Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Continuing the "what can you make from these?" theme.

You can also make something like this (on the bottom left) which can be made into the thing in the background:

Or, this:

Or, after a bit more machining and some brass bushings, this:

All these parts are going to fit together. Any guesses on what I'm making from (decidedly empty) beer cans?

One more hint. Here's another part:

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012


What can you make with a bunch of these?

One of these.

What can you do with that?

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Guide to Western Media Terms

Anarchist: someone who is willing to use violence and property destruction to demand additional social programs and handouts from the current government.

Freedom Fighter: someone who is willing to use violence and property destruction to demand additional social programs and handouts from a new government

Nihilist, kook, crank, radical: someone who verbally advocates a fractional reduction of the second derivative of the government budget with respect to time.

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Monday, October 31, 2011

More Propaganda by Statistics

A youth basketball league, ages 11 – 15. Every player in the league has been a participant as long as they are eligible. The kids play basketball five days per week, for several hours per day.

Annual skills assessments are taken of the players at the beginning and end of each year. Not surprisingly, the mean skills score for each age group is higher than all the younger groups.

As the league matures and becomes more competitive, the mean skills score for the entire league increases. The 11-year-olds enter the league with approximately the same mean skill level every year (league participation isn't magically conferred to kids who haven't yet participated).

Without putting any numbers to our assessments, we can make several observations about our league.

First, year-over-year, the 11-year-olds as a group enter the league at a greater skills deficit compared to the rest of the league than previous groups of 11-year-olds. That is, although the league mean increases year-over-year, the 11-year-old mean score remains static.

Second, therefore, year-over-year increases in mean skills scores are skewed towards the older kids. As the league mean increases over time, and each age group's mean is higher than all younger age groups, the 15-year-olds have to increase as much or more (on average) every year than any other age group. The 14-year-olds have to increase as much or more (on average) than the 13, 12, and 11-year-olds, and so forth.

Third, although (and because) each group of 11-year-olds enters at a greater skills deficit and the league mean is increasing, each group's mean skills at a given age are increasing at a greater rate than any older group. In other words, this year's 12-year-olds will gain more skills this year than the 13, 14, and 15-year-olds did when they were 12.

Fourth, if the entire league was divided into five groups, not by age but by skills assessment, we would expect a strong correlation between the two methods of division. Furthermore, that correlation would be strongest for the top and bottom quintiles.

Fifth, as the bottom quintile is strongly correlated with 11-year-olds, and the 11-year-olds enter the league with approximately the same skills every year, the mean skills of the bottom quintile will also be static year-over-year.

Sixth, some 11-year-olds may not start out in the bottom quintile, nor may they reach the top quintile of skills by the time they turn 16. However, for the givens to hold true, only strong outliers from the mean could enter the league in the bottom quintile and remain there for the entire five years.

Leaving other considerations aside, it would be nonsense to conclude from the scenario given that any of our observations are a priori bad (or a priori good). Rather, they are what they are.

That's not to say that the other considerations (whatever they are) are negligible. Rather, it's to say that the givens and observations do not support on their own the idea that the other considerations skew the skills distribution and skills increases. The observations are wholly expected and explained by normal league play.

Put another way, it is not valid from the information given to make the statement (or inference) that, because the skills of the bottom quintile are static and the skills of the top quintile are increasing at a higher rate than any other quintile:

a) the noted increases are due to some consideration other than normal league play; and
b) that is a priori bad.

Better, more granular data would be required to validly draw those conclusions. This is obvious, I believe, because no matter how large we envision our league to be, we can conceptualize the league and the individual players entering as Gumby-esque 11-year-olds and progressing to 15-year-old league veterans.

We would (rightly) recognize and denounce unsupported statements (or inferences) a and b above as feeble attempts at propaganda by statistics.

However, that hasn't stopped the propagandists from presenting the front cover of this CBO report with inferences a and b, while conveniently ignoring the weak caveats in paragraph 7 of the summary:
The growth in average income for different groups over the 1979–2007 period reflects a comparison of average income for those groups at different points in time; it does not reflect the experience of particular households. Individual households may have moved up or down the income scale if their income rose or fell more than the average for their initial group. Thus, the population with income in the lowest 20 percent in 2007 was not necessarily the same as the population in that category in 1979.
As it turns out, not only is the population not the same, but what constitutes a household has changed. The aggregation of aggregates into household income hides other important data as well:
American households in the top income quintile have almost five times more family members working on average than the lowest quintile, and individuals in higher-income households are far more likely than lower-income households to be well-educated, married, and working full-time in their prime earning years. In contrast, individuals in low-income households are far more likely to be less-educated, working part-time, either very young or very old, and living in single-parent households.
Please note that by making these observations I am not saying the other considerations are trivial and that there aren't real problems concerning private profits and social losses. Neither does my linking to the analyses of others constitute approbation for their possible biases (nor, certainly, any ad hominem attacks). Rather, the time I would spend recreating the work of others and presenting it here wouldn't add to the point of this exercise.

The point is, real problems aren't discovered and cannot be solved by witchcraft, propaganda, or any other mysticism. I'm not sure there is any desire to have a meaningful conversation free of preconceptions and propaganda, I just know such a conversation cannot start with unsupported conclusions drawn from meaningless aggregates.

