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Election year myths

Story: "the people are poor and pissed!"

Data: "not so fast"


"They’re as happy as they were in 1984, when Ronald Reagan won a landslide reelection. They largely approve of their president. They overwhelmingly support free trade and oppose immigration restriction, and in both cases the public is becoming more pro-globalization, not less. Donald Trump won a Republican primary where turnout, as always, was low, and got as far as he did on the votes of a relatively small fraction of Americans."

"Americans feel about as good about how things are going as they did in the mid-2000s, or in the mid-1980s. They feel much better than they did in 2012."

"Not only did the typical household see its income rise by 5.2 percent, or $2,800 in real terms, but the growth was concentrated at the bottom."

"According to polling Gallup conducted in June, only 25 percent of respondents report disliking both candidates; that's higher than the 11 percent of respondents in 2012 who disliked both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, but it suggests that a large majority of Americans have at least one candidate they view favorably."

"The timing for this turn against trade, however, is puzzling, given that the share of Americans saying trade is an “opportunity” rather than a “threat” hit in 2016 its highest point in Gallup’s polling"

"More intriguing still, Americans' split on the issue by party has changed over the past couple of decades. While Democrats used to be more skeptical of trade, and Republicans more sympathetic, now Democrats are likelier to say it's an opportunity."

"Polling from the Pew Research Center earlier this year found that while 58 percent of Americans say that having many different ethnic groups present makes their country a better place to live, the numbers are far worse in countries like Sweden, Germany, Italy, and Greece."

"While the share of Americans calling for reduced immigrant inflows peaked in 1993 and 1995 at 65 percent, according to Gallup, the share has plummeted to a mere 38 percent. "

"While 76 percent of millennials say that immigrants strengthen the country, only 48 percent of baby boomers do. "

"Over the past 10 years, more people have immigrated from the US to Mexico than vice versa"

"The murder rate is half of what it was in 1991"

"state legislative election outcomes are much more a consequence of national factors than local ones... He correlated respondents' reported votes in state legislature races against their approval ratings for their legislature, governor, and the US president. He found that presidential approval has a significantly larger effect on state legislature voting choices than either of the other, more relevant approval ratings."

That one suggests federalism, as in electing different levels of government, might be obsolete.

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Misc annoyances

A while back my building's super replaced two of my ceiling fans (that were getting loud and wobbly) with new fans that... are also kind of loud and wobbly. Anyway, these come with light fixture, and the bulbs were burning out, which led me to discover that they take some tiny tiny screw base. "Candelabra" base, apparently. No CFLs for that size, though there are some LEDs, for considerably more.

I had minimal fruit flies this summer. Now, despite it being much colder, I have some again. The difference? I've been buying and eating bananas again. I think it is the fruit fly fruit. Oddly, they refuse to follow banana peels into traps.

Soviet apologists. Okay, I guess I should be annoyed with myself for trying to engage them.

For years I've tracked my finances with a bunch of ad hoc files and shell scripts. I thought maybe I should try the world of spreadsheets and databases, and wrote a python script to convert all the data into a CSV file. That wasn't annoying at all! (Apart from the usual debugging, plus data cleanup, but it wasn't that bad, really.) But then I tried loading the file into LibreOffice, and LO was having bizarre display problems. "rent" was rendered as "rdnt" for example, in the main sheet, though it had the correct value in the cell inspector. And dialog boxes came up totally unreadable.

Well, I upgraded and restarted it, and it was better the second time. But still, weird.

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So Trump's been trying to undermine democracy in the US, by screeching shrilly about "rigged elections". Let's remember that elections are run by the states, and that most states right now are run by... Republicans. For example, some (potential) swing states with fully GOP governors and statehouses: WI, MIchigan, OH, FL, NC, SC, GA, UT, NV, AZ, TX(!), MS, IN. In addition, IA has a GOP governor. In fact, the only swing state with a Democratic executive may be NH, which has a GOP legislature. Conversely, Democrats fully control only six state governments, all of which are reliable shoo-ins for a Democratic presidential candidate.

