Peeter Joot's (OLD) Blog.

Math, physics, perl, and programming obscurity.

Archive for the ‘Incoherent ramblings’ Category

Starting a new blog: peeterjoot.com

Posted by peeterjoot on May 21, 2014

If you came here looking for new blog posts on obscure math, physics, and computer programming, please check out peeterjoot.com.  There you will find stuff including:

  • Notes from courses I am taking at UofT (part time ECE M.Eng in electromagnetics), such as Modelling of Multiphysics Systems.
  • An enumeration of other things I have written, including archives of all the individual pdfs that I have posted over the years along with my blog entries.  All these pdfs are now stored directly on the new site.  I will no longer be posting new content to any of my (three) google sites pages, nor will I be updating anything previously posted there. If you are looking for any corrections I may or may not have made, please look at the docs anchored off of the new blog.
  • A chronological listing of all the Mathematica notebooks I have written.  The newest versions of these notebooks can still be found in my Mathematica github repository.  A snapshot of each of these is now also available on the new site, so if you have the CDF plugin installed, these can now be examined by clicking on the links directly.  Ironically, with chrome and my CDF installation, I’m able to view the .nb suffixed notebooks directly in the browser, but a click on any CDF (.cdf) notebook triggers a download?
  • Some notes about my setup of the mathjax-latex plugin, and the differences in latex markup with that plugin compared to the wp-latex plugin (which is available by default on wordpress.com).  My future mathematical blogging should be way easier, probably won’t require any of my old tex2blog script, and will also look better!

Why a new blog?

Why after 611 blog posts on this wordpress.com hosted blog, dating all the way back to 2009, would I decide to ante-up and pay for hosting?

My primary motivation for this was truly geeky.  I wanted the flexibility to be able to manage wordpress plugins (i.e. mathjax-latex and wolframcdf), and to also be able to put plain old html and arbitrary file content into the apache2 directory structure.  I’ve wanted plain html hosting for a while, but made do with google sites (i.e. crappy but free).  I’d also wanted to be able to use the wolfram CDF plugin on my blog, but also not enough to pay for it.  However, once I tried mathjax-latex, I was sold.  At least as a writer, compared to wp-latex, this “new way” completely kicks ass.  It now takes much less time to produce posts with mathematics content, and requires far less scripting to convert from standalone latex.  Unfortunately, one of the costs of this is pushed onto the reader, since it takes more time for mathjax-latex content to be formatted than the images produced by the standard wordpress latex plugin.

I tried out an amazon EC2 bitnami image for a while (amazon offers a free trial year to evaluate their offerings).  That’s a flexible setup and offers direct access to the Linux VM, which is very nice.  However, with an amazon EC2 image, I’m not really sure what I would end up paying.  The charts seem somewhat vague, depending on future usage of both machine and storage.  I would also have pay separately for a domain name, and pay separately for amazon hosting of the DNS entry.

I ended up deciding to use a go-daddy hosted wordpress instance, which is a flat rate service.  It is less flexible than a godaddy standalone web-hosting environment, but also cheaper ($12 for the first year, including the domain name, and ~$50/year after that).  It also looks like I can upgrade this to a more generic web hosting environment later if the cost of that seems justified.  I’ll see first if only having sftp access to htdocs is enough of a major inconvenience to pay that additional yearly fee.  EDIT: go-daddy either lied about their non-introductory rate, or increased their rates after I signed up.  The renewal rates are about ~$100/year currently.

Configuring a custom MathJax configuration was a bit of a pain with only sftp access, mostly because I had to copy the MathJax tree, which was very slow for so many small files.  I did that directory tree transfer with FileZilla since sftp ‘put –r’ appears to be busted.  This MathJax setup was way easier on the EC2 since the ssh shell allowed for wget and local unzip directly from the apache2 htdocs tree.  It’s a shame that the mathjax-latex plugin doesn’t allow the MathJax tree to be served from the default server (what the plugin settings calls the ‘MathJax CDN Service’).  Logically, I’d like to be able to use that CDN service, but have my configuration file hosted locally.  That config file (config/default.js) is a single small file, and is likely all that I’ll ever have to alter in that whole directory tree.

