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GCU Dancer on the Midway
Paul Wright's blog
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25th Aug 2020, 09:29 pm - Welcome to my blog
I'm Paul Wright, a software engineer based in Cambridge, England. You can now find my public blog on my own site: http://www.noctua.org.uk/blog/. I'll be crossposting from there to LJ but you'll only be able to comment on my site. See you over there.
Gas Pump Skimmers – learn.sparkfun.com
Skimmers which are attached to petrol pumps internally and then use Bluetooth to get the recorded card details out to the bad guys: finally, the killer app!
(tags: Bluetooth hardware crime skimmer credit)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
Doomsday prepping for less crazy folk
It’s not all guns and gold.
(tags: planning emergency survival)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
C++Now 2017: Niko Matsakis “Rust: Hack Without Fear!” – YouTube
Rust for C++ people (of which I’m not actually one, but it might be interesting anyway).
(tags: rust language programming)
You Are the Product
John Lanchester reviews 3 books on Facebook and Google, and comes to the conclusion that Facebook does things because it can, without considering whether it should.
(tags: facebook advertising psychology Internet zuckerberg google)
The Three Waves of Discworld – An approximation of alertness
“So I’ve been thinking for a while about the Discworld books, and how they can be divided up into three rough thematic phases; not based around the focal characters, but rather what the story is about.”
(tags: discworld terry-pratchett books fantasy)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
I’ve got questions about the Rainbow Cinematic Universe | Den of Geek
A critique of the problems with the world building in Rainbow. “Rod, Jane and Freddy seem to live everywhere and nowhere all at once, a bit like God or The Littlest Hobo.”
(tags: funny rainbow television)
Children of Magenta – YouTube
1997 presentation about the levels of flight deck automation and how to keep out of trouble. Interesting stuff about trusting the automation too far, and how trying to keep it updated when the situation changes is worse than going more manual.
(tags: automation aircraft safety flying)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
The Most Common Error in Coverage of the Google Memo – The Atlantic
TL;DR: it wasn’t anti-diversity. Via @sonyaellenmann.
(tags: google sexism politics social-justice diversity)
The Google Memo: What Does the Research Say About Gender Differences? | HeterodoxAcademy.org
“1. Gender differences in math/science ability, achievement, and performance are small or nil…
2. Gender differences in interest and enjoyment of math, coding, and highly “systemizing” activities are large. …
3. Culture and context matter, in complicated ways. Some gender differences have decreased over time as women have achieved greater equality, showing that these differences are responsive to changes in culture and environment. But the cross-national findings sometimes show “paradoxical” effects: progress toward gender equality in rights and opportunities sometimes leads to larger gender differences in some traits and career choices. Nonetheless, it seems that actions taken today by parents, teachers, politicians, and designers of tech products may increase the likelihood that girls will grow up to pursue careers in tech, and this is true whether or not biology plays a role in producing any particular population difference.”
(tags: feminism google diversity psychology gender politics)
Suzanne Sadedin’s answer to What do scientists think about the biological claims made in the anti-diversity document written by a Google employee in August 2017? – Quora
Dr Sadedin’s is the best rebuttal to the Google memo that I’ve seen (as the rest just call it bad without rebutting it).
(tags: science google gender sexism psychology)
How To Add A Security Key To Your Gmail (Tech Solidarity)
2FA without the SMS/phone number backup (which can be hacked by social engineering your mobile phone network provider).
(tags: email google 2fa authentication security)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
How work changed to make us all passionate quitters | Aeon Essays
Alleges that neoliberalism encourages employees to see themselves as the CEO of “Me, Inc”, always looking for tasks that’ll help them get their next job. Interesting final section about the modern obsession with “passion”.
(tags: capitalism business work economics career)
Troy Hunt: Introducing 306 Million Freely Downloadable Pwned Passwords
A service where you can check the clear text (if you trust the site owner) or hash of passwords to see whether they’ve leaked in any of the site hacks over the years.
(tags: security passwords api)
Operation Luigi: How I hacked my friend without her noticing
Funny stream of consciousness thing about hacking a friend (with permission). Time to enable 2FA on your stuff, people.
(tags: hacking phishing funny email authentication passwords)
Steve Dutch: Conservative Cranks and Liberal Meta-Cranks
What are the differences between cranks on both sides? Conservative ones are generally stupid, liberal ones are clever rationalisers.
(tags: politics cranks conservative liberal)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
Becoming Atheist: Humanism and the Secular West | Reviews in History
Russel Blackford reviews a book about the social history of atheism in the 20th Century in the West, looking especially at the gender differences in how interviewees expressed their reasons for leaving religion.
(tags: atheism history gender russell-blackford)
The Evolution of Trust
Interactive exploration of repeated Prisoner’s dilemma type games, where you can play with payoffs and strategies.
(tags: trust game mathematics maths)
Broadpwn: Remotely Compromising Android and iOS via a Bug in Broadcom’s Wi-Fi Chipsets | Exodus Intelligence
Broadcom kicking it old school: “In order to facilitate patching, an extensive thunk table is used in RAM, and calls are made into that table at specific points during execution. Should a bug fix be issued, the thunk table could be changed to redirect to the newer code.”
(tags: android wifi broadcom broadpwn security)
Circles Sines and Signals – Introduction
Some nice graphics introducing the Discrete Fourier Transform.
(tags: learning fourier-transform signal dsp)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
24th Jul 2017, 12:13 am - Link blog: underground, tube, london
the hidden dungeons of TfL
Not so much dungeons as rooms full of equipment.
(tags: tube london underground)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
15th Jul 2017, 12:13 am - Link blog: wireless, radio, Bluetooth
Ask HN: Why is Bluetooth so unreliable? | Hacker News
It’s my fault. Sorry.
(tags: Bluetooth wireless radio)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
The Influence of ULTRA in the Second World War
“In 1993 Sir Harry Hinsley kindly agreed to speak about Bletchley Park, where he worked during the Second World War. Sir Harry Hinsley is a distinguished historian who during the Second World War worked at Bletchley Park, where much of the allied forces code-breaking effort took place.” A transcript of the talk.
(tags: bletchley-park world-war-II encryption enigma history)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.

