For the first time since 1998, I’m unemployed and looking for work! (by )

I'm really quite happy about this. We have enough money to live off of for several months, so I can afford to look around for a good job, and take a long-wished-for break to relax and work on my projects.

I'm going to:

  1. Clear out a load of domestic TODOs that have been hanging over me. I've axed my "urgent" TODO list in just a few days.
  2. Sort out my workshop/home office: fixing up the nasty power cabling, finishing my workbench, putting up shelves so everything's not all over the floor, that sort of thing.
  3. Finish the home mainframe (no family should be without one!) off and get everything migrated to run on it.
  4. Put out the next release of Ugarit, with performance improvements, replicated storage, and an improved archive mode interface.
  5. Finish and publish a pencil-and-paper role playing game I started writing in 1994. Deary me, has it been that long? It's a wonder that I still have it, as it was on a FAT16 filesystem under MS-DOS when it was first written.
  6. Do some work on that MMORPG I designed in the late 1990s and never got around to implementing more than basic proofs-of-concept of. I don't think I'll have a fully working game any time soon, but I think that if I have some uninterrupted time, I could get it to a level that I can then hack on in odd bits of time thereafter. I've just found getting started daunting when I've only had the odd half-day here and there to work on it; other projects have offered more immediate rewards...

However, I am looking for a job, to start around the end of March / start of April - two months' break should be enough fun for me! So if you know of anything I (CV here) might be interested in, given that I'm based in Gloucester (UK), please do drop me a message!

Society 2 (by )

Six years ago, I wrote up some opinions on how people complain about society, and how I'd like to improve matters. Since then, I've been thinking about the problem on and off, and two different models for human societies that, I hope, might be more fair, productive, and downright pleasant to live in than our own.

So what do we want out of a society? This is largely a matter of personal taste to many. Some want a worl d in which total human happiness is maximised; some want a world in which their own happiness is maximised (these are not nice people); some want a world in which people have the most freedom rather than happiness; and so on.

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Libertarianism (by )

I've long been fascinated by libertarianism. Creating social structures that are self-maintaining and do not require central control seems like a noble goal; things that are owned by organisations tend to end up either stifled by conservatism, destroyed by mismanagement, or fall into the hands of the greedy and end up taking advantage of everyone who has to use that service. The blockchain technology behind bitcoin is particularly interesting; it implements a form of democracy that requires no central body to hold elections and tally votes. Anyone can join the community of miners (although the cost of a sizeable vote is getting higher and higher with all these ASICs), and a proposed change will "become law" if you can convince the owners of enough of the mining power it's a good idea. This is vulnerable to somebody having enough money to buy enough mining hardware to dominate the system then being able to dictate their own terms to the world; but, fascinatingly, anybody who owns that much of the mining equipment will now have such a sizeable stake in the Bitcoin economy that it's very much in their economic interest to act in the interests of the Bitcoin economy as a whole - making it not vulnerable to abuse by the greedy; at most, it's vulnerable to abuse by the ideologically driven (somebody who's willing to spend a lot of their money just to destroy the Bitcoin economy).

However, "libertarian" has become a dirty word. A lot of the folks discussing decentralised social structures back when I first starting reading about them in the mid-1990s have turned into complete loons, ending up arguing for the replacement of every social structure by free-market economics, denying climate change, adopting evolutionary-psychology models of genetic competition to explain human mating behaviour in a way that fails to account for human free will and then allows them to justify misogynistic ideas, and so on.

Which is a bit of a shame. Can't we all get back to working out social structures that actually maximise individual liberty, rather than focussing on particular tools for that and elevating them to the status of worshipped idols?

I mean, free market economics is great in many ways. An ideal market will force suppliers to compete for the business of consumers, leading to better services and better prices. But that doesn't mean that abolishing government will lead to a Utopia as organisations scrabble to provide the best healthcare, protection from crime, social services, roads, and so on for the lowest possible price. Suppliers of products and services don't like free markets, as they introduce competition, and have historically shown great ingenuity and determination in disrupting the markets they sell into through anti-competitive practices. They will attempt to make their products hard to compare to those of competitors, lie barefacedly in advertising, use market leadership in one area to weight other markets (eg, Microsoft's use of its operating systems near-monopoly to bundle Web browsers that understood a different dialect of HTML, thereby pressuring the creators of web sites to target them to that widespread browser, thereby causing web sites to not work so well on competing browsers), and so on. Companies like Twitter, Amazon, Google and Facebook have a lot of control over the primary means we use to find out about and compare products and services to buy, so can easily give their own products an edge over their competitors.

Free markets only remain free (as opposed to capture by monopolies) when there's some body capable of setting standards through which comparable products can be fairly compared, enforcing advertising rules, and to stop monopolies. Left to their own devices, they stagnate.

High-profile libertarians seem to fall into a trap of hating government. They seem prone to sliding into extreme right-wing ideology; interpreting "using taxation to fund a welfare system" as "robbing me of resources I earned myself in order to fund people who, despite having the same opportunities as me, did not take them". They decry the compulsory nature of taxation as a removal of their individual liberty to choose to donate to charities or not, while failing to recognise that "were my parents rich enough to properly feed and educate me, provide me with adequate healthcare, and support me while I developed my business idea, rather than requiring me to go into the first job I was capable of as soon as I was educated enough to work at all" is hardly a good criterion for the fair distribution of the individual liberty this is all supposed to be about; they seem to fail to realise that we do not all have the same opportunities. Nothing is a better predictor of an individual's future economic success than the wealth of their parents. I see that as a terrible failing of society, and far more anti-liberal than having to pay taxes.

I suspect it's maybe just a "vocal minority" problem (Wikipedia lists many different forms of libertarianism than the far right wing stuff), but I think it's a shame that the actual search for individual liberty is being steamrollered by people who seem keen to enhance their own liberty at the cost of others'.

Halloween!!! (by )

On my Facebook Page I am having a bit of a halloween extravaganza :)

Through out today the spooky will play and I shall share stories rare of goblins and witch and monsters and kitch so sit back and relax have a bloody snack! On the hour every hour they will be here, stories to scare and bring you to tears! Images of the grizzly ghoul now get reading you fool!

enjoy (and don't forget the free colouring sheets!)

Spoogy Colouring In :) (by )

So a few years ago now I wrote a series of halloween poems for Jean who wanted something spooky but not scary and could only say spoogy as she was four or something. I then did a few more poems and typed it all up and did some illustrations the originals having been lost in a water drink spillage. And I got the Little Book of Spoogy Poetry which I put out as a down load, then I saved monies and got it printed and have been selling them and giving them as presents ever since.

Last year me and the yeti set out to do readings and halloween craft activities and the like so I sorted a couple of illustrations into colouring sheets which I am now posting on the internets for everyone to spread a bit of spoogy fun :)

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