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Why is productivity so low in the UK? It's a puzzle baffling economists (including Tim Harford today in the FT) but having worked in a singularly unproductive environment the answer is obvious to me.

During my first post-degree management position in a medium sized well known financial organisation, it frustrated the hell out of me how little work got done by my team of programmers, analysts and testers. I would often reach the end of a month and exasperatedly feel I could have probably achieved similar results if I had just worked on my own without time consuming management issues and endless meetings attempting to reach consensus over things that simply did not matter.

And this was the private sector. An argument recently with a staunch libertarian made it hit home what was going on. His complaint the private sector is frightfully inefficient rang hollow, making me realise this wasteful nature isn't public or private - it's just people. Productivity does not improve with automation, because the jobs we do in the UK are largely pointless already.

Why doesn't the free market move to remove these people? Because the invisible hand only reaches so far into corporate life - never penetrating below the surface. A mature corporation is worth £x based on how much money it returns in dividends, and what comparable returns are for other assets (hence why companies become worth a fortune when interest rates are low). The top 0.1% of the management fight to extract as much money as they can without shareholders noticing, but down in the bowels, the worker bees are usually paid based on some "market rate" that consultants come up with, topping out at about £120k - £150k. You simply can't earn any more. You can become comfortably off, but never "rich" rich - lifetime earnings simply preclude it. You will never have the £4m in the bank required to provide you an income without working. You'll have to save hard for a pension.

From my experience, people in the belly of these beasts differentiate themselves from one other in 3 ways:

  • Car
  • Salary
  • Size of team

You can get a car that's top-of-the-range, but are precluded from anything exotic. Your salary, as discussed, has an upper limit and does not vary much, leaving team size. If you've ever worked in a corporation you will realise just how important this is as a marker of status. "I run an overall team of 300 IT support staff and workers" you will hear. Or "I control x division". It's the middle management alpha lion's pride size.

Thinking about the incentives at play here, the "market" cares only about share price and dividend return (innovation has long been rinsed out of these places - why propose revolutionary ideas when preserving the existing structure is far more likely to earn you career progression?). The third part of that balance is costs - which I would argue rise to the maximum the share-price/dividend ratio will allow. Internal staff DO NOT CARE about "saving the company money" outside of platitudes offered by the executive board. If costs reduce, one of two things happens - either the share price rises (so that dividend yield rebalances) or costs rise again; ultimately achieving the same price/earnings ratio but with more staff. The incentive of the managers below the top level is very much geared toward having a bigger team. Having a bigger team means more to their own personal status than saving the company money. They won't get paid differently either way (I've been there - it doesn't happen - and don't even START me on the fallacy of bonuses...)

The upshot is, these places are FULL of bullshit jobs:

  • 9am: get a coffee
  • 9.30: meeting someone organised to discuss changes to your team
  • 10am: get emails/answer/organise more meetings
  • 11am: team meeting with 7/8 people (wasting a whole day) to discuss colour of a new button
  • 12.30: lunch
  • 1.30: emails
  • 2: do some actually productive work - draw a bit more on your spec, update a gant chart, program, etc
  • 3.30: break
  • 4: ???
  • 5: home

Robots and AI aren't going to take these jobs away because - largely - the vast majority of these people don't really do anything anyway. 

Once you spend time optimising something, it's harder to remove, rebuild or throw away.

Once you've rebuilt something, it needs optimising all over again.

This is why mature systems are hard to change....

And why new systems aren't matured (are more likely to have bugs, be slow etc.)

Why is this so hard a choice that ppl feel they need to justify it?

https://forums.oneplus.net/threads/the-oneplus-5t-lets-talk-about-the-headphone-jack.671594/

Headphone jacks - removed by Apple with the iPhone 7 release for 2 reasons (so far as I can tell):

  1. It limits how slim you can make a phone
  2. They needed a bold statement of "innovation" post Steve Jobs' passing and couldn't think of one

I suspect it's more about 2. And here's the problem with tech people. Kudos to OnePlus for blogging about it where most other providers just did it without public discussion. Their reasons?

  1. Apple did it

But OnePlus shouldn't NEED to justify themselves - and the one thing missing from the linked article is the reason they are even considering it. Herein lies the issue with many tech people... they may be smart but there is this underlying Tech Insecurity (MeatSec Vuln?) that dare not speak it's name - fear of being left behind. Programmers are the worst for this, often making language choices to make a project longer to build just to support some questionable new "essential" feature, or worse because they simply don't understand the language but want to for fear of being left out of the hipster coder circles.


The further stocks rise because interest rates are low (rather than because the economy is improving) the more the distorting effects of artificially depressed rates gets cemented in - and the higher the catastrophic effect of the crash when it does eventually come. This is the conundrum facing central bankers, as the effect matures over a decade of distortion... a rate rise will no longer counter inflation (as wages are not rising) and will almost crash the markets as money rushes back to savings.

There are ultimately two ceilings to this bull run:

1. Return on capital equalising. As the return from stock tends towards the return from a safe savings account (or on the bigger stage, the return from government bonds), even at stupid low rates they eventually reach parity (or stock returns merely reflecting a modest risk premium). Considering an extreme point, 0.5% returns from stocks vs 0.5% returns from savings accounts means capital plunges out of stocks.

2. Inflation kicking in. Little is known about why inflation isn't happening in a world of easy money. It seems that pay isn't increasing because productivity is super low. Plentiful rubbish jobs are driven by what? Debt allowing us to all eat out? When it returns there will be a tough decision. Raising rates is the traditional way to combat inflation, but are distortions bed in it must be clear to central bankers that raising rates when wages are not increasing (i.e. inflation is not rising due to people demanding more money) will do nothing to stem inflation. We're stuck; the old inflationary control system no longer works; it might get messy. How bad can inflation get without rising incomes? Looking at historic precedents, pretty bad.

The coming crash won't be caused by capitalism. Stock prices are not being set by the free market. This is not even capitalism. Stock prices are where they are and rising because of artificial government controlled rates, and the situation is getting worse because no-one has the political balls to back out of the pyramid scheme.


Norwich is super-spoilt for coffee shops, and the cream really is the best in the country - substantially higher quality than anything in Cambridge, and few places in London outside of Dark Arts and The Department of Coffee and Social Affairs. As a sometime laptop warrior (and paid-up disbeliever in the productivity of offices) here are the places to hang and write/code/email/doodle:

1. Kofra

Either on Unthank Road or at it's concession at the UEA's Sainsbury Centre art gallery, they serve the best coffee I have ever tasted. Staff are awesome and the feel of the place is great. Travel there from miles away - you won't be disappointed, ever.

2. Red Roaster  =  2. Strangers

Joint second come Red Roaster and Strangers. Still miles away from any high street chain, Strangers roast their own beans (you can even get a take-out coffee direct from the Roastery) although it can take them up to a week to get your coffee made. Red Roaster are down-to-earth, so in terms of feeling comfortable their places are unbeatably easy going - but don't be fooled; the coffee is insanely, nerdily great.

3. Bread Source

On Upper St.Giles - gets a mention also for still having the 3rd best coffee in the UK(!) and the best vibe of all Norwich places, with a huge shared working table, outside courtyard in summer and exceptional pastries.

Honourable mentions:

Clarke & Ravenscroft

Not coffee heads, but if you want to eat there is simply no better place. The halloumi wraps and homemade carrot cake are, well, unimpeachable.

And finally...

You will choke, but Starbucks Riverside get a mention simply because the local staff are probably the nicest bunch you will meet anywhere period, and it's a new building they've made a big effort with. Like a McDonalds, you already know what the coffee tastes like but it has it's place. I don't regard it as the same thing as a boutique coffee specialist, but some times you just want a fillet o fish - and it's got a good feeling.



I struggled when I first tried to understand GIT because it is one of those things that geeks either fail to explain simply, or simply do not wish to explain... their fragile egos preferring to pretend everything is super complicated and leet. So here goes my attempt at simplicity:

GIT - What does it do?

