A few months back, everyone was talking about what it was like a year ago to enter the Pandemic. I never was much for that kind of nostalgia. I’ll say the Shelter in Place order came in on a Saturday and the boys cried because it meant their birthday party on Sunday was completely canceled after all. That’s metaphor enough to last me a few years.
I remember that early on, someone asked how long: 6-8 weeks? I suggested that we were looking at 12-18 months because that’s the fastest we could conceivably develop, test, approve, manufacture, and distribute vaccines. I didn’t want to be a bummer so I didn’t bring up my pessimism much. Everyone figured a couple of months.
When things opened up in June, I got us a plane trip to Chicago. We had a big party planned the year before that couldn’t happen, and the youngest had never been, and the older kid I really owed a fireworks show. I had worried about the logistics and whether everyone would have a good time but the trip was so immensely enjoyable.
“We need to have our fun now, before the next wave,” had been my thinking. Of course, I was thinking of the vaccine-resistant strain that has yet to evolve, not the wave that is currently hitting the vaccine-resistant population.
During the Pandemic, my employer figured out that our staff are really productive working from home, and the lease was up on the office so we took the opportunity to downsize. The new location is right next to the train, and on days when family obligations allow, I really love taking the train to the office. I think this is a pretty ideal commute: walk fast to the station, sit down, read a book, walk sorta fast to the office. Some light exercise for the body and relaxation for the mind built right into the schedule.
Lately, I’ve been coming into the office any chance I can get. As I explain, I really like working from home, and I have a good setup, but it also reminds me of the Pandemic, which I am happy to forget. Yesterday came the Public Health Order that we now wear masks in the office. I am here today and tomorrow. There is definitely a feeling of setback.
We had the technology and the money to free our country of the Pandemic this year. What we lacked was a cultural consensus that rolling up sleeves and getting a shot was worth everyone doing. I think this is just a warm-up for how our century will go. The planet is on fire again this year. Portland fried like it was Death Valley. We have, so far, been lucky in the Bay Area. No orange skies, no smoke … I haven’t run the air conditioner in weeks. Just the ongoing drought. This year, the Salmon fry will all be cooked in their natal streams.
We never took action to prevent the Climate Catastrophe beforehand. Even now, we have tools like electric cars and induction stoves and any number of ways we can reduce our Carbon emissions and … we make excuses. The new budget stimulus adds some money for public transportation, but the big money is in building more roads. In a few years, maybe, they say, there will be a few more electric cars you can buy. (And don’t bring up bike lanes.) The power grid is getting cleaner, at least.
I had a cheeseburger for lunch.
This Sunday, Tommy and his Mom went to see the new Lego movie. I took the baby to a train show. He alternated between wanting to be carried and wanting to push the stroller around the crowd. We had fun.
A lot of the layouts on display are modular, and each at a different height. Some are up high, where an adult can comfortably manipulate the trains while standing, and others are down low, where kids can more easily see. The lower ones often have plastic barriers around the edge, or are roped of, to reduce the fingerpoking. I steered Max toward the lower trains, where there was also more room for him to push the stroller around.
I got to chatting with one of the guys running a large-scale railroad that was about two feet off the ground.
“Back when we started, back in the 80s, we had it at a height that was comfortable for old men. (I was young back then.) We went to a show and a bus full of kids in wheelchairs got out and they couldn’t see the trains. We felt awful about that. So, we got out the saws and have had shorter legs ever since.”
“You don’t have plastic barriers along the edge?”
“Well, the biggest thrill for the kids is to put their face on the track and pretend the train is going to run them over. We’ve also found that the manufacturers really understand that train shows are the best marketing they have, so when a train hits the concrete, they’ll often replace the damaged equipment, no questions asked.”
“Oh that’s nice! Still, maybe you run the more expensive trains on the inside track? I mean that one looks like it cost a few bucks.”
“That’s the theory. Though, at the end of the day . . . its only a toy.”
I love that guy.
