Sunday, July 31, 2022

A Trivial Pursuit

On a quick look at past stats, I see that I've only put up 50 or more posts in a single month eight times since I started this blog in 2004. The last time was in December of 2019.

So here's a 50th post for July, just to add to the count.

Yeah, it may seem like a trivial thing, but I'm into trivia.

My interest in blog traffic statistics and "search engine optimization" is usually desultory. Every once in a while I'll have a look at the "analytics" and run the blog through one or more of those "free analysis" sites, and perhaps make a change here and there.

How many people have visited KN@PPSTER?

I don't know.

I remember hitting one million views, and I think getting close to the two million mark, at some point prior to 2011, when "Google Blog Analytics" took over. The reports say I've had 2,835,250 views since then. 

The monthly high point during that latter period was, for some reason I can't figure out, June of 2017, with 105,249 views. Mostly I seem to bumble along with 15-30k views per month.

The all-time most popular post during the Google Analytics era remains "Review: Micro Touch One Safety Razor versus Dollar Shave Club 4x," with 37.2k views. Of my top ten posts in the Google Analytics era, only five are even remotely connected to my primary passion, politics. The rest are reviews, listicles, etc.

I'll be interested to see if the daily Wordle hint posting has a noticeable impact on my stats. It's right in the muddle middle of the pack at the moment, but as it continues it might get more search engine mojo and returning daily visitors. I guess we'll see.

Raspberry Pi OS, Strike Three

Yesterday, I had a little time to mess around, and also needed to remove the USB hub from my Raspberry Pi 4 anyway (I'm putting together my gear stack for working outdoors, need a USB hub, and discovered when the one I ordered arrived that I hadn't been paying attention and it was USB C on the computer side), so I decided to test my theory that my off-brand el-cheapo USB hub was the cause of 64-bit Raspberry Pi OS's "freezes up" behavior.

It wasn't.

As with my two prior attempts (one with the OS installed on a USB drive, the second on an SD card), the machine eventually just locked up -- no mouse movement, no response to keyboard shortcuts, etc. -- and required a hard reboot. I think this time it went for about 45 minutes.

I still don't think it's a software problem. Or, rather, I think that if it's a software problem, the software is the OS itself, not e.g. some rogue browser extension. Last time around, I added no extensions to my preferred browser, Chromium-based Vivaldi, and the time before that the browser wasn't even running when a freeze occurred.

On the other hand, I am now down to pretty basic peripheral hardware. Two small HDMI TVs as monitors -- the machine's default output is HDMI -- a regular old USB keyboard, and an ergonomic mouse that doesn't have any special drivers or anything like that. There doesn't seem to be anything for the new OS to stumble on, hardware-wise.

I'm wondering if it might have to do with the Raspberry Pi hardware itself. That seems like a strange possibility since it's a Raspberry Pi machine and the Raspberry Pi OS, but my machine is not the basic build. It's the Canakit (I'm pretty sure the most reputable Raspberry Pi kit company) "Raspberry Pi 4 Extreme," which has 8Gb of RAM.

Per Wikipedia, the 8Gb version of the Pi 4B "has a revised circuit board," and "[i]n mid-2021, Pi 4 B models appeared with the improved Broadcom BCM2711C0" (as opposed to whatever previous ARM processor was used). I bought my machine in mid-2021 and don't know if it uses the older or newer CPU.

So I suppose there may be a bug running around that has to do with the "revised circuit board" in the 8Gb model as opposed to the 2Gb default, or with the CPU change. If so, I suspect it's rare, as none of the stuff I've found with web searches on Raspberry Pi freezes resembles my own specific situation.

I must say that the 64-bit Raspberry Pi OS seems to get better (until the freeze comes) with each update. Starting and running a browser keeps getting faster and smoother. It's becoming very noticeable versus the 32-bit version.

But the number of times the 32-bit version has frozen up on me is zero, and I have yet to finish a long session on 64-bit without a freeze. I can't  have my computer freezing right in the middle of some unsaved work. So 32-bit it shall remain, until the next time I get around to updating to latest version of 64-bit and seeing what happens.

Wordle 407 Hint

Hint: Don't try to be stylish here -- that's not allowed!

