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Edward Morbius
Technological Archaeologist
Technological Archaeologist
Edward Morbius's posts

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Google are Evil

This is absolutely equivalent to supporting the National Socialist Workers Party in Germany in 1933.

If you work for Google, quit. Now.

When Kristallnacht comes, it will be driven by Google's data.


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+David Gerard's much awaited Bitcoin book is out

Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain:

HN discussion:

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Tracking the conversation reprise: "robert j. gordon" in the Moz top 500 domains list

This run is about halfway complete, but as usual, there are some interesting results. Top 40 domains by hit count are shown. G+ of course has horrible columnar presentation...

Columns are:
1. Search hits rank
2. Moz TLD rank
3. Domain.
4. Search results for "robert j. gordon" (via Google search)

1 8 4490000
2 98 4060000
3 100 2720000
4 83 2120000
5 55 932000
6 11 847000
7 1 710000
8 10 344000
9 163 279000
10 3 195000
11 213 186000
12 183 171000
13 230 162000
14 95 159000
15 197 149000
16 5 120000
17 63 111000
18 9 107000
19 198 105000
20 36 104000
21 210 98300
22 37 95600
23 20 94300
24 141 89500
25 124 88300
26 24 86000
27 245 82200
28 225 80100
29 179 73900
30 209 65300
31 229 57600
32 274 57300
33 4 57100
34 189 56900
35 74 56300
36 86 54600
37 120 51200
38 280 50100
39 58 48300
40 206 48100

First surprise: Pinterest's dominance. I find the site so annoying (it's unusable if you're not registered, and little more so IME if you are), that I've firewalled it locally. But it dominates results.

For the G+ fans, I had to run an independent query to get counts for that particular failing social network: 1,910

Contrast to Facebook's 710,000.

Reddit clocks in at 8,590, though as before, discussion is generally much better on most of those posts than the best at G+.

Queries are run via an awk script using the lynx browser and some delay heuristics which ... mostly seem to keep my on Google's good side. I probably need to tweek that a bit.

As I've mentioned previously, I'm planning on running a reprise of my August 2015 "Tracking the Conversation" study. I'd like to tweak the methodology though:

Fewer search targets. A list of 100 search strings is ... excessive. Because of Google's anti-bot mechanisms, I'm limited to one query every 30 seconds or so, and probably fewer than that.

More domains. I'd like to expand the search space by sites considerably.

Some increased preliminary domain-discovery stages. I'm not sure exactly what these are going to be, or how I'll go about them, but if I can do some deep digs on search strings to find candidate domains for searching ... something along those lines.

More unbiased / counterindication searches. I'd used "this" as an unbiased English word to approximate total English page content for site targets. The arbitrarily selected string "kim kardashian" stood in for antiintellectual content. I'm fairly happy with the first, I think I need to work at the second somewhat.

Comments are closed here per my usual recent G+ policy. Re-share to comment or ping me by email (dredmorbius <at> protonmail <dot> com), or chime in at the Dreddit Open Thread:

Observed recently on a Web service which shall remain nameless:

On the mobile Web version, the notifications feature has disappeared completely. Given that this is persistently visible and annoying, that's a mixed blessing. It remains visible on other properties of the parent organisation.

When opening new posts directly (from links or the secondary notifications interface), a blank page appears. Each post must be individually refreshed in order to see content.

Some features fail to function unless refreshed multiple times.

Content appears inconsistently between refreshes, as if cache coherence were perhaps failing.

This from an organisation whose technical, if not social, competence, is generally high.

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In other Amazon news: Seizing land granted freed slaves

...[T]he properties, near the town of Haymarket, Va., southwest of Washington, D.C., were acquired under an 1866 law that allowed freed slaves to own land. In June, the State Corporation Commission authorized Dominion Energy to seize the land on which to build the towers, a move opposed by the residents and public officials....

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A Gratuitously Redundant Post Notice

From the hill hill by the lake lake in the valley valley of the river river.