Code control. If more than one of you are working on code, you both install GIT and it syncs your folders of code with a central server, merging changes in a completely clever (but not flawless) way.

GIT - Where does it live?

Once you've installed it on your computer, you get a hidden .git folder in each of the projects you are tracking, and that stores ALL of the changes to the codebase (just the changes, so it's not massive). This allows you to roll your code backwards and forwards - even without an internet connection - like a massive undo / redo list. That "repository" of changes then needs to sync with a server if you want other people to share it. You can set up your own but it's a PIA, so almost everyone uses github.com.

GIT - Is GitHub GIT?

Nope. It's a third party site that happens to have become synonymous with GIT and saves you having to muck about setting up a repository on some server you own. They have a useful GUI tool too (GIT is Terminal / Command line by default) and you can browse all your changes on their website & see who made that massive spanner of a cludge three weeks ago. It's free if your code is open source, or you pay monthly to have a private project. It works, so everyone does it. Hopefully Russians don't secretly own it.

GIT - How do I deploy stuff to a server?

If you web dev-ing, instead of FTPing (or rsyncing) code onto your test / production boxes you can install git - just as you would on your laptop / PC - and punch a git command into terminal to bring the code base up to date with your repo. Quick, simple, lovely. (And no, you can't do database changes this way)

GIT - What happens when git can't figure out whose code to use?

GIT's merge is pretty magical at understanding the structure of code, functions etc in nearly any language. However, sometimes it just doesn't know - especially if two people have updated the same code block. SO in these cases it dumps chevrons into the actual file e.g.:

<<<<<<<< james changes

function doGreatThings($what) {

======== emma changes

function doGreatThings($what, $when) {

>>>>>>>>

YOU have to edit those files and remove the chevrons and choose what the code SHOULD be, then just try to submit it again. If you don't bother, your code will simply have a bunch of bullshit chevrons left in it.

GIT - What is push  / pull / pull request / blah?

When you sync with the repository you first commit your own changes locally, then do a pull which grabs anyone else's recent changes. (if there is a merge conflict, you sort it out now) If that's cool you do a push and your changes go up to the cloud. In some projects where someone else presumes your code is going to be guff, you have to request that your code gets merged up. Confusingly this is called a "pull request" because it's a request for the OTHER PERSON to pull. I blame Linus...

GIT - What is the difference between a branch and a fork

A fork is a complete split. Like the New Testament, you're headed off to make your own religion. You only do this once at the start of your rebel alliance.

A branch is another copy of the code where you can do awful things without affecting everything and everyone else. Usually you will have your master branch (the default one) which is your live code, then a staging branch where you move code pre-live for testing, and at least one other dev branch where your warzone merges happen. Your local codebase will be synced with one of these at any one time.

TOP TIP: don't create a ton of sub-branches for big feature releases as these can get out of date (or make sure you regularly back-merge) - you can easily get into merge hell.

GIT - How do I update my local files to reflect a specific branch?

Once you git checkout a branch IT'S MAGIC, ALL YOUR LOCAL FILES JUST SOMEHOW CHANGE.

GIT - How do I get started?

Download the GUI tool (free!) from github.com and it will automatically also install the command line utilities.

OR brew install git OR google it

GIMME SOME COMMANDS (all to be smashed into Terminal / DOS prompt...)

1. Join in with existing project (get the URL from github / your sysadmin / your project mates)

cd ~/git/some-new-folder/

git clone https://github.com/spannerwizards/myproject

2. Start a new project:

// Create project on github.com first!

cd ~/git/where-your-code-is-atmhttps://github.com/your-git-account/your-project.gitrigin https://github.com/your-git-account/your-project.git

git commit -m 'First commit'

git push -u origin master

3. Add files to existing project:

git add .

git commit -m "I made some changes"

git push

4. Removing fil//

// Easiest way - delete it from your local then do //full add

git add -A

// OR explicitely remove a file from local filesystem AND git repo. Will remove on next git add .

git rm filename.txt<http.postBufferoad to github

git push

// Nhttp.postBuffered to up the post buffer size by running git config http.postBuffer 524288000

6. Update your server (grab a repo as it is, completely overwriting local if it exists)

git reset --hard origin/master

7. Grab changes

git pull

8. Disassociate your dir from git (just delete the .git dir):

rm -rf .git

9. Revert a single file

git log

git checkout [commit hash from log output] file/to/restore

10. Switch branch

// Switch to the staging branch

git checkout staging

11. Switch back to a previous release:

// First, list previous commits:

git log 

// Then reset using the commit id

git reset --hard <tag/branch/commit id/hash/abbreviated hash>

// Force push that back to your branch

git push --force origin fixes




SUMMARY OF AMERICAN RIGHT

03 10 2017 20:10 | #1 /jamesleeds

Am I missing something, or is this really it?

- Healthcare is for the healthy wealthy

- Anyone can buy any gun, regardless of their suitability / it's suitability

- Rich people should pay less tax

- Science isn't a thing to be listened to if it means change (especially climate change)

- Heaven prefers white people


We, the intellectual elite like to think of ourselves as tolerant simply because we are smarter, more educated and frankly give a shit more than the coarse bigots and racists who voted for Trump or are secretly racist.

Yet we are no different. Not really. That very sentence was overflowing with intolerance. Not intolerance against black people or gay people or immigrants, no - but whole-demographic-group, they're-all-the-problem levels of intolerance.

The problem is thus - we're all intolerant, just of different things. Why? Because we are safe in our "group" - whatever that may be. I'm terrified of right-wing evangelical Trump supporters, so I'd quite honestly rather they didn't exist. Then the world would be a better place, right? But isn't that the same argument for whatever group it is that threatens your own's beliefs, cultures or geographical position?

We all crave safety. It's number fucking two in Mazlow's heirarchy. It's about stopping the neighbouring tribe coming and raping all of our women and killing all of our men and stealing all of our cattle. But WHO we regard as our "group" is ever more complex by the decade. Who do we identify with? These days we all have multiple personalities. If I say I'm a PHP coder, incredible vitriol comes between me and someone using C#. If both us join a bar of PR people though, WE are the coders - standing together, and hating all those marketing twats. If that bar gets attacked by terrorists WE are all citizens of this city and hell we will die for each other, and I will kill those others if it means saving my own. If another nation comes and attempts to rob both us of our land and cultures, WE will fight side by side as a defending army. And if aliens start attacking, well those warring nations will forget their differences to repel the invasion and prevent the rout of humanity!

Intolerance is relative.

Safety is complicated if you're going to have a stab at tolerance. This is why those who think less (generally the less intelligent?) prefer to plump for intolerance as a way of gaining safety. Superficially it's simpler, and less prone to confusion (though it is more prone to manipulation - just by saying e.g. PHP programmers unite against the Angular hipsters!) But if one can expand one's empathy to be as wide as the "not aliens but humans" then that strategy tends to work out better. It's peace rather than war, and less people die in peace.

There are two more problems with this:

1. it kinda requires the other side to be tolerant too

2. The less thoughtful / empathetic members of society need constant reminding it is a better way

Alas, to that second point, you can't tell humans with facts - they have to experience things. (Why does climate change attract such a muted reaction from the vast majority? They don't see it, and won't act until it's actually happening/happened - trust me on that). Wars, holocausts - they bring people together and things like the EU happen. But generations die out and new ones must experience these horrendous events all over again to truly understand the consequences.

One slight silver lining against the inescapably relentlessness reoccurring of intolerant awfulness is modern technologies. By modern I means books. Films. Like a roller coaster is to disasters, so these allow us to experience some of what happens when tolerance is forgotten. That seemed to inoculate us just enough. However, current movements in American, Germany, the UK suggest that the internet is blocking out other voices from our feeds. We're no longer renting the same movies - watching the same 4 channels.

Humanity - we might have peaked.

