Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Ah, Consequences ...

I can't find it now, but a few days ago I saw a Twitter thread involving an outraged father. He was looking for an apartment for his son, who was starting college ... and finding that landlords were demanding 6-12 months' rent up front.

Naturally, there was a lot of moaning about those greedy landlords ... but what did the "eviction moratorium" advocates expect to happen?

If I sell cars, and if I know that the government has been going back and forth for the last year or more on orders forbidding me to repossess when credit buyers stop making payments, it's going to be cash on the barrelhead or no sale. Especially if the contract and/or the law requires me to keep the car in good repair and the gas tank full whether I'm getting paid or not.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Why I'm Confident That Recreational Cannabis Will Become Legal in Florida Real Soon Now

We've had medical marijuana for a little while.

At first, the dispensaries were tucked out of the way and not necessarily in the parts of town highly trafficked by non-students, etc.

But lately they're snapping up busy shopping center and main drag locations and putting up prominent and attractive signage.

Which means they expect to be trying to attract walk-in / drive-by traffic, not just customers who pay a doctor $175 a year for a special card, at some point in the not too distant future.

Which means they expect recreational sales to be legalized in the not too distant future. And they're putting their money on that expectation.

My guess is two more years, max, before I can walk into a store and browse the marijuana products without having to prove anything more than that I'm over the age of 21.

And pay more for them than I would if I just found a friend. But the trade-off is the easy "one stop shopping" availability of specific strains and ingestion methods for specific things (sleeping better, knocking off the rotator cuff pain, etc.). That's not something I'll pay $175 a year for the privilege of being in a gummint database to get, but would like to have.

L. Neil Smith, 1946-2021

Prolific libertarian novelist and essayist L. Neil Smith died on August 27. Here's the memorial site.

I'm not even going to take a stab at an obituary. Although we diverged in a big way politically over the years, he always was, and remains, larger than life to me.

I considered him a mentor both in politics (he recruited me into the Libertarian Party in 1996 and I was HMFIC of a couple of "draft him for LP presidential nominee" campaigns) and writing (we "met" when I asked him for reprint permission on an essay he wrote). 

And I considered him a friend, though we only met in person once and often argued pretty brutally and bitterly, as befitted both our personal styles (I'm sure I learned a bit of that from him, but was predisposed to it anyway). I miss him already although we hadn't communicated in some time.

He's best known for his first novel, The Probability Broach, and if you haven't read it you should. Then move on to others. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

A Late Adopter Impulse and a Poll

When it comes to changing platforms, I'm a late adopter and tend to stick with what I pick. I didn't start a blog until 2004. When I did, I started it right here at Blogger, and it's been here ever since.

Over the last year or two, I see a lot of writers -- including writers previously known as bloggers -- moving to Substack.

I've been thinking about doing so myself, for a few reasons. An obvious one is that the monetization is built in -- although I expect most of the material, maybe even all of it, would remain free and paid subscriptions would be a way of showing support rather than of getting additional content. But it apparently has a good "newsletter"/notification function built in as well, which is a second reason.

Down sides: I haven't tried it out, so I have no idea how the editing/posting tools compare. And I've got other financial support mechanisms already set up and bringing in some money. I don't know if Substack allows hooks to be put in for e.g. Patreon, PayPal, crypto, etc.

Biggest down side: I just don't like moving very much.

What do you think?

Friday, August 27, 2021

Raspberry Pi 4, Week 4 Update

It's been more than three weeks since I made the switch from a Lenovo ThinkCentre with 16Gb of RAM and quad-core AMD CPU to a Raspberry Pi 4 with 8 Gb of RAM and a quad-core ARM CPU.

I'm still happy.

Since changing machines, I've switched from Chromium as my default browser to Vivaldi, a Chromium fork developed by some people formerly associated with Opera. I'm happy with that too.

I'm a little unhappy with my user interface at the moment. I was happy with the default Raspbian GUI, but my son convinced me to install and switch to XFCE. That happened this afternoon. I don't know if the feeling of motion sickness I have is XFCE, or me coming down with some kind of bug, or low blood sugar, or what. I'm going to give XFCE a day and if I don't like it better I'll switch back.

If I was doing heavier-duty work, the Pi would probably not be up to the job. In fact, I switched to the ThinkCentre from a 4Gb Intel Celeron Chromebox because that seemed to be getting slow, presumably from OS update bloat, web sites having more memory-hogging gizmos on them, etc.

But while the Pi is observably slower than the ThinkCentre at rendering web pages, so far as I can tell it isn't slowing down my work, for the simple reason that I usually have browser tabs loading in the background while I work with already loaded tabs. I'm not sitting there waiting for a tab to load, a Wordpress post to publish, schedule, or update, etc., because I'm out of there and on something else as soon as I press a button.

The only hardware change I've done since getting things all set up has been adding a sub-$10 USB hub. The Pi has 4 USB ports, but they're all on one side of the machine, close together, and kind of hard to get to. The hub makes it easier to plug/unplug a flash drive, hardware key, etc.

A little research tells me I may be under-utilizing the machine. Right now, it is running a 32-bit version of Raspbian. The 64-bit version is still in beta. And some sites seem to indicate that with a 32-bit CPU, the Pi can only really use 3-4Gb of its 8Gb RAM. I don't know that for sure, but when I've pulled up a system monitor, it never seems to be using more than 3.x Gb. So when a 64-bit version of Raspbian is ready, I think I may get a performance improvement.

So, that's the update: Still happy. If you wanted to know, now you know.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Something I Haven't Heard Suggested ...

... regarding all the war materiel left behind in the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

I normally don't link to The Gateway Pundit because Jim Hoft generally seems to be about as smart as Douglas Feith, about as mentally stable as Joaquin Phoenix's version of The Joker, and about as reliable a factual source as Judith Miller, but someone else's link to the site was what really got me thinking about this, so here you go.

According to Hoft's list, the US forces left 2,000 armored vehicles, 75,989 total ground vehicles, and 208 total aircraft behind.

I wonder how much of that equipment was left behind intentionally, with tracking chips and listening devices well-hidden?

All of it? I doubt that. When you lose a war, you generally lose a bunch of stuff, too.

Some of it? Almost certainly.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

A Brief Thought on the Future of Afghanistan

[This began as a comment on a piece by Ted Rall at OpEdNews]

I suspect the Taliban would have a very hard time reverting to pre-2001 type.

The median age in Afghanistan is 18.4 years.

Or, to put it a different way, half or more of Afghans have no memory of that pre-2001 regime.

To the extent that they're affiliated or aligned with the Taliban, that affiliation/alignment has been pretty much entirely about ejecting a foreign invader.

Now that that invader is gone, the affiliation/alignment doesn't remain automatic or unconditional.

And some aspects of Afghan life that have developed during the occupation may be aspects they're not inclined to allow to go away just because some old guy in a turban fondly remembers the old days.

