Supersonic Man

September 10, 2013

strict doctypes and old markup

Filed under: Hobbyism and Nerdry — Supersonic Man @ 9:49 am

I thought strict doctypes, like XMTML Strict, were just for eliminating all the deprecated HTML tags that were used for stuff that now uses CSS, such as <font> and <center>.  But there are a couple of gotchas with it.  For instance, strict [X]HTML does not allow you to put a target= attribute on a link.  Apparently this is considered a matter of presentation and styling, though only cutting-edge implementations of CSS support setting it in a stylesheet.  But the one that really makes me scratch my head is that <blockquote> is only allowed to contain block-level elements.  What?  The obvious semantics of a block quote are that it should contain text.  But no, now it’s only supposed to contain paragraphs and divs, not act as a paragraph in itself.

(I’m posting this partly just as a sort of note to myself.)

I do try to use modern standards, but my website has content dating back as far as 1996, so no way am I going to clean out all the old <font> tags.

Maybe I should at least validate, since the content there is all fairly new, and generated from a single master page that I can easily modernize.

[update] I did: is now fully XHTML Strict compliant, though still has tons of content that’s stuck at a Netscape 4 level of markup, using no CSS at all.  The front landing page is the only part that uses any modern browser technology, and even that dates mainly from about 2005.

[update 2] I made a spreadsheet of all the HTML pages on assessing their state of modernity in terms of styling.  The current status is:

  • root level: almost everything is archaic except the index page and the one page that draws the most search traffic.
  • the old film-era photo gallery folder (which frankly, has been an embarrassment for some time, and really needs updating, or even just some severe culling) is also completely archaic.
  • the Enron & Friends material is 90% bad, with a light sprinkling of modern style tweaks, but the current events movie reviews in the same folder are 90% good.
  • the B movie folder is good, and the boids folder, plus bits in the Amiga folder and the Reagan folder.
  • two of the biggest folders are good, but they’re both unfinished projects which are not yet exposed to the public.

The question is, which of these archaic areas is even worth updating?  The answer would be, almost none.  They’re all dated, essentially of historical interest only, except for the gallery, where markup is the least of its problems.


August 28, 2013

automation is going to take our jobs

Filed under: thoughtful handwaving — Supersonic Man @ 10:28 am

That sounds like a fear-mongering headline from fifty years ago, doesn’t it?  It never happened, right?  But I think the time is coming when it could.

In a previous post, I discussed the prospects for what’s coming in the field of Artificial Intelligence — the likelihood that in another couple of generations, there will be machines among us which have superhuman intelligence, and possibly superhuman awareness and consciousness as well.  With luck, such entities will help us make the world a far better place, by greatly increasing the world’s supply of wisdom.  (Of course, much less positive outcomes are also possible, up to an including a B-movie robot uprising.)  But even in the best-case scenario, where the machines act consistently in our interest and do their honest best to help us all out of any trouble we get in, it’s going to be a rough transition, and machine intelligence is probably going to be used harmfully before it’s used helpfully.

This is because, as I described in that post, machine intellection will come first, and machine consciousness will only be possible later on.  (The former is something we’re closing in on today, while on the latter goal we’re still completely lost.)  So in the early phases of AI, intelligent machines will not be autonomous entities that make their own decisions according to their own values; they will, rather, be simply a souped-up version of the computers we know today, and will solve whatever problems they are given by their owners according to whatever criteria they’re programmed with.  Which means they will mostly be serving the interests either of governmental power and security, or of making money for some corporation.

And that means that when they can do so cheaply — which they will be able to do more easily with every passing year — they will replace us at our jobs.  The old fear that automation would create widespread unemployment will finally come true.


July 13, 2013


Filed under: birds,Photo — Supersonic Man @ 11:51 am

What’s more fun than seeing a young male Bullock’s Oriole in your back yard?

How about a male Hooded Oriole?

With his whole family!

Here’s the Mrs or one of the youngsters (I can’t tell which) going after some flower nectar.

These guys have all been showing up in the last week.  We’ve put out orange slices to tempt them.  They haven’t eaten those yet, but there’s plenty of other fruit and berries in the yard.

June 4, 2013

global warming — what do we do?

Filed under: Rantation and Politicizing,thoughtful handwaving — Supersonic Man @ 7:54 am

So what course should we take about global warming?

First of all, that we should conserve energy, reduce fossil fuel consumption, and migrate to renewable energy resources as rapidly as we can, is not open for debate.  Anyone who denies the need for such effort is just irresponsible.  I’m asking, what do we do beyond that?  How do we handle the growing consequences of the carbon dioxide levels we’ve already created, and will continue to add to even if we make our best effort to reduce the problem? (more…)

May 25, 2013

the Great Filter

Filed under: thoughtful handwaving — Supersonic Man @ 9:23 am

The Fermi Paradox.  The Silentum Universum.  The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence that comes up empty.  The appearance that we may be alone in the cosmos.  What’s up with that?

The “paradox” is named for Enrico Fermi, the inventor of the first nuclear reactor.  Here’s how it goes.  See,


April 3, 2013

an embarrasingly close closeup

Filed under: birds,Photo — Supersonic Man @ 7:23 pm

I’ve settled on a lens to use with the tiny Q camera… it’s a Nikkor 180mm f2.8 ED, an oldie but goodie considered to have been one of the sharpest telephotos of the film era.

The new Q-gun can really pull things in tight…

is Microsoft now the underdog? (WordPress is annoying)

Filed under: Hobbyism and Nerdry,Rantation and Politicizing — Supersonic Man @ 7:15 pm

I think I’ve about had it with Wordpiss.  Their comment approval process is fine for rejecting dozens of spam comments, but it’s terrible for approving a valid comment where you have to actually READ it before you’re sure it’s good.  The only way to read the whole comment to the end, as far as I could see, was to edit it!  I could not find any option for viewing the comment as it would appear if approved.  And then, when I try to follow any links to the post it’s a comment to, they’re links for editing it, not reading it.  This is stupid.

I have a sneaking feeling that Blogger is much easier to work with.  But I don’t want to move yet more of my life on to Google’s servers.  I think they’ve now officially crossed the line into being the new Microsoft — the big dominant choice that anyone who doesn’t like monopolies ought to look for alternatives to.  Since Windows 8 came out, Microsoft might actually now qualify as an underdog.  If not now, then they will soon.

IBM has been an underdog for a while now.  If they achieve the ability to answer natural-language questions before Google does, as they well might, I’ll be rooting for them, even though they were once the bad guy.  But I won’t go so far as to root for Microsoft… the memories of their ways when they were on top are a bit too fresh.

As for blogging platforms… what I really miss is Livejournal.  Why are today’s social networking sites so good for connecting people but so terrible for longer-form writing?  LJ was the one and only time that I saw thoughtful blogging combined with strong social networking in a way where both were able to work to their fullest.

February 21, 2013

pictures on top

Filed under: Hobbyism and Nerdry — Supersonic Man @ 5:01 pm

It was bugging me that the text along the right hand side of this blog would be rendered on top of my lovely pictures. So I experimented, and it turns out that WordPress is perfectly happy to let you add this little adjustment to your <img> tags:


February 20, 2013

some “abstracts” of old supercomputers

Filed under: Photo — Supersonic Man @ 9:12 pm

…and a little extra: a computer that is definitely not super, but does have OFFERING B.

a tame eagle!

Filed under: birds,Photo — Supersonic Man @ 9:05 pm


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