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I expect little from NPR these days, but I may have to scale down my expectations
Has Bannon marginalized the Secretary of Defense?
sadly, have his proxies lobotomized NPR?

Trump and Bannon are setting up DeVos' brother in law, who started Blackwater, to do a press promo tour to have his mercs take over the Afghan war. He says some really crappy things about our military not be able to train the Afghans and this being why they need to take over.

One guy calls up and says "BLACKWATER dudes? isn't that a word you remember?" And the WBUR/NPR host says, to his virtual face, "well, it's been sixteen years do you have a better idea?"

Um. Is this right wing shock radio I'm listening to?


Maybe these Nazis are the government we deserve? If we start hiring these thugs for hire to take over our wars, it's the end of military benefits, entirely.

How is Mattis allowing this? It's specifically being spoken of as a Bannon initiative, not a military initiative.

This scares the living hell out of me. Read the second link to find more about why.

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Election Rigging /slash/ Date Night

Read it. It's good.
(All names have been changed.)

I have an arrangement with some friends' daughter that every time I head up there I'll have a tale to tell her. I'm being forced to bail on some previously-arranged plans, though, so... well. I may have to bow out, but I'm going to make sure the story gets shared. +Cymru Llewes, +Phil Stracchino, please share this appropriately. :)


So, time for a story from graduate school.

I was in one of my periodic bouts of depression, but beginning to climb out of it. When I'm on the climb out the most important thing for me to do, psychologically speaking, is to prove to myself that I'm capable of effecting change in the world around me: particularly, that I'm capable of spotting the angles, discovering interesting plays, and executing them in surprising ways. Doing that is hard at the best of times: when you're crawling out from beneath depression's cloud, even harder. But it's also incredibly necessary.

I was walking out of Maclean Hall when I saw a flyer posted: "Graduate Student Date Auction 8pm Tonight at the 808 Club." It was 7:45pm. I sighed, shrugged, began to move on. Nobody there would want a depressed wet blanket of a computer science Ph.D. candidate about. I walked to my car, which took me right past the 808 Club. Looking inside I saw the party, all these happy people, and ... and I just wanted to turn and run away, but someone walking inside had already seen me, waved to me, smiled.

She was pretty, in that "I'm a geek who's been in the lab too long and have kind of forgotten how to dress for a club" way.

Well -- okay. I'd go into the 808, but only to find out if by any remote chance she was in the math or computer science departments.

When I stepped into the club I couldn't see her anywhere. I figured I could probably find her at the bar, so I made my way there where I wound up meeting someone else instead: a tall, slender, wickedly curved philosophy Ph.D. candidate I'll call "Talia". Talia was smart as a whip and arrogant as a politician. She was so nakedly playing the popularity game that it appalled me -- and it appalled me how well she was playing it. But, always one to test my hypotheses, I figured I'd try to engage her in conversation for a bit. If I got the instant brushoff the moment I said I was in the CS department, I'd take that as evidence supporting my hypothesis -- we in the math and CS departments were not very popular at these functions.

"Hey," I told her. "I'm Rob. I'm over in Maclean Hall."

She blinked at me, then shook her head. "I don't think we have much to talk about."

"Why do you say that? Aristotle practically invented formal reasoning. Goedel founded Logical Positivism. Wittgenstein's been an inspiration to computer scientists for decades..."

"Aristotle's dead, Logical Positivism's a joke, and nobody's impressed that you've read Philosophical Investigations," she said as she turned away.

"Well, I sure as hell am," I said. "I mean, have you tried to read it? It's nigh indecipherable." But she didn't turn back towards me.

Theory confirmed, I looked away. It annoyed me that I'd met the queen bee of the event and had already been written off. This fed into my general sense of despair and malaise: no matter how I run the race, the ending is always the same.

I gave up on looking for the pretty geekette who'd waved and smiled to me. I left the 808 and began walking to my car when I found her sitting there on a bench huddled over her smartphone.

"Hey," I said unimaginatively.