So if anyone has the means and incentive to rig the vote in November... it's the GOP.

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I've been biking since 1998. Despite this, I've learned very little about bike maintenance. I haven't had to. I recall one flat tire ever, from a nail in SF, a few blocks from my bike shop. My chain popped off once but I got it back on somehow. I fill the tires with borrowed pumps, and I've generally taken the bike in once a year for tune-up. Generally I'd hear "wow, it's in great condition!" I'm a light utility biker who usually kept it indoors, so yeah. Pedals were making grinding sounds at one point, I got them replaced.

The past couple years I've been leaving it outside more, though, since bringing it in is a pain, and I've heard "you should bringing it in more often" as the rust builds up. And very recently I was hearing alarming grinding sounds as I pedaled. So I took it in, and got told my bottom bracket is "out" and loose. That's apparently not a big problem, though; the real one was my chain being dry, and looking fairly rusty. So I was persuaded to buy some oil and apply it myself. I got spray, thinking it'd be more convenient, then at home got alarmed by the warning label. Oh well. I did apply it, and woo! Huge difference today, no grinding sound.

So yeah, after 18 years, I've oiled my bike chain. Or, after 18 years, I've finally needed to.

Oil's weird. My one bit of self-guided maintenance was oiling the hinges on my folding shopping baskets when they got stiff. I'd apply some vegetable -- usually olive -- oil by finger to the hinges. Somehow it wicks in and everything becomes so much looser.


The local market had Cajun seasoned pork on sale. Pork what? It didn't say. I figured I'd take a chance. Put it in a frying pan, covered it, had it on decently high heat for 15-20 minutes. No additional oil, just what was in the cast iron already, so sort of baking it. Worked pretty well. On flipping I realized it was pork ribs; the hardest bit was cutting them apart so I could eat them.


I've known vaguely of Roald Dahl's Matilda for a long time; over Christmas I was exposed to the soundtrack of the musical, I guess. I finally checked it out today and read it. Mildly enjoyable, I guess. I was stuck by the long list of books Matilda had read by age 5, I wonder if Dahl was hoping to inspire some kids to go try Dickens and Austen themselves. I was surprised by the big twist.


Spam I just got: "Jesus's Lost Words Stun Christians (Not in the Bible)", from the "Laissez Faire Club". What.

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Abstract housing

I was thinking about supply/demand curves and housing again. A standard picture: imagine a demand curve sloping down (-45 degree line, maybe), and a vertical line on the left, reflect legally capped housing. Equilibrium is low quantity, high price. Now, imagine that there's a small loosening -- Somerville allows another 5000 units on top of the existing 70,000 people, say; the vertical line moves right a bit, the equilibrium quantity increases, and price decreases -- but is still pretty high compared to a hypothetical 45 degree supply line.

I've seen a lot of people claim that housing somehow isn't affected by supply and demand, that developers only build luxury housing, but if you can follow my mental picture, you see that's what we'd expect from only small increases. Worse, if demand is itself increasing -- the demand curve moving to the right -- then price can increase anyway. It'd increase even more if the supply line hadn't shifted right.

But there's a complication. Such graphs are ideally about some identical commodity, which housing is not: it varies in size, price, location, amenities. But, I think we can think about not the price of units, but the price per square foot (or meter). A specific unit can be expensive because it costs a lot, or because it costs less but gives little space; both are expensive compared to renting a Rust Belt mansion for less than a Boston 1BR. Even more abstractly, there are other amenities: a tight (expensive) market will likely have year-to-year leases, deep deposits, and hostility to pets; a cheap one will be more month-month and loose about things.

