Monday, December 5, 2016

What Field and Where?

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So after being abandoned by my own field and treated like worthless garbage, the best plan I can come up with is to go to graduate school and try to learn another trade. Many people assume that when I return to school (if I return to school) I will study computer graphics / animation. But why would I do that? Being in computer animation destroyed my life. If anyone was treated badly by a field they helped to create, it is me. To expect to be treated any differently in the future is unrealistic.

No doubt, visualization will be part of what I do in the future, no matter what direction I take. I seem to have dedicated a big part of my life to it, so why not continue?

So what field and where?

1. Field

If it involves computer science, then it might involve computer security, computational biology, machine learning, autonomy, or image understanding. All these fields are very important and interesting. If it involves being able to teach, then a terminal degree in art, the MFA, is useful. It would also be entertaining to get. In a previous life I studied economics and it is clear to me that the world economists are morons and a half, it might be fun to get an advanced degree in it. All my life I have studied history. Why not a PhD in that? Finally, RAND has a graduate institute.  I could probably get in, and try to work on a variety of RAND projects.  I see this as form of regression to a happier time.  The plan is to apply to as many of these as I can afford and have time for. Since I have no money, the final list will no doubt be shorter than the list here.

2. Work

Well one not to get some of these degrees is because I will never get a job in History, whatever. But that is OK, I am not going to get a job in any of these. The ageism in this country (and most countries) is astounding. Completely over the fucking top. The ability to be allowed to start a new career in any field, or even to continue a career in the field I helped create, is non existent due to ageism.

3. Where?

All graduate schools are ageist and deliberately so. The ability to get accepted to an elite school such as MIT, Stanford and so forth is zero. I still may apply because I am stubborn and I hate their behavior and I want them to reject me to my face. The good news is that there are many schools where I can get a good education. Any major research university will do. How about UCSC, or NYU, or Columbia, or UNC? Where else do you suggest?

4. How?

To get into a top school, I need the best recommendations. My grades got me into Harvard the last time I tried, and god only knows how my GREs will go, but the last time I took them I got into Harvard. So it comes down to my essay and the recommendations.

As usual, my essay will be brilliant for those who have a brain and hopeless for those who are conventional and are terrified of someone who thinks differently.

I am told that the only recommendations that are considered by admissions committees are recommendations by colleagues and peers: in other words, if you are applying for a CS school, you need recommendations by a tenured professor in CS. Anything else will be ignored. Unfortunately, while I know quite a few professors of CS, only one has agreed to write a letter of recommendation.

5. Other strategies

The MS programs are easier to get into, I will volunteer to go do a MS before the PhD to reduce risk.

The average PhD candidate will be offered a fellowship. I will offer to do all this on government loans, that may make it easier to admit me.

By admitting me they immediately get a graduate who has won an academy award. I will emphasize that I am probably responsible for 1/2 billion in revenue based on my work. I will emphasize that I probably would have had at least 5 patents if I had had the money to file.

6. What happens after?

By the time I graduate, I hope to have at least one if not two books published (The details of that for another time.  The first book is well underway).  I will have social security, maybe a tiny income if I keep writing books.  If I get a job, I can repay my govt loans.  If I do not work, then they can come take it out of me.

My life is already ruined.  Getting a graduate degree is unlikely to make things worse. 

If you have any ideas, please submit them now.

The next document will be details that a recommender might want to include in their letter.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Proposed Constitutional Amendment in Honor of the Election of Donald Trump

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Every honest and informed American is aghast at the election of Donald Trump to the President of the United states. A misogynist, racist, would-be murderer of women, xenophobe, narcissist in the non-clinical sense, possible narcissist in the clinical sense and most of all, completely inexperienced and inappropriate for the office of President. The people who voted for him and the Republican party must be held accountable for this abomination who is likely to damage the American republic for decades to come.

But moving forward, what can we do to prevent this kind of uninformed election in the future? What was the structural problem here and is there a solution?

I want to propose (seriously) a constitutional amendment to address this. Although I am not a constitutional lawyer and just a common citizen, so forgive the wording which no doubt would need work.

