All posts by Greg Laden

Hawking’s Black Holes and Baby Universes Cheap

Black Holes and Baby Universes: And Other Essays in kindle form cheap right now.

In his phenomenal bestseller A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking literally transformed the way we think about physics, the universe, reality itself. In these thirteen essays and one remarkable extended interview, the man widely regarded as the most brilliant theoretical physicist since Einstein returns to reveal an amazing array of possibilities for understanding our universe.

Building on his earlier work, Hawking discusses imaginary time, how black holes can give birth to baby universes, and scientists’ efforts to find a complete unified theory that would predict everything in the universe. With his characteristic mastery of language, his sense of humor and commitment to plain speaking, Stephen Hawking invites us to know him better—and to share his passion for the voyage of intellect and imagination that has opened new ways to understanding the very nature of the cosmos.

Book Note: Preet Bharara Doing Justice

This is available for pre-order and it is probably going to be great. I’ve not seen it, but Bharara was a highly accomplished SDNY prosecutor and here he is writing about that role. This isn’t about the Trump Crime Family prosecutions and investigations, as so many books these days are, but this may be an important book to read to understand the bigger picture. Thought you’d like to know about it.

Doing Justice: A Prosecutor’s Thoughts on Crime, Punishment, and the Rule of Law

Preet Bharara has spent much of his life examining our legal system, pushing to make it better, and prosecuting those looking to subvert it. Bharara believes in our system and knows it must be protected, but to do so, we must also acknowledge and allow for flaws in the system and in human nature.
The book is divided into four sections: Inquiry, Accusation, Judgment and Punishment. He shows why each step of this process is crucial to the legal system, but he also shows how we all need to think about each stage of the process to achieve truth and justice in our daily lives.
Bharara uses anecdotes and case histories from his legal career–the successes as well as the failures–to illustrate the realities of the legal system, and the consequences of taking action (and in some cases, not taking action, which can be just as essential when trying to achieve a just result).
Much of what Bharara discusses is inspiring–it gives us hope that rational and objective fact-based thinking, combined with compassion, can truly lead us on a path toward truth and justice. Some of what he writes about will be controversial and cause much discussion. Ultimately, it is a thought-provoking, entertaining book about the need to find the humanity in our legal system–and in our society.

By the way, for those who enjoyed this movie and/or book, Preet Bharara is the real life person of one of the key characters in it.

More Proof That Donald Trump Is A Con Artist

The moment this tweet of Donald Trump’s came out, everyone saw it for what it was and laughed at him. I have no additional insight beyond the obvious, other than to say that it will be difficult for the editors of the American Heritage Illustrated Dictionary to decide if a picture of Don the Con, or this tweet, should be displayed next to the definition of “Grifter.”

Anyway, here is the tweet:

And here is a small West Wing clip that I am somehow reminded of, from Season 3, Episode 8, “The Indians in the Lobby”:

JK Rowling Book Cheap

Cormoran Strike is author Robert Galbraith’s fictional character, a UK Military Police veteran now eking out a living as a private eye. He works with an assistant who some would mistakenly regard as totally out of her league in the hard boiled noir world of private detecting. (But they would be wrong.) Each of the stories about Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott is set in a different subworld of Great Britain, including London’s version of Hollywood, and the world of writers and agents. The stories are fiendishly clever, the bad guys cleverly fiendish, and the protagonists compelling and disarming. I very strongly recommend reading all of them.

Author Robert Galbraith is, of course, JK Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series and a few other books.

At this moment, the first of the books is on sale cheap (just under 4 bucks) in Kindle form. You should read The Cuckoo’s Calling (Cormoran Strike Book 1).

Then, not on sale at this time but for your information, read:

The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike Book 2)

Career of Evil (Cormoran Strike Book 3)

Lethal White (A Cormoran Strike Novel)

Cheap early Carl Hiaasen book!

Fans of Carl Hiaasen who have not yet read his book Trap Line can get it right now cheap in Kindle form.

Though he is one of Key West’s most skilled fishing captains, Breeze Albury barely ekes out a living on the meager earnings of his trade. Meanwhile, Cuban and Colombian drug smugglers thrive all around—and they have their sights set on Albury and his fishing boat.

After the smugglers cut his three hundred trap lines and crush his livelihood, Albury is forced to run drugs to survive. But when he gets busted by the crooked chief of police and becomes a target of the drug machine’s brutal hit men, Albury becomes a vigilante on the seas of Florida, unleashing a fiery and relentless vengeance on the most dangerous criminals south of Miami.

Along with Powder Burn and A Death in China, this is one of the early suspense thrillers written by Carl Hiaasen and Bill Montalbano, a writing team praised for their “fine flair for characters and settings” (Library Journal). Perfect for fans of the Doc Ford novels by Randy Wayne White, Trap Line is an action-packed preview of Hiaasen’s stellar Florida-set crime novels including Sick Puppy, Tourist Season, and Razor Girl.

See THIS for more info on the author.

Don’t Be Confused With A Trumpo-Russian Troll: Chances Are You Already Have Been…

… if you are doing what a lot of people are doing on the Internet. Being wrong!!!!

The Russian organized and operated trolls that will attempt to ruin the 2020 election will sow divisions among Democrats so that the process of selecting the best candidate to go up against Trump will be so badly damaged that they can’t win.

How will they do this? By declaring particular candidates as not electable. By declaring that this or that candidate’s positions are entirely different than they actually are, in a way that makes potential supporters turn away. By causing friction among those who are otherwise allies or friends so that social networking communities are ripped asunder, and so on.

