The Blog

12 Dec 2014

Bruce Sterling: Data globalization sure has had a corrosive effect on international law and order.  Even "democratic rule of law" governments are capable of any aberration nowadays: assassination, torture, sabotage, abduction, invasion, guerrilla war, surveilling whole populations, jailing journalists, chasing dissidents into exile, over-arming the police, you can name it.
 BruceS — .. »
"IT IS 30 years since William Gibson, an American-Canadian author, wrote...

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09 Dec 2014

At last, a replacement for Audiomap/TuneGlue. EMI killed that probably by accident, about a year ago. Try this instead as a tool for exploring n-dimensional music-artist space. It's the same kind of idea. Put in one artist, it will build a rubber band spider diagram of related artists. Double click on one to expand it.
 Musicroamer - Discover New Music »
Discover new music. Find related artists. Get top tracks, album listings and listen to free music

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07 Dec 2014

"The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function." - Albert A. Bartlett[1]. This is especially true of exponential growth with short doubling periods. Particularly troublesome are functions that double in under 5-10 years because they wrong foot us. We think the near future is going to be like the recent past just a bit more so, when the growth rate means it's actually going to be radically different.

Then there's the revolutions and technologies that ought to be possible and contributing to some exponential growth function but are actually permanently 30 years out. Like Nuclear Fusion power, AI, Moon bases, batteries that are high capacity, low volume and cheap.

And there's 30 year futures with a date. 2030 still feels like the far future because back in 2000 it was. Except that now we're half way there and it's only 15 years away. So when politicians talk about targets for 2030 (especially about climate change), you'd better ask what they're going to do right now to get there, because it's not that far away any more. It's not just some far future that can safely be ignored for a few years. Take, for instance the recent PR about China-USA agreements on reducing CO2 emissions; That date of 2030 is prominent. If China and the USA have any chance at all of hitting even those relatively modest goals, they had better start going after them aggressively today, not in 5 years time.

So combine short doubling period exponential growth, with a belief in technical fixes that are actually permanently 30 years away, with a belief that 2030 is so far future as to not be worth bothering about right now. Does that look like sleep walking over a cliff with your eyes shut?

[1] Here's another good one from the same guy. "We must realize that growth is but an adolescent phase of life which stops when physical maturity is reached. If growth continues in the period of maturity it is called obesity or cancer. Prescribing growth as the cure for the energy crisis has all the logic of prescribing increasing quantities of food as a remedy for obesity." - Albert A. Bartlett
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04 Dec 2014

In the next UK election (and/or by-election) will you vote Blue Tory, Red Tory, Yellow Tory, Purple Tory or Orange Tory[1] run by a white male from a privileged background that is pro-Trident[2] and has a vested interest in business as usual.

Or will you vote for a party led by a woman, trying to make a difference, that is anti-Trident and anti-war; like the Greens[3], SNP or Plaid Cymru.

But then why settle for a party that is only slightly raving when you can vote for a party that is fully two stops past Barking on the district line[4] and vote Raving Loony!

[1] What colour are the Ulster Unionists?
[3] Petition to get the Greens into the TV party debates.
 Craig Murray » Blog Archive » The Trident Test  »
The Rochester By-Election further destroys the intellectual case for the BBC's decision that only male party leaders who support Trident can debate on TV before the UK general election. The Greens got five times as many votes as the Lib Dems in Rochester, and are ahead of them in several recent ...

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01 Dec 2014

And so it begins. The Quietus top 100 albums of 2014. To which the only possible comment is: "You lot are so obviously pretentious"!
 The Quietus | Features | Quietus Albums Of The Year 2014 (In Association With Norman Records) »
Here is the Quietus' main albums of the year list for 2014, in association with our pals at Norman Records for all your record buying needs

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30 Nov 2014

The interesting thing here is not so much the beliefs and arguments about near term extinction, the anthropocene and the systemic collapse of civilisation but the sociology around reactions to it's possibility.

I'm sure it's not complete, but the New Political Map is a fairly exhaustive description of those reactions. It divides mainly into Collapseniks vs Salvationists with some fence sitters.  It's not hard to recognise quite a few of those groups in current media discussions of things like Climate Change.

Of course, as usual this mainly refers to people in WEIRD[1] countries and ignores the other 6 Billion people on Spaceship Earth. What and how do they think?

WEIRD ("western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic")

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You might want to stay away from Waitrose Organic food because it's potentially infected with homeopathic remedies.

Farmers are encouraged to use natural remedies and homeopathy to treat sick animals.

I'd laugh if it wasn't so sad. They were doing so well until those two words "and homeopathy".

This isn't just communism. It's Waitrose, Luxury, Fully-Automated Communism.

