Fixpoint

2019-12-11

Uruguay parte 2: llegada y primeras vistas

Filed under: Historia, Politikos, Vita — Jacob Welsh @ 20:12

Continued from Parte 1.

My text having overtaken the start of photography, I'll have to backtrack a bit to Montevideo's Aeropuerto Internactional de Carrasco (MVD) which was looking quite shiny and new. Bag claim (evidently I misremembered: there were three on the international side, though just the one active):

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Aduanas (customs). That bienes de ingreso/egreso temporal would seem vague enough to cover just about anything if they felt like it; fortunately they didn't give a second glance (perhaps even first glance) to my scandalous screwdriver and packing materials.

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Free at last, but not quite home.

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I would have picked up a local SIM but the booth was closed for the night. It turned out my Panama SIM worked on roaming, at least briefly, which it hadn't in the US.

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The bit of the world that is me thanks Uruguay for the welcome.

MUNDO, BIENVENIDO A URUGUAY

In contrast to Panama, there was no crowd of taxi syndicate reps soliciting eagerly. Instead it's an orderly racket; you go to the taxi counter and arrange a ride with prepayment and receipt. Having been warned the cab would be around US $55, I held out for the $13 shuttle bus, taking the wait time to replace that stolen sunscreen, collect my thoughts and decompress a bit. I found myself tired but alert and relieved.

The only exterior shot I managed of the airport, so it'll have to do:

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Some Himpton by Halton thing near the airport with well-lit street:

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First shuttle stop was at the Motel Bahamas:

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A pleasant nighttime drive down the coast and another one or two stops later and I'd made it to my destination in the relatively nice Pocitos neighborhood.

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The buildings here cap out around 10-12 stories due to zoning. Most are mixed-use, with shops at ground level and apartments above. My first impression of the area compared to most of Panama City was of something older (turns out many buildings date to the 1930's if I recall), more stable (as opposed to wreckage and new construction everywhere), cleaner, and far more pedestrian friendly (wide and not entirely treacherous sidewalks). Aaron pointed out that this does not apply to the whole city, with outlying neighborhoods ranging from more typically LatAm to outright favela (though these not walled off as in Brazil).

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Right around the block was an ANCAP gas station with rare 24-hour convenience store and deli, which served me for breakfasts, rather dreadful espresso (they couldn't believe I didn't want sugar, which probably says it all), and a printed map so as to navigate free of any "mobile device" nonsense.

First daytime views of the coastal Rambla, supporting vehicle, bike and pedestrian traffic and beach access, as I made my way to meet my host.

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Oh yes, the street signs serve advertising; it does seem to help keep them in good shape.

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One of the larger mini-parks opposite the beach, near the Avenida Brasil.

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Battery scooters for hire.

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"Por la vida y la convivencia" : La Policia seem to like their mottos...

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There's a lazy tourism option.

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I have no idea. It didn't seem animate.

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"Orgullosamente blanco" - "proudly white" - referring, I gather, to the party colors of the recently victorious Partido Nacional rather than something racial.

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Either Ave. Brasil or Espana, two thoroughfares that converge at the coast.

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Corner florists seem to be thriving...

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Corner locksmiths not so much.

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Heading inland a bit; some gym/yoga place.

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Apparently they don't need no education at the Center of Foreign Tongues. Aaron tells me the buildings generally don't get repainted much because maintenance work is taxed the same as new construction.

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Perhaps this would have been the spot for a better coffee.

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There's minimal piped natural gas infrastructure (as in Panama, though there it's often provided building-wide and refueled by tanker trucks).

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Pizzeria Trouville

Another florist, and some of the typical sycamores lining the streets.

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To be continued with rare electronics and proper tourism.

2019-12-03

Keccak background

Filed under: Bitcoin, Historia, Software — Jacob Welsh @ 18:52

"Keccak" is a cryptographic hash function, or rather, some primitives for constructing such functions in a desired size and shape, of relatively recent design as these things go. It was brought to the attention of the forum in early 2016 in the context of contemplating changes to the Bitcoin protocol,(i) (ii) (iii) and subsequently differentiated from SHA3.(iv)