She looked up at me with an awkward but really awesome smile. "Hey."

"I, uh -- I followed you in but I didn't see you there."

"That's because I left."

"I see."

She gestured to the park bench. "Free country."

"Thanks," I said and joined her. "So what happened?"

She gave a faint grimace. "I didn't want to be here tonight anyway. It's okay. I was only here as a favor to Arjen. I don't like..." She let it trail off.

"The popularity games?"

She rolled her eyes hard as any fifteen-year-old schoolgirl. "It's so asinine. Did you see that ... that ..."

"Talia. Tall brunette philosophy Ph.D. candidate, no time for us?"


"So who's us?"

She blinked at me a few times, not understanding. I smiled and gave a wave while sitting beside her on the bench. "Rob. Computer science. Election systems."

She laughed. "Oh. Uh. Elizabeth. Liz, I mean. Viral immunology. Mapping out how the human papilloma virus triggers oncological response."

I blinked. "You're fighting cancer. That's awesome."

She smiled. "You're protecting democracy. That's not bad."

"I bet Talia's trying to weaponize quantum phenomenology for transformative microhermaneutics."

She laughed. "No doubt."

For a moment I really wanted to do something nice for her. Then I realized I could.

"Liz, if I were to ask you to go back in there and just spend an hour and a half smiling and talking to people, would you?"

She shook her head no. "Absolutely not."

"If it'll hurt Talia?"

She gave me a very measured look.

"Listen," I went on, "I don't know what to tell you because I haven't quite figured it out yet myself. But I know there's a way forward. And I know you have to walk back in the door for it to happen."

She shook her head no again. "Not unless I know what you've got in mind."

"I don't know yet."

"So you're freestyling."

"I prefer improvising."

"So explain it to me and I will."

"I told you, I don't know yet."

"But you think you can."


"Why? Show me you've done some homework and I will."

"Show me you're a smart woman by figuring it out yourself."

She was cross for a moment, then looked back to the 808, then back to me. "Okay. I'll bite. You're in election systems."


"And you think the date auction is ... is within your remit."

"Are you asking me or telling me?"

"I'm asking you why you think it's in your remit."

"Keep thinking," I told her.

"An election is ... it's a bunch of people going to the polls, making a decision about who to elect to office. Making a decision about who should get the position."

"Who's making the decision?"

"Everyone. Everyone gets a say."


"So it's a group decision about who should get a position. That's an election, I guess. Right?"

I nodded. "So what's happening in the 808?"

She looked back over towards the club, back over towards me. She was smiling. "You're going to rig an election."

"Goddamn right I am."

"You just don't know how yet."


"I'm honored to be your collaborator, Mister..."

"Hansen. Miss...?"

"Ms. Castillo."

I rose from the bench. "Just go inside, talk to whomever you want to, and don't worry. It's gonna be awesome. I just don't know how yet."

She rose, smiled. "Oh, one last thing."


"You know how in elections they like to randomize who gets placed first on the ballot? Because it gives an advantage to the first name or something?"

I nodded. "Yeah."

"It works in reverse at auctions. Prices go up as the night goes on. And we're called up alphabetically by last name."

That was pretty important information. "How do you know this? Have you done this before?"

She shook her head sadly. "Arjen talked me into doing the last one, too."

I nodded. "Didn't go well for you?"

"Ten bucks. Talia's last name is Zavislak. Two hundred." I could tell from how neutrally she said it that it still stung.

I nodded. "Let's tell a different story this time."

"I hope you can pull this off."

"So do I. Get in there and start smiling."

She did so. I thought for a while more, even going so far as to bum a cigarette off a fellow grad student. Cigarettes are my I Solemnly Swear I Am Up To No Good meditation aid. I rarely need them, but when I do there's no substitute. By the time my meditation aid had burned out, I had the plan formulated.

I walked into the 808, intent on hijacking an election.

