Something to think about

I have two sets of ingredient lists for you (one a little more detailed than the other).  These are not quite comparable, because the first is a liquid product, and the second is a powder to be made up with water.

Here's list one:

Water, Corn Syrup Solids, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, and/or Cottonseed Oil, (Adds a Trivial Amount of Fat), and Less Than 2% of Sugar, Modified Cornstarch, Dipotassium Phosphate, Sodium Caseinate, (Milk Derivative), Not a Source of Lactose, Color Added, Artificial Flavor, Mono And Diglycerides, Polysorbate 60, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Carrageenan, Salt, Betacarotene Color.

Here's list two:

43.2% corn syrup solids, 14.6% soy protein isolate, 11.5% high oleic safflower oil, 10.3% sucrose, 8.4% soy oil, 8.1% coconut oil.

I think we can agree that neither of these looks exactly what you'd call a healthy food, right?  You probably wouldn't like to live on either one.

I'll give you a hint: The second is one I just saw in a video I watched, and thought, "Hey, that looks a hell of a lot like the ingredient list for [first product]."

Any guesses?  We can pretty much ignore all the "less than 2%" fractions in the first list.  We're left with corn syrup, oil, and in list two, a little bit of sucrose and soy protein. The sodium caseinate might give a clue as to what product 1 is.

OK, I'll give. The first is non-dairy creamer. You're probably now thinking, "Ewww!  No KIDDING I wouldn't want to live on that!"  Right?  And you probavbly wouldn't want your kids to live on an exclusive diet of it either, would you?

So, are you ready to learn what product #2 is yet?

Collapse )

Think about it.

Oh, the video?  It's this one, from Robert H. Lustig, MD, UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology.  Watch it.  Then think about this, too.

(I tried embedding it, but even though the embed URl was right, what actually showed up in my post was the cover of the Who's "Who's Next".  WTF?)

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If there was ever any doubt...

If there was EVER THE SLIGHTEST DOUBT that Congress operates on a money-for-laws basis as a matter of course to such an extent that large corporations have come to view it as a natural entitlement, this should lay it to rest.  Former Senator Chris Dodd, now head of the MPAA, went on Fox News to openly threaten Congress for not staying bought.

I've said it before.  I'll say it again.  I'll repeat it right now.  Congress and the two-faced single party that runs it, and all of their megacorporate cronies, are rotten to the core.

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Inclarity on the concept

I just finished reading The Tuloriad last night, by John Ringo and Tom Kratman, and for the first time I find myself having to fervently disagree with the authors.  I believe they made a serious mistake in the ending of the book, which they then compounded in the afterword.

First of all, let's start with a capsule summary of the afterword.  Ringo and Kratman discuss the Battle of Lepanto, present their conclusion as "Bring a gun to a gunfight; bring a religion to a religious war", assert that the Christian fleet decisively defeated a numerically slightly superior Ottoman Turkish fleet because the Christians were driven by faith, and conclude on the strength of this argument that religious faith is a good thing and atheism is bad.

To start with, this argument is flawed because it assumes that the Christian fleet was driven and held together by faith, while failing to explain why the Ottoman Turkish fleet — overwhelmingly Muslims — was not.  It's also flawed because it ignores that although the Turkish fleet outnumbered the Christians by about 7 to 6, not a very significant disparity in numbers to begin with, the Turkish ships were on average somewhat smaller, thus making the forces much more even than the huge disparity the authors suggest.  It completely ignores any issues of the tactical situation, or of the quality of leadership on either side; and it completely ignores both that the Turkish galleys were largely crewed by slaves who probably were not highly motivated to fight hard for their enslavers, and that the Christian side had the Turks outgunned by roughly 2:1 in artillery (not to mention the Turks having inadequate ammunition for their cannon).¹  And as if that wasn't enough, it totally handwaves the question of whether a religious war is ever a good idea in the first place.

Which brings me to the end of the book, and the moment in which the Posleen clan chief Tulo'stenaloor tells the Jesuit Father Dwyer, "You have won; I will order my people to convert to Catholicism."

There are two things terribly, terribly wrong with this.

The first is that Dwyer should have replied (but did not), "No; we have not won, because there was no war between us to win.  We came here to offer you our faiths, not to force one upon you."  It's stated over and over again throughout the book that theirs is a mission of peace.

(Actually, although the stated mission was to offer many of Earth's faiths in the hope of finding one to fit the Posleen, only Catholicism was given any serious chance to speak; Islam was deliberately allowed to present itself only weakly, mainly to allow the token imam to lament the need of Islam to "keep its lunatics under control", and none of the other faiths ostensibly represented in the delegation even really got a look in besides it being mentioned once or twice that they existed.  In practice, Islam was there to make Catholicism look rational by comparison, while the rest barely got even lip service.)

The second is more fundamental (and again, Dwyer should have pointed it out, but didn't).  If you think that you can ORDER a people, even your own, to adopt a specific faith, and you think that doing so means one damned thing in spiritual terms and makes you any better than any other theocrat in history who has told a people "Convert or else", YOU'RE DOING IT² WRONG.

