Showing posts from 2017

Thoughts on Bitcoin - and why I cashed out of BTC at $18k

From one point of view, cashing out is foolish. The price has gone up, and will go further. From another perspective, holding so much in BTC was already insane.

In 2013, I swallowed my pride for not having invented Bitcoin, and invested a total of $60,000 in it. About $30,000 was into Butterfly Labs mining hardware. This turned out to be mostly a scam. Time after time, the company delayed delivery, while actually, they were using hardware prepaid by their customers to mine Bitcoin themselves. A year later, I was able to receive my order refunded. I'm not sure that would have happened if it wasn't for a friend.

With the other $30,000, I bought around 250 coins on MtGox, at around $120. For months after, I had a disturbing gut feeling about leaving them there. I rationalized that it's safer to trust the world's largest exchange than to store them myself. When MtGox came crashing, I salvaged around 30. For a year, I beat myself up for ignoring my sixth sense.

I have now s…

Mudanzas Mundiales: 82 days to move things from Costa Rica to Texas

This is to record, for posterity or otherwise, that Mudanzas Mundiales took 82 days to move about 15 boxes of our household items from San José, Costa Rica, to Texas.

We hired them for this move because we previously used them for a move within San José, and they did a great job then. This time, we hoped it might take 1 week. We were told 2 weeks. But actually, they packed our things September 14 – and they arrived December 5.

The boxes were not stuck in customs. They arrived in Miami November 20, just before Thanksgiving. From this point to delivery, including customs, took 15 days.

For around 66 days, the boxes were stuck in a warehouse in Costa Rica.

For the first 2 weeks after they packed our things, they didn't even respond to our emails and phone calls. We had to reach out to someone who knows the owners. Only after, they responded.

It still took as long as it did. Their explanation was that they experienced "problems getting a quote", and they had been moving thei…

Left vs. right: reason and compassion vs. blind principles

What's left and what's right in political terms is hard to define from an international perspective. The Overton window can shift so much that what's left in the US is right in France. In countries with a socialist past, where the main issues are economic, the left may even seem more repressive, and the right seems progressive and liberal.

There are some trends we can identify:
The right tends to be economically permissive, but restrictive of personal freedoms.The left tends to be economically restrictive, but permissive in personal freedoms.The overarching theme, though, is this:
The right claims to value principles, and can tolerate any suffering to uphold them – especially if it's other people's. Yet when out of view, rightists often do what benefits them, not what they say in public.The left tends to think this is cruel and evil.This pattern can be seen in all areas of disagreement:
When it comes to abortion, the left wants to minimize suffering – of the child, of…

The "woo" of physicalists

From time to time, I have exchanges with people entrenched in physicalism. I usually find great opposition trying to explain that their mindset is, also, a faith. A faith in how the world must be, because the belief brings them comfort, and it's how they prefer it. It's not infrequent that people grow up intellectually oppressed by religion – as did I – so this escape into a vision of a material universe – Completely material! Completely! I tell you! – is understandable, even if frustrating. It is an existential issue, so minds on this are hard to change.

These types of people like to accuse those of us who are less orthodox as believing in "woo". Woo is anything that (A) threatens physicalism, and (B) is not 100% supported by extremely rigorous studies. But none is rigorous enough, d'oh!

This level of evidence is, naturally, understood as unrealistic when it comes to most things. It's mostly just expected for claims that offend physicalism. This is conveyed …

IBM Trusteer Rapport is crap-ware

IBM Trusteer Rapport is the worst piece of software I have had to install recently. I resent that so many banks are requiring their customers to install it – just so as to be able to access certain types of e-banking.

I get it – departments like accounting easily fall prey to phishing, and even sophisticated users make mistakes, and there exist attacks that fool them. But Trusteer Rapport has exactly the effect I expected from a compulsory piece of software. It slows down the system by about a factor of 5. Directories take centuries to browse, documents take epochs to print, and files take a long time to open. And the only way to fix it is... ta-daaa – to completely uninstall Trusteer Rapport.

The product constantly consumes CPU, even when the computer is inactive, but you wouldn't know it. It doesn't consume CPU in its own components, you see. Instead, it causes high CPU consumption in WmiPrvSE, a Windows component. This regularly jumps to 100% of a single CPU core while Trus…

For sale: 4-bedroom condo in San José, Costa Rica!

