Aside

After literally minutes of packing and seconds of contemplation we are finally on the road to the vacation that I’m told will actually be at the beach this time.

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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There once was a crow in a tree
but it couldn’t get friends to agree
that the cosmos were vast
as they had their repast
Ah, look! Some shiny debris!

(inspired by true events)

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.

Spooky fun at a distance.

A little while back we got a WiiU, mainly because of the game Splatoon. We have some other games, but splatoon sucks up a LOT of our gaming time. Splatoon is a super fun game, with one amazing feature that I just can’t figure out: Splatoon is a very bad game.

The programming of the game is bad: The fact that it’s multiplayer-only is unbelievable considering how bad the netcode is. There are lag bugs, terrible server problems, lots of random disconnects (blamed on *my* internet connection, which I can assure you is untrue, I have logs to show it.) and so many fine-tuning issues in the UI that one or three lines of code could’ve made better.

The game-mechachnics are bad:

  • It’s unbalanced as hell (one weapon can act as both a sniper rifle and an alley-sweeper, all at the same time!)
  • the scorekeeping and matchmaking algorithms are not well defined, and easily lead players to feel like the game is “cheating” by manipulating the players onto the teams it wants or making what appear to be rather arbitrary judgments about who won
  • there’s functionally no ability to communicate with your team or even to choose your teammates, so it almost always devolves into every-squid-for-themselves.
  • the game modes are simple and skewed towards meet-in-the-middle gameplay which SHOULD keep everything evenly balanced but which can easily lead to one side utterly dominating the other if the matchmaking is unbalanced. (This has a couple of easy fixes. Multiple spawn points or unlimited ammo while on your spawn are my first ideas.)
  • There’s no compensation for the fact that if one of your teammates disconnects you WILL lose, 3-on-4 is just not going to be possible in almost any circumstance. (A team that’s suddenly 25% missing should get some sort of compensation in points or stats, or the game should kick a random person from the other team maybe?)
  • In ranked mode a win earns you 8 points. A loss subtracts 10.  This makes losing very discouraging, and that’s ignoring the fact that your “rank” is based on how well your randomly chosen team did, and is no measure at all of your personal performance.
  • Stats are “fuzzy”, with no numerical values. Which is better, “use less ink” or “recover ink faster”? Dunno, you’ll just have to try out both and do whatever feels better. (Hint: It’s use-less-ink, we did the tests, you come out ahead for almost all weapons.)

The game feels like a really good idea, with everything else tacked on as an afterthought, beta-tested on the public.

BUT IT IS INCREDIBLY FUN!

This has lead me to wonder about the phenomenon of Spooky fun at a distance. The IDEA of the game is enough to keep pulling you in, even if the game is irritating once you’re there. I experienced this phenomena personally with both WoW and Eve years ago, where I really wanted to play the game, but by time I was actually playing it the game just seemed like a lot of work. In my head I know I don’t want to play, and I can enumerate the reasons why, however I really want to play!

I can’t figure out what the secret sauce is, but I’d sure like to, if only so that I could immunize myself somehow. Usually reason and logic are enough, but some things just manage to sneak through… Spooky.

Two arts please.

We went to a PaintNite event with some friends. Didn’t turn out too bad!

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This was the goal:

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I could be talked into doing one of these again, it was surprisingly fun.