First Letter: C

Saturday, July 30, 2022

FIO Unstaking Thoughts

Over time, between February and a month or so ago, I "staked" a total of 7,280.12286 FIO tokens.

As of a few minutes ago, I had accrued 1,026.14344 FIO in "staking rewards."

I've never bothered to do the full accounting/math on the deal. If I had staked the entire amount at the same time in the beginning, the rewards would have amounted to a little over 14% "interest" in five months, which tracks with the predicted 30% per year.

I just "unstaked," so now I have 8,203.652733091 FIO in my wallet (current USD value: $467.39; current price per token, 5.7 cents US).  Those tokens are "locked" -- I can't sell or spend them -- until August 5.

How did I do, really? Well, I made 14% "interest" on a token that's going, at the moment, for about half of the average price I paid for it in the first place. So I've "lost money" in theory, but only in theory. I have as many tokens as I did before, plus "interest." That the tokens are worth more or less in some other currency than they were at some other time isn't that interesting to me, since I figure their value will, along with that of BTC, BCH, etc., recover and increase over time.

In USD terms, I figure I'm "down" between $100-150. But I would have been "down" by about the same amount over the same period of time and minus that "interest" if I'd held BTC or BCH instead of turning it into FIO and staking it.

So why unstake now?

No, I haven't stopped liking the FIO idea (use of "FIO names" -- mine is knappster@edge -- to make moving cryptocurrency easy with a single, easy to remember address for multiple currencies). While it's not perfect, it's a decent way of doing things.

I just figure I've done my bit to help that idea along and, with crypto starting to trend upward in USD price again, I might want to exchange or spend some at some point in the near future, so it's time to get more ... liquid. If crypto takes a shit again before I do something with my FIO balance, I may restake it instead of turning it into something else.

Wordle 406 Hint

Hint: One pair, no ace in the hole.

First Letter: B

Friday, July 29, 2022

Thursday, July 28, 2022

The Outdoors: Not Great Yet, But Getting There

A little while back, I mentioned looking into e.g. a picnic table to put under the crepe myrtles out front so that I could drag my Chromebook/travel monitor rig out of storage and work outside when the weather is nice (in Florida, it's nearly always nice, but sometimes rainy).

Yesterday, a friend of my daughter's who is moving asked if she wanted a plastic patio table, and she thought of me. So:

It's not perfect, yet. I need a higher chair (that's the "camp chair" I recently bought so I can sit out front when podcasting) if I want to be really comfortable. But I just did a significant portion of the day's work on Rational Review News Digest while sitting outside, and I'm liking the idea better than ever. Guess I'll be shopping for a chair and a table umbrella!

Feature Thought: Wordle Hints?

I play Wordle faithfully each morning (usually before 7am Eastern time -- but I have an Alexa reminder set for 8:15 am on the off chance I might get busy and forget).

I think I'm reasonably good at it. I occasionally fail one day, but I stopped counting my "streaks" the first time I hit 101 correct daily answers in a row.

I see that several web sites, including some pretty popular ones, publish a hint/answer column each day. I never have, do not, and don't plan to consult those columns because I'd rather fail than "cheat," but I can see why some people might find them helpful.

It seems like it would be easy to do myself -- maybe hand out the first letter and a clever teaser involving the meaning of the day's word -- and would probably drive some search engine traffic to the site.

But I'm interested in what my regular readers think of the idea. Interesting? Boring? Distracting? Waste of time? Let me know in comments.

Nutrition/Supplement Question

Commenter dL often weighs in on these kinds of questions, and I've found his advice quite valuable. But he's not the only one who might have input. So:

L-Citrulline, yes or no?

Indications per the link above:

  • I've had persistent, seemingly medication-resistant, high blood pressure for years. I take amlodipine and lisinopril for it, but it still usually measures at least "borderline."
  • I've had something that probably answers to the description "irritable bowel syndrome" since about the time I got home from the Gulf War in 1991.
  • While I'm theoretically not diabetic anymore, I assume that the associated vascular problems haven't gone away. Since I avoid getting wounded, I haven't noticed slow healing, necessarily, but that effect sounds like it couldn't hurt at any rate.
  • I'm not sure what constitutes "mild to moderate" erectile dysfunction. Since I'm getting older I don't really consider it unusual that Rover may not come running at full speed the instant he hears his name called. He still gets there eventually, maybe with not quite as much energy/enthusiasm. Is that ED at all? I honestly don't know.
Anyway, if you have used and/or have some kind of informed opinion on L-Citrulline, I'd appreciate the benefit of your thoughts.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Slow Going on the Backgammon Front ...

