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Erich Bloodaxe BSN

Erich Bloodaxe BSN's Journal
Erich Bloodaxe BSN's Journal
March 22, 2015

Do we have 'Open Threads'?

One of the things I got used to over at Daily Kos was the concept of the 'Open Thread'. This was an OP that was started either automatically or by an admin roughly 3 times a day (morning, afternoon, evening) so that people could post on any topic they wanted to, without cluttering up the site with 'top level OP's. So if you had, say, a comment about Capeheart filling in for Kornacki and explaining just WHY he had to agree with the DOJ's report on 'Hands Up, Don't Shoot' being a false narrative, you could, without the feeling that you then had to sit around to be on hand to respond to replies, or to do much in-depth analysis. You COULD still take a comment from an open thread and go ahead and expand on it in an OP if people thought it was a good topic, but it was a sort of 'clearinghouse thread' for one-off comments so you didn't wind up with a zillion OP's on the site that got maybe 1-2 comments.

(BTW, Capeheart explained that he felt he HAD to go with the DOJ narrative, because he felt that in order to maintain his credibility, he needed to accept the official DOJ report, because there was no more authoritative investigation to be had, and he said he felt he had to accept 'something'. That, essentially, if you called for a DOJ investigation, you had to accept the results it presented. While I can understand this, I also find it somewhat troubling in a way, because it's actually the same as calling in the police, then saying 'because there was a police investigation, we must accept what the police report says'. And we know how well that works. So it's that dynamic of 'who do you trust? IS there anyone trustworthy out there? And if not, what does it actually take to restore trust in our institutions of 'justice'?)

And also, btw, feel free to treat this as an open thread, and post on anything you want, even completely unrelated.

March 16, 2015

Creationism teaching ban to be considered (in Scotland)

MSPs will today consider a call for official guidance to ban the teaching of creationism in schools amid ongoing reluctance by the Scottish Government and teachers to intervene.

The Scottish Secular Society wants official guidance to bar the presentation of “creation and of young Earth doctrines as viable alternatives to the established science of evolution, common descent and deep time”.

Its petition, which has 651 signatories included three Nobel Prize winners and numerous parents, teachers, educators and scientists, has been escalated to Holyrood’s Education and Culture Committee.

Teaching union the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) says restricting discussion of “particular theories or belief systems” to religious education classes only would be contrary to “cross-curricular approach” of the school curriculum.

Creationism teaching ban to be considered
March 15, 2015

So let's talk about email.

I was in a thread recently in which it was fairly obvious that people were looking to reporters and spokesmen from the administration as 'authoritative sources' on what is and isn't possible to do with email. The problem was, it was fairly obvious that nobody who works with computers was being consulted by either the reporters or the administration spokesmen. So how does email 'work'?

Computers do some pretty amazing things, and they do it by building tiny basic functions up into bigger, more complex functions. I'm going to skip a few layers of explanation that probably would only confuse most folks, and start midway up, at a point where what we think of as 'data' or 'files' are sort of 'readable' by humans, rather than talking about 1s and 0s and registers and gates and so on.

So what are some of the basic things computers do? They take input, like the mechanical key presses you do on your keyboard, they store it in various ways, they manipulate it, and they move it from place to place, sometimes within a single computer, sometimes handing it off to other devices. They also have clocks, and perform tasks at set times using those clocks, sometimes in millisecond increments, sometimes on human scales of hours or days or months. When you look at a screen, the image is refreshing constantly, more quickly than your eye can detect, at set intervals, with updated information if anything has changed.

Ok, that's all well and good, so what about email? Well, an email is just a stream of data that's been stored and formatted in a standard way, so that other programs can decide where it needs to 'go', and how to 'decode' it when it gets there. When I type into any email program, all I'm doing is giving a small processing program the basic message I want to send, and some of the information about who I am and who I want to send the email to and so on. That processing program then appends and prepends other bits of information to properly format my email, and then places it somewhere that another piece of code will find it, verify that it's properly formatted, and then move it on it's way. When it arrives at its destination, it's stored where the person who wants to read it can use another program to do so.

So far so good, right? Ok, now there are several ways to 'store' email. You can keep it in what's called a 'flat file', so that each email is a separate file in a folder somewhere, you can spool it together in a single (or several) big long file(s) along with other emails on the system (all of them, for a single 'user', or for some other combination of circumstances, depending on how your mail system works) or you can store it in a database. If a person knows where to look, and has the appropriate permissions in the system, they can actually go directly to that file and read it using any sort of text editor. (For the sake of simplicity, I'm not going to talk about extra layers of encryption here.)