That said, okay, increasing the supply slightly only decreases the price per area slightly. We could still expect big expensive and smaller cheaper units to be built; the claim is that that's not true. I don't know how true that is... but I do know that one end of the tradeoff curve, cheap apartments that are very small ("microapartments", "SRO") and have no parking space, is outright illegal to build in almost all the US. And a friend argued that simply building a 600 square foot box in Boston already puts you into "luxury" price ranges, that's just how expensive it is here. (I know that a couple of Back Bay parking spaces, probably consuming an area of about 660 square feet, sold for $600,000 -- that's not even an actual box, let alone a habitable one with plumbing and wiring.)

Meanwhile we do have current evidence that supply and demand works: some luxury markets have gotten saturated, with units not renting out, or being discounted, and Japanese housing prices haven't soared the way US ones have; it's much easier to build there.

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urban density mystery

For those who haven't seen it, I'd like to shill last year's urban density post. Data and Fermi estimates, tasty!

A highlight of it is that you don't need that much height to get high density. Manhattan has 26,000 people per km2, but Paris has 22,000, with basically nothing over 8 stories. Brooklyn is at 14,000, twice as dense as San Francisco or Somerville, and my personal impression of it was that it wasn't that high, maybe wall to wall four story buildings.

Well, I finally went looking at random spots of Brooklyn in Google Streetview, and now I'm confused: I seem to have greatly overestimated the average form. Brooklyn Heights, right across from Manhattan, has a bunch of 12 story buildings (possibly office). I do see some wall to wall 4-5 elsewhere, also wall to wall 2-3. But also a lot of detached homes, even 1-2 story. It's not really obviously different from SF or Somerville (at least the parts I'm familiar with), yet has 2x the density.

Maybe it's a change in distribution? SF does have the Sunset, a district of 1 story homes on top of garages. Or in how many people are living per unit.

Or, hmm, back yards. I just switched to the Google Earth view of the last spot I'd checked, and there are none, just lots of smaller buildings in the back. Though I'm not sure if they're housing or garages. By contrast, in SF I lived in a 3 story Victorian, wall to wall, but half or even 2/3 of the lots were back yards, not that you could tell from the sidewalk.

Well, that was one spot; in a second, I do see back yards, some with swimming pools even, but they're 1/3 of the lot length.

OTOH I'm looking at Somerville now, and it doesn't look more generous with back space, though there's maybe more space between the buildings (mostly driveways.)

OTOH again, I just checked San Francisco, and it's what I remember. There's variation, but backyards in the Richmond are commonly half the lot, sometimes less, sometimes more. Ditto for the Sunset, something I never appreciated. Both have a layout where if you walk around the block you'll see nothing but building, but half the block is a contiguous (but property-divided, not communal) greenish-interior.

So compared to SF, I can see why Brooklyn is twice as dense: similar buildings but less yard space. Now I'm wondering why Somerville isn't denser, though... it doesn't even have major parks! But looking again, I think the spaces between buildings, plus greater yard space I now see elsewhere, may explain that.

As for Paris, I was partly wrong: there is a lot of green space, but largely enclosed by buildings like Brooklyn or San Francisco -- often enclosed by what looks like *one* building, in a private courtyard. I was basically right about the height, I haven't seen anything shorter than 4 stories, usually 5-8, though I did see something as high as 12.

I still wonder about my Fermi models; they generally predict more people than we find. I might be overestimating land use, or underestimating non-residential use, or how much area is taken up by walls vs. the internal usable area. E.g., consider a "Main Street" model: 30% streets, 70% lots, half of a lot built up, ground story businesses, two residential stories on top. 700,000 m2 of residential area (700,000 * 1/2 lot use * 2 stories); at a rather generous 100 m2 per person, that's 7000 people per km2. Hmm, that's not far off from SF or Somerville, though my impression is that Somerville is short on local businesses and jobs, and neither has ubiquitous businesses like that. And 100 m2 is high... at 50, say, that'd be 14,000 people, more like Brooklyn, with entirely 3 story buildings and 50% open space (not counting streets.)

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Interracial couples on US TV

I'm no TV historian, but after a bit of research, I find:

I Love Lucy (1951), white woman/Cuban man. This hardly even registers as interracial to me, but the executives then were worried.

