Unfortunately, I Told You So

Published at 15:32 on 21 September 2011

When I said the Fukushima disaster was another Chernobyl.

It’s been rated by none other than the Japanese government itself at the same level of severity as Chernobyl; Fukushima and Chernobyl stand by themselves as the only INES Level 7 incidents in history. Fukushima has a 20 km permanent evacuation zone around it (and Japan has been roundly criticized for not making that larger). Chernobyl has a 30 km zone around it.

By all measures, the two are indeed comparable in severity, even though the types of reactors involved and the specifics of the two catastrophes are very different.

And it’s not over yet. The situation is still far from resolved, and there’s a typhoon headed straight for the damaged reactors.

Note to Recruiters: Emeryville is NOT in Mendocino County

Published at 10:25 on 21 September 2011

It’s not even near Mendocino County. It’s several hours drive, minimum. Over freeways that have a well-deserved reputation for horrendous traffic. Likewise, Bothell is not on the Olympic Peninsula.

Perhaps it hasn’t occurred to the two or three functioning neurons in your skull, recruiters, but people interested in Emeryville jobs are much more likely to be looking in the SF Bay Craigslist site than the Mendocino County one. That’s true even if they currently happen to be living in Mendocino County. Likewise, people interested in Bothell jobs are much more likely to be looking in the Seattle Craigslist site than the Olympic Peninsula one. If someone’s looking on a particular Craigslist site for job listings, most likely it is because (brace yourselves, this is going to come as a shock) they are interested in jobs which are actually in that region.

(Now, if it’s a job in Olympia being posted to the Olympic Peninsula site, that I can understand. Olympia, despite being within the purview of the Seattle area Craigslist site, is right where the Olympic Peninsula begins, and the peninsula town of Shelton is within reasonable commuting distance of Olympia. But Bothell or Redmond? Please.)

Recruiters, you do realize this sort of thing makes you and your ilk look like precisely the sort of clueless sleazeballs you have a bad reputation for being, do you not?

Well, So Much for That

Published at 19:57 on 19 September 2011

The purpose of this trip was to interview for a job at Humboldt State University in Arcata, CA. Humboldt County is one of those places I’ve fallen in love with on my travels, and it would be something of a dream to live there.

A dream because high-tech jobs are practically nonexistent there (and in pretty much any of the other rural areas of the Northwest I dream of moving to). So it was hard not to fantasize during the time between being informed they wanted to fly me down for an interview and the interview itself.

Alas, it seems pretty obvious from the course of questioning during the interview that they want someone with significantly more Oracle database experience than I have. And since Oracle experience is easy to find, odds are very high they’ll find it in one of the other finalists.

Well, at least I get a couple free days in redwood country out of it, and the icing on the cake is not having to move yet again (which I’d still do in a heartbeat if I got an offer, of course, but it’s something that definitely made the job opening a mixed blessing and not an unadulterated one).

More Security Stupidity?

Published at 09:16 on 19 September 2011

There’s been an awful lot of security stupidity since 9/11: measures instituted ostensibly to improve security, but which upon further thought (sometimes not much further thought at all) reveal themselves to be nothing but mindless exercises in petty fascism.

And when going through airport security yesterday, it struck me how the whole business of forcing airline passengers to remove their shoes so they can be X-rayed is probably one of these exercises. Consider that what shows up on an X-ray are metal objects, and that most high explosives are nonmetallic.

What tends to have metal is blasting caps; electric ones have wires, and the increasingly rare non-electric ones have brass or copper jackets. However, it is not all that hard to make your own homemade plastic-jacketed non-electric blasting caps. Once you’ve done that, all you need is some fuse (also conveniently non-metallic), and there you have it: your very own shoe bomb that will sail through the X-ray machine with nary a suspicion.

So unless I’m seriously missing something with the above analysis, the whole “take off your shoes” drill is merely a feel-good propaganda measure designed to reassure passengers that something has been done to screen out future shoe bombers. At least it has the side-benefit of enabling me to “forget” to put my shoes back on and enjoy a little barefoot time on my walk to the gate.

That’s It for Now

Published at 15:18 on 17 September 2011

And with this we conclude the flurry of “new blog” posts, as I am packing to depart Seattle for a few days and probably won’t be able to post until Wednesday or so (in the name of keeping my load light, I’m not taking my laptop computer with me).

