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Trippy

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I’m sure most of the crowd here is long past the age when Saturday night meant shooting out to ingest food, alcohol and…. other substances….

However, in honour of those times, sit back and enjoy the following two short video clips where photographers and video editors have fun.

First up is an internal universe of the imagination.

Second is the universe itself, or at least out place in it. A good reminder that it’s us turning and not the sky.

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Written by Tom Hunter

December 3, 2022 at 5:14 pm

Posted in Art, Space, Technology

Full House

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An unmanned SpaceX Dragon freighter successfully docked with the International Space Station (ISS) yesterday, bring with it 7,700 pounds of cargo, including two new solar arrays for the station.

So far, so standard.

But what intrigued me is that it means there are now six spacecraft docked at the ISS, filling up all the ports.

Here’s a diagram of the situation.

So the spacecraft are:

  • Progress 81 and 82 are Russian Soyuz spacecraft converted to carry cargo to the ISS (and take rubbish away)
  • Soyuz MS-22 is a Russian crewed spacecraft that can carry three passengers. Although they’ve been hugely upgraded they’re still the same basic spacecraft that first flew in the late 1960’s, which is okay because they’re solid, safe and reliable.
  • Crew-5 Dragon is a SpaceX spacecraft that can carry up to seven passengers, but usually carries just four.
  • CRS-26 Cargo Dragon is the same basic spacecraft but, like the Progress vessels, carries cargo and trash. It was developed before Crew-Dragon, which is a smart way to develop such a vehicle.
  • Cygnus-18 is another cargo ship, this one developed by Northrop-Grumman.

In a couple of years the ISS will lose one of these ports for some time when an outfit called Axiom will launch a module that will attach to the ISS for testing before it casts off to become (hopefully) the first private space station. It’s a good way to leverage off the ISS and reduce the risk of trying to go independent right from the start. There are several private space station efforts underway to do much the same thing, which is good because current plans are to de-orbit the ISS in 2030, when it will be 32 years old.

Written by Tom Hunter

December 2, 2022 at 3:36 pm

Introducing the new 2023 makeup fashions

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We’ll get to the fashion in a second.

But first the fascism – or to be fair our new strange mixture of private sector totalitarianism in cooperation with the State, rather than either the State-directed control of the private sector (Fascism) or the 100%-State-owned world of Communism.

Which makes it all feel creepier, especially when it comes to how we citizens (subjects?) can combat this new and hideous “ideology”.

The news from Nineteen Eighty Four arriving in 2022, courtesy of Consumer NZ, is as follows:

If you shop at one of more than 320 Pak’nSave, New World or Four Square stores in the North Island, you may have been scanned by facial recognition technology (FRT). The technology is currently in use in 29 stores in the North Island, but Foodstuffs NI would not confirm which stores.

Emma Wooster, Foodstuffs NZ’s head of public relations, said: “Facial recognition technology is one of the only tools we’ve identified that could help us to proactively target and reduce theft, burglary, robbery, assault and other aggressive, violent or threatening behaviour by repeat offenders. Facial recognition technology is only used for this specific and limited purpose.”

Says you. For now. In case Ms Wooster has not noticed we’ve just emerged from our first Pandemic Scare of the 21st century (there will be others) that involved any number of State mandates on people doing ordinary, everyday stuff – like shopping at supermarkets.

Of course masks would actually bugger up this technology so there’s that. And such thoughts also lead to ideas about how to combat the technology short of masking. Here’s some fashion suggestions.

Of course it all begs the question of how our society managed to keep “theft, burglary, robbery, assault and other aggressive, violent or threatening behaviour by repeat offenders”, under control for so many decades without such technology.

Some combination of a decent society filled with civilised, educated citizens with solid moral and ethical codes, plus a few decent Police officers, judges and prisons to deal with those who consistently showed they lacked those features.

I think that was the answer. At least it seemed to be so within living memory.

Written by Tom Hunter

December 1, 2022 at 8:12 am

The perfect Blade Runner shot

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All that video needs is music by Vangelis.

A long time ago the Soviets had a tightly controlled network of internationalists used to promote their communist model to the world. They were called the Comintern.

But Communist China has far exceeded that idea. They’ve got a group called the WEF (World Economic Forum) that’s composed of capitalists and Big Thinkers who have startling proposals for the future of humanity, such as owning nothing and eating bugs.

And you will be happy.