The Jeffersons (1975), white man/black woman.

Dynasty (1983), mixed-race woman, daughter of another character and his black mistress; would have mixed romance of her own.

Robotech (1985), white man/black woman.


If you're thinking "you suddenly realized Robotech was odd in that for 1985, and wondered if it was in fact the first mixed couple on US TV", you're right, that's exactly what I did. Someone on rpg.net had pointed out that a certain cosmopolitanism is part of the Macross formula, at least for the original series and Macross Plus. (Mixed race couple, diverse cultural origins, apparently diverse clothing styles in Plus.) And the answer seems to be "no, wasn't first, but was pretty early, and possibly first for children's cartoons. Though who can tell, it's not like the lists I found mentioned Robotech."

This is one thing I'm not sure Macross Frontier propagated, though I guess to Japanese sensibilities Alto/Sheryl might also be mixed-race (Japanese boy, white girl.) (There are also human/Zentraedi pairings and offspring, but "alien who looks just like us" isn't as radical as "actual different-race human".) Robotech did: the second series has the black Bowie Grant running off with the pale skinned Musica. (Macross Frontier does have a diverse cast, including an openly gay male; I just don't recall if it had a white/black couple anywhere.) And of course all Robotech series were based on existing anime, so Japan was a few years ahead of us -- granted, without US racial hangups, but with a lot of racism of their own. Though I suppose they might not care whether whites and blacks hook up, that's just non-Japanese people doing their thing. Japanese/non-Japanese couples in anime might be more interesting to track, there.

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Perspective of an ex-neo-Confederate.

Weekly church attendance by state.

Barcelona's plans for superblocks.  And Barcelona transit: crazy trains but hyperrational bus grid, with lines labeled as H2 or V5 ,for Horizontal or Vertical.

Paris turns the bus stop into major transit infrastructure.

Save a biker, use the Dutch reach in opening car doors.

Not sure if this is correct or just plausible, but words on why Europe, or cold climates in general, doesn't have many venomous animals.

The mythology of "Irish slavery".

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Always Coming Slayers

For various reasons I was browsing AO3 last night, and noticed that there was Always Coming Home fanfic. This was surprising. If you don't know ACH, it's mostly fictional anthropology by Le Guin, of some future, post-post-apocalyptic, Pacific Northwest society, living in harmony with nature and itself and all that. There's a bit of story interleaved through it, of the Condor People re-inventing armies and warfare and how everyone else deals with that, but mostly it's pure 'study', like the appendices to the Lord of the Rings without the LotR itself. Somewhat interesting, though I don't think I ever read it through. Anyway, there's a shortage of characters and conflict, so what do you write fic of?

All of the fics turned out to be one series, linked above. A series crossover with... Slayers. The novel/anime Slayers. Lina Inverse and all. If you asked me to name anime/manga that at least fit the mood of ACH, I'd go with Mushi-shi. Kino no Tabi. YKK. Aria, even. Not Slayers. I'm sure Lina would be considered mentally ill, or "backwards-headed", by the locals.

That, in fact, provides much of the conflict: not so much fighting as talking. The gang turn to be chasing a prophecy/oracle that they needed to get something from the City of Mind, so they're adventuring in the ACH lands, which from their own POV is the far Outlands. (In return, they seem to be from within the Cyst.)

This particularly caught my attention, since the City of Mind... well, so, ACH is mostly about this anarcho-primitivist society, right? For hundreds of pages. But buried somewhere in the book is a few pages, or half a page, not much, about the City of Mind... an AI civilization/network busily exploring and cataloging the universe at a good fraction of the speed of light, and incidentally providing communication/library/satellite services to its an-prim progenitor-cousin humans back on Earth. Rather useful services, in fact: I think the army was dealt with partly by tracking its movements on satellite imagery and using that to run away more effectively. I'm a sucker for robots and AI in general, not to mention Culture-like AI civilizations, but also it was weird that this lovingly described primitivist society is dependent on high tech support they're culturally ill-equipped to even understand, let alone maintain on their own.

