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Big Warm Fuzzy Public Heart
Originally posted by tongodeon at The Virginia Declaration of Rights
I learned something interesting today. The Bill of Rights (1789) was based heavily on the Virginia Declaration of Rights (1776). The Second Amendment was derived from this section:


Section 13. That a well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state; that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided as dangerous to liberty; and that in all cases the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.


This is an angle that I haven't heard before, probably because it's not convenient to either side of the gun debate. The primary purpose of Section 13 (and possibly the Second Amendment) was not to facilitate the overthrow of a tyrannical government, it was to avoid the rise of that government in the first place by preventing standing armies. This also gives the phrase "well-regulated militia" a bit of a clearer meaning. In order to make sure that standing armies are unnecessary you don't simply ensure that every civilian had access to guns, they also had to be capable of fighting together as a well-regulated militia.

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Tonight I attended a party on a pirate ship. Actually, it was a rowhouse. But it was much better than a proper pirate ship, because it had both a jolly roger and a stunning view of Center City.

I met a time traveler. She is seeking her father, who precedes her in her journey through time. She deserved to win the costume contest, for her steam-powered watch if nothing else, and she did. But I couldn't resist asking how many times she replayed the evening before the prize was hers. Only twice, she insisted.

The conversation turned to physics, as it so often does among time travelers, and she asked if I were enjoying the new Cosmos, having also grown up on Carl Sagan's original in the seventies. Not yet, but I'm looking forward to it.

How many times will Saturn return in my lifetime? How many retro-retro-retro arcades, how many dance crazes, how many 25-year-olds singing Black Sabbath at the Adobe Cafe will I enjoy?

Tough to say. But I sail the narrow strait between the rocks, and go jogging every morning, and wear my earplugs at the club. Because I love this long moment.

We wish we could be teenagers again, knowing what we know now. But we are.

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Dear LJ,

Congrats on the new design. Sincerely, it's a significant improvement.

But until you do something about this absurd 1999-esque business of leaving the current page to comment, hitting the back button and not picking up where you left off in reading your feed I'm still going to feel like a dino for using you.

Sincerely,

Dino Q. Dino.

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Originally posted by xkcdcomic at Morse Code

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macbook

My daughter's black Macbook has died. Sort of.

Normally I don't get sentimental about computers, but it had a long life with three owners, all of whom were thrilled when they initially received it and for a long time thereafter.

This thing is most likely the 2006 model, purchased for Rick, the lead designer at P'unk Avenue at the time. It was a robust Photoshop machine then.

When I first came to work at P'unk Avenue I was still rocking the flaming, half-charred remains of a Dell Latitude D520, the model that always ran hot once they decided to push out a firmware "update" that overclocked it at all times. Basically as if Honda said, "every time somebody gets an oil change we chuck in a nitrous oxide injection system. No ifs ands or buts." I ran Linux on it, figuring if you've got to drive an alcohol-fueled funnycar you may as well drive stick.

After less than a year of this the team decided it was time for Rick to get a new Mac, because Photoshop (a very good reason), and for me to get a nearly-new one.

I was resistant to the idea, for about 30 seconds. And then I was a Mac person. Yes, you too can have things that aren't broken and feel good to use! And you'll only pay a $500 premium for the privilege. Sometimes it's worth it.

In 2010 I got a 15" Macbook Pro. I was resistant, again, because I had the best man-bag ever, and I didn't want to switch. Yes, this is the same bag that led me to resist upgrading from a crappy Nokia to an iPhone for a year and a half. Wouldn't fit in the phone compartment, y'know. I got over it.

I was kindly permitted to take the by-now-seemingly-ancient black macbook home for to my daughter, who until then was on a Dell cheapo desktop special of the year. The macbook was a major upgrade.

Come the end of 2012, performance was really getting to be a problem. The machine had "only" 2 gigabytes of RAM and a small, spinning hard drive and operating system and browser upgrades had brought us to a place where just browsing the tumblrwebs was a hassle.

Fortunately 2012 was also the year SSDs (Solid State Drives) came down to a reasonable price. The upgrade to a solid state drive is a night-and-day difference for old laptops; they actually run faster than new laptops that don't have one. We upgraded all of our machines at work, then I popped a 256GB Crucial SSD in the black Macbook, along with 3GB of RAM, the absolute theoretical maximum.

My daughter got another solid year out of the machine, apart from some issues with lazy-ass game vendors who can't be bothered to support more than one Mac. The keyboard's wearing out, the trackpad's wearing out, but it works y'know.

But then the serious complaint arrived: dad, the screen goes black at random when I power it up.

OK, OK, it's time.

So I bought her a Dell Inspiron 15z, reckoning it'll keep her at least until freshman year of college and maybe beyond. (The Ultrabook spec has made it a lot easier to buy a non-Mac laptop that isn't garbage.) And then I sat down to try to repair the Black Macbook.

