Think you can come home again?

This is a note to all those who grew up in a small town and went off into the big wide world to seek their fortune and make a life for themselves. And did.

Then it all fell apart courtesy of COVID-19.

And when they lost everything, their house their job – Everything – they decided they would go home. To where they came from because that’s what you do when you’re down on your luck and at the end of your rope. 

But will they find help and shelter and a friendly face when they come back home to their Hometown after being away for 20-25 years?

If what I have seen here in this small town is any indication: they’re going to find it’s kind of like that  movie trope where the kid goes off to University and it doesn’t work out and they come home and they find out that Mom and Dad have rented out their room to some stranger and there’s no place for them at home.

Except that would be nice. What will happen will not be so nice.

My town is a small town and has a small homeless population. But many of the people in this town are fed up with that homeless population and like an awful lot of people in small towns, and Big Towns, everywhere when they start thinking with their guts and their emotions they want simplistic solutions to complicated problems.

One of the things I hear them say is: The Homeless are here because we’re such a soft touch – if we weren’t so easy on them then they’d move on.

On its face that’s easy to refute – there are homeless everywhere and our town is not special.

But the implied reasoning also says these homeless are transients that will move along if the pickings get too lean or the streets get too mean.

One thing that they don’t want to hear and conveniently refuse to remember is that a large portion of that homeless population grew up here. 

That fact flies in the face of their desire for these homeless people to just take off and go somewhere else.

When I look at the organized groups and the loudest voices I find an interesting phenomenon: While there are hundreds of people in these groups some of the loudest and most angry are people who have been here about as long as I have, 15 years.

I had this conversation with one I know who has been active in the community and even local government:

Them: They are transients coming here from other places because we’re a soft touch.

Me: But the RCMP told all of us, at the meeting we were both at, that a significant portion of them grew up here. They’re the sons and daughters and cousins and nephews and nieces of people here.

Them: Well he’s not saying that now. What do you think when you see out of province plates dropping them off at the _____ (local soup kitchen)?

Me: I went through the hitchhiking craze too and I know that just means that’s where their lift dropped them. And I haven’t heard the RCMP detachment commander change his statement.

Them: Well he has. He’s not saying that now.

Me: Well I’ll wait to hear it from him myself.

Months later there was another town hall meeting and the RCMP commander said the same thing he’d said before: quite a lot of our homeless are here because this is where they grew up.
Which leaves me wondering if the person I was talking to was (a) BSing me to my face to make a point (they had been in local politics) or (b) genuinely could not remember hearing the RCMP commander say that or (c) had just not heard him when he said it (but they did not say that, they implied they had heard it)

The thing is, these angry people don’t want to hear a fact like a lot of the homeless aren’t transients from elsewhere. And they don’t want to accept it either. So even if you got them to grudgingly admit that this is what the services that interact with the homeless say they will conveniently not remember it later on when they’re out there bombasting the world with their angry ideas.

If the information comes from some quasi-governmental office they don’t like they’ll conveniently disregard it as lies or fake news. Because that’s the thing to do today: ignore or disregard anything that does not agree with your world view. Cast shade on anyone who disagrees with you. Recast scientists and experts as just people with opinions.

So if you grew up here, moved away, made a life and lost it all because of things beyond your control don’t think your return home will be a return to a safe harbour. Strangers have taken up residence and to many of them you’re going to be just more homeless trash. You might not do crimes or drugs but in their minds all the homeless take drugs and do crimes. You might have led a normal life before but now you’re a scary threat better off in someone elses’s back yard.

If I had to make that trek back I’d do as much as I could to reconnect with old friends and family and pave a way back that doesn’t give the angry newbie nimbys a reason to see you as the thing they fear and hate so much.

But then again you might be lucky and your old hometown might have a heart and a support system . . .


