Jun 172024

Here, I picked a few countries for comparison on the Migration Policy Institute’s Web site. Specifically, to compare the ratio of migrant population (i.e., ratio of foreign-born residents) in these select lands.Immigration, of course, is a hot-button issue in the United States, but also in Hungary. Not sure about the UK but here in Canada, despite the fact that immigration represents an extra burden when it comes to, e.g., public health or affordable housing, we here comparatively less.

So how come a populist politician can exploit the immigration issue, never mind in border states of the United States, but also in Hungary where the relative immigrant population is still much lower? How come that the same topic has not become populist fodder here in Canada?

Well, perhaps I am looking at the wrong numbers. Yes, the share of immigrants in Canada is much higher than either in the US or Hungary. In fact, the share of the immigrant population here was already higher in Canada back in the 1960s than it is today in the United States. But look at the growth rate!

In Canada, the numbers went from about 16% back in 1990 to 21% in 2020. That represents a modest 30% increase. In other words, the immigrant situation in Canada today is not that different from the immigrant situation 30 years ago. In contrast, in the United States it went from about 9% to 15%. That is an almost 70% increase! Such an increase in the number of immigrants is certainly noticeable, and that is especially true if the immigrant population is not uniformly distributed across the country but is concentrated at specific locations (e.g., border states, major cities).

And Hungary? The figure went from 3% to 6%. So the relative share of the immigration population doubled in 30 years, in a country that is not used to having many immigrants in the first place. No wonder Mr. Orban can easily exploit the concerns and fears of his country’s citizens, presenting himself as the populist savior of the nation against Brussel’s bureaucrats who, hand-in-hand with the Jew Soros, are engaged in some sinister plan to flood the country with “migrants”.

 Posted by at 2:55 am
Jun 162024

Warning: Spoilers follow.

I am not what you would call a Trekkie, but I always enjoyed Star Trek. The original series remains my favorite, but TNG had its moments, as did Voyager, even Enterprise, for all its flaws. Picard was good, and Strange New Worlds has a chance of being on par with the original series.

But Discovery? I am presently about two thirds of the way through its penultimate episode and it’s… just painful. The tension is artificial, the writing feels shallow and preachy and… what’s this with, “We’re on a clandestine, dangerous mission, one misstep and we’re dead quite possibly along with the entire Federation, so why don’t we just stop and talk about our emotions?”

Seriously, I can only watch this abomination in five-minute chunks. I’ll suffer through the end now that barely more than an episode remains but… Oh well. I know, I know, another first-world problem.

Perhaps the least unsuccessful attempt by ChatGPT/DALL-E to illustrate the divisiveness of forced wokeness on television

And then there’s Dr. Who. I find that I actually like the latest season. Ruby Sunday is a delightful Companion, and Ncuti Gatwa has a chance to be ranked among the best Doctors. That is… if the series’ writers let him? Take the latest episode, Rogue. Within minutes, the Doctor falls in love. Same-sex love. The Doctor! The same Doctor who, in the past history of the series, almost never engaged in romantic relationships. Romantic teases, maybe… But not much more, except perhaps with River Song. But now? Instant infatuation, which, sadly, felt like little more than a cheap excuse for the writers to engage in dutiful woke virtue signaling, you know, same-sex kiss and all. To their credit, in the end they somewhat redeemed themselves, as Rogue’s (the love interest’s) feelings towards the Doctor and respect for the Doctor’s humanity led him to sacrifice himself… And save the episode from self-inflicted doom.

Even so, I wish television writers dropped the urge to outdo one another when it comes to virtue signaling. It’s just too painful to watch at times, even if I assume that it is about more than just ticking some boxes in a checklist, meeting a quota somewhere; that their intentions are the purest and their hearts are in the right place. Not to mention that it is grossly counterproductive: the only thing such blatant wokeness accomplishes is a knee-jerk trigger response by those on the political right, who are already convinced (in the words of someone I know) that “these are not normal times” anymore.

And you know where that leads. If these are not normal times, that means extraordinary means are justified. The autocrat wins in the end, presenting himself as the sole savior of all that is good and decent, in these abnormal times.

So let’s please just stop the forced, virtue-signaling wokeness. It’s not helping to make the world a better, more tolerant place. If it accomplishes anything, it’s the exact opposite.

