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Paying with Cookies

Daydream: Paying for gumballs with giant coin acceptors that want cookies.

New migraine meds: epic fail - another want-to-die migraine last night. Funny how most of the time I meditate nowadays it's to zombie my way past emotional or physical (migraine) pain.

Wonder: Lore of systems geeks - central database to store practices and rationales.


  • Keep a statically linked shell with basic utilities included around, in case idiot user, package manager mishap, or something similar screws up libc. Having enough functionality to move files around and mount/unmount things: potential lifesaver
  • In systems with NFS homedirs, always keep a local debug account with a skeletal homedir on the actual system image so if NFS fails for some reason, one can still login and debug/manage/fix the box
  • If one is using any kind of password-syncing utility or often playing with SSL or pam, keep a port-knock dæmon around that'll connect one with a shell so one is never locked out
  • Debugging hint: if some unknown bit of software keeps overwriting a file you don't want overwritten (e.g. resolv.conf) and you either don't want to figure out exactly why or you don't want to search a lot of documentation, set the file immutable using filesystem flags and maybe look to see what complains.
One doesn't necessarily teach this to initiates of computer systems, although perhaps one should. A wiki containing all these tips organised by topic? To be picked-up as needed, or simply pored over by people once they understand enough of the basics to understand why these tricks are useful and how they work. Goal: match clever/devious mind of computer person with existing tricks that constitute wisdom, hope the reasoning behind those tricks will lean them towards other types of wisdom not composed of tricks (no no don't run your bleeding-edge-oriented distro on production servers!), notion of attention and time both being scarce resources; tools and tricks to amplify that.

Are there existing wikis for useful systems/programming tricks? I feel I have the experience needed to take would-be programmers or sysadmins under my wing and that they'd turn out hopefully as well as I did after my own apprenticeships (two-parts really) on these topics.

Maybe I should take it as a warning sign that I'm hoping to enter another field while I'm so interested in the process and theory of teaching systems-type CS stuff, but then I'm probably ignoring as many warning signs in my life as BP does on its oil rigs *snark* ... which I suppose might be kind of interesting - if y'all haven't heard, BP disabled numerous warning systems in their rig so their workers could sleep over the would-be klaxon. Oy. Plus my interests are extraordinarily broad.

Highly irritated with Google making interfaces for things I use much worse. Happy that enough greasemonkeyers find the same problems I do and are willing to write scripts so I don't have to. Latest: a not-disablable playbar on Youtube that autoplays lists of videos by default and loves to hop in the way of things. Annoying as clippy. Solution: here. Interesting thinking about changing approaches to extensibility over the years:

  • Ancient times: "hacks" in the age of DOS patching a binary or installing a TSR
  • NeXTStep: Interface tweaks by launching InterfaceBuilder or writing substitute classes for classes in the app. As a developer: making your app a "service". Awesome stuff.
  • Web: Greasemonkey to tweak apps through js using DOM.
A bit more on PZ and politeness:Regarding this, I think the best attitude is neither of the voices speaking - it is the duty of education to present the scientific consensus in a clear and effective way. Nonscientific views are not part of education and should not be presented (and it is ok to teach them as wrong, although eventually philosophy of science should be taught which would provide the background for what is meant by that -- I suspect nonscientific perspectives would not generally be so honest and philosophical as to discuss epistemology), but the rudeness PZ advocates is unwarranted. Our "brand" in discussions is simply to be the best shot at being correct, to have the perspectives most justified by facts, to be judged the most kindly by people judging our discussions after-the-fact from a "who was most accurate" metric. Insults do not help our cause. We play to win, and we do so in a way that will most benefit us after we have won. More importantly, we aim not to bring the egoistic beast within people into the discussion any more than is necessary - once people have heard enough insults, their pride is at stake and they will never back down. Their kin will hear the insults and will not forgive us. By being correct, patient, and draining the spit valve of the discussion continually, we make it ok for the other side to say "maybe you have a point there", particularly if we're willing to do the same when they mistake us for the demons they see us as and say something inaccurate about us.

In the latter, I am happy to through Huffington Post under the bus - militant conservatives assume every liberal reads and adores it, and I think it's utter rubish. Tossing them a bone, either proactively or being keen to cede it helps break the demonisation and makes common ground possible. I believe chest-thumping trolls like PZ may rally, but I am looking to convince, and I believe people of my sort, who still play to win but do so in a civilised and polite way, will build a better world than movements that win the points around which they're organised but fail to keep moving society upwards. The greater the distance between humanity and ego/power politics we can build, the more civilised we will be and the more possibilities in our future. A society that can usually respond to ignorance through relentless, polite and egoless correction by teacherlike figures is solving many problems at once.

Not entirely related, interesting headway arguing against anarchocapitalists who think they're conservatives - easy to make the point that those who think "taxation is theft" are in fact very nonconservative in that they're undermining an institution millenia old. Easy to wrap this up in a neat bundle: "civilisation has for millenia used this to support the public good (and other things) in countless areas, and then your group suddenly 'wakes up' and declares it not kosher. That's not conservativism, that's a strange idea become a societal death pact, and you're putting yourself against basically the entire political spectrum. You may as well declare that society stop breathing because you object for some reason." - a bit wordy, a bit hyperbolic, but hard to parry. It is not hard to create arguments to disrupt most rhetoric one sees of those who disrupt to taxes in principle.

National Geographic recently tossed a neat (and long) video on Easter Island societies online, in which they described changes and challenges to the culture over centuries, with a particular focus on the role the extensive cave systems played. As explorers have found human remains even in the very deep bits of those caves, I was wondering how people safely managed to get down there, and found this site describing torches makable without modern materials that would do the job. The site is generally fascinating - it's like Make magazine with an interesting added constraint. MacGyver (or Robinson Crusoe) would be proud.

Still hoping every evening that I will feel motivated to send out those letters to professors to get employment soon. Somehow I get sucked into either the realm of abstract ideas, wallowing in depression, or moods for sketching whenever I sitdown someplace that's not home (at home there's the damned video games, OMG let's play with cats, the lure of going for a nice jog or walk in the woods, or falling asleep to worry about). Self-convincitude for productivity: no es facil pero pienso que la neccesito si würde out of this rut gehen.

Fascinated: interesting discussions of posture in DC's talking-about-comics blog. Still bothered about Hitchcockian stories (highly constructed) versus my instincts to portray things like real life and use that as a way to talk about people in the real world. Storytelling styles: quite different. As I've continued to develop the stories underlying one of my webcomic attempts (finally resolved the plot issue that stopped me from continuing the second one I posted, not sure if it's worth keeping tossing them up given low readership of that one too), I realised that it was really more a blog with visuals (and very first-person) than a traditional third-person comic - Elya's words are partly that of an unreliable narrator, but still she narrates the events in the comic. No other series I read does this, and I'm not sure this is a good novelty. If I were to storytell, I would do third person, but maybe my inclination in visually presenting it this way prevents narrative arcs from really working. Maybe this is because Oyschlisn was intensely personal and didn't have any other characters in it to any meaningful extent (at least in the bits I finished and put up there), or maybe it's because I'm kind of stuck in my own head in life and that makes depicting rather than living a more natural mode. I think if I were to restart on drawing Elya's story, I've developed my drawing skills further to the point where emotions come across better and the drawing would be higher quality, but maybe it'd still not be interesting to other people because of the narrative mode.. It'd be interesting to pass the broad story shapes and development of world to someone else to see what they'd do with it. Pulling the story slightly further out of Elya's head might be a good thing.

Recently the weather has been quite pleasant for very long walks.