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29 Nov 2014

If OPEC just declared war on the US fracking industry by forcing oil prices lower, you have to wonder where that leaves the UK Tory party and their friends at Cuadrilla. The companies heavily invested in fracking are largely funded by junk bond debt. How long can they last out unprofitability? What happens when they fail?

There's some nasty ramifications (and some upside) of a sustained low oil price until OPEC has regained control again and oil prices are allowed to rise.

Peak oil doesn't mean a gentle rise in price as predicted by classic supply-demand economics. It means increasing volatility and chaotic price movements. It will be dominated by the major players jockeying for position and control.
 The Fracking Boom Just Went Bust »
Opec chose not to decrease oil production today. Oil (WTI) closed as 69.05 / bbl.

To quote a Russian oligarch reported via Bloomberg :
“In 2016, when OPEC completes this objective of cleaning ...

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21 Nov 2014

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13 Nov 2014

The lights are going out in Syria. Literally.
 The Olduvai cliff: are the lights going out already? »
Image from Li and Li, "international journal of remote sensing." h/t Colonel Cassad". The image shows the nighttime light pattern in Syria three years ago (a) and today (b). Those among us who are diehard catastrophists surel...

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07 Nov 2014

Saccades and LED lights.

Saccades are the name for the way human eye movements work in jerks. The brain blanks the visual system while the eyes move and fills in the gaps with a remembered version of the scene. The quickest way to verify this is to look in a mirror and switch your gaze from eye to eye. Despite the lack of blinking, you can't see your eyes move. This has all kinds of side effects, not least the suggestion that it is responsible for at least some SMIDSY accidents. It's also an entry point into the discovery that a lot of what you think is objective reality out there is actually a constructed reality in here.

Here's the thing though. A lot of LED lights are driven from either mains frequency or a created alternating voltage in the bulb and go completely dark between cycles so they flash at about 50 or 100 Hz (UK. 60-120 in the US). Normally you never see the trails of flashes as your eyes move. But it is possible to deliberately slide your eyes across the scene slowly instead of using the Saccade mechanism and see the after images as the lights flash on and off. With the early evenings I'm finding this increasingly irritating on walks round the town as more and more lights are replaced by LEDs. There's these damn after images flickering in the corner of your vision.
 Saccade - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia »
A saccade (/sɨˈkɑːd/ sə-KAHD) is a fast movement of an eye, head or other part of the body or of a device. It can also be a fast shift in frequency of an emitted signal or other quick change. Saccades are quick, simultaneous movements of both eyes in the same direction.

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06 Nov 2014

If Harry Potter is so clever, why isn't he dealing with climate change, pollution and the energy crisis? And peace in the Middle East. 
 Seriously, Why Isn't Hogwarts Using All That Magic To Explore Space? »
We've all asked it at some point or another: if the wizards of the Harry Potter universe can conjure up such amazing miracles, why don't they use it to solve the energy crisis or explore the wonders of the universe? Boulet's latest webcomic dreams up all magical possibilities for the wizarding world.

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05 Nov 2014

On this day, it's especially important to follow the directions on boxes of matches. "Keep Dry and Away From Children". However if you are taking your little darlings to bonfire night, you should also heed the advice from Scarfolk Council. "Always Light Children At Arms Length"
 "Arms Length" Safety Poster (Bonfire Night Part 1) »
When Scarfolk Council issued the poster below in 1972, it was met with complaints from parents, teachers and arsonists. While the poster does offer the safety guideline of an 'arms length', it does not specify how long that a...

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04 Nov 2014

Some fallout from the IPCC report on climate change

There's a bit of received wisdom I've been seeing stated as fact as people comment on the IPCC report. "You can have growth in global GDP without growth in the consumption of energy and resources". It's a nice fantasy and has an element of truthiness about it, because obviously increased efficiency and productivity means producing more for less. Except that rises in GDP have ALWAYS resulted in increasing consumption of energy and resources. So where's the counter example? And there's an underlying assumption that continued 3% compound growth is desirable and necessary. Is that true?

There's some interesting lines of macro-economic research here. In each case it needs to provide not just answers, ideas and proofs by example but routes to get there. And solutions need to be appropriate for global macro-economics, not just a tiny self sufficient community in the middle of Wales.

1) Can you have improving quality of life with zero or negative GDP growth?

2) Can you have increasing GDP without corresponding increases in energy and resource consumption?

3) Can we reduce our dependence on borrowing from the future via debt to fund growth in GDP?

4) Can we control the pollution side effects of growth in GDP?

It's not enough to do like Paul Krugman and just use homilies and parables about making shipping more efficient by sailing slower or such like. If it's even true, that's a local solution when answers need to be global models.

