The Insightful Troll

Rants and ruminations.

Ingenuity’s Mission Comes to an End

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Ingenuity

The mission of the NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter has come to an end on the surface of Mars.

While the helicopter remains upright and in communication with ground controllers, imagery of its Jan. 18 flight sent to Earth this week indicates one or more of its rotor blades sustained damage during landing and it is no longer capable of flight.

Originally designed as a technology demonstration to perform up to five experimental test flights over 30 days, the first aircraft on another world operated from the Martian surface for almost three years, performed 72 flights, and flew more than 14 times farther than planned while logging more than two hours of total flight time.

Legal Immigration Is Winning the Lottery

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immigration lottery

Charts showing the the immigration lottery in the US is worth a look.

David J. Bier sums up the situation at the Cato Institute:

Legal immigration is less like waiting in line and more like winning the lottery: it happens, but it is so rare that it is irrational to expect it in any individual case.

[…]

… the system is restrictive compared with other countries. The United States ranks in the bottom third of wealthy countries for foreign-born share of the population. Even if it accepted 70 million immigrants tomorrow, it would still not surpass the likes of Australia.

Immigration benefits the United States, so there is no reason to place hard caps or strict categorical limits. Moreover, enforcing restrictive laws is costly and results in illegal immigration. The entire legal immigration system is actually designed not to be followed by most people, but to keep most people out. America should return to its system of openness that reflects U.S. traditions and benefits the country.

Boing 737 Max 9 Loose Bolts

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Boing Max 9 blowout

Tom Costello and Rob Wile reporting for ABC News:

The CEO of Alaska Airlines said new, in-house inspections of the carrier’s Boeing 737 Max 9 planes in the wake of a near-disaster earlier this month revealed that “many” of the aircraft were found to have loose bolts.

[..]

Minicucci, who became president of Alaska Airlines in 2016 and began his career as an engineer, said he was “incredulous” that something like the incident earlier this month could even happen.

“I knew that this was an issue out of the (Boeing) factory,” he said. “There was no question in my mind.”

“And it’s clear to me that we received an airplane from Boeing with a faulty door. Now the NTSB investigation is going to figure out why that was a faulty door, whether it was bad installation, missing hardware, a manufacturing issue, but there’s no doubt that Alaska received an airplane off the production line with a faulty door,” Minicucci said, referring to the National Transportation Safety Board’s probe.

This is what happens when you put MBA spreadsheet jockeys in charge.

US 'Has Never Been a Racist Country'

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Okay Nikki – you think America isn’t racist? Why don’t you ever use your real name given at birth: Nimarata Nikki Randhawa? We will quickly find out how America isn’t a racist country.

This women is a sell outo the MAGA nut jobs, an embarrassment to her Indian heritage and trading on a fantasy revisionist view of American history. Truly disgusting.

Congratulations Nimarata Randhawa - you have just joined the ranks of Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann and Carly Fiorina in history on the Republican clown train.

Battleground of 2024 Is Emotion

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MAGA emotions

Anand Giridharadas sums up the current political environment perfectly:

One of the strange dynamics of the Trump era is that, as the right has become, more and more, a movement of passion more than reason, of emotional appeal more than policy solutions, the political left has, as if to be symmetrical, drifted the other way.

Today’s electoral left is highly cerebral. It is suspicious of the politics of passion. It doesn’t do emotional appeals. It doesn’t have much of a role for music, for the body, for in-person communing in public spaces, for catchy slogans, for arresting visuals. The more Trump becomes a carnival barker, the more it seems leaders on the left embrace coming across like the inoffensive heads of state one sees in many European capitals — people who are working very hard not to be interesting, who seem to associate life force in politics with danger. Today’s left seeks to appeal to human beings through a small sliver of all the ways in which human beings take in the world.

If this were an age defined by big policy questions and little else, that would be one thing. But it is an age defined by Big Feelings. By anxiety and fear and future dread and a great confusion among millions of people about who they will be on the far side of head-spinning change. By the emotional crises of men unsettled by a future of gender equality, and of white people unsettled by a future of racial equality, and of young people who know deep down that their parents love them but wonder why they have left them a burning, doomed planet. By the dour vibes of people who know that, on paper, the economy is good, but who cannot shake the feeling that the American dream is a lie. All around us, people are lost, not sure how to make sense of their place in a world of upheaval. In an era such as this, leaving the politics of emotion, of passion, to aspiring autocrats is a dangerous abdication.

Spinal Tap Sequel

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spinal tap

Andrew Pulver reporting for The Guardian:

Paul McCartney and Elton John will appear in the sequel to cult mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap, for which filming is due to get under way early next year, it has been revealed.

[…]

News of plans to make a Spinal Tap sequel broke in May 2022, when the project was shopped at the Cannes film festival international market. Reiner said then: “I can tell you hardly a day goes by without someone saying, why don’t you do another one? For so many years, we said, ‘Nah.’ It wasn’t until we came up with the right idea how to do this. You don’t want to just do it, to do it. You want to honour the first one and push it a little further with the story.”

