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The End Is Nigh

On Thu, Apr 30, 2009 at 10:25 AM, wrote:

Dear Ryan Edward McElroy,

Your department recommended approval of your Spring, 2009 request to receive a MASTER OF SCIENCE (COMPUTER SCIENCE & ENGINEERING) and this recommendation has been sent to the Graduate School. Any departmental comments are noted below. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this recommendation, please contact your department’s Graduate Program Assistant (staff member) or Graduate Program Coordinator (faculty advisor).

Frankenputen is Dying

My previous plans of retiring Frankenputen may have to be accelerated. Today, Frankenputen stopped serving for an unknown reason. I was able to resuscitate it by forcing a restart via the excellent Remote Insight console, but I’m beginning to wonder how much longer the beast will last.

Twittering

I’ve started twittering. For a long time, I had no interest in the phenomenon, but recently I’ve noticed that I’m not blogging as much as I want to, while I still have lots of ideas I want to write about. In a perfect world, a lot of these ideas would become full blog posts; however, until I rededicate myself to making that happen, my hope is that at least the ideas won’t die unheard — they can now live on as tweets. As Mark Cuban said, “Tweets are the blog posts you thought about writing, but didn’t feel they had enough substance.” (Hat tip Theo)

So, if you’re into that sort of thing, you can follow me on Twitter, or just occasionally visit my blog to see my most recent tweets.

I’m also considering a “daily digest” of my tweets as actual blog posts; there is a plug-in to do that.

Peru Trip Plans

My upcoming trip to Peru has been mostly planned. There are four of us going — myself, my former roommate Kunlun, my high school friend Scott, and Scott’s college roommate Ben. We leave on the 14th of June — a day after I officially graduate with my Masters degree in Computer Science. Kunlun and I are leaving from Seattle, while Scott and Ben will be flying out of Pittsburgh. We will meet in Lima early on the 15th, and then the adventure begins. Our plan is to jump on a bus that will take us from Lima through Arequipa to Lake Titicaca, finally stopping at Cusco, spending a few days at each destination. After the Inti Raymi festival in Cusco, we leave on a 4-day hiking expedition on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, returning by train, and then flying back to Lima to finish up the trip in the capital city. We fly out three weeks after we arrive on the 4th of July. If all goes well, I will be back in Seattle in time to watch some fireworks.

It should be a blast!

Server Transitions

This summer will be a time of great transition for me. I will be finishing up with school (for the time being at least), going on several trips, and moving to the San Francisco Bay Area to start a new job. In addition to planning the trips, I have been thinking about the other aspects of the transition. One of these aspects will involve the moving of the servers that run silverfir.net.

Currently, the computer that runs most of silverfir.net is called Frankenputen (a well deserved name — it is literally a server scraped together by Dan from various ebay purchases). It is housed at my parent’s place, and it makes a lot of noise and heat (and probably consumes a lot of juice as well), so I thank them for being so long-suffering with the beast. Alongside Frakenputen is oasis, my old desktop, and what ran silverfir.net before Frankenputen, but after sf2, which came after wadi.

As part of this transition, I plan to move away from Frankenputen and transition entirely to nexus, the fileserver I currently use in my Seattle home. It is much smaller, quite quiet, and is, overall, a much more capable machine: it currently runs an Ahtlon 2600+, but will probably soon be a P4 2.8GHz. While it is not server-quality hardware, it is pretty, quiet, and small, which is really what I’m looking for.

Along with this transition will come some silverfir.net downtime, and probably a massive dumping of unused-but-still-available websites hosted on silverfir.net. This is just a warning that if you are looking to control your own website’s fate, and it is currently hosted on silverfir.net, you might want to evaluate your options and see if you want to stick through the transition period or not.

Well Said, Jeff

My freedom-loving friend Jeff E. Jared is a frequent writer of letters to the editor. His latest published letter is well worth a read:

Daniel Bennet believes that the cause of our economic woes “was the institutions which had never had any regulations to begin with” and the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act (3-25). He couldn’t be more wrong.