At the behest of my ISP, Sonic, I wrote a letter to the FCC, via https://savecompetition.com/:
I am a successful IT professional. I got my start in the 90s, answering phones at an independent ISP and getting folks online with their new modems. This was a great age when folks had a choice of any number of Internet SERVICE Providers who could help them get up and running on AT&T’s local telephone infrastructure.
To this very day, I use the DSL option available from the local Internet Service Provider (Sonic) over AT&T’s wires. I use this despite the fiber optic cable AT&T has hung on the pole in front of my house. Fiber would be so, so much faster, but I’m not going to pay for it until I have a CHOICE of providers, like Sonic, who has always been great about answering the phone and taking care of my Internet SERVICE needs.
Competitive services were the foundation of my career in IT. I believe they were a strong foundation to get Americans online in the first place. Competitive services are, in my opinion, REQUIRED, if you want to get Americans on to modern network technology today.
On the drive in this morning, I caught Forum’s program on the new dockless electric scooters that have been showing up in San Francisco. This service is a new take on dockless bike share. There is concern that users are riding on sidewalks, menacing pedestrians, and that despite state laws, they aren’t wearing helmets. Also, the scooters are often left blocking up the sidewalks.
The scooter proponent answered that since the scooters are a handy way to save car trips, San Francisco can continue its efforts to convert car lanes to bike lanes, where the scooters could safely scoot apart from pedestrians. That sounds great to me. The helmets, though … as I pulled up to the office, I emailed in a brief opinion. I then hung back from going into the office for a couple of minutes to catch the very end of the show. I’m glad I did. Michael Krazny closed with this:
We’ll leave it there! Well, except for one more comment about helmets that I want to read here, from Daniel, who says: “We should revisit the helmet requirement. Helmet use is a cultural convention. For example, they don’t wear helmets in Amsterdam or Copenhagen, which makes bicycling even easier in those places. It is safer to wear a helmet when riding in a car, yet we wouldn’t expect anyone to wear a helmet as a requirement to ride in a car.”
I think it would be nice to see these scooters in Peninsula suburbs, where we tend to lack good “last mile” transit options, and where there are fewer pedestrians to upset. Rental electric scooters sound like a better option than rental bikes in a lot of cases because they’re cheap to deploy, require less knowledge to ride, and require less storage space. And I suspect that the helmet requirement is probably unworkable.
I was in Chicago this week. There was a death in the family, so it was good to be among my kinfolk with our adorable, loving child.
Chicago is famously corrupt and moribund and the State of Illinois is mired in perpetual scandal. It is a magnet for immigrants but it is also a city from which many of us Californians are originally from. I’ve gotten used to the California way and I generally prefer it but what I noticed this week in Chicago was all the construction.
For a city that is corrupt and moribund, there was an awful lot of demolition and rebuilding going on. On the way to the L in the evening we stopped and stared over a fence as a variety of heavy machines worked under brilliant stadium lights. The star of the show was a yellow machine with a huge claw on the end of a boom arm reaching several stories up, to the top of a building, it was tearing down from the top, girder by girder, as another machine sprayed down the dust with a water hose. The claw was at the very end of its reach, it felt the machine was on tippy toes, as it tugged away, girder after girder, waiting for torrents of debris to fall, pulling the pieces out and dropping them into piles to be dragged into more discrete piles by lesser enormous machines. It was like watching dinosaurs go about their business. Father, Son, and Grandmother: none of us could take our eyes off the marvel. “They should sell beer and peanuts,” said I.
The neighbors of this derelict house in Sunnyvale are terrified at the prospect of it being replaced with housing for families.
We don’t get this in Suburban California. What little “history” we have is viciously guarded and any attempt to replace the old with newer and better is often met with resistance and exaggerated speculation as to the intentions and end results of new development. You don’t see that so much in the old country–In Chicago, and in any place with some history under its belt, everyone knows that they are surrounded by at least a century of continuity–Everyone is merely links in a great chain. The city is inherited and bequeathed and the hope is to leave it in a little better shape: Urbs in Horto.