Do as I Say, Not as I Have Done

Published at 14:09 on 17 September 2011

That’s what comes to mind when I read this story. Fresh from a conflict within his own government over how to manage the US budget, Geithner goes to Europe and tut-tuts at the Europeans for failing to act promptly and decisively about their economic problems.

Really, it looks like the post-WWII incarnation of modern capitalism is mostly done with. Those who oversee such societies are no longer willing or able to make the sort of departures from ideological orthodoxy necessary to sustain such a self-contradictory system.

The only question is whether the sort of class consciousness needed to seriously threaten (or, better yet, replace) the capitalist system exists as that system heads further into its worst crisis since the Great Depression. Particularly here in the USA (amongst the most clueless of all countries when it comes to class issues) that is, alas, highly dubious.

France Panders to Its Fascist Element

Published at 08:44 on 17 September 2011

Story here. And no, I don’t think it’s all explainable by the French doctrine of laïcité:

Proponents assert the French state secularism is based on respect for freedom of thought and freedom of religion. Thus the absence of a state religion, and the subsequent separation of the state and Church, is considered by proponents to be a prerequisite for such freedom of thought. Proponents maintain that laïcité is thus distinct from anti-clericalism, which actively opposes the influence of religion and the clergy. Laïcité relies on the division between private life, where adherents believe religion belongs, and the public sphere, in which each individual, adherents believe, should appear as a simple citizen equal to all other citizens, devoid of ethnic, religious or other particularities. According to this conception, the government must refrain from taking positions on religious doctrine and only consider religious subjects for their practical consequences on inhabitants’ lives. [emphasis added]

So while Muslims who pray in public are transgressing the part about keeping their religion private, governments who obsess over collective acts of free expression that involve prayer, while considering other such acts (e.g. street fairs, parades, political demonstrations) legal, are taking positions on religious issue instead of merely considering the practical aspects of a behavior.

Moreover, why pass such a law now, right as the National Front has made public prayer by Muslims a hot-button issue? If street prayer is such a transgression against laïcité, that transgression has been going on for decades. Am I supposed to believe it is mere coincidence that this is happening as an election is coming up, and the governing center-Right party wants to steal some votes from the far-Right one?

Safari Javascript Sucks

Published at 13:43 on 16 September 2011

I’ve known about it for some time, of course, but my recent move to WordPress has driven it home yet again. The WordPress screen to create and edit blog posts makes heavy usage of Javascript. It also hangs about 50% of the time one hits the “Publish” or “Update” buttons when using Safari. I have yet to have it hang on me when using Firefox, and of couse (after being burned by Safari during my first few attempts), I use Firefox much more often than Safari to post here.

Really, this has to be one of those “what’s their problem, anyway?” moments. Safari has had an absolutely lousy Javascript engine (by far the worst one of any major browser) for years.

It’s a pity, as it’s otherwise a very nice browser.

On Solyndra

Published at 13:16 on 16 September 2011

Yes, it does show that corporate handouts don’t stop at party lines.

And yes, it was a stupid investment. Solyndra’s business plan was fatally flawed: it depended on finding alternatives to silicon for photovoltaic cells, which they presumed was needed because the price of silicon was going up, which they presumed indicated a shortage. Anyone with a few functioning neurons in his or her brain should see the flaw here: silicon isn’t a scarce strategic material. 27% of the Earth’s crust is silicon. Quartz — the most common mineral in the crust — is high-grade silicon ore.

The shortage of silicon in its refined elemental state, therefore, was purely due to a manufacturing bottleneck, not any sort of a raw-materials scarcity. The output of silicon solar cells had gone way up, but the output of refined silicon had not, creating a shortage in the latter. Any resulting spike in prices was bound to be short-lived, however, as it would merely serve as an incentive to build more refineries and open more silica quarries. As indeed it was.

However, it’s also small potatoes as government fiascoes go. The Iraq War has wasted far, far more money. Not to mention lives (Solyndra killed nobody).

And no, it wasn’t a stupid investment because it was an alternative energy investment; it was a stupid investment because it contained a flawed premise about silicon.