In every case, though, that email exists in one or more files 'somewhere' until a command is issued to delete it, either manually, or by an automated scheduler. It might be on a central server, or it might be a local machine. But because it's really just another file or set of files in a directory on a machine, a small program (what is called a 'shell script') can be written to make copies of those files elsewhere, whether on the same machine or a different one. That script can be set to simply check the directories in which email is stored, look for any new activity since the last time anything was backed up, and copy anything new off to the 'archive' directory.

This isn't even really an 'email' function, although many email servers and programs have built in mirroring or archiving or whatever you want to call it. It's simply a basic functionality that exists in every major operating system, and is used all the time by the operating system itself for various other reasons. (An 'operating system' - windows, linux, unix, etc - is a set of programs that interact with each other to make the computer 'work'.)

So if some reporter is telling you that the government servers 'couldn't' back up email, the reality is that that reporter simply doesn't know enough about how computers work, and what can be done with a very simple script written by most competent programmers who understand a bit about scripting for their particular operating system. If some administration official is telling you 'it couldn't be done', they're actually telling you that they don't understand how computers work, and how they've worked ever since operating systems were first designed. You don't need to buy any 'extra software', although, again, most email software has such functionality already written into it anyway.

They're not 'lying' to you. They're just not talking about something they actually understand, and making incorrect assumptions about what 'can be done' by computers and programmers, and not actually talking to anyone who knows what they're talking about in IT. They might even have a basic understanding of computers, and just be assuming that unless the email programs have 'archiving functionality' built in, they "can't do it". But they're simply wrong, because any such back-up can be done at a much more basic level, external to any 'email program' or email server code.

March 8, 2015

Pizza Politics.

In view of the recent posts on how pizza company political donations go almost exclusively to Republicans, I'd like to offer up another pizza-based observation.

So you've got a group of people, roughly half of whom want to eat nothing but the most unhealthy of foods, and the other half or so of whom want to eat pizza. Everyone in each of the subgroups has been somewhat peer pressured by others in their group, such that no one in either group really dares to suggest that once in a while they try to get together for salads, say.

So one group goes off and eats all sorts of sugary, fatty, horribly unhealthy stuff.

And the other group goes off and eats pizza. Maybe not all THAT much better, but certainly far better in some ways.

But there's still internal tension. Because even in the pizza group, the people in the majority demand that toppings must be chosen by voting among the group, and that the votes have to be binding, and everyone must eat pizza with the toppings chosen by the majority. And time and again, the majority votes for the exact same sorts of toppings, and everyone is always forced to eat what they want. But they declare it's all perfectly fair to everyone, because it's majority rules. So every single time, it's anchovies and olives.

Over time, fewer and fewer people bother to vote, because they don't see the point. The outcome is basically predetermined. No matter how many times the votes are cast, the ham and pineapple people never win. And if they complain, they're mocked and told that if they don't want to eat anchovy and olive pizzas, they probably are just junk food eaters in disguise. And that if they want to eat ham and pineapple pizza, they just need to get more people to vote for ham and pineapple.

And heaven forbid they even suggest a salad. Cause somehow that's even worse than junk food.

It's a rough little analogy, and no doubt needs work, but just an observation.

March 6, 2015

So go google 'clinton email ambassador fired'...

Why am I telling you what to google, rather than providing a link?

Because I actually don't know which websites are right wing places and which aren't, and I'm not going to waste my time getting hit with 'shoot the messenger' attacks if I accidentally choose one to link to that turns out to be a RW one.

Morning Joe this morning talked for a while about how a 2012 Inspector General's report brought up the fact that under the HRC State Department an ambassador was fired, among other reasons, for using commercial email services rather than State Department mailservers, and for wanting a private non State Department wi-fi hotspot so he could use his private laptop. Using the google search term above returns a lot of hits, many of which, no doubt are RWers dancing in glee over this.

I now leave it to the pro and con Hillary warriors to fight it out as to why this is pertinent/another red herring.

Profile Information

Member since: Sat Mar 15, 2014, 09:23 AM
Number of posts: 14,733

About Erich Bloodaxe BSN

Erich S Bloodaxe, PhD, MS, BS, BA, BSN, ADN, RN. (It took me a while to figure out what I really wanted to do with my life ;) Democratic socialist by nature, if not by registration atm. Spent a lot of of time on Daily Kos, decided I needed to branch out a bit. Currently spending more time at jackpineradicals.org
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