After 5 years in Costa Rica, we have moved to the US. We are selling our condominium apartment on the fifth floor of the Metropolitan Tower, overlooking the Sabana Metropolitan Park, next to the National Stadium in San José, Costa Rica.

Our asking price:
USD 549,000This price has been reduced substantially, and is an attractive price for this property.

OverviewLiving area:230.27 m2 – 2478 sqftTotal with parking and storage:272.07 m2 – 2928 sqftFirst moved in:September 2013 – we are first ownerLayout:4 bedrooms, balcony, utility room, maid quartersBathrooms:3 bathrooms, 1 washroom, 1 bathroom in maid quartersParking:2 parking spaces in underground garage, protected entryStorage:approx 11 m2 – 118 sqft crawl space, next to parkingViews:peaceful treeline view toward Sabana; Stadium viewNoise:some; but well-insulated windows compared to areaTower amenities:Nearby:staffed front desk24/7 securityfully equipped gymdeck with swimming pool and hot tubconference and meeting roomchildren's pla…

On the Google vs. James Damore controversy

As an introduction, the following are some publications covering various aspects of the Google diversity controversy:
First and foremost, James Damore's original diversity memo. First intended for a limited audience at Google, it was published after a first internal and then public uproar, and his resulting firing for expressing this opinion.The Guardian: Google employee fired over diversity row considers legal actionMegan McArdle, via Bloomberg View: As a Woman in Tech, I Realized: These Are Not My PeopleCynthia Lee, lecturer in computer science at Stanford: I'm a woman in computer science. Let me ladysplain the Google memo to you.I liked the article by Megan McArdle. However, I was asked to express my opinion about the last article, by Cynthia Lee. Cynthia's point of view appears to be representative of the uproar, and is phrased in a cogent and non-extreme manner.

Broadly, my views are as follows:
Throughout centuries, society has historically done an extremely poor job a…

"It's hard work to suffer."

I recently found this interview very insightful. It's mostly about Roger Linden's experience of non-duality. He's pleasant to listen to. But the most meaningful, to me, was this part, from 2:04 until 8:04:

Roger: "I think in all the years that I practiced, which is over 30 years now, I don't think I've ever met someone who's understanding and belief about what their problem was... their understanding was always wrong. They were never right about what the problem actually was. I think, because if we really knew what the problem was, it would have evaporated. So I see the work – a lot is helping people to appreciate what's really happening; or what's really causing pain, or suffering, or frustration, whatever it may be."

Iain: "And what is that in most people that's causing the pain and frustration?"

Roger: "Well, fundamentally, the sense of self, and the contraction that goes along with that, that in life happens when we're …

Libertarianism in bullet points

What it is:
A moderate or extreme belief in the non-aggression principle.Socially, a person owns their body. Does not receive dictates on how to use it.Economically, a person owns their property. Does not receive dictates on how to use it.
Main flavors:
Utilitarian, or classical social liberal:
Maximize non-aggression principle as long as results for most people are neutral or good.Supports a tax-funded state with a professional military and efficient public services.Prefers easily navigable regulation, but supports regulation as necessary.Supports redistribution to meet basic needs not met by charity.No longer called "libertarian" in the US. Mostly perfectly sensible.Neo-classical:
Maximize non-aggression principle, second only to need for group self-preservation.Supports a minimal state with a professional military. No tax-funded public services.Supports no regulation except minimum to define the state and property.Supports no redistribution, even to meet basic needs not met by…

Is morality fundamentally objective?

I say it is; even if interpretations of it differ.

For philosophers, living and dead, questions like this have been their life's concern. So maybe I can't say anything new. But maybe they were wordy and abstruse; and my unoriginal insights can be interesting. :)

I read this article today about really bad workplace bullying that ended in suicide. Hazing appears to be pervasive in some lines of work, and these particular bullies are not remorseful. They think they applied to the victim just the same violent routines they applied to everyone as a "prank". This included:
Forcing him naked in a cage; dousing him in a flammable liquid; and burning his clothes.Locking him in the trunk of a car and hosing him down with a pressure cleaner.Pressure cleaners – by the way – can cause injuries resulting in amputation.

