Sick and tired

I'm sick and tired of people uncritically defending everything that's been going on for the past 13 months. Yes, there are scientists at work. No, that doesn't mean everything is above the table, or in good hands.

I'm sick and tired of people uncritically supporting every measure taken with the declared intent to curb the pandemic, but without explaining how it's supposed to help... or checking if it's actually working at all, never mind well.

I'm sick and tired of so-called skeptics uncritically believing anything supposed experts supposedly said... without even checking. You know that's the opposite of science, right?

That's enough, all of you. Cut it out.

Thankfully, it looks like these vaccines are safer than the initial panic made them look, even after being rushed to market with insufficient testing. That's great. So glad I was wrong about them.

It's still no reason to implement fascist measures like "vaccine passports". And by the way: we know they're in fact safe thanks to published, reviewed studies. Not because someone said so quoting some unnamed expert.

I still say those studies should have been made before bringing these vaccines to market. But we're at least partly to blame. Who clamored for deliverance from the dread virus when experts were telling us research can't be rushed?

We don't really listen to experts, do we. We treat them like religious figures, expecting their blessing for whatever we've already decided to do, and acting confused or pretending we didn't hear otherwise.

Well, stop pretending. Enough with the hypocrisy. I've had it up to here.

Tags: science, politics, education

Technologies and scale

Isn't it strange how as of late everyone talks obsessively about scale, as if everything we do absolutely has to be gigantic? It's starting to be a problem. No, seriously. Imagine wanting to buy a city car but all you can find in dealerships is 18-wheelers. Because, isn't it, scale only goes one way: up.

"But, Felix, how else?" you're going to ask. "What if I need to move around a shipping container's worth of stuff?"

Then you're obviously not on personal business anymore and you have to rethink the entire task. I mean, really? You don't even know the difference anymore?

Surprise! You've been dazzled by the propaganda, er, advertising, of big tech.

Half a year ago I was making plans to pick up progamming in Go again. It never happened. And the one big reason was that I dreaded having to deal with Go's arcane handling of modules.

Took me a while to figure out why, too. Turns out Go, being made by an internet giant for their own needs, assumes every project to be a large, complex application meant to serve millions. Hence all the scaffolding you're expected to put in place before doing anything else.

That's fine when you're tackling something big. But are you? Think carefully. Otherwise you might find yourself driving to work every day in an 18-wheeler, complaining about crowded roads and the lack of suitable parking. People already do that while driving ordinary cars, let alone anything bigger. Like an SUV.

So instead I picked up the Nim programming language. As with Go, this was my second try in four years. Except this time, Nim stuck. And a big reason is because it doesn't assume what my needs are. There's still a package manager to handle intricate dependencies... but I can also simply download a bunch of files and bundle them with my source code. No need for explicit "vendoring" or any such bureaucracy.

Oh, also Nim has terminal support in the standard library. Do you know how long Go programmers have been asking for something like that and nobody listened?

Nim is made by ordinary people. That's how it can be fit for human consumption.

Tags: technology, critique

The problem with problems

All right, time for some real talk.

Not everything you run into is a problem to solve.

Even if it is a problem, it's usually not yours to solve. Especially not without asking first.

Worse, even when it's your problem to solve, not all problems have a solution. Some only have partial, approximate solutions. Others, none. None at all.

I blame school. School puts into our heads this idea that all problems have exactly one solution, that we can find neatly explained at the end of the manual if we get stuck. And that we must solve every problem. Why? Teacher said so!

More generally, we're all taught from a young age that we're oh so smart and can figure out anything. And maybe that wouldn't be so bad if we weren't also taught to be nosy and meddle into everyone else's life. Except our own.

Of course we are. That way it's not us who suffer the consequences for getting it wrong. While when you fall down and it's your fault, it hurts twice.

And so, everyone is in this perpetual rush to prove their worth by being the fly in every ointment.

Mothers. Techies. Politicians. Tone it down already. You're killing us. For real.

All too often, the most help you can offer someone is to get out of the way. Mom taught me that. Moms can be wise.

Oh, and if you're going to actively solve problems? Offer material solutions, not pie-in-the-sky stuff that would do little good (and considerable harm). If you could deliver that is.

Problems are real. We are real. Deal with reality or else leave us alone.