Banking is heavily regulated. There’s the Federal Reserve (which controls interest rates and the money supply), the SEC (which enforces regulations), the Glass-Steagall Acts (1932-33), Federal Deposit Insurance (FDIC), capital requirements, reserve requirements, financial reporting and disclosure requirements, credit rating requirements, large exposure restrictions, related party restrictions, affiliation restrictions and payment system requirements. Money is the most regulated thing in America.

Mr. Bennet cited the repeal of the Glass-Steagall as a cause of the crises. But remember, only part of Glass-Steagall was repealed in 1999, the part barring investment banks from combining with regular banks. It kept deposit insurance (FDIC) backed by the government. Thus, the risk was socialized (because FDIC would bail out bad banks) while profit was privatized (now being able to combine, get big and diversify). This is corporate socialism.

Further, the institutions that failed, Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, were investment banks that didn’t combine with commercial banks. They were bought by banks that had combined under deregulation to become stronger: B of A and JPMorganChase. So without the repeal, the crises might be worse.

The root problem is that previous government bailouts, like the S & L crises of the 1980’s, were always looming in the background to encourage risky behavior. It doesn’t make sense to forbid banks to diversify their product line to limit risk, while at the same time guaranteeing their deposits–which increases risk. So the repeal of Glass-Steagall didn’t go far enough.

Liberals who support regulation often fall into this trap. They see a problem, and–failing to understand that we don’t have unfettered capitalism and that there are pages and pages of regulations already—they mistakenly demand more regulations, rather than repealing the excessive ones we already have.

The American economy is not a free market. It might have been in 1880, but since FDR and the New Deal 1930’s, we haven’t been close. The key is to deregulate by abolishing the Federal Reserve and ending subsidized insurance to the banking industry, and repealing the rest of Glass-Steagall.

Without the FDIC, banks would be tuned into any potential panics and runs and reel in their loans accordingly when public anxiety rose, like a kind of shock absorber. Subsidies and regulations disable this natural self-regulation of the market.

Jeff E. Jared, Kirkland

Another Way to Fight the Man

Not long after I received a ticket on my bicycle, I saw a driver get pulled over on Stevens Way, the main drag through UW campus, for momentarily stopping to let out a passenger. This is a road where  buses stop every hundred yards, traffic crawls as students constantly cross streets, and people get dropped off from cars in a similar fashion thousands of times a day.

I was riding my bicycle by as the stop happened, and I decided to do something about it. I stopped where the cop had pulled the motorist over and proceeded to give the officer a hard time for what she did. First I asked if what he did was really illegal. She responded yes and I said “Are you serious?” incredulously. I then proceeded to talk to the driver of the car while the officer was doing something else. I told the driver that I would give him my contact info and I would help him fight the total BS ticket. I said this loudly enough for the cop to hear. I then started writing down my contact info to give to the driver. At this point, the officer returned to the car she had pulled over and told me to give her room to speak to the driver. I backed away to finish writing down my info, but then I learned that the officer had decided not to issue a ticket.

Victory!

The only way we can fight police tyranny is to band together and proactively fight it. If someone had done for me what I did for this motorist when I received my ticket, I may have very well not been issued the ticket, and even if I had been issued the ticket, I would have had the witness I am now going ot have to search for in probable vain.

So here is my charge to all of you: If you see a fellow motorist being pulled over for the inane “crime” of speeding, follow them off the road, encourage them to contest the ticket, and offer to be a witness in their case against the state. Although I haven’t seen it work myself, my guess is that a third party who has nothing to gain or lose through testifying would make a very compelling case against the ticket. The state relies on the fact that most people who contest tickets have only their own word against the officer’s, and the officer’s word is implicitly less tainted since the officer is assumed to have little to gain from the ticket whereas the defendant is assumed to have a lot to lose.

One other person, previously unknown to the defendant, saying, “Your honor, I was behind the car that got pulled over and can testify that the car was traveling at or below the speed limit” would go a long way in getting these travesties dismissed. Do it for others, and hopefully when you find yourself being pulled over by a cop who himself speeds at every opportunity with no repercussions, someone will return the favor.

I certainly will.