I'm continuing to win more than half my matches, but just barely, so my win percentage is still only 36.1%.

On the other hand, I'm playing 1) better players and 2) fewer matches, and I'm playing fewer matches because I'm playing better players.

When I first started playing at Backgammon Galaxy, I was anyone's partner who'd dance with me. I'd just post a game and accept the first responder to the invitation. And with a low rating (mine occasionally pops up to 1000, sometimes even 1100, but mostly lower), most of the people who click on my games also have low ratings.

Now I'm increasingly responding to other players' invitations, and I usually look for players with win percentages of higher than 50%, or (if I'm in a hurry and don't want to check) ratings of higher than 1600. 

Many of them decline, but some of them accept, and sometimes I pull off the win, and sometimes I even get past the "error rate" algorithm (which favors slot machine "land on any single and hope for the best" play) to pick up ratings points.

That's probably half my matches, and I'm certainly winning less than half of them, keeping above 50/50 on average by playing people closer to my win percentage / ratings points the other half of the time. But being choosy means I'm also playing fewer matches (two to three a day instead of three to five a day). If it was weight-lifting, it would be fewer reps with heavier weight, I guess.

I'm considering closing my account and starting a new one for the sole purpose of being back at a 1500 rating so that I can get more of matches with better players. But that would feel kind of like cheating.

Congrats to Chris Matthew Sciabarra ...

... for 20 years and 3500 posts at Notablog!

I've probably learned more than 3500 things from Chris, about everything from philosophy to Greek Orthodox religion to the joys of New York pizza. Not just from Notablog, of course. I look forward to the next 20 years of said learning.

Monday, July 25, 2022

Some Recombobulations Here at KN@PPSTER

I've been thinking about how to schedule the KN@PPSTER: Thanks for Asking! podcast, and how to do so in tandem with the monthly Thanks For Asking! post/thread, which for years has appeared on the first day of each month.

Here's how I've decided to swing that:

  1. The live podcast will happen on the first Friday of each month at 11am Eastern.
  2. The blog post / thread to gather questions for the podcast will go up on the preceding Monday (which will only be on the 1st if Friday happens to fall on the 5th).
Four days seems like a reasonable time frame for "pre-submitting" questions in writing. And of course you're free to just "call in" with your question instead of posting it on the blog if you'd rather do that. To be clear, it's also no problem if you want to post the question in writing and "call in" to discuss that question.

Speaking of the podcast, it looks like the show is now set up for archiving at Apple Podcasts and Spotify. If you don't care to call in, or aren't available to listen live, but still want to keep up, you might find one of those preferable to the native archive.

I've changed the title of the dedicated page from "The KN@PP Stir Podcast" to "Podcasts," since there are now at least two (KN@PPSTER: Thanks for  Asking! and a link to the archive of The KN@PP Stir Podcast).

And who knows, there may eventually be more than that now that I've got the podcasting bug again. The "soft launch" episode turned into a sort of mutual interview thing, and hopefully will continue with aspects of that, but I may just start going through my metaphorical Rolodex[TM] and start doing periodic actual interviews under another label. I've got all kinds of ideas. It's just a matter of making them work.

Another Plug, and an Aspirational Note

This is far from the first time I've noticed and recommended The Bryan Hyde Show here at KN@PPSTER. And yes, those notices/recommendations are very self-serving. While I personally keep track of the show on a daily basis, I'm most likely to tell you about it when Mr. Hyde mentions one of my Garrison Center columns on the day's show. Which is the case today.

But even when he's not talking about me, he's usually talking about some interesting stuff. I don't always agree with his take (in fact, I sometimes vehemently disagree with his take, and his other sources are often sites I don't think well of).

And aspirationally, I'd like to produce a podcast that's as enjoyable to listen to as his.

That's unlikely. There's an old saying about people who have "a face made for radio," implying that they're not physically attractive enough to do television or film. My version, concerning myself, is that I have "a voice made for print." I don't like the sound of my own voice, and assume others don't like it that much either. Hyde has a smooth radio voice. I don't. That's a bar I probably will never get over.