Another Way Biden Could Burnish His Legacy

If he sticks to his guns, Joe Biden will be the president who ended a 20-year war. At The American Conservative, Peter Van Buren suggests that this means he's not planning to seek a second term. In which case it's reasonable in turn to believe that he intends the Afghanistan withdrawal to be a major component -- possibly the major component -- of his "presidential legacy."

Jacob G. Hornberger's column at the Future of Freedom Foundation today suggests, to me anyway, a complementary bit of potential legacy polishing:

The [Assassination Records Review Board] went out of existence in 1998. However, the JFK Records Act permitted the CIA and other federal agencies to keep thousands of their assassination-related records secret for another 25 years. 'National security,' of course. That 25-year deadline came due during the Trump administration. After promising to release the records, Trump succumbed to pressure from the CIA to extend the time for secrecy. Once again, 'national security,' of course. Trump extended the time for secrecy to October 2021, a couple of months from now. What will happen when the deadline comes due in October? Will the CIA pressure President Biden into granting another extension of time for secrecy?

The first president since JFK to defy the Deep State / Military-Industrial Complex in a big way and the president who finally pulled the lid off six decades of officially sanctioned secrecy over the JFK assassination? That would be a good day's ... er, four-year term's ... work for someone who wants to be remembered well.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Has the Spell of the Omnipotent Mask State Lost Its Power?

Kent McManigal mentions that New Mexico's re-imposed mask mandate seems to be mostly eliciting yawns.

My comment (edited for additional specificity and because I feel like it):

The government of my county (Alachua County, Florida) re-imposed its mask mandate some time last week. Even as a professional consumer of news, I didn't notice until my wife mentioned it as we were about to walk into a grocery store.

But there was no sign up or anything. I walked into the store and at least 25% of the people in there weren't wearing masks, nor did anyone say anything to me about putting one one, which was good since I hadn't thought to bring one. That was on Friday.

On Saturday, we visited two stores.*

One was a thrift store where the owner had ALWAYS made clear that if the county wanted to have a mask mandate, it was the county's job and not his to enforce it. As soon as the last mandate ended, he put up a "masks optional" sign on the door. That sign was still there, there was no county mandate sign, and some people were masked and some weren't (including a mix of employees).

The other was a convenience store right in the middle of the more ... "state leftist leaning" ... part of Gainesville, where I would expect enthusiastic adoption to be highest. That store DID have a new county government mandate sign on the door. But inside, none of the employees were masked and maybe half the customers were.

Nobody's marching in the streets or yelling at each other about it in the stores. It's like everyone is pretty much "yeah, whatever, the politicians are gonna say what they're gonna say, and the rest of us are gonna do what we're gonna do."

* Actually, now that I think about it, we visited more than two stores. At least three. A third store had BIG "must mask" signs on the door. I needed to go in there for a quick household purchase, so I put on a mask. But when we were checking out, the people in front of us were unmasked and unmolested.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Water, Water Everywhere ...

... and so many varieties!

Normally I'm a tap water guy, which results in me not really drinking as much water as I should.

Some time back, Tamara and I were somewhere (I think it was the movie theater) and the brand of bottled water for sale there was Life Water, which has "electrolytes added for taste," and which also comes in a fairly large bottle.

I liked it. And I wanted to get in the habit of drinking more water. But I'm a cheapskate, so instead of paying the Life Water price, I bought a case of Sam's Club Member's Mark Plus+ Alkaline Water. And I liked that too.

I didn't think about the possible health benefits of alkaline water at first. It just tasted good, and it came in 1-liter bottles, and I decided to make a point of drinking two bottles a day. I've pretty much stuck to that for a week or so.

Anecdotally, I just generally "feel better" on days when I drink two liters of alkaline water. But, hell, I might "feel better" if I just drank two liters of tap water a day. For one thing, if I'm drinking water, I'm not drinking diet soda (which I've been cutting down on in favor of coffee anyway). And, concurrently, I've started trying to make a habit of having breakfast (usually a serving of yogurt with fruit) instead of forgetting to eat until the early afternoon.

But I finally did decide to look into any possible health benefits, since it seemed to me that if alkaline water is a thing, there's a reason. Apart from the openly evangelistic stuff, what I found ranged from:

  1.  Plain dismissal ("it's a fad with no real foundation")  from doctors / scientists, to
  2.  Neutrality, citing possibilities but a lack of evidence as yet for those possibilities, from doctors / scientists,
  3.  A link (from one of the evangelistic sites) to an abstract of a study in the Shanghai Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Just the abstract. I'd have to buy a subscription or something to read the whole thing (Tamara has from-work access to some kind of super-frap "supposedly all the journals" subscription thing, but not this journal).

The abstract is intriguing, but without access to the whole piece, hard to judge (and possibly translated poorly):

Blood pressure, blood sugar and blood lipids were assaied respectively pre-and 3 to 6 months after alkaline ionized water was drunk. Results The levels of blood pressure, blood sugar and blood lipids decreased significantly even to normal ranges after alkaline ionized water was drunk. Conclusions Alkaline ionized water may be used as one of the accessory therapeutic methods for essential hypertension, diabetes mellitus and hyperlipidaemia.

So, here's the thing: I'm a poster boy for hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and hyperlipidaemia (bad cholesterol not terribly high, but triglycerides off the charts since my early 20s).

Or at least I was. Last time I had blood work done, a month or so ago, I was only "borderline" diabetic (5.7), down from 9.x at my worst (IIRC). Apparently Ozempic works -- and not just for diabetes. Without going out of my way to exercise or being especially careful with my diet, I've lost weight down to the 220-225 pound range, from the 235-250 range, since starting on it. Which may also help explain the "feeling better."

So anyway, this is  a bleg for help in the comments. A couple of you are obviously interested in and familiar with supplements and so forth and have advised me before. I'd be interested in your opinions on alkaline water. If I'm going to continue using it, I may invest in an ionizer so that I can turn tap or plain bottled water into alkaline water instead of spending ~$10 a week on the bottled product.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Value is Not That Complicated, Folks ...

... although you wouldn't know it from the thread surrounding this tweet.

Value is subjective, not objective.

All value is subjective, not objective or intrinsic / inherent.

A bag of ice might be highly valued by a desert camper with a 12-pack of PBR that he'd like to cool down. And it would likely be valued far less by a climber who's about to summit Denali in February.

Kitco has the price of silver at $23.02 per ounce. People who are selling at that price value $23.02 more than they value an ounce of silver. People who are buying or holding at that price value an ounce of silver more than they value $23.02.

Brent crude is going for a market average of $65.18 a barrel at the moment. I wouldn't pay two dollars for a barrel of Brent crude unless I was a trader. Since I'm not a trader, or a refiner, or whatever, I have no use for it. It would just be a barrel of black stuff sitting beside my front porch. As to products made from it, how much gasoline is worth to me depends on whether my car's gas tank is low and what price I can find it at.