Tags: philosophy, education

Social networking in the small

Let me tell you about the greatest little software you've never heard of. It's called Agora Project, and it's the creation of a young programmer from France.

Screenshot of a colorful file manager in a web app

Agora Project bills itself as team collaboration software, but mostly it has all the same features as a typical social network: news, forum, event calendar, image galleries... you name it. Also built-in instant messaging, and even video chat if you have access to a Jitsi server. Only user profiles are de-emphasized.

Read more... Tags: website, software, review

Pandemics and precautions

To all the moralizing assholes out there who are trying to make me feel guilty for being human:

Yes, we know the danger still lingers, and will remain for a long time yet.

Yes, we're still taking basic precautions, masks and all. Of course we are.

No, we're not going to act like survivors in a zombie movie. We must go on, come hell or high water. We have to live our lives. Yes, with all the danger around us. That how every living being has lived since there was life on Earth.

As for the increasingly absurd and arbitrary restrictions our respective governments keep imposing? Isn't it clear yet that none of them was at all effective? Sweden's much-criticized strategy wasn't some miracle cure... but it wasn't a complete disaster either. In fact, some countries that imposed harsh restrictions did little better than Sweden (see Romania), or for that matter much worse. Funny that. Seems the trick is to have any strategy at all.

So how about you stop with the holier-than-thou attitude. I avoid maskless people too, but it's just too hard to stay away from everyone all the time, for many reasons. And it's not going to save me. It's all a roll of the dice anyway. I avoid public transport too. Haven't gone anywhere interesting in 18 months. And it's destroying me, while doing little for my chances not to catch the virus.

If you're so convinced that hiding in a bunker is so important, why don't you do it and let the rest of us "recklessly" go outside to die.

Oh wait: it's because you're not in fact thinking of our well-being. You just want to control us. And the pandemic is giving you the ideal pretext.

Funny how it always boils down to patterns of abusive behavior, isn't it?

Tags: personal, society

Survived another solstice

Survived another solstice, and I have little to say about it. Doesn't help that I've moved my personal blogging elsewhere for the most part. A place where complete strangers care for a change. Kind of awesome, really.

So let's see... I've been writing, my first substantial piece of fiction in almost two years. Going to put it online under pseudonym however. One less thing on this website. It's not like it gets many visitors anymore. I've been mostly keeping it for the e-mail address. That and the vanity.

Been reading, too. The Demon-Haunted World, by Carl Sagan. A book published when I finished high school. Got it from a friend. She's big into paranormal phenomena, you see. If only more people genuinely wanted to know. There are many paths to the truth.

Speaking of which: early into the ongoing health crisis, all experts said a vaccine couldn't be brought to market until March, maybe even June 2021. You can't rush these things, you know, any more than you can rush a pregnancy. But don't you dare point out how an experimental vaccine, of a type never before tried, that raises huge logistical issues (the last thing we need in our predicament), maybe shouldn't have been rushed to market no matter how big the urgency. You know, like all other manufacturers refused to.

Apparently pointing all that out makes me "anti-vaccines". As opposed to, you know, healthily skeptical. Suit yourselves then, folks. But brace for impact.

Speaking of which: we had (legislative) elections earlier this month. In a perversion of all that people voted for, the disaster government that's been driving Romania through 2020 (bumping into every fence along the way) was replaced by a new one that can only be labeled as apocalyptic. That's what the upcoming recession will look like in places with a competent leadership doing all it can to avoid a collapse, anyway. Here? I have no words.

Happy holidays, folks. Enjoy while you still can. I mean that without a shred of irony. We'll soon need every warm, fuzzy memory we can still hold on to.

Tags: personal, science, education, politics

Using Go despite misgivings

Four years ago, in the autumn of 2016, I learned the Go programming language to use in some of my work. For various reasons, I only completed two small projects with it before switching to D, which worked out rather better, at least for a while. But over the past year this move started looking like a bet on the wrong horse. While my misgivings still stand, going back to Go looks more and more like the wise thing to do.

Let's start with the parts I still dislike about Go. For one thing, it's still the new Java in a number of ways, none of them good:

  • controlled by a large corporation;
  • restrictive language lacking expressive power, which leads to verbose code;
  • designed for back-end web development and little else.

And do I need to explain how bad it looks to have GitHub support baked right into your toolchain in 2020? We tried to warn you, folks.

