Conversation with a god


Of those who like The Lord of the Rings trilogy, only some can stomach The Silmarillion.  Tolkien was able to keep people rapt with attention in the former, but the latter is for die hards who wanted to understand how it all fit together.  I fall into the latter camp, but even so it took me several tries to get through.  Here now is an imaginary interview with the head honcho of that book, Eru Illuvatar, copied without permission from Gods Gossip, the god trade rag.

GG: So Eru, what makes you different from other gods?

E: Well, to start with, I give away the ending in the beginning.  Most gods try to keep all their cards to themselves, revealing only obliquely their designs.  Not me.  You get through the first chapter and you know where we end up.  I’m a little cagey about where things end up, of course.

GG: For example?

E: I all but told that schnook Melkor what’s going to happen.  He had a choice.  They all had choices. He could have not gone into the world.  Others didn’t.  He had the crap kicked out of him.  Twice!  I guess I gave him mush for brains.

GG: Your colleagues approach creation differently.  Are you a moral god?

E: I like to think so.  But I really don’t need to be in the bedroom of every elf, man, or (so help myself) dwarves.  And really to me it has never been about who kills who.  If it were, the theme would have been sedate, and I probably would have fallen asleep creating the world, and that wouldn’t have been good.  And all this praying.  I mean really.  Does anyone think I really am not paying attention?  No sycophants for me in my world.  Except for Manwë.

GG: You say you don’t care who kills who.  But then what was your goal?

E: I like balance.  Perhaps it’s not balance between good or evil as my unofficial biographer had put it, but just about power.  Melkor set himself up to topple everyone else, and then his successor tried the same thing.  In the end it was a close call in both cases.  I know it looks like I couldn’t

GG: How successful would you rate yourself on your ability to achieve balance?

E: Quite successful.  I mean it took two midgets and a lunatic to tip the scales.

GG: People always wonder about wizards.  Can you say a bit more about them?

E: Wizard this and that.  The biggest mistake a god can make is going the wizard route.  It’s really hard to achieve balance if you have a few people who have more weight than the others.  I mean, look at Harry Potter.  Why is he so great as opposed to others?  It really does gnaw at me.

GG: I’m sorry – I meant your wizards.

E: Emm.  Right.  Well, I really didn’t want them to play a big role in my world.  Really they were meant to be more of an information conduit, so that elves and men took the hint that there might yet be a problem.  I only gave them a little something extra to get peoples’ attention, but then my mind wandered in song.  As you’ve no doubt noticed, I gave free will to everyone, so far as they could tell.  Heh.

GG: Got a favorite god you look up to?

E: Me.  Who else?

GG: Right.  Just joking.  Thanks for taking the time with us today.

E: I take the time every day.

Ignore This Day!

Ever wonder how talk show hosts come up with topics?  I’ve been doing this blogging thing now for a month, and I am beginning to gain some appreciation for topic selection.  I’ve often been told that it is better to say nothing at all than to say something meaningless.  Not that I’ve listened, but that’s what I’ve been told.  There are an infinite number of things going on in this world, and a nearly infinite amount of things that I have no opinion on.  So that leaves open a question: if I want to blog regularly, what to talk about?

Today I could complain yet again about the Bush Administration and their perversion of justice by hiring cronies.  I could complain about the fact that they blew the budget by $482 billion, much of which was spent on a war that was mismanaged from the beginning.  I could add to the sympathetic sighs that singer Amy Winehouse continues to go through her travails, or that Kelsey Grammar goes through his.

Instead, this space is reserved for something positive to say about the world.  Not so much today, eh?

“Law Enforcement” Stupidity Harms People

People who are in the country illegally take many risks.  They risk being deported and not allowed back into the country.  They risk not being able to take advantage of many aspects of the financial market for fear of being deported.  They often risk their lives to get into America in the first place.  And while it may seem reasonable for them to be arrested because they have entered the country illegally, that doesn’t mean they should be mistreated by the government while in detention.  Such was the case with Juana Villegas, as the New York Times reported.

While in custody she went into labor, and was not permitted to see her husband in the delivery room.  After the birth she was not permitted to breast feed her child or to have a breast pump.  It is generally believed that breast fed babies are able to retain their mothers’ immunities longer than those who use formula.  Many branches of our own government encourage breast feeding.  And so by unnecessarily separating the mother from the child, the police effectively harmed the child, who is an American citizen and is eligible for social assistance.  The child having already become sick once, is now costing Tennessee taxpayers.

