A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Side Notes’ Category

They’re Not Real Anarchists

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Facebook performed another purge. Amongst the disappeared were a number of anarchist groups:

Today Facebook deleted a variety of far-Right militia and Qanon accounts along with anarchist and antifascist pages, including It’s Going Down and CrimethInc. The following is a joint statement in response.

This follows on the heels of Biden saying anarchists should be prosecuted and Trump taking a swipe at anarchists.

There’s nothing surprising about these events. Anarchists are a threat to the very system that Biden and Trump depend on for power and Facebook is usually quick to demonstrate its loyalties to the political class by banning whatever they’re criticizing at the moment. What is more fascinating to me are the anarchists who start going down the those aren’t real anarchists wormhole. Shortly after Facebook finished its purge I started seeing a number of anarchists, mostly those who identify as voluntaryists, posts memes saying, “Real anarchy is,” followed by any number of nonviolent but illegal or quasi-legal activities such as buying raw milk, homeschooling children, and dodging taxes. This is the same reaction I see whenever violence is attributed to anarchists by the mainstream media.

I take umbrage with this response for two reasons. My first reason is that it ignores a huge part of anarchist history. Anarchists have participated in revolutions, political assassinations, bombings, and other acts of violence. There is even a term amongst anarchists for such actions: propaganda of the deed. Anarchism shouldn’t be treated as a single unified philosophy, but as a number of different philosophies that share the common cause of opposing statism.

The second reason I don’t like this response is because it strikes me as pleading. Trump, Biden, and Facebook are not friends or allies to anarchists. Anarchists shouldn’t give two shits what any of them say about anarchists. Anarchists should setup and use their own social media platforms if for no other reason than to avoid having all of their personal information handed over to law enforcers by Facebook, Twitter, and other social media household names. Instead of telling them to go pound sand, the anarchists making these statements are effectively saying, “Your criticisms are fair, but I want you to know that my friends and I are not like that. We’re real anarchists! Please like us!”

When politicians or Silicon Valley companies say something disparaging about anarchists, I’d rather give them the finger than people who at least agree with me on a foundational level about the need to abolish government. I understand that an anarcho-communist is unlikely to agree with a vast majority of my individualist anarchist views, but I certainly have more common cause with them than I do with the likes of Trump, Biden, or Facebook.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 22nd, 2020 at 6:07 pm

Educating People in Order to Argue with Them

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Long ago I was taken aback when a friend of mind who was a prolific online debater told me he swore off online debates. I was curious and asked him why. He said, “I’m tired of educating people just so I can debate them.”

After that conversation I started to pay attention to my online debates and quickly realized that most of what I thought was debating was actually educating. Since I hold views that are outside of the zeitgeist, most people I encounter have little, if any, understanding of them. In a majority of online debates the people with whom I’m debating make arguments that have no meaning within the context of what I’m saying. I then have to spent time educating them about what I mean just so they can actually debate me.

I’m certainly not unique in this. Consider Marxists for a moment. It’s pretty easy for them to have a very rudimentary debate about workers’ rights because that issue is part of the zeitgeist. However, if they want to make an argument based on historical materialism, they usually have to invest time in educating the other individual(s) on the subject so they have enough of an understanding to intelligently debate the issue. Libertarians have the same issue. It’s pretty easy for a libertarian to debate somebody about decriminalizing cannabis because that issue is part of the zeitgeist. But when a libertarian wants to debate monetary theory, they have to first teach their opponent(s) about the Austrian tradition of economics.

This problem runs even deeper. Few in what I will refer to as the masses appear to be educated on the topics of rhetoric and formal debate. Rhetoric is the skill of speaking convincingly. Formal debate is a framework which establishes ground rules for debates. A lot of people tend to conflate the two. They will try to argue against rhetoric by citing logical fallacies and make statements in a formal debate that contain logical fallacies. For example, consider the phrase “All cops are bastards.” The statement is valid rhetoric, but would not fly in a formal debate because the proposition is made with insufficient data (namely that every single individual who works in law enforcement is a bastard even though the debater is likely basing their argument on a small sample size of law enforcers).