 

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Nuland’s recent state dept Ukraine speech

Posted by peeterjoot on February 21, 2014

Here is a presstv article, referring to a State department speech on Ukraine by Nuland.

In the spirit of Andrew Gavin Marshall’s podcasts, I would love to see a full translation of this speech into English from Statelish.  I imagine that the key to such a translation it would be along the following lines:

democratic state ; modern democratic government state subservient to the USA
free democracies democracies not subservient to the USA
return to economic health economics subservient to the USA
coordinated parallel high level diplomacy an active attempt to undermine existing government ; financing and manufacturing subversive and violent elements
a tough conversation with Yanacovich I showed him lots of the blackmail material we have collected on him.  Made him realize how short his life would be if he doesn’t cooperate.  Threatened military and financial warfare.
de-escalate the security situation step down so that we can install a puppet government, preferably one even more violent
get Ukraine back into a conversation with Europe and with the International Monetary Fund we will fuck you over if you take on debt that will allow Russia to control you instead of taking on our debt and controls
reforms that the IMF insists on are necessary for the long term economic health of the country we plan to fuck your kids and all their future progeny too
foreign investment needed US exploitation is strongly desired

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(Markham) Markville Mall Sony store: an interesting variation of warranty fraud.

Posted by peeterjoot on December 18, 2013

I mailed the following response to the Markville mall’s Sony store, where one of their employees attempted a new variety of warranty fraud:

I discovered when I attempted to exchange the headphones that you completely misrepresented yourself when I made the purchase. The item that you scanned showed up at a lower price than the sticker price. Instead of offering me a chance to buy that item at that price you padded the price back up to the sticker price (or rather close to it, short a few dollars), by adding in an extended warranty.

You did this despite the fact that I said I would never voluntarily purchase one of these extended warranties. Since you portrayed this as something that was “for free”, I did not object. However, you completely missed your chance at honesty, because I should have been offered the sale price. You stated that you lowered the price “so that you could offer me the warranty without costing me anything”, however, that lowered price was already the listed sale price in your system. This was something that you did not disclose.

That is, in my opinion, undeniably fraud.

Since you were so careful to make sure that both you and your colleague were represented on the bill, I can only assume that you are on commission. It would be very hard to argue that this was not a blatant attempt to pad your commission, at my expense. I shudder to consider how many other customers have been exploited in this way.

I’ll never shop at the Sony Store again. You have lost my patronage, and I’ll not hesitate to tell anybody who is considering a Sony Store purchase to be very careful at your store, to avoid this new interesting variation of warranty fraud.

The mechanism of the fraud attempt used here was that I was sold a pair of headphones that were on sale, but the salesman padded the price up to the sticker price including a “free” extended warranty.  He blatantly told me that he was reducing the price for me so that he could include the extended warranty for free.  In the end this made it appear that I got $5 off the sticker price, and got an extended warranty to boot.

I only discovered this because as well as attempting to defraud me, they also gave me the wrong headphones (I’d asked for a noise cancelling model).  I had not yet noticed this, however, the Sony Store now provides a service (a rather nice innovation) where they will provide you with a soft copy of your receipt if you provide them your email address.  Because of this, they had my contact info to proactively inform me about the incorrect boxe of headphones that I’d been given.  When I attempted the exchange, it was at a point when the staff member who did this transaction was not there, so I was able to discover what actually occurred.

At the point of return, I was offered a reduction in price for the warranty should I desire it, but it still would have meant paying for it.  This new “cheaper warranty” that I never wanted in the first place would still have cost me (not saving me money in a too good to be true fashion as it originally appeared), so I turned that down.  I then discovered that I’d also have to pay more for the correct headphones.  It was only $5 more, but by this time I was completely fed up.  Reflecting now, I was also very annoyed at myself for having fallen for this trick.  I just returned them completely.