In Dublin, I saw them building a light rail line, right down an ancient street. It made the Northern Californian in me jealous.
They say that University Politics is the most vicious because the stakes are so low. I get a sense of that observing some of the political rhetoric in Sunnyvale. Out here the city is so new and raw that the idea of changing it implies that those who built the city and have lived in it until now are being completely rejected by the hordes of newcomers flooding the city from the Midwest and the Far East. But in the ancient lands where the immigrants come from, there is no such sentiment: the cities are naturally timeworn, and the idea of redevelopment is an intuitive component of the cycle of death and rebirth.
Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning as a savage pitted against the wilderness,
Building, breaking, rebuilding,
Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with white teeth,
Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young man laughs,
Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has never lost a battle
The land in which I live would be enriched if it embraced a bit of the poetry of the land in which I was born.
I recently started using sslmate to manage SSL certificates. SSL is one of those complicated things you deal with rarely so it has historically been a pain in the neck.
But sslmate makes it all easy … you install the sslmate command and can generate, sign, and install certificates from the command-line. You then have to check your email when getting a signed cert to verify … and you’re good.
The certificates auto-renew annually, assuming you click the email. I did this for an important cert yesterday. Another thing you do (sslmate walks you through all these details) is set up a cron.
This morning at 6:25am the cron got run on our servers … with minimal intervention (I had to click a confirmation link on an email yesterday) our web servers are now running on renewed certs …. one less pain in the neck.
So … next time you have to deal with SSL I would say “go to sslmate.com and follow the instructions and you’ll be in a happy place.”
I was watching Larry Wilmore and the panel asked itself why are young liberals not excited about Hillary Clinton, and they jumped straight to the thesis that the cause is sexism. I know that there is no shortage of hatred against Hillary rooted in sexism, but for young liberals, I don’t think that this is what is turning them on to Sanders. I think that if there is a prejudice at play, it is against going back to the past.
Many of us who can remember the 90s remember it as a pretty good time, (as long as you weren’t big on equal rights for gays) especially in contrast to the George W years. Sure, the Republicans hated everything about the Democratic president but at least that could be rationalized by his obvious moral shortcoming. Younger liberals don’t remember those years. They came of age under a president whose political credentials were rooted entirely in his relationship to a 90s president. That was a train wreck. Eight years ago, we considered Hillary Clinton but decided that whatever nostalgia we felt for the 90s was trumped by an inexperienced Black Guy with a funny name. Say what? Its like progressives were less than eager to embrace the past.
And you see how that works out. Like Clinton, the Right hates Obama. Alas, Obama’s greatest moral failing is that he enjoys an occasional cigarette, so the Right is left to invent moral failings: he’s Muslim! he’s foreign! he’s Socialist! He’s … whatever … meanwhile the Left is trying to figure out the degree to which the Right hates Obama because they’re just plain old racist or do they simply hate any Democratic President?
Anyway, you look at your options: Hillary would be a perfectly competent President, like Bill was. Sure, the Right will hate her but she’s been dealing with that bullshit longer than most of us have been alive. That she hasn’t been crushed by hate and still seems somewhat human is a testament to her strength of character, and sheer, pragmatic, calculating ambition and political savvy. She’ll know how to work a hostile Congress to eek out incremental progress, much as Obama has.
Or, if they’re going to hate your president anyway, why settle for a pragmatic, shrewd centrist who will eek out incremental progress when you could just vote your Socialist ideals and send the Right wing our own tough New Yorker who says out loud what we’re all thinking anyway: that the banks are too big, that the rich get away with murder, and that Socialism is not an evil bogey man that will hand victory to the USSR.
And … I for one remember the 1990s … I don’t remember Clinton actually achieving anything. Healthcare reform went down in flames. Gays could be allowed in the military as long as they kept it in the closet. We deregulated the banks while sticking the evil Welfare Moms with red tape. We really didn’t move the ball forward much … if at all. When we later swooned for Barack “Hope and Dreams” Obama, we got some health care reform, women now serve in combat, and gay people can get married in all fifty states. Sure, we haven’t closed Guantanamo Bay, and there are still some troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, but Osama bin Laden is dead and we aren’t fighting any new wars. Not bad for voting for the unlikely young guy who had more rhetoric and possibility to offer than the Clinton option.