Interesting article : https://qz.com/1064061/house-flippers-triggered-the-us-housing-market-crash-not-poor-subprime-borrowers-a-new-study-shows/

Analysing the data it seems that wealthier people gambling on the housing market (with each other always on the other side) were pumping money into second homes / buy to let with the intention of simply selling again (or "flipping") a couple years later making a huge profit. Better than savings rates and "safe" since they all thought house prices never go down.

Whichever way you look at it though, it is essentially a pyramid scheme. And the hilarious thing is - we bailed it out the only way you can without things utterly collapsing ... using a bigger pyramid scheme.

/economics

... they're in denial about the consequences of admitting climate science.

Their market-knows-best mantra has always been something of an ideological fallacy - there is no such thing as a completely free market as even the staunchest right-wing invisible hand defenders have a line - they would not allow child labour or slavery for example (actually, recent events would suggest some might) - and all agree on some shared costs, like national defence and universal policing.

However, they don't generally admit to these exceptions - falling back on what they themselves see as the cardinal truths of their small state ideologies - the market is always right and the state is almost always wrong. Let's not get into a discussion as to why this is - but climate change is a real problem for that world view. Accepting climate science would mean more regulation to prevent pollution - not less. It would mean channelling money from taxes of some description to make the switch to a sustainable energy economy. Bigger state. More taxes. In other words, it undermines everything they stand for outside of immigration controls.

So yes, climate change presents an existential crisis for the right wing, for the GOP, for Nigel Lawson's pride and the petroleum industry generally. But this denial is still short sighted when it is also an existential threat for humanity as a whole.

I'm guessing that they consider the latter to some way off - and that they have enough time before shit starts hitting fans. But boy, are those fans starting to blow...

Shoreditch Office Interior Funky-uppers (or indeed Shoreditch wannabees) ask yourself this - if I use this, am I (a) going to look like a prick (b) going to be a social pariah.

If your answer is "I don't know til we try it" then you don't know and you probably shouldn't be doing this job (it's also quite possibly you are also oblivious to how little people think of you now). Don't know whether something is cool or not but you've seen a pinterest of a "fun" office the answer must always be "no".

/interiors /work


Comedy Games

14 09 2017 08:09 | #1 /techchat

Why is it no-one has ever made a funny game conversion of a funny other-thing?

In fact, the only hilarious game I can recall is Portal 2, and humour wise it's Portal 1, Stanley Parable (which was more knowing really).

Why don't they work? Are developers simply lacking humour? (er, no and no) Monty Python's Flying Circus on Spectrum was the low point for me, but the recent Rik & Morty mobile game is what kicked off this particular rant.

(and apologies for this piece on humour being so bland)

Skyforce Reloaded - the beautifully put together yet ultimately vacuous vertically scrolling shoot-em-up - has slowly taught me a lesson over the past few weeks. I've been mildly addicted, playing nightly with the pavlovian incentive to earn stars and upgrade weapons, building up an ever better, stronger ship which in itself promises to make the game easier.

However, things never get easier. Nor do I really get stronger - not relative to the increasingly hard bad-guy tanks and super planes. Like all well honed games, it's pitched to be just hard enough to make it feel like clearing a level is an accomplishment - but not too hard that I get frustrated and bored. The trick for game designers is hitting that exact sweet spot throughout the experience, whilst simultaneously and paradoxically making me feel like I'm progressing. That's where the magic lies...

Looking back I consider how puny my plane was... I can even revisit those early levels and trounce wave after wave with my current ninja hard flying battleship. But actually thinking about it - it WAS just as easy/hard - and just as enjoyable.

And so it is with life and wealth.

Teaching Kids To Code

03 09 2017 19:09 | #1 /techchat

There is a perenial argument regularly repeated as accepted wisdom along the lines of teaching children basic principles before they get to learn the interesting stuff. This is a fallacy since it tries to force feed knowledge to children before they have developed an appetite to learn. Michael Gove used this argument when instructing the UK's educational institutions on how best to teach reading and writing. Teach the rules of grammar first - so his argument goes - to ensure a rigorous understanding of the principles. However, in the majority of cases this just serves to turn children off. Surely encouraging a love of reading and literature is a better first step?

A similar argument is oft repeated with coding too, and I've heard variations ever since higher level languages came into being. The thinking goes that one should understand memory management and pointers before learning a higher level language to understand what is going on under the hood. This "Assembler before BASIC" mentality stems from computer scientists doing it "properly" as they see it, (possibly because they themselves would love to learn this way?) but it kills it dead for creative kids.

This came up on this week on Twitter :


Imagine having to learn how paint is chemically manufactured before approaching a canvas - or being forced into lessons on the ratios of string vibrations before being allowed to attempt to make a piano work.

BASIC (in my case on an Oric 1) had some beautifully simple high level (for the time) commands that allowed me make Zap! noises and draw moire patterns. The impact for me was great - just seeing something move on a screen was still nothing short of miraculous. But I also understand that those same commands will do nothing to excite today's nascent coders. A similar "bangs for your buck" starter is gained from something like Unity however. You can quickly see that you can create a world and walk around it. You get the satisfaction of creating a "game" similar to the ones you are used to, and psychologically you can SEE the progression from where you are to where you want to be. Starting off too low level, and those age old educational problems of a) feeling capable and b) being interested bite. It's all too easy (especially for less privileged children) to drop into thinking that it's a) too complex an b) unrelatable to any of your own real life goals/desires.

Serious coders may write this off as "instant gratification" but there is a lot to be said for the vacuousness of instant gratification if it inspires and enables a whole new generation to get the coding bug.


Exams would be fine if they let you treat problems as problems instead of puzzles.

Academia generally posits only pre-constructed problems with “correct” and “incorrect” solutions - the game is then less solving the “problem” than second guessing what the examiner / adjudicator wants to hear. This is why I was nauseated by institutionalised education, even (especially?) at degree level.

The real world treats problems as problems. I much prefer the real world.


Fascinating to hear John Le Carre interview in the New York Times, particularly his theories regarding the Christopher Steele dossier and Trump's inability to criticise Moscow. In summary:

  • Russia has compromising blackmail material (kompromat) on Donald Trump - they collect this as a matter of course on anyone of interest
  • Christopher Steele - the British ex-MI6 agent who compiled infamous dossier - is simply being used by Russia, with the dossier containing some true and some fake information. This allows Trump (or his supporters) to write the whole thing off as unreliable, but clearly shows Trump that they have stuff on him (in other words, the leak was entirely for the benefit of striking fear into Mr Trump)
  • Russia would only deny having the material if they've got it - "we haven't got anything" line is Moscow telling Trump "look how nice we're being to you"
  • Root of scandal might be centred around a number of things, but whatever it most likely comes down to Trump getting bailed out with Russian money

Read the whole thing here: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/25/books/review/john-le-carre-ben-macintyre-british-spy-thrillers.html?smid=tw-share

Carrie Fisher’s Leia

17 08 2017 16:08 | #18 /nerfherder

"Leia was not just another cutie singing and flouncing around a space palace, nor was she your stereotypical, skin-deep “strong” female character, replete with smart-lady glasses and an AK-47. Rather, Fisher’s Leia served as a talisman of casual, post-patriarchal female arrogance. Even though her character was very young and mostly wore white, she wasn’t remotely virginal, her tone of voice was the auditory equivalent of an eye roll, and she never hesitated to inform Darth Vader that he was wretched and vile, and to tell his henchmen that they stank to high heaven."

—Heather Havrilesky, writing on Bookforum.com 

It was an unmitigated disaster for America's right-wing Republicans, and utterly nerve racking for the progressive left but the failed healthcare debacle may prove the best thing that has happened to the US for some considerable time. Why? Even though triple-hard for Democrats to bear, the concept of universal health coverage has been stress-tested against everything Republicans can throw at it. No-one can now say "what if" they just had control over all levers of government - or that the public would prefer a free-market approach. Republicans have proved that they not only have no other way, but no other way is acceptable - even to Republicans.

