A machine made of wood, metal, paint, bone and magic
33445 words


I really don't think there is.


Is there anything useful more to say?


From A new American Manifesto: a 2020 adaptation of something else.

He is lawless. He has no respect whatsoever for the rules of this country.

He has interfered with state Governors’ abilities to take care of their states in times of crisis, constantly breaking promises and being unreliable, just to wear them down so that they will do whatever he wants and then neglects them even when they do it.

He has abused the powers of the Presidency, leveraging people’s rights for business purposes.
He turns public events into personal campaign stunts, wearing all the rational people down with his antics and erratic behavior.

He has repeatedly fired the heads of critical agencies for refusing to support his illegal and abusive orders.

He routinely leaves these positions unfilled so that Congress doesn’t have a formal say in confirming nominations. This allows him to keep unconfirmed lackeys at the heads of agencies where Congress can’t touch them and they can sabotage and exploit the agencies without consequence, leaving the public without the safety those agencies provide. This causes chaos.

He has imposed harsh immigration laws and is directly attacking the economies of States and cities that allow people he doesn’t like into their borders.

He has rigged the Judicial system, conspiring with Congress to break rules to secure his judge appointments.

He has made shady deals with judicial appointees to influence them.

He is inventing personal secret police squads to terrorize and harass the population.

He has flooded our cities with militarized personnel against the wishes of local populations and their governments.

He glorifies violent law enforcement and elevates them above the rest of the humans in the country.

He has corrupted the Justice Department and Congress, using them to help him create a wholly unconstitutional set of policies.

He pardons and covers for crimes committed by these henchmen and refuses to allow any accountability for their treason.

He has started costly and economically damaging trade wars.

He supports extrajudicial killings and encourages a lack of due process by law enforcement.

He uses tax laws to steal from the poor and give to the rich.

He supports the use of black sites, torture and other brutal authoritarian measures.

He has leveraged the oversized jurisdiction of the Border Patrol to impose their power on areas and people they were never intended to.

He has trampled the rule of law, all protocol and policy. He shows no respect whatsoever for the institutions of government.

He is overreaching with Federal jurisdiction, overriding local jurisdictions with his own teams.

He isn’t protecting America, he’s waging war on us.

He has withdrawn us from crucial environmental treaties, deregulated industry, refused aid for wildfires, and has allowed over 200,000 people to die needlessly from a preventable pandemic.

His federal forces have been stockpiling weapons for use against the civilian populace.

He turns dissidents against each other, threatening them with high crimes if they don’t turn against their fellow protestors.

He starts riots and leverages those brutal, merciless folks embedded in our every community, the police, whose known rules of engagement are 'anyone who’s not a cop can die'.

Get rid of the ballots

Get rid of the ballots and we’ll have a very peaceful – there won’t be a transfer, frankly – there’ll be a continuation.

– Donald Trump

Fundamental to democracy is the peaceful transition of power; without that, there is Belarus. Any suggestion that a president might not respect this Constitutional guarantee is both unthinkable and unacceptable.

– Mitt Romney, Republican senator

Note 7

This was an answer to a Stack Overflow question that got closed.

(define-syntax nloop*
  ;; Nested numerical loop
  (syntax-rules ()
    [(_ () form ...)
     (begin form ...
    [(_ ((variable lower-inclusive upper-exclusive) more ...) form ...)
     (let loop ([variable lower-inclusive])
       (if (< variable upper-exclusive)
             (nloop* (more ...) form ...)
             (loop (+ variable 1)))
    [(_ ((variable start-inclusive end-exclusive step) more ...) form ...)
     (let ([cmp? (if (>= step 0) < >)])
       (let loop ([variable start-inclusive])
         (if (cmp? variable end-exclusive)
               (nloop* (more ...) form ...)
               (loop (+ variable step)))
> (nloop* ((i 10 0 -3)
           (j 0 3 2))
    (printf "~A ~A~%" i j))
10 0
10 2
7 0
7 2
4 0
4 2
1 0
1 2

Ten thousand

I think that there is a lot to be said for the idea made famous by Malcolm Gladwell, that it takes about 10,000 hours. As with the equally famous idea about walking 10,000 steps a day, this seems to be something pulled out of a hat as well as being a conveniently round number. But in both cases the numbers are actually very reasonable.

For 10,000 steps: well, I walk at about 100 steps/minute and I suspect this is fairly average. So 10,000 steps is about 100 minutes of walking per day. This is easily achievable: walk 30 minutes each way to work, 30 minutes at lunch and do 10 minutes of walking around other than that. 20,000 steps is 200 minutes – more than 3 hours – of walking per day and is hard to square with a normal job (but if your job involves walking it should be easy). 3,000 is 30 minutes and that's clearly far too little. So 10,000, give or take, is a very reasonable number.