So, yeah, when it comes down to another Clinton administration versus taking a chance on Idealism, a lot of us figure voting for an Angry Old Brooklyn Jewish Socialist could be the better option.
Yesterday, on Martin Luther King Junior Day, a national holiday, Black Lives Matter protesters briefly shut down the San Francisco Bay Bridge in one direction. I smiled at that. A traffic snarl on a holiday commemorating a great activist caused by today’s ambitious activists: what is not to love?
But today on the drive in they were discussing it on Forum and people kept calling in to complain about how yeah sure they support black people and they think it is okay to protest but not, heck forbid, if it is disruptive. “Who do these people think they are? They’re not going to win me over with tactics like that!”
“Hooray for Our Side”
Dan Brekke, also of KQED, posted a piece with some historical perspective, and recounted how his Uncle Bill Hogan, once a Catholic Priest, had participated in a very similar protest in Chicago, blocking a highway into the city, on a Tuesday, May 9, 1972. He remarked that the Vietnam War ultimately ended, but that the protest in question was only one of very very many.
I got to thinking of the first time I ever engaged in a protest. Just a few days over twenty five years ago, on January 16, 1991. To quote an article by Charles Leroux in The Chicago Tribune:
“Cara Brigandi, 16, a junior at Lincoln Park High School, said she led a movement of Lincoln Park students to walk out of school and protest. Organizers gave students their marching orders when they came to school Tuesday morning. Fliers were passed out urging students to leave classes about 10 a.m. That effort mushroomed into a march down North Avenue to Lake Shore Drive and then to the Loop. Along the way, Lincoln Park students say they picked up students from the Latin School of Chicago, and William Jones Metropolitan High School. By about 12:30, approximately 200 students were in front of City Hall.”
I remember getting the flyer at the school door. I remember that moment when the time came and every student had to ask themselves whether they were going to stick with class or step outside. I remember looking out the window to see a growing crowd inviting us to join them and then the moment I decided to join other teenage kids running down the stairs to break a first taboo. After some cheering and whatnot, the crowd headed down the street. The cops managed to break the crowd in two, with the folks in the back returning to school. Those of us toward the front were soon walking through a Chicago winter day down a highway on-ramp and on to Lake Shore Drive: two lanes of students, one more lane of police cars, buffering us, and another lane of mid-morning traffic squeezing by, many cheering us on.
“Hell no, we won’t go,” the protesters chanted. And: “One, two, three, four, we don’t want your (bleeping) war. Five, six, seven, eight, we will not cooperate.” Among the crowd were many non-students who had protested the Vietnam War. With that war, “it took years before there was this kind of protest,” said Lester McNeely, 37, of Oak Park, a member of the West Side Peace Coalition.
The next day, we started to bomb Iraq.
Back to the present day … Dan Brekke suggests that one objective of protest is to get people arguing, and a comment on the Forum discussion cites Dr King himself:
I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;” who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.”
Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”
I’ve come a long way from being a chanting high school kid walking down LSD … I own a house in the suburbs!? I guess I’m in a place where I can suggest to others of my social class that there is a time for order, but there is also a time for action, however messy, disorganized, inchoate, and perhaps even self-defeating.
If it is Martin Luther King Day, and your trip across the Bay Bridge from the Chocolate City of Oakland into the Liberal Mecca of San Francisco gets delayed by people who are angry about cops murdering black kids, well, I would suggest that whether you agree with the protest or not, this is a perfect time to roll down the window, raise your fist in the air, and express your opinion.
Today marks the completion of the 40th trip of this body around the local star. A momentous milestone for the resident being. I spent the weekend with my wife and son, riding the train down to Santa Barbara and back, a pretty little beach town where we visited the zoo and ate ice cream together.
