into a greater awareness of and care for social justice. I could point out that the last time I was really active on Obsidian Wings it was to help deal with Irrumator.

But no, once someone's applied the label, that's it, even if (as I maintain, it was applied in a partisan and undeserved manner). Nothing to be done but to shun them, all their friends, and anyone who has ever learned to spell their names right.

I had thought better of this community, really I had.

Abi, I see you've (again) decided that you're not going to engage with any of my arguments. Instead you bring a pity party. What a shame; I had hoped that despite your poor choice of associations, you might bring something of value to the discussion. How wrong I was. Guess I'm a typical nithing.

Abi, please consider that this community is:
a) mostly extremely slow on weekends these days;
b) not represented by one commenter. Or even two or three or four, for that matter, were that relevant.

I had thought better of this community, really I had.

After 20 minutes with Google, I just have to say, please don't drag us into this.

@Turbulence:

One RaceFail was enough, thank you. I've already said, twice, that I'm not going to argue that again; don't you read? Seriously, I doubt this one would lead to a juster outcome, even if you weren't clearly still angry from the last one.

Stay comfortable in your easy judgements. Best I can wish you.

@ Hogan
...my basic feeling about the revolution in information technology that we're living through is profound gratitude.

Yes, exactly, because...

@ jonnybutter
...what I remember was the hours spent getting to be an expert editor of physical tape, using a grease pencil and razor blade...

I did more of this than I like to remember, also. And typed up liner notes on that crappy yellow paper, and proofread and edited with a blue pencil, and designed the jackets using the pantone color thingy, and all the type was set by hand...

And the raw quarter-inch tape came in pancakes, not on reels; non-deity help you if you let the tension off, especially if you were trying to record on a vertical machine.

I think I've said before: in the mid-70s, when I worked for a record company, my boss gave me a tech article about sound recording with pits on aluminum. Never work, says I...

jb, now that I have your attention, take a look at this:
http://www.mws-boston.org/commission/
I might be an outlet for you. I was on the board for ten years. They will give you a fair listen.

No, you are incorrect. "Us" refers to everyone. The point is that everyone judges people by their voluntary associations. You do. I do. The parasites that live inside your small intestine do. Do you dispute the point?

Now is not the time for you to play stupid, Turbulence, nor to play the naif, and pretend that you're arguing the general case rather than the specific.

The quote in question is:

But your belief that they didn't do anything wrong tells us something about your own character.
To break it down:

-- "They" clearly refers to the Nielsen Haydens, who do not post here.
-- The incident under discussion is RaceFail, which the vast majority of ObWi commenters were not participants in.
-- "Your" refers to at least evilrooster, and, potentially, Gary Farber.

Thus, it can be concluded that "us" refers to you and to . . . who, exactly, in this case? Who is the "us" at Obsidian Wings that is drawing (obviously) a negative conclusion about evilrooster and Gary based on the fact that you have called a couple of people who don't post here racists?

And on what basis are they drawing that conclusion? Your say-so? Because -- and I regret to tell you this -- aside from some very particular topics in technology, I'm afraid you simply don't carry that kind of authority.

(I see nous has come to your rescue, thus saving you from embarrassment, but really. Next time, stick to speaking for yourself, and not for "us.")

One RaceFail was enough, thank you. I've already said, twice, that I'm not going to argue that again; don't you read?

What have I said that indicated I was attempting to reopen that discussion? I have no interest in doing so. I think that your errors in logic and reading on this thread are entirely self-contained. One can take note of them without knowing anything about Race Fail. Are you simply trying to shut down all discussions pointing out your own errors now?

Seriously, I doubt this one would lead to a juster outcome, even if you weren't clearly still angry from the last one.

Your assessment of my emotional state is, unsurprisingly, inaccurate. I am not angry. I was not involved in Race Fail and only read about it later as a neutral observer. If people like me, neutral observers who had no part in the original discussions come away with an opinion that makes your associates look bad, well...that's something you might want to give some thought to.

Stay comfortable in your easy judgements. Best I can wish you.

The fact that you wrote this after judging the entire community here based on my comments alone is...amusing.

Then again, I did not find spending hours and hours poring through posts and comment threads to be particularly easy. My judgments came after long study. Would that yours did as well.

@Gary, @ Turbulence:

I did pos the comment about thinking better of the community in vexation, and I apologize; I do actually think very well of Obsidian Wings when it's not 2am (I am considerably to the east of most of the people here).

Which is not to say that I think any better of Turbulence. Anger would at least have been a good excuse for him wanting this conversation to go where he seems to want it to

"Your" refers to at least evilrooster, and, potentially, Gary Farber.

Um, what? Does Gary post at Making Light now? Because otherwise this makes no sense at all.