The original film’s main cast of Michael McKean, Harry Shearer and Christopher Guest are due to return, although Tony Hendra, who played cricket-bat-wielding manager Ian Faith, died in 2021. The plot will reportedly centre on Faith’s death, after which his widow inherits a contract that requires the band to do one last concert. Reiner is also due to return in the character of film-maker Marty DiBergi, a figure supposedly based on Martin Scorsese, who had directed celebrated music documentary The Last Waltz in 1976.

This sequel goes to 11 – one louder.

The Struggles That Define America

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Jon Meacham, a distinguished presidential historian, contributing writer for The New York Times Book Review, contributing editor at TIME, and a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, delves into the roots of American history, contending that conflict is the crucible from which history emerges. In his exploration, Meacham dissects the shaping of America’s soul by the juxtaposition of “our better angels” and our darker instincts. Drawing from pivotal moments such as the post-Civil War Reconstruction, the tumultuous rise and fall of the KKK, and the establishment of the NAACP, he offers insights into the forces that have shaped the nation.

Meacham contends that an honest examination of the unvarnished history of the United States is essential for every American. By understanding the past, we gain the ability to navigate away from previous pitfalls and propel the country forward purposefully. His observations and perspectives on the expansive sweep of American history instill hope we exercise “our better angels”.

The documentary, which spans over three hours, is advocated as essential viewing for every American. Meacham’s comprehensive exploration serves as a call for citizens to invest the time and effort to absorb the genuine, unfiltered history of the country, fostering a collective understanding that can guide the nation towards a more enlightened and inclusive future.

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga

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Mad Max: Fury Road emerged as a cinematic masterpiece, standing out as one of the finest films in recent memory. Renowned for its intense car chases, it gripped audiences from the very first frame, keeping them on the edge of their seats throughout.

Now, the trailer for Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga has been unveiled, and it’s nothing short of fantastic. The production team for Furiosa boasts the talent of editor Margaret Sixel and several other award-winning individuals from the Fury Road crew, heightening expectations for this upcoming installment. Anticipation is soaring, and I can hardly wait for what promises to be another exhilarating chapter in the Mad Max universe.

Using Bumble to Catch U.S. Capitol Rioters

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As if the Jan 6. rioters and insurrectionists had enough to worry about local law enforcement, FBI and the military - they have a new potential threat. Their dates.

Nearly three years ago, a young professional in the nation’s capital was sitting in her apartment after the Jan. 6 attack and saw that the FBI was looking for help identifying the rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol. So she opened up the Bumble dating app, changed her political beliefs to conservative and got to swiping.

The woman reached out to several Donald Trump supporters who the app showed were in the Washington area, hoping to elicit confessions from those who had flooded into the city because they believed his lies about the 2020 presidential election.

On Wednesday, one of the Bumble users she turned in to the FBI pleaded guilty to assaulting law enforcement officers with chemical spray and a metal whip.

Icons: Noel Gallagher

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I am not a fan of Gibson guitars - just can’t get along with them. Too heavy, awkward and the headstocks break off if you look at them the wrong way. And Gibson leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to quality control and their extortive pricing. After all this is a company that sells an “artist signature” of a knock off.

Yea, I am a Fender man. But I digress. Give Gibson credit where its due. Their Icon series is fabulous. This episode with Noel Gallagher of Oasis fame is amazing.

Gallagher on songwriting:

I guess the one thing you gotta have as a songwriter I think is you gotta trust in your own instincts and you’ve got to be fearless and not listen to anybody else. If you haven’t got those things you should be a professional songwriter that sits in a shed and writes songs, you know, for pop stars. Then you do listen to other people and you know you do give a shit because you are trying to get on the radio. All the songwriters I admire never really gave a fuck. Niel Young, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Macker, John Lennon, Weller.

In my book, Noel Gallagher has earned his way into that group of song writers.

Liz Magill Resigns After Embarrassing Testimony

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Liz Magill

Stephanie Saul and Anemona Hartocollis, reporting for The New York Times:

Support for the presidents of Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania and M.I.T. eroded quickly on Wednesday, after they seemed to evade what seemed like a rather simple question during a contentious congressional hearing: Would they discipline students calling for the genocide of Jews?

Their lawyerly replies to that question and others during a four-hour hearing drew incredulous responses. “It’s unbelievable that this needs to be said: Calls for genocide are monstrous and antithetical to everything we represent as a country,” said a White House spokesman, Andrew Bates. […]

Much of the criticism landed heavily on Ms. Magill because of an extended back-and-forth with Representative Stefanik. Ms. Stefanik said that in campus protests, students had chanted support for intifada, an Arabic word that means uprising and that many Jews hear as a call for violence against them. Ms. Stefanik asked Ms. Magill, “Does calling for the genocide of Jews violate Penn’s rules or code of conduct, yes or no?”

Ms. Magill replied, “If the speech turns into conduct, it can be harassment.”

Ms. Stefanik pressed the issue: “I am asking, specifically: Calling for the genocide of Jews, does that constitute bullying or harassment?”

Ms. Magill, a lawyer who joined Penn last year with a pledge to promote campus free speech, replied, “If it is directed and severe, pervasive, it is harassment.”