A ‘consciousness conductor’ synchronizes and connects mouse brain areas

Do we condense down to a loosely connected collection of neurons serendipitously located in a central place in the brain’s connectome? That might be the case. The claustrum may be the seat of consciousness … or maybe the meat space projection of this mostly mental entity.

applied science Uncategorized

When the Killer Robot Has You Dead To Rights – Do the Watusi

I’m not saying that that is an actual viable tactic that would work but after reading this article you might consider it to be a viable last ditch attempt, a hail Mary pass as they say, to save your life from an AI with a weapon.

Readers of this blog might be forgiven for thinking I’ve drunk the AI Kool-Aid because I guess I have in a way but nothing is perfect and that goes for AI’s, even the AIs that train themselves.

What the article gets to essentially is that the new crop of AIs that are self-trained may not suffer from the same vulnerabilities to corrupted data in the training set because they don’t have a training set of data but they still can be attacked another way. Self-training AIs develop what we’re calling policies and those help it deal with what it might encounter out there in the real world. Think of a policy as a way to handle a generic type of situation that it might find itself in. Much as a fencer learns all the standard attacks and ripostes and AI, and we, learn by experience what to expect.

If an AI is confronted with completely unexpected behavior it gets confused and the current crop of AIs exhibit confused responses which can lead to unexpected behaviors and outcomes. If this happens on the road with a self-driving car AI or in the battlefield for instance with a self-propelled killer robot AI then the consequences could be catastrophic for the AI. And for any people around it.

So my tongue in cheek title hilarious is not 100% joke or jest – it just might work in the right conditions and under those conditions you may not have any other alternative.

social commentary Uncategorized

Banksters Bag 60 Billion and EU Govs Going After Them

Apparently there’s been a huge heist going on for the last 15 years. We’re just starting to hear about it now after 60 billion dollars has been siphoned out of government treasuries by this little bit of banker trader magic they didn’t actually have a law preventing it because they figured it was so illegal or bad they didn’t really need a law.

Well as they know in China all too well if there is no law saying you can’t do it people will go ahead and do it.

This little trick essentially allowed investments to yield twice the tax write-off.

The scheme was built around “cum-ex trading” (from the Latin for “with-without”): a monetary maneuver to avoid double taxation of investment profits that plays out like high finance’s answer to a David Copperfield stage illusion. Through careful timing, and the coordination of a dozen different transactions, cum-ex trades produced two refunds for dividend tax paid on one basket of stocks.

It May Be the Biggest Tax Heist Ever. And Europe Wants Justice.

From the article it would appear that once bankers and traders learned of cum ex it did not take them long to get on board and just start fleecing the EU for all the money they could get.

To me this is very reminiscent of the way the banking industry got into a mess with bad asset backed credit default swaps, you remember the little thing that dealt the world’s economy a body blow back in 2008. It turned out that almost a whole industry was engaging in the kind of wishful thinking that the balloon would never burst and the party would go on forever.

Well it looks like that’s what’s been going on for a while now with cum ex. Now the countries want their money back and they’re going after banksters and lawyers and anybody else involved. Germany itself had 56 investigations yielding 400 targets, individual banksters. Lawyers and Law firms involved are not immune from this. Could be very interesting.

American bankers didn’t try cum-ex at home because they feared domestic regulators. So they moved operations to London and treated the rest of Europe as an anything-goes frontier. Frank Tibo, a former chief tax officer at a bank where Mr. Shields and Mr. Mora worked, said American and British cum-ex traders regarded the Continent as a backwater of old economies ripe for swindling.
”There was this culture in London, and it really came from New York,” he said. “These guys were either from New York or trained in London at New York banks, and they looked at Europe as their playground. People at the highest levels were collaborating to rip off countries.

emphasis mine

So it’s a strategy developed in the USA but never used in the USA. I wonder if the US government will protect US financial workers who stashed their ill-gotten gains in the US banks. If Europe decides to go after that will Washington go along? Trump is oft quoted as seeing any money within his grasp as being his money, so if the banksters make nice with him maybe he’ll shield them. It wouldn’t be the first time he went to bat to shield some american from european justice. (I think he enjoys poking the EU in the eye any chance he gets)

And it won’t be easy going after them – you have to explain the illegality for jurists and that will prove to be quite difficult apparently.

