Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Forest Park in the early morning.

Passed quite a few trail runners in the morning, but it was still much less crowded than later in the day when hordes come through here to escape the heat.

There aren't many scents as calming as a forest filled with fir needles and the heavy, humid air from a running creek.

On the Wildwood Trail between Lower Macleay and Holman fire lane

10 Thoughts for July 29, 2014

  1. It was some 15 years ago when I first purchased Sun Microsystems' Star Office, upon which led me down the Open Office path for most of this time.  Of late, I'd been using Google Drive for document editing and spreadsheets because it's simplified and easy to access.  But, because Google does not offer client-side encryption, if someone is accessing your data, it's wide open for them, so I used OO for the most sensitive of documents then encrypted it.  This year I'm going to make a switch.  Kingsoft recently made its office suite free -- WPS Office.  A huge factor, is the 10 different encryption options with up to (selectable) 128 bit encryption length.  Where Google Drive Spreadsheets excels over WPS, is graphing simplicity and ability to make quick edits to stylized elements.
  2. Many people believe that cloud storage is not as safe as keeping your stuff on your computer.  I believe the right cloud storage and set up is just as safe as storing stuff on your computer.  So here's how you'd do it: Two factor authentication with a client-side encryption storage service such as Tresorit, making sure that you encrypt your sensitive documents.
  3. Don't do this. When you address people, do make sure that you know who you're addressing.  This congressman thought that he was talking to a delegation from India; instead, he was talking to government employees from the departments of state and commerce who are of Indian descent.  If you watch the video, Arun Kumar from the ITA has a big smile on his face as Nisha Biswal explains that the congressman probably meant to address this to the Indian delegation.  No apologies from the congressman, just a comment, "Okay, let's see some progress."  Hilarious stuff.
  4. A hipster gets upset that his almond milk might not be good for the environment or all that nutritious, then threatens to spill some milk.  I officially called this, "Rolling Almond Milk."
  5. The ludicrously disingenuous cognitive dissociation that is the flood of undocumented foreign children at the southern border: We are angry that children are being treated as poorly as this; we think we should enforce our borders to prevent this flood of children and deport them immediately.  It's the finest example of American NIMBYism.
  6. Americans, I don't think, understand what impeachment is.  They seem to think that impeachment is a political tool.  Well, it is, but it's meant to be used to remove officials who've committed a criminal offense...aka "high crimes and misdemeanors".  It's not meant to wield against someone that you think has misinterpreted the US Constitution or laws passed.  If you think that, then half of SCOTUS should be immediately impeached frequently when the House majority is upset with a ruling.
  7. It's official: Russia is directly at war with Ukraine.  Russia has been caught with satellite evidence of firing mortar rounds into Ukraine.  I'm not a statesman and I don't play poker, but if I were POTUS, I wouldn't have released this evidence via social networking.  I would have printed them out onto massive, 4' x 8' boards, and convened a general UN assembly with the photos, and request to have the UN either send arms to Ukraine to defend itself or establish a 25km wide demilitarized zone on either side of the border, patrolled within the zone by drones and UN forces that prevent arms from crossing over.  You see, the first option of a proxy war is a nudge to Russia into accepting a demilitarized zone and shut down the war, immediately.
  8. The Ebola outbreak in western Africa is the largest ever, and is still spreading.  A death in Nigeria, of a man who had boarded an international flight, is a big deal, as in scary.  You see, a person can be asymptomatic for up to 21 days.  This also marks the first time that (a deadly variant of) Ebola has appeared in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia and now Nigeria.  That should be disconcerting, because the primary path of transmission is through human contact with infected animals, and the usual hotspot of Ebola is nearly 2,000 miles away.
  9. This one incident has stuck with me all these years, since I was a freshman in high school.  During PE, a couple of bullies were picking on an outwardly gay student by chasing and snapping a towel at him, as he ran around shrieking.  It didn't last very long -- maybe a couple of minutes.  This was nearly 30 years ago, back when people rarely came out officially.  If you recall, this was the Edwin Meese era.  Nonetheless, I feel ashamed that I did not step up and interrupt it, nearly 30 years ago, as I was probably the only one there in my PE class who did not fear bullies.  Hence, it has stuck with me all these years -- a compilation of the events where I fell short of my own standards.
  10. Have you tried the online version of Autodesk's AutoCAD -- AutoCAD360?  Remarkably good.  I'm holding out hope that Autodesk makes basic AutoCAD good enough to use via the internet to make Chromebooks even more useful.  There are two versions, one which utilizes HTML5, but lacks some certain features including a command line. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Waking up to a vivid dream.

