The anonymity of the good, and the good of anonymity.

There’s a current trend in culture and politics. Or perhaps it’s not current, I merely haven’t noticed it before. Who knows?

Anyway, for reference, consider Luke 18:9-14:

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable:10“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

I’m not here to talk about what kind of social or political activity is good or evil. I have my thoughts on charities, civil rights, civil liberties, separation of church and state and all of those things, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about. I’m here to talk about most of the people talking about them.

In the parable above, you can see the core idea is that, no matter how righteous you are, no matter how good you are, you shouldn’t be constantly rubbing it in others’ faces. You know how we all hate those “holier than thou” people? That extends beyond simple religious code, but to general public behavior.

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that activity X is a good, moral thing. And let’s say you engage in activity X. Great! Good on you! And feel free to tell your friends, if it’s relevant. But don’t tell your friends if the reason you’re telling them is because you to feel good about yourself; what you’re doing is saying “I’m good for doing X, and if you don’t do X, well, you’re not so good.”

Worse, if someone doesn’t say they’re doing X, even though a bunch of people around them claim to be, that person starts to stand out. It’s not that they’re not doing X, it’s that they’re not telling anyone they’re doing X, regardless of whether or not they are.

What you wind up with are a bunch of people pressured to claim (and possibly lie) that they’re doing X, even when they’re not. And you wind up with people who are good, moral people doing X who, since they’re not saying they’re doing X, are assumed to not be doing X, and so are treated as though they’re less moral.

Frankly, that’s a tragedy; it forces the revelation of activity one might wish to be quiet about, for social or political reasons. Just because something is Good doesn’t make it socially or politically acceptable, and just because something is socially or politically acceptable doesn’t make it Good.

Write-behind, Read-ahead and Gluster

So, over on the gluster-user list, I just enjoyed giving an explanation of write-behind vs read-ahead, as it applies to a filesystem serving up VM images.

Having write-behind enabled is like juggling your data with with a partner. Having write-behind disabled is like you and your partner handing data to each other, rather than tossing it. Having read-ahead disabled is like asking your partner for a page of data, and having him give you that page of data. Having read-ahead enabled is like asking your partner for a page of data, and having him give you a fifty page report, because he thinks you may need the extra information–except you already made allowances yourself in asking for that full page of data; the only data you *knew* you needed was a single table in that page.

As another example of why you wouldn’t normally need read-ahead enabled in gluster, I could easily write a small books’ worth of theory into an email detailing the concept further, but I’ve already given sufficient information to illustrate the relevant concepts; anything further would be unnecessary detail I’m only guessing you might need. 😉

The read-ahead setting is about performance, not about data integrity. Virtual machines will be running an operating system. That operating system will be running block-device drivers and filesystem drivers. Both of those types of drivers have their own tunable concepts of read-ahead, so any further read-ahead at the gluster layer is unnecessary.

(Obviously, the remote filesystem in question was Gluster, but the same would apply with any filesystem. Discussion of risk management, flash-backed write caches and various bits of infrastructure redundancy can wait for other posts.)

Scientists, the EPA and law

Forewarning: I tend to play devil’s advocate. A lot. I’m openly skeptical of anything I perceive as quick judgement.

I don’t know the details, as I haven’t read the bill people are saying prevents scientists from talking to the EPA, or read an article that actually quotes the relevant portion. But I *suspect* it’s similar to Wikipedia’s policy (which I loathe, personally.). The idea (on Wikipedia) is that you shouldn’t be able to take your opionions and pass them off as authoritative without those opinion having gone through a vetting process, such as peer review or being published elsewhere.

Be mindful that there’s a difference between a published paper and related information espoused by one of the authors. The published paper has been peer reviewed (though if you follow the blogs of the professors who actually do these reviews and talk about the process, you realise that it’s almost meaningless), and can be taken as such only as a whole. Paraphrase, reword, or reinterpret it, and you’re no longer communicating the reviewed idea.

Take the John Birch society, for example. They were the guys who were described as paranoid over floridation of the water supply. In reality, they weren’t making arguments about the effects of the floride, but that individuals have the right to decide what goes into their own bodies. I know of nobody who can defensibly argue that floride in the water is bad for public health; that argument would be bunk. But the idea that we have the right to self-determination on the subject? That’s a defensible position.

Now let’s take an individual, paranoid member of said society. Let’s say that the published, defensible argument is that people have a right to self-determination, and this publication had this individual as an author. But let’s say the *motivation* for backing that argument, for this individual, is that the individual thinks floride treatments are part of a mind control program.

Would this individual, in individual conversation, stick to the defensible and sane argument? Almost certainly not; that’s the point of individual discussion, to expound upon what’s published.

Likewise, is a scientist or researcher going to limit what he conveys to the strict letter, meaning and scope of published, peer-reviewed documents? Absolutely not! He’s a human just like anyone else.

Science isn’t a licensed profession. There’s no certification necessary to be called a scientist. At best, there’s a vague idea of an academic pedigree. But even that’s not really cared about if someone is popular enough. I mean, what the hell does Neal de Grass Tyson have to do with arguments about climatology or biology? His expertise is in astronomy. But somehow he’s the marketer for much more. And Bill Nye?

Now, here’s where it gets particularly sticky. Scientists are treated as *gods* among us. They’re idolized, worshipped, and held on high. Think of all the times you’ve seen something silly accompanied with “FOR SCIENCE!” or an argument backed with a thin appeal to authority, “because science!”, or even a simple mocking “We’ve accomplished X. Science, bitches.” Now imagine if one of these gods gave testimony that wasn’t actually intellectually sound? What do you do? Call out a god in front of his worshippers?
So I’d like to know what exactly this bill says, and how it can be figured to exclude proper scientific opinions, since it’s hard enough to even define what those *are*.
As XKCD once noted, “did you know you can just *buy* lab coats?!”