Academics have struggled for years to explain the trade and say its impenetrability is part of what made it so successful — as though someone had found a way to weaponize string theory. At the Bonn trial, defendants spent days walking judges through cum-ex’s nuances, with one baffling slide after another.

Suffice it to say, the goal was to fool the financial system so that two investors could claim refunds for dividend taxes that were paid just once.

The trade was pure theater and required a huge cast: stock lenders, prime brokers, custodians, accounting firms, asset managers and inter-dealer brokers. It also required vast quantities of stock, most of which was sourced from American shareholders.

One of regulators, Dr. Hanno Berger, eventually was seduced, by the riches to be made, into joining the side he was tasked with regulating. His reported attitude leaves no question he saw the negative impacts of this way of fleecing the government – here is what he told underlings at one meeting:

“Whoever has a problem with the fact that because of our work there are fewer kindergartens being built,” Dr. Berger reportedly said, “here’s the door.”

Sounds like something Gordon Gekko, from the movies Wall Street and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, would say.

This should be an interesting couple of years. I predict the banksters won’t pay back as much as half of their ill gotten gains. Why? They have money and time on their side – the politicians could be gone with the next elections. Cynical I know but that’s the real world unfortunately.

applied science Uncategorized

Still think all the hype is just hype?

With all of the hype that gets bandied around over software and computer stuff people could be forgiven for thinking that all the stuff they hear about AI is just a bunch of hype. Then there’s alpha 0 …

After just four hours of playing against itself, AlphaZero managed to beat the leading chess program Stockfish. AlphaZero was so superior that Danish grand master Peter Heine Nielsen compared the program to a superior alien species that had visited the earth just to beat us in chess.

It teaches itself – it learns in novel ways.

In an attempt to speed up development in the field, the research group has made the code openly available

Which makes me wish I’d spent more time keeping up with my coding skills instead of local politics in the past decade. I may have been in a position to play with this … oh well: you have to make a choice sooner or later.

It’s great to hear though. Science Fiction becoming Fact. Wahoo!!!

Update: Another AI article at that just popped up and is topical right now is how an AI gave advance notice on the emerging Coronavirus coming out of Wuhan China.

This AI was specifically created for this very purpose. You can find out more at

Update: over at Science there’s an article From models of galaxies to atoms, simple AI shortcuts speed up simulations by billions of times on how AI is changing the game. Speeding things up by Billions of times.

Update: In case you had not heard the war on antibiotic resistant microbes got some good news recently courtesy of an AI applied to specifically look for compounds that would be effective against them. Read more about that in this article “Artificial intelligence yields new antibiotic” at

The computer model, which can screen more than a hundred million chemical compounds in a matter of days, is designed to pick out potential antibiotics that kill bacteria using different mechanisms than those of existing drugs

Previous to this screening potential chemical compounds was a very time consuming and expensive process – which slowed down our response to emerging threats and the growing number of antibiotic resistant bugs out there.

Current methods for screening new antibiotics are often prohibitively costly, require a significant time investment, and are usually limited to a narrow spectrum of chemical diversity.

So an AI, or a machine learning algorithm, is not only speeding processes up it’s doing so on the path to discovering how to save lives.


Applied Materials Science Getting Big Speed Boost

Designing novel chemistry and materials has relied on really really smart people and extremely powerful and fast computers and even then it has taken months and months of time.

That’s all changing now courtesy of artificial intelligence.

Solving for molecular wave functions and novel electrical behaviors is now taking seconds instead of months. And can be done with a cell phone or laptop instead of a super computer.

This will not only bring down the amount of time it takes but also the cost so novel materials, or metamaterials, will finally start to really take off as the technology becomes more democratically suffused into industry.

Find out more in this article at

astrophysics Uncategorized

300+ years to solve Newton’s 3 Body Problem

A few decades back I wrote a screen saver for Windows that relied on Newton’s laws of gravity to drive things around the screen.

