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David Kramer’s high-entropy blog

Binary Is Bad

“Only the madman is absolutely sure.”  ― Robert Anton WilsonMasks of the Illuminati

Nothing in this world is completely black or white, good or bad.  The human brain likes to categorize things.  Put things in neat little buckets, so it can think of groups of things, and assume all things in that bucket have certain attributes. When that happens during a decision-making process, though, you’re throwing away information before assessing its value.  As soon as you feel you’ve categorized it you let go of the information that went into that categorization.  Incomplete information is the enemy of sound decision-making.  Sometimes you need to make snap judgements when timing is of the essence, but even then it should be a first approximation, to be re-evaluated later. Read on…

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Where does your power come from?

Equality as a true/false condition doesn’t happen in the real world.  It’s not only a continuum, but people can be equal in some ways but not others.  Attempts to change this even in science fiction always end badly.  Even if everyone were completely equal physically and mentally, a well-functioning society requires some sort of hierarchy, because everyone can’t know everything, take everyone else’s concerns into consideration, and agree on courses of action.  That’s as true in the federal government as it is in a family home or at the office.  Can you imagine a large society where everyone voted on everything?

The question is, how do the people at the top (or even the middle) get there?  How do people gain authority over others, how do they keep it, and why do the people who they have authority over listen to them?  What do they do with their power?  These all vary greatly in implementation and degree of fairness.  As you read this, please keep in mind that I don’t treat “power” itself as a bad thing.  How one gets it and what one does  with it may be, though. Read on…

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Give Me Liberty And Give Me Bugs

“Give Me Liberty And Give Me Bugs” is a quote by Martin Owens, leader of Ubuntu Massachusetts and fellow BLU (Boston Linux and UNIX Group) member.  You see, it all started innocently enough with a thread on the BLU list about the iPad.  The flames hadn’t actually reached the second floor yet, so I decided to squirt some napalm on it by mentioning that (1) I just bought an iPhone to replace my dead-end Windows Mobile phone, and (2) I have given up on trying to sync music and PDA data with Linux, and am now using an old beater Windows XP laptop just for syncing and backing up my phone.  You see, I’m a PDA geek.  I track lots of metadata about my calendar events, contact data, tasks, etc.  Since the PDA as a separate device is pretty much dead at this point (s0b) I rely on finding third party software for my phone.

But back to the argument.  There were two dominant camps.

  1. Those that see any vendor lock-in techniques, DRM, planned obsolescence, and anything that prevent you from doing whatever you want with something you own, as an affront to nature, and should be illegal.  They would rather have Open Source/unencumbered products that didn’t quite work right than locked-down commercial products that work very well, but only in the One True Way as determined by the vendor.
  2. Those that see companies as entities that will generally focus on their own goals, charging as much as they can get away with for as little as they can get away with, targeting their products towards the target audience they choose.  They feel to expect otherwise is being idealistic.  One should act accordingly, and not act shocked when Apple releases a new version five months after you buy one.

Read on…

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Criticizing Superiors Considered Harmful

Many problems have been caused throughout history due to lack of information flow from subordinates to superiors. This post discusses some examples. some reasons why this might be the case, and asks how we can move forward.

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The Art of War for Women

Disclaimers: This is not a new book, nor have I read it.  I have read reviews of it, and am recommending its concept here, but can’t honestly recommend the book, not having read it.  OK, that probably sounds awkward, but there you have it.

I found this review of the book The Art of War for Women: Sun Tzu’s Ancient Strategies and Wisdom for Winning at Work, which is a modern interpretation an application of the original The Ar Of War by Sun Tzu, now thousands of years old, yet still relevant.  The reason I am promoting this book’s view of the original work is simple: It points out that The Art Of War is not just relevant to war.  It is relevant in any situation where you are facing one or more parties with conflicting goals, or competing for the same resource.  It could be at work, or dating, or politics, or even dealing with your relatives.  It’s mostly about finding your strengths and the others’ weaknesses and using both to your advantage.  It’s about looking for things in your environment that can help you.  It’s about focus and balance.

Read on…

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“No New Taxes”: When will we learn?

I read an article this week on Charles Baker entering the race for Governor against Deval Patrick here in MA.  Whatever.  But the fun part is that he’s running on a platform of not raising taxes, and trying to repeal the recent increase in the state sales tax.  I know most people think we pay too much in taxes for what we get, and that it’s not fairly spread out, and not fairly apportioned, and an unfathomable amount of it is wasted on graft, corruption, and pet projects.  Of course everyone’s idea of what those froms and tos should be is different, so it is by definition impossible to please everyone, but that’s not my point.  Nor is it who is the better candidate.

My point is that if you have a government rife with waste and misappropriation, you cannot get it to “do the right thing” (even if everyone agreed on what that is) simply by reducing taxes, any more than you could make an overweight person healthy by simply reducing their calorie count.  There has to be effort put into uncovering and fixing the waste and corruption, or the vital services will be the first to suffer.  A politician that takes money is not going to suddenly become moralistic because there’s less money coming in.  Just like the overweight person must start with lifestyle changes like more exercise and sleep, a government cleanup must start with eliminating the waste and removing those responsible for the corruption.

Of course, that’s the hard way.  But the right way that leads to lasting success often is.  Silver bullets are for dreamers and werewolves.  So don’t listen to the quick fix people.  You can’t reduce taxes without coordinated attacks on misspent money and other ways of saving money in a sustainable way.  Other “simple solutions”, like the flat tax, are very regressive and have other problems (I’m willing to do a whole post on that if the comments go that way).  No, this one will take actual thought and finger-pointing.  The sheep need to open up their eyes and become critical thinkers and informed voters.

Yeah, that’ll happen.

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