There's no inherent or intrinsic value to silver or gold or platinum or oil. There's just what people are willing to give up to get it, or willing to give it up to get. Average market price isn't "objective" value, it's an aggregate reflection of a bunch of subjective values.

Even the value of a human life is subjective. A suicide bomber clearly values his (or her) own life, and the lives of those he's killing, less than he values whatever he expects to accomplish by blowing himself and those other people up (whether that's a military/political goal, or saving the lives of loved ones being threatened if he doesn't go through with it, or being awarded 72 virgins in the afterlife, or whatever). If he valued his life and his victims' lives more than that stuff, he wouldn't (at least intentionally) detonate the suicide vest.

How much is one Bitcoin worth? That's entirely a function of who has it or is trying to get it. The "market price" is an average or aggregate of how much the people who are buying and selling it (in particular venues) value it.

At the moment, I value my Bitcoin more than I value what I could get for that Bitcoin, so I'm not selling / spending it. Or, to put it a diffent way, on average, people value Bitcoin less than I do at the moment, because on average they're paying a little less than I'd be willing to sell for. The current "market price" is close to a threshold at which I'd value a certain portion of that Bitcoin less than what I could get for it. So while Bitcoin is fungible, I value part of my Bitcoin more than I value another part of it.

Value is subjective, full stop.

Sometimes I Get Free Books ...

... because I've ended up on some publishers' offer lists of advance copies. Sometimes it's a drawing, sometimes the first x people to respond get one, etc. There's never any required quid pro quo, but I assume the obvious reason is to generate buzz with advance reviews.

Why am I thinking about this? Because I just got an email from HarperCollins with the subject "Read Neal Stephenson's forthcoming novel Termination Shock  [not an affiliate link] before anyone else ..." and of course I jumped right on that. They're giving away 200 copies and I got my name in within a couple of minutes of receiving the email. I think I also threw in for a copy of John Grisham's latest the other day.

A few months ago I received a freebie of Lola On Fire [not an affiliate link] by Rio Youers from the publisher (William Morrow, a HarperCollins imprint). I think I reviewed it on Amazon, or possibly GoodReads.

My quickie review here, because hey, they gave me a free book and deserve a little love:

A fun thriller featuring a "retired" mob assassin forced out of retirement to protect her children. I wasn't able to work up much suspension of disbelief on the action side, but that's OK (as a kid, I enjoyed Don Pendleton's Mack Bolan / Executioner novels without having to believe the plot details could actually happen, and this is more realistic and a bit less pulpy than those). On the character development / motivation side, I was able to identify / empathize with several of the characters. It's not a book I would likely have paid full hardback price for at the store, but then I seldom do that. If it's your kind of thing, it's a good read. Just don't go into it expecting Philip Roth (thank God).

File Under "Things I've Seldom Looked Up and Never, to the Best of My Recollection, Purchased"

If you love Owen Wilson -- and who doesn't love Owen Wilson -- you'll well and truly enjoy Ryan D'Agostino's three day ... well, interview, I guess ... with the man in Esquire.

Which I wanted to get out there, and my hook for doing it is the "photo shoot" aspect of the story, and similar stories in various magazines. Sample photo caption text:

Jacket and jeans by Double RL; vintage tank, available at the Society Archive; vintage belt, available at Stock Vintage, NYC.

In some magazines, prices are included in such captions, and that's usually enough to put me off the chase. Esquire apparently doesn't bother with that, and it's in such cases that I occasionally go hunting.

The Society Archive appears to be exclusive and appointment only -- I can't find a web site for them, just an Instagram account.

Double RL is a Ralph Lauren line of clothing and does have a web site. Their least expensive pair of jeans -- the "Low Straight Fit Distressed Jean" -- is on sale for only $154 (regularly $299), but I think Wilson is wearing the  $495 "Limited-Edition Vintage 5-Pocket Jean." The "jacket" mentioned in the caption appears to actually be their "Slim Fit Denim Western Shirt," $265.

Stock Vintage NYC seems to be another one of those "no web site, just Instagram" thingies. While its Yelp reviews tend toward 1) complaining about the manager's temperament and 2) noting that the prices are high, it probably tops the list out of the three for "places where Tom might buy something." I like vintage stuff. 

I prefer cheap vintage stuff. My linen suit cost $7.99, I think, and probably dates from the early 1960s but is in near perfect condition (I actually got approached at a Libertarian National Convention by a fashion reporter who seemed surprised and disappointed that it was a thrift store buy rather than the latest from some popular designer). But if there's something old I really want, I'm willing to pay for it. For example, if I found exactly the right Panama hat to go with the suit, I'd jump on it. I've been through several and none of them were exactly right. Next time I'm in New York, I may just drop in and see what Stock Vintage has that I need and might be able to afford. Maybe a tie pin?

Anyway, the point being, while I frequently read interviews/articles with accompanying fashion photo shoots, I'm obviously not the intended audience. I'm not going to see a pair of socks by Whozee Whatsit, $139, or a distressed denim jacket, $974 at Bob's Basement Bodega, in one of those pieces and run right out to buy it.

I sometimes find myself wondering who those people are, and if their clothes are more comfortable than mine or just more fashionable.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

A Worthwhile Use for Gitmo?

There seems to be a lot of bellyaching going on vis a vis the slowness with which visas can be issued to Afghan refugees (especially those who worked with/for the US occupation authorities) so that they can enter the United States.

Here's an idea:

At one time, at least, large numbers of refugees, especially Haitian refugees, were kept in camps at Guantanamo Bay until they could either be repatriated or admitted to the US.

Why not get those camps set back up and start flying un-visa-ed refugees there for the moment?

That would get them out of danger from e.g. Taliban retribution, and allow the US military to get the fuck out of Dodge more quickly, instead of drawing out its presence at the Kabul airport indefinitely while the paper-pushers screw around.

Of course, eliminating passport and visa requirements entirely (for everyone, not just Afghan refugees) would be faster, easier, and more moral, but it would also mean giving up control, which the political class never willingly does.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

I'm Not Saying You Should Always Do What the Government Says, But ...

 ... on June 28, the US State Department advised Americans to GTFO of Afghanistan.

My sympathy for those who ignored the advisory and are now screaming for rescue by the US armed forces isn't non-existent, but it is limited.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

If Biden Made a Mistake vis a vis the Afghanistan withdrawal ...

... it was reneging on the May 1 deadline.That reinforced the usual US lesson to the world ("never, ever, ever trust the US government to keep its word"), and it benefited the Taliban both in that public relations sense and strategically.

Some of the critics (consisting of people who 1) supported the Afghanistan fiasco, 2) supported extending the Afghanistan fiasco for two decades, and 3) would continue supporting extending it for two more centuries if they lived that long) are now whining about how it would have been soooooooooo much less terrible if Biden had simply extended the deadline to the beginning of winter.