Just over a decade ago or so, I came to understand how to have lucid and vivid dreams.  Both tended to occur towards the end of my sleep, when there was enough physical stimuli in the real world that made me aware that I was sleeping.  For instance, the alarm radio could be playing, or the TV still on and blaring.  In the case of lucid dreams, I could control a part of the dream by selecting what I did.  In the case of vivid dreams, I'd wake up with incredible, clear memory of it, even if I did not control it.

This morning, I could hear the TV still on, with some sort of evangelist preaching to his flock explaining how to go to Heaven.  With my subconsciousness latched onto this, I spent the next 15 minutes or so, in an odd and vivid dream.

The first event that I could remember, is finding myself in some church, going through a non-denominational Christian service with my friend, having dragged me into it.  Jumping past the service, I was exploring the place when I stumbled into my uncle and began having a crazy conversation.

At first he made me jump as I wasn't expecting him to be around the corner, and told him so.  In his usual jovial manner, he started laughing and then remarked that I should be, that he actually died the other day.  I was laughing with him, and...say what?  Dead?  What the?

In a split moment I had gone from being startled to having a good laugh, to being really sad.

As I looked at him, though, I was reassured as he wasn't sad but with his usual, content and happy face.  So then as we sat down, I asked him what I think anyone would have asked, "What is Heaven like?"  It's the $1B dollar question, after all.

He explained that when you die, just about everyone gets into Heaven, and your self is just the same as when you were living.  I was keenly amused at that, because it meant that all of Jehovah's Witness followers would be absolutely surprised and disappointed at all the time they wasted, upon realizing that the limits to get into Heaven were rather minor.

So who didn't get into Heaven?  It turned out that only the really bad, as in sufficiently evil as to being impossibly irreconcilable with God, were sent to Hell.  To which, my uncle pointed out that this had created its own conflict in Heaven in that in this vast world of everlasting life, a very large group of people had formed an alliance and had been causing trouble.

It was at this point, having gotten to the answer of the $1B dollar question, I realized that I was sleeping, and thusly woke up to the sound of a TV evangelist going on about how people have gotten it wrong about who can get into Heaven: You cannot simply be a good person and striving to make yourself better.  How odd, that my dream was exactly the opposite of the message of the TV evangelist!

But here's the oddest part of the dream: my uncle has been dead for several years!

Spooky?  Not really.  Being able to talk to my uncle was a comforting memory of my dream.  In life, I'd always learn something interesting when I stayed over at my aunt and uncle's place.

Anyway, thought I'd share this vivid dream.  The best part of waking up to such vivid dreams is that I don't feel tired or lazy to get out of bed.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Mary Poppins demands a living wage.

Love Kristen Bell. Watch Bell, as Mary Poppins, explain why a living wage is important.  Via Funny or Die.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