The intent of the amendment would be as follows, “No person may be elected President of the United States who has not been elected to and served honorably in a major political position of the country, such as a member of the House of Representatives, or of the US Senate, or Vice President of the United States.”

In this way, we would know that the would-be president would be cognizant of foreign policy issues, budget issues, legal issues, and many other topics that the President must deal with upon election.

It is arguable that being elected Governor of a state should also qualify a person for election as president, but it is a little questionable because in general a Governor does not have the same foreign policy responsibilities. It is possible that a justice of the peace would also be eligible. It is possible that a senior military leader would also be eligible (see for example Eisenhower).

Obviously these issues would have to be debated before proposing an amendment.





Saturday, December 3, 2016

How to Remove a President (Constitutional Methods)

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The obvious question to ask in the context of the Trump disaster, is how do you remove a president who is a maniac, or who suffers from a personality disorder, or is a fanatic and who is expected to involve us in war and attempt to destroy the country hand-in-hand with the incredibly stupid faction that put him into power?

There are a variety of case studies from history, both recent and ancient, and we will review some of them here. Please be aware that each of these is contingent on that nations culture, its institutions, its laws and the specific situations at hand (e.g. an unpopular war, a famine, riots, police oppression, etc).

This post will discuss constitutional methods only. A second post will discuss some of the extra-constitutional methods.

I use the term “President” below as a synonym for other titles including “Chancellor”, “Premier”, “Prime Minister”, “Shah” and “First Secretary”.

1. The President is installed / removed on a technicality which may or may not be legal.

In 2000, the right-wing US Supreme Court forced the recount in Florida to be halted in order to install Bush Jr as president. Anyone who examines that situation comes away with the following impression: had the recount continued Al Gore would have won the election. In this way, by controlling the Supreme Court, the right wing was able to defeat the results of an election. Whether or not you believe that or not is irrelevant. A substantial number of Americans do believe it.

If in 2016, the Electoral College were to install Hillary Clinton instead of Donald Trump, it would be perfectly legal to the best of my knowledge and the Trump faction would go nuts. The Electoral College is an artifact from 200 years ago and is itself a technicality that many people do not find legitimate. I doubt this situation will occur.

2. The President / Tsar / whatever is responsible for (or inherits) a policy so unpopular that he/she resigns from office or declines to run for re-election.

There are many examples of this in history, a notable one being LBJ's decision not to run for re-election and is also probably the case of the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II in 1917.  In the latter case the situation in Russia was far more complicated and dire than simply an unpopular war.

3. The President loses a vote of confidence or is impeached and convicted by Congress.

This is more common in parliamentary governments than in our type of government. It requires a congress / parliament that is not controlled by the President's party and/or the President loses control of his own party. As the impeachment of Clinton showed, the fact of an impeachment does not have to be based on anything real and that it is quite possible to survive an impeachment when the charges are baseless and merely the irrational actions of an irresponsible Republican party.

Since the Republicans currently control both houses of Congress and is likely to appoint one of their goons to the Supreme Court, this is an unlikely scenario for the immediate future.  However much the mainstream Republicans hate Donald Trump, he is still technically a Republican and better than a stick-in-the-eye for their right wing, America-hating causes.

There is the entertaining possibility, however low probability, that the Republicans might impeach Trump if he did something egregious, as a way of putting a more compliant reactionary in charge, e.g. Pence.

4. The President commits a crime which is exposed and the resulting scandal causes him/her to resign.

In general for this scenario to work, the scandal has to be so egregious that it overwhelms the attempts of the administration to suppress it.  In this country it usually requires an “independent prosecutor” to be assigned, its report has to be damning, and the threat of impeachment has to be real.

This scenario also requires, or may require, such things as an internal security unit doing the right thing and trying to enforce the law, or a whistle blower who is aware of the crime coming forward, or a responsible press, and usually a combination of the above.