And they’ve got a multi-millionaire named Klaus Schwab to extoll their virtues:

World Economic Forum founder and Chair Klaus Schwab recently sat down for an interview with a Chinese state media outlet and proclaimed that China was a “role model” for other nations. 

Schwab, 84, made these comments during an interview with CGTN’s Tian Wei on the sidelines of last week’s APEC CEO Summit in Bangkok, Thailand. 

Schwab said he respected China’s “tremendous” achievements at modernizing its economy over the last 40 years. 

“I think it’s a role model for many countries,” Schwab said, before qualifying that he thinks each country should make its own decisions about what system it wants to adapt. 

How nice of him, but that last claim rings hollow given that the system he’s advocating for the West explicitly requires a party elite to do all the choosing for the people they rule over with an iron fist. 

Of course if you’re going for images of SF dystopias you need a human who fits – and Klaus fits perfectly:

“To understand events around the world today, one must think in terms of the class struggle.”

But the New Class isn’t limited to communist countries, really. Around the world in the postwar era, power was taken up by unelected professional and managerial elites. To understand what’s going on with President Donald Trump and his opposition, and in other countries as diverse as France, Hungary, Italy and Brazil, it’s important to realize that the post-World War II institutional arrangements of the Western democracies are being renegotiated, and that those democracies’ professional and managerial elites don’t like that very much, because they have done very well under those arrangements. And, like all elites who are doing very well, they don’t want that to change.

Some female assembler required

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Programming computers has now reached the stage where it almost does not seem like coding at all, he laborious process of writing hundreds or thousands of lines of computer program language – BASIC, FORTRAN, COBOL, C++, etc – to get the machine to do what you want it to.

We’ve come a long way from the days when computers were “programmed” by re-wiring the suckers, which is not surprising when you see how similar things like ENIAC are to normal telephone switchboards of the era.

In effect all these plugs were the physical representation of ones and zeros, the basic building blocks of digital computing (Analog computing, based on the mathematics of cogs and wheels, had been around for decades and was used in things like the Norden bombsight and submarine torpedo targeting)

10110000 01100001

One step up from binary code was “machine code”, of which the following is represented by a hexadecimal sequence:

B0 61

But even that was pretty clunky. There had to be a a better way and in the early 1950’s, Kathleen Booth invented it: Assembler Language, of which a sample is shown here to do the job above: you can even add a commentary to explain what’s going on (amazing how many developers don’t do that with their creations).

MOV AL, 61h       ; Load AL with 97 decimal (61 hex)

It doesn’t look like it but it’s actually a programming language and the “Assembler” converts it into machine code. It was incremental stuff, but in a short space of time Booth pushed it a long way. Here’s a sample.

[She and her future husband returned to England from the USA and] co-wrote General Considerations in the Design of an All Purpose Electronic Digital Computer (Apexc), and went on to make modifications to the original ARC to incorporate the lessons learnt. Kathleen devised the ARC assembly language for the computer and designed the assembler.

In 1950 Kathleen took a PhD in applied mathematics and the same year she and Andrew Booth were married. In 1953 they cowrote Automatic Digital Calculators, which included the general principles involved in the new “Planning and Coding”programming style.

Here she is loading a program into that Apexc computer that she co-designed with her husband Andrew.

I rather liked writing Assembler code as it made you feel you were in direct control of the machine, and given that the language is often tailored to a specific machine that’s true to a certain extent. Much of the programming of the Apollo spacecraft computers was done in Assembler since there were no technical computer programming languages written to control such unique machines, and that remained true even into the era of the Space Shuttle in the 1980’s.

Booth paved the way for people like one of my personal IT favourites, Margaret Hamilton, who worked for NASA on the Apollo programme and basically invented Software Engineering, the next step along the road to building computer systems.

Kathleen Booth died a few weeks ago at the age of 100 in Canada, where she and her husband had moved in the 1960’s. It would seem that she remained productive to the end of her long and fulfilled life.

Kathleen remained active into her retirement, carrying out research into neural networks which led to the development of a program to simulate the ways animals recognise patterns.

Her husband died in 2009 and she is survived by their son and daughter.

Written by Tom Hunter

November 23, 2022 at 8:32 am

Posted in Britain, Technology

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Begun, the Twitter Wars have

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The Twitter wars are actually just heating up, as it is becoming apparent that the Left regarded it as “their” platform in pushing Lefty talking points (propaganda).

Actually it’s been apparent for a long time, but in the past any criticisms of them by the Right were met with their cynical smirks of “It’s a private company and can do what it wants – isn’t that what the Right have always said?”