 Posted by at 6:05 pm
Jun 152024

Say what you want, industrial design today is but a pale imitation of the extravagant design concepts that appeared back in the 1960s.

Here is one example. A Kuba Komet entertainment center from West Germany, manufactured between 1957-1962:

And here is its close cousin, known as the Arkay “Fantasia”, from the United States:

These things were obviously large, obnoxious even. Probably not terribly practical (300 pounds!) Yet they stand out in ways few, if any, modern devices do. We may be surrounded by gadgets that were not even imagined yet back in the early 1960s, we may be having delightful conversations with AI or have video chats with distant friends on other continents, but without the bold, science-fiction inspired visual appearance, our devices appear almost mundane in comparison with these design marvels.

 Posted by at 2:58 am
Jun 102024

I just finished watching the first season of a remarkable television series on Apple TV: Silo.

I say remarkable because it achieved for me the near-impossible: From the very beginning of the very first episode, I cared about the protagonists. I could identify with them, root for them. Including those who didn’t make it.

I shall try very hard not to spoil the show for those who have not seen all ten episodes yet, but…

It’s like Fallout, except that it’s even better. Fallout is great. I loved the games, I love the TV show. It captures Fallout‘s quirky cynicism and it truly feels like part of the same game universe.

Like Fallout, Silo also depicts a post-apocalyptic world. There is plenty of mystery. Unlike Fallout, there is no quirky humor in Silo. It’s more serious, and also more mysterious. In Fallout, we know right from the onset what caused the devastation. In Silo… let’s just say we know a lot less, and we may not even know what we don’t know.

I can’t wait for season 2 now. If they can maintain the quality of the show, the storytelling, the characters, the visuals… Damn, I sound like some stupid know-it-all TV critic, so let me just say that I liked the show. I wonder if Silo ever gets turned into a (preferably open-world) computer game.

 Posted by at 1:32 am
Jun 072024

I had a very busy day today. Or make that yesterday, since it’s almost 3 AM already.

I wanted write something about D-day. Eighty years. It’s been eighty years since Americans, Canadians, Britons and others of the Greatest Generation landed on the beaches of Normandy, opening a much-awaited second front in the global struggle against fascist totalitarianism.

The result: An imperfect, yet enduring world order, Pax Americana, which brought historically unprecedented peace, prosperity, and security to the majority of humans living on this planet.

Perfect it was not. Totalitarianism never vanished. Even after Stalin’s death, the USSR and its empire prevailed for another 36 years. Some of the worst excesses of communism were yet to come. And there were wars, big wars: I thought I’d list a few but there were too many. Even so, this was a period of global peace, a rules-based system that endured, beyond expectations I should say: When I was growing up, no sane adult existed anywhere I think who expected the world to survive beyond the year 2000 without a major nuclear war, yet here we are in 2024, and there are still no nuclear wastelands.

But eventually, all good things come to an end. This world order is crumbling. Will we survive without a civilizational catastrophe? I don’t know. I worry. Ukraine, the Middle East, Taiwan… who knows what else. The retreat of democracy and the rise authoritarianism. The storm is brewing.

Anyhow, enough about D-day. There were some good news. Boeing’s Starliner, though limping a little, made it to the International Space Station. Those astronauts were brave souls. Considering recent news from Boeing, their newfangled attitude towards quality control and safety, I expected, feared rather, a disaster. I am relieved that it has not happened, but NASA should still dump that overpriced, unsafe contraption.

Meanwhile, Musk’s SpaceX had a major success: Starship completed a full test, involving successful launch and “landing” (onto the ocean for now) of both its first stage and Starship itself. The re-entry was not without challenges, but they made it. This is a big milestone, a very big one. The promise of Starship is basically the holy grail of space travel: Fully reusable, rapidly refurnished vehicles. The fiery reentry was perhaps a bit more dramatic than planned, but the spacecraft made it, and that means that they can learn from the issues and improve both the vehicle and its landing procedure.

And I was only marginally paying attention because I am still struggling with forced upgrades: CentOS 7, the Linux version that I’ve been using since 2016, is coming up EOL (end-of-life) which means I must upgrade. But I cannot upgrade to CentOS because Red Hat turned CentOS into a bleeding edge version of Linux with a short support cycle. Joy. Anyhow, today I managed to complete another milestone of my transition plan, so I may still be able to get everything done in time.

 Posted by at 3:06 am