Thus, it can be concluded that "us" refers to you and to . . . who, exactly, in this case? Who is the "us" at Obsidian Wings that is drawing (obviously) a negative conclusion about evilrooster and Gary based on the fact that you have called a couple of people who don't post here racists?

Why should the conclusion be negative, let alone obviously so? If you don't know what the Nielson Haydens did, then you shouldn't draw any inference at all because you lack sufficient information. If you do know and consider their actions negative, then you should draw a negative inference. On the other hand, if you know and consider their actions to be positive or neutral, then there is no reason to draw a negative inference at all.

And on what basis are they drawing that conclusion? Your say-so?

Given the number of people on OW that are involved in fandom, I figured that a few of them would be quite familiar with Race Fail. And some of those, like nous, would likely agree with me. Those who knew and didn't agree with me would still agree that Abi's association tells us something about his/her character; they'd probably just think that it tells us something positive.

Because -- and I regret to tell you this -- aside from some very particular topics in technology, I'm afraid you simply don't carry that kind of authority.

Perhaps not with you, but I understand that some people do value my comments. If you don't find them useful, you're free to ignore them.

efgoldman:

And the raw quarter-inch tape came in pancakes, not on reels; non-deity help you if you let the tension off, especially if you were trying to record on a vertical machine.

Oh yes, the dreaded pancakes!


jb, now that I have your attention, take a look at this:
http://www.mws-boston.org/commission/

How extraordinarily kind of you, efg. Thank you so much. I will definitely look into this. Just fyi, my email is my moniker at google's purportedly 'fun' email client...not sure if that's too cryptic or not cryptic enough, or even necessary, but free to get in touch if you feel like it.

Phil- I see nous has come to your rescue, thus saving you from embarrassment

Not rescue, just pointing out that Turb is expressing views held by a non-trivial fraction of the people familiar with the original context and that any of those people who came to read the comments here would likely share his perspective on this as well.

Limiting the discussion to the ObWi commentariat seems like a strategic move more than anything. Not sure that's what Turb had in mind. I'm sure he'll expound, so...

Wrt "RaceFail," this one of the few times in my life when I can honestly say I am delighted that I have absolutely no idea what people are talking about.

So an IBM 360 is as far back as we go in geek reminiscence? Nothing about the tactile pleasures and alluring faint bamboo scent of that long-lost Post bamboo slide rule?

It does occur to me that all those glorious old machines could be revived on an FPGA for a few dollars

Indeed.

Wrt "RaceFail," this one of the few times in my life when I can honestly say I am delighted that I have absolutely no idea what people are talking about.

And this is one of those few times in my life when I think that "me, too" actually adds something.

So an IBM 360 is as far back as we go in geek reminiscence?

IBM is evil, and must be destroyed.

Sf writer, one-time sf fan, and so much more, Richard Lupoff worked for IBM:

[...] But I didn't see myself as a career soldier, and in 1958 I packed my uniform away and started looking for a job as a writer or editor. I think I would have loved working for John Campbell or Anthony Boucher or Horace Gold as an assistant at one of the science fiction magazines of the day, but instead I fell into a job as a technical writer for what was then Sperry Univac.

We tech writers were considered junior executives, suit-and-tie types, and the starting salary was $350 a month. Of course the first thing I did was get married. Fortunately, in 1958 it was possible for a young couple to lead a very pleasant upper-middle-class life on that salary.

In that job I got my first look at a computer. Univac I. It had 1000 *words* of memory, roughly the equivalent of 12K bytes. The storage medium was a mercury delay line, and if you wanted to look at the memory you had to open a door in the side of a garage-sized metal structure and walk inside. It held half a dozen people comfortably.

Wow!

I worked for Sperry for five years, then for IBM for seven. The last few years of my IBM tour were spent writing and directing movies. It was a good job and IBM was a great employer, but this was just not what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to write books. I wrote my first book, Edgar Rice Burroughs: Master of Adventure, in 1965, and my first novel, One Million Centuries, in 1967.

Still, I stayed with IBM until 1970, shucking my suit and tie each evening, climbing into sweatshirt and jeans and going to work on a novel or short story. I'd wanted to get out of the big business environment and devote myself to writing for ten years. There was always a reason to defer the move -- generally economic -- but with Pat's support and encouragement I finally made the break.

It does occur to me that all those glorious old machines could be revived on an FPGA for a few dollars

Unfortunately, floating-point processing on an FPGA is expensive, in terms of gates. Each variable has to be represented with a floating-point engine.

So, it depends on what you want to do. If you've got a fairly limited program, you could implement that on an FPGA with no problem. If you've got a program that has, for instance, a couple of hundred floating point variables, you're going to chew through a lot of gates.

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