Anyway. On the bright side, Go (still) has a lot going for it:

  • you can (re)learn it in one evening: less of a hyperbole than it seems!
  • lets you make apps for a dozen CPUs and operating systems from one install;
  • popular language is popular, and that becomes a qualitative jump.

Yes, really. Common wisdom says popularity is no sign of quality, but people working together build more, bigger and better things, because they can. I tried giving a chance to good but obscure languages, but it was hard to get much done without an ecosystem, and when already tiny communities wink out you're left all alone with a body of work that means nothing to most people.

It's no good, doing morally pure things in an ivory tower. I'd rather get dirty and help people for a change.

Tags: programming, critique

Reinventing the webbed wheel

Yesterday, Drew DeVault wrote a scathing critique of Firefox, or rather Mozilla. He's not the only one as of late. What I can't understand is everyone's insistence that the web is finished and we should all move to Gemini instead. It doesn't follow. Not at all. Y'all do know that Lynx is still maintained, right? So is w3m. Oh, you wanted some graphics too? Links2 lives as well. And there are more little browsers out there, that could be forked and revived if we need them to pick up the slack.

No, none of them can replace Web 2.0; that is indeed finished. But then, neither could Gemini.

So why the insistence? No, you couldn't write Lynx in a weekend, the way you can a Gemini browser. How is that an argument?

I recently completed a comparative study of three programming languages, disguised as a roguelike port. Took me three weeks. And it was a flight of fancy. Fooling around with toys. Could've been three months otherwise.

How short is the average hacker's attention span these days?

Here's a hint: started last summer, the Gemini protocol fizzled out quickly, and remained dormant until this spring, when a post on Hacker News rekindled the flame. Half a year later, it's already dying down again.

That's often the case with reinvented wheels. And I keep hearing how sometimes the wheel needs to be reinvented. Funny how people have trouble coming up with even halfway decent examples.

Tags: website, software, critique

Politics and plumbing

Imagine one day someone knocks on your apartment door. When you open, a guy bursts in, dressed in coveralls and carrying a toolbox. He immediately sets out to inspect your plumbing. "All the pipes are bust!" he declares. "We have to replace the whole installation." Then gets to work turning your home into a construction site, while all you can do is sit timidly in a corner going "er, ah... excuse me! what...?" In the evening he leaves at last. You tidy up a bit, but there's too much and you're too tired.

The next morning he shows up again. Then again. You refuse to open anymore, but he has the keys to your apartment. Somehow. After a while, you give up trying to tidy, at which point he starts missing for days at a time. But not before taking money out of your drawer.

When you finally confront him about it, he threatens to call the police on you for breach of contract.

"What contract?" you ask. "Why, you didn't know? I've been elected Chief Plumber for the building." There were no elections that you know of. "Oh, they didn't hold a vote anymore because nobody ran against me. But I have the support signatures from ten percent of the building's residents."

"But I didn't ask for any repairs!" you say. "I've been empowered by the people to make such decisions myself, for the common good" is the answer.

At this point, your spouse (who in all this time was increasingly vocal about the situation, but you weren't listening) grabs this guy by the collar and moves to throw him out. But instead of helping, you stand in the door. "Now, now, dear, we can't behave like savages. Let's take it up with the homeowner's association."

"They did this to us in the first place," your spouse points out. "Still!" you insist. "Violence is never the answer... is it?"

Tags: politics

September and such

This may be my only blog post this month, and it's not about any one thing.

Turns out Chris Aldrich saw my recent write-ups and replied on his own website, here and here. Cue assumptions and lack of understanding. Suit yourself, but know that other people also discovered the IndieWeb movement with delight, only to give up disappointed once they dug a little bit deeper.

(By the way, notice how I didn't need WebMentions to find out, but simply to check my referrals. Funny how that goes.)

In unrelated news, I got fan mail! Had forgotten what that was like, it's been way too long. Turns out people still use RSS after all. And something tells me my site-wide newsfeed, which has been there years before this blog, may well outlast it. Low-tech endures. Even when it's a little fiddly to use. That's called friction. Friction is good for you.

Got new friends too. The timing is kind of bad. Not feeling social these days. It's still all online, too. Glad to have y'all anyway. While it lasts.

The world is burning, and politicians are feeding the flames with our bodies.

Tags: personal