It is always interesting to learn of new fraud techniques. This is a new one that I had not seen before. Taking advantage of an unlisted sales price to sell additional undesired content, so that commissions could be padded. Because the sales price was on their system, the salesman did not require any management approval to override the system with a lower price, and was able to make it appear that he had “lowered the price” for me so that I could get something for free.  It’s actually very clever.

Could this have been an honest mistake?  I doubt it very much.

EDIT:

The Sony salesman who I had dealt with contacted me after this, stating:

I am sorry for whatever misunderstanding happened yesterday.  Can I please call you & explain you the situation & see how can I make your experience with us more conferrable.  Please let me know on what phone number I can reach you on. I am sorry once again & I believe you will give me a chance to explain & I will do my best to solve this issue.

My response was that he needed to resolve that with his management, not me. If that was done, then I’d be willing to talk to them (not him).

They (management through him) eventually offered me a deal on the item that I’d returned. It wasn’t really my intent to be fishing for a deal, and I’d continued shopping after all this for an alternate set of phones to buy from somewhere else. However, the timing and the offer were both good since I hadn’t yet found a replacement item I was happy with, and I ended up accepting that offer.

Picking up the set they’d set aside for me provided a chance to talk to his manager, who hadn’t been given the complete story. Despite that, after talking to the manager, I’m no longer certain that the salesman understood exactly why I objected to the transaction. This may not have been an instance of fraud as it initially seemed to be, instead it could have been a blunder by a fairly new staff member, confused by the wrong price showing up after the scan, and tried to “fix it” in a way that he naively thought would be satisfactory. I don’t think I’ll ever know for sure.

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Signs, signs, everywhere there’s signs. Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign.

Posted by peeterjoot on November 28, 2013

Here’s a sign that was recently installed in one of the men’s washrooms at work

IMG_1032

and a close up of it

IMG_1033

Yes, there is a set of men’s showers in the X1 location of the building, which is consistent with the graphic of the shower in the sign.  I couldn’t, however, for the life of me, figure out why somebody who was at the washroom sink would have to be reminded that the lab has shower facilities.  Nor could I figure out why we now had a sign that appeared to be instructing those at the sink to pray in the shower.

I’ve pointed it out this sign to a few people now when I was at the sink, but nobody else appeared to be able to decipher it.  Sofia, who is more wise in the ways of the world, told me what this is about: part of the Islamic prayer ritual involves washing one’s feet.

Sure enough, I remember that there was a guy who used to wash his feet in the bathroom sink in the summer.  He always wore sandals, and I thought his washing was because he thought his feet smelled (I wondered why he didn’t switch to socks and shoes if that was the case, and now feel silly for not just asking him).

So, it seems that this sign was likely commissioned and installed just for this one individual.  Somebody objected to his feet washing.  That objector was probably also completely ignorant like me, and likely didn’t know that this was part of his religious ritual.  I’d guess that foot washing objector still doesn’t know that.

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Political correctness crap in IBM HR circles

Posted by peeterjoot on November 12, 2013

Apparently IBM has fired so many people that they have invented (or started using) the term RA (Resource Action) instead of fired, used like so:

Bob was RAed.

There has been another round of RAs.

If you don’t want to be RAed, make sure your PBC (personal business committment) document is filled in and sounds good, since there’s a new earnings report due out tomorrow.

This is supposed to sound nicer, but I think it’s the opposite.  To me this sounds like the individual is now a resource, and is be moved around like an entry in some accounting table.  RA means that, unfortunately, they ended up in the delete column.  It’s very impersonal.  Perhaps this is just to make the firing manager feel better, since that manager cannot do anything about the firing quotas when they occur.