The very first thing I did was walk up to the betting pool. Prior to the date auction itself you could place wagers on who would place first, second, third, and so on in the finishes. One of the math students had developed some kind of algorithm to do oddsmaking based on the last auction. Liz was at 20-1 for taking first place in the auction. I put down $20 and went out in search of her.

"The fix is in," I told her. "I figured it. You just won. They just haven't noticed it yet." The place was so loud I didn't have any worry about being overheard. I almost had to shout just so she could hear me.

Her eyes lit up. "Straight up?"

I nodded. "Enjoy knowing you just beat the bitch."

Liz gave a laugh that wouldn't have been out of place in a high school and cavorted through the crowd.

I spent the next hour striking up conversations with people and explaining to them the fun intricacies of election systems, whether they wanted to hear me or not. They all did, they just wouldn't know it for an hour.

Liz went up for her turn on the podium. I bid twenty bucks; there were no counter-offers. She came down to slip up beside me, under my arm. "I thought you said the fix was in?" she whispered.

"It is," I reassured her as the next grad student (I don't remember his name) received twenty-five.

"But he..."

"Liz, exit polls lie. The only thing that matters is the precinct count."

"I don't understand."

"You will."

The night continued; prices kept going up. Liz was at the lowest position on the board and didn't budge from it. Every now and again she'd ask when things were going to change, and I tried to reassure her. Ignore the exit polls. Precinct counts.

When Talia Zavislak left the podium she'd received a high bid of two hundred and twenty dollars. I kissed Liz on the forehead and told her cheerfully, "Daddy's got to commit electoral fraud. Be right back."

I walked up to the treasurer. He smiled, congratulated me on winning a date with Liz, and asked for the twenty bucks I pledged.

"Yeah, it's ... it's not going to be like that," I told him. "Listen, I really want to get laid, okay? And the best way to do that is to make her happy that I was the one who bought her, not somebody else. So I'm going to give you three hundred for her, not twenty. Okay?"

The treasurer blinked: clearly, he hadn't thought about this. "You ... want to ... raise your bid ... after you've won?"


"We can't do that."

"You're telling me the Graduate Student Senate is turning away free money?"

You could see the smoke coming out of his ears, I swear, as his mental gears ground to a halt. Finally he said, "Will that be cash or check?" I forked over three hundred dollars, and immediately Liz sprang to the top of the leaderboard, hurtling over Talia. As I did this, some of the people nearby -- whom I had bored to death earlier with talk about game theory and how to break rules in interesting ways -- realized that I was onto something: they, too, could dramatically improve their chances of getting laid with retroactive bids. Nobody was willing to hit three hundred, but ... there was a sudden slew of retroactive bids as people tried to impress the dates they'd already bought by volunteering to spend more money on them.

I went back over to Liz, smiling at her. "The precinct counts are official. You're at the top."

Liz was wearing the biggest, silliest grin I've ever seen on anyone in my life. "Did you see Talia?"


"She was yelling at Templeton to go increase his bid on her. He refused, saying two hundred twenty was enough. She went storming out of here just wicked angry. It was great."

"Good riddance," I smiled.

"I feel bad about how much money you're out, though!"

"What are you talking about? I made money on you."


I gestured over to where a math grad student was trying to understand what had just happened and why his statistical models had suddenly gone Krakatoa. "Costs, three hundred; winnings, four hundred. Enough to pay for our date."

She looked over at the betting table, then looked back at me with a much different kind of grin on her face. "Mr. Hansen, I do declare, you are the sexiest man I've ever met in my life."

"High praise, coming from a woman curing cancer."

"You want to get out of here and do something stupid for a few hours?"

"Depends on what you had in mind."

"Well, Mr. Hansen. You aren't the only one with a bag full of tricks."

"I believe I'm intrigued. Lay on, Macduff."

She looked over her shoulder back at me as we left the 808 together. "Interesting choice of words."

In the interests of discretion, I will not elaborate on the rest of the night. I will say, though, that in the morning I found my recovery to be significantly advanced over where it had been the night before.

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