This is a likely scenario ultimately for Trump. But there are many reasons to think that it also might not work in his case. Trump has proven to be remarkably immune to borderline insane behavior already exhibited, the Republicans control both houses of Congress and would have to approve an independent prosecutor, and our internal security forces would have to do the right thing which in general is not a realistic expectation on our part.

5. The Constitution permits a president to be removed without impeachment.

There is a technique for removing the President if he/she is judged to be insane in the opinion of his/her own administration. I know very little about it but I think it is intended to prevent nuclear war in the short run while the government figures out what to do with a certified loony at the top. To the best of my knowledge, these provisions have never been used.

In the next post on the subject of removal, we will review some of the more entertaining but illegal methods of removal of the chief executive such as assassination.  

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Memo to Warner Bros: Dont Be Stupid

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I had written what I suppose was a humerous take on Suicide Squad (2016), but in retrospect it is just not a funny matter.

The film is a disaster and deserves to be held up as a world-class example of what not to do. For those of you who do not do this for a living, or who have not studied this craft, we are not talking about vague, aesthetic, mumbo jumbo here. We are talking about basic, straightforward, principles of art. Principles which you can of course violate if you are a genius and know exactly what you are doing. But if you are not a genius, and these people clearly are not, then you had better pay attention.

I am going to go over the details in just a moment, but before I do I want to put the knife in. The WB executives who managed this piece of shit do not deserve their job. Anyone can do better, or said differently, it would be difficult for someone who had been around this stuff for a while to do worse.

What is particularly sad about this train wreck is that there are some very good characterizations here. The Joker, Harley Quinn, Deadshot, the Enchantress are all excellent, IMHO. Its the story(ies) they were made to serve that suck.



Enchantress is such a babe and totally wasted in this movie


Some of the following are technically story structure faults and some of them are pure writing faults.

1. We have three movies here, or at least parts of three movies. One is a movie in flashback form of the Joker and Harley Quinn, their romance and Harley's origin story. It could have been great, but it wasnt completed and besides it should not be told as a flashback. The second movie is the Amanda Waller / Suicide Squad story to defeat Enchantress. And the third is the Enchantress story, what happened to her, and her desire for revenge. The last story is the one that is least realized. The one of the Suicide Squad mission is the most hackneyed. Either story 1 or 3 would have been more interesting.

2. The introduction of the characters for movie 2, Suicide Squad, is hackneyed and unnecessary. The mug sheet, attributes of the character are unnecessary and look forced because they are forced. Making them dance around in fancy type does not help. Maybe this worked in comic book form, I dont know, but it doesnt work here.

3. Here are some examples of bad writing. First, if you are going to send these creeps out with a special forces team, then they are going to have to train together. No special forces team would consent to go on a mission otherwise. But our writers clearly know nothing about special forces. Second, if you are going to turn ordinary humans into blob heads, explain why. How much better to have turned them into something that made sense in the context of the Enchantress. How about ancient Aztec warrior slaves? That would have been interesting, you know pulling people's hearts out of their chest, that sort of thing. Third, if you are going to just blow up the Aztec Brother with a fucking bomb, then why not just saturation bomb the place. The AF has lots of fighter-bombers with 500 lb. bombs that would do a lot better than that stupid charge. Fourth, what exactly was the Enchantress trying to build? What does it do? How? Why? What is the junk in the sky? What purpose does it serve?

The answer is that it serves no purpose.  The writers dont have a clue what they are doing.

4. A personal pet peeve of mine is to have a crash of some vehicle and then have people walk away. No, you do not have a helicopter crash and then roll it over a bunch of times without everyone inside having broken ribs, or crushed vertebrae or worse.


Listen up!  A helicopter crashes and rolls over a bunch of times, then two things are true. First, it explodes. Second nobody walks away. Got that?


This movie is worse than just a bad movie, it is a waste of good talent and a good opportunity. The executives and filmmakers who perpetrated this disaster should be ashamed of themselves.



Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Trans Pacific Partnership and National Security

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The NY Times has published an editorial describing how rejection of the Trans-Pacific Partnership was self-destructive and will allow China to take over the world and destroy America. <insert link here>

They may very well be right. But whoever wrote this is in the dark about some fundamental issues that seem to have escaped them. So allow me to help my brilliant, elite editorial writer learn about some basic reality in American in 2016.