The logic: Fighting dies down in the winter. It's difficult for the Taliban to conduct offensive operations, while the US puppet regime, being on the strategic defensive, gets time to improve and reinforce its positions.

They're not wrong, but that logic would have equally supported getting out by May 1 or even earlier, instead of giving the Taliban four extra months to develop offensive momentum in good fighting weather.

Biden came into office quibbling that the agreed withdrawal date was just too soon and couldn't be met. He was lying. The withdrawal was well under way before his inauguration, and if it needed to be sped up he had more than three months to speed it up instead of hemming and hawing.

As for puppet president Ghani's complaint that the US withdrawal was "abrupt," he had 15 months' notice plus that four-month extension.

The Current Situation in Afghanistan in 29 Seconds

OK, not really. There was never any chance the current situation in Afghanistan wasn't going to come to the point it's at now. But the speed with which it went from "that's going to happen" to "that happened" is surprising. To me, anyway.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

An Old Memoria

I don't have a big problem with needles. I don't especially like them, but I don't lose my mind when I get an injection or have to have blood drawn. No biggie.

But I know people who just can't abide needles. They either decide not to get things that are delivered by shot, or faint during the shot, or kick out at the last second.

And every time that happens, I think about "the gun," which I recall being used at least into the mid-1980s (at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego). It delivered medication (usually, in my experience, vaccines) via a near-instantaneous high-pressure stream of liquid through the skin instead of the doctor or nurse having to dig around in the patient with a needle.

In recent years, I've often wondered whatever happened to "the gun," but never bothered to actually look into it until just now. The Wikipedia explanation: "[T]he World Health Organization no longer recommends jet injectors for vaccination due to risks of disease transmission," due to splash-back, fluid suck-back, and retrograde flow.

The article hints that "jet injectors" are still being used in some applications, and still being worked to get them safe for more general use. I think that would be a good thing, not just for people who hate needles, but for practitioners who have to deliver lots of shots in a day and would probably save a good minute or two per shot.

I am not an attorney. This is not legal advice.

But Randall G. Holcombe asks a question I think it's worth trying to answer. So ...

In Florida, since 1951, it's largely been illegal for adults and older teenagers to wear masks in many locations, and so far as I can tell that law has not been modified by the legislature, etc. since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

876.12Wearing mask, hood, or other device on public way.—No person or persons over 16 years of age shall, while wearing any mask, hood, or device whereby any portion of the face is so hidden, concealed, or covered as to conceal the identity of the wearer, enter upon, or be or appear upon any lane, walk, alley, street, road, highway, or other public way in this state.

876.13Wearing mask, hood, or other device on public property.—No person or persons shall in this state, while wearing any mask, hood, or device whereby any portion of the face is so hidden, concealed, or covered as to conceal the identity of the wearer, enter upon, or be, or appear upon or within the public property of any municipality or county of the state.

876.14Wearing mask, hood, or other device on property of another.—No person or persons over 16 years of age shall, while wearing a mask, hood, or device whereby any portion of the face is so hidden, concealed, or covered as to conceal the identity of the wearer, demand entrance or admission or enter or come upon or into the premises, enclosure, or house of any other person in any municipality or county of this state.

And, as television marketers love to tell us, THERE'S MORE!

A person who solicits another to commit an offense prohibited by law and in the course of such solicitation commands, encourages, hires, or requests another person to engage in specific conduct which would constitute such offense or an attempt to commit such offense commits the offense of criminal solicitation .... A person who agrees, conspires, combines, or confederates with another person or persons to commit any offense commits the offense of criminal conspiracy ...

It seems to me that  the four Florida State University officials mentioned in Dr. Holcombe's post are committing both conspiracy and solicitation in attempting to get Dr. Holcombe and others to violate the law.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

It Needs to be Said Early and Often


And for some reason, Facebook has decided that saying it there merits banning me from posting or commenting for 24 hours.

Update: At first, Facebook's "appeal" link returned an error. But then it worked, and they reversed the ban.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Call Me Karen ...

... but I've decided to speak to the managers, as it were.

Clair Dobbin QC is a British barrister representing the government of the United States in its attempt to extradite political prisoner Julian Assange.

Article 4(1) of the UK-US Extradition treaty specifically forbids extradition for political offenses.

The entire proceeding is therefore illegal on its face, and Ms. Dobbin (and all other attorneys representing the US regime in this matter, as well as judges continuing to entertain the farce) should be sanctioned (up to and including disbarment/disqualification) by the  UK's Bar Standards Board for such extreme violations of ethics. I've "reported a concern" to the Board. You can too.

The Failed Senator of a Small Southern State ...

... makes his argument for keeping more Americans in cages in detail.

He starts with a statistical claim that there's actually no way of verifying the truth or falsehood of: "In 2019, only 41 percent of violent crimes, 34 percent of sexual assaults, and 32 percent of property crimes were reported to the police."

Then, of course, he proceeds to the claim that entrepreneurial providers of recreational pharmaceuticals to willing customers are "not engaged in a 'non-violent' criminal enterprise." Which in some cases is true -- because those recreational pharmaceuticals can't be bought at Walgreens.

Cotton's a complicated guy. It's hard to figure out how much of the stupid and evil shit he supports is a function of him being an obvious sociopath with risible presidential ambitions, and how much is just him being too damn dumb to pour piss out of a boot with instructions written on the heel.

Taking a Different Writing Tack

I've done a lot of reading about writing (especially about writing fiction). Enough of it that I'm convinced that reading about writing is a great way to avoid, um, writing. I've gone through more "here's how to actually get a novel written" material than I can remember.

But I do think I've learned a couple of things in the last couple of months that may result in a finished novel. Instead of trying to plot the story head to toe, I'm taking three pieces of advice from other writers, gathered from different "how to write a mystery" novel.

Piece of advice 1: Start with a bare-bones plot -- beginning, end, and at least some idea of the major challenges the protagonist(s) will face getting from beginning to end -- rather than trying to outline every scene and event in advance.

Piece of advice 2: Work on getting to know the characters before starting to write the story. One writer technique I saw mentioned (this was in an older, essentially pre-Internet, book) was going through magazines and finding pictures to stand in for the characters.

Piece of advice 3: Let the characters decide where the story goes if they seem to want to. That is, if it becomes obvious that they would do something different than what you had planned for them, go with them instead of with the original idea. Good characters are fleshed out well enough that they create their own sense of consistency and the author should let them roll with that instead of trying to bend them to his will.

I've got my bare-bones plot, which I won't share many details of. It started as a plot for a romantic thriller (based on the characters starting to form and on the notion that the conflicts are a lot easier to select /plot in romance than in some genres), but the romance element has already taken a back seat to a different aspect, based on my work taking Piece of Advice 2, and on my own inclinations. It's starting to feel like a political thriller instead, which is a lot more in my wheelhouse anyway.