American politics moves glacially slowly. The rest of the developed world has been more or less settled upon the basic balance between the market and state for decades now. Certain services do not work in a market setting: policing, education, justice, healthcare, military. These cannot be procured individually without either failing to work for anyone or causing "free" citizens to be handicapped in life by circumstance beyond their control. This is why every other nation has this thing where people chip in so that if someone gets attacked the police come round, or someone gets ill they collectively try to fix them.

Obamacare was a push in this direction, but it was strongly resisted. This was partly latent racism (the same inherent in the blanket obstructionism declared by Republican congressmen as the ACA was being set-up) and partly American's cutting off their nose to spite their face. The dual belief that they would be paying more in tax to support poor black people too "lazy" to get their own insurance, combined with the feeling that  once you go down the route of socialism you get to communism then everyone HAS to be poor. Or something. That's clearly not the case, borne out by the rest of the world - and once healthcare has "gone in" it's almost impossible to remove without citizens revolting. It's the final piece of the "what a mature state should provide as a core" jigsaw and it looks like America are about to finally allow themselves to get there.

There's plenty of other arguing to do about where the line between state and freedom is, and they will duel on gun ownership and social safety nets. But at least if you get sick, you'll no longer be on your own.

It was an unmitigated disaster for America's right-wing Republicans, and utterly nerve racking for the progressive left but the failed healthcare debacle may prove the best thing that has happened to the US for some considerable time. Why? Even though triple-hard for Democrats to bear, the concept of universal health coverage has been stress-tested against everything Republicans can throw at it. No-one can now say "what if" they just had control over all levers of government - or that the public would prefer a free-market approach. Republicans have proved that they not only have no other way, but no other way is acceptable - even to Republicans.

American politics moves glacially slowly - the rest of the developed world has been more or less settled upon the balance between the market and state for decades now. Certain services do not work in a market setting: policing, education, justice, healthcare, military. These cannot be procured individually without either failing to work for anyone (military protection) or causing "free" citizens to be handicapped in life (education) or circumstance beyond their control (healthcare). This is why every other nation has this thing where everyone chips in so that if someone gets attacked the police come round, or someone gets ill the state try to fix them.

Obamacare was a push in this direction, but it was strongly resisted. This was partly latent racism (the same inherent in the blanket obstructionism declared by Republican congressmen as the ACA was being set-up) and partly American's cutting off their nose to spite their face. The dual belief that they would be paying more in tax to support poor black people too "lazy" to get their own insurance, combined with the feeling that  once you go down the route of socialism you get to communism then everyone HAS to be poor. Or something. That's clearly not the case, borne out by the rest of the world - and once healthcare has "gone in" it's almost impossible to remove without citizens revolting. It's the final piece of the "what the state must provide as a core" jigsaw and it looks like America are about to allow themselves to finally get there.

The rest of the arguing about where the line between state and freedom is still to play for, and they will argue from hills about gun ownership and social safety nets. But at least if you get sick, you're no longer on your own.

It was an unmitigated disaster for America's right-wing Republicans, and utterly nerve racking for the progressive left but the failed healthcare debacle may prove the best thing that has happened to the US for some considerable time. Why? Even though triple hard for Democrats to bear, the concept of universal health coverage has been stress-tested against everything Republicans can throw at it. No-one could say "what if" they just had control over all levers of government - or that the public would prefer a free-market approach. Nope - now they have PROVED they not only have no other way, but no other way is acceptable - even to Republicans.

American politics moves glacially slowly - the rest of the developed world has been more or less settled upon the balance between the market and state for decades now. Certain services do not work in a market setting: policing, education, justice, healthcare, military. These cannot be procured individually without either failing to work for anyone (military protection) or causing "free" citizens to be handicapped in life (education) or circumstance beyond their control (healthcare). This is why every other nation has this thing where everyone chips in so that if someone gets attacked the police come round, or someone gets ill the state try to fix them.

Obamacare was a push in this direction, but it was strongly resisted. This was partly latent racism (the same inherent in the blanket obstructionism declared by Republican congressmen as the ACA was being set-up) and partly American's cutting off their nose to spite their face. The dual belief that they would be paying more in tax to support poor black people too "lazy" to get their own insurance, combined with the feeling that  once you go down the route of socialism you get to communism then everyone HAS to be poor. Or something. That's clearly not the case, borne out by the rest of the world - and once healthcare has "gone in" it's almost impossible to remove without citizens revolting. It's the final piece of the "what the state must provide as a core" jigsaw and it looks like America are about to allow themselves to finally get there.

The rest of the arguing about where the line between state and freedom is still to play for, and they will argue from hills about gun ownership and social safety nets. But at least if you get sick, you're no longer on your own.

TL;DR: not without detonating the unexploded powder keg from 2008.

Watch this video from the FT (or don't): https://transact.ft.com/en-gb/?play=qe-unwind

Let's just cut through the crap to some facts:

  • Interest rates are STILL at record lows - the world economy is STILL on life support
  • QE is almost certainly the reason why stock markets have risen so far without real productive growth
  • As an example, the Fed holds $4.5 trillion dollars of it's own debt - freeing up that $4.5 trillion to (they hoped) re-invest. Where has that money gone? Stocks and bonds - pushing up the price of both
  • Interest rates rising (the same thing as bonds becoming cheaper) would cause money to flow out of stocks to seek the easier % returns in bonds
  • Reselling QE's $4.5trillion of bonds back into the market would force the bond price to go down, re-attracting the original sellers, crashing stocks and hiking interest rates by inference (regardless whether central banks attempt to artificially pin them down)
  • Asset prices would also collapse, especially housing as rate rises cause the maximum borrowing for salaried humans to plummet

Around the world, the FT also points out that people hold $217 trillion dollars of debt but doesn't say what % actually hold most of it. There would be considerable default though, that is clear.

TL;DR: not without detonating the unexploded powder keg from 2008.

Watch this video from the FT (or don't): https://transact.ft.com/en-gb/?play=qe-unwind

Let's just cut through the crap to some facts:

  • Interest rates are STILL at record lows - the world economy is STILL on life support
  • QE is almost certainly the reason why stock markets have risen so far without real productive growth
  • As an example, the Fed holds $4.5 trillion dollars of it's own debt - freeing up that $4.5 trillion to (they hoped) re-invest. Where has that money gone? Stocks and bonds - pushing up the price of both
  • Interest rates rising (the same thing as bonds becoming cheaper) would cause money to flow out of stocks to seek the easier % returns in bonds
  • Reselling QE's $4.5trillion of bonds back into the market would force the bond price to go down, re-attracting the original sellers, crashing stocks and hiking interest rates by inference (regardless whether central banks attempt to artificially pin them down)
  • Asset prices would also collapse, especially housing and rate rises cause the maximum borrowing for salaried humans to plummet

Around the world, the FT points out that people hold $217 trillion dollars of debt but doesn't say what % actually hold most of it. There would be considerable default though, that is clear.

tl;dr: No. Not without detonating the unexploded powder keg from 2008.

Adobe (not noted for their audio prowess) are on the brink of releasing a clever speech editor - #Voco - which learns from listening to hours of a single person's dialog and makes a somewhat disturbingly realistic synthesis capable of saying even bespoke phrases "as" that person (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I3l4XLZ59iw ).

With celebrities and politicians already having provided enough chat to drive the engine, this has implications for manufactured interviews. Moreover, combining with similar iterative improvements in the 3D reconstruction of "virtual heads" - mapping real visages onto proportionally correct digital craniums - we are not far off full-on photo realistic Fake News creation.

Initially, this will be disturbing - but soon we will move on from fully trusting any moving image / sound and have to find other "evidence" or proof of points. It all sounds a bit tricky.

