Fermi paradox

I had been thinking about the Fermi paradox the other day for no real reason but then XKCD had this comic:

That captures my opinion on it. The Fermi paradox is a bit too anthropocentic, assuming that other life would be like ours and not just happily swimming in oceans, not exploring the universe. Or being bigger than us or smaller or just other.

But then XKCD had this comic today which argues for the Fermi paradox. It is a bit concerning the temperature change estimates when viewed this way.

I suppose I did read this wrong the first time, it’s not as scary as I originally thought! My poor reading comprehension had us off the scale but we’re only at the question mark for now. I suppose in 100 years we’ll have it figured out, we’re good at figuring things out. So I’ll still scoff at the Fermi paradox.


I read quite often that gerrymandering of political districts is a cause of the current mess of our republic. That’s fine and makes sense but this is a bit abstract how drawing the lines can make sure the Republican districts always stay Republican and Democrat districts stay Democrat. Or how overall it’d really affect anything. You’d think the law of large numbers or such would even everything out. This image and description from Wikipedia makes it clear why it doesn’t even everything out very well – this is all from the Wikipedia article on gerrymandering.

Example for a state with 3 equally sized districts, 15 voters and 2 parties: Plum(squares) and Orange(circles).In (a), creating 3 mixed-type districts yields a 3–0 win to Plum—a disproportional result considering the state-wide 9:6 Plum majority.

In (b), Orange wins the urban district while Plumwins the rural districts—the 2–1 result reflects the state-wide vote ratio.

In (c), gerrymandering techniques ensure a 2–1 win to the state-wide minority Orange party.

All the cases are interesting in their own way. (a) seems interesting in if you don’t do any thought to district membership the minority can lose everywhere.  You can’t just let the boundaries be indiscriminate perhaps. (c) is the opposite, the minority can rule with wise redistricting.

Pandora’s promise

Pandora’s Promise makes a well laid out argument as to why nuclear fission is the way we need to go for our energy needs if we want to save the planet and keep our same levels of consumption. It’s just a very well done documentary, I won’t say much so as to deflate it’s fine argument for nuclear fission. Ignore everything else I say below and just watch the movie.

It is interesting to call out that they went to outside the sacophagus in Chernobyl and the radiation level was lower than that on a beach in Brasil where people go to lay in the sand for health benefits. Also that nuclear is cleaner then every other source of energy except for wind. Also the number of ‘environmentalists’ who have come around to support nuclear is interesting. The movie is sort of an interesting commentaty on ‘environmetalism’ as well. A fine scene is when there are people protesting a nuclear power plant. They go around handing out bananas for a ‘banana break’. Of course bananas put off radioactivity along with a common lot of things.

The thing I’ve always seen is nuclear is an invisible sickness that everyone fears. However for some reason no one fears the pollution from fossil fuels or solar panel production nearly as much although (at least the fossil fuels from power generation) kill many more people than nuclear (from power generation at least) has. Maybe I should do a chart of that if I can find the data to actually support that statement!

Thanks to the wonder of the internet (don’t let anyone restrict it!) I found random proof of the statement here. A good image for the claim:

This is a nice visualization to play around with as well – of course who knows where the data comes from.

At the same rate I do like this page that shows that we are nowhere near the evacuation area of any nuclear power plant. But I still don’t like the fact that we have high air pollution days because we have many coal plants nearby. The invisible menace of radiation is scary somehow but unbreathable air is more immediate.

Net neutrality and hypocrisy

Thanks to net neutrality fine internet content like this can exist and anyone can get to it for free. What a lucky dog you are! However recently a court struck down the FCC’s attempts at net neutrality.

The Republicans truly are Orwellian 99% of the time. Here we get our most recent example in a court’s recent striking down of net neutrality they claim victory for innovation and the free market.

This is what could happen if net neutrality fails and the ISPs can decide what we’re allowed to see for what cost – so much for freedom and innovation – more like cable and money:

Thanks to whoever created that image which is here: http://imgur.com/5RrWm

How is internet not just part of infrastructure? And we need the infrastrucure protected so that everyone can continue to have access to it. We don’t let water companies shut off the water if they feel like it. We expect electricity of the electric company. We regulate those to make sure they stay available to all. Anyhow if you are reading this presumably you like using the internet (regardless of whether you like this post, you do like the internet) and should want it kept accessbile for all without limit or extra fees for something that was free.

