Storyville Coffee

I don’t wouldn’t normally go out of my way to talk about a coffee shop I was in. I’m in so many of them, it’s just not interesting. However, I’m going to make an exception.

Storyville Coffee, upstairs in the building right outside Pike Place Market in Seattle, is the first coffeeshop I’ve been in that I legitimately don’t want to leave. Not hipster, not pretentious, super friendly and nice people, lovely chill music playing (no hipster music to be heard), a fantastic view of Puget Sound and the ferries coming and going, good coffee, and a fantastic breakfast sandwich.

Two guys at the next table talking about open source business models, and a bunch of tourists on the couches in ther corner planning their day.

If we had a place like this in Portland I’d pay rent to make keep one of their tables as my office.

Aside

I forgot John Oliver was an idiot and accidentally watched a segment of Last Week Tonight, and now I’m sad.

And the ironic part is that if he said that, on his show, about someone else, he’d expect everyone to laugh along with him at how f*ing stupid whoever he was mocking was. The height of public discourse and satirical analysis he is most certainly not. (Truthful, or capable of intelligent/rational analysis is largely in question, but leaning towards no…)

As an aside, why doesn’t youtube have a “never show me any videos by or about this idiot ever again” option? If I thumbs-down every single video will you PLEASE stop trying to put it on the “suggested next video” list?! STOP SHOWING ME THIS CRAP!

Never use FedEx

In less ambitious news, and the latest in the unending string of their fuckups, FedEx has been sitting on my package for 2 days simply because it’s not due. The best part, I find, is that they own right up to it! 

Two opportunities to get it to me, and yet there it sits… Why did I pay $25 for fedex delivery, I might as well just have let USPS do it at this point. 

6 to 5 and pick ’em that tomorrow FedEx shows up at our condo, doesn’t even try to use the callbox, and makes me drive to the facility anyway. Nitwits. 

No Child’s Game (Reality TV 2083) – Andrea White

In the continuing saga of trading YA books with Kelly I have read an interesting take on the dystopian future, based on the premise that the government decides to try and get >99% of the public to watch a reality TV show. This may be no child’s game, but it’s certainly a child’s book, so why exactly the government is doing this is not well defined. A (spoiler) large plot point becomes the fact that the cameras for this TV show are implanted in the children’s eyes. How, exactly, they make it non-obvious that the entire show is being shot first-person is also not discussed.

All in all it’s probably a much more simply-written YA book than some of the others we’ve read, and unfortunately I don’t think it manages to present the question of preventing the dystopia very well. I actually think the historical-recreation-using-kids was a fun angle, but I’m forever amused by YA’s need to cram a dystopian future into every book. Is there some kind of conspiracy to make kids believe that the world is definitely ending soon? Making you think is one of the things I love about YA books, especially because of the heavy-handedness, but you can’t just go tossing in dystopia like a scarf around the neck of the hero, you need to use it to bring some meaning to the thing. Decorative dystopia just makes me irritable.

I also have to say that there’s a stark difference between writing at children’s level, and writing poorly. To my mind writing for children, but writing correctly and well, is important. I read a lot as a child, and I’m almost certain that reading high-quality writing helped me to become a highly capable reader early on, as well as led to improved writing. I do think this book falls a little bit on the bad-writing side of the equation unfortunately.

All in all, an enjoyable read, but definitely left me wishing that the author had tried just a tiny bit harder to make it reasonable, believable, and well written.

He quickly changed the channel of his mind so that he wouldn’t have to consider the life of poverty he had narrowly escaped. He had almost been forced to play a real-life Survivor — a game with no rules, no fans, no prize money, and worst of all, no hope.
I have a job. A hut in Shanty Town. One hundred and fifty dollars in the bank, he reassured himself. Everything will be fine.

Not fair

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It’s always the youngest children that get the free ride… (Although we later decided that if you count dog years they’ve become the oldest children, and quite aged indeed, so maybe it’s fair after all…)

Another hike to Silver Falls

On Sunday we went down and hiked Silver Falls. Haven’t been there since we hiked it last spring. Great day for a hike! Took some pictures to send to out of state friends who are missing the green. 🙂

We went “backwards” this time, so the first falls was one of the smaller ones.

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Artistic Moss shot:

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First falls we get to go behind:

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Slightly damp.

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I love the rock formations under the falls:

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The downside to going backwards is that there’s a rather lot of stairs to get up to above these falls. Couldn’t manage to get a picture of them that conveyed quite how many there were…
Looking back down from above:

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Next falls:

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It’s hard to get the scale of it all into one picture. The next two are from standing in the same spot:

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Part of the trail is not meant for tall people:

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There’s a lot more up to go…

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Made it to the top:

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Two panoramas, because I couldn’t decide which I liked:

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Things CS people don’t understand: Strong Encryption

Very very smart people can be very very wrong.

I’m listening to a recent podcast by Sam Harris, who is a very smart, very rational, very open-minded person. And also a completely wrong person.

He proposes an interesting analogy: Do you have the right to build an impregnable room in your house, that nobody can enter or break into without your permission?

I think that many layman think of encryption like they think of the locks on their door. Unfortunately layman don’t realize that the only reason to lock your door is to keep a confused neighbor from wandering in accidentally, and that locks are incapable of stopping anyone. They offer a feeling of security, but no actual security.

You can make your door perhaps more difficult to break into by adding 27 locks, a bar across the back, steel screens, etc. This will make your door “more secure”, and increase the amount of work an attacker must undertake to be able to get through.

“Strong encryption” is not like this. There is no “variable difficulty level” possibility. You build an impregnable room, and hand out keys, and now ONLY the people who have the keys can get in. (Or someone who has access to trillions of times more computing power than the entirety of the earth combined, but we’ll ignore the ‘attacks by god’ case.)

Sam thinks about things in terms of morality and philosophy rather than technology, which is understandable as that is his field. Unfortunately this means his arguments come off as a philosopher arguing that gravity must be incorrect because they feel it is morally incorrect to constrain people to the ground.

I would actually love for Sam to understand this, and then to get his thoughts on the moral and philosophical issues. (Assume that in 2050 we have the capability to upload your mind into a computer. Do you want Apple or the government having the decryption key to your brain?)

What this made me wonder is how incredibly smart people can have such incredibly wrong ideas. The only thing I can come up with is that they’re getting bad information. I’m not willing to just say “blame the media” on this one. I think it’s a matter of how we communicate. It’s difficult to find information that doesn’t attempt to wrap up the technology, the morality, the legality, and the author’s opinions. What source could Sam go do that would educate him about encryption that did NOT attempt to make any argument about reasons behind it? (Not everyone can get a computer science degree just to try and understand a single issue!)

It makes me wonder about how I communicate ideas, and how I can do it better. How can I tag certain parts of what I’m saying as “philosophy”, but then tag another part of it with “provable science”? How can I make you, the reader, understand which parts of what I’m saying I’m an expert in, and about which parts I’m just an interested laymen?

We’ll start with this: Computer Science is my field. Morality/Ethics/Philosophy is a hobby. Speaking from the computer science front: either you have digital secrets, or you have none at all. Philosophically: I am for this. Morally: Uncertain.