Knowing Humans

Study their behaviors. Observe their territorial boundaries. Leave their habitat as you found it. Report any signs of intelligence.

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Thursday, November 03, 2022

2020 Election Stolen Fair and Square

The 2020 election was "stolen" fair and square: via Russia collusion hype, Ukraine impeachment charade, Reade/Hunter non-coverage, pandemic politicization, pandemic election regulations, de-platforming, vaccine announcement delay, etc.

Isaac Saul at Skeptic.com ably debunks Democrat claims that 2016 was stolen, and Trumper claims that 2020 was stolen (with a detailed focus on Georgia).

Republicans Ted Olson, Mitch McConnell et al. analyze the 64 cases Trumpers filed against the results -- losing all cases but one. Both authors have long been demonized by Democrats -- Olson for his involvement in Bush v. Gore, and McConnell for packing the Supreme Court with conservatives.

Mollie Hemingway at The Federalist complains that Olson's team are anti-Trump, and that their analysis doesn't explore the losing cases in detail. But Hemingway doesn't even try to defend Trumper claims of hacked voting machines and fraudulent ballots, dismissing those long-debunked claims as "red herrings". Hemingway instead focuses on pandemic-related procedural changes and technicalities like having changed counties in the month before the election. Hemingway's article doesn't dare charge that any of these issues resulted in a single faked vote for Biden. Turns out she's as embarrassed by Trump's fraud claims as are the Never Trumpers she vilifies.

The Democrats didn't need to secretly fake ballots or hack voting counts in order to steal the 2020 election. They media "stole" it for them in broad daylight, and then bragged about it.

Friday, October 28, 2022

What They Don't Tell You About Airtags

  • The Find My page on icloud.com does not show AirTags.
  • The FindMy app in MacOS (Monterey 12.6) does not reliably show you the locations of your AirTags. On one Monterey Mac, Find My took 24 hours before it started showing their location, while my other Monterey Mac still hasn't listed any AirTags after a week. All flavors of Find My can locate all my Macs and iPhones, so this is not an AppleID problem, but instead apparently an Apple policy. I suspect they are trying to discourage free-riding by people (like me) who don't use iOS. (I use an old SIM-less iPhone to register my AirTags, to find them if I ever need to.)
  • Unlike with Tile, you cannot share your AirTags with anyone. So only my AppleID can see the locations of our pets.
  • AirTags have anti-stalking privacy features that limit their usefulness as anti-theft trackers. (Admittedly, Apple advises not to use them to track stolen items.) Anti-stalking features kick in only when your AirTag is out of Bluetooth contact with any device on which your AppleID is signed in.
    • If your AirTag is away from your devices for >N hours, then it will beep for about 10 seconds. N seems to be about 24, but Apple presumably can change this at any time. I've seen this happen for 2 AirTags, but haven't yet experienced a 2nd beep on either.
    • If your AirTag is away from your devices but some other iOS device remains in Bluetooth range while the device is moving, then iOS warns you that you might be being stalked. If the unattended AirTag remains in range for >10 minutes, iOS will offer the option to make the the AirTag beep. You can even do this on Android, if you manually run Apple's tracker scanner app.
  • These anti-stalking features mean that smart car thieves can find your AirTag in only 10 minutes, while dumber thieves might notice it when they drive the car a day later.
  • There are YouTube videos explaining how to remove the speaker from your AirTag. Doing so made my AirTag barely audible to me only if I hold it against my ear, but inaudible a foot away.
  • Of the 2 4-packs of AirTags I recently bought, one had no removable speaker, and yet still makes the full beeping noise. Has Apple changed their design to foil AirTag silencing?
  • iPhone 11 and newer can use Ultra-Wide Band to pinpoint any AirTag's location to within inches. I don't know yet if this capability is restricted to the AirTag's owner, versus being available to potential stalking targets. If the latter, then smart car thieves with a modern iPhone will be able to find any AirTag you hide in your car.
There are so many iPhones here in the Bay Area that my AirTags got pinged every 5 minutes during a test drive -- even while sitting in a parking lot. By comparison, my Tile got pinged only twice in 30 minutes.
So I'll be hiding muted AirTags in our cars and e-bikes, and hoping that car thieves don't read my blog.

Thursday, September 01, 2022

Claremont Theist Embarrassed By Theology

In the conservative Claremont Review, Spencer Klavan uses the Marvel multiverse to launch a survey of many-worlds theory that starts well but stumbles badly halfway through.

Klavan ably summarizes the Marvel multiverse and the related science of quantum physics. He touches on the idea of possible intelligent design in the life-friendly fixing of our universe's two-dozen fundamental constants. He even admits that we can dispense with a designer if we take the simple but breathtaking step of considering all possible universes to be equally real. But his stumbling begins when he posits that this step is just hubris from physicists, instead of exploring the academic philosophy behind the idea: Modal Realism.

Klavan is trivially correct to complain that multiversal realism should not pretend to be a scientific/empirical truth, on par with quantum physics or Big Bang cosmology. But he uses this strawman to ignore the possibility that a multiverse theory can be epistemologically superior to his preferred theory (involving a loving God who "invites" humankind to know "His glory"). Klavan simply shrinks from the challenge of comparing two philosophical theories: 1) that all universes are equally real, or 2) our universe was created and fine-tuned by a loving superhero of unknown origin, operating via unknowable mechanisms, and who reportedly has an obsessive interest in H. sapiens.

