“researchers […] may have irrefutably debunked that idea”

This instance is from https://www.inverse.com/mind-body/male-female-body-evolution, but I don’t want to pick on that instance in particular. I see this stuff all the time in contemporary writing[1]. You want your prose to be “punchy”, even “hard-hitting”, so you choose words like “irrefutably debunked”, but you don’t wanted to be caught saying something that turns out not to be accurate, so you add a weasel word like “may”. I suppose “may have cast some doubt on that idea” just doesn’t have quite the same “zing”.

[1] On the World Wide Web, which is (just about (weasel words)) the only stuff I read any more.

Trigger Warning Rant


And this is from before the 2016 election.

Reminds me of something I saw on Reddit once about taking responsibility for one’s own neuroses. If your social anxiety colors your interactions with the people around you, you have to expect those people to be affected by your social anxiety. To put it more directly, if you act crazy toward other people you shouldn’t be surprised if they act crazy back.

Signed-Only Mails Considered Harmful

Signed-Only Mails Considered Harmful

This got me thinking.  I could make an argument that encrypted communication is harmful and signed but not encrypted is good.  Philosophically, I favor openness and transparency and disapprove of keeping secrets and the insidious “plausible deniability”.  If you’re tempted to keep what you’re doing secret, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it. And likewise if you think you might want to pretend in the future that you didn’t really do it.

Signing and not encrypting your communication indicates that you intend to stand by what you say, and that you don’t care who knows about it.  That you’re proud of what you’re saying.

Now I realize that there are evil people in the world that might retaliate with violence against perfectly commendable communications, so it becomes necessary for perfectly commendable people to keep their perfectly commendable communications secret.  And I understand that it would be better for those poor souls if we all encrypted all our communication all the time so theirs would not stick out.  But keep in mind that the evil, violent people are the biggest keepers of secrets.  Wouldn’t it be better for everyone if openness and transparency and not plausible deniability were the norm, and secrets drew attention as exceptions?


How Social Change Actually Happens

The Most Intolerant Wins: The Dictatorship of the Small Minority  by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

I don’t really care for his writing, but this idea is important, and it’s something I hadn’t thought much about before.

I do like this parenthetical quote:

My heuristic is that the more pagan, the more brilliant one’s mind, and the higher one’s ability to handle nuances and ambiguity. Purely monotheistic religious such as Protestant Christianity, Salafi Islam, or fundamentalist atheism accommodate literalist and mediocre minds that cannot handle ambiguity.

The point is that the vast majority of people are tolerant (in most any question) and so will accommodate a tiny minority who are not.


When Can Police Use a ‘Bomb Robot’ to Kill a Suspect? | TIME

Gloria Browne-Marshall, an associate professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said the incident was most concerning because of what it means for future cases: What are the parameters surrounding the use of such technology on civilian soil? “If we’re going to start using—as a country—this kind of drone technology and robots on a civilian population, then we’re easing into a civil war,” she told TIME. “We’re easing into one because we have civilians who believe that the government is not protecting them, and we have a government who believes that civilians are armed enough that they have to use military tactics.”

Source: When Can Police Use a ‘Bomb Robot’ to Kill a Suspect? | TIME

Found the problem, exactly as suspected

Blown Head Gasket
Head gasket blown out between #3 and #4

Just a couple of days after it passed its annual emissions test, my old Mazda B2200 pickup suddenly started running really poorly and making a very inauspicious knocking noise. I thought it might be about to throw a rod! The first thing I did to try to figure out just how bad it was was pull all the spark plugs and ran a compression test. The readings: #1 170 psi, #2 160 psi, #3 and #4 both 30 psi! Judging by the loud knocking noise I figured I had some kind of severe mechanical problem, like a broken lifter or rocker arm, but on two adjacent cylinders? I didn’t know what to make of it (I’m just a wannabe mechanic) until the next morning. The diagnosis must have come to me in my sleep: The head gasket is blown out between the #3 and #4 cylinders.

Not the usual blown head gasket where the oil and the coolant mix and the engine overheats. The coolant came out clear, and I didn’t even drain the oil before I took it all apart. Here’s a YouTube video with the same problem: https://youtu.be/_GTL5GbMNJc

Taking it all apart was, of course, a non-trivial undertaking since this is one of the very last carburetor-equipped vehicles sold in North America. The carburetor is computer controlled and has dozens of vacuum and electrical connections, There were three rigid pipes from the exhaust manifold back into the air cleaner, and coolant is routed all the way around the engine and through the intake manifold. I’ll be adding more posts to document the disassembly, inspection, and If nothing more serious is found, the reassembly.