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Remembering cultural insanity and propagandization

Posted by peeterjoot on November 11, 2013

It’s Remembrance day, and we are once again barraged with the heroism of war and sacrifice

warProp1

We get the cuddly manly shots of veterans posing on the field

warProp2

these last two pictures taken from the Markham community paper, where we have our poor veteran Stan, who recalls the “guts blood and luck at Juno Beach” quoted

we got to the beach, and there were dead people all over … You didn’t stop to pick someone up to even [to sic] check if they were still alive.  You just kept moving, otherwise you would have been shot yourself.

I surely sympathize for Stan.  This is truly horrifying, and must have been traumatic.  It’s something that you’d want to forget, and would haunt you for the rest of your life.  However, our unfortunate Stan was sold a narrative.

We must fight the evil villain.

warProp5

People are dying and it is our duty to protect.

warProp6

Kids are doing their part

warProp4

Women are doing their part

warProp8

It is brave and honourable to do your part

warProp3

Even the whisky makers are doing their part!

warProp7

The list of selling points goes on and on.   “Be ashamed of your fear of death.  It’s the right thing to do. … “  It was a vicious and evil sales pitch.  This is a narrative that was backed by hordes of propaganda.

A lot of profit was made by this war.  This is true of all war.

In a sane world, what would we be remembering?  Follow the money.  We should remember those that profited from the war.  We should remember those that directly or indirectly sold armaments to both sides.  Most importantly, we should remember those that bankrolled the war on all sides.  Stan was not on the winning side.  He was on the loosing side.  The winning side resides in corporate and banking boardrooms.  This is what we need to remember whenever the drums of war start beating.

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Markham parking bylaws

Posted by peeterjoot on November 4, 2013

In What is the justification for such a harsh and expensive bylaw?, I’d posted a letter to my Markham city councillor.  To my surprise, the response was both hopeful, and helpful:

I can sympathize with you on this as it’s also happened to me when I forgot to move my car into my driveway.  I recently had a meeting with the commissioner and By-Law manager to discuss the situation in Cornell as I’m not happy with the over zealous enforcement.   As a result of that meeting, the city is preparing a report for council to request funds to undertake a wholesome review of the parking situation right across the city. This will examine on street parking, permits and snow removal etc.  I expect a report back sometime in the spring.

While the above is too late for your current situation, I hope you intend to come over to the civic centre and request some relief from the parking adjudicator.  He works very day from noon until 4 pm and Thursday nights from 5-7pm as well.  Usually, you can get at least a 50% reduction.

I sincerely hope that we can get some improvements to the overall situation sometime next year and I ask for your patience while we work on it.

We see bureaucracy at work in full force here, with a report required to make a report.  However, perhaps on review, there will be a decision for less parking extortion in Markham.  I’m not holding my breath, since this form of indirect taxation is probably a nice cash cow.

The suggestion to see the parking adjudicator was a good one, and I was immediately able to get a 50% reduction, seemingly just for showing up and objecting.  It’s not obvious that this would have been an action I could take, since the ticket enumerated only two options: 1) pay, or 2) request a trial date.

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What is the justification for such a harsh and expensive bylaw?

Posted by peeterjoot on October 20, 2013

Letter to my Markham council representative, after obtaining an “overnight street parking” ticket.  I don’t expect that my city “representation” will be able to change anything, especially since this insanity likely represents a nice revenue stream.

parkingTicket

I live in the Cornell area, which has parking areas cut into segments of the boulevard for street parking that allow for parking without obstructing any flow of traffic.

IMG_0979

For some reason there is a by-law that prohibits overnight (2:30 am – 6:00 am) parking in these areas.  These cut in segments are considered Markham roads, and included in the generic Markham no-overnight parking laws.

In winter months the no overnight parking on roads makes sense.  It could obstruct road clearing, and a blanket policy against such parking likely simplifies things.  Since the Markham plows clear out these cut out parking segments too, I don’t object to such a policy for the Cornell cut in parking segments in winter too.  However, what possible sense does this make in other seasons?

