24 June 2016

Be careful what you ask for, you might get it

For my American friends and neighbors, my brief summary of this whole “brexit” mess. What happened Nigel Farage, a stockbroker’s son educated at an expensive private school, managed to portray himself in the media as a man of the people. His party, UKIP, engaged in racist campaigning, along with the usual far-right homophobia and rants about women. The BBC gave disproportionate coverage to UKIP, and initially they were treated as a joke. ... Read more

22 June 2016

Homeland Security and less pleasant things

Today was the day of my citizenship interview. The appointment was at the Department of Homeland Security US Citizenship and Immigration Services office in San Antonio, so I had taken the day off. I set out at 9am, and almost immediately encountered a dead armadillo on the road. I wondered if it was an omen. Turned out, maybe yes. The journey to San Antonio is about 120km each way. It’s a long, boring drive down I-35, enlivened only by the antics of Texas drivers doing stupid shit like tailgating 18 wheelers and cutting in front of buses in their pickups. ... Read more

20 June 2016

Tarzan of the Calais Jungle

Michael Heseltine is apparently shocked to discover that the Tory party is engaging in racist fearmongering about immigration: The Brexit case relies on fanning fears about immigration. I am amazed that someone like you now marches to the drum of Farage, Trump and Le Pen – a generation of demagogues spawned by a global recession and the fallout from internecine conflict among Muslims. Maybe he’s getting forgetful in his old age. ... Read more

18 June 2016

DAO duh Cha-Ching

A group of Russian programmers decided to set up a new blockchain platform. The new platform would improve on Bitcoin by allowing arbitrary contracts to be specified, rather than just the simple transactions supported by Bitcoin. It would have its own cryptocurrency, which people would be able to purchase with real money. The platform would be called ‘Ethereum’, the currency ‘ether’. Initial purchase of ether started in 2014, and by earlier this year more than a billion dollars of the virtual commodity had been sold. ... Read more

16 June 2016

The E-Prime of programming?

David MacIver on Twitter remarked that questions of the form “Is X a Y?” tend to be problematic when controversial topics are involved. Consider: “Is Donald Trump a fascist?” “Is string theory a scientific theory?” The remark reminded me of E-Prime, a modified version of English which attempts to avoid philosophically problematic statements by banning the verb “to be”. The idea is to discourage rigid and dogmatic speech based around statements of identity, like “You are an idiot”. ... Read more

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