Random handy links I recently used! Install CM 10.2 on TF300T and create a recovery partition on Mavericks

Recently I installed CyanogenMod 10.2 (Android 4.3) on the Asus TF300T. I’d already had it on the Nook Tablet and it really seemed to be working well on the Nook. Much better than CM 10.1 (Android 4.2) on the Nook. As I’ve commented before the TF300T has become dogged slow due to its cheap flash storage. However, there is such a thing as TRIM support that was added into Android 4.3 which supposedly makes this not as bad. After installing on the TF300T it does seem to have helped a lot, almost like new! (So far)

Installing CyanogenMod on TF300T – just install CM 10.2 if you want Android 4.3:


I also recently bought a shiny new Mac Mini and the storage seemed dogged slow on that as well. I was hoping it’d be quicker than the USB drive running the old iMac with failed internal harddrive. What with the 5400 rpm drive it just wasn’t fast and that seems to affect OS X pretty significantly. Everything seems slow to me since I’ve an SSD in the 6 year old MacBook Pro and everything is very quick just thanks to the SSD.

However, I also bought the Mac Mini knowing it had the Thunderbolt port. So I got a LaCie SSD drive with Thunderbolt, got everything moved over, and the Mac Mini is blazing fast when run off the external SSD via Thunderbolt!

The thing I forgot to do was create the ‘recovery parition’ when I copied over the old hard drive. You need this to encrypt the drive for example using File Vault. I need to find that link still but one page gave good enough instructions to do that. In summary you resize the boot partition in Disk Utility (this works fine), in Disk Utility create an image from another hard drive with the recovery image, then (again with Disk Utility) copy that image to the partition you just created. Make sure it’s the recovery partition is after the main partition. That’s easy if you just have 2 partitions.

George Washington was pretty darn wise

(2016 update – And who knew Hamilton helped him write it! :))

If ‘pro’ is the opposite of ‘con’, what’s the opposite of progress? Congress!

In George Washington’s farewall address he warned about the problems of political parties. Just a few relevant quotes from 1796.

A bit on how the few can control the government – this applies to both parties equally:

All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency. They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels and modified by mutual interests.

A bit more on the rule of the few via their two parties, sounds pretty darn familiar to our current situation:

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.

Also nothing is new in the ‘divisions’ we often fall into just in association to where we live:

In contemplating the causes which may disturb our Union, it occurs as matter of serious concern that any ground should have been furnished for characterizing parties by geographical discriminations, Northern and Southern, Atlantic and Western; whence designing men may endeavor to excite a belief that there is a real difference of local interests and views.

The wikipedia article explains his view here a bit more succintly but I thought it nice to actually look to what he said also. We’ve too much trust anymore of the first source of whatever fact we want to hear on the internet or in general.

TF300 becomes dogged slow with time

Apparently so does the 2012 Nexus 7.

Over time I’ve noticed that the TF300T tablet I have has become almost unusable. It just hangs and hangs. Looking into this it appears that with these newfangled devices you need to worry about how well the storage performs. I totally get that having gotten the Rasberry Pi. I bought the cheapest SD card so any disk access is dogged slow.

So it turns out that Android just freezes due to slow disk access on Asus tablets. Here are some benchmarks discussing that. Next time I buy a tablet or phone I’ll make sure and check how well the storage performs. Its been ages since that mattered but it does once again.

I was clued into this with this Ars article about Android 4.3 and its addition of TRIM support. iOS doesn’t need TRIM support (as far as I’ve found) as apparently the storage doesn’t suck. 3-5 years in and both the iPod touches (2nd and 4th gen) have no horid freezes like the 9 month old Android tablet.

So you do in a way get what you pay for and again Apple products may be again worth the premium (I say as I write on the perfectly functional 5 year old MacBook, about to watch movies on the 7 year old iMac both working perfectly fine still). I suppose considering how old the Apple products are I don’t know much about the newer ones…