Most people may consider these actions blatantly abhorrent. There are some, though, who defend them; saying morality is subjective. Who's to say that what we con…

Why I no longer like libertarians

Bluntly: for the same reason I would not keep the company of Nazis, no matter how soft-spoken or well-mannered. Everyone with lethal political views thinks it's noble, and for everyone's best benefit.

I'm not speaking of libertarians in Slovenia. A Slovenian libertarian might want a more sensibly ordered country. She might want more sensible taxation; less economic nepotism; equal rules for everyone, instead of nationalist protectionism. She might want the country to develop more like Switzerland. That's a noble goal. I don't see anything wrong with Switzerland.

I'm not speaking of libertarian views on personal rights. People should be able to do what they want with their body. There should not be a drug war that incarcerates millions. I certainly agree with that.

I'm speaking of people who think "taxation is theft", and this makes them support an abhorrence such as the Republican "Affordable Care Act": legislation that aims to put healt…

Microsoft Office: Command Prompt window flashes every hour

It is current year, and Microsoft lets loose a bug like this in its flagship application.

There's no option but to keep Office up to date. It is not written in Rust, so it's afflicted by memory safety issues, so it needs to be updated as they are discovered. Otherwise, the computer is vulnerable to exploits. Even then you are still vulnerable, because there are unknown defects. But keeping a program like this up to date is not optional.

So I recently updated Office, and this weird window starts appearing on my screen. Whatever I'm doing - reading emails, developing, browsing - every once in a while a black console window would briefly appear. It would steal focus from what I'm doing, and close too fast to see what it is.

How to debug this?

I tried Process Monitor. This is an awesome tool, but somewhat unreliable. I hoped to keep it running to capture the Process Start event to identify the rogue window when it pops up, but it's not stable enough to keep running for…

Rust is beautiful

I've invested some time to learn in detail about Rust, which means reading the excellent online book here. And it is beautiful. It makes me wish I could pause the world for a few years, to convert some 500,000 lines of C++ that exist under my purview into Rust, and continue from there.

Rust seems to take all the little design lessons I've learned in 20 years of C++ programming, and consolidates them into one language:
It's not best that everything is mutable by default, and const if the programmer points it out. It's healthier the other way around.The fundamental string type is a sensible, immutable string slice (in Rust, a &str). This is great for zero-copy parsers, such as nom. Our code has had that for a decade – I named it Seq, or SeqPtr. C++ is adding std::string_view in C++17.Elegant built-in variant with pattern-matching (in Rust, this is an enum). C++ is adding std::variant in C++17.Type traits solve the problems of abstraction and generics, providing both s…

Limitations of Central-American pronunciation

OK, pet peeve.

We (probably) know how native English speakers have trouble pronouncing Spanish – and most other languages – in a way that doesn't sound silly. English uses Latin in legal contexts, and I personally cringe how it's pronounced. I was brought up on classical and ecclesiastical Latin pronunciation, and Latin pronounced by English speakers sounds like none of that. To me, it sounds most like pig Latin.

But interestingly, the vocal range of Central American Spanish speakers – in my experience, Costa Rican and Nicaraguan – is even more restricted. "How could that be?" you ask. "They can pronounce rolled Rs!"

Yes they can. But here are a few words that Central Americans I've met cannot properly pronounce:

EnglishCentral AmericanpizzaPronounced pixa.shortsPronounced chor, as in "el chor" (masculine singular: short pants).sushiPronounced suchi.Marshall (the name)Pronounced Marchal.MitsubishiPronounced Mitsubichi.Yency (name)Pronounced Jen…

"May prosper all the nations"

Jana recently wanted to share with the world – or at least, Facebook – the Slovenian national anthem, because it is a rare hymn that doesn't over-celebratenationalpride; or call for indiscriminate bloodshed; but instead...May prosper all the nations
who long await to see that day,
when over Earth's creation
all fight and strife shall be at bay;
when all men
shall be free;
no devils, only neighbors;
no devils, only neighbors 'll be!
Alas, that's not a widely recognized translation. In fact, it's very new. It's... my today's take on it. If it sounds a bit archaic, like in "all men"... Well, the original was published in 1848. It's supposed to be!

The official translation, though... By Janko Lavrin, from 1954... It starts like this:God's blessing on all nations ...Cue screams from Jana across the hallway.

"Who saw it fit to insert a god in this?!"

The whole point of Prešeren's stanza is coexistence and peace; free of religion and …