Well, Le Guin is famous for a couple of ambiguous utopias (The Dispossessed and "Those Who Walk Away From Omelas"), I guess this can be another one. Embrace the contradictions inherent in the system, or whatever.

As for the fics themselves, I found them pretty engaging. I have seen some Slayers, but I think you might be able to enjoy them even if you don't know much about Slayers or ACH. Seven pieces, not too long -- 2000-6000 words each.

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Fantasy timelines and 1500 years

James Nicoll recently seemed to recommend Tekumel. I've known of this for a long time, but never gotten into it. Someone linked to tekumel.com and I started reading its history... then stopped, it wasn't that exciting to me. But it's got the common huuuuuge numbers. The world was settled 60,000 years after our present, time passed, disasters happened, now the 'currently' oldest written records are 25,000 years old. I read something about how some century was full of specified events, then the next 500 years were full of petty infighting.

Not unique to Tekumel. Game of Thrones has 12,000 years of alleged history. Eberron has hundreds of thousands of years, maybe millions. Dragaera has 250,000 years.

On the one hand I would like to believe in the longevity of intelligent beings, so at some point you 'need' deep timelines, but I feel they also fit science fiction and far speculation better, rather than fantasy stasis. And either way, authors will have trouble filling the time plausibly.

Tolkien's comparatively modest, with 6500 years since the Noldor returned to Middle Earth, and 1400 years for the Shire. Exalted has 5000 years since the Primordial War, and only about 750 since almost everyone died and half the world dissolved into chaos.

Then there's Glorantha, which in the RuneQuest III box set, is introduced at the end of its Third Age, 1500 years after the invention of Time itself. There's overlapping and contradictory myth stuff 'before' that, but actual history is 1500 years. (I'm assuming they started with writing, from the myth/hero age.) No wonder they're still using bronze! I don't know that much about the history, but the second age was dominated by two magically powerful empires, that lasted for some centuries. And not millennia.

In the real world, the oldest written symbols are from about 3500 BC, but the oldest coherent texts from 2600. Those are about earlier times, somewhat, so let's say history starts around 3000 BC. What does 1500 years get us?

In Mesopotamia, the Sumerians have come and gone (though Sumerian remains a literary language, alongside daily Akkadian), and Hammurabi of Babylon was a few centuries ago. Iron and the Bronze Age collapse are a few centuries in the future.

In Egypt, both the Old and Middle Kingdoms have passed. The pyramids are ancient history to Egyptians.

I don't know anyone else for that period. Advancing to the 'historical' eras of other places: 1500 BC to 1 BC in Greece gets you the high Bronze Age and Myceneans, Bronze Age Collapse, dark age, whatever happened that became the Trojan War stories, Homer, weird art most people don't know about, the Classical period, the Hellenistic Age, and conquest by Rome.

Rome itself only starts around 750 BC, 1500 years takes us to 750 AD. So kingdom, Republic, Empire, fall in the west and displacement to the east, the rise of Christianity, the advance of Islamic Arab armies. Dark Ages and Charlemagne in the West, well past Justinian in the east.

In China, 1600-100 BC covers the Shang, Zhou, Warring States, Confucius and other philosophers, Qin, and Han. Okay, so most of us probably don't much about those periods beyond museum pieces, still the names suggest change. 100 BC to 1400 AD covers the Han, Tang, Song, Yuan, and Ming, and the invention of much of what we consider "Chinese": civil service exams, porcelain, paper, gunpowder, the compass, printing...

The history of England is about 1500 years if you count from when Roman support left and the Anglo-Saxons showed up. From 1066, not quite 1000 years.

Japan barely even *has* 1500 years of written history; we can go back to some Chinese mentions in the 200s, or spotty Kofun era records before 500.