I’m going to create two sides to further illustrate this issue: pro-cop and anti-cop. An anti-cop individual may say, “All cops are bastards,” as a form of rhetoric. They may not have meant the statement literally nor were they taking part in a formal debate. They’re merely trying to convince people to join their cause. But a pro-cop individual may rebut with, “That’s a hasty generalization fallacy!” The pro-cop individual is citing a rule that doesn’t apply to the situation. Now I’ll change the scenario. The two individuals have agreed to participate in a formal debate. When the anti-cop individual says, “All cops are bastards,” it would be proper for the pro-cop individual to say, “That’s a generalization fallacy,” because they both agreed to operate under the rules of formal debate.

How does this relate the the need to educate people in order to argue with them? More often than not I run into individuals who know nothing about rhetoric or formal debate. Their counterarguments will often involve pointing out logical fallacies in my rhetoric and making logical fallacies of their own. They know just enough about logical fallacies to recognize and call out a few of them, but not enough to avoid making the rest (which is usually the majority) of them or to know when they are appropriate to cite. They unknowingly (or knowingly, but I’m giving the benefit of the doubt here) attempt to establish an environment where I have to abide by the rules of formal debate while they operate by the rules of rhetoric. I then need to explain the difference between the two and convince them to pick one or the other. By the time that’s done the thread has digressed so far that everybody has lost interest.

This is where I reminisce about the good old days of the Internet when I could participate in online debates without having to spend a lot of time educating my opponents just so they could intelligibly argue with me. At one time I blamed the change on the diminishing state of education in the United States. However, when I was reminded of the term Eternal September, I started to blame two related issues: everybody and their grandmother is now online and Internet forums are more centralized. The early Internet was broken up into a large number of small Usenet groups, forums, and chatrooms. Most of those were topical so the people who joined usually already had an interest and at least a basic understanding of the group’s, forum’s, or chatroom’s topic. Today it’s not uncommon for a random user to find a Facebook group because it appeared on their Timeline when one of their friends made a comment in it. That random user may have no understanding of the group’s topic, but they end up posting a comment to the thread because they saw it on their Timeline and disagreed with something another user posted.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 19th, 2020 at 4:01 pm

The Exodus

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When COVID-19 started making headlines, I didn’t think much of it. A new virus makes the headlines every few years. But when governments started using COVID-19 as a justification to implement severe restrictions, I started to wonder if we were on the cusp of a major shift in the status quo. Now that we’re several months into the restrictions put into place to “flatten the curve,” I’m all but certain that we’re in the midst of major changes.

One major shift that has come of government COVID-19 policies is the worker migration from offices to home. Before the lock downs were implemented a lot of companies were still skeptical of the work from home model. At the beginning of the lock downs those companies were forced to either shutdown or transition to a work from home model. Now that those businesses have been operating on a work from home model for several months many of them are starting to question the old model. Consider the cost of maintaining a large office in a central hub for your employees. There’s the cost of the building itself. It’s either owned; in which case the costs of the building, upkeep, and property taxes are incurred; or it’s rented; in which case the monthly rent is incurred. Then you have the cost of municipal services such as electrical power, water, and sewer. Most offices offer employees some amenities such as coffee, snacks, etc. Often forgotten are the costs of added risks such as employees being injured or killed during their commute, employees coming in late or being unable to come in at all due to weather, and business being disrupted by power outages, civil unrest, etc. And then there are future costs to consider such as likely tax hikes as various levels of government scramble to make up for lost revenue.

It should come as no surprise that businesses are looking at the current landscape and questioning whether they should flee their expensive central hubs now that many of their employees are working from home:

A new survey by the Downtown Council shows 45 business owners say they are considering leaving downtown – citing the lack of people working or socializing downtown – and the idea that the police department could be dismantled.

[…]

“We are seeing business owners wanting to eliminate the overhead, especially in a world where it looks like there’s going to be a more hybrid approach happening – and people are going to be working from home – business owners and companies are looking to downsize,” he said.

Keep in mind that these are 45 business owners that bothered to participate in a survey. The overall number is almost certainly higher.

