Mimsy Were the Borogoves

We’ve been outracing our mythology for three centuries, but it is a shadow we cannot replace. We’ve been crying bloody tears at the lack of it, frantically trying to reattach it with whatever comes to hand. But in our frenzy we are never asked the right question until too late: “Man, why are you crying?”

Not asking, we choose our Lord, but we never decide upon Him. We are fickle subjects, and we choose a fickle God. — Jerry Stratton (FlameWar: The Passion of the Electric Messiah)

Ace of Spades HQ—Friday, April 2nd, 2021

Irreverant, insightful, and often even informative, I suggest putting Ace of Spades HQ on your regular reading list. “Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit upon his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.”

Ace is always a necessary read, but he has been on fire lately. Or in pudding.

The TRS-80 Color Computer 2—Wednesday, March 24th, 2021

My second computer, sometime around 1987, was Radio Shack’s Color Computer 3. It was an amazing computer, and, combined with Microware’s OS-91 operating system, well ahead of its time. A very inexpensive computer with a Unix-like operating system and true multitasking, shared graphics libraries, protected memory, and modern programming tools. I continued using that computer into the nineties. When I gave it up, I didn’t replace it. There was nothing to replace it with. It was a phenomenal computer/software combination that soured me on either Windows or Macintosh for at least a year, and which I continued to miss until Mac OS X.

So when I started researching the history of the personal computer for a novel I’m writing, the predecessors to the CoCo 3 were especially interesting to me.

I acquired an “untested” Tandy Color Computer 2 at the end of July 2019 and happily it works great. This is a late version of the model, which I was interested in mainly because it includes the ability to use lowercase as an accidental upgrade. It still fascinates me how lowercase was such a rare feature on early computers. No lowercase made word processing difficult at best. Lowercase mods were probably the most common aftermarket mod for any home computer that didn’t already have it.

Extended Color BASIC does not support the lowercase built in to the late model video display generator, but it is there if you know where to look for it. This was the last version of the Color Computer 1 and 22 before the Color Computer 3 came out.

One thing using this old computer does is reinforce the prejudice I held against computers that used unmodified television sets for video displays. I used the TRS-80 Model 1—a 1978 computer that I purchased used in 1980—until a house fire in 1987 melted it. I used it for nearly ten years because it came with a monitor that provided crisp (for the time, at least) text at 64 characters per line.

Even at only 32 characters per line, the Color Computer 2’s RF output to a modern television is far from crisp. I would never want to use this computer for word processing, or even for programming anything longer than a few lines of BASIC. That’s part of why I wrote superBASIC and the various tools I use for verifying old Rainbow magazine code on the Macintosh.

Fraud is a constant—Friday, March 19th, 2021

“We have technologies that can identify dead voters the moment they cast a ballot. We can identify people who are out-of-state, voted twice, are underage, live in a vacant lot or a UPS or FedEx postal box. We can even show a photo of that vacant lot so you can see where your fake neighbor claims to live. Literally, the second their ballot is counted, they can be flagged as a likely fraud. Yes, we can deploy that technology today. We have done it in the insurance industry for decades.”

“We can deploy technologies to identify likely fraud within seconds of when it happens.”

I can’t speak to the first part of this article, but the ending is absolutely true. It is completely crazy that when we vote we are not employing the techniques—most of them simple—that have been used for decades in other industries—insurance, banking, and other forms of accounting—to identify fraud in time to stop it.

The media is the scorpion—Wednesday, March 17th, 2021

“The Washington Post was busted for publishing fabricated quotes from an anonymous source, attributing them to a sitting president, and using those quotes as a basis to speculate the president committed a crime. The invented Donald Trump quotes, which related to a fight over election integrity in Georgia, were cited in Democrats’ impeachment brief and during the Senate impeachment trial.

“The fake quotes, bad as they were, are just one of many ways the media have done a horrible job of covering election disputes in the state.”

Remember this, when you hear in the news that Trump did this, or Trump did that, that the election was litigated and no fraud was found. The media lies. They lie about everything. They lied about the quotes and thought they wouldn’t get caught; they lied about the court cases and didn’t care if they got caught or not. Like the scorpion in the river, it’s what they do. Even if, like the scorpion, they destroy themselves as they destroy America.

The PUC had no authority to hike electricity prices—Wednesday, March 17th, 2021

“At the heart of the PUC’s decision seems to be a belief in market theory over actual markets. When the decision was made as prices were trading as low as $1,200, D’Andrea stated, ‘I think we all expected that when we were in load shed we would be at $9,000.’ In other words, the commissioners did not care what market prices actually were. They were going to impose their vision on the market, regardless…

“The PUC’s renegade action should not surprise us. For much of the last decade, seemingly no regulation, no subsidy was beyond the PUC’s consideration for what once had been the most competitive and successful electricity market in the world.”

Why is it that whenever we’re told “markets failed”, we find a bureaucracy behind the scenes pretending they know the market better than the consumers actually using it?

The True History of the Hare and the Tortoise—Wednesday, March 17th, 2021
The Hare on Watch

For a long time there was doubt with acrimony among the beasts as to whether the Hare or the Tortoise could run the swifter. Some said the Hare was the swifter of the two because he had such long ears, and others said the Tortoise was the swifter because anyone whose shell was so hard as that should be able to run hard too. And lo, the forces of estrangement and disorder perpetually postponed a decisive contest.

But when there was nearly war among the beasts, at last an arrangement was come to and it was decided that the Hare and the Tortoise should run a race of five hundred yards so that all should see who was right.