Most likely, I’ll be around another 40 years, or more, but really: who knows? Every day I wake up with my health and my loved ones is a blessing.
The trip has been good. Tommy did pretty well, and the scenery along the way has had a lot of that intense emerald green the dry parts of California get after some good winter rains. The view along the coast near Santa Barbara is worth the long train ride.
I am grateful to be alive. I am grateful for my family. I am grateful for my friends. I am grateful for my job and ability to earn a living. I am grateful to be living at what honestly seems to be a very promising time in the history of our species. Life will not always be so great for this being, and in time, my life will end. I am grateful for the time I have had, and the time I have yet, and that I get to experience a little part of our collective adventure.
“Love is Love”
–President Barack Obama, June 26, 2015
It was about twenty years ago, I was in college, up late in the computer lab writing an email to President Clinton asking him not to sign the “Defense of Marriage Act” into law. Today, I am proud of my country, and the speed with which we have “evolved” to better recognize more of the civil rights of our people.
Thank you, Justice Kennedy, and to the countless advocates who have helped us all open our eyes.
I had the worst experience at work today: I had to prepare a computer for a new employee. That’s usually a pretty painless procedure, but this user was to be on Windows, and I had to … well, I had to call it quits after making only mediocre progress. This evening I checked online to make sure I’m not insane. A lot of people hate Windows 8, so I enjoyed clicking through a few reviews online, and then I just had to respond to Badger25’s review of Windows 8.1:
I think you are being way too easy on Windows 8.1 here, or at least insulting to the past. This isn’t a huge step backwards to the pre-Windows era: in DOS you could get things done! This is, if anything, a “Great Leap Forward” in which anything that smells of traditional ways of doing things has been purged in order to strengthen the purity of a failed ideology.
As far as boot speed, I was used to Windows XP booting in under five seconds. That was probably the first incarnation of Windows I enjoyed using. I just started setting up a Windows 8 workstation today for a business user and it is the most infuriatingly obtuse Operating System I have ever, in decades, had to deal with. (I am a Unix admin, so I’ve seen things….) This thing does NOT boot fast, or at least it does not reboot fast, because of all the updates which must be slowly applied.
Oddly enough, it seems that these days, the best computer UIs are offered by Linux distros, and they have weird gaps in usability, then Macs, then … I wouldn’t suggest Windows 8 on anyone except possibly those with physical or mental disabilities. Anyone who is used to DOING THINGS with computers is going to feel like they are using the computer with their head wrapped in a hefty bag. The thing could trigger panic attacks.
Monday is another day. I just hope the new employee doesn’t rage quit.
The Friends of Caltrain sent me e-mail touting progress on public transportation and density along the Peninsula, with provocative news that for the first time in its history, Santa Clara could build a transit service that is faster than driving.
I think the El Camino BRT could be a great project to transform El Camino Real from a ghetto of 1950s strip malls into the sort of place where people would go to enjoy shopping. Maybe. Anyway, the news that a dedicated lane from Santa Clara to Palo Alto could make the bus faster than cars excited me. I’ll try to be at the Sunnyvale meeting this evening, and I also submitted my own enthusiasm to our governments via Transform’s handy link:
I used to commute along El Camino from Mountain View to Palo Alto. I switched to the bus out of environmental concerns. El Camino has the best transit service in the county but it still took 2-3 times longer to take the bus than it would have taken to drive. Now it sounds like you could get BRT running on El Camino FASTER than cars? YES!! If the cars get slowed a bit that’s not such a big deal, especially since any driver going any distance knows that Central Expressway / Alma is a much nicer car trip. Even though I now live 1.5 miles off of El Camino in Sunnyvale, if there were excellent transit services I would be tempted to hop on the 55, walk, or bike to enjoy the transit corridor, especially for trips up to Mountain View or Palo Alto or Stanford Shopping Center. What a pleasure it would be to not have to hassle with parking, traffic, or the Caltrain schedule. If it were sufficiently fast, I would totally use that as a commute option up to Menlo Park.