By way of the "pictures from magazines" method, I'm creating database cards for characters in an app called WaveMaker (not an affiliate link), and including photos that convey how I visualize the characters (or, where the characters are real things -- more on that in a minute -- photos of the actual characters).

I'm already getting to know the main character, Kit Womack, pretty well. She's a first-term Republican  congresswoman from Florida, sent to Washington in a special election following the death of her father (a nine-term congressman) and facing a short timeline and a likely tough GOP primary (because, in a word, Trump) for re-election to a full term.

I also already do know some of the other characters pretty well, because they're glosses on people I've encountered in real life. Kit's primary opponent, for example, is based on a real state senator, and her Democratic opponent from the special election (and personal friend) is based on a perennial Democratic candidate and occasional officeholder from my area.

I'm still trying to get to know Dear Old Dead Dad, and Kit's chief of staff (formerly her dad's chief of staff), and there will be additional minor characters to get at least a nodding acquaintance with.

Then there's Kit's new campaign manager (one very early plot complication requires her to find a new campaign manager). He's a one-armed former Marine infantry officer. He's not a Republican. He's a registered Libertarian. He's mostly worked on Libertarian campaigns, but has occasionally crossed lines for candidates he likes.

Yeah, he's kind of me, if I'd been an officer and lost an arm and looked like Chris Pratt (for the record, I've never worked on a Republican or Democratic campaign, but have worked on Peace and Freedom Party, Reform Party, and independent campaigns). So I know him fairly well. Oh ... and he has a personal history with Kit, maybe (if the thing assumes romantic thriller dimensions, that's the hook).

Now, back to characters as real things:

I'm getting to know Kit's Georgetown condo (inherited from her widower/bachelor dad). I know the address and the unit number, and I have photos. I also know that it's a 15-17 minute walk, or bus ride of similar length, from the condo to the Foggy Bottom-GWU Metro station, then a 15-minute Metro ride on the Blue/Orange Line to the Capitol South station. Which, in turn, is a 200-foot walk from the Cannon House Office Building, where her office is on the fifth floor (congressional newbies get the worst offices -- her dad's suite in Rayburn was snapped up by someone with seniority as soon as he retired mid-term to go home and die of cancer).

I'm treating the condo, the walk, the Metro ride, and the office as "characters" because they'll play big parts in the story. In fact, I'm trying to figure out if it's desirable, necessary, and doable to get my bad self to DC for a day to see the places in question, or if I can handle that virtually. I haven't spent time in Washington, other than passing through, since I was in my early teens.

Will this experiment result in better, or at least more, actual writing? I don't know. But I do know that instead of dreading that part, I keep feeling the urge to start. And expect to by the weekend.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

The Possibilities Are Not Endless

When you say "X," where X is a straightforward statement that's easily understood by anyone with a working grasp of the English language and an IQ above 70, and someone else responds "so what you're really saying is [insert something completely different from X]," the plausible reasons for that response are limited. I can think of three, in descending order of charitable benefit of doubt:

  1. The respondent doesn't have a working grasp of the English language and/or an IQ above 70; or
  2. The respondent lives in a fantasy world in which the problem is grip on reality rather than grasp of English; or
  3. The respondent is a lying scumbag who knows exactly what he's doing, but hopes to fool onlookers with lower IQs and/or lesser command of English than him.

I suppose there could be others, but probably not many and those are the three I can think of.

Whither YouGov?

I've been completing surveys for YouGov (that's an affiliate link) for a long time now. At least five years, probably longer. And I've been well-compensated.

I received a $50 gift card from them on June 20, and still have survey invitations in my email inbox from as late as June 17.

A few days ago, it occurred to me that I hadn't seen a survey invitation in some time.

I tried to log in to my account, but the login link never arrived (they don't use a password -- when you click login, they request the email address you're registered with them under and send a login link to that address).

So, I created a support ticket on August 8. It was acknowledged, but hasn't been responded to.

And today, when I went to add the YouGov Safe extension to Vivaldi (you get points for sharing data on e.g. YouTube and Netflix viewing), it was missing from the Chrome Web Store.

The site is still there.

The signup link appears to work (I only followed it so far since I already have an account).

I find news items and tweets about seemingly current survey results.

But no login codes, no responses to support tickets, and no Chrome extensions.

I did a little search engine work, but didn't find any kind of news about them shutting down, or changing the way they do things, or having any weird problems.

Very strange.

Vivaldi After a Few Days

Last week, I installed and began using Vivaldi -- a more Opera-like gloss on Chromium -- on the Raspberry Pi in preference to basic Chromium. Here's a brief update on how that's working out:

  1. Vivaldi seems to load/render sites faster than regular Chromium, which is nice but not strictly necessary. The ARM-based Pi running Raspbian (a fork of Debian Linux) is, in general, slower than my AMD-based ThinkCentre running Kubuntu, but not to a degree, or in particular ways, that slow down my work (I tend to open a bunch of new tabs in background at once, and if they take a little longer to load, no biggie).
  2. Vivaldi has built-in ad and tracker blocking, meaning I don't have to run e.g. uBlock Origin for that stuff. The settings are controlled by a button on the left side of the URL bar, so nicely accessible.
  3. As a Chromium build, Vivaldi will run most Chrome extensions, but I haven't loaded a whole bunch of them. This probably contributes to the speedier work.
  4. Two work-related things do bug me. One I can do something about and am doing it -- opening multiple bookmarks at the same time creates new tabs in reverse order. Since my workflow goes a particular way, I'm having to rearrange groups of bookmarks. The other is a "get used to it" thing -- opening something in a new tab automatically goes to that tab, with no setting for changing it (I checked/searched, and a number of users consider this an issue), unless you choose "open in background tab" on right-click. I'd prefer that just be an automated setting rather than a separate right-click option, but I can deal with it.
  5. On the gaming and entertainment side, I'm having trouble getting Vivaldi to handle WebGL (for certain games), or Widevine (for e.g. watching Netflix videos). The former is a minor irritation. As for the latter, I didn't even know I could watch Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc. in Linux until I came across the subject while looking up the WebGL problem. And I did get Widevine working in Chromium proper, so that's a win if I want to use it.
Overall, I'm pretty damn happy with Vivaldi. Happier than with Chromium proper, at least so far.

Monday, August 09, 2021

Why the Mealy-Mouthed BS?

President Joe Biden wants you to know that he "strongly support[s] Secretary Austin’s message to the Force today on the Department of Defense’s plan to add the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of required vaccinations for our service members not later than mid-September." He says the vaccines are safe and effective, whether they're FDA-approved or not.