This exodus would cause a domino effect. If major companies begin to flee a city, supporting companies usually follow. What’s the point of operating a restaurant or a bar in a city if nobody is eating or drinking there? Likewise, employees that moved to the city because they wanted a short commute may begin looking for a place that’s cheaper and/or nicer. Minnesota is already seeing this as people working from home ask themselves why they shouldn’t work from lakefront property (or in my case, why not work from the woods).

Besides work the other major attraction of large cities has traditionally been big events. Concerts, sports, festivals, etc. usually happen in large cities. But those also vanished when the lock downs were implemented. Downtown Minneapolis is currently a ghost town compared to a few months ago and the same is probably true of other major cities.

We may be witnesses the beginning of the end of a system that really took off with the Industrial Revolution: population centralization. The Industrial Revolution brought factories and factories needed a lot of manpower so they tended to be built in existing population centers. Those factory jobs tended to pay better than farm work so laborers started to migrate from rural areas to those population centers. There was a cycle where factories went to where laborers could be found en masse and laborers started migrating to where factories could be found en masse.

A lot of labor is no longer physical and the Internet provides a mechanism for nonphysical labor to be done remotely. Thus the groundwork exists for the Industrial Revolution cycle to be broken. Employees can live in the boonies and work for a company whose nearest office is several hundred miles away or even across the globe. Many other city attractions also disappeared or went remote.

I think we may be at the beginning of an exodus away from cities. If it occurs, this could end up being another epoch like the Industrial Revolution.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 6th, 2020 at 3:45 pm

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Moving Up in the World

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If anybody is still checking this feed, I want to let you know that I finally escaped the Twin Cities region. The misses and I bought a house on a few acres of land out in the country. While I wouldn’t necessarily advise buying a house at the moment (with the way things are going you’ll probably get some stellar deals in a few months if you’re willing to buy during a time of major economic uncertainty), the housing and land prices out in the country aren’t nearly as insane as they are in the metro area.

The only downside is that my Internet is much slower. Since this site is still hosting on a server in my home, the site’s performance will probably be terrible, but I’m not making any money off of this site so I don’t really care. With that said, that single trade-off is well worth all of the benefits (especially if shit keeps going downhill, I don’t really want to deal with civil unrest in a major metropolitan area).

Now that my biggest project is crossed off of the list, I hope to get back to writing more frequently.

Written by Christopher Burg

March 24th, 2020 at 6:00 am

Our Future

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God: “So do you guys want an Orwell or Huxley future?”

Humanity: “Both!”

God: “Uh, you only need to select one…”

Humanity: “Oh, and throw in a Mike Judge future too!”

God: “Fuck me. Fine. Here you go.”

Written by Christopher Burg

February 22nd, 2019 at 10:30 am

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Dream Job

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Yesterday news broke that “Mean” Gene Okerlund died. Okerlund had one of my dream jobs. In the absurdity that is professional wrestling he played the straight man. If a coked out man in a flamboyant costume said something batshit insane he wouldn’t bat and eye and would continue his interview as if he were interviewing the CEO of a company. I’d say he managed to do what many people don’t, he lived an interesting and entertaining life.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 3rd, 2019 at 10:00 am

Ten Years

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It’s hard to believe that I started my blog almost 10 years ago (it came online January of 2009). In that time I’ve written 7,878 posts on a lot of different topics.

Looking back at my decade of blogging I can say that it has been a good use of time. Writing, like all other activities, is improved with practice and regularly blogging gives a lot of writing practice. Moreover, writing about topics requires more thinking than one might otherwise do. It’s also interesting for me to look back at how my interests and beliefs have changed over the last decade.

While I find that blogging has been greatly beneficial to me it has also be time consuming. In order to focus on other projects, I’m planning to do quite a bit less blogging in the coming years. I don’t plan to stop completely but I can’t keep up this pace while also keeping up with everything else. You’ll see new content here in 2019 but not as much. When the other projects I’m focusing on are further along, I’ll post about them here.

Anyways, here’s another the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019. Hopefully the new year ends up being as absurd as the last year (I would hate to be bored in 2019).

