Thursday, 3 September 2015

Quitting time

For years I've had a large backlog of blog post drafts to draw on here. I wrote myself new software to deal with them all and make sure I was posting only the highest quality thoughts here, at least of the ones I'd written down.

Right now, as of this second, I have just one entry left in my backlog, and I think it's terrible. I haven't been writing much new for a while now. I've been posting more than I've been writing, anyway, so the number has been rapidly shrinking. I think I passed the threshold of actual quality a little while ago, and started deleting more posts unfinished than I found worthy of posting.

I've been scraping the bottom of the barrel for a couple of months, is what I'm saying, and I think it might be time to call it quits. Bye, guys. It's been ... well, it's been exhausting and, ultimately, pointless, in fact, but it's helped me sometimes.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I can't believe I've been doing this for ten years.
PPS - And over 3500 posts, too.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015


I don't summarise well. I always feel like anything I say needs a lot more context to make sense, so I try to add it, either starting a long way before the point I should, or rambling on a long time after the point is clear. When I try to summarise, I go to the end point I'm trying to make, but still feel the urge to fill in more details after the fact.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I feel like I should add more to this.
PPS - But that would demonstrate a stunning lack of self-awareness.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Validation through memorisation

In primary school, I remember a kind of status indicator being the memorisation of song lyrics (at our age, mostly that meant Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer, if I recall). I placed great importance at that time on my memorisation abilities, and now I wonder if I have ever really grown out of that. I attend trivia competitions regularly, though my knowledge is narrow rather than broad. I still take pains to learn song lyrics, not just to be able to sing along, but to be able to impress people by singing along. The urge still happens to me to this day. So I'm really not sure I ever grew out of that need for external validation, and that idea that having an impressive memory is the way to get it.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I wish I didn't need external validation to feel good about myself.
PPS - It would simplify my life enormously.

Monday, 31 August 2015

Enough time

Does it ever get to you, that there's never enough time for anything? There's so much to do in life and no matter how much you do, or how fastidiously you focus on your passions, you will never stay afloat. You will never read all of the books, see all the movies, watch all the TV, paint all the beauty you see or tell all the stories you are dying to tell. You are always running out of time, and that's the saddest thing I know about the world. Well, one of the sad things that is, at least, universal. Rich or poor, we all have only the same number of minutes in the day.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I never feel like there's enough time.
PPS - Which is why my chosen superpower would be super-speed or else freezing time.

Friday, 28 August 2015

Revoking access

Access revocation is impossible if you give up everything right away. There's no such thing as decryption that stops working after a certain time. If someone has the keys, the ciphertext and the decryption method, you've given up all control. The only place that access revocation can mean anything is for ongoing services that can't be copied and require a live server to provide. Compare movies to games. If you have a DVD that's encrypted, and it gets decrypted every time you watch it, it can be copied and you can watch it from then on in any format you like, at any time you like, on any device you like, because you've got the decrypted form and it can be copied perfectly. It makes no difference at that point if the DVD publisher puts out an update to their players that says "don't decrypt this movie any more", because the copy is already made.

Conversely, if you need server access to play a certain game, then one day that server won't let you in any more, you can't do anything about it. The previous games you've played don't do you any good. They're over. Backups, news, and social media are like that, because you need access or new content to use them. Your old backups aren't good enough if your provider refuses access. Gradually stagnating news isn't any good except as a historical reference.

Access to books, music and movies, however, is like the first case. Once that genie is out of the bottle, that's it. You can't stuff it back in. If you've got a closed system like the Kindle you can reach out and revoke copies of books, but if the DRM has been broken (which is very different to breaking encryption) and a copy already taken, it doesn't matter.

Key revocation would require the universe to have the property that I can tell you a secret that is only knowable for a specified time, or whose use is, in some way, dependent on a secret I didn't tell you.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - That can't actually happen, as far as I can see.
PPS - Granted, these things don't always make sense to me.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

I would time-travel back to university

The one time in my life that I might go back and try again would be university. As with most of my life, I never made enough effort to socialise, but with uni there were so many rich opportunities for it that I missed. I could have lived on campus and learned a lot of life lessons that way. I could have spent more time with fellow students if I didn't have to spend an hour each way on the bus, too, and that would put me in (or near) the city by default on weekends, along with every other on-campus student.

Also, knowing what I do now, I would start applying for graduate job positions in the middle of my final year, rather than spend two years unemployed after graduation. Those are my university regrets: I studied too hard and didn't get out enough. I got really good grades, though! ... which left me unemployed for two years after graduating.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - That might also have been because I graduated when the .com bubble burst.
PPS - Also, I couldn't have afforded on-campus or even near-campus student housing.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Grand gestures

Kids, take note. I'm gonna smack some middle-aged wisdom down on your heads. Are you ready? Too bad.

If you love someone, but they don't know you exist, a big, grand, public gesture declaring your love is about the worst thing you could possibly do. You may have been getting mixed messages about this. In some TV shows and movies, it works out really well, especially in those proposal videos you've seen on YouTube. In other shows and movies, it doesn't work out so well, and everyone is embarrassed. That's the realistic one. The proposal videos are a special case, because you'll note those people have been dating for long enough that it makes sense for them. If you're trying to get someone's attention out of nowhere, grand gestures are not the way.

The flip side of this is that it's all going to fade away anyhow. When you get embarrassed like that, rest assured it will pass. In a few years, as long as you don't let that embarrassment define you, you'll laugh about it with your university friends, your spouse, your kids. Your life is most definitely not over.

The take-home message is this: if you're thinking of making a grand public declaration of love to someone who doesn't know you exist, here's what to do: go home, lock yourself in your room, think about something else - anything else - and don't come out until you stop feeling that urge.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - This is not much use as advice to young me.
PPS - Young me barely had the courage to daydream about this, let alone attempt a grand gesture.