This is all as a result of a program called 287G that turns police officers into immigration agents.  The behavior of the police in Tennessee is precisely the result of design and desire of the Bush Administration.  This is sad, because although this president has many flaws, one of his supposed bright spots was to be immigration reform.  Unfortunately even there matters have gotten worse, as a fence is erected along the California border, and children suffer because of stupid policies such as that of this town in Tennesee.

One of the many remarkably stupid things in Mrs. Villegas’ case was the absurd statement made by the corrections official that they routinely bar medical equipment like a breast pump from a jail.  It demonstrates either ignorance of the benefits, incompetence at being able to service inmates’ medical needs, blindness to the fact that an illegal immigrant is not the sort that is going to turn a breast pump into a bong, or all of the above.  I wonder if they keep walking sticks away from the blind.

iPhone Rollout Redux?


Well, July 11th, iPhone Day, came and went.  The Believers waited and most got their phones, but even I could not have predicted the farsical mess that then ensued.  Apple was unable to handle the registration of some 1 million phones in the period of a weekend, while their provisioning infrastructure ground to a halt.  This is the added kick in the pants Believers must really enjoy.

While we wait for news to leak out of Apple as to what actually happened, let me speculate just a bit.  Let us assume the following statements are true:

  1. Apple did in fact test their provisioning capability prior to rollout.
  2. That of the three days the million phones were sold, most were sold and activated in the first twenty-four hours.  In particular, let’s assume a 70%/20%/10% distribution.  I don’t actually know the real one, but we have reason to believe that the load was top heavy on Friday, as problems dissipated later in the weekend.
  3. There were a average of two transactions per registration.  That is- one to provision the phone with services, one to create MobileMe or whatever additional functionality that Apple offers.  Normally we’d include a third for creation of an iTunes account, but since we’re talking about Believers they already have their account.

700,000 sales times 2 transactions over 24 hours would be about 16 transactions per second.  That’s really not that many transactions, considering that benchmarking systems measure that number in the hundreds and thousands.  This makes one wonder: what if we introduced latency into a transaction.  Latency can occur for many reasons, but the biggest one would be some sort of wide area communication.  For instance, an 80 millisecond round trip time would mean that one might not be able to process any more than about 12.5 transactions per second.  Now add a second round trip and you cut the transaction rate in half.

As to Apple’s testing, if they tested their provisioning system either on a local area network or on a network that had lower latency than the time needed to complete the day’s transactions, they wouldn’t have caught the problem.  This is actually a classic concern that most database vendors fully understand, and it is often the reason to use stored procedures.

Anyway, that’s my guess.

Let’s Outlaw Religion before outlawing homosexual marriages

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One of the odd “advantages” of being married and gay in San Francisco must be that couples get to have weddings every couple of years.  At first San Francisco passed a domestic partner law back in the 1990s and then they started issue marriage licenses under Mayor Gavin Newsom.  At some point those were invalidated and now couples can once again get married.  But wait, California has an initiative on the ballet to overturn the legality of those marriages.  Presumably this debate will seesaw from one side to the other, and each time it becomes legal to do so, a gay couple can marry.  The county clerk’s office makes out like a bandit until everyone gets tired of the game in the process.

Here’s the problem: each time a law is passed that forbids gay marriage, someone’s rights are taken away, in this case the right to be recognized as married, to have spousal rights, and to take advantage of other perqs only offered to married couples.

If the government is going to discriminate in such a way, we should ask either who it helps or who it hurts if they don’t.  One could easily see why the government might need to restrict movements of someone with an infectious illness.  One could agree with the argument for not giving driving licenses to the blind.  But here, who is hurt if a marriage license is given to a gay couple?  Nobody.  Absolutely nobody.

It might make a person feel good to take someone else’s rights away, until that person has his or her rights taken away.  Suppose we forbid the practice of religion?  I could argue that there are immense social benefits to doing so.  In fact I might continue that line of thought in the future.  But keeping in mind the Spanish Inquisition, the recent abuse children in the Catholic church, and everything that went on in between (including standing by while many died in WWII), we could make a strong argument that religion is harmful, because we’ve seen evidence of it being harmful.  We cannot say the same with gay marriages.

So let’s outlaw religion first, at least for a while, and see if the abuses curb.  If not, then let’s agree to keep government out of the church.  But let’s also agree to keep government out of the bedroom.