Written by Christopher Burg

January 1st, 2019 at 10:00 am

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Some Thoughts After Moving from macOS to Linux

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It has been two weeks and change since I moved from my MacBook Pro to a ThinkPad P52s running Linux. Now that I have some real use time under my belt I thought it would be appropriate to give some of my thoughts.

The first thing I’d like to note is that I have no regrets moving to Linux. My normal routine is to use my laptop at work and whenever I’m away at home and use another computer at home (because I’m too lazy to pull my laptop out of my laptop bag every night). The computer I was using at home was a 2010 Mac Mini. I replaced it with my old MacBook Pro when I got my ThinkPad. I realized the other day that I haven’t once booted up my MacBook Pro since I got my ThinkPad. Instead I have been pulling my ThinkPad out of its bag and using it when I get home. At no point have I felt that I need macOS to get something done. That’s the best testament to the transition that I can give. That’s not to say Linux can do anything that macOS can. I’m merely fortune in that the tools I need are either available on Linux or have a viable alternative.

I’m still impressed with the ThinkPad’s keyboard. One of my biggest gripes about the new MacBooks is the ultra slim keyboards. I am admittedly a bit of a barbarian when it comes to typing. I don’t so much type as bombard my keyboard from orbit. Because of this I like keys with a decent amount of resistance and depth. The keyboard on my 2012 MacBook Pro was good but I’m finding the keyboard on this ThinkPad to be a step up. The keys offer enough resistance that I’m not accidentally pressing them (a problem I have with keyboards offering little resistance) and enough depth to feel comfortable.

With that said the trackpad is still garbage when compared to the trackpad on any MacBook. My external trackball has enough buttons where I can replicate the gestures I actually used on the MacBook though and I still like the TrackPoint enough to use it when I don’t have an external mouse connected.

Linux has proven to be a solid choice on this ThinkPad as well. I bought it with Linux in mind, which means I didn’t get features that weren’t supported in Linux such as the fingerprint reader or the infrared camera for facial recognition (which is technically supported in Linux but tends to show up as the first camera so apps default to it rather than the 720p webcam). My only gripe is the Nidia graphics card. The P52s includes both an integrated Intel graphics card and an Nvidia Quadro P500 discrete graphics card, which isn’t supported by the open source Nouveau driver. In order to make it work properly, you need to install Nvidia’s proprietary drivers. Once that’s installed, everything works… except secure boot. In order to make the P52s boot after installing the Nvidia driver, you need to go into the BIOS and disable secure boot. I really wish there was a laptop with an discrete AMD graphics card that fit my needs on the market.

One thing I’ve learned from my move from macOS to Linux is just how well macOS handled external monitors. My P52s has a 4k display but all of the external monitors I work with are 1080p. Having different resolution screens was never a problem with macOS. On Linux it can lead to some rather funky scaling issues. If I leave the built-in monitors resolution at 4k, any app that opens on that display looks friggin’ huge when moved to an external 1080p display. This is because Linux scales up apps on 4k displays by a factor of two by default. Unfortunately, scaling isn’t done per monitor by default so when the app is moved to the 1080p display, it’s still scaled by two. Fortunately, a 4k display is exactly twice the resolution as a 1080p display so changing the built-in monitor’s resolution to 1080p when using an external display is an easy fix that doesn’t necessitate everything on the built-in display looking blurry.

I’ve been using Gnome for my graphical environment. KDE seems to be the generally accepted “best” desktop environment amongst much of the Linux community these days. While I do like KDE in general, I find that application interfaces are inconsistent whereas Gnome applications tend to have fairly consistent interfaces. I like consistency. I also like that Gnome applications tend to avoid burying features in menus. The choice of desktop environment is entirely subjective but so far my experience using Gnome has been positive (although knowing that I have a ship to which I can jump if that changes is reassuring).