Yesterday it was convenient to park in the front of the house, especially since I had intended to go out again afterwards.  Plans changed and I ended up forgetting to move my car to the backyard driveway.  This was a very expensive memory lapse, and cost me $50!

I am fully aware of the web form that allows for occasional use of this parking area (for visitors, driveway maintenance, …) but the penalty for simply forgetting to move the car when plans to go out change, is extremely harsh.  Especially when we are parking in an area that does not obstruct flow of traffic and the season isn’t one for which snow plowing is relevant.  If nothing else, the penalty for this is exorbitant.

I can also imagine that this could potentially be abused.  Somebody with multiple vehicles could use such an on street parking area as a personal extension to their driveway.  This could introduce fairness issues, preventing other taxpaying neighbours from using a space that should also be available to them.  This extreme scenario could easily be resolved without a harsh and default blanket penalty, since there is a complaint mechanism available for parking issues.

I can’t help but feel that Markham uses this parking by-law as a revenue source, with no real non-monetary justification.  This seems especially true in the Cornell area where there is no obstruction to traffic by these pseudo on-road parking areas.  Do we not pay enough in property taxes, that we can’t occasionally park in front of our own houses without oppressive punishment for a failure to move the vehicle to our personal off street parking areas (driveways and garages)?

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Letter to Markham ward 5 councillor, re: proposed publicly funded NHL arena

Posted by peeterjoot on October 3, 2013

Here’s my minor attempt at playing the “democracy” game.  I don’t really expect this to have any effect, but figured it wouldn’t hurt to send in my 2c anyways:

Greetings Councillor Cambell,

I’m a resident and Markham taxpayer, living in Ward 5 at <address>

I have I’d like to express that I do not have any interest in funding an arena that is almost surely to end up as a new financial liability for current and future Markham taxpayers.

Given the historical failure of so many public funded arenas at profitability, an extremely convincing case ought to be required for this proposed project.  Additionally, all those that are lobbying for the project ought to be publicly identified, since they stand to benefit substantially from the proposed subsidies and hidden future tax incentives.  Those supporting those lobbyists in city council also ought to be publicly identified so that a future audit for potential benefits received can be performed.

We live in a culture that has a collective case of Alzheimers, so I like to point out that it wasn’t that long ago that Toronto’s Skydome failed spectacularly as an Ontario and city investment, eventually sold again and again at firesale prices until Rogers eventually bought it.  As Ontario tax payers, we are surely still paying for interest charges on the debt incurred for this project, despite the fact that it no longer provides any direct source of income to finance that debt.

I found the following relevant :

http://www.psmag.com/business-economics/america-has-a-stadium-problem-62665/

http://reason.com/reasontv/2013/09/03/is-any-stadium-worth-its-subsidy-qa-jc-b

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/you-win-some-you-lose-some-1.1060052

This last points out that the Montreal stadium took three decades to pay off!

An arena paid for using Markham city funds and tax benefits, is really an arena that will be paid with taxpayer debt servitude, directly or indirectly.  Allowing our council to fall for this sales pitch will mean that we will almost surely end up, like so many other municipalities, playing out the same old pathetic story of padding the pockets of commercial developers at the expense of the residents.

 For non-Markham residents, here’s a couple stories with some of the background.  Also interesting is the survey that can be found on the Markham council website, since it outlines some of the tax shelters that were being provided with the package.

http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2013/08/07/proposed_markham_arena_draws_chinese_investor_interest.html

http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2013/08/08/markham_arena_fight_escalates_as_city_council_vote_looms.html

http://www.citynews.ca/2013/08/19/markham-arena-plan-could-be-dead-report/

http://www.markham.ca/wps/portal/Markham/MunicipalGovernment/AboutMunicipalGovernment/MajorCityProjects/msecc/

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An attempt to understand my reactions to the ambulance chasing reporting of “Democracy Now”

Posted by peeterjoot on September 10, 2013

 

It’s been a while since I’ve listened to the Democracy Now’s podcast.  I like some of the interviews that they give, as well as the historical perspective on certain events.  For example, they’ve had some interesting coverage of the 50th year Martin Luther King speeches and the March on Washington.  I’ve also enjoyed some of their bumper music, such as “Has the bombing begun” by David Rovics, and the Rise Against’s “Hero of War”, a spectacular story of a military recruits transition to an understanding of the reality of warfare.

