Two Flavors

From noted libertarian John Perry Barlow, in noted libertarian rag Reason:

We�ve got two distinct strains of libertarianism, and the hippie-mystic strain is not engaging in politics, and the Ayn Rand strain is basically dismantling government in a way that is giving complete open field running to multinational corporatism.

The one thing that I know government is good for is countervailing against monopoly. It�s not great at that either, but it�s the only force I know that is fairly reliable. But if you�ve got a truly free market you only have a free market for a while before it becomes completely regulated by those aspects of it that have employed power laws to gain a complete monopoly.

Finally, a libertarian who admits the truth.

Amy of the Week

Time for more pictures. Yes, the one in the middle really is her with moose in her hair. Even worse, it’s Chocolate Moose.

Amy after a bathAmy with ChocolateAmy gets political


Like many weblog owners recently, I’ve had to limit comments on this site. In this case the restriction takes the form of requiring registration to post. It’s a step I didn’t want to take, but I had little choice. Apparently the “leaders” of Hot Seat Forums were not content with having misbehaved on Whistle Stopper until they were ejected. Nor were they content with abusing their moderator/administrator privilieges on HSF to edit other members’ posts and insert their own puerile insults as a form of harassment. Now they have started making a concerted effort to come here, to my virtual home, and do the virtual equivalent of spray-painting obscenities on the walls. Rather than subject visiting family members to such filth from the morally challenged, I’ve put a little bit of a barrier in their path. If the abuse continues I might have to shut down comments entirely.

Chess Lessons III

I’ve written a couple of times before about the things people can learn from playing chess. Now Nature has an article about how grandmasters excel by being able to falsify their own ideas.

She found that novices were more likely to convince themselves that bad moves would work out in their favour, because they focused more on the countermoves that would benefit their strategy while ignoring those that led to the downfall of their cherished hypotheses.

Conversely, masters tended to correctly predict when the eventual outcome of a move would weaken their position. “Grand masters think about what their opponents will do much more,” says Byrne. “They tend to falsify their own hypotheses.”

This is very similar to my own “accepting reality” point from the first article linked above, but not quite the same. It certainly is a great benefit, applicable to a wide range of activities besides chess. Personally I find this kind of critical introspection invaluable both in my work and in my online-debate activities, and elsewhere. Now I have to wonder if part of the reason I’m able to do that is because I was exposed to chess at an early age.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Apparently there’s so much Prozac being prescribed in the UK that it’s getting into the water. Somehow, though, it’s just hard to get too worked up about it.

Efficient System-Wide Coordination in Noisy Environments

This looks like an interesting paper with potential implications for computer networks. Unfortunately, the closest I can get to an actual readable version is this pathetic teaser at Northwestern.

”How did a consensus come about? Our computer model shows how social networks can substitute for central mechanisms in decision making,” said Luís A. N. Amaral, associate professor of chemical and biological engineering and an author on the PNAS paper. ”Surprisingly, information can be aggregated more efficiently if local information transmission is not perfectly reliable but is subject to error or random noise, due to lack of trust, indecision or unreliable information technologies.”

For the citizens of Leipzig, the ”noise” was the presence of the Stasi, the state secret police. ”The need of individuals to avoid certain forms of communication, due to fear of the Stasi, might actually have contributed to the more efficient spread of information about a generalized dissatisfaction with the regime and the willingness to take a stand against it,” said Amaral.

Weird Life Forms

I just don’t know what to say about these weird life forms except to say that nature truly comes up with some weird ideas. Yeah, look who’s talking, right?

Power Efficient CPUs

Some ideas seem so obvious in retrospect that it’s tempting to dismiss them as truisms, when in fact their contribution to clarifying what was unclear before is the essence of their brilliance. One example is a formula for CPU performance given in Hennessy and Patterson’s Computer Architecture: A Quantitative Approach. The formula says that CPU performance is a product of three factors:

  • Work per instruction (WPI)
  • Instructions per cycle (IPC)
  • Cycles per second (CPS)

Behind this simple equation lies a world of subtle but important observations. For example, RISC trades off a modest decrease in WPI (a key observation at the time is that the decrease would in fact be modest) for increased IPC and CPS, leading directly to the multi-gigahertz processors that underlie the modern computing experience. What happens, though, when the goal is not to maximize computation per second but instead to maximize computation per watt?