All the Limits to Growth models show hockey-stick style exponential growth leading to a brief peak followed by a catastrophic correction. More technical fixes and productivity improvements seem to lead to making the same graph more extreme; faster growth, a higher peak, a more dramatic correction. So I think this leads to the most important question.

What can we do now to create a soft landing as we transition from a growth state to a sustainable state? And that's both personally and as a global society.

If that's not hard enough. Then bear in mind what might be required to force global society to follow the optimum path when most of the actors are ill-informed and are treating the game as an iterated prisoner's dilemma where their own personal short-term gain is all that matters. And there's a lot of them spread all over the world.
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02 Nov 2014

The Copenhagen IPCC report is released today.

The article contains these two conflicting comments. 

"The lowest cost route to stopping dangerous warming would be for emissions to peak by 2020 – an extremely challenging goal – and then fall to zero later this century."


"The report also makes clear that carbon emissions, mainly from burning coal, oil and gas, are currently rising to record levels, not falling." 

I'm afraid that looks to this bear of little brain like we're all doomed. Mankind will continue business as usual, with accelerating carbon emissions until either resource limits or pollution (in the form of global warming, smog or whatever) put a hard stop to it. The question is when, not if.

I've no doubt people will latch onto the uncertainties, or to phrases like this. "Tackling climate change need only trim economic growth rates by a tiny fraction, the IPCC states, and may actually improve growth by providing other benefits, such as cutting health-damaging air pollution. And they'll try to say that it's not that bad really and can be dealt with. I'm afraid though that I simply don't see how China, India, USA and others will ever want to slow down until nature forces them to. 
 IPCC: rapid carbon emission cuts vital to stop 'severe' impact of climate change »
Most important assessment of global warming yet warns carbon emissions must be cut sharply and soon, but UN’s IPCC says solutions are available and affordable

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22 Oct 2014

I want to buy a final edition 7th gen iPod Classic 160 with the v2.0.5 firmware in the UK. I don't mind a few scratches as long as the display is still ok. Anyone?

I need a 7th generation Classic 160 because this went back to a single platter drive and there's a 240Gb disk that fits and works. The previous 6th Gen 160 (which I have) used a dual platter drive with an unusual interface and can't be upgraded.

About 2 years ago, the final 7th Gen Classic iPod was upgraded with slightly different hardware that worked with the final v2.0.5 firmware. If it came with 2.0.4 then it probably can't be upgraded. 2.0.5 is desirable because there's a software setting to disable the EU volume limit. When Apple did all this, they didn't actually update the product codes or SKU# So People will claim they have a 7th Gen MC297QB/A or MC297LL/A and it might or might not be the right one. The only way to be sure is to try and update to 2.0.5

So at the moment I'm chasing several on eBay but having to wait for the sellers to confirm what they're actually selling before putting in bids and losing out. Apparently I'm not alone as prices are rising. The few remaining brand new ones are quoted on "Buy Now" prices at a premium, sometimes twice the final RRP. Gasp!

I f***ing hate Apple for playing all these games. I hate them for discontinuing the Classic 160. I hate that there's no real alternative.

1st world problems, eh? It seems like just recently I keep running up against this. I'm constantly off balance because things I thought were sorted and worked OK, are no longer available. Or the company's gone bust or been taken over. Or the product has been updated and what was good is now rubbish. Or the product is OK, but nobody actually stocks the whole range so you have to buy it on trust over the net.
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Aphex Twin leaking a fake version of Syro a few weeks before the official release was genius. It's spread all over the file sharing sites so it's hard to find the real release. The file names match[1]. The music is believeable but deliberately lacks lustre. It's really a brilliant pastiche of an Aphex Twin album as if some Russian producer has gone out of their way to make an homage example of what they thought Aphex Twin was doing.

[1] What's a bit weird though is that the MP3 files not only have the same filenames but seem to be the same size and have the same checksum.
 EB Reviews: Fake 'Syro' – Electronic Beats »
Am I one of those people who can't tell the difference between authentic Aphex tunes and sneering knockoffs?

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15 Oct 2014

Hilarious bit of spam email today.

Are you a business man or business woman, politician, musical, student and you want to be very rich,powerful and be famous in life. You can achieve your dreams by been a member of the Illuminati. With this all your dreams and heart desire can be fully accomplish, Illuminati cult online today and get instant sum of $25,000monthly for becoming a member and $100,000 for doing what you like to do . so if you have the interest, you can call, +447064249899 or +447053824724 

But I'm having trouble finding any 5s in 781, fnord.
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14 Oct 2014

Here we are on the surface of this spaceship, travelling through time and space at 1 second per second (roughly) and about 360 km/sec towards Leo.

So what I want to know is, who's in charge? Because I have to say there are some aspects of the cruise that I'm not entirely happy with.
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