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Photo stuff

I checked out the Lesley University galleries today, and all three galleries -- two in the new art center, one in 1815 Mass Ave -- are given over to Irving Penn. Some neat stuff. I learned platinum-palladium printing is a thing, and that there are people out there with the surname Sullavan [sic], like actress Margaret Sullavan. Reminds me of my first crush, a girl surnamed Hattaway, apparently a rare mutation of Hathaway, something one of her math teachers never mastered.

Anyway, after leaving, I was inspired to mess around with the color filters on my phone, with results here: https://flic.kr/s/aHskH6DjFk Mono, sepia, negative, plus a few normal garden photos because the light looked interesting, though I think I lost the moment in having to reboot my phone after camera crashes. Negative gets samey after a while but I found it pretty neat at first.

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Too many ls options?

On IRC we'd been discussing procmail, and its lack of maintenance, and whether it *needs* maintenance other than security fixes. I snarked about wc not needing updates... then checked and found that its web page was dated Jan 2016, because GNU. This led to Ian complaining about ls having too many options, and he didn't even know about the dired output ones for emacs integration. I count about 56 options. That's a lot!

OTOH, I use a lot of them:

All my aliases use -F and -color=auto.
lt uses -ltr
Others use u, A, s, h, and d. That's 10.

I discovered L recently, and found it useful. Others on the list look interesting: --group-directories-first, R, S, X. 14 total! Still a fraction of the total, but I'm not going to say the others are useless.

Are they redundant with the Unix way? E.g. all the sort options could instead be piped to /bin/sort. OTOH that would be more verbose, and less efficient, especially for e.g. a numeric sort on filesize: easier to sort within ls, which has the numbers as numbers, rather than to print them as text to stdout, read them in again and convert, then print out again. Or more commonly, sorting by modification time, as a human readable thing? Ew.

*** Reference

-F: append / for directories and * for exectuables and @ for symlinks.
-color: colors by type
-l: detailed listing
-t: sorts by modification time, newest first
-r: reverses sort
-u: show last access time
-A: show dotfiles, but not . and ..
-s: show file size in blocks
-h: print size in human friendly form, like 4.3M
-d: shows properties of a directory, rather than its contents.
--group-directories-first: duh
-R: recursive
-S: sort by size, biggest first.
-X: sort by extension.

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Trinidad surprise

I've been reading a book of Caribbean history. So, in the 1800s slavery started getting abolished, and it was hard to still find workers on sugar plantations. Paying ex-slaves enough to work made the sugar more expensive than slave-produced sugar, and they were frankly not very enthusiastic about doing sugar work at any wage, preferring to be independent peasants, and who can blame them? There were various adaptations, for example Haiti tried inventing state socialism way early, conscripting the population into sugar work -- replacing private slavery with state slavery, woo.

Down in Trinidad, they somehow found it economical to import indentured laborers across the world from India. After 10 years the workers got a subsidized trip back to India, but many stayed; as a result Trinidad is now plurality (Asian) Indian, (38% or so), and also 18% Hindu. (Also 5% Muslim, and noticeable minorities of Bahai and Sikh.) I vaguely knew something like this had happened but not that there was a significantly Hindu-minority country south of the US. I feel kind of like when I discovered, in senior year of high school, that Belize existed and spoke English.

(I would swear that it simply never came up in my MacNeil-Lehrer watching childhood, unlike every other Central American country. And my parents' old globe probably had "Brit. Hond.")

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machine go boom

College (and other) friends and I have shared a server for many years, racked in some colo place. This instance, the third, was bought in 2003, and has served us far longer than we expected. In the past couple days we basically got to watch the RAID die in real time. Still not sure if the disk filling up was a trigger or result or unrelated, but today I watched it die with only 88% full disk. I got to see even some of my own files turning corrupt, like being owned by another user.

Robbie and another friend had unkind things to say about hardware RAID. We'd gotten hardware RAID, 3wire, set to redundancy mode for the server. We'd thought we were doing really well, with some tool reporting no disk failures... now someone else says it may have lied, with disk problems we weren't told about.