Also, I’d probably be more inclined to visit Santa Clara.
We had company over Wednesday evening. Friends of the family who have cat-sat for us. They brought dim sum. After dinner we sat around chatting. I got a call on my mobile from a 408 number. I took it.
“Are you the owner of Maxwell?”
“I am. Is he causing trouble?”
It was the opposite. I grabbed a cardboard box and hustled down to the corner, where a small crowd had gathered. The woman who had called me said he had been standing in the street, looking the other way, when the car hit him. He died instantly. She removed him from the street and found my number on the tag. We hugged. She was obviously a cat person, who was glad that he had a collar, a bell, and an identification tag.
I brought him home. He rested briefly where his feline companion Maggie took a last opportunity to groom him. The young woman who drove the car and her father came by to express their remorse and see if they could make amends, but there was nothing to be done. The young woman was in tears. She wants to be a veterinarian. The Father remembers dogs who had been lost to cars. We agreed that the Humane Society might receive a donation. We shook hands several times. What a way to meet the neighbors.
Maxwell napping in the front yard in June.
In the back yard, a shallow grave was dug. Maxwell was wrapped in a familiar fabric, and lain to rest. Words were said.
It will take some time to feel his absence and truly mourn his departure. He might have lived a much longer life as a house cat, but he loved the outdoors and was well known in the neighborhood. He lived as he chose and while his end was violent, it was swift and he did not suffer.
We’re going to miss you, Maxwell!
I reported the following to the FBI, to LogMeIn123.com, to Century Link, and to Bing, and now I’ll share the story with you.
Yesterday, May 12, 2014, a relative was having trouble with Netflix. So she went to Bing and did a search for her ISP’s technical support:
Bing leads you to a convenient toll-free number to call for technical support!
She called the number: 844-835-7605 and spoke with a guy who had her go to LogMeIn123.com so he could fix her computer. He opened up something that revealed to her the presence of “foreign IP addresses” and then showed her the Wikipedia page for the Zeus Trojan Horse. He explained that she would need to refresh her IP address and that their Microsoft Certified Network Security whatevers could do it for $350 and they could take a personal check since her computer was infected and they couldn’t do a transaction online.
So, she conferenced me in. I said that she could just reinstall Windows, but he said no, as long as the IP was infected it would need to be refreshed. I said, well, what if we just destroyed the computer. No, no, the IP is infected. “An IP address is a number: how can it get infected?” I then explained that I was a network administrator . . . he said he would check with his manager. That was the last we heard from him.
I advised her that this sounded very very very much like a phishing scam and that she should call the telephone number on the bill from her ISP. She did that and they were very interested in her experience.
I was initially very worried that she had a virus that managed to fool her into calling a different number for her ISP. I followed up the next day, using similar software to VNC into her computer. I checked the browser history and found that the telephone number was right there in Bing for all the world to see. She doesn’t have a computer virus after all! (I’ll take a cloer look tonight . . .)
I submitted a report to the FBI, LogMeIn123.com, Bing, and Century Link. And now I share the story here. Its a phishing scam that doesn’t even require an actual computer virus to work!
As a SysAdmin, people ask me how much they need to worry over the heartbleed vulnerability. Here’s my own take:
Google were known to be vulnerable. They co-discovered the vulnerability and deployed fixes quickly. I like to believe they are analyzing the scope and likelihood of user password compromise and will issue good advice on whether Gmail passwords should be updated.
For everything else, my small opinion is “don’t panic.” Not every web site would have been affected. The Ops folks at each site need to patch their systems and assess the extent to which credentials may have been compromised, then take appropriate steps to mitigate compromised data, which might include asking users to set new passwords. But if they’re still waiting on some patches, then submitting a new password could actually put both passwords at risk.
For other important passwords, like your bank, check up on what they’re recommending that you do. If a site is important to you and they offer two-factor auth, go for it: that typically means that if you log on from a new computer they’ll text a one-time pin code to your mobile phone to double-check that it’s you.
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