Other implications of this imminent technology:

  • Ironically may drive more people to seek out actual physical events - like politicians speaking in person. Mass rallies a la Trump / Mussolini becoming more popular?
  • People could map themselves, providing a realistic avatar to appear on their behalf on video conferencing, interviews etc - either to allow others to "be" them, or simply for the convenience of staying at home in your jamas typing rather than speaking
  • Combined with AI (eventually) could be a crude form of immortality - loved ones could converse with a realistic you after your death, helping grieve (or perhaps not...)


undefined

31 07 2017 16:07 | #16 /drawkward

undefined

Paul Krugman points out that if you're going to do healthcare using a market-based approach, then the ACA is probably the best healthcare system achievable that fits in with right-wing Republican philosophies whilst maximising coverage: https://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2017/07/30/heritage-on-health-1989/

Two things follow from this:

1. the Republicans are not going to find a "better" solution

2. the reason they don't like #Obamacare doesn't stack up. Opinions against it seem to stem more it's creation by a left-win black man than from it being bad per se (Medicaid is actually hugely popular). Which of those two prejudicial factors has most weight is hard to say, but shouting about love of free markets or "choice" (mostly from those able to afford their own medical bills) has been shown as a minuscule sideshow.

The ACA is America's boldest step yet toward joining the rest of the developed world in accepting medical support for sick people as a shared cost alongside education, policing and defence. Even if it does get repealed, that surely won't last for long once the impacts are felt across the electorate. Is it too optimistic to assume the US will eventually do - and keep - the right thing? I don't think so. Staying alive trumps even deep-seated racism.

A brain extension & publishing tool for creatives

This is for me. I find it hard to juggle lots of stuff simultaneously; my brain has limitations - probably more than other people's. I suffer from systemic disorganisation. My TextEdit consists of a flotilla of windows sandwiched between Chrome and my desktop; my Google Keep is uncontrollably rammed with inappropriately lengthy uncategorised stuff; and my inbox is a multi-thousand unread post-apocalypse world of missed opportunity.
In the public sphere my Tumblr is neglected - but not as badly as my Medium and blogger accounts.  Sometimes I build blogs or bigger CMSes as part of the systems I attempt to steer into the world, but off the shelf ones are awful - to build, adapt or use.

In short - my life is a messy pile of squandered ideas and disconnected threads.

BigNote; LittleNote is my attempt to solve this (or at least help).

Get started by logging in and going to /me (everyone has their own) which is like that moleskine you religiously carry (or textedit or whatever). It's your private thoughts (stored locally in your browser) - the myriad little ideas you have go in the small column on the right; the more lengthy culmination of those thoughts on the left.

To publish, choose a user tag for the world can know you by. For example, mine are /jamesleeds and /brokencapitalism

Order is important - it's a pile (i.e. not chronological). This is so that the most recently accessed stuff always bubbles to the top, because I never get around to archiving the junk - the idea is that it just disappears into the bowels of your account over time. You can always search, and if you feel the need to categorise use a "/" - which neatly doubles as the url to get back to that pile of stuff. So /cars is the pile where I keep my largely embarrassing petrol (or increasingly electric) head fantasies - see /jamesleeds/cars or /me/cars for your private vehicular thoughts - with /cars standing for everyone's.

And that's pretty much it. You're welcome to use it. I love it, though I won't take offence if you don't.

Testing in Javascript

27 07 2017 11:07 | #14 /danieljharvey

Unfortunately, as more and more program logic slowly wafts towards the front end - testing that code becomes a thing too.

There are a few ways around this:

QUnit - https://qunitjs.com/

This is the testing used by jQuery and their stuff and is browser-based - so that's useful if you want to make DOM assertions but less easy to run in a big testing CLI script unless you want to start setting it up with a headless browser.

Mocha - https://mochajs.org/

Very much based in the world of Node.js - however this plugin ( https://github.com/jhnns/rewire ) allows you to test function-based classes that don't use Node's module.export patterns. Because Mocha is node based it can be run in the command line and does a very helpful list of working and not working parts - easy to run in a big CLI script of tests.

Jest - https://facebook.github.io/jest/

Facebook's own testing framework for JS. Very tuned for React stuff - the snapshots features for saving the output of a view function and asking if changes are intentional saves writing shitloads of tests which seems really nice. (video of that here: https://egghead.io/lessons/javascript-use-jest-s-snapshot-testing-feature )

/testing

/programming

/javascript


Testing in PHP

26 07 2017 09:07 | #14 /danieljharvey

Writing unit tests in PHP is great for stopping old things you did from breaking. Writing code that can be easily tested, however, can be a bit of a shitter. It depends on all the parts of your program not only working together to make the application, but also working without all the other parts around (at least, with it's most crucial dependencies mocked by the testing environment).

The most difficult code to test is code that constantly refers to global objects. The main offenders with these are database handlers or objects containing environment globals. Code that jumps out to these global objects and grabs data is difficult to test, so consider using Dependency Injection to pass the required objects into the class (or System Under Test, or SUT, in testing parlance) on instantiation.

The ever excellent PHP The Right Way has a brief explanation of Dependency Injection.


Also this series linked above is pretty much great and you should read this guy's whole blog and have a great time: https://jtreminio.com/2/programming13//programming3/unit-testing-tutorial-introduction-to-phpunit/

/testing/testing/programming

/php

/testing


Typescript Resources

26 07 2017 09:07 | #14 /danieljharvey

TypeScript is JS with extra type descriptors that only make trouble when compiling. Therefore allows slowly moving towards type safety.

https://www.typescriptlang.org/docs/handbook/typescript-in-5-minutes.html

Also has it's own versions of some ES6 bits, like classes, which work as you might expect in PHP etc.

https://www.tutorialspoint.com/typescript/typescript_classes.htm

As always, this site has some pretty great basics:

https://learnxinyminutes.com/docs/typescript/

Most important - any valid in regular JS is valid typescript - it falls through, as such.

/programming

/typescript


The FT this morning runs a piece about how the majority of high-end London homes coming off the market are being withdrawn rather than sold. This speaks volumes about people's perception of reality, reality itself and our reticence to accept that the value of our homes (or investment properties) is falling.

The prime central London market has been falling for months but still these presumably above-averagely educated and informed owners are still in denial - so what hope for the rest of the country to reach sanity?

The underlying question I want (as a younger, non-home owner) to ask here is when will prices normalise?

The causes of today's high prices are simple: 10 years of governmental intervention (QE and low interest rates in particular) have inflated the price of assets. Everyone who held them in 2008 have pretty much only had the option to buy each other's at increasingly expensive prices - all of them getting "richer" in this Ponzi-scheme kind of a way, but also in a real way since the value of non-assets - food, etc have stayed the same, pinned down by low wages. (This "differential inflation" has been huge in the unofficial world of assets, at the expense of low or zero inflation in the everyday items that make up the official inflation measure - mostly those things consumed by the young and relatively poor - exacerbating inequality)

What's propping it all up?

  1. Low Interest Rates (a) allowing mortgagees to stretch the amount they can borrow
  2. Low Interest Rates (b) making buy-to-let returns (initially) way better than savings accounts
  3. Help-to-buy and other ultimately unhelpful market interventions
  4. Bank of mum-and-dad, passing on equity gains to allow purchase of houses out-of-whack with wages

What's stalling it now? Over time the above factors max-out:

  1. Wages are not growing in any meaningful way, creating a limit to what any job (assuming a range between £25k and £150k for most everyone) can stretch to - properties over £600k simply cannot be purchased by income alone, regardless of job
  2. There comes a point at which rental returns come back into balance with less hassely savings products. A £1m house needs to charge £20k/yr rent just to make a 2% return (excluding costs). Rising prices further reduce yield until once again other options - even at low rates - become viable
  3. Ignoring the political sensitivities, prices eventually reach a level even help-to-buy can't boost past
  4. As mum and dad get old and their equity fails to inflate further, draining it becomes less of an option - particularly when expensive care costs start to hit (as they now are for the elder of the baby boomers)

Extra factors:

  • Homeowners with decent equity are running out of working age road - getting too old to secure a re-mortgage in order to substantially upgrade. The "remortgage wall"
  • Younger homeowners who haven't benefitted from the same explosive price inflation as their parents don't have enough equity to move. The "rungless ladder wall"
  • The even younger have given up on houses. Jobs - all of them - don't add up to houses, and they know it - so they are not even bothering

There are no magical ways to prevent these factors continuing to impact the market. The magic money tree might be shaken again, with QE boosting prices but it will also further crystalise the sales freeze. Helicopter money is out since that would also set off the inflation bomb. Property prices it transpires have a ceiling past which they cannot lift without a shift in the value of money itself. What's more, any upward change to interest rates or inflation once at the fully-inflated top will accelerate the destructive effect.