Compared to the prevailing standards at the time - mostly variants on the MD4 concept, processing blocks of input through an iterated compression function - Keccak is based on a large pseudorandom permutation (1600 bits, though the spec also defines smaller variants). As this is readily invertible, the desired "one-way" property is provided by a "sponge construction", mixing in blocks of input and extracting output while iterating the permutation and keeping some number of its bits secret as internal state. This number is called the capacity (or by complement the rate, the two summing to the permutation bit width) and can be tuned for the desired balance of security and computational intensity. The construction can take unlimited input, or produce unlimited output as a kind of stream cipher.(v)

I started out in 2017 playing with a C implementation found in the wild, supposedly a "readable and compact" version written by the original team. With some cleanup I got it into a state that could be described as compact, but I couldn't get very far in reading it, at least without having first digested the spec. And it had the unfortunate limitation of requiring the full input and output to exist in memory, no streaming. My confidence as an applied cryptographer was growing and I soon implemented a number of classical hash functions, but set Keccak aside as not being an immediate necessity. Meanwhile, Diana Coman produced and incrementally published a very nice and documented reference implementation in Ada, which was adopted for use in V and soon became non-optional.

While I was well convinced by the Republican rationale for Ada, I was much less keen on introducing GNAT, the flagship implementation, into my environment. It was a million-plus-line-of-code beast that I wouldn't stand a chance to ever really understand; making matters worse, it was a "Thompsonism", a circular dependency requiring existing binaries in order to build from source and thus dubiously "open source" at all. While I already depended on one such thing - the C compiler - I was hoping to somehow keep this to ONE thing, or at least ensure a way to work with the crucial V on existing machines without pulling all this in.

Stay tuned for the result.


  1. mircea_popescu: actually i wouldn't go to war over keccak.
    mircea_popescu: letting bitfury & friends eat 100mn in unrecoupable engineering costs would provide exactly the correct lesson as to what it's a good idea to say and when it's a good idea to shut the fuck up and toe the line.

    [^]

  2. The necessary prerequisite for any change to the Bitcoin protocol [^]

  3. mircea_popescu: http://log.bitcoin-assets.com/?date=01-02-2016#1393026 << at least it wasn;t fucking developed by teh nsa.
    assbot: Logged on 01-02-2016 19:29:18; ascii_butugychag: ;;later tell mircea_popescu in what sense is adoptinc keccak a rejection of usg standards? it was actually adopted as sha3...
    mircea_popescu: as far as we know. whatevs. minor point.
    ascii_butugychag: btw between that thread and now i went and read the keccak spec
    ascii_butugychag: it is mighty spiffy.
    ascii_butugychag: accordionizes to size.
    mircea_popescu: :)
    mircea_popescu: i don't need to explain what i meant by not finite then ?
    ascii_butugychag: aha.
    ascii_butugychag: other hashes also accept infinite bits but they eat where they shit.
    mircea_popescu: quite.
    mircea_popescu: and mind that while in no means do i propose this is "Asic resistant", from a designer perspective you must appreciate i'm giving you a fun job to do.
    mircea_popescu: at least therer's that.
    mircea_popescu: always make sure everyone's having fun.
    ascii_butugychag: quite! nobody will be plagiarizing old verilog from fpga docs to bake this one.
    ascii_butugychag: very asian-resistant.
    ascii_butugychag: which is a mega-plus.

    [^]


  4. asciilifeform: holyshit the original keccak www is gone
    asciilifeform: replaced with some horrorshow
    asciilifeform: ada code -- gone
    asciilifeform: fortunately still on my hdd
    asciilifeform: check this out, keccak.noekeon.org now forwards to buncha tards
    asciilifeform: https://archive.is/GkmgU < original
    shinohai: Notice that happened after nist.gov declared their spec
    asciilifeform: shinohai: not immediately , iirc was still intact last yr
    asciilifeform: incidentally shinohai keccak != usg.sha3
    asciilifeform: they adopted ~particular params~ of keccak as the new national whatever
    asciilifeform: orig is ~family~ of functions.
    asciilifeform: see also https://archive.is/lViVh << since 'unhappened' article
    asciilifeform: ' The SHA-3 version of Keccak being proposed appears to provide essentially the same level of security guarantees as SHA-2, its predecessor. If we are going to develop a next generation hash, there certainly should be standardized versions that provide a higher security level than the older hash functions! NIST, in the original call for submissions, specifically asked for four versions in each submission, with at least two that would
    asciilifeform: be stronger than what was currently available, so it's hard to understand this post-competition weakening.'
    asciilifeform: didjaknow.
    asciilifeform: notice how 'everyone' nao thinks 'oh, keccak? that's called sha3 nao' [^]
  5. Since state is still finite, output will of course repeat eventually; one would hope this cycle length approaches that order of 21600. [^]