The thing is, most apparent Trumpo-Russian trolls are not actually Trumpo-Russian trolls. Rather, they are you, or others like you, who have fallen into this pattern. Time will tell if this pattern has been promulgated in small or large part as an arm of the Russian attack on our democracy, or if people are just acting this way because it is human nature. But it does not matter. Employing these and similar tactics in our public conversation about our candidates looks and works the same, and has the same effect, whether the act is bought and paid for by the Republican-Trump-Putin axis, or whether it happens all by itself.

Don’t be confused for a Putin Troll. Being like a Putin Troll is the same exact thing as actually being a Russian troll.

All the bad things people say

You can’t fairly judge a candidate based on what people on Facebook or Twitter tell you. Such comments are more often than not inaccurate, often purposefully so.

Example

Claim: Candidate X thinks America is not ready for healthcare for all! Next!

Truth: Candidate X makes a clear statement that we need universal single payer healthcare. The same candidate then lists several possible steps to get there.

Example

Claim: Candidate X is the only candidate that can beat Trump.

Truth: Most people can’t even name most of the candidates, and there has not been a single debate. There are candidates that haven’t even declared yet. There is simply no way to say who can beat whom. As a matter of fact, there is a pretty darn good chance Trump isn’t going to be the guy to beat anyway. He’ll be pushed out or removed or in some other way unavailable.

Please consider this strategy:

The election is so early that not all the candidates have even declared,and most are in fact unknown with respect to position or abilities, regardless of what you may think. So:

1) Wait to declare a candidate you prefer the best. If you like one candidate above the others, do go ahead and say nice things about that individual, but please do not write off the other candidates or attack people who have a different opinion.

2) Wait to write off individual candidates that you really don’t like. There is nothing wrong with having such an opinion, but for now, please do what your mother tried to teach you: If you have nothing good to say about someone, keep your stupid mouth shut for now (I’m sure she was thinking it that way, though she may have used other words).

3) Don’t repeat the trollish comments you hear. They are not hard to identify. A very smart and thoughtful friend of mine did this recently, the first example above is based on that. A candidate was attacked by a troll on twitter. The attack was very inaccruate. My friend simply repeated the attack. Don’t do that, makes you look like an idiot, and it amplifies the trollish message.

4) Don’t BELIEVE the trollish comments you hear. In the case mentioned above in Number 3, virtually no one seems to have responded to the recycled attack by questioning it. Make up your own damn mind with facts you have obtained from good sources and verified. It isn’t that hard. It is your responsibility, your job, to do this.

5) Remember where we are. We are at present BEFORE the beginning. This is not the time to weed out candidates. Take your time. Remember, there is a Democratic debate (probably two) in June. Wait until at least the debate to start weeding out candidates, and even then, be fucking civilized about it, not trollish. Please.

6) Please make the distinction between the process of selecting a nominee and running for president. There are important differences at many levels. A full third, in my estimation, of the embarrassingly stupid things people said during the 2018 race came out of ignorance of the difference.

7) Part of your message, your public opinion, should always be how you will support the nominee no matter what. Note that you can’t really say that now if you also say “I will never vote for Candidate X no matter what.” So stop saying the latter, always include the former. As part of this, please do not let the perfect stand in the way of the pretty darn good.

8) Do not complain about the system of selecting a nominee unless you are willing to spend at least a little time helping to select the nominee other than just showing up like a drone on Primary day. Stand up and do something. You are needed.

Chrome as default browser in KDE Plasma: Getting it to stick

Go ahead and chose “chromium” as the default browser in the “settings” application, and hit apply. That setting will likely stick, but Chrome will not be the default browser anyway. A bug in KDE Plasma prevents this, but you can drill down deeper into the configuration information and make it work: Continue reading Chrome as default browser in KDE Plasma: Getting it to stick

A Guide To Using Command Line Tools

There are a lot of books out there to help you learn command line tools, and of course, they mostly cover the same things because there is a fixed number of things you need to learn to get started down this interesting and powerful path.

Small, Sharp, Software Tools: Harness the Combinatoric Power of Command-Line Tools and Utilities by Brian P. Hogan is the latest iteration (not quite in press yet but any second now) of one such book.

I really like Hogan’s book. Here’s what you need to know about it.

First, and this will only matter to some but is important, the book does cover using CLI tools across platforms (Linux, Mac, Windows) in the sense that it helps get you set up to use the bash command line system on all three.

Second, this book is does a much better than average job as a tutorial, rather than just as a reference manual, than most other books I’ve seen. You can work from start to finish, with zero knowledge at the start, follow the examples (using the provided files that you are guided to download using command line tools!) and become proficient very comfortably and reasonably quickly. The topic are organized in such a way that you can probably skip chapters that interest you less (but don’t skip the first few).

Third, the book does give interesting esoteric details here and there, but the author seems not compelled to obsessively fill your brain with entirely useless knowledge such as how many arguments the POSIX standard hypothetically allows on a command line (is it 512 or 640? No one seems to remember) as some other books do.

I found Small, Sharp, Software Tools a very comfortable, straight forward, well organized, accurate read from Pragmatic.

Writing Secure Shell Scripts

If you write shell scrips, you should check out Dave Taylor’s latest article in Linux Journal.

He gives key examples of what can go wrong if you don’t pay attention to certain things.

For example, if you have a dot in (especially at the start of) your PATH variable, you risk running a Trojan horse that snuck sneakily into your /tmp directory. If you want the dot, put it last.

Anyway, a simple straight forward article with a few pieces of good advice: Writing Secure Shell Scripts

Math Adventures with Python

Complex numbers, working with oscillations (trigonometry), using Turtles to draw, some basic algebra, my favorite, Cellular Automata, and more, are covered in Math Adventures with Python: An Illustrated Guide to Exploring Math with Code by Peter Farrell. Farrell is a math and computer science teacher who is interested in math education and using technology in learning. Continue reading Math Adventures with Python