What “Store” means

My father often calls Apple Store, “the Apple company”, so it with some amusement that I read MacRumors’s rare case of good reporting where they show a lot of evidence that Apple is in the process of dropping the “store” moniker from their Apple Store locations.

The next day, John Gruber linked to it and added:

The “Store” branding only made sense when the concept was novel. Now that Apple’s stores are well established, it makes sense to drop the “Store”. Think about the brands that are Apple’s peers in retail. No one goes to the Tiffany Store or Gucci Store, they just go to Tiffany or Gucci.

This is a classic example of taking good reporting and diminishing it with thoughtless punditry and fanboyism—it must be a good move because Apple did it. In the end, the reader is left worse off than if the link was provided without comment.

Continue reading some critical thinking about the meaning of “Stores” in stores after the jump

The Apostles Query

Saw this on my feed the other day:

Beautiful queries
Beautiful queries

“Just wrote the most complex SQL statement I have ever written. It won’t scale, but it’s so beautiful. :)”

Cal’s query brought tears to my eyes. When a finch landed on it, I saw it pivot. It was deeply religious…


I believe in Codd, the Father Almighty,

and in MySQL, His PRIMARY KEY, our INDEX:
Which was established by the DB driver,
born of the Open Source;
suffered under Larry Ellison,
was TRUNCATE’d, DELETE’d and was DROP’d.
It RAISE()ed into non-TEMP, RIGHT JOIN’d with Codd the Father Almighty;
from thence It shall come to SELECT FROM the relational and non-relational.

I believe in the DB driver,
the Fourth Normal Form,
the relations of tables,
the ROLLBACK of failed transactions,
the RESTORE from logical backups,
and the persistence of storage.


Next up: Ave MariaDB.

When statistics say the opposite

This article shows how discussions of political statsitics is in the dark ages. Here is the relevant graph:

Both polls, released on Sunday, showed Mr. Trump in worse shape than he had been a month ago… Despite his woes, not all the results of the new polls were heartening for Mrs. Clinton. The Journal-NBC survey found that her lead essentially disappears when candidates from the Green Party and Libertarian Party are included. She essentially tied Mr. Trump, with 39 percent to his 38 percent. Together, third-party candidates grabbed 16 percent of the support.

Actually, that’s even worse news for Trump than polls showing that Clinton has opened up her lead. To understand this, let’s look at the conservative WSJ-NBC News poll mentioned.

That poll has Clinton at 46% and Trump at 43%, a three point lead nationally. This is one of the most conservative two way polls out there as aggregate polling (which includes three way polling) has her ahead by 6.8%, so we can see the understandable Republican bias in a Wall Street Journal poll. But even taking that into account, we see a 11% undecided/non-reporting account so the real question that all the early reporting needs to answer given how well known both candidates are is: which way is are these huge number of non-reporters going to break?

What the three way race shows is a window into these undecideds. It says right now Clinton has the larger number of holdouts than Trump: about ~60% of these people would rather vote for her than Trump, making her lead much bigger than the numbers are showing.

It reminds me when people say stupid things like, “It’s okay to vote for a third party in a blue state” when studies have conclusively shown that the best way to push policies in a direction is with a bigger margin of victory because the more competitive the election, the more moderate the politician’s position irrespective of incumbency or how “fixed” their candidate position seems.

In other words, if Bernie Sanders really wanted the outcomes he espouses, he’d be endorsing Hillary and pushing hard for a large electoral win, because that, more than anything, would give President Clinton the freedom to move to the left. Instead, he acts in direct opposition to his stated outcomes and pushes her toward the middle.

Everything is a remix

Hitler, in addition to his oratorical and organizing abilities, has another positive asset—he is a man of the “common people”…
But several reliable, well-informed sources confirmed the idea that Hitler’s anti-Semitism was not so genuine or violent as it sounded, and that he was merely using anti-Semitic propaganda as a bait to catch messes of followers and keep them aroused, enthusiastic and in line for the time when his organization is perfected and sufficiently powerful to be employed effectively for political purposes.
The New York Times, November 21, 1922

Stephen E. Ambrose’s supposed thesis of Band of Brothers was that American citizen solders were better than the Germans because uniquely “American” autonomy and attitudes in lower officer corp gave them battlefield superiority due to flexibility in tactics and decision-making. This thesis is refuted in the same book by fact that it mentions that after soldiers were in combat for more than six months, they started to fall apart, the Germans, by this point, had been at war for six years.

An interesting side note was who the American servicemen found it easiest to relate to: not the English they trained and fought with, nor the French or the Dutch they freed at Normandy and Arnhem, but the German soldiers they fought at Bastogne and who surrendered to them at Berchtesgaden.