But with Elon Musk now in charge of a privately-owned Twitter the Left have dropped that mask and come right out in the open in their demands for government censorship to replace the censorship they’d been applying behind the scenes via the hive-mind of Twitter employees who were ideologically-like-minded to the Left – or even more so.

But all of these companies are, in fact, monopolies, and thus exist in a precarious legal state — presently tolerated, but open to government harassment and persecution any time they do not follow the government’s commands.

As proof of that, Democrats are now demanding that the Federal Trade Commission investigate Elon Musk for “undermining Twitter.” By which they mean — they want him investigated for abandoning the censorship scheme they demanded the old regime imposed.

“In recent weeks, Twitter’s new Chief Executive Officer, Elon Musk, has taken alarming steps that have undermined the integrity and safety of the platform, and announced new features despite clear warnings those changes would be abused for fraud, scams, and dangerous impersonation,” the lawmakers said in a letter to FTC Chair Lina Khan

Dangerous impersonation? Of who? Oh right….

Senator Ed Markey went so far as to participate in a hoax in which he colluded with a Washington Post reported so that that Post reporter would pay for blue tick status and then impersonate him (Ed Markey).

And then, having contrived this case of impersonation, Ed Markey screamed about it and demanded the FTC investigate Musk for permitting the impersonation.

It seems only fair that Twitter ban Markey from the platform for engaging in this fraud. 🙂 After all, that’s what’s going to happen to other “accounts” pulling similar – if vastly more amusing – stunts. Musk won’t of course, having brought back the Babylon Bee…

and Trump, or at least his account. Musk also understands the game being played here by the Administrative State and their six ways from Sunday of getting back at you.

Aside from the censorship fight there is also another interesting Twitter battle going on inside the company as thousands have found themselves out of a job – for the very good reason that they were useless drones. This Twitter thread explains what he’s doing, which is Whaling and Culling:

First, the “Whaling”: It’s a common refrain that you’ve probably heard at some point or another “10% of people do 90% of the work.” That’s what that tight 2 week deadline for Twitter Blue was for; he was perfectly aware that it was an unrealistic time frame. It was a test.

Hence, Elon was looking for the whales at the company. The heavy hitting, actually producing and hard people who have been there for a while. When the whales don’t have to carry dead weight, they perform like the equivalent of 10 people.

There are larger questions being raised here given the layoffs of more thousands of workers at Facebook and Amazon (can Google be far behind?), and those questions are addressed in this article, The Email Caste’s Last Stand, by Malcom Kyeyune:

The abrupt firing of thousands of employees solicited a new wave of outrage from Musk’s haters. But even if you remove him from the equation, Twitter couldn’t have gone much longer without massive layoffs. The same thing is happening across Silicon Valley. Last week, the online-payments company Stripe announced it would cut 14 percent of its workforce, as did the rideshare giant Lyft; Facebook parent company Meta looks poised to do the same. Like Wile E. Coyote, tech companies ran off the cliff long ago; only now is economic gravity starting to assert itself.

The article makes the point that when venture capital funding seemed to be unlimited, it not only encouraged all these Big Tech startups and established players to hire useless people, it basically developed a class of people not unlike the French aristocracy just prior to the 1789 revolution:

The problem was that France now had a large class of impoverished nobles, for which some sort of exclusive jobs program was absolutely necessary. They didn’t have diversified business interests like the court nobility at Versailles; all they had was their noble privilege, and if the French state abolished the last areas where that privilege meant something, they would truly be lost.

A similar dynamic is operative in America today. The people who worked “on climate” at Twitter, now being given the ax by the perfidious Elon Musk, are openly complaining that they won’t be able to find jobs anywhere else in this economy. They are, of course, right to worry.

Which is why reforms of things like the French Army went nowhere and why “reforming” Twitter and other companies to actually make money will require firing lots of these useless eaters.

However, the article goes even further in pushing this question out into the society beyond the world of Big Tech. You can see the connection between this and the increasing debates about things like UBI (Universal Basic Income), including – here in NZ – debates about WFF and the whole raft of tax credits and income supplements that now constitute what used to be called “social welfare”. I recommend the excellent series of posts on this subject at Kiwiblog by one “PaulL”, Effective Marginal Tax Rates, which goes into some detail about the changes that might be made to shift people from welfare to work.

