DDOS: Tongue in Cheek, just like Trump

Donald Trump did, in my memory, in a video I personally saw, ask the Russians to ‘find Hilary’s missing eMails.’
They did. More or less.
The FBI etc timed their revelatory / not revelatory actions just in time to, possibly (actually,  imho) sway the election.

Trump overrides professional media reporters in several ways:

  • He shouts them down
  • He ignores ones who ask even mildly tough questions
  • He responds via Twitter, which has no in-line fact checking.

Let me dwell on this last point. News media (Newspaper, radio, television) fact-check with a high and professional degree of accuracy: total rejection of unsubstantiated myth-shouting.

Twitter allows unsubstantiated myth-shouting. It’s now called ‘Alternate Truth.’

Perhaps one of the movements obsessed with Trump’s trumping of decency with respect to them (Muslims, non-whites, Mexicans, and especially women) – perhaps one of these movements might accidentally ‘do a Trump’ and ask some foreign power to tilt the balance in their favour.

Perhaps requesting a DDOS attack on Twitter might do it.

I’m kidding, of course. This was just Alternate Truth.

Dumb Questions we all might ask

Why is there only one luggage rack in the room? It’s a vacation package (one week) charging for single supplement (thus two occupants assumed.) You can get all that s..t in one pice of luggage?

Is the TTC nuts? Why do I have to pay for Presto cards, and why do my spouse and myself need two of them? We’re both using the same tickets or tokens, and can pass them back and forth as needed. As far as the physical card goes, I have a Large Number of cards in my wallet, cards which are of Far More General use than Presto. (Credit, Visa, MasterCard, Big Al’s Aquarium.) All of these companies begged me to take their cards, for free (in the options I’ve accepted.)
Even worse, I will have to take a ridiculously long TTC ride to redeem my expiring tokens. When TTC came out with the new, two-metal token, I bought lots feeling sure they’d be in circulation forever. Now I think I’m being told I can’t get my cash back, as they’re not sure what I paid for them. Irrelevant: They are worth a full fare now, aren’t they?

Why don’t amateur drones have serial numbers burned into them, in several places? Apparently the VIN # of a Mercedes auto is hidden in many bizarre places, so even partial dismantling may not erase origin information. Apparently every camera and laptop I’ve ever owned has had a unique serial number.
Given that drone strikes can be fatal, used by criminals, etc. etc., why don’t drones have serial numbers burned into several of their parts?
Any camera or laptop I threw into an idling airplane’s jet engine would, quite likely, be traced back to the manufacturer, point of sale, date, and my sales record. Why not with all drones? Many cost more than decent cameras I’ve owned.

Too big to trust?

Here is a link provided by FAS to a CRS report on banks being ‘too big to fail’.

FAS = Federation of American Scientists. CRS = Congressional Service Report – done on request by members of Congress by a research service. I have mentioned the FAS before as a source for this kind of information.

I will content myself with a single quote from the above .pdf file. Emphasis mine.

Preventing TBTF firms from failing is argued to be necessary for maintaining the stability of the financial system in the short run. But rescuing TBTF firms is predicted to lead to a less stable financial system in the long run because of moral hazard that weakens market discipline. Moral hazard refers to the theory that if TBTF firms expect that failure will be prevented, they have an incentive to take greater risks than they otherwise would because they are shielded from at least some negative consequences of those risks. In general, riskier investments have a higher rate of return to compensate for the greater risk of failure. If TBTF firms believe that they will not be allowed to fail, then private firms capture any additional profits that result from high risk activities, while the government bears any extreme losses. Thus, if TBTF firms believe that they will be rescued, they have an incentive to behave in a way that makes it more likely they will fail.
The report goes on to analyze how connectivity increases risk independently of size.
Some of these banks (Toronto Star article) have literally thousands of subsidiaries, each with its own web of connections. The high subsidiary count makes a Bank Holding Company extremely difficult to ‘parse’ in order to understand risk.
Too big to fail? and thus, too big to trust?

Nobel Questions

Nobel prizes drive me nuts. They take far too long to be awarded, and cannot be awarded to the deceased. Einstein got his in (I think) 1919 for work he did in 1905. They awarded him for the photoelectric effect because (special) relativity was still considered too controversial.