It was the bouncing line with a difference: the ends of the line had ‘mass’ and velocity. There was an unseen gravity well, a black sun if you will, that had gravity but a fixed position. The motion of the line ends followed Newton’s gravity equation.

As I worked on this and watched how it developed multi-body gravity systems I was amazed at how complex it could be but then I learned about Newton’s 3 body problem. And saw how crazy it became when I allowed all 3 ‘bodies’ in my little system move.

Well the problem has apparently been solved


Quantum Leaps, Long Assumed to Be Instantaneous, Take Time | Quanta Magazine

Say what?

The Copenhagen Interpretation is a decade short of it’s centenary and one of it’s fundamental assumptions has been found to be wrong or incomplete.

The idea that the changes from one Quantum state to another happen instantaneously has been shown to not be the case: these things actually take a finite amount of time!


A tiny pharmacy is identifying big problems with common drugs, including Zantac

Top Stories | A tiny pharmacy is identifying big problems with common drugs, including Zantac
Read the full story:

As I read this story I found myself struck by the great idea that a pharmacy would actually spend the money, the time, and the effort to test the contents of the drugs that it gets from its suppliers before it sends them out to its customers.
Why don’t more companies do this?
Why is it that a small online pharmacy has become a Frontline watchdog that finds things that the FDA doesn’t?
I wish I heard more about companies putting their customers’ safety ahead of raw profit taking. I wish there was more evidence that corporations, which are staffed by human beings after all, are putting humans ahead, or at least on a par, with Profits.

Just in case the link goes to somewhere on the other side of a pay wall where you can’t read it … the gist of the article is that the recent recall of Zantac, is the result of a small online pharmacy that does something unique as far as I can tell: what they do is test the drugs that they get from their suppliers and have to send out to their customers.
They test them for their efficacy – and whether they will do what they say they will – and if they contain what they say they will contain – and if they contain things that they shouldn’t contain.
When I say ‘will do what they say they will do’ I do not mean that they have a hospital ward with patients and they’re seeing whether the drugs will actually help the patients – no that’s not it.
For things that are supposed to dissolve in your stomach, let’s say within the first 5 hours, they essentially set up a system that simulates the stomach and they see how long does it take.

They use technology to study the contents of these drugs to see what solids might be combined with the drugs as fillers.

The fact that they can do this and still be in business speaks to the possibility that other companies I could do the same. I would hope that trendy Wall Street firms that help you make ethical investments are paying attention to the news and that they learn about this and push this firm. And maybe even talk to other friends about the potential for more investment in fair companies from people who recognize and appreciate when a company takes the trouble and time to care about their customers and put the customers ahead of their profits.

I almost forgot to mention the company – that would be a bonehead mistake.

It’s Valisure.


A Single Punctuation Mark Has Been Skewing Our Entire System of Scientific Ranking

You might think that Science and scientists would get this right but hey they’re just human.

One of the common ways in which scientific papers are ranked and considered to be relevant or not as relevant is how often they are cited by other scientific.

There are a couple of databases out there that do this job for the fields involved. Well it turns out that there’s a fatal flaw in the mechanism by which this works. If a paper has a hyphen in its title it will not get cited correctly or ranked as getting cited as much as it would if it did not have the hyphen and the more hyphens it has the worse the effect.

that such a simple flaw could be hanging around in the background skewing whole fields it almost boggles the mind until you remember that it’s human beings feeding the system and as we like to say in information technology garbage in garbage out.

when the people who are writing the papers go to put in the citations do they get it right or wrong. Does that – have a space before and after or not? Is it a character in some coding standard like ASCII but the database has it in some variant of ANSI? Or some other chapter coding scheme?

if you have never had to code text processing and search algorithms in databases and data ingestion systems you might not think that that’s such a big deal but boy is it ever – computers just do what you ask them to do and nothing more unless you have prepared them in a way for this kind of stuff.

If – you – want – to – know – more – click – on – the – link – below.