2019-11-27

Early history of me, part 6

Filed under: Ego, Historia, Paidagogia, Vita — Jacob Welsh @ 18:22

Continued from part 5

Another eventually-successful parental negotiation involved my music studies. While my violin skills had advanced substantially from ages six to twelve, both solo and in orchestra, and I enjoyed performing, I had never quite accepted the burden internally, and the rigors of daily practice continued to grate. It probably didn't help that my parents weren't demonstrating much musical discipline themselves. If you want to raise a Wolfgang Mozart, it helps to be a Leopold Mozart, y'know?

At the same time, I'd dabbled a bit with the piano, because it was there, and it called out to be tackled properly. I convinced them to let me switch; we found a local teacher (at greater expense, if I recall, for having to look outside the organization) and I pursued the study with vigor. Unfortunately this only lasted about two years until we couldn't seem to make time for it among the increasing demands of school.

Some words about extended family would seem in order to round out an overview of my childhood. There was one set of grandparents surviving, my mother's side, who had retired about an hour north (a seemingly interminable drive at that age) in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.(i) We'd visit every month or two. I liked them better than my parents did, probably due to less historical baggage on one hand and their inclination to spoil me on the other. When I slept over I'd be able to watch cartoons and play with Grandpa's Mac (with color display!) for hours. They had an affinity for the Arab world, having spent their careers as professors at the American University of Beirut. "Sittou" as we called her was the only churchgoer (Lutheran) in the clan, while Grandpa was a kind of tolerant non-believer. There was an uncle with family that I'd usually see at the grandparents' place.

On my father's side there was an elder aunt and family in Maine; due to the distance we'd see them yearly, at least in the good years when we could afford the vacation. They had picked up the tab on a coastal summer cottage that had been in the family a few generations; I remember with great fondness the change of scenery, climate and pace afforded by these trips; the smell of pine forests and ocean.

While all sorts of details could be relevant to the story of childhood, I will close this series with one that made a distinct mark on me and my generation: the events of the morning of September 11, 2001 and subsequent descent into war on an emotion. It was a school day in the sixth grade. The administration's first reaction was to say nothing, but by lunchtime a growing list of names was being called to report for early pickup, and rumor spread: "the country is under attack!" The superficial facts became clear soon enough, if not the interpretation. Following my parents I was skeptical of the official narrative; LaRouche had even spoken of the possibility of a "Reichstag fire" i.e. false flag event, before it happened. Whatever the Bush/Cheney administration's negligence or even complicity may have been, things played right into their hands. There was an upswell of patriotic fervor, with the songs, "United We Stand" posters and "Fight Terrorism" bumper stickers. I noted the blue skies vacant of contrails as civilian flight was suspended in the following weeks, and the later conversion of airport "security" from this quaint thing with X-ray machines to the complete exercise in humiliation that the inmates now take for granted. As the war whoops escalated, the average low-information voter didn't seem to perceive a difference between supposed Saudi hijackers, Taliban, or Saddam Hussein. Someone had to pay and it didn't much matter who. It marked the beginning of an end of innocence, both in the culture as a whole and my relationship to it.

  1. Perhaps most famous for its battlefield, regarded as the turning point of the American Civil War. [^]

2019-11-26

Early history of me, part 5

Filed under: Ego, Historia, Paidagogia, Vita — Jacob Welsh @ 17:13

Continued from part 4

Lest I paint too bleak a picture of a flat landscape in the public school system, special-needs options started to be offered around the fourth grade for those afflicted by working brains, namely honors classes and once-weekly programs with pompous acronyms whose meaning nobody remembered like FUTURA and SPECTRUM. These provided welcome relief, but remaining surrounded by a crowd that was none too interested in that whole learning thing, and probably resentful of being subjected to it, was still draining. And even in the honors classes, I found the ever-expanding homework burden full of silly, pointless or repetitive drudgery. Around the eighth grade I chose to drop my "straight-A" record to make more time for my interests outside school, which by that time had gravitated toward computer programming.