“Ridiculous nonsense!” said the Hare, and it was all his backers could do to get him to run.

“The contest is most welcome to me,” said the Tortoise, “I shall not shirk it.”

O, how his backers cheered.

Feeling ran high on the day of the race; the goose rushed at the fox and nearly pecked him. Both sides spoke loudly of the approaching victory up to the very moment of the race.

“I am absolutely confident of success,” said the Tortoise. But the Hare said nothing, he looked bored and cross. Some of his supporters deserted him then and went to the other side, who were loudly cheering the Tortoise’s inspiriting words. But many remained with the Hare. “We shall not be disappointed in him,” they said. “A beast with such long ears is bound to win.”

“Run hard,” said the supporters of the Tortoise.

And “run hard” became a kind of catch-phrase which everybody repeated to one another. “Hard shell and hard living. That’s what the country wants. Run hard,” they said. And these words were never uttered but multitudes cheered from their hearts.

Then they were off, and suddenly there was a hush.

The Hare dashed off for about a hundred yards, then he looked round to see where his rival was.

“It is rather absurd,” he said, “to race with a Tortoise.” And he sat down and scratched himself. “Run hard! Run hard!” shouted some.

“Let him rest,” shouted others. And “let him rest” became a catch-phrase too.

And after a while his rival drew near to him.

“There comes that damned Tortoise,” said the Hare, and he got up and ran as hard as could be so that he should not let the Tortoise beat him.

“Those ears will win,” said his friends. “Those ears will win; and establish upon an incontestable footing the truth of what we have said.” And some of them turned to the backers of the Tortoise and said: “What about your beast now?”

“Run hard,” they replied. “Run hard.”

The Hare ran on for nearly three hundred yards, nearly in fact as far as the winning-post, when it suddenly struck him what a fool he looked running races with a Tortoise who was nowhere in sight, and he sat down again and scratched.

“Run hard. Run hard,” said the crowd, and “Let him rest.”

“Whatever is the use of it?” said the Hare, and this time he stopped for good. Some say he slept.

There was desperate excitement for an hour or two, and then the Tortoise won.

Mark the date for π Day!—Wednesday, March 10th, 2021
Southern Living Date Pie

What’s better than pecan pie? Pecan pie with dates!

You’re going to lose an hour on Sunday. Make up for it with pie! And take advantage of the ability to celebrate Pi Day on a natural celebratory day! The last time Pi Day was on a Sunday was 2010; the next time is 2027. Invite friends and family to drop in for a slice.

And if you’re in a state or community that will arrest you because you had people over for pie, make it a good pie.

For the last two Pi Days, I’ve recommended lemon pies, one completely unbaked and one lemon meringue. I thought I’d break it up by recommending a heavier pie, and another one of my favorites. I’ve always been a fan of pecan pies. This ups the pecan pie by adding just about as many dates.

Like the lemon meringue pie that I used for my inaugural Pi Day post, this date pie is from the Southern Living series from the seventies. But where that was from the Buffet book, this is from the actual Pies and Pastries book. It’s from Mrs. Rubye Shepherd of Wills Point, Texas, east of Dallas. The recipe that follows it in the book is another date pie from Floresville. We like our dates in Texas; I bet a whole bunch of date palms died last month in the extended freeze, and I’m also betting there’ll be a whole bunch of new plantings this spring.

My copy of the book is dated 1972. One of the weird things about this particular recipe is the detail. A lot of old cookbooks assume prior knowledge of baking, and leave things out. Not this one:

Beat the egg yolks with salt, then add the remaining ingredients except egg whites and pie shells.

Just in case you were tempted to mix the unbaked pie shell into the filling.1

Write your rep on ballot security and open elections—Wednesday, March 3rd, 2021

Our voting system is hopeless archaic. Literally so. The techniques we use to validate elections predate every basic rule of auditing learned in the financial industries since the dawn of the industrial age. And when a ballot count fails even that ridiculously low barrier, nothing happens. We need to update our election procedures to use modern auditing techniques, in a self-auditing manner. If we can also update our elections to use simple, reliable technological innovations that are older than our youngest voters, that’s a bonus.

In states where we know elections are corrupted already, it’s going to be difficult. But we should try. It is especially important that we update our procedures in states where we think elections are mostly trustworthy.

If you trust your state’s election procedures, now is the best time to ask for better security and more openness. By the time you don’t trust your state’s election procedures, it’s probably too late.

But there are also states where a lot of voters don’t trust their elections, but their representatives are nominally in support of secure elections. There’s a chance those are fixable, too.

I’m not going to say, “try to change it anyway, what can it hurt?” because we’ve passed that stage: there is a chance it will hurt, that fighting for open and secure elections will make you a target. Whether the reward—an America where everyone’s vote counts, where legal votes are not drowned out by fraud—is worth the risk is up to you.

This is what I sent to my Texas reps. You will want, of course, to highlight where your own state’s election procedures need updating and strengthening; and you may well disagree with me both on what I put in and what I left out.

Or throw it out completely and write your own, using what you know about your state’s election procedures. But one way or another, secure, self-auditing elections are critical to a democracy. Not just for the election itself but for people’s trust that their voice makes a difference, that their vote makes a difference. Without that trust, democracy falls apart.

Fighting open elections, fighting secure elections, fighting basic validation procedures, can only serve to erode trust in the ballot box. Denying access to the data necessary to validate an election doesn’t just erode trust, it makes it obvious that no trust is deserved.

What happens when that trust is gone is something none of us want.

Dear representative:

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