First, although we hear how Globalization and NeoLiberalism has been good for the world economy and especially the American economy, most of us have not seen it. We have seen the rich get richer, the middle class get destroyed by taxes, reduced wages, reduced pensions and the destruction of jobs but we have not seen how this new economy helps us. We have seen the government lie about unemployment and do absolutely nothing about helping the middle and working classes except perhaps to suggest that we could learn to type and become a secretary, or maybe work at Jack in the Box for minimum wage.

And furthermore, this has been going on for 30 years. But no response from Washington, no acknowledgement of the problem. No attempts to fix it that are not laughable. But we do see bankers and fund managers destroy the economy, not get prosecuted and given their multi-million bonuses nevertheless. We see Wells Fargo commit fraud for a decade, fire 5,000 little people, but no one goes to jail and the CEO retires with 100 million dollars after some insider trading which of course is not investigated. We see middle class people get assets seized by the police without being accused of a crime and the DOJ say that it is OK.

Now before you read any further, you should reread the above two paragraphs. You should reread them again. You should keep rereading them until you understand them. Until you understand that they are true. Then when or if you finally get it through your head that we have a corrupt and unacceptable economy for millions of Americans, then we can move on. The point is that your trade deals and Globalization is not a favorite concept among millions and millions of Americans. Ok, got that?

Second, the TPP was negotiated in secret and sprung on the American people about a year ago. When it was released to the public with the statement that we must ratify this treaty at once, and no discussion permitted, people demurred. Since a ratified treaty becomes law, it makes sense that there be some discussion of what is essentially a proposed law(s). We cant have that, the Government says, we must ratify this at once!

But what we discovered when we looked at the TPP was some very egregious and unlikeable provisions. Well, unlikeable unless you are a large, corrupt corporation of course. In fact, there is a lot to dislike about this “partnership”, when it was finally presented to the American people.

Third, you now tell us that the TPP had nothing to do with trade. In fact, it had to do with national security as manifested by trade blocks that will form a bulwark against China and Russia (if anyone cared about Russia as an economic power, which they do not, apparently).

Well, that is interesting and it may even be true. But your efforts to slide that past the American people without discussing your real motives or the slightest effort to protect the American people against the egregious and manifest crimes of international corporations doomed this effort.

As you say, it has nothing to do with trade. It may or may not have something to do with national security. But it certainly has a lot to do with the trust that the American people have in their government, and that is where you lost.

But there is a way forward. All you have to do is be honest with the American people about what your real motives are, fix the problems with the treaty to protect the American people and their laws, and convince them that your trade policies actually help Americans instead of just stridently assert that they do against all the evidence of people's experience of the last 30 years.

If you do that, I have no doubt that a treaty can be ratified.

Good luck.

Causes and Mysteries about Election 2016


A minority of American voters have elected an irresponsible, racist, misogynist, narcissistic, and unqualified asshole to be POTUS and are in complete denial of how they have fucked this country.

Causes

In order to achieve this, a number of things had to happen. I review a few of them here. First, women and Hispanics who were presumed to vote for HRC and against Trump did not do so in substantial numbers. Trump could not have won without their support. Second, we learn that the country is perfectly willing to ignore their leaders. Just about every elite politician, intellectual and news source supported HRC, some of them half-heartedly, and opposed Trump. Third, voting Republicans, not their leaders but the rank and file, supported their candidate and the Democrats did not. Fourth, we, the Democrats, won the popular vote but lost the electoral vote. We may have to do something about the Electoral College, but that will be hard. Fifth, you can not run a candidate for POTUS unless he/she is a superior communicator and HRC is not. Sixth, we ran a Washington insider in a year when the country seethed with anger about how the system was failing them.  We had plenty of warning, see the Occupy movement and the campaign of Bernie Sanders. In other words, we, the Democrats, chose the wrong candidate.