Kyeyune raises the larger question of what “work” may actually mean nowadays, particularly for our class of credentialed (but not educated) drones:

In my own country, Sweden, the state picks up a lot of the slack. Here, small municipalities hire dozens or hundreds of communicators, consultants, and other plainly nonproductive personnel, and attempts to do something about it run into a very simple question: Where else are these people supposed to work? Who else would hire them? Though few will say it openly, the city of Uppsala’s nearly 100 communicators have nothing to do with communication, and everything to do with preserving social stability. It is, in essence, just part of a massive jobs program.

When I look at the thousands of people that the Labour government has hired into its myriad government departments, ministries, quangos, commissions, etc, I have to think that’s what’s also happening here in NZ. And like Twitter and those other tech firms, the question is how much longer can we afford to hire such people?

“To understand events around the world today, one must think in terms of the class struggle.”

But the New Class isn’t limited to communist countries, really. Around the world in the postwar era, power was taken up by unelected professional and managerial elites. To understand what’s going on with President Donald Trump and his opposition, and in other countries as diverse as France, Hungary, Italy and Brazil, it’s important to realize that the post-World War II institutional arrangements of the Western democracies are being renegotiated, and that those democracies’ professional and managerial elites don’t like that very much, because they have done very well under those arrangements. And, like all elites who are doing very well, they don’t want that to change.

In My Time of Dying

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From beauty to horror. Rumour has it that 82-year old Nancy Pelosi is not going to step aside as Democrat House leader even if they lose control of the House.

She’s probably inspired by the election of Senator Fetterman. Electing two vegetables in succession probably means Nancy can stay even as a corpse

Sure, you’ll never embarrass a Democrat by pointing at them and charging them with hypocrisy and double standards – but as Ron DeSantis knows, even if they don’t care, others will

Just a reminder that simply because the Democrats didn’t do as badly as expected that doesn’t mean that the knives won’t be out for Biden as 2024 approaches. Taylor Lorenz is a truly horrible POS “journalist” with her doxxing and crybully tactics, but to see that toxicity turned on Biden is not unenjoyable.

Further fallout from the Branch Covidian revolution as the backlash continues to calls for a “Pandemic Amnesty”

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Tom Hunter

November 16, 2022 at 11:03 am

Trust – but verify

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That was Reagan’s famous phrase from the 1980’s when arguments were at their peak about nuclear weapon treaties with the USSR.

The phrase itself was a rhyming proverb lifted from Russian history (Доверяй, но проверяй), and Reagan learned of it via discussions with an American historian of Russia.

But it’s a phrase that is universal, in the sense of being applicable across all societies, and across many areas of life.

Elon Musk is having to rapidly learn this lesson as the new owner of Twitter, where he’s attempting to get the company to actually make profits, first by massive layoffs of staff, and also by asking users to pay for extra stuff like the famous Blue Checkmark that signifies that a Twitter user has been “verified” as the real thing, rather than a robot or “bot”, of which Twitter has apparently had more than it’s previous owners and managers were willing to admit.

Musk’s idea was that users who want the Blue Checkmark should pay $8 per month. Unfortunately as you can see from the following hilarious examples, this is not going well.

(AIPAC) American Israel Public Affairs Committee

But the following one, while being funny, has also caused damage in the form of drops in the stock price of the company targeted by the humour. The market will no doubt correct this fast, but you have to wonder if Twitter might find itself open to lawsuits – although good old section 230 will probably prevent that, and in any case, it would not be the first time that rumours swirling in the media about a company have caused damage.

Written by Tom Hunter

November 13, 2022 at 4:34 pm

The Crisis we ignore

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Rather depressing reading in a Kiwiblog post the other day about the increasing failure of young men in the New Zealand education system – The male education crisis get worse.

I was reminded of a post that I did a couple of years ago that’s related – The Patriarchy Must Be Smashed – where I looked at US statistics that covered not just men and education (similar to the results that DPF lists) but men in the workforce, where they constitute the vast majority of those who do the dirtiest and most dangerous jobs in our societies.

I also looked at what this meant for our society in terms of creating families and having kids so that our societies continue.

Woman have always had different goals in seeking a suitable mate and while that’s always been tough the increased education/wealth/income status of woman has begun to crash into those primeval goals and “dating down“. There’s also the advent of Tinder and the like, which enable men to have almost as much sex as they want without even the ties of a steady relationship, let alone partnership, marriage and kids.

Over on DPF’s post I see a number of commentators talking about the “emasculation” of males, but Tinder says no. It would be fairer to say that the current setup rewards a small group of men who make lots of money, have social cache, and have multiple, serial “relationships”. They’re certainly not emasculated.