But what I can try to do is make the presentation reasonably smooth (not full of coughs and "uhs" and dead air. So I'll be working on that.

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Fairly Short and Hopefully Spoiler-Free Review: The Gray Man

One-sentence review: Busy and formulaic, but reasonably fun.


Lots of chases and explosions and fights.

Not even remotely suspenseful (I can think of a grand total of one, very mild, surprise near the end). The usual "extremely undercover special operator betrayed and chased" stuff.

But hey, it stars Ryan Gosling and Jessica Henwick and Billy Bob Thornton and Julia Butters and others.

And Chris Evans as a psycho with a porn 'stache.

And it's directed by the Russo brothers.

And it had a $200 million production budget to pay for lots of chases and explosions and fights and Ryan Gosling and Jessica Henwick and Billy Bob Thornton and Julia Butters and others and Chris Evans as a psycho with a porn 'stache.

As Netflix movies go, it's pretty much 6 Underground with Ryan Gosling instead of Ryan Reynolds and Chris Evans (did I mention the porn 'stache?) instead of Lior Raz. And all that goes with those casting differences (better villain, less clever/humorous/off in surprising directions writing).

I don't regret the time I spent watching it, but if I'd paid for a theater ticket* instead of a Netflix subscription, I'd probably be a little disappointed. A nice little energetic drive in the country, but no steakhouse or strip club at the turnaround point, if you take my meaning.

Anyway, if you're not a Netflix subscriber, I recommend against becoming one just to see this movie. If you are, and if you have two hours and 19 minutes to kill, and if you like the idea of lots of chases and explosions and fights and Ryan Gosling and Jessica Henwick and Billy Bob Thornton and Julia Butters and others and Chris Evans as a psycho with a porn 'stache, knock yourself out.

* Speaking of which, I finally canceled my Regal Cinemas "unlimited" membership. Unless I average two movies a month, it doesn't save me money, and I've been averaging maybe one, if that.

Two "Production Values" Sides to Callin

Now that the first, "soft launch" episode of the KN@PPSTER: Thanks For Asking! podcast has been in the can for a couple of days, I've had time to think about the "production values" aspect of it and what I like/dislike about that aspect.

What I Dislike About It:

So far as I can tell, there's no way for me to do things like edit pre-recorded material (theme songs and between-segment ads, for example) into the episodes either live or in post-production. Actually, I THINK I might be able to do it live if I got very creative, but it it would be significant work, and I'm not hearing that happen with the "big names" who are using Callin, so I could be wrong about the ability.

What I Like About It:

Since I can't edit pre-recorded material into the episodes, I don't have to worry about editing pre-recorded material into the episodes.

While that means I don't get a cool theme song opening, etc. (I got a lot of positive feedback on the old podcast's theme song, which I spent a few dollars having done on Fiverr), it also puts me on a level playing field (in that particular area) with the "big names" who could massively out-do me on that front by e.g. having REM re-form to record a theme song for them, and having John Wayne's voice digitized and run through an AI to record between-segment ads. Since I can't do that stuff, I don't have to spend time doing that stuff, which saves me time and tension.

And there are other "production value" pluses. Callin automatically generates a transcript from the audio recording (handy for people who prefer reading to listening!), and makes it easy to use that transcript to edit out things like dead air for the permanent record. The audio, on the whole, sounds very high-quality to me except when someone's cell coverage or wifi shits the bed.

I don't know that the show's content will ever necessarily go toe-to-toe with Justin Amash's, Glenn Greenwald's, or Matt Taibbi's, but on the technical quality end of things it's a level playing field.

In a way, that reminds me of the early days of blogging. You might not be able to tell these days, but back then I was actually kind of in the running as a mid-level influencer. KN@PPSTER got lots of traffic and lots of links from "big names" until those "big names" were able to leverage their recognition into more traffic, bigger money for content creation, consolidation into multi-author platforms, etc. and outpace us small fry.

Saturday, July 23, 2022

A Saturday Morning Pick-Me-Up

Initial Thought on The Society of the Spectacle

Guy DeBord seems to have been onto something (in fact, he seems to have been onto a lot of things), but his true theses were derived from a false starting point, that starting point being Marxist class theory (yes, I stole the gravamen of that claim from Hans-Hermann Hoppe's paean to the Marxist theory of history).

