Saturday, November 12, 2011

Hope Amidst Stagnation

I've been following the evolution of the ideas described by Tyler Cowen's idea of 'The Great Stagnation'. I've also been playing MineCraft recently and I started thinking about how players can setup servers to host a MineCraft 'map', especially so multiple users can play together, but that this 'virtual reality' compares so incredibly poorly to the virtual reality depicted in most (all?) of the scifi books I've read. We have grossly underestimated how much work reality actually involves! And it struck me that it's wonderful that we don't have anything approaching the true, full 'realism' of the real world!

The world,
we've learned,
is far more rich
in details –
and history! –
than we ever before
could compute.

We have yet
many more eons
before us
to plumb its depths,
and all the rest
of our time
to enjoy them.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Can We Arrange a Marriage between The Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street?

I'm with the Dirty Effin' Hippies, but I'm not sure that we can ever agree on how to address the unholy alliance of big business and the state.

I think the difficulty in reconciling the 'right' { Tea Party / libertarians / conservatives } and the 'left' { Occupy Wall Street / progressives / liberals } is reconciling our differing solutions on how to destroy or contain the unholy alliance. The right wants to restrict the power of the state and its ability to protect or benefit business while the left wants to restrict the power of business to influence politicians and bureaucrats. But the right fear restrictions on business are too broad and unfairly hurt legitimate lobbying. And the left fears restrictions on the power of the state are too broad and unfairly prevent the state from providing public goods. And of course the right too more often fears an overly powerful state, while the left more fears overly powerful business interests.

The right believes that businesses will cease or reduce the purchase of political influence if there is nothing to buy, i.e. if state actors are unable or less able to benefit businesses. But the left believes that politicians and bureaucrats will cease to benefit business if we prevent them from buying influence. Both are impossible ideals.

How can we prevent the state from ever benefiting specific businesses? If legislators were to simplify the tax code of their jurisdiction, accountants and other tax professionals would suffer and all other tax-paying organizations and individuals would benefit (at least in terms of tax compliance). We would expect accountants and tax professionals to lobby against such policy, and because the asymmetrically concentrated benefits or losses among one group, we can expect that group to lobby more effectively. Conversely, how could we prevent businesses from ever benefiting or harming state actors? Every politician, bureaucrat, or employee of the state is a person living in some community and is therefore connected to other people, other businesses, and therefore is almost inevitably connected to any business to at least some degree.

The only policy I can think of that might be embraced by both the left and the right is to prohibit future bailouts of financial businesses or even to 'claw-back' the most recent bailouts of financial firms.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Renting a car vs renting a bike

I'm traveling soon – to a city near you?! – and I the price of renting a car is roughly the same (slightly cheaper) than renting a "premium" bike! Were I to rent a simple "bicycle", I would still pay ~75% of the price of renting a car!

I imagine that bicycle rentals are an extremely small-volume business in my destination city. Too bad. It's actually faster for me to get around where I'll be on a bike than the bus (and there is no train). Maybe I can borrow a bike and forego both of the exorbitant prices! Wait, there *is* a weekly rate ... Bike wins (60% of the car) for 4+ days. Still. I'm comparing renting a car with renting a bicycle.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

WordPress and the plugin Revision Control

I started a blog with some friends and I decided to use WordPress. I got everything setup – my web hosting provider (InnoHosting) provides a nice cPanel tool Installatron that did all of the significant work.

I started editing posts and noticed that I couldn't find any post revision history, even though that is a standard feature.

I installed the plugin Revision Control but the edit post page for any post shows the error message:

Error: WP_POST_REVISIONS is defined in your wp-config.php. Revision Control cannot operate.

I checked my wp-config.php file, but that constant was NOT defined in that file. Hmm. Maybe it's defined in some other file loaded by that file? I'm not fluent in PHP, so I don't know that that's even a reasonable hypothesis.

I downloaded the entire WordPress file tree from my site and tried to search those files looking for that constant. No results. I'm pretty sure the settings for the Google Desktop indexing plugin Larry's Any Text File Indexer don't include PHP files (because you can only specify the file extensions you want to be indexed once, when you first install the plugin). Hmm ...

Maybe SciTE can help me? Indeed! From the Search menu, pick Find in Files..., add the extension *.php, and pick the local folder where the WordPress files are located and presto! The culprit turned out to be the WordPress plugin Postie, which I installed to extend the standard functionality of the post-via-email feature. Fortunately, my writers don't really use that feature so I was able to deactivate Postie and then voila! Revision Control now works.

Hopefully this may help someone else also struggling to determine why the error message quoted above is lying to you!

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Status Quo is *Not* God

Even though it may seem that way sometimes.

Is the set of possible angles in physical space continuous?

I found a note I'd written about a statement in the book Information: The New Language of Science by Hans Christian von Baeyer.

The statement:

[a beam splitter] can be designed to reflect any portion of the total between 0 and 100 percent.

My notes:

Is this true?

If x is the probability that a qubit [quantum bit] is a '0', what is the mathematical domain of x? What is the graininess of x? The set of possible values of x? Is the set finite? Infinite? If infinite, is it continuous?

Is there an experiment that could be performed to determine the angular granularity of space? A quick google search ... led me down a rabbit-hole of tangential reading.