But if he really supports requiring members of the armed forces to accept vaccination for COVID-19, he's got the power to make that happen at any time, and the Secretary of Defense doesn't:

In the case of the administration of an investigational new drug or a drug unapproved for its applied use to a member of the armed forces in connection with the member’s participation in a particular military operation, the requirement that the member provide prior consent to receive the drug in accordance with the prior consent requirement imposed under section 505(i)(4) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. 355(i)(4)) may be waived only by the President. The President may grant such a waiver only if the President determines, in writing, that obtaining consent is not in the interests of national security. -- 10 US Code § 1107(f)(1)

The Secretary of Defense can request that the president so order (section (f)(3)(a) of the above-cited US Code provision), but it's up to Biden and always has been. So instead of "strongly supporting" the Secretary has no power to do, if Biden wants it done he should stop playing PR games and sign the damn order.

No, I don't have an opinion on whether he should order it. But I do have a history that's involved here.

In 1991, I was threatened with court-martial should I refuse to accept an anthrax vaccine shot from a box clearly marked EXPERIMENTAL -- DO NOT USE ON HUMANS. So I accepted it.

In 1998, on the premise that that vaccine may have played a role in "Gulf War Syndrome," Congress passed the law above, granting the president, and only the president, authority to override consent requirements for experimental vaccines.

Why doesn't he exercise that authority? I think he's hoping FDA will fully approve one or more vaccines this month so his signature isn't on an order requiring troops to accept an experimental vaccine. That way if everyone who gets vaccinated grows a second head or something, he's less on the hook for it.

Sunday, August 08, 2021

If There's One Thing Winston Churchill Was Not ...

... it was boring. Warts and all (and there were a lot of terrible, terrible warts), he led a wildly interesting life, in large part due to his skill with words. To quote JFK (who stole the quote from Edward R. Murrow), "he mobilized the English language and sent it into battle."

That quote is attributed to Viscount Halifax in Darkest Hour, which I'd been meaning to watch for some time and finally sat down for last night. In addition to the fascinating subject matter, I've never known Gary Oldman to drop the ball, at least when playing an Englishman (he was the perfect George Smiley for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy).

Yes, Darkest Hour takes a number of liberties with historical fact (for example, the "Beaches" speech was not broadcast on radio, nor did Churchill go take a ride on the Underground to take the temperature of The Little People before deciding not to negotiate with Hitler -- and of course there's that Halifax quote attribution), but it's still a damn good movie.

If you don't find Churchill as interesting as I do, I suggest reading William Manchester's The Last Lion (the third volume was completed by Paul Reid after Manchester's death).

Saturday, August 07, 2021

Penny for Your Thoughts

That's not an offer, it's the title for a story that I'm not well-suited to write for many reasons, so anyone who wants it is welcome to it (a mention in the acknowledgements would be cool, but not necessary).

For all I know, someone's already written the story, or one very much like it. And, to be clear, it's not a full-formed story idea, it's an idea for a story milieu that I woke up with this morning.

What I woke up with was the title, a stab at a first line ("James peeled off the paper covering adhesive backing, stuck the patches to his temples, and left for work") , and a fuzzy idea of what that first line portends.

What "caused" the idea to pop into my head (perhaps in REM sleep)? Three things:

  1. After seeing a movie yesterday, I got an email survey from Regal Cinemas asking about my experience;
  2. I also got a notification on my phone from Google concerning the area I'd been in and whether I would be interested in answering some questions about it (the program is related to Google Maps and is called "Local Guides" -- it asks questions like "is there a public restroom here?" and "does this place have handicapped-accessible entrances?"); and
  3. I make a little bit of money each month, in the form of Amazon gift cards, for taking surveys.
The patches in the story contain what amounts to the above, combined with, more or less, mind-reading tech. You wear them wherever you go. They track where you go, what you do, what you see, etc., and pick your brain for information of value (e.g. "experienced a feeling of interest while looking at the Nike billboard at XXX Mulberry Lane" or "briefly fell asleep 47 minutes into the movie").

You earn a little bit of money -- generally small pocket money -- for participating. A penny while watching a movie, a nickel while savoring a restaurant meal, whatever. Obviously the money comes from businesses and advertisers who pay the "patch" company for gathering the data from you, and the company in turn pays you a little bit of the take to get you to wear the damn things.

One angle I could see the story taking, plot-and-theme wise, is this: Suppose the patches can gather a lot of data (for example, visually recreate what you see in high detail, etc.), and James happens to be the only person looking at a particular window when a shot fired from that window takes out a big-league politician? Who all wants that data and why? How much are they willing to pay, and how much of that money should James get? If it's just the cops with a warrant, is there a compensation for "taking" due from them seizing it? Might there be someone out there looking to destroy all copies of the data, including the copy remaining in James's brain (by destroying, um, James)?

Anyway, if you write fiction and find this an interesting premise, enjoy. Even if I could ever get a substantial work of fiction finished, I think this one would be too much for me to bite off simply because of the time I'd have to spend just making the science and technology angles plausible.

Friday, August 06, 2021

I May Be Changing Browsers ...

... which is a pretty big deal for me. I've been using Chrome (or, on Linux, Chromium) since it became available, and every time I've flirted with another browser, I've quickly gone back "home."

But Vivaldi (which is a Chromium-based attempt to re-create Presto-era Opera, which I did like pretty well) seems, so far, to load and render pages faster than Chromium on the Raspberry Pi. It seems to handle YouTube videos more quickly as well (less churning, quicker non-choppy play).

BUT! That may just be because it's a virgin browser that hasn't been loaded down with extensions and so forth yet. I may add some stuff to it. Or I may look at regular desktop apps to replace some of the Google stuff I use in Chromium.

My plan is to stick with Vivaldi, and play with it some in addition to doing work stuff, until Monday morning (in other words, through the next edition of Rational Review News Digest) and then make my (always provisional and reversible, of course) decision on switching.

Exceedingly Brief Review: The Suicide Squad

Meh. Not even close to the first one. Margot Robbie is fantastic, of course, but they don’t really give Idris Ilba as much to do as he could have done, some of the big names turned out to have been short-screen-time trailer bait, and piss-poor writing ruined what started off as another well-done turn for Viola Davis as Amanda Waller.

A Quick Re-Recommend: Purse

I'm too lazy to look up the old blog posts, but the story goes something like this:

  1. I used to love Purse (that's an affiliate link), a service that lets you buy stuff from Amazon (and at a discount!) using Bitcoin or Bitcoin Cash.
  2. But then it became ... well, not very reliable. Orders took a long time to go through, even if you settled for the default 5% discount instead of "naming your own price" for a bigger discount and waiting for someone to take your offer.
  3. So I started using Bitrefill (also an affiliate link), a great service where you can buy gift cards for lots of different stores, but only using Bitcoin (sorry, no Bitcoin Cash).
In the ongoing office recombobulation, I used Bitcoin via Bitrefill to buy a couple of things (new desk, Raspberry Pi 4), but wanted to buy a couple of other things (risers for the desk and an uninterruptible power supply) using Bitcoin Cash. So I decided to give Purse another try.

