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.
Two quotes passed along on September 11, from my meat-eating Grandmother:
A USDA inspector reviews the carcasses of slaughtered pigs for our safety. Credit: Wikmedia Commons
“As long as there are slaughterhouses there will be battlefields.” –Leo Tolstoy
“We are the living graves of murdered beasts
slaughtered to satisfy our appetites.
We never pause to wonder at our feasts,
if animals, like men, can possibly have rights.
We pray on Sundays that we may have light,
to guide our footsteps on the path we tread.
We’re sick of war, we do not want to fight –
The thought of it now fills our hearts with dread,
and yet – we gorge ourselves upon the dead.
Like carrion crows we live and feed on meat,
regardless of the suffering and pain
we cause by doing so, if thus we treat
defenseless animals for sport or gain
how can we hope in this world to attain
the PEACE we say we are so anxious for.
We pray for it o’er hecatombs of slain,
to God, while outraging the moral law,
thus cruelty begets its offspring – WAR.”
–George Bernard Shaw
At long last, I retired my old T-Mobile G2. It was the last in a long line of phones I have owned for the past decade with a physical keyboard. (I think I owned every Sidekick up to the 3 before going Android with the G1 and the G2.) I like the ability to thumb type into my phone, but the G2’s old keyboard had long ago gone creaky, and it had lacked a dedicated number row besides.
Obligatory picture recently taken with my new computer telephone. Featuring a cat.
They don’t make nice smart phones with keyboards any more. Market research seems to indicate that the only remaining markets for keyboard phones are horny teenagers who need a cheap, hip Android-based Sidekick, and those legions of high powered business people who will never abandon their ancient Blackberries.
Anyway, the new Nexus 5 is here. The on-screen keyboard is
okay slow and inaccurate. Like moving from a really fantastic sports car to a hovercraft piloted by a drunken monkey. I mean,the monkey-piloted hovercraft is undeniably cool technology, and I can eventually get where I need to go, but . . . its not the same, you see?
So, lets explore Voice dictation! It works . . . well, about as well as the monkey hovercraft, but with the added benefit that you don’t have to keep jiggling your thumb across the screen. But how do you do new lines and paragraphs? Where’s the command reference?
I asked Google. Google: android voice dictation commands?
Yup. If there is a reference somewhere, Google doesn’t know about it. How sad.
There is one humorous and not overly annoying video demonstrating how to do voice dictation. Various forum posts have users saying they can’t find a reference, but simple punctuation seems to work, and sometimes you can say “new paragraph” and sometimes you can not.
I have to wonder, at times.
The other thing that excited me about the Nexus 5 was that on the home screen you can drag apps right up to “Uninstall” . . . unless they’re Google apps! “Way to not be evil,” I cried. Until a Google colleague pointed out that it was just a bit of UI funkiness on Google’s part, owing to the applications coming bolted into the UI, there is at least a method to disable them.
Anyway, this is useful knowledge that helped me to vanquish the Picasa sync thing that has been hiding images from the gallery for the past few years. I have another project where I’m testing out BitTorrent Sync to pull images off our phones and then sync a copy of the family photo archive back down to the phones. If that works out, I’ll write it up. I may pursue that further to see if I can’t replace Dropbox, which, unfortunately, does not (yet) offer any sort of a family plan. Also, if I can host my own data I needn’t share as much of it with the NSA.
As new parents, it is not as if we are getting out to the movies at all these days. All the same, when the Ender’s Game Movie page popped up in my Facebook I had to pay a visit, and share my opinion:
FWIW, Card has continued to advocate and advance his beliefs that homosexual people should have lesser rights than heterosexual people. If you see this movie then some of your ticket price goes to Card and will help in your own small way to advocate for discrimination. This reason alone turns me so far of the prospect of seeing this movie.
When I was younger, I loved the entire trilogy, and I would still encourage folks to borrow the books from the library, but the thought of giving another dime to Card fills me with revulsion.
Discrimination is not cool, and every dollar of revenue this movie fails to book is a dollar that has been better spent elsewhere.
Unsurprisingly, people who are planning not see go watch Ender’s Game aren’t spending much time on the movie’s Facebook page. So, comments like mine get a lot of pushback. Some guy in Netherlands reads what I said above and responds, “So you liked the books and then you learned about OSC’s beliefs and you didn’t like the books anymore?”
Which, no, that’s not quite what I said. So, I’ll try again:
Peter, I love the books. What I dislike is the idea of giving any money to a guy who uses it as a soapbox to preach that gay people should be discriminated against. I dislike the idea of giving my money to someone who preaches against the rights of homosexuals just as much as I dislike the idea of giving my money to someone preaching Racism or Sexism or Ultranationalism or Religious Extremism or any of the rest.
Fortunately, there are plenty of great books to be read, plenty of great movies to be watched, that aren’t asking me to support the cause of hateful people. There are plenty of great books I have not yet read, plenty of great movies I have yet to watch. Plenty of enjoyment to be had without giving money to those preaching a tired old hatred.
Ask yourself this: would the idealistic young kids portrayed in “Enders Game” be lining up to see a movie produced by someone preaching hate? There are surely any number of more valuable things that you could be spending your time and money on, neh?
At any rate, as I said, there’s only so much time I have to spend that I’m not going to blow too much of it debating kids on Facebook. I have done my little part, and Orson Scott Card is pretty small-fry compared to the kind of awful stuff that is happening in Russia.
Feedback to Fitbit:
I have for a long time wanted to be able to download my data. It seems simple: I buy a device to track my data, I should have access to the data collected.
It looks like now for the low low price of $50/year I can download my own data.
Honestly, that just feels slimy. They are my data. My data are not a premium feature. This restriction puts a bad taste in my mouth and that is a strong deterrent to purchasing further products from you folks. Which is too bad, since I otherwise like the hardware and I am ready to be upsold to an NFC device. But since my data are not my data … well, I’d rather just spend my money elsewhere.
If anyone has an activity tracker they particularly like, I am keen to hear about it.
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