[1]  The Battle of Lepanto really wasn't a case of the Muslims failing to bring a religion to a religious war.  It was a case of the Turks failing to bring nearly enough naval artillery to a naval artillery battle, and bringing archers to fight musketeers and arquebusiers.

[2]  Faith, that is.

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Mad science

Odd dreams

I had an odd but interesting dream last night.

It started out with me someplace in the desert Southwest, maybe Arizona or New Mexico, dinking around with a bunch of salvaged/surplus hardware and stuff I'd built myself, and, well, basically I built an energy cannon.  I don't know how it worked, but it was hot enough that it fused sand under the beam into glass, and it left some nice puddles of molten rock at the base of a mesa a mile or so downrange.  I test-fired the thing a couple times, then figured I ought to shut it down before I attracted too much attention or started a brush fire or something.

Next thing I know, I'm being woken up at oh-dark-thirty by a Secret Service protection detail toting M16s, they've set up a defensive perimeter,¹ and they're saying "Sorry to wake you in the middle of the night, sir, we have to move you to a safe location NOW.  We're not the only ones who figured out what you built yesterday and tracked you down, and there's unwelcome company incoming."

[1]  Minor edit since it seems it needed clarifying that the M16s were pointed outwards...

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Dr. Strangelove


We still hear a lot about consensus about climate change, and yet when you talk to people at large, it's still pretty clear there is none, outside of a few scientific circles.

One of the big problems, I think, is that the debate has become polarized into two political camps — "Of course it's all anthropogenic" and "Nonsense, it can't possibly be anthropogenic, the planet is just too big."  There is no middle ground of "Let's try to determine how much of this change may be anthropogenic", because the careful middle-grounders have been shouted down by the climate change deniers on one hand and the ZOMG-technology-is-BAD crowd on the other.  Each camp spreads lies and disinformation about the data, and particularly about the other side's data.

For instance, most of the most outspoken climate change deniers I know insist that the possibility of climate change is rubbish because it's all based on baseline data that starts in 1960.  (It isn't.  But repeat the lie often enough, and you'll convince people who are willing to take your word on other matters.)

Another common anti-climate-change canard is "What, this prediction of the whole planet's climate a hundred years ahead comes from the people who can't accurately predict the weather in my neighborhood three days in advance?"

Well, actually, no, it doesn't.  And in any case, that's a different and only superficially related problem.  Trying to predict chaotic short-term local fluctuations in a tiny part of a large system is actually a much more complex and difficult problem than analyzing and projecting trends in the long-term, large-scale average state of the entire system.

To give an admittedly inexact analogy, if I build a giant pachinko machine out of two-by-twelves and half-inch rebar, and I pour a 55-gallon drum of marbles into the top of it, I have a very, very slim chance of being able to predict exactly which marbles are going to be bouncing off a specified pin ninety seconds from now, and in which direction.  However, I can unequivocally state that the general trend is going to be for the marbles to proceed downwards, and I can predict with almost complete confidence that five minutes from now, all or almost all of those fifty thousand marbles (or however many marbles fit into a 55-gallon drum) are going to be in the bin at the bottom of the machine.  (But there's always the possibility my deck could collapse, at which point all bets are off.)

"The planet is just too big"?  Yeah, well, they said that about the oceans, didn't they?  "We can just dump trash and sewage into the oceans without repercussions forever.  They're so huge we could never affect them."  "We can fish the oceans forever.  The oceans are vast, and their supply of fish is inexhaustible to all practical purposes."  Tell that to Newfie fishermen who watched their livelihood vanish when the Grand Banks crashed, or to Peruvian anchovy fishermen after that fishery crashed from massive international overfishing (mostly in order to grind the anchovy up for fish-meal fertilizer).  Take a look at the annual dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico from fertilizer runoff down the Mississippi.  Fer cryin' out loud, the BP Deepwater Horizon blowout left an oil slick on the Gulf that was naked-eye visible from orbit.  Look how polluted the Mediterranean Sea has become, with the entire effluvium of North Africa and most of southern Europe draining into it.  Look at the tundra of Siberia and the Canadian arctic: the permafrost is thawing.  Oh, yes, we can SO affect the planet as a whole, and anyone who thinks otherwise is suffering from dangerous delusions or dangerous ignorance.

The other side of the argument, of course, is the anthropogenic-climate-change-is-holy-truth, how-dare-you-question-it camp who deny any possibility that any part of what we can see happening around us could possibly be natural.  "This has never happened before!"  Well, yes, actually, it has.  Repeatedly.  We don't know what the trigger factors were then.  We have some idea this time.  "The Earth's climate has been stable for millions of years until we came along!"  Well, no, actually, it hasn't.  It's at best metastable, and even if it had been, "millions of years" is an eye-blink in Earth's history.  The dinosaurs alone were around for about 160 million years.  They sneer at your "millions of years" — or would, if they hadn't gone suddenly extinct, apparently due to a series of global changes they couldn't adapt to.