Mysteries

I do not understand why the Washington elite has completely failed to understand and recognize the anger about the economy that has been building for over 30 years. 

Also, remember that the Trump vote only reflects the anger on the right.  There is a similar anger but on the left, what we might call the Sanders supporters.  These people were completely and utterly disenfranchised in this election being forced to vote for HRC as a lesser evil than Trump.

There is anger about the wealth inequality. There is anger about a justice system that favors the rich and punishes the poor. There is anger about a tax system that oppresses the middle class. There is anger about a justice system that lets corporate criminals commit any crime and go free.

The Polls

I do not understand why the polls were so wrong, nor do I understand why so many people, including the pollsters themselves, are in denial of the scope of their disaster.  This is as bad as "Dewey Defeats Truman". 

The implications of the polling failure are not commonly recognized. For example, you think you know what percentage of women or Hispanics voted for Trump? Well, you don't. Those numbers come from exit polls. The same technology that was so wrong going into the election. The fact is that this technology is thoroughly discredited. You can believe those numbers if you wish, but I don't.

The Good News

There is good news, its not all bad.

First, Washington needed a wake up call that business-as-usual does not work. Probably nothing less dramatic would have gotten the message across and even so it is not clear that Washington heard the message. Second, Trump is essentially a third party candidate that used a weak Republican party to get nominated and then elected. So if you want a path for a third party to win the White House, one has just been demonstrated for you. Third, Trump does not exactly have the support of the Republican Party. He will not get things all his own way in the Congress. Fourth, Trump has no track record of working with Washington. The last time we had a true Washington outsider, Jimmy Carter, it made a very big difference on what got done and what did not.

Conclusions

I can only hope that this clusterf*ck that is Trump will be a wake up call and that the principle of unintended consequences will apply here.

In the long run, we don't know if this is a complete disaster, or whether it was a necessary transition to a better government.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Notice to Trump Supporters

We are going to find a more polite way to say this.  Or something like this.  I would skip this post for the time being.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Personal Power Conservation Notes


I dont write about shit like this so that people who hate me can use it to make fun of me. I already know what you think. I write it so that others who are in distress may, occassionally, read about my experience and get some useful information from it. Who knows what the odds are of this. I think that they are small, but w.t.f. why not try a little idealism now and then?

I have been able to get my gas and power bill down from roughly $150 / month to less than $50/month. I am told that these are very good figures, but its all still baffling to me. Someone who is not working can afford none of this and yet they have to live even if the rich fly their widebody jets around. Supposedly there is a utilities program under the name of 211 that I have yet to try.

But for those of you who are interested in lowering your power bill and / or have no income, here are some notes on what is necessary to get the numbers down by 2/3rds.

1. Enroll in your power company's “CARE” program. This gets you somewhere between a 20 to 30 percent discount on your bill. You need to watch this one, as it tends to reset to off.

2. Unplug your washer and dryer and use the laundromat. Yes that will cost you between $10 to $20 per visit (including detergent), but at least it wont be a surprise at the end of the month.

3. Turn off your heat and air conditioning. I live in Southern California. The heat is oppressive and it gets cold at night. But the pipes wont freeze and its time to realize that you are worthless garbage because you are poor, and you can wear a fucking sweater to keep warm.

4. Replace all the curly lights with LEDs, available at Walmart for roughly $3.00 per light.

5. Unplug all unknown electronics devices, period. Trace all power lines and if you do not need it, dont use it. Remember, if it is plugged in it is probably using power whether there is a light glowing or not.

6. Turn all computers onto maximum power savings. Wait for the fucking disk to spin up.

7. Only run your workstation when you need it, and then turn it off. Never run it overnight.

8. Turn down the temperature on your water heater, assuming you still have gas.

9. Dont use the electric oven and rarely use the electric stove. Use your outdoors propane stove where you can. It may or may not save money in the long run, but in the short run it will save on your electricity bill and let you keep the lights on.