On Facebook, I ran across a couple of Christian responses to the recent resignation of Tim “Nice-but-Evangelical” Farron as leader of the Liberal Democrats.

A worrying sign

A post by John Stevens, Director of the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches, argues that Farron’s resignation is a worrying sign: Farron’s actions as a friend to LGBT people were not sufficient, people were worried about “what Tim thinks” and wouldn’t leave him alone about it.

As Nick Spencer writes, there are two sorts of liberalism. Farron was an example of liberalism as a way of living (or modus vivendi, as we say in the New Statesman) in a pluralist society, but fell victim to people who saw liberalism as a system which itself provides the right answers to moral questions. But taking liberalism as such as system, as Stevens says, opens its followers to the same sorts of criticism that Farron got: can a follower of a system fairly represent the interests of those who disagree with it?

(Unfortunately, Stevens does get dangerously close to using the phrase “virtue signalling”, which should worry him, for is it not written whosoever shall say to his brother, “thou art virtue signalling”, shall be in danger of being a huge arsehole, and that goes double for “snowflake”.?)

The burning of Latimer and Ridley at OxfordStevens has an interesting argument for liberalism as a way of living: if idolatry is the greatest sin, yet Christians do not want religion imposed by the government as this has historically not ended well (pic related), how much more so (or a fortiori, as we probably say in the New Statesman) ought Christians to allow freedom in law for people to commit lesser sins?

Public reason

With his mention of a “substantive, even comprehensive” liberalism, Nick Spencer in the New Stateman is gesturing at Rawl’s ideas of public reason. From what I read of this, a liberalism which is what Rawls calls a comprehensive doctrine can’t legitimately be the sole basis for arguments in favour of a fundamental right (such as gay marriage), any more than the religious comprehensive system can be the sole basis for an argument against. As Mariel Johns’s summary puts it,

It is important to remember that secular comprehensive doctrines are not allowed – the same way that philosophical and religious comprehensive doctrines are not allowed. These fall outside the domain of the political. This can be seen if we consider what each type of doctrine might ask with regard to making homosexual relations among citizens a criminal offense. A secular doctrine might ask, “Is it precluded by a worthy idea of the full human good?” A religious doctrine might ask, “Is it a sin?” A political conception would ask, “Will legislative statues forbidding those relations infringe on the civil rights of free and equal democratic citizens?”

I’m not an expert in political philosophy, but this seems to get something important right, namely that sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. “What Tim thinks” can only be of political concern if we’re reasoning from a comprehensive doctrine which says our thoughts can be wrong in and of themselves (such as Christianity, or liberalism of the second sort), or if we can show that what he thinks is somehow relevant in reasoning which is not unique to any such doctrine. Only the latter is legitimate, if I’m reading Rawls right.

So, what should Farron have said? Perhaps “What I think is What The Bible Says1, but look at my voting record and see that I don’t seek to impose my views on others, because (insert Stevens’s a fortiori argument here)”. Note that Rawls doesn’t think people cannot bring forward religious reasons (in fact, he thinks they should, in a “cards on the table” sort of way), only that they should then be backed by public reasons (such as “enforcing religion infringes on the civil rights of citizens”, presumably).

