Monday, January 30, 2006

whirlwind, this time math and programming

n one sense, basic calculus is just like 'functional programming'. You have a function(al) called 'derivative', which takes a function as an argument, and returns a function as its result... same goes for integrals... somebody needs to write a 'lisp programmers guide to calculus'... if you do print derivative(sin()), you get 'cos()' as output.. for example.. and print integral(cos()) would output 'sin() + constant' :)
I always had an easier time learning programming constructs than math constructs. Sometimes that might have been because the math was just a little more abstract... but I also think that sometimes it's due to nomenclature.
If you are forced to write mathematical concepts in a way that a computer can easily understand what you are saying, it's probably easier for a human to comprehend as well.
Part of this is implied assumptions that go along with mathematical statements. Things that just 'go without saying' to mathematicians or physicists. As one example, physicists often just make assumptions that the functions they are dealing with are 'well behaved'... as in they don't have discontinuities or go to infinity at one place or another. If you wanted to make that case in a computer language, you would have to explicitly tell the computer that (either in the language design, or the actual code)...

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Big blog day today, Chavez and Sheehan

I just really don't get it... whose image are they trying to make worse, Chavez or Sheehan?

Other close friends of Chavez include... Fidel Castro. I'm not saying Sheehan == Castro, but I'm saying that Chavez certainly hangs around in bad company.
What kind of a leader actively wants to be associated with the only tyrant in the western hemisphere to keep an iron grip on power for almost fifty years?

Will wiretapping split the democrats?

So on this wiretapping issue, I think there's a possibility of the Democrats hanging themselves on this one.
First off, nobody has denied that the administration did not inform many congressional leaders of their plans for warrantless wiretapping. Now, the left wants to make it a public and partisan issue, being that they've picked up the smell of blood.
The problem is, any congressional democrat who was informed, is going to be pressured to produce evidence that they objected to this warrantless wiretapping when they were informed of it, or they will be run across the hot coals by daily kos et al.
On the other side, conservatives are going to give their representitives generous leeway on this issue, as they can hide behind the whole 'give bush the benefit of the doubt that he's doing the right thing'.
In essence, this presents a much higher likelihood that the democratic party will suffer schisms over this than the republicans.

This doesn't mean that the left should stop pursuing these issues, but rather, they have to be more focused and pursue these issues in an extremely non-partisan way. If they start saying "It's Karl Rove, republicans, and the Bush gestapo", well, they're going to start roping some of their own in on that... splitting the democrats before the next election.


So... I think we need to (in order)
1) recognize Palestine as a state, with borders that represent today's situation.
2) call on Palestine to cease its attacks against Israel
3) remove US funding for Palestine
4) push through UN sanctions against Palestine

This assumes that Hamas refuses to come to drop its bid for violent destruction of Israel.
Within a few years, either Hamas will relent, or the palestinian people will see that Hamas is only making their lives worse, and the elections will go another way.

I think this formulation, while not speedy, is the only logical course of action.
Do I like Hamas? Absolutely not.
But is democracy more important than keeping members of Hamas out of the Palestinian government? Yes.
Democracy will start to solve the problem in due time. Removing Hamas will only delay the start of the solution.
It's not like there's some simple and easy solution to this problem. This has to play out over time and through democratic trial and error.

Go RIM...

Pretty good overview story on the blackberry suit..

The patent system is desperate need of reform for a great many reasons. This is one of them. I think patent-holding firms should be abolished, but in order to do that, limitations on unproductive patents need to be created.
In the end, patents need to become a little more like trademarks, where you have to continually use and enforce your rights in order to maintain them.
The whole submerged-patent thing is also completely ridiculous. In essence, this case shows how what's right and what's legal are currently not lining up in our system of intellectual property ownership.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

So many flaws, so little time

Based on your knowledge of history - and particularly Vietnam - what parallels do you see now with the war in Iraq?

There were certain aspects of what was going on with Hussein that seemed obvious to me were lies right from the beginning. Even so, I did assume he had some WMD's. It seemed plausible enough that they would have kept some; we knew they had them before - not nuclear but chemical and biological. Saddam seemed to be acting in an evasive way, at least the way it was reported, not cooperating fully with Blix and the others. And our government seemed so sure and so precise about that, that I didn't think they'd stick their necks out to be that positive on the WMD's that they didn't have some fairly solid evidence. So I was assuming they did have that.