As it turns out, a number of people have experienced this "flash at power up, then black screen" thing. And I went through all of their suggestions. None of them work. There is no faint picture. Resetting the PRAM does no good. Resetting the SMC does no good. Removing the battery does no good. Counting to ten with my underwear on backwards does no good.

But the machine seems to be working, there in the dark. And I bet you, when I hook it up to an external monitor, I'm gonna see a picture.

And that means I can wipe the hard drive, reinstall MacOS, and put this sucker up on eBay for the highest bidder as the cheapest media server ever.

Here we are in year eight, paging happy owner number four!

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I posted a lovely technical rant today. I'm pleased with it. Folks are appearing to explain how very wrong I am.

I don't actually think there's only one right answer, but since I intentionally invited strong reactions by invoking the phrase considered harmful, I must take these responses in stride and respond with cheerful bonhomie and rocket grenade fire.

It takes me back to my beginnings, not as a programmer but as a writer. I was meant to be on the Internet, but there wasn't one yet for normal mortals. So I built a BBS out of chewing gum and baling wire, set up political forums and learned the arts of consensus and rhetoric, Peter Wiggin style.

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OK, so, the Brendan Eich thing. You could be forgiven for thinking it's a slippery slope to ask an employee to leave because of their personal beliefs about a social issue. Because it is.

But a CEO is not a regular employee. A CEO is a very public cheerleader for your company. It's a PR position as much as anything. The phrase "appearance of impropriety" is relevant here. You can't claim your CEO's views are not those of the company. If not theirs, then whose?

OK, so maybe you wouldn't buy that either if we were talking about Domino's Pizza, or even Microsoft, because they are for-profit companies and it's their job to maximize the stock price, not change the world. But Mozilla is not a for-profit company. It's a nonprofit organization dedicated to "openness." And that "public cheerleader" thing goes double for the CEO of a nonprofit organization.

But let's go back to the for-profits for a moment, because there's another relevant factor: companies need to retain employees. Developers are social libertarians. People who want to get married will always care more about the issue than people who want to stop them from getting married. And all of Mozilla's major competitors are rock solid on same-sex marriage, even though, as for-profit companies, they could choose to ignore it.

So at the end of the day, making him CEO was bad business. It should never have happened. He should have stayed in the CIO role, which acknowledged his considerable professional worth, and not moved into the vastly more political role of CEO.

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I pick up my wife tomorrow. 4pm and 10pm at the Stardust Ballroom.

I am preparing with a strict regimen of eating ginger candy and blowing up n00bz.

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Vaccines are not 100% effective. But if everyone gets them then the odds of the disease propagating go down. Eventually to the point where a case of measles can't replace itself, on average, with more than one case of measles and the disease is no longer epidemic.

Stick to your guns long enough, as we did with smallpox, and the disease may become extinct - no more dead children from that cause, ever again ever. This is good.

But if enough people become overconfident and stop immunizing their kids, that ratio of new cases to old cases creeps above 1.0 again, and the disease starts to spread and may become epidemic once more. This is bad.

The good news is that the measles vaccine is highly effective after the second dose. The bad news is that the second dose is given at age four. The dose at age one is only 95% effective.

So even kids whose parents are doing their best to protect them are needlessly at risk of something that could lead to deafness, or even death (roughly 3 out of every 1000 cases). And decisions not to vaccinate, made by other parents, are directly responsible for this.

I would have to think twice about taking a baby on a New York City bus this month. And people who live there don't get a choice.

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OK, on a macro scale I'm not surprised at all, but on a micro scale I'm curious about the mechanics of this theft.

If I read this right, flexcoin's "hot wallet" just consisted of a big ol' pile of bitcoin that belonged, cryptographically speaking, to flexcoin itself. And a pile of user accounts, in a very conventional "this is a site with some accounts in a database" system, with balances. None of those people actually *had any bitcoins* in the sense that can be mathematically verified by a party outside flexcoin.

That enabled a pretty simple attack that worked because they were tracking their accounts with chewing gum and string - excuse me - using a database that wasn't transactional and couldn't guarantee that it wouldn't finish adding over here unless it also finished subtracting over here.

Am I right about that?

And why would anyone who thought bitcoin was worthwhile want to *not actually own* the bitcoins they "own", in the most cryptographically sound manner possible?

Could it be that *most people using bitcoin have zero comprehension of how it really works*? OK, yes, of course it's that.

But also, how crappy is my own crappy understanding of "owning bitcoins"? There is some sense in which the original miner signs them and stuff, right? And some sense in which if ownership is transferred, the new owner gets to sign them in that crazy "blockchain" thing? Except that doesn't happen in these "hot wallet" systems? Because... why???

Will bitcoin "exchanges" be replaced by a system in which the math of this craziness, however unproven, is at least applied to every transaction?

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