Oh, and while we're on the subject, you folks in the climate-change-zealot faction in the scientific community:  I hope you're aware that your shrill efforts to shout down and suppress any contrary opinions from the scientific community probably did more to discredit your position and make the man in the street question your conclusions than anything your most vocal opponents ever managed.  That wasn't the smartest thing you ever did, you know?

(Counterpoint to that:  about that anti-climate-change petition that's going around in the news?  The one allegedly signed by 31,000 "scientists"?  Word is nearly 9,000 of those "scientists" actually have real Ph.Ds.  Still no word yet on whether any of those 9,000 are actually climatologists.  What, you tell me, over a thousand behavioral psychologists say they don't support climate change theories?  Right.  Duly noted.  I'll be sure to consult a proper seismologist next time I need some psychological advice.)

What we need to do is acknowledge three things, really:

  • There is a large and growing body of evidence that the Earth's long-term (from our viewpoint) average climate is changing in ways that are likely to severely impact our way of life, and possibly our ability to feed large subsets of the human race.  Yes, periodically certain subsets of that data have been shown to be in error.  That doesn't invalidate all the rest of the data.  No, it's not conclusive yet.  But if we wait until it is conclusive before we start doing anything, and it turns out it IS drastically changing in ways that are bad for us, we're pretty much fucked.
  • We don't know for sure how much of this we have caused, but it would behoove us to do our best to find out, so that we can avoid making unplanned changes to it in future.
  • And last, REGARDLESS OF THE CAUSE, we need to get to work on figuring out viable approaches for controlling and mitigating such changes, without trying to roll back the green-fantasy clock to some kind of bucolic pastoral Utopia that has never actually existed, so that we can try to maintain our planet in a general climatic realm compatible with the continuance of modern civilization as we know it.  This isn't going to involve abandoning technology; it has to involve leapfrogging to clean technology.  (And just don't get me started on that "clean coal" bullshit.  Talking about "clean coal" is like talking about hot ice or lightweight lead.)

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  • Current Music
    D'Cückoo :: D'Cückoo :: No One Receiving (1991, 05:26)
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Pissed off


Specifically, fallout from our government having spent close to every day of the last ten years since 9/11 telling us to be afraid.  No, more afraid than that.  Come on, let's see some FEAR here! ...What do you mean, you're not afraid?  You some kinda commie pinko ay-rab muslim jihad turrrrist or sumthin'?

As Bruce Schneier keeps saying, REFUSE TO BE TERRORIZED.  By our own government, or by anyone else.

As he points out in one of the links in the article of his I just linked to there, to justify our current level of Homeland Security spending we would have to foil 1,667 Time Square-style plots per year.  (Clearly we're not getting enough terror plots for our money.  Quick, hire more FBI agents-provocateur...)  Lots of good links in that post.

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  • Current Mood

hacking is

A while back, Microsoft dumped a whole lot of outdated DeLorme mapping packages via Amazon for something like $15 each.

Well, sure.  The MAPS go out of date.  But the included GPS receiver doesn't, and the entire principle of GPS relies on having incredibly accurate time sources.  This time source information is available both in the GPS NMEA data stream and via PPS.  Obvious application is obvious.

Well, I've been studying the issue from the Solaris 10 point of view for some time, but eventually concluded that the driver support just doesn't seem to be there.  However, it's a different story on Linux.

Short story?  Using the GPS receiver from the MS package, I now have my own local stratum 0 timeserver.  Subject to system latency (which should be low on this machine, with six 3.2GHz cores), it should be accurate to about ±1µs. With port baud rate turned up to 115200, ntpd reports zero jitter.

...Oh, the mapping software? That went in the trash.  Duh.

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    Assemblage 23 :: Storm :: Human (2004, 05:43)
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On Monuments

The memorial's chief architect told NPR that the quote was "a paraphrase of the original statement based on design constraints."

Meaning, I suppose, "Hey, there's only so much room on the wall."

Dude, if you can't find room for thirteen more words on that surface, in the same face and size, it's because you're not bleedin' trying.

(In fact, it'd actually fill the space better and look more balanced.)

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    Tempest :: The Gravel Walk :: Sinclair (1997, 06:13)
This means war

On the pork barrel

Pork barrel politics is, simply, the art of buying your constituents' votes using their own money, and hoping that they never catch on.

The depressing part about this is how often it works.

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    VNV Nation :: Solitary EP :: Solitary (deathstar disco by Covenant) (1999, 05:52)
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Steganographic challenge

One of the oldest known examples of steganography is the "shaved slave", as in the example of Histiaeus.  You shaved a slave's head, tattooed a message on it, waited for his hair to grow back, and then sent him off to carry your message, hoping that he wasn't intercepted and your recipient at his destination knew what to do with him.

Of course, interpreting the hidden data correctly was up to the recipient.

We just shaved my head last night, as a step towards trying to clear up a scalp condition. It sure looks like all the scar tissue is encoding SOMETHING or other.

Go for it.  The more far-fetched, the better.  :)

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