I haven't finished the book yet, but I detect a thread running through the bulk of it that I've read so far:

DeBord observes some particular X. Then he correctly ties that X to a cause Y, which is, in a word, "capitalism."

His false starting point is the conflation -- urged on us by Marx and then later by "capitalists" -- of capitalism with free markets. And he maintains this conflation even as he describes non-free markets (in fact, he seems to be describing Burnham's managerial state) as proof of thesis.

Which is not to say he doesn't criticize Marx, Lenin, et al. He does. But he starts from Marx's incorrect premises (Marx's cribbing of libertarian class theory and shift from productive class v. political class to labor v. capital; labor theory of value; alienation/commodification, etc.), then tries to use those incorrect premises to explain his fairly accurate observations of events.

Oddly, he presages his own problem by opening the book with a quote from Feuerbach:

But for the present age, which prefers the sign to the thing signified, the copy to the original, representation to reality, appearance to essence … truth is considered profane, and only illusion is sacred. Sacredness is in fact held to be enhanced in proportion as truth decreases and illusion increases, so that the highest degree of illusion comes to be the highest degree of sacredness.

DeBord writes from attachment to sacred illusion (Marxism). What's surprising is not that he interprets the facts through the fog of that illusion, but that he sees so many of those facts so clearly through that fog in the first place.

Friday, July 22, 2022

Well, Folks, Looks Like We've Got a Podcast!

Here's the "soft launch" episode. More on why it's a link rather than an embed below.

My Opinion:

I thought it went pretty well. I like the "call in" format that allows me to easily talk with other people. In previous contexts, doing an interview with someone and then editing it into a podcast was kind of a pain in the ass. Callin gives me tools for editing right on my phone (maybe on my computer, too -- haven't tried that). The sound quality seems decent. Etc.

The "soft launch" episode did morph into more of a free-wheeling discussion with Joel Schlosberg and Paul Stanton than just an "ask me anything" bit. I was fine with that, but I'm going to have questions for y'all below that include it.

I'm calling this a success.

BUT: There doesn't seem to be any obvious functionality for just embedding the show (or individual episodes) here at the blog. That's something I'd like to have. It may be possible once the thing has syndicated to Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify, though.

Your Opinions:

I'd love for you to sound off in the comments below this post, hopefully with the following questions in mind:

  1. Well, how did you like it overall?
  2. How do you feel about the platform? Were you able to easily access the live room, etc., or was it complicated enough that you just decided to wait for the finished product?
  3. How do you feel about the format? Is it OK if "ask me anything" goes off the rails into something else, or should I crack down on that and maybe do a different podcast for the non-Q&A stuff?

One Hour to "Soft Launch" ...

... of the KN@PPSTER: Thanks For Asking! podcast on Callin. I've already got a couple of questions from the original announcement thread, and will hopefully be able to take "calls on air." See you there!

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

No Joy in Raspberry Pi Land

Back at the end of April, I decided to upgrade my Raspberry Pi 4's operating system to the 64-bit version (it's a 64-bit machine, but when it was released there was only a 32-bit version of the OS).

It didn't work out. While the OS did seem to do things faster, it also kept freezing up, requiring hard restart. The freezing didn't seem to be tied to any particular application. I suspect that it had to do with the medium -- I had installed the new OS on a USB flash drive rather than on the SD card that a Pi normally runs off of. So I just pulled the flash drive, reinserted the SD card, and was back where I started.

Over the weekend, I came in to a shiny new 128Gb SD card and decided to try installing the 64-bit OS on that. Which I did last night and, once I was at a stopping point with my normal work flow this morning, I booted that bad boy up, went through the usual settings screens, then started installing my preferred software, copying key files that I had saved to a flash drive, etc.