Remember what we are trying to achieve here. We are trying to keep lights on and the ability to charge our smartphones and run some of our computers. Everything else is and should be optional.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Working From My Smartphone: Water and Power


As part of the continuing effort to live within my means, I decided that when SDGE (San Diego Gas and Electric) turned off my power this time, I would just keep it off and spend the money otherwise sent to them to continue to build up my “no power” infrastructure and see how it went. This is going to be much more detail than most of you will be interested in, so feel free to skip to the end.

The power went off the Wednesday morning after Trump was elected. At the end of 9 days, I called SDGE and made a deal. Here is what I learned in these 9 days.

1. No Power Infrastructure

I bought a $20 solar water shower, and spent at least as much money installing it. But it is installed, and the next time that the gas and power goes off (but the water stays on), I will have warm showers at least some of the time. The rest of the time I will have cold water “towel” showers.

I bought a $40 propane camping stove, and I have now built a place for it. It does just what I need. As the reviews say, it pretty much has two settings: full off and full on. I have to stay there and watch it when I cook, as otherwise it will blast whatever is being cooked into charcoal. I have to wear gloves or I will burn the shit out of myself. But it works fine and I can have hot food when the power is off. I plan to continue to use it even when the power is on to see how this affects my lifestyle and energy bills.

I bought a second, larger ice chest for $40 and split my food between the two chests. I try to keep things out of the water, this means an internal strainer for the fruits/vegetables and a container for things like cheese. With two ice chests, I need to spend $4-$8 every 3 days or so to keep things cool. They also require maintenance every few days basically to drain the water.

I bought a $15 external battery for my smartphone. It makes all the difference in terms of smartphone usage especially at night.

I bought a $20 power inverter for my car and used it to charge my laptop. It also depleted my battery and I needed to rejoin AAA to get a charge. This costs $70 these days. No more charging my laptop from my car and no more charging my phone from the car unless the engine is running.

I bought $10 in batteries and would need to do that about every other week. I bought two very cheap “miners” headset LED flashlights and they are my preferred go to lighting solution.

I either go to the Escondido Library if it is open to charge my devices, or on days or times when it is closed, I go to Starbucks and pay $5 for something and use their facilities. In both cases there is unsecured WIFI that I can use. The nearest 24 hour cafe is an hour away in San Diego.

I was able to turn my smartphone into a tethered hotspot. However, I also needed to increase my data plan from $40 a month to $60 and it may go up from there.

2. Productivity

My producitivity went to hell. A lot of my writing and work has to happen when I think about it, not when I have managed to get to the library and to Starbucks. I have severe insomnia and I need to be able to work from home and without a charged laptop I can not do that.

3. Mental State

I am severely challenged to end this situation (unemployment, living in isolation) and I need to be productive to do so. The despair caused by living in a dark house and not getting work done was and is dangerous. Furthermore, it greatly increased my requirements for medication way beyond the normal and that is not sustainable.

4. SDGE Cooperation

One more time, SDGE was helpful in making a deal to get the power on. I have reduced my monthly nut to under $50/month for gas and electric, the problem has always been the back bill.

Another time I will discuss how I got my bill down as far as I have.


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Election 2016 What We Learned Part 1


My first impression when I saw Trump winning was that “we are so fucked”. And we are. But here are a few notes on the things that we learned, or that I learned.

1. Polling science is bullshit. If they have not figured out the Bradley Effect by now, they never will.

2. Polling may have thrown the election to Trump because some people voted for third parties who might have voted differently if they had only known the real situation.

3. Women and Hispanics did not support Hillary.

4. There is no reason to think that a woman candidate can be elected president.

5. Trump's support is not just uneducated white men. He could not have done what he did without considerable support from women and minorities.

6. Washington thought they could fuck the middle class with impunity, and the middle class fucked back.

7. The Democrats ran a Washington insider in a year when Americans were pissed off at being impoverished.

8. America has voted what it thinks about immigration, Globalization, fucking the middle class to make money for the rich, and LGBT rights.

9. By fucking up on this election, we lose the supreme court for the rest of our lives, and we may very well lose abortion rights. We chose these positions, and the country voted, and we lost.