Ms. Stefanik responded: “So the answer is yes.”

Ms. Magill said, “It is a context-dependent decision, congresswoman.”

Ms. Stefanik exclaimed: “That’s your testimony today? Calling for the genocide of Jews is depending upon the context?”

In addition to Magill, the chair of Penn’s board of trustees also submitted his resignation - the shortest tenure in Penn’s 260-year history.

The reckoning has come for Harvard, M.I.T., and Penn for the bizarro-world political climate that’s taken hold at these universities in the last decade or two. Where the insular far-left worldview where the oppressed are viewed as inherently just, but comes across as absurd to everyone living in the real world.

You can only pretend to live in a bubble for so long.

Bald Guys Are Hot

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bald

As I am approaching 50, and the hair line is starting its retreat - I love this opinion piece by Edith Zimmerman

Bald guys are hot. Bald guys are no-nonsense, bald guys have other things to think about. Bald guys aren’t using a bunch of hair supplies, bald guys have more time to spend doing attractive and useful things, like building houses and making jokes. Bald guys are magnificent. Bald guys seem to have seen something more of life. Bald guys know things, if you know what I mean.

Guys with beautiful hair are wonderful, but they remind me of myself. Not because I have beautiful hair, but because I also want beautiful hair, and there cannot be two of us.

Gary Clark Jr. - NPR Tiny Desk Concert

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I am a huge fan of NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series - and I don’t know how I missed this! Good old organic blues music with real instruments and soul. So good to hear real music played in a sea of pop and rap.

Infocom's Porting Tools Found

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Zork

It was the summer of 1985. My parents had just purchased a Commodore 64 from a neighbor for $200 - complete with a 1541 disk drive and a carton of 5 ¼ inch disks - which I had no idea what was contained in them.

After a few hours of reading the manuals and struggling to figure out what I am going to do with this beige colored bread box - I put the first disk in typed the following:

load "*", 8, 1

And after some furious whirring - up came a screen:

For the next three weeks I spent the entire day locked away in our den behind the kitchen avoiding the grues, thieves and plundering The Great Underground Empire. Those were some great times.

The code to most of the Infocom interactive fiction games, written in ZIL (Zork Implementation Language,) have been around since 2019. This was pretty much useless unless you had a ZIL interpreter (AKA Z machine) for your system. There were many open sourced Z machine implementations for just about every machine out there. But the originals were thought to be lost.

Until now.

Andrew Plotkin has published a git repo with all of the source code for the major platforms, details what they are and how he found them in a blog post on his site.

So the game source was big news. Infocom’s interpreter source, however, remained obscure. This was the game-playing software for each platform: the Apple 2 interpreter, the Commodore 64 interpreter, and so on. A particular Infocom game release (“Zork 3 for the C64”, say) was a floppy containing the C64 interpreter and the Zork-3 game file. Boot the floppy, the interpreter starts up; it loads the game data and the game begins.

These interpreters were well-studied by IF enthusiasts in the early 1990s. That’s how we got the first open-source IF interpreters and the modern Z-machine specification. Functionally, we know how they work.

But we never had their source code. You might ask, who cares? It would have been pretty opaque assembly code anyhow. But it’s a layer of insight into the developers' minds. Comments, variable names, documentation.

This is the best holiday gift for hopeless nerds like myself.

Yuval Noah Harari on Conservative Suicide

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Renowned historian and ‘Sapiens’ author Yuval Noah Harari, in an interview with Ari Melber, who asks Harari about his scholarship, its applications, recent AI developments and criticism of Harari’s writing. Among the many thought provoking insights from Harari - this one really breaks down the current American political climate:

What you see in a lot of modern politics is this delicate dance between conservatives and liberals which I think that - for many generations they agreed on the basics. Their main disagreement was about the pace. That both conservatives and liberals basically agreed we need some rules and also we need the ability to change the rules. The conservatives prefere a much slower pace

[…]

The conservative instinct is to wait it’s it’s dangerous and the liberal instinct is to try it out and see what happens. You see this kind of delicate dance, when things are going to slow people vote in more liberal administration that will speed things up and will be more creative, bolder in its social experiments. When things go too fast then you say okay - liberals you had your chance now lets bring in the conservatives to slow down a little and have a bit of a breath.

And what really I think is happening in recent years and I don’t have a good explanation for that is that in many parts of the world you see a kind of conservative suicide that conservatives are abandoning their kind of traditional role to slow down and conserve institutions and traditions and so forth and they still call themselves conservatives but they become this kind of new radical party which is more about ignoring traditions and destroying institutions

Then it becomes the job of liberals to be the audience of the institutions and the are not good at it. They don’t know how to do it. You know instead of a car that you have one leg on the fuel pedal and one leg on the break you have two legs on the fuel pedal and no leg on the brake and this is a recipe for disaster.

An amazing one hour conversation.

Eclipse - the First 3D Nintendo Game

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The 3d Demo that would change the course of Nintendo - discovered 30 years later. The fascinating history and story of the discovery of the X demo by the Video Game History Foundation.

Boy this brings back the memories. The 80s was the best time to grow up.