I often cry a little bit every time I hear Hero of War.  My little brother, now a US marine, has fallen victim to this hero propaganda.  I hope he comes out of his tour in one piece physically and emotionally.  It’s hard to visualize him being forced into a position where he is the one beating and pissing on his “man” or mowing down the girl carrying a dirty makeshift white flag, but I know that is unfortunately in the realm of possibility.  However, I digress.

Unfortunately, before some of the interview covarage that Democracy now does well, one has to put up with or skip over their “war and peace report”.  That is reporting that focuses on just the day to day view, without any sort of big picture illustration, and without providing any sort of context.  I would characterize it as very damaging.  It is easily debatable that this is worse than not reporting in the first place.

I don’t see how one can call Democracy Now alternative media when they do the same sort of sensationalist ambulance chasing that is found in all the mainstream corporate media.  I would characterize this sort of soundbite reporting as both misleading and very damaging.  Inclusion of endless 10-30 second soundbites covering what are essentially traumatic world or domestic events will just harden the hearts of those that listen.  Listening to that is no better than the evening news.  Listening to this sort of reporting makes me involuntarily feel callous.  How else can you respond to a barrage of this sort of reporting?  You are left with the feeling that you can’t do anything about it.  Should you want to have compassion and do something about it, you’d have to quit everything that you are doing and start protesting or organizing.  It would be a life changing event to try to be compassionate under this sort of barrage of crap.

Perhaps that is the goal of sensationalist reporting: Produce an audience that will come back again and again, thinking that it is important to understand what is going on, but at the same time conditioned to do nothing about it.  Produce a zombie automaton audience that is compelled to return for their fix of brains.

Worse than the production of callous behaviour in the listeners is the propaganda aspect of this sort of reporting.  Democracy Now’s war and peace report, unwittingly serves as a propaganda conduit for the warmongers that they channel.  I don’t mind that they include representation of the warmongers, but it needs to be done with commentary.  Otherwise, it essentially gives the listener the impression that it is fact, especially when it is repeated again and again and again.  This is how to mold opinion, and is not how to present a story with intent to inform.  If you are exposed to endless soundbites of Kerry and Obama and other similar gutless warmongers playing out their script, all without any sort of commentary or moderation, then not knowing any better you will start to believe that what they say is factual.  I wasn’t taking explicit notes, but if I had tried to count the number of times that I heard Kerry saying “he had no doubt that Assad was responsible for the chemical weapons attack in east Damascus on 21 August”, I probably would have used up my fingers.

If pressed on this issue, Democracy Now would surely respond that they moderate this barrage of crap with their more in depth interviews.  For example, their interview with Rep. Alan Grayson has an attempt to balance the scales.  Should you listen to that you see Kerry and others called out for their attempts to manipulate the facts, as they attempt to produce a compelling case for US lead bombing for the good of humanity and the world.  They’ve also hosted debates setting pro intervention pundits against those who don’t wish another unjustified war.  There are, however, glaring omissions in coverage that are made obvious by such a debate.  The pro intervention supporter leaves you with the impression that there’s a huge backstory of tyranny by Assad.  I’d like to ask where the specific reporting on that tyranny is.  If Assad is such a bad guy, where is the reporting on the evils that have occurred under his command?  None of that is in the day to day focused mainstream media, nor in Democracy Now’s insipid variety of alternative media.  The only story we get is that of the red line and chemical attacks that serve to justify bombing and eventual invasion.

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