Here is the closest he can bring himself to a bake-off between those two theories:

They are competing theologies—one of them handed down to us through ancestral wisdom, the other dictated to us by scientistic pseudo-clerics and by the spirit of our fractious age. One way of adjudicating between theologies, though, is to ask whether they can inspire art that expresses the full range of man’s nature in a satisfying way. 

That's it. No discussion of parsimony. No discussion of the epistemological trade-offs in the two offerings. Just a fawning hand-wave toward "ancestral wisdom", coupled with a drive-by ad-hominem against "scientistic pseudo-clerics". And then a silly attempt to use artistic track records as a way to adjudicate the truth-value of competing theories.

The giveaway, of course, is that Klavan calls them "competing theologies" instead of "competing epistemologies". In doing so, he circularly smuggles into his argument his foregone conclusion: that any fundamental explanation of existence should be considered a "theology". With his unquestioned assumption that any theory of reality must posits gods (or their equivalents), it's easy to shill for your society's traditional sky-fathers.

The subtext here is amusing: Klavan recognizes that the crutch of "theology" is embarrassing for any modern philosophy, and his only defense of it is to allege that the other side is guilty of it too. Only a few centuries ago, theologians were proud of their vocation, and claimed to have multiple independent proofs of the existence of their god. (Aquinas had five!) Now, even theists accidentally use "theology" as a kind of intellectual slur. Game over.

Claremont is supposed to represent the pinnacle of current intellectual conservatism. Is this really the best they've got?

Saturday, April 02, 2022

The Drug of Myth Arc

 Here are my favorite live-action sci-fi/fantasy/superhero dramas:

  1. The Boys
  2. Battlestar Galactica
  3. Westworld
  4. Heroes
  5. Legion
  6. Humans
  7. The Expanse
  8. Watchmen
  9. The Umbrella Academy
  10. Jessica Jones
  11. The Man in the High Castle

Why do these shows all lean so heavily on Myth Arc?  Can't anyone do a riveting long-arc fantasy series that doesn't rely on glacial revelation of some secret plan that some of the characters have known from the beginning? 

You could argue that the alternative would just be a soap opera, but there have been great ones: Sopranos, Vikings, Rome, House of Cards. I suppose having a Myth Arc has since Babylon 5 been table stakes for a fantasy series. (Even more so now in the age of streaming, which doesn't worry about viewers starting in the middle). You could in theory write a fantasy series without a Myth Arc (or a comedy series without romantic tension), but it would be like opening a coffee/tea shop without any caffeine on the menu. Your prospective customers would just patronize somebody else willing to deal them the drug they demand.

Monday, January 03, 2022

My Million Dollar Pandemic Mistake

I moved my 401Ks from equities to bonds on 2020-03-09, the week before the market bottom. For various reasons, I did not move back into equities until May 2021. I finally admitted to myself that I shouldn't try to avoid a market peak if I obviously couldn't avoid a market trough.

But my fundamental mistake wasn't merely that I tried to time (i.e. outsmart) the market. My real mistake was rationalizing the pandemic as a one-time excuse to end my 25-year streak of following Less Antman's investment strategy. Less explains it better than I could, below. (And no, I can't claim that his "check the stores" test justifies my mistake. I work in e-commerce, and we were never closed.)

(1) The wealth of a society is in the goods and services produced, and not in the monetary system. Check the stores: they're still open, providing lots of goods and services, and owning shares of the world's most profitable businesses makes your wealth as safe as the continued provision of those goods and services (if they disappear, money is useless).

(2) SOMEBODY has to own stocks at all times: the so-called "flight to quality" actually represents some people panicking out of the true source of wealth and handing ownership of these sources at fire sale prices to other people in exchange for green pieces of paper with pictures of presidents on them that aren't guaranteed to be redeemable for anything.  Someone once described a bear market as "that time period during which stocks are returned to their rightful owners."

(3) Diversify, diversify, diversify.  Own lots of businesses in lots of industries in lots of countries.

(4) The much higher rewards of equities over the long term result primarily from the uncertainty of returns over the short term.  Thank the volatility: it is your best friend in the end. Here is why:

Stockholders are owners of businesses, and owners get paid last, after employees, contractors, suppliers, and creditors. So changes in available revenue affect owners first, and that is the source of a great deal of uncertainty and occasional outright panic. Point granted: stocks are much more volatile than bonds and cash, and employees have a much more predictable flow of wages than their bosses do of dividends and capital gains. Yet since owners are paid last, in the long run they can be expected to be paid most — not always and certainly not in all companies, but for someone who owns a globally diversified portfolio of the world’s productive businesses, it’s a pretty good guess. My purpose in life is to tell my clients this as often as necessary.

So might I suggest that you remind yourself during scary times, why you’re invested in stocks? You’re providing the service of accepting the short-term uncertainty that others want to avoid. You’re the rock, the stable source of capital for businesses, without which market economies cannot function. Be a rock and react like a rock to the non-news that human nature goes through periodic bouts of extreme fear.