The only realistic way is down - the question is really how long can the market tread water? The answer to that is probably the same amount of time that the general public can continue to suspend belief. Or perhaps just a little bit shorter.

... is that they WANT less people to get their healthcare via government. So why aren't they pleased with the CBO analysis when it says that 33million fewer will be insured https://www.cbo.gov/publication/52939 ?

If they believed their ideologies were right, they would be able to just say - "We believe it's right that fewer people get healthcare through government because that way we can make government smaller and reduce taxes. The way to get healthcare is to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get rich like us. If you're already sick and really poor, we'll still have a really basic Medicaid so we don't totally go against everything Jesus taught but if you get sick then basically you're ruined. But as soon as all the sick and poor people die out everyone will be happy like us!" /politics /ahca

BUILD SOME HOUSES

25 07 2017 22:07 | #1 /brokencapitalism

UK Councils spend about £1bn/yr on temporary accommodation to keep homeless families off the streets:

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jul/22/number-of-homeless-children-in-temporary-accommodation-rises-37

The answer to this is politically simple: BUILD SOME SOCIAL HOUSING.

  • It doesn't cost much (each family home c. £120k in actual bricks + labour)
  • They've got plenty of land
  • They control the planning permission

This will also help the capital poor younger generations (e.g. tax payers) because there are more houses and stops putting public money directly into the hands of (literally rent seeking) older asset wealthy classes.


Privacy Policy

17 07 2017 22:07 | #1 /bnln

We collect certain information or data about you when you use or visit bignotelittlenote.com. This includes:

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Where your data is stored

We store your data on secure servers provided by ISO 27001 registered data-centres in the UK.

It may also be stored outside of the UK, to be closer to international users. By submitting your personal data, you agree to this.

Keeping your data secure

Information transmitted over the internet is never regarded as completely secure, therefore any data you transmit is at your own risk.

That said, all communications with bignotelittlenote.com take place using an encrypted SSL (https) connection to ensure the maximum privacy / protection.

We have procedures and security features in place to try and keep your data secure once we receive it:

  • We will not pass your personal information on to other websites or organisations for marketing or commercial purposes unless permission is expressly requested and given
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Disclosing your information

We will only pass on your personal information if we have a legal obligation to do so, or to enforce our terms & conditions or other agreements.

Your rights

You can find out what information we hold about you at any point, and ask us not to use any of the information we collect.

If you come to us via a link from another website, we may receive personal information about you from the other website. You should read the privacy policy of the website you came from to find out more about this.

Terms & Conditions

17 07 2017 22:07 | #1 /bnln

Yes, we know it's the boring bit, but we've tried to keep these T&Cs as readable / short as possible - so please do read them.

By signing up to BigNoteLittleNote.com you agree to the following terms:

1. We reserve the right to suspend or remove your account with immediate effect for anything we regard as unsavoury, immoral, abusive, fraudulent or illegal in any way 

2. Any notes posted are the views of the posting user and not BigNoteLittleNote.

3. Images / text must be owned by the posting user - or permission have be granted to that person. Anyone posting content written by others or images created by others without their express permission will have the offending posts removed.

4. Repeated violations of these content guidelines can lead to the removal of your account and/or banning of your email and IP.

/terms

Understanding one's own (and other people's) ever-surprising ability to disregard what is blatantly true is something of an obsession for me ATM. When you believe something defines you ("I am a Christian") it appears this cannot be questioned without putting at risk the whole idea of who you are.

As it transpires, the same regions of the brain light-up under MRI when confronted with an actual knife-wielding physical threat as when a statement contradicts closely held beliefs important to our identity:

https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2016/12/28/14088992/brain-study-change-minds</a>

The thing I would question is the conclusion. Are "who we are" and "what we believe" different things?

/neuroscience /religion


US Wealthcare System

14 07 2017 21:07 | #1 /jamesleeds

There is no free market health care option; a true "free market" would allow poor people to die. 

However, the Republican party is wedded to an antiquated ideology that the free market is king - believing that cutting taxes is a universal solution (even though trickle-down economics has been shown to be a joke) and reducing government interventions - whether for protecting the environment of keeping people alive - are always anti-freedom. So what happens when someone is lying dying following a road accident, and has no insurance? Do the paramedics simply leave them?

Even staunch conservatives (well, most) have a morality of last resort - don't let the free market kill. That's why America's new health care system falls back to pre-death coverage as their only real consession to counter a truly free market.

Paul Ryan's proposed wealth-care system is then an object lesson in why ideological positions can lead to harmful consequences - but if it doesn't directly affect the self-interested (or their chosen demographic "family") they can shut those bad consequences out of their minds.

/politics /trumpcare
They will get there eventually, even if they take 2 steps forward (ACA) and one step back (Trump) but from the UK (or any other other developed country for that matter) it is frustrating watching America catching up, but tripping over itself. It's sad.

All developed governments provide basics for their citizens:
  • freedom without prejudice (policing, judiciary, military)
  • universal education
  • healthcare - if you get sick they fix you
These core needs are rarely disputed, leaving the political arguments to focus on where to draw the (less important) line between unemployment safety net and taxation.

America - you will eventually have a government funded system because the natural, moral progression of a society is to help people with ill health, but it is also cheaper. Republicanism may principally be about helping oneself over other "less deserving" people - but as the various Trump-supporters-with-illnesses articles show, that's only until Rs are themselves sick.
Not much in the way of actual economic improvement? Drop interest rates. It's an easy way of kicking the economic can down the proverbial road - forcing the price of debt to be set centrally rather than based on a free market between those who wish to borrow and those who wish to lend. This has a slew of benefits:
  • Big business can borrow a ton more money for the same annual outlay (though I note from experience that small/medium businesses do not share in this bonanza)
  • Governments spend less of their money on repayments (as indeed do other debtors)
  • Monthly mortgage costs drop, the maximum amount people can borrow rises and house prices go up
What's more, everyone gets excited at asset prices (esp those generating returns) going UP, as some of that extra business cash goes into share buy-backs, and dividends charge downward to find some sort of equilibrium with the reduced returns from savings.

The only negative politically is disgruntlement from savers - whose "asset" does not grow with other asset inflation (and is thus devalued, relatively) and non-home owners (who do not realise it is interest rates causing the run-away asset inflation, as they mostly get gaslighted by talk of supply and demand).

HOWEVER - here's the big kicker. You can't ever raise them again. Once you've used this wonder drug, a dependency quickly develops and to take it away means almost certain re-devaluation in asset prices (including stocks and housing) which in turn produce an inescapable economic collapse. Why? Think of it this way:

Imagine interest rates go back up to 5%. Why would you hold risky shares that pay dividends of 2%? Why would you cling to a £500k buy-to-let property that returns less than £25k/yr before expenses (& which is also falling in value)?

Of course, you don't. So the likely political move is to KEEP 0% rates indefinitely. The consequence of that? Nothing; so long as we can think up another wheeze for simulating economic "growth" and keeping us developed nations looking relatively wealthy compared to the rest of the world.

how would you do it?

09 05 2017 06:05 | #1 /jamesleeds

Here s a big one. (well, quite small really.)