OTOH other friends say software RAID really wouldn't give performance or even safety guarantees. I dunno. But the damn thing did survive 13 years of probably somewhat heavy use, with our disks from one vendor; we sure got our money's worth.

The question now becomes "what next?" A bunch of us were still using it as an active server, like for mail, so a replacement would be nice. Previous machines were graciously retired and replaced on a plan; I'd kept urging us to go to machine 4 over the past few years, but people were lazy, and I was in no position to physically volunteer.

Of course, today we have VPS. Since I cleverly had mail going to my own domain, hosted on the server, I found I was able to get my own linode, transfer DNS, and get basic mail working, in under 3 hours. Hopefully at this point I won't *lose* mail, though I have yet to get procmail -- or some more secure replacement -- up; I really depend on filtering. And I don't know about spam... we had greylisting going, which probably prevented a lot of spam even before my powerful spamprobe filter; right now I'm exposed. But it's after 3am, it can wait a day or two.

Anyway, someone could probably replace our machine with a VPS quickly... if they had control over our DNS. That's probably one guy, on vacation right now. Whee. Also, while I backed up my own files, I never thought to grab the passwd or shadow files; if no one else did either, actually making accounts for everyone would be a pain.

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Grandoffspring of yogurt

So, my previous described batch was pretty much perfect, I realized. Good medium-sour taste, good 'texture', much like the European Yogurt that it starts from. Can I replicate it?

I tried batch 3 just now, and the answer is "not quite". The taste is fine, but it's a bit firmer: it can actually hold some shape.

I made it the same way: add milk from the fridge to the jar containing the dregs of the previous batch, shake[1], stick in oven for maybe 18 hours.

Pickiness of texture aside, it certainly tastes good; I ate like 1/3 of it straight away before stopping.

[1] I've read you shouldn't stir the incubating yogurt, that the bacteria don't like being disturbed. (How can they tell? They're so small!) But I can't avoid the feeling that it's better to disperse the starter, rather than letting it grow up from the bottom and walls. I suppose I could test not shaking it, sometime.

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nested functions in Perl

As mentioned in the previous post, I found Perl has problems here:

[Zefiris:0] cat unbound.pl
sub outer {
    sub inner {
        print "inside inner\n";
    print "inside outer\n";


[Zefiris:0] perl unbound.pl
inside outer
inside inner

Perl's inner() enters the global scope, even from within outer()


[Zefiris:0] cat unbound.py
def outer():
    def inner():
        print("inside inner")

    print("inside outer")


[Zefiris:0] python unbound.py
inside outer
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "unbound.py", line 8, in 
NameError: name 'inner' is not defined

Python does the scoping I expect, though not any compile time checking for undefined functions. Though Perl doesn't here, either, even with 'use strict;'. Well, I suppose it's possible that in these languages, outer() could have done something to define inner() before it was called.

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languages and first class functions

I've started learning Scala. Don't know how far I'll get unless someone's willing to hire me ot learn it (not impossible, I see a few jobs saying just that.) So far it at least seems like a nice blend of functional programming (ML type inference branch) and practical utility (JVM base, willingness to let you get dirty and imperative.) Though I'm also getting whiffs of C++ complexity... possibly unavoidable if going for that amount of flexibility in both coding style and performance.

It reminded me that I have trouble respecting a language that doesn't have first class functions, which got me wondering about the languages I know well.

C: no.

C++: no, directly, though you can make function objects with classes and operator(). Bit verbose, though. C++11 made improvements.

Java: I don't know, actually. Searching... looks like not really, though Java 8 made improvements.

Perl: Wikipedia says yes, though you hand around references to subroutines, and I found recently that nested functions aren't actually bound to their scope: function 1 defined in function 2 is still callable outside function 2. Wikipedia does say that nested named functions are in Perl 6, vs. the Perl 5 that AFAIK everyone still uses, if they use Perl at all.

