Monday, 8 October 2018

Liberation from Trump

I liked my Quora answer (see link on the question) so here it is again…

A way to look at it is to start from the distinction between lying and bullshitting.

Lying: construct a consistent narrative that distorts or replaces facts with falsehoods. A liar is vulnerable to fact checking. Kavanaugh is a case in point. There is evidence that he actively covered up some of the facts that work against him; he desperately needed the FBI investigation to be limited in scope.

Bullshitting: saying whatever it takes to get you through the moment. Even if you contradict yourself. A bullshitter is much more immune to fact checking because anyone who supports them has already repeatedly had to get past the point of accepting that they are lying. That is Trump.

Had a significant part of Kavanaugh’s story been falsified, he would have been done. Trump, by lying in small increments, has inoculated himself against exposure of bigger lies.

The psychology of it is that of the long con. Suck someone into believing something small that is improbable. They now have to admit being fooled to back out; if they are not up for that, suck them into believing something bigger that is unlikely to be true. Take it in small steps so they cannot back out when they are forced to believe something really totally improbable. To do so, they have to admit they have been fooled by all the previous steps.

And no one wants to admit to being a fool. However, everyone who has gone down this path actually knows they are a fool even if they won’t admit it. In the UK, only 5% of scams are actually reported. Sexual violence has even worse stats; broadly speaking sociopaths win when society enables them by allowing victims to feel embarrassed.

If you are a Trump True Believer and you suddenly hit the Emperor’s New Clothes moment, embrace it. You are now free. Do not be embarrassed – there is a whole world out there waiting for your liberation and happy for you if you get there.

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Kavanaugh: What does the FBI need to investigate?

How much investigating does the FBI need to do to determine that Kavanaugh is not suited to the US Supreme Court?

Exhibit #1: his 1 July calendar entry with the rather obvious smoking gun. Why would be be going for “skis” with a list of people Ford said were at the party if  she was mistaken about details or making it all up?

No way she could have seen the calendar in advance.

So I disagree with the need for the FBI to do much digging – there ARE facts backing her up. And Kavanaugh provided them. Even if Lindsey Graham tried to cover that up with a crazy tirade as soon as Rachel Mitchell got to the point of uncovering that.

Go to 1:11:00 here – Rachel Mitchell asks him about the “small gathering” involving the specific names in her allegation – himself, Mark Judge, PJ Smith and Leland Ingham were there plus one other male whose name Ford didn’t know, and the people were drinking. He denied flatly that he was at a gathering fitting that description.

He goes on to deny all other details of the incident. 1:12:29 – she goes on to his calendars:

He agrees it is all his and was done at the time and was not changed since 1982. He explains his whole calendar thing then requests a 15 minute break.

After a round of Democrat questioning about his yearbook, Mitchell is back at 1:37:30 and goes back to the calendars and goes to the “July 1st entry”: “Go to Timmy’s for skis with Judge, Tom, PJ, Bernie and Squi.” After he goes through the first part she didn’t read out, she asks for clarification that “Judge” is Mark Judge; he agrees. Asked if PJ is PJ Smith, he agrees and adds a surname for Tim. She goes on to the August 7 gathering and he looks nervous reading out details. She goes on to details of how police would handle such a case and other unrelated issues.

Back to Democrats. Still pushing on the FBI investigation point.

And whoosh! She’s gone and the Senator Graham rant takes off over 1:48:36 – “most unethical sham”? Really? He made damn sure Mitchell did not take another look at the smoking gun.

Exhibit #2: the edited Wikipedia page supporting Kavanaugh’s “non-standard” interpretation of “devil’s triangle”.

So what’s to investigate?
  • Study the entire record of the Kavanaugh hearing and check for inconsistencies such as his claim he never drank weekday nights vs. going for “skis” (brewkis = beers) on 1 July
  • Compare the 1 July entry with the Ford allegations
  • find out whose IP address corresponds to the WikiPedia edit
 All that should not take much more than a day.

Friday, 8 June 2018

Solve the right problem – dustless chalk

Here is a lesson on how not to do new tech. Make sure you know first what problem you are solving.

Chalk was the greatest educational technology ever. You can write anything with it, draw, do arbitrary mathematical notation, correct as you go.

The only real problem is that it makes a lot of dust when you erase.

So: we need dustless chalk.

Instead, they gave us whiteboards. Slightly less erasing dust, true. But walk into a room with a chalkboard and you can see instantly if you have all the equipment you need. Chalk missing? Walk next door and grab some. The whiteboard introduces a new problem: a line of pens that look inviting but all are dry.

We needed dustless chalk – that didn’t do it. So what do we get next?

The overhead projector. Works well – you can pre-make slides or write as you go (even with erasable pens). But it introduces a new problem: the burnt out bulb.

All we wanted was dustless chalk.

Next: computer presentation. No dust at all. Very pretty slideshows with animations possible. But now we have multiple points of failure – projector bulb dies, computer won’t talk to projector, slides turn out to be the wrong size for the equipment, you brought the wrong adapter … and worst of all, not even a whiteboard as a backup plan in many lecture rooms.

All we wanted was dustless chalk!

Then after all this, one day, I was giving a talk and started thinking: “If only someone would invent a presentation tool where you could edit as you were going.”

Read my paper “Teaching without technology” to see where this went. No, I didn’t mention dustless chalk. But I should have.

Remember always when designing new tech: keep your eye on the problem you’re solving.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

iPhone slowdown: class action against predatory lawyers?

Some people are threatening a class action lawsuit against Apple after the company admitted slowing iPhones down to protect them against sudden shutdown when the battery is weak.

Apple’s biggest mistake was failing to announce this feature to users. For those who want speed at all costs and don’t mind the risk of the phone suddenly shutting down, maybe Apple could provide an off switch for the feature.

The threatened lawsuit is idiotic, notwithstanding Apple’s poor PR.


Because Apple didn’t pour go-slower gunk into your phone ruining it permanently. It is a software fix and a software fix can be turned off.

What actual damage have plaintiffs suffered? Their phone sometimes runs slower instead of shutting off without warning when the battery is below par. That is not actual damage. It is the sort of design trade-off engineers make as a matter of routine.

If there is a case for a class action lawsuit, it is one by Apple shareholders who stand to lose from any gratuitous drop in Apple’s share price arising from an idiotic class action like this.

See the first class action filing here.