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Friday, September 30, 2011

Gateway NV75S02u Touchpad + Ubuntu Natty

Ubuntu Natty (2.6.38-11-generic) doesn't seem to embrace the ELAN Smart Pad on the Gateway NV75S02u. This can be confirmed:

xinput list

Under "Virtual core pointer", it lists a "PS/2 wheel mouse" and no touchpad.

After much searching, I found a fix. I don't know who to attribute it to or how I'd ever find it again, but it worked like a charm so I'm going to reproduce it and give credit to anyone who speaks up.

The original

Step 1

IMPORTANT: BACK UP THE EXISTING MODULE FIRST! You can revert to the .backup copy if things go wrong.

sudo cp /lib/modules/`uname -r`/kernel/drivers/input/mouse/psmouse.ko /lib/modules/`uname -r`/kernel/drivers/input/mouse/psmouse.ko.backup

Step 2

Get the kernel source and headers for your installed kernel along with some prerequisites:

sudo apt-get install linux-source linux-headers-`uname -r` build-essential libncurses5 libncurses5-dev kernel-package fakeroot

Step 3
Now extract the kernel sources to a folder named src in your home directory, where VERSION is the version of your kernel sources. If you aren't sure, just do a ls /usr/src/linux-source*.bz2 to find it:

mkdir ~/src
cd ~/src
tar jxvf /usr/src/linux-source-VERSION.tar.bz2
cd linux-source-VERSION

Then copy your config file in and make oldconfig:

cp /boot/config-`uname -r` .config
make oldconfig

Step 4
Make sure that the elantech option is on:

grep -i elantech .config

It should return this if it is set:

If it is not set it will return:

If the elantech option is not set, run make menuconfig and navigate to Device Drivers->Input device support->Mice and press space on the Elantech PS/2 protocol extension so that it has an asterisk like this:[*]. Then press the right arrow and enter repeatedly to back out of the menus, and then answer YES to save your config.

Step 5
Get and apply the patches:

wget -O 01elantech_2.6.38.patch https://launchpadlibrarian.net/71387234/01elantech_2.6.38.patch
patch -p1 < 01elantech_2.6.38.patch

Step 6
Next, build the module:

make -C /usr/src/linux-headers-`uname -r` SUBDIRS=`pwd` drivers/input/mouse/psmouse.ko

Step 7
Try the new module to see if it works:

sudo modprobe -r psmouse
sudo insmod drivers/input/mouse/psmouse.ko

If it doesn't work, DO NOT continue to step 8. You can reload the psmouse module and your touchpad will function again:

sudo modprobe -r psmouse
sudo modprobe psmouse

There are no permanent changes to your system until step 8 below.

Step 8
Note: This step will make a persistent change to your system.

If the patched module worked, you can move it into its place in /lib/modules/ if you want to keep using it:

sudo cp drivers/input/mouse/psmouse.ko /lib/modules/`uname -r`/kernel/drivers/input/mouse/psmouse.ko

It'd be a good idea to try this copy of the module to make sure it works:

sudo modprobe -r psmouse
sudo modprobe psmouse

If for some reason your touchpad will not work after following these directions, move the backup back into place and you should be fine:

sudo cp /lib/modules/`uname -r`/kernel/drivers/input/mouse/psmouse.ko.backup /lib/modules/`uname -r`/kernel/drivers/input/mouse/psmouse.ko
sudo modprobe -r psmouse
sudo modprobe psmouse

That's it. xinput list now shows an ETPS/2 Elantch ETF1059 Click-Pad.

Again, thanks whoever! You're a lifesaver!

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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Tripoli Gets New Zoning Commission

For reasons unknown, pawns of would-be benevolent rulers of the Transitional National Council (they have a president AND a prime minister!) and The Libya Stabilization Committee have stormed a park in Tripoli, spawning victory celebrations throughout the cartographic region known as Libya.

I fully understand the desire to be rid of their eccentric dictator and his cronies. 41 years is a bit long, even for such a snappy dresser, to be calling the shots.

What is mystifying, to me anyway, is the rush to forget the past 41 years and rush into a new set of corrupt state actors.

Oh, and the symbolism! You can't miss that. Flag waving, dancing on Quadffi's posters, taking Green Square (and promptly renaming it Martyrs' Square), chanting. Yee-hee-hee.

Not content to sit idly by, US talking heads are happy to opine that their own dictator should not now be the target of trial for the high crime of using the Navy and Air Force as his personal goon squad because, you know, he won!

Except, as we've been repeatedly reassured, he didn't because this was a NATO action. Led by an American. It's all very confusing.

Maybe Quadaffi's spokes-bureaucrats could get together with Obama's spokes-bureaucrats and let us know what the official line is. Baghdad Bob can consult. NATO spokes-bureaucrats are already distancing themselves from the charge of being the rebels' personal air force.

Meanwhile the International Criminal Court burst the bubble in Benghazi, somewhat, by announcing the Libyan Transitional Stablization Whatever cannot be trusted to conduct their own criminal trials, but must turn over Quadaffi's kids for an international show trial.

Still no word on when the ICC will demand George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and the CIA torturers stand trial. Hunh.

Well, congratulations, I guess, go to the rebels demanding more of the same in Libya. It's too late for August elections like in Egypt (oh, wait...) but I'm sure you know what you want and will eventually get it good and hard.


Saturday, June 18, 2011


The purpose of government is to screw us all, en masse. It's a wholesaler, and no wholesaler likes its employees moonlighting in discount retail.