This one is less problematic!!
Globalisation and free-market capitalism has led (as James Goldsmith foresaw out in the 9/politicss) to the deprecation of the western worker. Unfathomably cheap goods and rising asset prices (particularly property) have dulled the effect, enriching the baby boomer generations beyond what they could have ever imagined - but this mask cannot hold forever.

As the east continues to make ever more labour available, and automation increasingly makes labour irrelevant, the near-monarchistic financial glory felt by the majority in the western world will begin to crack. Indeed, it has - with resurgent inflation and the law of diminishing returns from money printing & debt overheating the powerful but fragile economic engine.

And what happens when things go wrong? Unless we are smart, we blame others. Are those baby-boomers who sit on £5/politics/politics,/politics/politics/politics of assets going to feel favourably about anyone that points out their part-time job as a postman shouldn't really have reaped such rewards? No, they will listen to the strong voice that blames the polish coming in, or the chinese for manipulating us (with all their pesky cheap goods), or liberals for forcing change when things used to be good.

Optimistically I hope that Trump is the last death-throes of a dying historical convervatism built on protection from other races/genders/sexualities. But thinking about it, this bizarre sociopath marks but the start.

/politics /globalisation

One of the most unexpected and fascinating outcomes of John Calhoun's experiments with rats is the separate class of "Beautiful Ones" which emerges as chaos and despair engulf an increasingly overcrowded rat colony that started as a utopia. These Beautiful Ones refrain from sex, and do not enter the fighting fray, instead retreating to immaculately groom themselves. The outlast the mobs, and their emergence in repeat studies is the pre-cursor to the population dwindling, eventually dying out altogether since the beautiful remaining rats never revert to fighting or reproduction.

This came immediately to mind when I read this story about the decline of sexual activity in Silicon Valley - who seem destined to form one of the last groups to be replaced by the powers of automation / globalisation.

Further reading/viewing:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_B._Calhoun
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=doOXWSXbRCc

One person's common sense is different to another's... the term is simply shorthand for your own prejudices; usually that you are not aware of as prejudices. For example, "You should close your borders to stop terrorists coming it - it's common sense" or "It's common sense that relationships should be between men and women" or "It's common sense that if more people had guns to take down a shooter, less people would get shot" etc.

This is why one should always be wary as soon as "Common Sense" is stated as justification... it says "I have no real justification, other than my own feeling on it".

Also good to be aware of this if you ever find yourself using the phrase.

My first big thought

29 01 2017 14:01 | #8 /jamesklik

Does this work for james?

All empires fall eventually. We will be able to trace the end of the US's global dominance to this point - the point where they gave up the moral high ground
The mind is always trying to convince us that the world is a simpler, more understandable place. Despite our protestations, we stereotype all the time - it is the only way our limited intellects can cope with the complexities of the world.

Hardly any decisions we make are based on a dispassionate assessment of facts or stats - we feel things. And I'm not just talking about those we consider less intelligent - the populists, the sheep - we are all readily persuadable as even smarter people don't make probability calculations in everyday life.

So what can we do if we don't wish to be part of the prejudiced throng - we can't stop our minds making simplifications ourselves? We can acknowledge WHERE we are making simplifications and honestly state so. There is nothing more terrifying than someone who makes a simplication on a sixpence as a means of coping but who then zealously defends it for fear they won't be able to cope if it might turn out to be wrong (or simply more complicated).

/tribalism
This is a rant, yes - but I'm cross with my (soon to be ex) bank. We've all been there, I know.



HSBC (who I have used for business for 1/hsbc years, and longer personally) have become more and more de-personalised over the last few years. I no longer even know if I have a bank manager, let alone what their name might be - and my businesses channel a not inconsequential amount of money through them annually (that sounded awful - sorry, I don't mean look at how much money we have - more give you understanding that we're not just talking about a few 1/hsbc,/hsbc/hsbc/hsbcs here).

They won't lend. Ever. Despite growing at a reasonable pace over the years, and having a fantastic credit history and strong invoices going forward they have NEVER wanted to help my wonderful, small / medium tech business. Anecdotally from friends, that is not reflective of us. They simply do not give a shit about small / medium businesses. Or tech. PERIOD.

/hsbc /economics

As the CEO and Technical Architect for the Pupil Asset school system, I will clearly be claiming the future of MISes is PA MIS! But actually, we are not there yet - and where we are heading in trying to produce the system of the future is I think still interesting - as well as how far away we are from realising those goals.

When I first began looking at school software, I found it incredible that so little progress from the wider world of technology had penetrated into schools. Management software was confined to physical servers (or a Compaq PC under the secretary’s desk!) and so impossibly hard to use that everyone who had not been on the 3 day training course was scared of it. So all this complexity obviously delivered a huge amount of functionality for the school. Didn’t it? Well… beyond storing parent addresses and doctor’s details (never, ever used btw - teachers just phone an ambulance if it gets that bad) it was always a fight (and often another training course) to complete a government census return or extract data for analysis. Let me tell you - making a complex and confusing system is EASY - making a SIMPLE one, now that’s 8/education% of the work. Ebay is far more complex as an application than a school MIS - yet if you had to have 3 days training just to use it they would be out of business.

Worst of all about these legacy systems was the precious little “Information” in Management Information System. An impenetrable mess of menuing leading to a raw data Excel download (and often only if you’d bought the optional assessment package…) That is flexible, yes - but in the same way as buying a PC and learning to program is flexible.

The original iPhone came out in July 2/education/education7 (yes, 1/education years ago!) I clearly recall the conversation I had with a friend at the time saying he already had a digital camera and an iPod - and internet connections were better through a land line. What he (and the other handset manufacturers) failed to see was that in combining these things with a simpler interface wrought something far greater than the sum of it’s parts. Schools are no different… the data is there, and it’s not hard to track - but pulling it together lets you - as a head or governor - see who in my school is not achieving to their best potential. And by “see” I don’t mean manipulate spreadsheets for 2 weeks before Ofsted come in - but have it there, at your fingertips, on a dashboard, in real time, as soon as you sit down with a coffee. What’s more, those initial widgets need to be clickable  to examine that cohort - explore WHY this Maths set is not doing as well as the English one. By combining the attendance, behaviour and assessment data together, you can see that little Jonny is struggling - but he’s been away 6 out of the last 1/education days and got into a fight two weeks ago. 3/education seconds - Maximum. That’s all it should take.

Consolidation. That’s the future. 
Next steps should be built in too. Texting parents (or better still free iMessage style app messaging) as soon as they need to know is a solved and relatively simple problem. Building a connection to your external messaging service is more work than just sending a text message.

In summary, the future MIS isn’t an MIS - certainly not as we know it today. It’s a system for sorting out your school full stop. So how are far along are we with this vision? Well, actually you can do everything above today with Pupil Asset. So what’s missing from our goals? You. Don’t you think it’s time to take control of your school?

/education

Ultimately, Capitalism's biggest flaw is it's tendency to widen the gap in the distribution of assets and income.

Trump's obsession with IQ is important - his supporters know that he isn't smart, and on the whole neither are they. He's saying "fuck them" I have a high IQ and I'm stupid!

The "smart" people - the thinkers, the scientists, the Democrats - have created a "meritocracy" that very much locks them out

EPA chief Scott Pruitt's actions ignoring accepted climate science will result in thousands - if not millions - of deaths in the future... and all for the sake of a little extra money from industry lobbyists. This man - and not Trump - is the most dangerous / evil in the world today

Productivity flatlining at 0% in UK. Great for number of jobs; bad for quality of jobs; awful as indication of future of UK economy

... it’s an annoyance in the way a fire alarm is.

It would take literally half a day of design work + another half day of CSS to rectify this. Inexcusably poor.

Firstly, if you're a FRIEND of Donald J Trump this pardon signals that you can act above the law with impunity.

Secondly, Joe Arpaio is a racist bigot - so this move reinforces Trump's attitude that he stands with white supremacists.

Is the US now a mafia state?