Similarly for 10,000 hours: let's say you work 200 days a year for 10 hours a day (or probably more days for fewer hours). So a year is 2,000 hours of work. 10,000 hours of work is about 5 years. And ... that's kind of right: 5 years is about how long it takes someone to get really good at something. 5 years is a first degree and a PhD, with the inevitable lost time due to drink & romance, and that's the point where people are going to make their mark in their field, if they have one to make.


Our knowledge of our immediate surroundings – of 'nature' – is declining. The reason for this decline in knowledge of the environment (and not just some idealised 'nature': cities are full of fascination as well, if you only take the time to walk through them) is simple: time. A human childhood, to age 15 and allowing 12 hours a day, is about 65,700 hours: the amount of time a child has to spend on anything is limited by the amount of time they have to spend on everything else. In 1913, when my grandmother was six, she spent a lot of time outside because there were few other demands on her time: school, books, playing with toys perhaps, chores. In 1968, when I was six, there was school, books, many more toys, chores, the radio, and TV. In 2013 there are school, books, really a lot of toys, chores, video games, and the vast sink of life that is the internet.

It would be astonishing if a child of the early 21st century knew as much about their physical environment – be it 'nature' or the city – as one of the early 20th, because it would mean that they had somehow stretched time.

Whether this is something to worry about depends on whether you think the physical environment matters, and whether you think the things competing with it for the scarce hours in children's lives matter: is facebook and TV more important than picking blackberries, because the time you spend on one eats the time you can spend on the others?


28th August 2020:

People will again be encouraged to go back to the workplace in a government ad campaign starting next week.

19th September 2020:

PM considering new restrictions amid second coronavirus wave

Because it obviously wasn't possible to foresee that happening, less than three weeks ago, was it? Well, obviously it wasn't possible if you're an entitled clown with a degree in showing off, guided by a crank.

Bad wolf

The Doctor showed me a better way of living your life. You know he showed you too. That you don't just give up. You don't just let things happen. You make a stand. You say no. You have the guts to do what's right when everyone else just runs away, and I just can't


The scale of the climate change conspiracy really is breathtaking. The hidden superiors who benefit from the obvious hoax of global warming being real must be an enormously powerful elite.

Consider that they must convince people who work on climate but who aren't in on the hoax and who don't stand to benefit from it -- drones like me and the thousands like me -- to keep earning our meagre wages working 'for the good of humanity' rather than making the financially and socially preferable choice of going back to work for some bank or oil company for three times the money and moving back to a place three times nicer to live. I often wonder if some drug -- a sedative or a hallucinogen perhaps -- might be used to keep us docile and obedient.

For they must walk amongst us: some of the people I exchange nods with when passing in the corridors of my workplace must, of course, be conspirators. How should I recognise them? Perhaps suitable glasses, distributed by the underground cells which I pray must exist, will reveal the grinning alien mask hidden behind the apparently human features? Perhaps they can be recognised by some feature, an unusually pronounced nose, for instance? I have no idea how many of them there might be: am I one of the few remaining humans, shortly to be replaced with an almost perfect copy of myself, or is there still hope?

And it gets worse. The false models which endlessly predict global warming are constructed using the same code as the models which forecast the weather and which are tested against reality daily or even hourly. We know these models are good and improving when used for weather: there must be switches set in climate configurations to falsify the results -- a subtle bump to the solar forcing perhaps. But this cannot be: the drones have access to the sources for the models, as does anyone interested, but nothing has ever been found.

For a while I suspected a compiler trick along the lines of Ken Thompson's famous hack. But this would require the cooperation or coercion of the writers of every Fortran compiler that can build the model, including GNU Fortran. Surely RMS can not be one of them: I refuse to believe people of such exquisite wealth and taste would tolerate him, or even a simulacrum of him.

Simpler, I think, is to assume that the trick is being played on us by the processor designers. With a few billion transistors, surely no-one would notice a few hundred thousand inserted to detect a particular program and subtly adjust the floating-point behaviour of certain critical code paths. And the number of processor designers is tiny -- Intel, ARM, IBM, perhaps Oracle -- and they all, of course, have intimate connections to the deep state actors behind all this.

This, I feel, must be the answer: a compromise at the silicon level is relatively simple when considered from the perspective of the lizard kings. Nevertheless the scale of the conspiracy is breathtaking: some might suggest it was, well, unbelievable.

Cold war

The vast naïvity of the people who declared that the cold war was over, and the west won never ceases to amaze me. Did they learn nothing from history? Did they pay any attention to what happened to Napoleon in 1812 and what happened to the Germans between 1941 and 1945? The Russians are really, really good at retreating further than their attacker thinks possible, taking losses greater than their attacker thinks possible, and then winning. The cold war is not yet over, and the west is not winning.

Silicon valley ethos

People talk about the 'silicon valley ethos' as if it'a a good thing. So, let's remember what the silicon valley ethos actually is. It's the ethos that gave us techbros, gamergate and female participation in open source projects sitting at 1 or 2% (who knows what black participation is, but I expect it is very, very tiny). It's the ethos that drove down female CS & IT graduation rates in the US from 38% in 1984 to 18% in 2011. It's the ethos that gave us (male, white) people explaining that women are just less good at this stuff in terms which amount to eugenics (obviously very appealing to Cummings), despite it being trivial to show that there is no evidence for this (indeed data this paragraph shows why there's no evidence).

It's the ethos that gave us social media companies whose core business is harvesting souls and who evolve algorithms which encourage political extremism to do that, leading to the incipient fascism we now see in the US. It's the ethos of the people who continue to work for these companies while knowing what they are doing and where it leads.

It's the ethos that gave us the CEO of a large silicon valley company saying this:

I think that government said that they made a mistake. It's a serious mistake. We've made mistakes too, right, with self-driving... So I think that people make mistakes. It doesn't mean that they can never be forgiven.

The 'mistake' that government made, for which they should perhaps be forgiven, was sawing a journalist up with a bonesaw while they were alive.

That is the ethos of silicon valley: sawing a human up with a bonesaw is a mistake which can be forgiven.

Fuck the silicon valley ethos and fuck anyone who thinks it is a good thing. The silicon valley ethos has brought the US to the edge of fascism and in 48 days will quite likely bring it over that edge. The UK is not there yet, but it's moving in that direction: the Cummings-Johnson junta are clearly aiming to cause the EU to walk away from the negotiations so they can find a suitably identifiable group to blame for the disaster that will befall the UK in 107 days. Finding identifiable groups to blame for things is the fascist playbook.

Yes, it gave us really clever phones on which we waste our lives. But I'd give up the phones if I could avoid the fascism. I'd give up the phones if the 'silicon valley ethos' would help in any way at all with dealing with climate change which isn't 'let's go and live on Mars' (work out the climate impact of lifting a significant number of people off Earth sometime: we're not going to live on Mars unless, perhaps, we're billionaires). But it's OK, you see: climate change will only kill our children and their children and the people who believe in the silicon valley ethos don't care about anyone but themselves, or even in some cases know how many children they have, still less care about them. Oh and yes, it's killing some people now, but those people have dark skins and live far away, and silicon valley ethos people certainly don't care about people with dark skins, still less if they live far away.

It's so easy to laugh at them: Johnson is an upper-class twit who can write amusingly racist and sexist articles and Cummings is a eugenicist crank who, like all cranks, does not know what he does not understand. They're laughable. Trump was laughable. Hitler and Mussolini were laughable.

A theory

I'm still very puzzled by what the UK junta government is trying to achieve. Here's a theory.

While I think it's safe to say they have no long-term plans because they're not smart enough to do long-term planning, they do have the standard fascist authoritarian populist short-term plan, which is simple:

blame other people.

Blame foreigners, blame the gypsies, blame the Jews or the Muslims, blame remainers, blame experts, blame intellectuals, but blame someone else.

So they need someone to blame for the impending failure of the brexit negotiations, and the economic catastrophe that will engulf England the UK as a result.

Here's how they will find someone to blame: behave increasingly bizarrely and illegally until the EU finally says 'fuck it' and walks away. Then blame the EU for walking away. Now the economic consequences of a no-deal brexit can be portrayed as being the EU's fault.

We all know where this approach of blaming other people for everything ends up, because we saw where it ended up in the 1930s and 1940s: it ends with camps and ovens.

The rule of law

If I see the rule of law being broken in a way that I find unacceptable then, of course, I will go.

Robert Buckland, UK Justice Secretary

So if the law is broken in a way you find acceptable, why then, that's OK is it? I'll bear that in mind, then: in future I'll only break the law if I think that I'm doing it in a way that I find acceptable.

Theory of mind

As recorded, [Trump's statement that he wanted to 'play down' CV19 early in 2020] reads like a cold-blooded confession that Trump intentionally concealed deadly knowledge at a time—February and March—when that knowledge could have saved lives. But you can reach that conclusion only if you believe that Trump knows things the way fully rational people know them: as statements about reality that exist independently from the speaker. Trump’s mind does not work that way. He does not observe the world and then use words to describe it. He speaks the words he wishes you to believe, and then trusts the world to conform to his wishes.

David Frum, writing in The Atlantic

I think the problem is that our theory of mind leads us astray with Trump: we try to build a model of what he must be like in our heads and that model is entirely wrong. Trump is not really a person at all, he's the remains of a person who has collapsed in on himself. Insofar as this carcass can be said to be aware it is aware only of itself: the outside world and all the people in it are merely dim shadows and reflections of its internal processes.

Trump is the end state after a person no longer has the strength to prevent their mind collapsing under the gravitational force of their own vanity.