What seemed absurd from the very beginning was to say that that constituted an immediate danger to the United States. If they retained even a large quantity of chemical weapons and biological weapons, there seemed no reason to think that they would use those weapons unless they were attacked. By the same token, if they were attacked, it seemed all too plausible that they would use them - in fact, almost certain. It made the decision look, in that respect, terribly reckless to me, almost insane.

What seems even more absurd, is the idea that we would let the question of whether Saddam had WMDs act as a deterring factor in our foreign policy. When someone threatens to kill you, you are obligated by millions of years of evolution to remove that threat as immediately as possible. Sometimes a tactical delay is appropriate, but moving the analogy to Iraq, we already had a 12 year "tactical delay" in place.

That said, one fear we were concerned about was Iraqi WMDs leaking to terrorists, *not* the chance that Iraq may use a WMD against the US directly. This Ellsberg guy might be taken seriously if he were to deal with the *actual* concerns which were important at the time, not his fairyland wishlist of what an idiot would have been concerned about at the time.

Don't avoid the question, Ellsberg, even if it plays popularly on Kos.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Acts of war

I'm wondering how broadcasting Bin Laden et. al.'s tapes is not an act of war. We've got media outlets around the world (not just Al Jazeera) broadcasting his propaganda, and we're really doing nothing about it.
I don't people mind reporting on the facts, and telling us that Bin Laden released a propaganda tape to prove he was alive and threaten us with more attacks, but many foreign news agencies ran his propaganda footage directly.
This was unacceptable in WWII, but for some reason now it's okay? We even accept it from our supposed allies such as Qatar?
It gives the appearance that we are not serious about winning this conflict.
Somehow we've hamstrung ourselves with political correctness and moral relativism to the point of thinking that freedom of expression for foreign terrorists is as important as our own survival.
Screw that, I'd demand Al Jazeera change its ways or be dismantled, on threat of declaring Qatar an enemy, regardless of their previous status.

It's amazing that in many ways, the US still isn't taking this threat seriously. It's like we've gone back to feeling invulnerable, as though islamic terrorism only affects *other* people.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Where the left has gone wrong

This is part of a discussion relating to the new ACLU suit attempting to force the USG to allow Mr. Ramadan to enter the US to take up a post at a university. Yes, this is an immigration lawsuit against the Patriot Act, disguised as a first amendment lawsuit.

If they want to argue against the patriot act, they have plenty of opportunity to do so while still following the principles which they claim to follow. I donated to them because I saw a pattern of defending the bill of rights, even when it was unpopular to do so. I have not seen that in quite some time.
Their originally chartered agenda has historically been quite successful, so I think they have just decided to 'extend' it, perhaps out of fear of losing relevance in a country where their principles are now accepted as "core beliefs" by both sides of debate. A victim of their own success, I guess.

I'm not saying they don't have issues to follow, heck, this wiretapping drama definitely requires litigation.

This all kind of reminds me of a discussion on torture which I had with a friend. I said the crux of the problem was that the US is unwilling to have a serious, realistic debate about when and where torture is appropriate, therefor no amendment has been enacted to deal with the issue. His response was: "No other President has ever needed to be constrained by laws on the use of torture before.." which is just such a huge fallacy, I really didn't know where to begin.
The obvious first order points being: 1) it's naive to think our government has never used torture previously, 2) no other President has faced this truly novel threat, so judging their response against that of peaceful times, is irrelevant.

I think it's really difficult for us to put ourselves in the President's shoes. Just imagine that you are elected to office, and eight months into your presidency, *wham*, largest attack in history on US soil. It is completely *your* responsibility and your responsibility alone to seek out and remove this meanace.
At what point would we stop and say: "That's good enough.." At what point would we say: "Those guys really weren't involved, let's forget about them.."

If I were in office, I would not be satisfied with just removing those who planned, executed, or were involved in the attack. What would be required of me, as the solely responsible party for preventing a future attack, would be to prevent the historical circumstances which in any way obliquely led to the attacks from occuring on my watch.
This would *absolutely* take precedence over capturing/killing those who planned this attack, because I would have absolutely no motive of vengeance or hatred towards those who perpetrated or planned the attack. The only way those involved in the attack would appear on my radar, would be as a potential future threat. I would only care about a cold, calculated, rational evaluation of what action would be the most likely the prevent another attack in the long term.

It'd be a big job, and I'd have to start somewhere. I'd spend a lot of time calculating which *somewhere* would be the most effective starting point.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Can honest people fail to understand so badly?

I am speechless. How can so many obfuscations and falsehoods be included, hidden, and alluded to in one article?
Perhaps some day I will actually go through a rebuttal.