About half an hour into that, the machine froze up again. So it's obviously not the flash drive vs. SD card that's the problem. And like I said, it doesn't seem to be the applications I'm running. Which leaves, I guess, two possibilities:

  1. The 64-bit OS just isn't up to snuff yet in general. That wouldn't be surprising, since it only came out in, I think, February or March; or
  2. Some particular piece of hardware I'm using is giving the new OS problems. One of my two monitors. My USB hub. My keyboard or mouse. I'm not really using any bizarre gear. I mean, my mouse is ergonomically shaped, but I don't think it has proprietary drivers or anything.
If I had to bet on a hardware problem, I'd bet on that USB hub. I don't even remember who made it, probably some cheap import, and I seem to recall an incident in the distant past where I finally fixed a (non-Raspberry Pi) computer problem by unplugging a USB hub.

In theory, I could do without the hub. It would just make plugging in e.g. flash drives, card readers, headsets, etc. a pain in the ass. Maybe I'll try ditching it and see what happens.

But if so, that will be later. I've already blown an hour on this experiment and have other things to do, so I am back on 32-bit Raspbian for now.

Ian Freeman Goes Bubble Boy

Well, here we go again. Ian Freeman on last night's Free Talk Live:

But this really just goes to remind gun owners out there that just because a place says "no guns," I get it, it's private property and everything, but if you're concealed carrying, it's none of their damn business what you have in the small of your back.

This is a version of Kent McManigal's "Magic Bubble" theory, under which property rights cease to apply if you don't like the way the property owner exercises them and are able to hide your violations of them from that property owner.

If a property owner says "no guns on my property," and you enter his property with a gun, you are trespassing -- "ent[ering] another's property without right or permission."

Trespassing is a form of theft: Using or possessing the property of another person against that person's will.

Me carrying a gun onto your property when you've said I can't is no different than me breaking into your house while you're gone and settling down on your couch to watch your DVDs on your big-screen TV. Even if I bring my own popcorn, and even if don't damage the lock on your door when I break in, and even if I leave a quarter on the dining room table on my way out to pay for the electricity I used, and even if you never know it happened, I'm still stealing from you. That house and that TV and those DVDs are yours, not mine.

Don't like a "no guns" policy for entering someone else's property? Don't enter their property. "Problem" solved.

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Thanks For Asking! -- AMA Podcast Soft Launch

All right folks, this thing is on for Friday at 11am Eastern Daylight Time, and I guess we'll see how it goes.

The usual Thanks For Asking! rules, as modified for doing it podcast-style, to get us started:

  • Ask me anything (yes, anything) in the comments below this post;
  • If you get your question in by Friday morning, 10am or so, I'll try to answer it on the podcast; BUT
  • This is also a "live call-in show." I'm hopeful that the Callin system allows me to let guests talk on the fly, as opposed to only being able to have scheduled/invited guests on. If that's the case, and you get on Callin, I'll be glad to take and answer your question live.
So far as I can tell, the only way for me to figure out how the Callin system works is to actually use it, so I'll be learning at the same time as you.

Hopefully it will work the way I'd like it to work. If not, well, back to the drawing board.

Hopefully some people will be interested enough to make it worth doing. If not, well, back to the drawing board.

See ... er, hear ... you then!

ANOTHER Thing I Like Better About Amazon Than Meatspace Stores

When I order something from Amazon, it arrives within a few days on my front porch.

When I order something from Walmart for pickup, it's always a freakin' Greek tragicomedy.

I've learned to never, ever, ever order something from Walmart that I need to pick up ASAP. Even if they're running hot, it's quicker to just go to to the store and find it on the shelf.

As for "ship to store" orders, one time I ordered a bicycle that would arrive in four days and that they would assemble for me there. So it arrived, and they told me it was ready, and I went to pick it up, and it wasn't ready. I think it was four more days before they got the thing assembled. Which would have been nice to know in advance.

So I usually just don't do that. Best Buy, yes (they generally have your stuff in an hour and it's easy to pick up). Walmart, no.

But on Saturday, I saw a really good deal on something I wanted -- five bucks for a fairly "camp chair" (with a built-in cup older, even!) at a time when old-fashioned "lawn chairs" go for $60 -- and ordered it, not in any hurry to pick it up. The "your order is ready" arrived fast, and they hold stuff for up to four days, so last evening Tamara stopped by to pick it up on her way home from work.

Except that apparently COVID-19 panic is back, and she couldn't just walk up to the pickup counter and get it. No, someone had to "check in" for "curbside" pickup. Neither of us run the Walmart app on our phones. We use my email and her phone for pickup orders.