In the end, the lesson is a far deeper one: when Easy Company rolled into Dachau concentration camp, they were staring at a human horror that none of us are above because we are no different then our enemies.

About gerrymandering

I was surprised that the betting markets had the Democratic Party with a 19% chance of retaking Congress. To do so, they would have to flip nearly 50 seats.

While in the modern era, the Republicans have pulled this off twice (1994, 2010), the Democrats have only reached this number in 1974. That’s because wave elections of the magnitude needed usually occur only in midterm years when the sitting president has an ebb in popularity and the Republican party is stronger during midterms because of voting patterns.

Another way to look at it right now the Republicans have their largest House majority since just before the stock market crash kicked off the Great Depression. The challenge of flipping that seems insurmountable in an electorate as polarized as this one.

The press has mostly been focused on Donald Trump dragging down the ticket and Paul Ryan’s attempt to dance with that. So the articles focusing on the chances of the House flipping have actually decreased from last year because the conventional wisdom is that the only people who actually are at risk are Republican U.S. senators in blue or battleground states like (Illinois, Wisconsin, New Hampshire), and (Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio).

But the betting markets are capturing something the press isn’t: s wave is a wave is a wave, and this year is looking to be a Democratic wave due to demographics, it being a presidential election year, and Donald Trump. This is compounded by the fact that strategically Donald Trump is planning on funding and running his campaign by piggybacking off the Republican National Committee. This exacerbates the problem because: 1) it siphons funds and resources from congressional elections to the general; 2) since battleground states have large electoral vote counts, there is no correlation between contested districts and battleground states; and 3) the Republicans have increasingly depended financially on large donors via Citizen’s United and outsourced most of the voter outreach and research to third party organizations, so neither the money, nor the knowledge is actually in the RNC.

By giving 5-to-1 odds, the markets are saying, “Yeah, it’s going to be a wave, but that’s not enough. But hey, we could always be wrong.” My instincts are more around 25% instead of 19% — akin to saying, “It’s possible the wave will be big enough, but it’s still far, far more likely it’ll take another election year for this wave to crest.”

That’s because I think betting markets have not (yet) correctly priced in the gerrymandering. Right now everyone is saying that gerrymandering favors the Republicans, which it does. Through gerrymandering, Republican state houses in 2010 has acted as a deep red firewall against a Democratic wave and districts are more partisan than every because of it. Evidence certainly backs it up as nationally there were more votes for Democratic congressional candidates than Republican ones in 2012 and 2014, and yet the Republican party gained seats.

Continue reading about the double-edged sword of gerrymandering after the jump

Dungeons and Dragons: Only a game?

When we were looking for a some coffee for Marie near Mendocino, we drove by a gamestore, and I had an urge which comes up every couple years to start playing Dungeons and Dragons again. We’ll see how that goes. If you start seeing more posts about D&D, then this time it finally stuck.

A couple days ago, I went to a high school friend’s birthday party. I hadn’t seen him in 12 years almost to the day, but we started to talk about our times being nerds playing RPGs and not giving a crap about it, when he pulled out a copy of a pamplet he and K— were given back then in the 80’s. It was titled, “Dungeons and Dragons: Only a game?”

For those who don’t know, this sort of conspiracy theory started with James Dallas Egbert III in 1979 and reached its peak in the mid-80’s with the B.A.D.D. (Bothered About Dungeons & Dragons) and a 60 Minutes episode my mom told me about. Thankfully, I started playing D&D two years before William Dear manufactured the conspiracy theory out of whole cloth, so I didn’t have much explaining to do by then, but there was enough a hysteria to clue me in to how the political and religious extremists operate today with nearly everything.

In any case, hide your kids, hide your wife, cuz D&D be Satanin’ errbody out there. Without further ado, here is the the text of the pamphlet in full (PDF scan):

Continue reading the D&D pamphlet after the jump

Aged to perfection

Eight years ago, at a party, a friend asked me who I preferred for the Democratic nomination. I said, “Barack Obama.”

“What about Hillary?” she asked, clearly bummed.

“She’s great too, and if she wins, I’d be proud to cast my vote for her to become the first female President of the United States.”

Looks like I’ll get my chance.

I wonder what my friend is thinking right now. To all you die-hard Hillary-supporters: sure, it was an eight-plus year wait, but it’ll have been worth it.

Continue reading adendums after the jump

My peoples lack a clue

My Facebook feed has lit of with people on both sides of the Peter Theil/Gawker revelation, but that’s because I personally know many of the people involved and have lived and worked in a tech bubble for the last 16 years.

Sadly, Half of them need to venture out of it for a bit to understand why this is an issue to the other 99.9%.