It went swimmingly. My order (default 5% discount) was accepted, and the buyer had placed the product orders with Amazon, within minutes. The stuff arrived earlier than the initial estimate. In fact, it arrived last night after I had gone to bed (apparently UPS was working extreme overtime), so I confirmed receipt and released the Bitcoin Cash from escrow as soon as I got up this morning and saw that it was here.

Of course, one good experience does not an ongoing great renewed relationship make, but I'm optimistic. I won't be giving up Bitrefill, but I'll certainly use Purse again when it makes sense to do so.

Thursday, August 05, 2021

At the Movies ...

Tamara and I went and saw F9 last weekend. Seeing as how Regal gave us the first eight movies free, it seemed only polite to buy tickets to the ninth.

The film was a mess, but a fun mess.

It would have been more fun with The Rock involved (you can look up the alleged feud between Johnson and Vin Diesel on any search engine), but it was fun. I don't recall at precisely what point the series became pretty much all about "how wild can we make the stunts/effects?" and trivialities like a coherent plot went completely over the side, but it was some time ago, and that's fine.

I do wish they'd either admit Paul Walker is dead or CGI him in. This time, his character was "watching the kids" while everyone else went out to kick ass and take names.

I've been racking up Regal Crown Club points for a long time without spending any. So I decided to treat myself to a movie ticket. Tomorrow, I'll bicycle down to my local theater to see the new Suicide Squad flick.

For some reason, it seems like everyone I know hated the first installment. But I loved it, and it grossed three quarters of a billion dollars at the box office even without running in the China market, so I guess maybe my friends just don't know a good thing when they see it.

Oh, and then there's recent Dune trailer action (I also loved David Lynch's 1980s take, and once again I often feel very alone in that).

Oddly, I never noticed before that BlogSpot has a built in gizmo for finding and including YouTube videos -- I've always just grabbed embed code. Hopefully the gizmo works.

Among the Many Problems with Technocracy ...

... a big one is that it's politics.

technocracy, n. government by technical specialists; a form of government in which scientists and technical experts are in control; "technocracy was described as that society in which those who govern justify themselves by appeal to technical experts who justify themselves by appeal to scientific forms of knowledge

If "experts" are put in charge of policy, said "experts" will, sooner or later (and almost certainly sooner), become politicians and bureaucrats first. Their notional expertise will start following political and bureaucratic considerations (like keeping their positions and fattening their bureaus' budgets) rather than vice versa.

And sooner or later, when their expertise is questioned or their policies criticized, they'll call it "political interference," and possibly even suggest that said "interference" be criminalized.

COVID-19 didn't create the problem. The problem is baked into the whole idea of rule by experts, and we've seen it manifest over the years in areas as broadly separate as vaccine mandates (remember the measles kerfuffle?) and climate change. But it has certainly exposed the problem in a much bigger way.

Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Raspberry Pi Adventures, Day One

 OK, so not really Day One. The machine arrived on Sunday and I immediately put it together, installed Raspbian, etc.

Yesterday, I had done a substantial amount of my daily work before the new desk and second "monitor" (actually a 19" LED TV) arrived, so last night was "getting used to it while finishing up" time.

So today is the first full work day using it, and so far I'm pretty pleased. In addition to being about where I usually am in the daily work flow, I've installed Discord (it's the "meeting" facility for the Libertarian Party of Florida's platform committee) and spent some time browsing extensions that might make things a little faster.

Yes, the Raspberry Pi 4 is slower than the Lenovo ThinkCentre, and I expected it to be.

The ThinkCentre has  an AMD quad-core CPU with advertised speeds of up to 3.7GHz, and 16Gb of RAM.

The Pi has an ARM quad-core CPU running at 1.5GHz and 8GB of RAM. It's also running a 32-bit OS because even though the CPU is 64-bit, there's apparently not a public 64-bit build of Raspbian yet.

The slower speed is noticeable, but I can't tell that it really affects my work. I always have a bunch of tabs open, and while they obviously render more slowly, it's not like I'm sitting there waiting on them -- I'm constantly moving between opening a bunch of links and then slowly summarizing/linking them for Rational Review News Digest, so slow loading in background isn't a problem.

Right now I have 15 tabs open, plus the Discord app, and am listening to a podcast while working. No problems, and the CPU temperature is a nice cool 56 degrees Celsius.

My son suggests that I can make things faster by using native apps rather than Chrome apps for e.g. text editing. I may try that.

So far, so good -- but the ThinkCentre is already sitting on the handy-dandy side shelving this new desk came with, and once the monitor risers and UPS arrive, I'll probably get it all set up so that I can switch to it at will. The nice thing about the TVs as monitors is that each has two HDMI ports, so I can just run the cabling and switch monitor source, and keep a mouse and monitor plugged in but out of the way, rather than having to plug/unplug a bunch of crap. I'm mainly waiting to do that so that I can handle cable management in one swell foop.

Tuesday, August 03, 2021

The Office Recombobulation Proceeds Apace

The new desk arrived today. The Amazon description said it was easily assembled in less than 30 minutes. It only took me 90.

I woke up this morning feeling apprehensive. I must have dreamt about this or something:

  1. My two monitors were a 19" Insignia television (with HDMI inputs) and a broke-ass old garage sale Dell VGA monitor.
  2. The Lenovo tower has HDMI and VGA outputs.
  3. The Raspberry Pi has two micro-HDMI outputs, and comes with two micro- to full-HDMI cables.
  4. I don't have an HDMI to VGA adapter. I've got a DisplayPort to VGA adapter somewhere around here from back in the Chromebox days, but not HDMI to VGA.
  5. Looks like an HDMI to VGA adapter runs $12-20, and would take a day or two to get here (none in stock locally at Best Buy).
  6. I've been planning in the near future to probably hand the Dell off to one of the kids and just get another 19" Insignia TV.
  7. And there was one 19" Insignia remaining in stock, $80, when I hit Best Buy's site this morning. Might as well spend $80 now as spend $20 now and $80 later anyway, so ...

From top down, left to right:

  1. The Ghost of Vermeer of Delft Which Can Be Used As a Table.
  2. Landline sitting on top of phone/cable modem. I have no idea why we still have a land line. But Tamara insists.
  3. The new 19" Insignia television sitting on stacks of books (I have a cheap set of monitor risers on the way, this is temporary).
  4. The old 19" Insignia television sitting on the riser that came with the desk, beneath which is the Raspberry Pi, the television remotes, and a wood cigarette case that I use to store a flash drive and YubiKey.
  5. Oh, yeah, keyboard and mouse.
Thane Eichenauer wanted a picture. So there's a picture.

It's not quite at the end stage (awaiting uninterruptible power supply before I get serious about cable management, thinking about mounting the router on the wall to the right of the desk instead of behind me to the left, etc.), but so far so good. Although I'm sure there will be an ergonomic shakedown involving some shoulder/neck tightness until I get used to the new setup.

I'm Still Not Seeing What There is to Fight About

Per The Hill: 

An attorney for former President Trump says he will fight to block the release of his tax returns days after the Department of Justice ordered them turned over to the Democratic-led House Ways and Means Committee.