Python: pretty much... but as Robbie and I found recently, Python doesn't do proper lexical scoping. And WP says it doesn't really do anonymous nested functions; Guido seems to have a reluctance to embrace FP. (Also see reduce being exiled to a functools library, not that Perl is better, to my surprise.)

So, wow, none of them.

Ruby I know basically nothing of, but WP says no. JavaScript I don't know enough of, though WP says yes. It also says mostly yes for Rust and Go. I'm sad D isn't on the table.

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Regarding the previous batch: I realized that it wasn't sour or tangy at all. This was both alarming and disappointing, as I like a tang to my yogurt, up to a point (some of my previous late-generation long incubation batches were approaching battery acid, metaphorically speaking.) Also, the remainder of the milk it was made from went bad days before the sell-by date, which was also alarming; what might have slipped into the yogurt?

But I soldiered on, and made a new batch with the dregs of the old one, and new milk. Same lazy process, though I left it in the oven for a lot longer, maybe 18 hours? Similar texture, thickened-gooey. Does have some sourness to it. These two batches have been thick enough to be difficult to drink straight, unlike my usual, though they still run (or goop) off a spoon, unlike gelatinized yogurt that can hold a shape.


Also, no, even Kerrygold butter isn't soft enough to spread easily right out of the fridge... hmm, granted, I decreased the fridge temperature yesterday, partly as a reaction to the bad milk.

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I expect most of my readers know that Columbus didn't "prove the Earth was round", but an interesting question is how widespread knowledge of the globular Earth was, e.g. among the uneducated. Hard to answer for sure. But this reddit thread gives some interesting quotes about elite knowledge, including citing the Venerable Bede quoting Augustine, and someone writing in 1170s about longitude and time differences (from the observed local time of eclipses.) And:

"the key piece of evidence with regard to unlearned people is a book of sermons published in vernacular German and translated into multiple languages which mentions a spherical Earth multiple times as a metaphor; that is, something ordinary people listening to a sermon would understand and relate to."

Bad news for any Ars Magica campaigns that assume people believing in a flat Earth...

This post discusses the Treaty of Tordesillas; no, a line dividing up the Americas didn't mean they thought the world was flat.

Finally, this blames the 19th century for creating the myth that medieval people thought the world was flat. Not the only historical bullshit that came out of the 19th century...

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Butter, yogurt, Digger

I've been buying butter in small tubs, so I can leave it out to get soft, and not mess with sticks in a tray. I'd been buying Plugra. Last time I bought Kerrygold, and after leaving it out it was practically turning into butter soup, in temperatures not as hot as they had been. It claims to be naturally softer, because it's from grass fed cows. It doesn't say that grass means more Omega-3 fats, but that's usually the case, and O-3s have lower melting points than O-6 (maybe why deep sex fish use them.) So, that checks out. And O-3 would mean marginally healthier butter.

Question remains whether it's "naturally softer" enough to not be annoying to spread straight out of the fridge.


Yogurt making continues, and my latest batch is like the best-set I've ever made. I went for maximum laziness, simply filling the mason jar with milk and sticking that in the oven (heated by pilot light); no pre-heating of milk, no heating of the oven to get the temperature above 106 F. I did add a bit of yogurt from the Trader Joe's tub, in addition to the yogurt already in the jar. I left it incubating for a while, 13 or 15 hours, I think. Came out not very sour, and a mix of semi-solid and stretchy-goopy, vs. my more common "solid on top, fermented liquid beneath" or the "totally separated curds and sour whey" of previous late-generation attempts. I am pleased, if unsure about being able to replicate this.


I re-read the webcomic Digger for the first time, a couple days ago. It really is good! Serious story but also hilarious in many places. Pseudoniece G' seems to be liking it, too.


I re-read the webcomic Treading Ground last night, for the second or third time. Much quicker, only 251 strips, vs like 750 pages. It's a lot cruder and I'm not mentioning it to 13 year old pseudonieces. But funny in its own way. It also had advice on cutting meat with dull knives (apply pressure and speed) which has served me well since first reading it.

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Damien Sullivan

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