Fighting Back

Today I am participating in “The Day We Fight Back“.  Maybe all of three people will see it here.  That’s fine; I didn’t do it because I thought I would drive gazillions of eyeballs to their site from mine, nor because I’m some sort of Internet Meme Purveyor™ that would instantly popularize ‘The Cause’.  I’m doing it because it’s the right thing to do.

I dunno about you, but I’ve done some things that I’m not that proud of.  And there’s evidence of them online, I’m sure.  Although they probably don’t rise to the level of criminal activity, I am doubtless susceptible to ‘persuasion’ and pressure if SomeOne™ were to threaten to make them public.  And when we are governed by the rule of men and not the rule of law, human nature makes it inevitable that that SomeOne™ will yield to the temptation to use that info against – if not me, then some other poor schmoo.  “To Protect Us From Terror!”  “To Save The Children!”  “To Keep Us From The Red Menace!”

Yes, there are clearly existential enemies of western civilization that would destroy it if they could.  They do organize via electronic communications; evidence of those hostile activities should be used against them, either in a court of law, or as a military intelligence asset.  But the indiscriminate hoovering-up of all phone calls and internet traffic, in a vague hope that some useful patterns can be teased out, does far more harm than good.  Remember Ben Franklin:

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

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Science Fiction Will Save the World

Let me tell you a little story.

Nearly seventy years ago, two erstwhile allies, at the end of a planet-spanning war, found themselves bitter rivals, and entered into a struggle to see which could develop the military and economic means to rule that world.  Dividing the technological corpse of their former mutual enemy between them, they used these tools and ideas to forge ever more terrible weapons.  Soon, their contest focused on a particular goal, both of symbolic and harsh military value – which would be the first to have their citizens walk on the face of the planet’s major satellite, and return safely.

And in less than twenty-five years, one outpaced the other so far that, not once but six times, they were able to have a pair of their own walk on that moon and return home unscathed.

Almost twenty more years passed, and one of the empires collapsed.  The other, beset by other economic, military, and spiritual troubles, drastically curtailed their space-faring ways, never more sending their kind beyond low orbits of the planet, and leaving the depths of the heavens to be explored by robotic vessels.

Fast forward to the present, and a few of these creatures banded together, and with monies they had earned from technologies that had not even been a fantasy when that last global war had finished, founded multiple companies to return to space, not as conquistadors, but as captains of industry.  First more cunning robots, then more of the creatures themselves, would return to that moon, and move out to explore and exploit the other planets of their star, and ultimately, the rest of the universe.

Not a bad tale, eh?  Wait – this isn’t fiction – it’s history.

Alan Kay once said “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” But the second-best way to predict the future is to write science fiction.  Hard, nuts-and-bolts science fiction.  By starting with a technological premise, and logically extending it within the boundaries of science and engineering as we know them, or as we could plausibly extend them, we give ourselves the ability to sketch a future (if not the future) and explore how humanity will deal with the challenges and opportunities presented.

And wouldn’t you know it – the wild speculations of the science-fiction authors of one time become the models for hard-headed engineering in the next time.  Gene Roddenberry’s flip-top communicators from the original Star Trek became our first-generation cell phones; his “tricorders” became our modern smartphones.  Rovers on Mars, or mining asteroids, stop being just the fantastic dreams of authors, and become the exotic but real workdays of people whose imaginations are fueled and informed by reading sci-fi.

So to predict the future, we must invent it.  And to invent it, to know what we can and should do, we read.  And wonder.

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‘That Wascally Wabbit’

Well, this hasn’t turned out as well as I hoped…

I mentioned that I succumbed to the temptation to follow the White Rabbit down the hole, and re-created my blog (for the third try) using a hand-rolled WordPress instance.  I thought I needed to do this because I didn’t have the ability to control the theme and formatting of my blog’s previous instance.

Wrong.  My error lay in trying to adjust these administrative details without being logged in to my administrative account.  (I posted almost all the entries from a WordPress user with only ‘author’ privileges.)

Lessons learned?  Although it is best practice to use the least privilege possible to run a computer system, you must be careful to make sure you are wearing your SuperManUser costume when you have to do super things.  I’m not going to roll it back, but I won’t be nearly so eager to plunge ahead next time.

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Please Pardon Our Dust….

 

While things are still under construction, here’s a de rigueur cat picture –

imperial_George

 

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Third Time’s The Charm

I saw a white rabbit in a finely tailored waistcoat yesterday, jumping down a hole.  I looked in, took a deep breath, and jumped after him….

This is the third instance of my blog.  I had started about five years ago, thinking I was going to document the restarting of my career as a software engineer.  That petered out after a couple of months.  Then, about a year and a half ago, I started to blog again, now talking about my attempts to retool myself as a science-fiction author.

I had been doing better there.  But my hosting company (1 and 1 Hosting) kept trying to be “helpful”; within two months, I had to change themes to keep it looking even half-way tolerable.  And last February, they quit using their old blogging engine and went to their new “Click ‘n Build” blog builder.  Which uses WordPress on the inside, but they’ve neutered it, and one of the things that got cut out was the ability to change the theme at all.  And somewhere along the line they clobbered the character encoding, so that if you go look at that second blog now, there are a whole lot of spurious Â characters, and other junque.

Now, about six months ago I found out that my hosting package included command-line access to the underlying Debian Linux box.  And I have pretensions of being a sysadmin and (arguably obsolete) hacker.  SO-oh, I sez to meself, I could just put up my own WordPress instance.  (This is where I started seeing the rabbit.)

I knew that I could spend forever trying to get it all right.  But I was dissatisfied with what I had, and I just knew I could do better.  So I jumped.

Here we are.  Please bear with me as I adjust all the knobs and press the right buttons.  Until (and unless) I say differently, assume that the Editorial Policy and ‘Rules of the Road’ (as well as the attribution / sharing / copyright policy) are just the same as in blog #2.

 

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