There doesn't seem to be any ambiguity in United States Code 26 6103(f)(1):


Upon written request from the chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives, the chairman of the Committee on Finance of the Senate, or the chairman of the Joint Committee on Taxation, the Secretary shall furnish such committee with any return or return information specified in such request, except that any return or return information which can be associated with, or otherwise identify, directly or indirectly, a particular taxpayer shall be furnished to such committee only when sitting in closed executive session unless such taxpayer otherwise consents in writing to such disclosure.


There's more to the section, but on a quick read I don't see any exceptions translating to "unless the taxpayer is a president or former president" or "unless the Committee on Way and Means of the US House of Representatives is controlled by the wrong party" or anything like that. There's no "evidence of any wrongdoing" requirement (as attorney Ronald Fischetti seems to assume in the Hill story), either.

Trump's entire case here seems to boil down to "but I don't wanna."

Can anyone tell me if there's something I'm missing?

Monday, August 02, 2021

Phish/Scam Warning ...

... to anyone inclined to financially support my work here, at the Garrison Center, at Rational Review News Digest, etc. Or even just to send me money because reasons.

I recently received and appropriately disposed of several emails, which I interpreted as phishing attempts, implying that an account at Venmo was associated with my email address ("confirm your address," etc.).

Just now, I received what appears to be a legitimate email from Venmo:

You may have recently received unexpected emails from Venmo. The emails were triggered as a result of what appears to be an unauthorized attempt to open a Venmo account using this email address. 
We have blocked this Venmo account and restricted its ability to engage in transactions. We want to assure you that this incident involved your email address and did not involve your financial information. 
There is no action required by you with Venmo at this time. While we have blocked this account, you will not be prevented from creating a Venmo account using this email address if you wish to do so in the future. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused. 
-- Team Venmo

If you come across any attempts to get you to send me money via Venmo, it's a scam. I do not have a Venmo account, nor do I (at this time, anyway) have any intention of setting up such an account.

And Yet Donald Rumsfeld Died in Bed and George W. Bush Remains at Large

Per ABC News:

A German court has set a trial date for a 100-year-old man who is charged with 3,518 counts of accessory to murder on allegations he served as a Nazi SS guard at a concentration camp on the outskirts of Berlin during World War II. ... The suspect is alleged to have worked at the Sachsenhausen camp between 1942 and 1945 as an enlisted member of the Nazi Party’s paramilitary wing.

They're still going after people more than 75 years after the fact, and I guess that's okay.

But more recent war criminals, with far more firmly established evidence for their crimes, get to hang out with Ellen DeGeneres at football games without fear of arrest and charge.

Oh, I See: The Problem is Google

I've been running a Linux box, with Chromium as my preferred browser, for a year-and-a-half now.

Yes, that means I didn't really leave Google World when I abandoned the Chromebox as my desktop computer. I just find Google apps (like Drive) and Chrome apps (like Caret) too damn useful.

Normally, I don't have to worry that much about synchonizing e.g. passwords and bookmarks between machines. For one thing, I use a password manager (LastPass) that's independent of my browser. For another, I have to abandon my desktop in favor of my laptop (still a Chromebook) fairly rarely, because I just don't travel that much.

When I was getting ready to go to PorcFest, I couldn't for the life of me get my Chromebook to sync up with my latest bookmark set (which had changed significantly since the last time I had used the laptop). I ended up manually exporting my bookmarks and manually importing them. No biggie.

Then last night I was setting up the new Raspberry Pi 4. This was a straight Linux Chromium to Linux Chromium change, and there was a handy-dandy "turn on sync" button on the new browser, so I clicked it. It had me sign in to Google, then went to a basic screen full of Google links. But no sync. After trying that two or three times, I went into "settings" and tried to turn on sync. Same problem. No sync.

So, I just installed my preferred extensions and imported my current bookmarks.

Then, this morning, it finally occurred to me to type "Chromium sync doesn't work" into Bing. Per OMG! Ubuntu:

"Users of the Chromium web browser are about to lose access to several key features, including bookmark and password sync. Google is cutting off access to a number of private APIs used in Chromium builds from March 15, 2021."


I haven't started trying to use the Raspberry Pi as my desktop machine yet. Since I'm going to have to tear down everything and set it back up in a few days pursuant to my office re-configuration, it makes more sense to wait and do that once instead of twice. But the Pi is set up, with Raspbian installed and fully updated. I expect I'll move the tower over to the new desk as well and have it there and available in case the Pi doesn't work out (or for occasional use if I want to do things the Pi won't handle, even if it handles most of what I throw at it).

Sunday, August 01, 2021

Major Office Reorganization Pending

... partly due to a message from the universe this morning.

I'd been considering buying a new desk to replace the one I've been using for at least eight years and that was old and used when I picked it up at (IIRC) a yard sale.

Part of that possibility was predicated on the likelihood that I'd be moving my desk, computer, etc. to a different part of the "office" room, a little alcove with just exactly enough room for a 4-foot-wide desk. The old desk would fit in that space, but wouldn't efficiently use that space, because it's sort of semi-circular in shape, which has always bugged me.

But, being a cheapskate, I've been mentally drawing up plans to just nail a four-foot wide board onto the part of the desk where I think the width matters most -- the rear, where I need monitor risers. Currently, the rear of the desk has one 3" or so integral wooden riser across the middle, with glass risers another 2" or so high on each end. So it seems kind of complicated.

Then, this morning, one of those glass risers, which seems to have been secured to two posts by glue for the last eight years plus however old the desk was when I got it, just suddenly fell off.

That's what I interpreted as the message from the universe: Time to make the move.

I already have a Raspberry Pi 4 "extreme" kit on the way (arriving today, in fact), which may or may not become my daily desktop work machine.

After converting some of the BTC I've been HODLing to an Amazon gift card via BitRefill, I ordered a 47" rectangular desk. It will be here Tuesday.

Using some BCH I've been saving, I went to Purse.io and ordered a set of risers (the desk comes with one, but I use two monitors) and an Amazon Basics 8-outlet standby UPS (that's been on my to-do list for some time, and since the area where I'm moving my desk to also happens to be where the cable modem and wifi router plug in, it now makes even more sense -- both my computer and the Internet connection necessaries will stay on during brief power outages). Those two things will take a bit longer to get here, but it's not a huge deal, I'll improvise as necessary.

I figure the major move elements will occur next Friday or Saturday. 

FYI, the links above to BitRefill and Purse are affiliate links. The Amazon product links aren't.

Thanks For Asking! -- 08/01/21

If you have to ask why, the answer is usually "money."

Except, of course, in the monthly KN@PPSTER AMA thread, where you can ...

  1. Ask me anything (yes, anything) in comments; and
  2. Get an answer (in comments or in some separate, linked stand-alone format) that usually isn't "money."