I sometimes complained to my parents about the situation. Why not the local private school where my friends from the organization went (by financial support from extended family)? Why not home-school? Such entreaties would be dismissed in the "yes, but" style.(i) While they did help pressure teachers and administrators into better supporting me, questioning the system itself was off the table. I see it as a kind of passivity from assumption of helplessness, lacking adequate consideration of what might have been possible or weighing of longer-term costs among proximate ones. When high school came around, there was finally a more serious option of a full-time magnet school;(ii) the proximate cost was being in the next county over with a lengthy bus commute. They rejected this on the first pass, hoping the local situation would improve. To their credit, they came around once it clearly wasn't improving and I got in as a sophomore transfer; unfortunately this meant having missed out on a number of freshman bonding experiences.

To be continued

  1. That "well, yes, but..." was a phrase often cited by LaRouche regarding the avoidances of potential recruits. [^]
  2. Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. [^]

2019-11-25

Early history of me, part 4

Filed under: Ego, Historia, Paidagogia, Vita — Jacob Welsh @ 17:31

Continued from part 3

There was none of that IV drip of brain sugar known as television in the household. My parents were quite concerned with the developmental effects of screen time, especially of that aimless and passive sort; movies and video games were fairly restricted as well. As intended, this directed my entertainment desires to books. My father's reading to me became a cherished evening tradition, and I eagerly took up reading myself as I became able, with interests tending toward fantasy adventure and a bit of science fiction.

While I loved the family time, a sore spot for me is the amount of time spent being not-raised by not-them. Like many - I'd venture to say most - American kids of this era I was "institutionalized", with daycare from an early age (around one year, if I recall) feeding right into preschool, kindergarten, then school proper. I'm not too clear on how this compares to global or historical norms, but my understanding is that the crowded environment makes individual attention difficult and the constant change in caregivers disrupts bonding. "Because I said so" and "life's not fair" are the typical explanations I remember from the preschool authorities. While the unfairness point is perfectly true, I see its usage more as code for "I feel overworked and underpaid and can't be bothered to help you think through your kiddie problems." Not that solving one's own problems isn't important either, but I don't know... how much reflection or social finesse can you really expect from four-year-olds, especially if it hasn't been well modeled? The typical justification for this outsourcing is Money; the only difference in my case is that it was the Mission.

I don't well recall if or how I expressed myself about the preschool environment at the time, but as time went on the deficiencies of the cookie-cutter approach of the school system became evident. One story (handed down as I didn't recall it myself) was the third grade teacher asking, "What solid has the same shape on every side?" An eager me: "Actually, there are five:", proceeding to rattle off the 'hedrons with correct pronunciation that my eighth grade geometry teacher later wouldn't manage. Teacher: "Yes Jacob; but the third grade answer is the cube." Peer: "That's right Jacob, this is third grade!!11" Me: "That's right. Third grade, not kindergarten." Then in the sixth grade, there was that "science" teacher who earnestly believed the moon orbited the earth every 28 hours and criticized me as "argumentative" (something my parents were delighted to hear).

To be continued

2019-11-24

Early history of me, part 3

Filed under: Ego, Historia, Philosophia, Vita — Jacob Welsh @ 17:16

Continued from part 2

The kids were all sent to conventional schooling of one sort or another, I suppose to be properly socialized in the "outside" world, which I've been starting to see as nothing but the inside of the larger cult of 'Merica - the more nefarious one for its scale and pervasiveness in the environment.

The organization hosted a day camp in the summers between school sessions. I remember these fondly for the most part; there was instruction in music, visual arts, drama, and some hands-on variety of math or science, punctuated by lightly organized sport, swimming, and at least some time for unstructured outdoor play.(i)

Not all was rosy, to be sure. The idea of an inner spark of goodness present in every human,(ii) that just needs the right sort of love and attention to kindle, played out bitterly in at least one way. Many families had put off childbearing well past their prime years for the sake of fighting the war, and realized too late either that they wanted kids or that the "about to win, any minute now" wasn't working out. Some, such as my own parents, made it work; others not so lucky turned to adoption, generally from the offerings of more-dysfunctional countries.(iii) Of these, some worked out fine, at least as far as the naked eye could tell; others did not. The camps were plagued by severe behavior problems from these, who would seek attention of any kind by being maximally disruptive and wasting everyone's time. And why shouldn't they anyway, with the "adults" perceiving themselves to have no options and nobody taking a serious stand to put a stop to it?