Robert A Mundell received his award in Economics in 1999. This was for work done in the 1960’s. Mundell studied the effects of fixed and variable exchange rates, and is credited with the foundational theory of the Euro zone. But he waited over thirty years for his award.

Nobel prizes drive me nuts for another reason. They seem to be awarded by some random popularity contest, at best. I will give a few examples of this in the Peace Prize:

Obama received his peace prize in 2009 at the beginning of his presidency. I maintain that was a bit previous for a newly minted president.

Arafat, Perez, and Rabin jointly received their peace prize in 1994. You will notice how much more peaceful Israel and Palestine have been since then.

I question the integrity of all four prizes. Einstein should have got his for relativity. Mundell should have got his decades sooner, even if it turns out the Euro zone isn’t heaven after all. Obama was a great president, but nobody in 2009 knew that yet. The 1994 joint peace prize does not merit discussion.

I want you to think about this prize-giving organization funded by the invention of dynamite.

  • Does it take far too long to award the prizes, at least some of the time?
  • Does it look ‘just too comfortable’ for some of the prizes?
  • Is the process (selection, awarding) worth our respect?

Those are your dumb questions.

TTC, CDP, and political decisions

TTC = Toronto Transit Corporation. CDP = Convergent Design Principles. It’s really about understanding requirements and projects.

In my time at IBM Canada, and to a lesser extent at CIBC, I took many courses. Artificial Intelligence. Dealing with Difficult People. And pretty much everything in between. I have all the notes from the good and better courses here in my writing room. I just looked up the notes from the CDP course and confirmed: it was extremely insightful and has general relevance to getting things done: requirements and projects.

One exercise I remember: we were sitting in tables of six. We were told we were going to work on a communications device. We were told to estimate the weight of the device, write it down on a piece of paper, circle the number and initial the circle. Independently.

Then each table was asked to compare numbers (weights) and give the ratio of the highest to the lowest. One estimate at my table was roughly a metric ton; another was a few grams. A communication satellite versus a telephone bug.

When the ratio is extremely large, you don’t know what you’re talking about. As the ratio got better (we were given extra information, a bit at a time) we were going from a marketing dream to a crude design to a decent device definition. Meaningful requirements.

The TTC makes a practice of ignoring numbers. Ridership. We have the Union Pearson Express (UPX) which is losing taxpayer money even faster after the fair cut. We have the Sheppard Stubway which cost a billion dollars and runs specially shortened trains, which are empty. We are going to build a subway to Scarborough with one stop and ridership numbers that don’t justify anything. The light rail alternative with seven or more stops would have had higher ridership and been well within carrying capacity.

City council recently, apparently, refused to consider ridership projections in selecting projects and project details.

The CDP course listed a number of requirements to make a Requirements document real. Convergence of estimates: cost, time, ridership. And, interestingly enough, test cases. How will we know we are on time, on schedule, and have ridership correct? How will we check the stations for accessibility? How will we rate our choices of station location? How will we rate our approach to getting the tunneling done (expropriation of a dozen homes versus an easy relocation of the starting points?)

One thing city projects never do is this: assign a person to follow the project who will, on completion, document how the benefits (of the project) were reaped. This person will noisily complain to everyone if those benefits are being jeopardized by project decisions. (If this had been in place, the Scarborough subway would instead be light rail, paid for, and in operation now. Instead we still have a dumb debate likely to waste over four billion dollars.) Project decisions are often political, and they should not be. If they are, the benefits are meant to get election results, not civic results.

Toronto is not unique in not creating a ‘reap the benefits’ czar for each project. I explained the value of such a czar to an IBM Marketing Rep and he could not make himself grasp the concept. He said I was confusing Sell with Install.

That’s the problem with political decisions. We are sold up to the election, and what then gets installed may be quite different. Donald Trump is going to clean up the swamp in the USA by appointing the owners and operators of that swamp to positions of political power. John Tory is going to build SmartTrack (whatever that is) but has no way to fund it. (The road toll will not raise much of the billions we need, and even that may be cut. Other staff-recommended revenue tools were allowed to be shot down in city council.)

So we continue to build (actually delay building) transit in Toronto in a process that is not informed by real numbers but rather by hoped-for votes.

Dumb question? Is that cynical enough? Will you do anything about it?