New system hard drive; AOMEI software worked about as well as one could hope.

I have been waiting for my system hard drive to fail for a while. It’s not been a bad drive, except for the constant warnings that it’s got a limited time to live – wait, isn’t that the definition of a bad drive? I guess it could be worse, but…

Anyway, last night I bit the farm, kicked the bullet, and bought a bucket – bought a new 1TB drive, and installed it. The process for doing this on Windows involves installing the new drive as a secondary (internal or external), cloning the system drive to the new drive, and then fixing the partitions.

I chose AOMEI Backupper to do the cloning (by the recommendation of various sites, after googling). Installation was easy enough; you can get the capability for cloning by spamming your social networks or buying a software license for $40 USD. (If you didn’t see me spam you, well, you can guess which way I chose.)

Cloning was simple; choose to clone drives, select the destination and target drives, and wait.

After cloning, you then switch the drives around (actually, what I did was move the new primary in place and replace my old secondary, which I’d removed in order to replace the primary.)

That left the partitioning – my old drive was smaller than the new one, and the cloned image meant that I had this dangling partition, empty and unused. My English teachers from way back when said that I should never allow dangling partitions – or was that participles? – so that needed to be addressed, too.

Since I’d already used AOMEI to clone the drive, I decided to try their partition assistant program to fix the partitions; it actually worked about as easily as one could hope, and I’m typing on my laptop now with a giant boot partition on the new, faster drive.

Legalized Discrimination in Indiana

Indiana’s “religious freedom” bill is a good example of something that should never have had to happen.

As I understand it – and I’m not a lawyer, nor do I live in Indiana any more, so I’m mostly seeing the aftermath of rage – it says that a business has the right to refuse to serve someone on religious grounds.

It’s Indiana SB 101, if you want to read what it actually says; as I understand it, it prevents the government from “substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, unless the governmental entity can demonstrate a requirement otherwise.” It also “prohibits an applicant, employee, or former employee from pursuing certain causes of action against a private employer.” (Emphasis mine.)

This means that a baker can refuse, on grounds of religion, to make a cake for a homosexual couple’s wedding. It also means that a kosher deli can’t be sued just for not being halal, if a muslim desires to work there. It also means that someone could refuse to serve black people, presumably if there’s a demonstrable religious reason for doing it.

What we’ve seen of humanity so far is that someone will definitely be able to come up with a “demonstrable religious reason” to discriminate based on … almost anything, because people are inventive even if they’re stupid.

I think this bill is intended to mean that a minister of a conservative church can’t be forced to marry a homosexual couple, for example.

Naturally, a lot of social communities are up in arms about it. And they probably should be! A bill like this creates amazing potential for abuse.

But what was expected, really?

The reason bills like this are introduced is because of ineffective social activism. Someone in group “A” acts in such a way that group “B” thinks is bigoted – for example, someone in group “A” decides that making a cake for a homosexual wedding is not something they want to do. Group “B” thus decides to force the issue, claiming illegal discrimination.

Group A thus has a limited set of possible responses.

  • They can violate their own ethics by caving to the social pressure.
  • They can decide that the “unethical action” is an acceptable loss – something they should do despite their misgivings.
  • They can dig in their heels and defend their own freedom and rights.

The thing is: group B – the one forcing the issue – might be right; it might be illegal (well, illegal based on prior law, I guess) or unethical discrimination. Thus, they’re choosing to be social actors. This is what gave us integrated schools and lunch counters, after all, and discrimination represents an unpleasant set of memories for me, personally.

But then again, they might be wrong.

Demanding integration for public transportation and schools is entirely ethical – our government definitely has no right to refuse service based on the color of someone’s skin, or their sexuality, or their religion, or even their politics.

But when someone owns a private business, do they have the right to refuse service to anyone? If so, where is that line drawn? This bill says that it’s drawn on the side of the freedom of the business – they get to choose, even if that choice seems wrong to someone else.

And it should be up to the business! Otherwise, they could conceivably be forced to serve clientele who renege on the social contract between consumer and provider – imagine someone writing a series of bad checks to a business, then suing because the business doesn’t want to serve them any more.

Of course, with this being Indiana, chances are the one writing bad checks would win such a suit. I’m unimpressed by Indiana’s understanding of law.

This is not to say that I think discrimination is right – discrimination is wrong, in the general sense being used here. The problem here is that discrimination is being sought out, and then used as a basis for activism, which means that people who aren’t comfortable with a course of action on ethical grounds is being confronted often with that course of action. They’re being asked to endorse something that they feel they cannot ethically endorse. Again, they can cave, or change, or resist.

In most cases, changing is best; for example, I would think it would be a better ministry for a Christian bakery to make a cake for a homosexual couple’s wedding than to refuse, but that’s something that each bakery would need to address. If the couple is aggressive about desiring a cake – well, I’ve heard horror stories from friends who were chosen simply because of the ethical position it would put the bakery in.

In other words, the couple didn’t care who made the cake, really, but chose a bakery solely for the conflict. Again, this is someone I know.

The Senate summary says that the government can demonstrate a requirement otherwise, so one would hope that there’s a legal barrier to outright discrimination. I’d almost rather, though, that people applied social pressure instead; imagine people of all skin colors avoiding a business that said “We don’t serve black folk at this here counter.”

The business has a right to decide who it will serve; the people it would serve have a right to decide not to frequent that business, and think of the massive opportunity such a declaration gives a competitor! Ricky Randy’s Racist Restaurant won’t serve none o’ them black folk? Well, what about Jimbo’s Restaurant one block away, which has no problem serving those two gay African American gentlemen, who get to sit right there in that nice window booth?