10 Thoughts for July 24, 2014

  1. As a guy passed me by while I was walking the dog, early Wednesday morning, I suddenly realized who it was: Russell Hornsby, aka Hank Griffin.  He had a skull cap on, so I didn't figure out who he was until I had just passed by him.  The other day I know someone was filming in the neighborhood.  Turnaround is about 6 weeks between filming and airing of episodes, so Grimm season is right around the corner.  I've seen David Giuntoli, Silas Weir Mitchell, Sasha Roiz and now Russell Hornsby, yet the ones I'd really love to pass by in person are Bitsie Tulloch, Claire Coffee, Bree Turner and Jacqueline Toboni.
  2. You probably heard about the mixed rulings, just hours apart, on the ACA.  In the federal 4th District Court, judges ruled that, absent explicit language in the ACA, Congress' intention in the ACA should be obvious: federal subsidies were meant to apply to both state and federal exchanges, as the federal exchange was a proxy for state-based exchanges, were states to choose not to set up their own exchanges.  In Halbig v Burwell, the DC Court sided 2-1 with plaintiff, David Klemencic, that on the same issue, Congress' intention was to not fund subsidies for the federal exchange.  Suffice to say, the 3-person appeals panel will end up being overruled by the full appeals court 11 members.  Why?  See next item.
  3. The plaintiff, David Klemencic, insisted that he was harmed (a necessary requirement to receive standing in court) by the fact that, were he not to buy insurance from the federal exchange (since his state did not set one up), he would thus be on the hook for a tax penalty.  Somehow the DC Court took this as injurious to Klemencic, even though SCOTUS ruled 5-4 last year that the penalty was legal and justified, giving him standing.  Then they ruled that there was insufficient historical record to know what Congress wanted -- total bullshit, by the way, as even the CBO scored the budgetary effect of federal subsidies for those using the federal exchange -- and stated that the federal exchange couldn't offer subsidies.  Or as I've said elsewhere, "Sir, I doth protest this tax, such that I demand that you take away my subsidies!"  See how dumb the case is?
  4. Russia continued to push faked evidence yesterday, showing that Ukrainian jets had followed MH17 closely, and were responsible for shooting down the aircraft.  Why is this pathetic?  There hasn't been a single eyewitness to the fact that there were jets pursuing MH17, and the videos of the explosion show the remains of a contrail from the ground, not from the air.  Furthermore, the videos do not contain the sound of jets.  If you live near a national guard, air force or naval air station, you know that jets are not quiet, especially when they turn around.  Finally, were this true, then why didn't the rebels shoot down the jets?  Just today, another two Ukrainian jets were shot down, and there were a couple others shot down the previous week.  Jets are far more threatening than a transport airplane, after all.  That Russia would actually fake evidence, is lame.
  5. Ted Cruz has taken to using Fox News style faked scaling charts.  Hilarious.  In other Ted Cruz news, he stated today that the FAA's ban on flights to Israel's Ben Gurion Airport was a secret plot by Obama to punish Israel economically.
  6. It boggles the mind, that anyone had to actually perform a scientific study to conclude that dogs express jealousy.  Every dog owner knows not to dote over someone else's dog excessively in front of their own dog.  But that's not the only emotion dogs show.  They also express impatience, frustration, guilt, excitement, sadness, fear, anxiety, boredom, happiness, and the over-the-top unbridled joy.  Anyone telling you that dogs can't have these emotions hasn't spent much time trying to understand dogs.
  7. This year might be the year of the partisan poll.  Republicans have apparently determined that polls are tools to manipulate public opinion, so this year there are a dozen or so newly minted GOP pollsters.  Attempts to aggregate polling data is much less useful this year.  The only meaningful partisan poll is the one which agrees with the other side's polling data -- something that has always held special significance for me, when analyzing poll trends.  If a GOP poll shows a Democrat ahead, then you can rest assured that the Democrat is indeed ahead, etc.
  8. Texas' Rick Perry has called up his national guard to protect the border with Mexico.  But as I've mentioned before, it makes no sense.  You can't shoot at little kids and mothers coming across the border, to scare them off.  About all they can do is observe and report to the Border Patrol on activity.  He gave the odd excuse that they were going to combat the drug cartels; I don't think we need any more proof that Perry still lives in the 80s.
  9. Oh, and the drowning death toll continued in Oregon this week.  Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.  We're probably well past a dozen drownings this summer, and some people still don't have the fear of drowning.  You know, if waterboarding were compulsory as a part of PE, we'd probably have more people afraid of drowning.  I keed.
  10. This was making the rounds yesterday: In the early 80s many Americans thought that an A&W 1/3rd pounder had less beef than the McDonald's 1/4 pounder.  The world makes a lot more sense to me, now.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

When you know someone is exaggerating about their tech knowledge.

I rely on reviews of products to filter out which products not to buy.  On Newegg, every reviewer is required to provide self-determined rating of technical knowledge.  As you might expect, most people overrate themselves.  Here's some examples of people who rated themselves 5 out of 5 stars:
Ryan writes, "Hard drive didn't work out of the box. Plugged it in and Windows didn't recognize it. Turns out my PC also won't boot with this plugged in to the USB port."
 -- Yes Ryan, because you have USB set up as higher priority at boot.  (It's how one can boot ChromeOS from a thumb drive.)  And, it's not that Windows didn't recognize the drive, but that you haven't mapped it; plug and play has its limits.
 Joseph writes, "I have a brand new system works flawlessly I plug in this drive and try to copy it is my system core dumps with a Watchdog_Clock Error every single time."-- It's not the peripheral, Joe, it's your motherboard's BIOS and flaws in how it tackles data flow.  You're going to run into this issue even if you buy a different peripheral drive.
James writes, "First call to tech support ended up with downloading a new firmware version and being told the software would 'find' my device on the network. Not what I read, but ok we'll see. Tech was wrong, the device has a RANDOM SUBNET ASSIGNED. You will take years to try to get your PC to find the device."-- Well James, unless you attached directly to your NAS and changed it, you would always expect it to assign itself a random subnet IP address when attached to a router. 
I realize that computers shouldn't be this hard.  But, if you're not a certified computer nerd who hand-codes, runs an open WRT router and builds computers from the ground up, why rate yourself 5 stars?  Just because you play RPG, love tech and your parents rely on your knowledge, doesn't make you an expert.