Meanwhile an increasing majority of men lack the last two, even the plumbers and other tradies who have the first factor of money.

As a result – and this is seen more in Millennials and Gen Z – you’re not seeing family formation as much. The two sexes are looking past each other. Those men are not so much emasculated (Tinder) as unable to find a woman who’s willing to settle for them.

If you really want to see a crisis just watch this discussion and think ahead about ten years. Funnily enough there’s much mention of Social Media and its (non) standards.

Written by Tom Hunter

November 12, 2022 at 7:13 am

This is Quantitative Easing

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Or Modern Monetary Theory (MMT).

Take your pick but basically it amounts to central banks creating vast amounts of credit by various means and then blowing that into the economy to keep the private sector moving along.

At which point it ends up in the hands of very rich people who own assets.

To that end I loved the myriad idiocies about such things in this ranting post over at The Daily Blog by one Finn Flynn, The Road to Serfdom: ACT’s map to backwards. Mr Flynn is one of those Far Lefters who now run around getting outraged if anybody calls him a communist, since in the wake of the collapse of so many communist socieities, and the soul sucking uselessness of the ones still going, such people are regarded as fringe figures generating more mirth than anger nowadays and worthy only of mockery.

But if you read that piece you realise that…. he’s a just another dirty commie. 😂😂

I wrote a comment in response to just three of his idiocies (“the hands-off response by Herbert Hoover” is a classic) but naturally they didn’t get published, so I’ll stick with just one here because it’s relevant to the topic of this post. Mr Flynn writes:

But ACT insists that the Reserve Bank should focus solely on using the OCR to control inflation. Why? Because inflation eats away at investment returns for the wealthy. If inflation reduces the value of a dollar over time, then lenders – wealthy investors and financial institutions – reap less return on money they have already lent. They get the same nominal dollars back, but their spending power – their value – is less. So ACT must stamp out any instruments that undermine the interests of the wealthy. 

The huge surge in wealth that happened to Musk, Zuckerberg and Bezos, in 2020-2021, is a direct result of QE/MMT. They don’t hate inflation but love it, because inflation loves assets. You don’t need to be a billionaire either; ask any Auckland homeowner about rising house prices in 2020 and 2021 as our government did the same thing in the NZ economy.

I’m also pretty sure that Flynn – despite commenting loftily on Hayek’s Road To Serfdom – has never actually read it, given the howlers he makes about it. For a start, Hayek actually saw a place for Western economies to have social welfare systems; in fact he thought them vital, so he’s no purist on Laissez-faire. The overwhelming thrust of his analysis in that book was that centralised command-and-control economies (like the USSR) would ultimately fail because they could not replicate the enormous amount of economic data that exists in marketplaces. Incidentally the same limit on information applies to the forecast dystopias of Artificial Intelligence’s running the world.

Flynn also references “Historian” Howard Zinn’s A People’s History, because of course he would. Never mind that the “Historian” himself said it was less history than a polemic, and it’s been regularly torn apart as such by even Leftist historians.

Having said that the following moving graph – obtained via the NZ blog, Utopia – does a good job of tracking the wealth comparisons of four of the richest men on Earth:

  • Elon Musk
  • Jeff Bezos
  • Bill Gates
  • Mark Zuckerberg

The tracking runs from 2007 to late 2021. It should be noted that in 2022 Zuckerberg’s fortune has collapsed by about $100 billion.

Two things about this chart strike me as curious.

First, the surge in Bezo’s fortunes in 2016-2017, when he suddenly moved past Bill Gates to become the richest man in the world (publicly anyway – there are those like Putin), even though Microsoft and Amazon were constantly switching places in total wealth; it’s not like Amazon, where Bezos has his wealth stacked, suddenly surged the same way.

Second, the same thing happens to Musk starting in early 2020 as he goes past Bezos in about a year. I’m well aware of the fact that a combination of people being forced to sit at home during Chinese Lung Snot lockdowns resulted in massive increases in the use of Facebook for social connection and ordering stuff from Amazon to be delivered at home.

But what’s the reason for Musk’s wealth explosion? I can only assume that it’s due to the massive amount of shares he has in Tesla and the fact that those shares took off finally, even if the company’s total value is nowhere near that of Amazon, Apple and so forth. But given that it’s tough for a company that actually builds things to expand as fast as an data-based business model, I can only assume that 2020 was the moment that investors started betting on the future by diving into Tesla as the leading EV manufacturer.

Still, it’s a cool video to watch.