For my part, I thought of myself as a good kid and was eager to please. My home life, in continuation of my parents' own upbringings, was non-violent; I hesitate to say "peaceful" because there's always conflict of some sort, naturally. Voices were almost never raised, and disagreements generally worked out through discussion (though not always free of emotional "reasoning"). In my case conflicts centered around things I actively disliked doing, such as chores, trying new foods, and setting toys aside when the time called for it.(iv) My mother was the disciplinarian of the household, while I felt I could count on my father more for cooler evaluations of difficult topics.

To be continued

  1. Something I gather has been almost entirely disappearing from modern childhood in this not-so-brave new world of "safetyism" and touchscreen entertainment from the earliest years. [^]
  2. Possibly originating from LaRouche's high regard for Christianity (though he didn't require any particular religion or non-religion of members). [^]
  3. For reasons I'm unsure of but suspect to be ideological. [^]
  4. Things I still sometimes struggle with - go figure! [^]

2019-11-23

Early history of me, part 2

Filed under: Ego, Historia, Philosophia, Vita — Jacob Welsh @ 17:29

Continued from part 1

While I lacked the knowledge to grasp the teachings or follow the affairs of "the organization" at a deep level, I loved the community and intellectually lively culture it provided, and engaged as best I could. We were at the "national center", which in the 1980s had fled the New York City rents to the then-small town of Leesburg, Virginia,(i) and provided a "critical mass" with other kids to befriend and helpful grown-ups who could teach on a variety of topics.

Like any good religion, music played a major part of daily life, regarded as a focused activity to train the mind and also providing pleasure and bonding. The focus was heavily on Classical music, with its emphasis on beauty and sophisticated harmonies (counterpoint) rather than the repetitive chord progressions of popular music. In fact, music was regarded to have healing powers, at least in a spiritual sense; there was no soul so lost that a sufficient application of Bach couldn't lift it back up, or so the theory went. There was a weekly chorus for the children, though the coaching didn't get much past the elementary; I had a good sense of pitch but never quite got the hang of projection and vibrato, and was fairly self-conscious about singing solo. I was also subjected to enriched by violin lessons, a more difficult and correspondingly rewarding pursuit.

Outside these mandatory activities, my interests got me into a geometry class with the adults; they used it as practice of what I gather to be their Platonic views, such as the process of creative discovery conceived as the mind becoming aware of something it already contained, and superiority of the "mind's eye" to direct sensory perception. "Accept nothing that you have not constructively proven for yourself" was one teaching. I also received private tutoring from a fellow who liked building things, reading classical physics texts and reproducing experiments. Among other projects we managed to build a working demonstration of magnetic levitation. As with music solving inner problems, it was believed that advanced technology could solve all economic problems, if only it were given proper respect and state financing of course.

To be continued

  1. Not so small anymore after the huge growth of the Washington, DC area, fueled as I understand by growth of the Federal bureaucracy and decay of industry elsewhere. [^]

2019-11-22

Early history of me, part 1

Filed under: Ego, Historia, Vita — Jacob Welsh @ 17:06

A principal authority in my early years, until somewhere around age 14, through the natural channel of parental involvement, was the American self-styled philosopher and statesman Lyndon LaRouche (1922-2019) and his organization.(i)

They used various names for different branches of their efforts, from the ever so Soviet sounding "National Caucus of Labor Committees" for the activist core, to the "Schiller Institute"(ii) for larger philosophical, artistic and political outreach. It was a high-pressure environment for members, with promises of immanent collapse of the global monetary-financial system on the one hand, and a new renaissance uplifting the world from poverty and realizing the glorious potential of mankind on the other. Once committed, one was expected to give everything one had, and then some, to the cause. It was effective at least in terms of putting out vast volumes of printed material, attracting a sizable audience, running numerous election campaigns (though not especially successful), and keeping the operation more-or-less afloat for decades.

At least to my young self, the man was impressive in speech as in writing. He hailed from an earlier era, before the generations raised by television with 45-second attention span, could hold forth for hours on a wide range of topics with deep vocabulary and historical knowledge, and would expect you to keep up.

To be continued(iii)

  1. The "attempt to predicate the meaning on an authority predicated on the meaning" description would seem to fit. [^]
  2. After 18th century German poet and playwright Friedrich Schiller. [^]
  3. As before, I'm on a daily deadline in order to keep the pen moving. [^]

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