As far as applications go, I used Firefox and Visual Studio Code on macOS and they’re both available on Linux so I didn’t have to make a change in either case. I was using Mail.app on macOS so I had to find a replacement e-mail client. I settled on Geary. My experience with Geary has been mostly positive although I really hate that there is no way, at least that I’ve found, to quickly mark all e-mails as read. I used iCal on macOS for calendaring and Gnome’s Calendar application has been a viable replacement for it. My luck at finding a replacement for my macOS task manager, 2Do, on Linux hasn’t been a positive experience. I’m primarily using Gnome’s ToDo application but it lacks a feature that is very important to me, repeating tasks. I use my task manager to remind me to pay bills. When I mark a bill as paid, I want my task manager to automatically create as task for next month. 2Do does this beautifully. I haven’t found a Linux task manager that can do this though (and in all fairness, Apple’s Reminder.app doesn’t do this well either). I was using Reeder on macOS to read my RSS feeds. On Linux I’m using FeedReader. Both work with Feedbin and both crash at about the same rate. I probably shouldn’t qualify that as a win but at least it isn’t a loss.

The biggest change for me has probably been moving from VMWare Fusion to Virtual Machine Manager, which utilized libvirt (and thus KVM and QEMU). Virtualizing Linux with libvirt is straight forward. Virtualizing Windows 10 wasn’t straight forward until I found SPICE Windows guest tools. Once I installed that guest tool package, the niceties that I came to love about VMWare Fusion such as shared pasteboards and automatically changing the resolution of the guest machine when the virtual machine window is resized worked. libvirt also makes it dead simple to set a virtual machine to automatically start when the system boots.

One major win for Linux over macOS is software installation. Installing software from the Mac App Store is dead simple but installing software from other sources isn’t as nice of an experience. Applications installed from other sources have to include their own update mechanism. Most have have taken the road of including their own embedded update capabilities. While these work, they can usually only run when the application is running so if you haven’t used the application for some time, the first thing you end up having to do is update it. Lots of packages still don’t include automatic update capabilities so you have to manually check for new releases. Oftentimes these applications are available via MacPorts or Homebrew. On the Linux side of things almost every software package is available via a distro’s package manager, which means installation and updates are handled automatically. I prefer this over the hodgepodge of update mechanisms available on macOS.

So in closing I’m happy with this switch, especially since I didn’t have to drop over $3,000 on a laptop to get what I wanted.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 21st, 2018 at 11:00 am

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Artisan… Headphone Jacks?

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Remember the good old days when you could plug the same pair of headphones into your phone, tablet, laptop, desktop, television, and stereo without the assistance of dongles? Then Apple decided to show the world its “courage” by removing the near universal headphone jack and many other device manufacturers started following suit. One of the companies that followed suit was Essential. Simply removing the headphone jack wouldn’t be enough for me to mention that company specifically but the solution it announced is worth mentioning:

So if you really, really want to use wired audio, you can fork over a $150 for this accessory. That price seems just a bit excessive considering the entire phone has had fire sales for $250 and $224.

The Essential Phone is compatible with the usual headphone jack dongles, so this add-on is being pitched as an artisanally crafted accessory for the discerning audiophile. The company says the “limited edition” accessory is “handcrafted” and made from “100% machined titanium.”

And you thought the title of this post was pure mockery. Nope. Essential actually is advertising its headphone adapter as being an artisan head crafted” headphone jack. Will this be the accessory that turns the failing company around? I wouldn’t be the farm on it.

While I understand the market for luxury goods in general, I don’t understand the market for luxury electronics. Electronics tend not to stick around too long. A cellphone is generally upgraded every few years. Unless Essential makes a guarantee that this headphone adapter is going to be compatible with all future phones (considering the company’s financial situation it’s optimistic to believe the company will release another phone) this accessory will likely be obsolete in the near future. Why spend $150 for an accessory for a $250 phone when the entire kit will be disposed of in the near future? Buying artisan cellphone accessories seems as stupid to me as buying artisan water. You’re just going to piss out the water later in the day so why spend extra for it?

Written by Christopher Burg

November 20th, 2018 at 10:30 am

More Fun than Watching Election Results

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Form what I gathered on Facebook, most people were watching the election results last night. I decided to have fun instead.

Korpiklaani, one of my favorite folk metal bands, played at the Varsity in Minneapolis last night. They played a fun show and, being Finnish, didn’t waste our time by talking about American politics. I couldn’t have asked for a better election night.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 7th, 2018 at 11:00 am

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