This is easy to say in hindsight, of course.

Shearer

G J Shearer writes that “Arguing that Christians shouldn’t ‘impose’ their views on society is simply a tacit way of saying that someone else should.” But this ignores the distinction between liberalism of the first, Rawlsian, sort, and liberalism of the second, comprehensive, sort. Perhaps Shearer thinks that such a distinction can’t be maintained, and everything must collapse into a fight between competing comprehensive doctrines. But why think that? It seems like a self-fulfilling prophecy: if nobody makes the effort to maintain it, it certainly won’t be maintained. Farron’s pursuers harmed our political life by making it harder to maintain it.

Shearer argues that secular liberalism is illogical:

What, in effect, is the logic of secular liberalism? We live in a world heading towards extinction, our consciousness created by blind physical laws and driven by a ruthless will to reproduce and survive, therefore… What? Love each other? Look after the poor, the lame, the vulnerable? A moment’s consideration shows that these conclusions do not flow from the premise.

Hume lives! But his guillotine is a multi-purpose tool (it slices! it dices! it cuts both ways!). Suppose the facts are these: we live in a world ruled by an omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent creator, therefore… what? What conclusions about morality follow from these premises? You need to add some other premise (like “we ought to do what God wants/commands of us”), and if you need that, why fault secular philosophers for needing to add theirs (like “we ought to do that which leads to human flourishing” or “the greatest good of the greatest number” or whatever)? All moral systems, including theistic ones, are “illogical” by these lights.

He also wonders whether atheist politicians could explain how “their belief that human life is merely ‘an accidental collocation of atoms’, to use Bertrand Russell’s phrase, fits with the various moral imperatives that drive their politics”. Probably not, because politicians, unlike Hume, are generally crap at philosophy. But, as we’ve just seen, Shearer hasn’t explained why his premises about God lead to his moral conclusions, either.

Offred from a Handmaid's Tale, with the caption "But her emails"Shearer ends with a call to Christians to get more involved getting Christian values into law: “it is time that Christians began to unapologetically argue that society is best served by Christian, rather than secular, values shaping the public sphere.” This doesn’t seem likely to end any better than it did historically (pic related).


  1. This is an evangelical term of art, so should be taken with the usual caveat 


Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
The Book of Jeremy Corbyn – The New Yorker
“And they hearkened unto the word of Jeremy, and believed. For they said unto themselves, Lo, he bringeth unto us the desire of our hearts. He cometh by bicycle, with a helmet upon his head. And he eateth neither flesh nor fowl, according to the Scriptures. For man cannot live by bread alone, but hummus is quite another matter.”
(tags: satire politics bible jeremy-corbyn funny)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
Oh My Gosh, It’s Covered in Rule 30s!—Stephen Wolfram Blog
Cambridge North Station is decorated with patterns formed by a cellular automaton.
(tags: computing wolfram cellular-automata automata cambridge)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
Maybe the Internet Isn’t Tearing Us Apart After All | WIRED
People don’t actually just stick to sites which match their political views, and their Facebook acquaintances don’t always share their politics.
(tags: facebook society politics internet)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
Strange Horizons – Freshly Remember’d: Kirk Drift By Erin Horáková
A lengthy essay arguing that the popular image of Shatner’s Kirk isn’t what the original episodes of Star Trek portray (but that the reboot has picked up the stereotype and run with it).
(tags: star-trek kirk james-t-kirk science-fiction television)
BENDOCKERY.COM: The Anatomy of Swing
A series of articles with examples. The bit about “laying back” was new to me.
(tags: swing music jazz)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
The Science Behind “The Expanse” – 1/25/17 – YouTube
A panel with Caltech scientists and people from the show.
(tags: tv the-expanse science science-fiction sci-fi physics astronomy)
Abigail Nussbaum — Person of Interest – The Good Bits Version
If you want just the SF bits of Person of Interest (which are great, see Peter Watts’s review) without the police procedural/victim of the week stuff, Abigail Nussbaum has a useful list of episodes to watch.
(tags: person-of-interest artificial-intelligence science-fiction television)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
Acing the technical interview
Do read the comments.
(tags: programming funny lisp linked-list interview)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
Conversion via Twitter – The New Yorker
Megan Phelps – Roper on leaving Westboro Baptist Church, the church notorious for picketing funerals.
(tags: religion culture Twitter homosexuality Christianity de-conversion)

Originally posted at Name and Nature. You can comment there. There are currently comments.
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