In the meantime, I guess this means I to be posting about how I work in the salt mines with a six figure salary, how the homeless need to get out of MY city, or something… Because here in the bubble, I’m the one that is “out-of-touch.”

(Hint: all the links above are to articles about Silicon Valley that are/were among the most-emailed articles in the New York Times at the time. Half my friends clearly misunderstand why they proved so popular.)

A Confession of Totebagger Sanctimony

I found this column by Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times highly offensive. The premise is that our nation’s “ivory tower” academia is some sort of racism in reverse.

Ignore for the moment that a conservative totebagger like Kristof claims to be a liberal so he can attack them and I’ll talk about an obvious anecdote and apply a bit of common sense.

Where was the confession of conservative intolerance?

I went to college at Caltech, the very definition of ivory tower for a budding young scientist.

Back then, the few people who would openly express their political views were all rabid conservatives to the point where one pair had a picture of Reagan in their dorm room and had a poster with a bunch of Jimmy Carter quotes mocking him outside posted outside it. I know this because they were friends who I engaged with but didn’t have enough knowledge to dispute even though I believed they were wrong at some level—kind of like a kid in high school right now who is a closet Hillary supporter amongst their friends who feel the Bern.

Historically, scientists as a class have been conservative politically—hence all the question of Hitler’s nuclear bomb program or the space race being “between our Germans and their Germans.”

The only modern right wing view that I ever saw attacked was strict Creationism. And the few people who held that clearly unscientfic view were only lightly teased by their friends… and only if they were biology majors.

When President George H.W. Bush came to Caltech to give a commencement speech and some protesters not part of the community protested, people were pissed. And not at the University for escorting the protesters away but at the protesters for disrupting a Caltech event.

And while CLAGS (The Caltech Lesbian and Gay Society) would host a pretty kickin’ party once a year in the student center and the college guide claimed a statistically a significant percentage of students were gay, the lesbian woman who ran the CLAGS booth was ostracized and made fun of while every week the largest and most social dormitory on campus would host a bible study that was not only accepted, it was well attended.

And yet where were was the RINO conservative columnist for the New York Times writing “A Confession of Conservative Intolerance?”

There were none because it, like “liberal intolerance,” is not where the problem lies.

False equivalence and common sense

When you say or bolster your argument with, “The same arguments I hear people make about evangelicals sound so familiar to the ways people often describe folk of color, i.e. politically unsophisticated, lacking education, angry, bitter, emotional, poor,” you make an equivalence between some close-minded people getting their fee-fees hurt in academia when they express a deliberately counter-factual view and the real racism that is still occurring today in our nation’s institutions.

That equivalence is false.

If scientists are naturally inclined to respect authority and share affinity for the conservative party of a country and you find that your top scientific institution doesn’t have a Republican among them and the refrain becomes “reality has a well known liberal bias,” then the natural conclusion is that that party is no longer conservative but anti-scientific and anti-reality.

If evangelicals were on the rise up until a decade ago and Christianity has and continues to dominate this country since its founding, and suddenly they’re on the decline and mildly ostracized now then maybe they should be looking at how they have changed instead of the demanding that we suddenly blindly accept anything a small religious sect slapped a “Christian” label to: whether it is a “war on Christmas,” “evolution is just a theory,” gay marriage, transgender bathrooms, or that the sun orbits the earth. Maybe, just maybe, it’s because they’ve become increasingly less “evangelical” or “Christian” and started simply to be fundamentalists?

The natural conclusion is not to blame people who traditionally share your views for being intolerant of them. Liberals value freedom of speech, and the ACLU will fiercely protect that right. But they are under no obligation to protect a non-existent right for you to never feel ashamed when people laugh at you for saying stupid shit.

Nicholas Kristof, who among your colleagues will write an article defending you from the butt-hurt you’re about to receives (and rightly deserve) in the comments when you wrote this stupid column comparing people who celebrate their ignorance with the civil rights movement or the plight of gay and transgender peoplee?

Because apparently that “persecution” of you is exactly the same as racist rhetoric.

EDIT: Apparently the answer to the above question is the moderators at the @nytimes who closed the comment section. Lolz!

Sometimes they really are indistinguishable

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
Arthur C. Clarke

When a non-techie friend of mine moved to San Francisco, she overheard two guys talking next to her.

“What are you up to,” one of them asks?

The other replied, “Oh, I’m trying to learn Python.”

“Excuse me,” my friend interrupted them. “But I believe it’s called Parseltongue.”

(After living here for a while longer, she became very embarrassed. And though it wasn’t exactly what he meant, I still think Mr. Clarke would approve.)