So anyway, I was trying to download the app to let them know that "I" was there -- which might not have worked because they appear to be big on geolocation -- when she found a phone number she could call instead.

At least 20 minutes of her life wasted picking up a $5 item.

That's dumb. If Amazon had had the same item at the same price, I'd definitely have just ordered it. And got it in the same period of time, since I was in no hurry, without anyone having to go to a physical store and dick around with a phone.

Monday, July 18, 2022

Expansion on a Random Tweet Thought

Said tweet:

I was thinking about various things there.

In the larger context, I was thinking about the near constant stream of the Russophile version of "hasbara," under which everything Vladimir Putin, the Russian regime, or the Russian armed forces does was "provoked" by someone else, and the aforementioned are of course fully justified and entirely blameless for anything they do in "response."

For example, Dmitry Medvedev's statement that refusal to recognize Crimea as Russian territory is a "systemic threat" and that any attack on Crimea will "provoke" a "Judgment Day" response.

Implicit in that statement is the idea that the Russian regime gets to wage a war -- excuse me, "special military operation" -- wherever it damn well pleases, but that any response which touches it anywhere it doesn't like is a "provocation" justifying more of, or escalation of, same.

It's not just Russophiles making excuses, of course. The US kept troops in Saudi Arabia, etc., for ten years, conducting military operations all over the Middle East, despite multiple warnings from bin Laden and multiple attacks to drive home those warnings, then whined to high heaven about how unfair it was when that shit actually came home in a real way on 9/11. Why, the homeland is sacred! How dare they go beyond blowing up barracks in al Khobar or attacking ships in Yemen and bring that shit here?

Which is neither to excuse a hypothetical Ukrainian attack on Crimea or a Russian military response, or to excuse the 9/11 attack or the Global War on Terror. But when you buy the ticket, you should expect to take the ride rather than expecting that you're just going to have your way all the time and never face any blowback.

Which is to say: Yes, Putin was "provoked" vis a vis Ukraine. But Putin also had choices, and he made them, and they have consequences, and he's responsible for what he does.

On a more individual level, I was thinking about a "fighting words" incident I saw mentioned at The Volokh Conspiracy this morning.

Which led me to non-hypotheticals I've witnessed and may or may not have been a participant in as a callow youth:

Someone says something insanely rude to or about someone's significant other in his, her, or their presence, and gets punched in the mouth.

When I say I may or may not have been involved, I'm not dodging; I honestly don't remember, so I can't say for sure. I've been involved in heightened incidents where the speech was followed by a slap at or reach for my significant other. In those cases, you bet your ass I went into immediate and violent action in her defense. I don't remember ever doing that over the speech itself, but I suppose it could have happened (alcohol is usually involved in such incidents, and if it did happen it was probably at least 30 years ago).

The thing is, I can understand knocking some guy's dick in the dirt because he called your girlfriend a slut. And I can at least imagine myself being the person who would respond in that manner.

But I can also acknowledge that if I go all fisticuffs on someone for saying something (other than a "true threat," e.g. "I'm going to stab you with this knife") rather than doing something, I'm the one initiating force. 

I'm responsible for what I do, even if "provoked."

Tech Bleg

 I have a Samsung phone (XCover FieldPro).

I have a no-name El Cheapo USB headset.

I have a USB to USB-C adapter.

The headset, mic portion, works with the phone when I use a voice recording program.

The headset, headphone portion, works with the phone when I e.g. press the volume button on the phone (the beeps are coming through the headphones rather than through the phone speaker).

But when I attempt to make a CALL with the phone using the headset, all the sound (my voice out to the other party, and the other end to me) goes through the phone, not through the headset.

I've poked around looking for a setting to fix this and haven't found one. I've done some cursory searching on "USB headset doesn't work with USB-C Samsung phone," but the results are all basically "hey, here's how to plug a USB headset into a USB phone -- ya gotta buy an adapter!"

Well, no sh*t.

My plan for the soft launch (and probably all other episodes) of the KN@PPSTER: Thanks for Asking! podcast is to sit in a chair in my yard with a beverage, cigarettes, and my phone. The headset would probably cut down on background noise, and also make my neighbors wonder what the hell I was babbling about, which could be fun.

Anyone know of a way to solve this headset problem? Thanks in advance.

