Thursday, March 19, 2015

Greetings from our lord Humongous

Got into it with a good friend about how likely a hyper inflation is in the near future.  He believes it is likely in our lifetime and will be worse than any of the many that have happened since 1918.  Here's my take on the coming disaster, it isn't coming.

I would need to understand how the US dollar backed by nothing has held its value for all these decades that it's been that way before I would have confidence to call how long it can continue this way.  It has done pretty well against gold and against all of the other world currencies for a long time.  Lots of investments have done better than gold for many years now.  Government fiat alone doesn't explain it.  If threats could create real value, North Korea would be the richest country on earth.

The view that today's world is more fragile, more prone to total breakdown into mad-max land has been tested.  It was the basis for the strategic bombing campaign in WWII.  Before that war, many believed that bombing cities would lead to a breakdown of social order and inability to maintain all of the many interdependent industries on which modern life depends.  Then the allies got control of the air and bombed German and Japanese cities to cinders, and the output from the Krupp factories never once faltered and actually increased continually until 1945.

It's a good idea to look at how scary the future looked to intelligent and well informed citizens of the 1930's  and before when the present day seems dangerous.  This famous address to the British parliament is a good example:
... As I say, the future is in their hands, but when the next war comes and European civilization is wiped out, . . .

I think it is well also for the man in the street to realize that there is no power on earth that can protect him from being bombed, whatever people may tell him. The bomber will always get through,
And in figuring just how dangerous the present day is, it's also a good idea to look at what kind of catastrophe the world has been through.  In terms of body count, I see disaster getting steadily more survivable throughout history.

Here's a little quote on the 30 years war from wikipedia for a small sample:

" . . . So great was the devastation brought about by the war that estimates put the reduction of population in the German states at about 25 to 40 percent"

in 1945, Tokyo was covered in napalm killing over 100,000 people out of a population of 3.5 million if half of them had fled the city.  Your odds of survival in Tokyo with napalm coming down are much better than your odds if you were living anywhere near a 16th century army on the move in Europe.

All kinds of disaster are more survivable than they used to be now, which leads me to believe that hyperinflation to the point of zero value, which has happened before, will also be more survivable if it happens again.

Another good point in the history of future prediction is the first world war.  Prior to 1914, most economic experts agreed that it would be impossible to sustain a war effort longer than six months.  They weren't stupid, and they weren't lazy when they made that prediction.  They looked at the data and the money just wasn't there.  One thing their assumptions left out was just how adaptable people and states are under pressure.  And they also didn't know about the accounting tricks that would be invented to squeeze more money out of people.  They wrote whole books to prove that point and I have read only the bullet points from Barbara Tuchman.  We should keep them and their data in mind whenever we hear predictions of inevitable doom, or of an unstoppable march to progress.

Monday, January 26, 2015


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Day 2 of Soylent

I'm on day 2 of Soylent. Using the Hacker School recipe with the following variations:
  1. I'm not measuring with the kind of precision they do. Everything is approximate with teaspoons being considered close enough.
  2. I'm using some powdered vitamin shake for the micronutrients, this is a mistake I bought the stuff before I read their recipe. I will move over to the Trader Joe's fortified protein powder soon.
So far, so good. I did eat a little bit of mashed potatoes, green beans and left over fried rice last night, but breakfast and lunch were all soylent.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Kixeye Games

I've been loving Backyard Monsters and Battle Pirates. One thing that doesn't make much sense in Battle Pirates is the weapons stats. It says the mortars are 100% accurate, but you see them landing all over the place, on lots of things that couldn't have been the target. What does that 100% mean? And what does the 50% mean when you're talking about the ripper cannon?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

New to Linux

The short version of the story is that I need a good link to a something on Linux performance tuning. Anybody who feels like dropping a link in the comments, or a book title and/or author will be much appreciated. My own reading thus far has been the first link from my google search, which is also the highest ranked in delicious.

Here's the long version for those who are interested:

So I went and downloaded Ubuntu and the installation experience was a whole lot less painful than I expected, in fact, easier than a windows install. I spent about a half an hour confirming what I had found out during a previous attempt at dual booting--that it wasn't going to partition my hard drive. I was willing to make a complete break with windows at this point. With my Compaq recover discs, it would take about a half an hour to do a wipe-clean and reinstall of windows. But then it would take a very long time to download all the updates and get everything set up right, and it would take less time than previously to again reach the point where I am now, the point where bootup times have multiplied by a factor of something obscene and the performance has gone to hell and it's time to consider re-installing windows or switching to Linux again. So I wipe the hard drive and dive fully into Ubuntu.

I don't count the half hour I spent determining that my hard drive isn't going to partition, so the Ubuntu install was about a half an hour. It found my internet connection without any input from me and I was up and running. Responsiveness all around has been a major improvement over windows.

Video, on the other hand, has been a bit wierd. Once I installed VLC, it played DVD's full screen with only a few hiccups. Windows played them without hiccups even when overall performance was in the toilet, but that's a reasonable trade-off. Now that I'm getting comfortable in linux-land, I can probably performance-tune these hiccups away. This is where it gets interesting.

I know only the little I learned in 303, and then what I've picked up doing most of my homework on lab machines when the assignment didn't require me to be on windows. So I know almost nothing.

I open up a terminal and type free:

total used free shared buffers cached
Mem: 449520 442172 7348 0 14376 183256
-/+ buffers/cache: 244540 204980
Swap: 1317288 8 1317280

What's up with this? I have 2 terminals and emacs running and it's ussing 442 of my 449 megs of RAM?

ps shows only bash running, I know that isn't the case, because I'm typing in emacs right now. I know that Ubuntu sets me up as something less than root, and that you use sudo to up your priviledges, but sudo ps gives the same result. That can't be right. I tried adjusting the kernel.threads-max on the advice of this page, the first hit on my search for "Ubuntu performance tuning". Making that smaller didn't seem to help my video playback, and actually seemed to make it a bit worse. Upping it didn't help either. This reminded me that I really don't know what I'm doing here and should do a bit more homework before I start randomly messing with things. I rebooted to get my original value back and decided to post this issue to the intertubes.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

More like this please!

The Destroyermen is going on hiatus. I'm glad to see that there was a blog like this to hiatus from. It's the XO of an actual US navy destroyer who takes amazing photos. I do hope he gets back to blogging sometime soon. I also hope that more military units will start semi-official blogs like this sometime soon. Every bit of information that can be released to the public without compromising opsec should be, and that's a pretty substantial number of bits. Check out the archives. I particularly liked the pictures of the ships going into Singapore.

Update: They're back!! This is the coolest military blog I've yet found. I hope we get more like these from all the branches. Troops blogging on their own are cool, but officers blogging with their real names and ranks up above each post adds a much needed perspective. We need a good infantry batallion XO blog someday soon.