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Adventures in Engineering
The wanderings of a modern ronin.

Ben Cantrick
  Date: 2006-11-29 10:51
  Subject:   Why the Dems aren't overjoyed about the midterms.
  Mood:America, Fuck Yeah!

There's been something weird about the denouement of the midterm elections, starting with the pronounced absence of Democratic triumphalism. The prevailing mood has been stunned relief rather than glee, and nobody seems eager to delve too deeply into what exactly it was about George W. Bush that the voters so roundly rejected. Put another way, what were the sins included under the shorthand summary for the president's failures, "Iraq"?

For some reason, I keep thinking about an observation Eleanor Roosevelt made in an unpublished interview conducted in May of 1940, as the German Wehrmacht swept across France. She expressed dismay that a "great many Americans" would look with favor on a Hitler victory in Europe and be greatly attracted to fascism. Why? "Simply because we are a people who tend to admire things that work," she said. So, were the voters last month protesting Bush's policies—or were they complaining that he had not made those policies work? If Operation Iraqi Freedom had not been such an unqualified catastrophe, how long would the public have assented to the programs that accompanied the "war on terror": the legalization of torture, the suspension of habeas corpus, the unauthorized surveillance of law-abiding Americans, the unilateral exercise of executive power, and the Bush team's avowed prerogative to "create our own reality"?


I've been saying this for quite a while. There are a great many people in this country who are all for unjustified wars of agression, and the concomitant killing of thousands (us and them both), just so long as we're winning. In the minds of a great many Americans, any invasion is a good invasion as long as we're kicking ass. Fairness, justice, and other people's right to not be machine-gunned down in the street aren't even considerations.

Love you so very much, redneck America...
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Ben Cantrick
  Date: 2006-11-29 19:55
  Subject:   [Reddit] Why distributed systems programming is hard.

A less optimistic explanation of the failure of each attempt at [distributed systems programming tools] holds that any such attempt will fail for the simple reason that programming distributed applications is not the same as programming non-distributed applications. Just making the communications paradigm the same as the language paradigm is insufficient to make programming distributed programs easier, because communicating between the parts of a distributed application is not the difficult part of that application.

The hard problems in distributed computing are not the problems of how to get things on and off the wire. The hard problems in distributed computing concern dealing with partial failure and the lack of a central resource manager. The hard problems in distributed computing concern insuring adequate performance and dealing with problems of concurrency. The hard problems have to do with differences in memory access paradigms between local and distributed entities. People attempting to write distributed applications quickly discover that they are spending all of their efforts in these areas and not on the communications protocol programming interface.

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Ben Cantrick
  Date: 2006-11-29 21:51
  Subject:   Dawkins on "why are we here?"


I'll save you 23 minutes of your life that you'll never get back and tell you the short answer: Dawkins thinks that we are here in order to understand the universe. That is humanity's purpose. Now, my cynical side says: "Just like a scientist to think that humanity's purpose is science." But who knows, he may be right.

Me? I don't know if there is a larger purpose for humanity. If there is some great, cosmic reason we are here, it may well be too large for our limited human brains to grasp. And, much too often I think, the idea that there's some great, over-riding purpose for humanity is latched onto by unstable humans, who then twist it towards poor ends. For my money, I would say it's much safer in the long run to start people out by telling them: "There are certain principles pretty much everyone mostly agrees on - those are A, B and C. We don't know if these are absolute certainties, but they've worked pretty well so far. Beyond those extreme generalities, however, you're just going to have to take responsibility for your own morality. Keep in mind that this will require you to be able to think for yourself, and to make your own decisions. Or, you can just join the nearest woo-woo cult and spend your entire life without ever making up your own mind about anything, just obeying great leader. Your choice - have at it."
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May 2015