Eventually, Ricky Randy’s will have to explain to all of the empty seats that they might have to close them there doors for good.

It turns out that some of the conventions that Indianapolis appreciates might avoid Indiana, because of this law. Do I have an opinion on that?

Sure: I’m neutral. The convention has every right to avoid Indianapolis because of this; it’s a private entity, and thus has the same right the Indiana House has granted to other private entities in the state to refuse to serve Indiana. (See the irony? They’re protesting, using the same right that Indiana is demanding that everyone be granted.)

Say What You Mean

Facebook has led me to see a lot of people who, while intelligent, don’t know how to communicate in such a way that their viewpoints have any strength or apparent merit. I’d like to see that repaired – because reading stupid stuff wastes everyone’s time. While I’m not the wisest person or the most effective communicator on the planet, I’ve been around enough to know a little.

To be an effective communicator in any medium, here’s my advice:

Say what you mean.

A corrollary to this is: know what you mean.

Avoid hyperbole, statements that are exaggerated in order to illustrate a point, unless you actually know your audience is going to recognize it for what it is. The truth is that a public audience of virtually any size will not recognize hyperbole. Some in the audience might; maybe even most. But assuming everyone will recognize it is going to lead to you having misrepresented yourself.

Avoid sarcasm, the use of irony to mock something. Like hyperbole, if you know your audience is going to recognize it, that’s fine. Chances are very good that as the audience grows in size, someone’s going to misunderstand sarcasm, plain and simple.

I’m a jokester – I’m very sarcastic in my internal conversations. I’ve had to learn through years of screwing up that my sarcasm’s main audience is (and should be) myself, and that others should be sheltered from it, if possible, rather than exposed to it.

I’m not perfect, by any measure – since my internal dialogue is very sarcastic, it slips through now and then.

It’s burned me before; I wrote a very sarcastic article on a website years ago that suggested that Java sucked, for a very (very) trivial reason – that “it couldn’t tell I meant x when I said y.” I thought it was an entirely laughable reason; surely everyone would see that it was a joke, even if they didn’t see the humor in it.

Boy, was I wrong. I actually amended the post to specifically say that it was an attempt at humor, but people still didn’t get it.

It’s okay. I learned.

Set Theory

Set theory actually informs a lot of how I communicate.

By the way, mathematicians will now proceed to scream at me about how poorly I’m representing sets here. Sorry about that, David.

Set theory is built around collections, and how those collections interact. A set interacts with other sets through the use of unions, intersections, and complements. Sets can be subsets or supersets of other sets, or have no relationships whatsoever.

A set whose members all exist in another set is a subset. Integers, for examples, make up a subset of real numbers. Real numbers make up, correspondingly, a superset of integers.

A union of a set is the addition of one set to another. Given a set of [A,B,C] and another set [D,E,F], the union of these two sets would be [A,B,C,D,E,F]. A union of sets [A,B,C] and [C,D,E] (note how “C” is in both sets) is [A,B,C,D,E].

An intersection of sets refers to the elements in common between the two sets. Given [A,B,C] and [D,E,F], the intersection would be the empty set: []. Given [A,B,C] and [C,D,E] (again, note “C” in common) would be [C].

A complement of a set indicates the members of one set such that they do not exist in another set. If we have set A of [1,2,3] and set B of [1,1.5,2,2.5,3,3.5], the complement of set A in set B is [1.5, 2.5, 3.5].

How This Matters

Set theory works fantastically well in mathematics. The problem, though, is that people apply it outside of mathematics, where the lines aren’t as clear.

For example, I consider myself a libertarian. That means I’m not a republican, not a democrat, not an anarchist (although some think libertarianism is the same as anarchism), and not a socialist. I even respect Ayn Rand.

Respecting Ayn Rand doesn’t mean the same thing as walking in lock-step with her ghost.

I’m in the set of Libertarians.

The problem comes when one applies a statement to “all libertarians,” because almost no such statement would be true, unless it’s a tautology.

An example of a statement that would be very true (but not always true) would be “Libertarians are those identify with libertarianism.” It’s mostly true, and is largely self-evident; however, there are people who call themselves Republicans or Democrats who would probably identify strongly with libertarianism, and there are also people who call themselves libertarians who are, actually, fascists or anarchists, for whatever reason.

That’s okay. The problem comes in as a facet of cardinality. When you say “All X are in the set of Y”, as the size of X or Y grows the likelihood of error becomes much greater.

Remember that “Don’t use hyperbole” statement at the beginning of this post? “All of my audience is in the set of people who understand hyperbole” fits in well here; as the size of X grows, the likelihood of the statement being true falls dramatically.

When you use cardinal referents like “always,” “never,” or “all,” you’re saying something real, with actual meaning. If you mean it, that’s great. If you don’t, then own that and don’t say it. Otherwise you make yourself into a cartoon, really, to those whom you’re afflicting with your words.

Synergy 1.6.3 has been released, may fix focus problems

The Synergy Project, a program that allows cross-platform sharing of keyboard and mouse, has released version 1.6.3, which has a potentially really important fix in the changelog:

Bug #4349 - Mouse click does not always bring window to front

I’ve been having a lot of problems with Z-order on my desktops, and this may be the problem. I haven’t done enough triage to definitely say, because Synergy is so useful that I’ve not really been willing to consider not using it; the alternatives are just not good enough.

If you use Synergy, definitely get this update. If you don’t, and you have multiple machines on your desk and want to share the keyboard and mouse, try Synergy. If you’re Mac-only, my Mac friends tell me Teleport is the bee’s knees; I’m not Mac-only, and Synergy has totally rocked for me.