The Apple Watch form factor is different, conceptually, to most other Apple products: no one wants a smaller, thinner watch. 

... does is not able to see the difference between right and wrong.

Does this make him "evil"? Or mentally ill? Brings up a whole host of questions about the definition of those things - but regardless of the terminology, there is no way that he is fit to lead anything - let alone the free world.

The goal of a drug company is to fulfil it's fudiciary duty to shareholders and maximise drugs sold x profit margin. However the goal of healthcare is to minimise the drugs needed and reduce their cost.

What is the benefit of the free market approach here then? To drive innovation? Similarly, selling existing drugs is better than the expense of finding new ones - especially if those new ones are better and cheaper than the existing ones.

Why so then do free market champions bang on about pharmaceutical markets being best driver of healthcare?

tl;dr: No. Not without detonating the unexploded powder keg from 2008.

Wow, nearly a quarter (23%) of Twitter activity in US election run up was bot driven! https://thenextweb.com/artificial-intelligence/2017/07/28/study-bots-accounted-for-a-third-of-all-pro-trump-twitter-activity-during-the-debate/#.tnw_VeTd35f2

Wow, nearly a quarter (23%) of Twitter activity in US election run up was bot driven! https://thenextweb.com/artificial-intelligence/2017/07/28/study-bots-accounted-for-a-third-of-all-pro-trump-twitter-activity-during-the-debate/#.tnw_VeTd35f2

Wow, nearly a quarter (23%) of Twitter activity in US election run up was bot driven! https://thenextweb.com/artificial-intelligence/2017/07/28/study-bots-accounted-for-a-third-of-all-pro-trump-twitter-activity-during-the-debate/#.tnw_VeTd35f2

Once they have exhausted all possible alternatives, Americans will do the right thing with healthcare and realise that it's a cost society needs to bear as a whole.

Title

30 07 2017 16:07 | #1 /brokencapitalism

Once they have exhausted all possible alternatives, Americans will do the right thing with healthcare and realise that it's a cost society needs to bear as a whole.

... you can do anything, so you don't?

When he feels bad, /Trump accuses someone else of the exact sin. Adam Schiff gets it in the neck for being sleazy here: https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/8894734865/politics63854/politics9 when it's hard to imagine anyone less sleazy than the upstanding, measured Schiff whereas Trump has proved himself consistently awful to women in a creepy, sexual way. He accuses Hillary of illegality when under pressure himself for money laundering; calls out the NYT as "Failing" when he is the least popular president ever; and finally (and most perniciously for democracies) decries Fake News Media whilst repeatedly lying - quite possibly the biggest overall liar in terms of volume and impact in political history.

/politics

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/20/opinion/trump-sessions-russia-investigation.html

  • "Let me be clear..."
  • "Believe me, ..."
  • "This I can tell you..."
  • "This I know..."

....that's akin to saying we might not face a military threat again; so let's not bother with an army /climate

Radio

14 07 2017 21:07 | #1 /jamesleeds

Have to agree with /JayZ on this one 

https://entertainment.slashdot.org/story/17//JayZ2/28/2/JayZ32/JayZ6/radio-is-the-worst-place-to-listen-to-music-says-jay-z

/music /radio

Pro Market / Pro State

14 07 2017 21:07 | #1 /jamesleeds

Refreshing to see analysis that is both Pro-market and Pro-state: The Republican Health Care Crackup https://nyti.ms/2msnOz8

Toca Town access codes

12 07 2017 19:07 | #1 /jamesleeds

This week's Toca Town update allows you to claim free gifts when by typing 8 character words in the keyboard room. After some experimentation with my daughter, I thought we'd share the ones we've found (as nowhere else on the web seems to interested in children's games such as this)

  • THANKYOU
  • TOCABOCA
  • SURPRISE

...you can do anything, so you don't.

I know...

02 05 2017 23:05 | #1 /brokencapitalism

...let's get loads of rich, white men to decide whether poor people get healthcare OR they get tax cuts

/TRUMP is honest

01 03 2017 10:03 | #1 /jamesleeds

...in one way - he does not couch what he says, lacking the intellect to think things through. And that means he makes stuff up that is patently false - but he believes it
Those goals clash wildly, as even noted by Convervatives: http://www.nationalreview.com/g-file

Trumpism is a Cult

25 02 2017 22:02 | #1 /brokencapitalism

...whose followers do not care for facts that don't fit with what they want to hear. They are no different to flat-earthers (or other extreme religious followers) who are already used to accepting lies and rebutting truth that would cause their world view or concept of self to break.
https://medium.com/join-scout/the-rise-of-the-weaponized-ai-propaganda-machine-86dac61668b#.zcf8c8rj1
In this, concerning higher /education

...you haven't achieved
So why do we still pursue high-score wealth, over and above pretty much everything else?
Regarding /code, simplicity beats complication everytime.  A mark of intelligence is how simple something can be made and still retain it's functionality. Smarter people can simplify more effectively and allow an increased number of less smart developers to understand and fix it.

Many slightly less smart devs prefer to make things look as clever as possible (mostly for ego reasons) and real dumb-asses will go so far as make their code so impenetrable as to be perenial confusing and virtually unfixable.

Education set to "Hard"

15 02 2017 09:02 | #1 /jamesleeds

Need to coin a phrase for the educational attitude (expressed here) that promotes teaching fundamental principles before nurturing natural interest.

We risk putting off potentially excellent candidates / extinguishing natural interest by introducing subjects at a complex level disconnected from the experience or interest of the student. In this example, I would have been put off as a child if I didn't have BASIC to allow me to instantly see something that looked like the games I had already played. Learning the principles of pointers or recursive functions would have proven too high a bar - for my interest and my intellect.

Other examples in eduction abound however. Is the reason we trail other European countries in maths something to do with our desperate policies to cram learning in at an increasingly young age - far before any natural interest (or relevance) has presented itself? So many children go on to consider Maths a "chore" - just a means to a grade to university to a job.

It's the Govian mentality of learning your nouns and verbs and proper grammar before establishing a simple joy of writing creatively.

How about over-education? Or Premature-Curriculum?

/education
... is just stupid, brilliant fun
/games /zelda
"[he]’s a great way of understanding how machine learning algorithms can give us stuff we absolutely don’t want, even though they fundamentally lack prior agendas"

https://mathbabe.org/2/trump16//trump8/11/donald-trump-is-like-a-biased-machine-learning-algorithm/

/trump /politics /maths /AI /machineLearning
https://www.brainpickings.org/2013/09/11/neil-gaiman-advice-to-writers/

Special Relationships...

31 01 2017 09:01 | #1 /jamesleeds

... aren't "special" if one party is bullying the other into compromising their principles
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2/politics17/jan/3/politics/statistics-trump-administration-numbers-manipulation

/politics /trump
"Terrorism doesn't have a nationality; discrimination is not an answer" /muslimban
It's sad when those you admire fall...

https://yro.slashdot.org/story/17/01/27/2037250/tesla-ceo-elon-musk-joins-president-trumps-new-manufacturing-council

Little thought didn't save

29 01 2017 14:01 | #8 /jamesklik

I guess I just picked the person and assumed

Another new one.

29 01 2017 14:01 | #8 /jamesklik

Does it?
Doing so at a state level is fascism. Trump's ban on all muslims entering the US is on the same continuum as kicking Muslims out, then rounding them for extradition, then holding them in camps because there is nowhere for them to go.

Is ironic or terrifying (both?) that this executive order was issued on Holocaust Remembrance Day?

BTLT EXTENSIONS!

20 01 2017 21:01 | #1 /jamesleeds

- Comments / mentions (thoughts on thoughts?)
- Margin notes (always specific to you, but can be written against anyone's big thoughts!)
- "Following" people or piles?
- Different "levels" of friendship
edit
- Collapse big thoughts into summary paragraph
Trump's inauguration day crowd was both tiny and a see of one colour - white: 
Compare that to Obama in 2013: