Suppose that you’re trying to build a wagon out of wood, and unfortunately, the wagon has a problem, which is that it keeps catching on fire. Suddenly, one of the wagon-workers drops his wooden beam. His face lights up. “I have it!” he says. “We need to build this wagon from nonwood materials!”
You stare at him for a bit, trying to get over the shock of the new idea; finally you ask, “What kind of nonwood materials?”
The wagoneer hardly hears you. “Of course!” he shouts. “It’s all so obvious in retrospect! Wood is simply the wrong material for building wagons! This is the dawn of a new era – the nonwood era – of wheels, axles, carts all made from nonwood! Not only that, instead of taking apples to market, we’ll take nonapples! There’s a huge market for nonapples – people buy far more nonapples than apples – we should have no trouble selling them! It will be the era of the nouvelle wagon!”
The set “apples” is much narrower than the set “not apples”. Apples form a compact cluster in thingspace, but nonapples vary much more widely in price, and size, and use. When you say to build a wagon using “wood”, you’re giving much more concrete advice then when you say “not wood”. There are different kinds of wood, of course – but even so, when you say “wood”, you’ve narrowed down the range of possible building materials a whole lot more then when you say “not wood”.
In the same fashion, “asynchronous” – literally “not synchronous” – is a much larger design space than “synchronous”. If one considers the space of all communicating processes, then synchrony is a very strong constraint on those processes. If you toss out synchrony, then you have to pick some other method for preventing communicating processes from stepping on each other – synchrony is one way of doing that, a specific answer to the question.
Likewise “parallel processing” is a much huger design space than “serial processing”, because serial processing is just a special case of parallel processing where the number of processors happens to be equal to 1. “Parallel processing” reopens all sorts of design choices that are premade in serial processing. When you say “parallel”, it’s like stepping out of a small cottage, into a vast and echoing country. You have to stand someplace specific, in that country – you can’t stand in the whole place, in the noncottage.
So when you stand up and shout: “Aha! I’ve got it! We’ve got to solve this problem using asynchronous processes!“, it’s like shouting, “Aha! I’ve got it! We need to build this wagon out of nonwood! Let’s go down to the market and buy a ton of nonwood from the nonwood shop!” You’ve got to choose some specific alternative to synchrony.
Now it may well be that there are other building materials in the universe than wood. It may well be that wood is not the best building material. But you still have to come up with some specific thing to use in its place, like iron. “Nonwood” is not a building material, “sell nonapples” is not a business strategy, and “asynchronous” is not a programming architecture.
Mormons settled the town of Pleasant Grove City, Utah, in 1850. Since 1971, the town’s “Pioneer Park” has featured the usual assortment of gardens, trees, and other historical relics, which sit alongside a massive permanent monument to the Ten Commandments—one of many such monuments donated by the Fraternal Order of Eagles (working to reduce juvenile delinquency) and Cecil B. DeMille (working to promote his Charlton Heston movie The Ten Commandments). In 2003, Summum’s founder, Summum “Corky” Ra, requested permission to donate a monument to the park celebrating the Seven Aphorisms upon which their beliefs are based. (The Seven Aphorisms are, in brief: the principles of psychokinesis, correspondence, vibration, opposition, rhythm, cause and effect, and gender.) Summum holds that these aphorisms were revealed to Moses at Mount Sinai, but he demurred because his people were not yet ready for them. The Decalogue was the rewrite.
The Pleasant Grove City Council denied Summum’s request to erect a monument. Summum sued, alleging that their free speech rights had been violated because the city could not display the Ten Commandments while denying the Seven Aphorisms. They lost in federal district court, prevailed before a three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit, and then blew the minds of the entire 10th Circuit, which ultimately declined to hear the case en banc. The city appealed.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg suggests that the difference between the Ten Commandments display in Utah and the permissible one in Texas is that the Texas monument had a “40-year history, and nobody seemed troubled by it.” Sekulow retorts that the Utah display has a 36-year history, at which point Justice Antonin Scalia chuckles, “I think 38 years is the cutoff.”
How is it that with the myriad of “civic history” that’s much more relevant to legal development than the Ten Commandments, these Christians always end up showcasing the one document alleged to be dictated by “God” and telling us to have no other gods but Him?
I mean, come on, we all know that “civic history” is an excuse — a lie. A lie made deliberately, because the defenders of this crap know they’re breaking the fundamental law of the land. The know they’re law breakers, they know they’re liars, but, hey, it’s for their God so that makes everything a-OK, and furthermore, now it would impolite and intolerant of us to expose their lying, because hey, they’re Good Christians™.
And if it is just pure “civic history”, why shouldn’t any other group be able to put up its version of “civic history”? Why is your monument so special? Oh, right, God dictated it.
Do you really think blatant law-breaking and lying about it and litigiousness over it makes Christianity look good? No, it makes Christians look like hypocrites, especially given that Jesus told you to render unto Caesar and pray in secret.
You’re free to put up whatever monuments you want in your churches, and we’ve even rebated all your taxes to make it easier on you, and yet you keep trying to break the law by putting your theology in our public places. Or change the law to take away people’s rights.
A lot of people of beginning to think that your religion has very little to do with the Sermon on the Mount or the Blood of Lamb, and its principle sacraments are hating gays and making in-your-face public nuisances. If that’s an unfair summary of Christianity (and it is) you have only your most vocal co-religionists to blame for it.
An extra-legal measure quietly enacted by the Treasury Department in the shadow of the $700 billion Wall Street bailout package will hand the country’s biggest banks another $140 billion windfall, the Washington Post reported this week.
In a five-sentence memo issued on September 30, on the eve of the first House vote on the bailout bill, the Treasury Department unilaterally overturned a two-decade-old tax law passed by Congress. The measure denied profitable companies the ability to shield their profits from taxation by buying up bankrupt firms as shell companies and using their losses as a tax dodge.
The law, section 382 of the tax code, was enacted by Congress in 1986. It was aimed at curtailing what was seen as an egregious corporate scamming of the tax system. The Republican right and corporate lobbyists have been pushing for the measure’s repeal or amendment ever since.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s regulator announced Tuesday that the housing finance giants will implement a sweeping plan to prevent distressed borrowers from losing their homes to foreclosure. The new program, which goes live December 15, aims to speed up the loan modification process by using a more-streamlined protocol.
“It’s definitely a step forward,” says Howard Glaser, a mortgage industry consultant and a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development official during the Clinton administration. “They do have several hundred thousand eligible loans, and Fannie and Freddie are likely to be better than the private industry has been in applying modifications across the board because they don’t have the shareholder issue to deal with.”
But there are limiting factors, Glaser says. “Fannie and Freddie’s share of high risk mortgages is very small compared to the market as a whole. And as you get into 2005 and 2006, sixty five percent the mortgages were done in securitizations outside Fannie and Freddie–and that’s where most of the trouble is.”
And if you don’t qualify because you’ve been sensible when buying your house, I guess you simply stop paying your mortgage until they tell you that you do qualify.
And guess what:
A friend of mine from college purchased a new home in Victorville for around $450,000. At the same time many others in his neighborhood purchased as well. My friend and his neighbor were both paying their mortgage. However, his neighbor called his mortgage company requesting a loan modification. The mortgage company explained that he is not in default and therefore they will not complete a loan modification. My friend’s neighbor decided to quit paying his mortgage while he continued to make payments on his four-wheeler, quad, and other toys and make trips to the desert weekly. He called the mortgage company back a couple of months later and received a principle reduction of circa $100,000. My friend, a very smart person, math thesis of the year award winner in college, with a masters degree in math, vice principle at a high school making excellent money, expresses to his neighbor that he is upset that his home is worth $100,000 less than he paid for it, however his neighbor then explains that he received a $100,000 principle write down by not paying his mortgage and negotiating a loan modification. Stopping by his house a few weeks ago on the way back from Las Vegas my friend explained this to me and said he thinks that he is going to get a modification as well.
An ancestor of Monty Python’s famous Dead Parrot comedy sketch has been found in a joke book dating back to Greece in the 4th Century.
Philogelos: The Laugh Addict, which has been translated from Greek manuscripts, contains a joke where a man complains that a slave he was sold had died.
“When he was with me, he never did any such thing!” is the reply.
In the Python sketch, written 1,600 years later, the shopkeeper claims the dead parrot is “pining for the fjords”.
The 265 jokes in Philogelos are attributed to a pair of jokers called Hierocles and Philagrius, about whom very little is known.
welcome21There has been an unprecedented surge in Saudi gold purchases in the past two weeks with over $3.5 billion being spent on the yellow metal, reported Gulf News citing local industry sources.
Gold market expert Sami Al Mohna told the leading regional newspaper that this buying had substantially increased the gold reserves of the country: ‘Many Saudi investors see this as the right time for making investments in gold as the price is the most reasonable one at present’.
Do you see it? That tiny spark, that wee blip of light? It may not look like much, but it is in fact a normal planet orbiting a normal star, 250 trillion kilometers from Earth.
The picture as a whole needs some splainin’. The star in question is Fomalhaut, a star easily visible to the unaided eye; it’s the brightest star in the constellation of Piscis Austrinus, the 18th brightest in the sky, and only 25 light years away. It’s literally millions of times brighter than the planet, so the Hubble camera uses an occulting bar, a small piece of metal that blocks the brightest part of the star’s image. The blacked-out area in the center of the picture is where Fomalhaut is (also, the star’s image has been digitally subtracted using an image of another star as a template; that further reduces the amount of unwanted light). The radial lines are not real; they are an optical effect of the very bright star. The ring is real; it’s dust leftover from the formation of the star and the planet. In fact, the thinness of the ring was a big factor in assuming a planet was lurking there; the planet’s gravity sculpts the ring, keeping it narrowly confined. Also, the ring is off-center from the star, and a planet in an elliptical orbit would explain that nicely.
The planet itself is just that small dot, almost lost in the noise from the star and the light from the ring. I’ll be honest; had I been analyzing the image, I might have missed it at first. But it’s there, and it’s real. Images taken almost two years apart show that the planet is moving with the star, and is consistent with it orbiting Fomalhaut at a distance of about 18 billion km (11 billion miles). That’s four times the distance of Neptune from the Sun. It takes 872 years to make one complete orbit. The mass is not easy to determine, and is estimated using its effect on the ring; it’s likely to be about the same size and mass as Jupiter.
This is huge news.
And it gets even huger. Because there’s more:
That image is the first to directly show two planets orbiting another star! It’s a near-infrared image using the giant Gemini North 8 meter telescope. Like in the Hubble image, the star’s light has been blocked, allowing the two planets to be seen (labeled b and c).
The star is called HR 8799. It’s a bit more massive (1.5 times) and more luminous (5x) than the Sun, and lies about 130 light years from Earth. The planets in this picture orbit it at distances of 6 billion km (3.6 billion miles) and 10.5 billion km (6.3 billion miles). A third planet, not seen in this image but discovered later using the Keck 10 meter telescope, orbits the star closer in at a distance of 3.8 billion km (2.3 billion miles).
How long before we see the Holy Grail, the first image of a terrestrial planet, orbiting a star like the Sun at just the right distance for liquid water to bathe its surface? It may not be for a decade or two, but mark my words: that day will arrive. And when it does, well, we’ll just have to rewrite the history books again, won’t we?
NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Spirit communicated via the Mars Odyssey orbiter today right at the time when ground controllers had told it to, prompting shouts of “She’s talking!” among the rover team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
“This means Spirit has not gone into a fault condition and is still being controlled by sequences we send from the ground,” said John Callas of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., project manager for Spirit and its twin, Opportunity.
Spirit has been operating on Mars for nearly five years in an exploration mission originally planned to last three months. The recent dust storm is clearing, but a coating of dust on Spirit’s solar panels is reducing the rover’s ability to generate electricity even when the sky is clear.
Spirit and Opportunity are the biggest space exploration success stories, ever.
In the mean time, KPN can’t even activate the right SIM card or connect a copper pair to the right slot in their telephone exchange. Perhaps the phrase “it isn’t rocket science” means the reverse of what I’ve always thought it meant.