Funny thing is, many demonstrably knowledgeable reviewers rate themselves 4 out of 5 stars.

FWIW, I rank myself 3 stars.  My strength isn't my knowledge of tech, but my ability to find answers.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

10 Absurdities of Russian Propaganda.

Monday, we saw the Russian propaganda machine operating in full force, pumping out one big whopper after another.  So absurd they were, I could not resist mocking them:
  1. "I can say with confidence that if on June 28 combat activities in eastern Ukraine had not been resumed, this tragedy most likely would not have happened." -- Expressing my inner Putin, I can say with confidence that I most likely turned off the stove before I went out.
  2. Putin's repeated point -- that had there been peace in Ukraine this incident would have been avoided -- is a curious one, though, since it was Russia's explicit loosening of its border with Ukraine that allowed arms and personnel to flow into Ukraine to escalate the fight with the implicit guarantor of Russia's military (guns, personnel and tanks) parked at the border.
  3. "At the same time, no one has a right to use this tragedy to achieve their narrowly selfish political ends." -- Which of course, points to the fact that broadly selfish political ends are justified, right?  That this is coming from the guy (Putin) who has used Ukraine as a punching bag to establish his Novorussia, is to be expected.
  4. "We must do everything to provide security for the international experts on the site of the tragedy." -- And by "everything", of course Putin meant "sit around and do nothing but fabricate evidence".  Four days after the fact, and only now he's getting serious about demanding security?  Putin has met his Katrina, I think.
  5. [Officials] "should acknowledge their responsibility both before their own people and before the peoples of those countries whose representatives were among the victims of this catastrophe." -- I wasn't sure...was Putin talking about himself or was he excluding himself from his criticism?  You know, instead of helping, for four days he dithered about what happened in Ukraine.  When the investigators have completed their report and point the finger at Putin's rebels, he's not going to take responsibility.
  6. Russians and their rebels contend that the rebels never had weapons capable of bringing down an airliner at 33,000 feet.  And yet, we have several videos of BUKs being driven around in rebel-held territory and inside Russia near the Russian-Ukrainian border.  So, exactly how did these BUKs manage to pass through all the rebel-controlled check points without their knowledge?
  7. Similarly, one Russian theory of the incident has Ukrainian soldiers firing at MH17 from their own BUKs.  But Russians never explained how it was possible for Ukrainians to sneak into and out of rebel-held territory, through multiple checkpoints, and without any videos, eyewitnesses or photos!  Maybe Ukrainian soldiers were using their special Harry Potter invisibility cloaks?
  8. Four days after the fact, Russia finally found the evidence they needed to prove that a Ukrainian fighter jet was in the region, trailing MH17.  Curious though, because none of the videos of the explosion contain sounds of a jet flying, nor is there any visible contrail.
  9. Actually, there are remnants of a contrail from a ground-to-air missile in the videos.  The people shooting the video shift the video camera up and down to trace the contrail, you see.  So, not only did the missile have to come from within the rebel-controlled area, but it could not have been fired from a fighter jet.
  10. I'm not sure where the Russian media is right now, but at one point, they pushed the theory that Ukraine had shot at MH17 thinking it was Putin, or that MH17 was actually MH370, full of already dead corpses.  
All of this points to the basic truth about humans: We will concoct and trust the most ridiculous narrative in order to relieve our cognitive dissonance.  That the very rebels they were cheerleading for, shot down and killed 298 innocent people, is irreconcilable.  Predictably, the truth must be that the people they despise the most -- pro-Kiev forces -- were responsible for committing this heinous act.