A Thing I Like Better About Amazon Than About Meatspace Stores


I hate them. In fact, I hate them so much that unless we're talking significant money, I won't do them. 

Especially at a physical store, where I have to go in, stand in line, explain myself, etc. If it's a $5 item, I'll probably just eat the $5 rather than mess with it.

Even with Amazon, I've occasionally received something not quite right and decided it's not worth messing with.

But if I do have to return something, I'd much rather return it at Amazon than at a physical store.

I got a new pair of shoes today.

I've written about these shoes before. The two pairs I have are still going strong, but I had reason to spend at least $100 at Amazon on Prime Day (there was money back involved), so I ordered another pair to put away for later. I like these shoes. If they're available for the rest of my life, I'll probably be buying them as needed for the rest of my life.

But they sent me the wrong ones. Same brand, same size, wrong style.

I tried the different style on, decided I didn't like it.

A few clicks later, I had confirmed for myself that I had ordered the correct shoes and that the screw-up was on their end. A few clicks after that, I was at "pick a place to drop these off and we'll email you a QR code to show the clerk."

I've never had a significant wait, or any questions to answer, when dropping off stuff to return to Amazon. And I had three nearby choices, all of them directly on the route between my house and Tamara's office, to choose from (she'll drop them off for me unless she doesn't get around to it before I do).

In the meantime, they're sending me the right shoes immediately -- I only have to pay for them if I forget to drop off the wrong ones by August 18.

Not including the actual drop-off -- or maybe even including the actual drop-off, which will likely be a two-minute affair -- I've spent more time writing this blog post than I will have spent returning an item and getting a replacement sent.

So that's pretty cool, anyway.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Woke Up This Morning Thinking About Name Recognition

"Quote tweet" from Dave Smith:

That, in response to this:

My reply:

If I had to guess, I'd guess that of the names listed for the YAL event Boaz is complaining about, the first four (Ron Paul, Tulsi Gabbard, Rand Paul, and Kennedy) are the only ones with much general name recognition at all, and that recognition certainly not on the level of, say, Donald Trump, Joe Biden, Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, etc.

The fifth, Glenn Jacobs, might do pretty well outside the "liberty movement" among people who know him better as professional wrestling's Kane.

Nothing against Dave Smith's skill as a podcaster/comedian, but he's probably just not in the same name recognition league as those first five outside the "liberty movement," and perhaps among really dedicated devotees of stand-up comedy. At least not yet. I mean, some regular people might be like "isn't he one of the two other guys with Luis G. Gomez in Legion of Skanks?" but probably not that many. Again, yet. Maybe he'll get his own Netflix or HBO special and really take off one of these days. But he hasn't. Yet.

Down on the fifth row, Justin Amash is probably under-billed, because he was briefly "famous outside the liberty movement" during the Trump impeachment thing before mainstream media said "nope, not going to mention that there's a partisan Libertarian in Congress now."

But, you know, those are just my guesses. What I want to know is this:

Why isn't there a cool, publicly available algorithm that tries to quantify likely general name recognition?

It's been a decade and a half since I really involved myself in campaign management, and not much seems to have changed unless there are proprietary algorithms I haven't heard about.

Back then, to get a proxy for name recognition in the absence of being able to afford real polling, I'd just plug my candidate's name (in several iterations with modifiers like "politician" or "Congress") into Google and compare the number of returned results with those of his or her opponents to figure out which one more people had likely heard of.

Being well-known inside a very specific niche can make one feel famous.  I remember one time introducing myself to someone at a Libertarian National Convention and getting the reply "the Tom Knapp?" And of course that made me feel pretty good. But pick a random sample on any street in America, and me introducing myself would get, effectively, 100%  pro forma "nice to meet you" or "who?" responses.

I'm not trying to pick on Boaz here, but I'd say that, well, he's older and has been around the "liberty movement" for a long time, and recognizes a lot of those names from a previous era that he spent hob-nobbing and mixing and working in, and not as many names from the "podcasts are the big new thing" era that's following his period of maximum influence/involvement. So he's probably under-estimating the relative name recognition of a Dave Smith versus a Justin Amash within the "liberty movement" as it exists now.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Cultural Assimilation? Yeah. Privilege? Not So Sure.

It is fun, though:

I'm pretty sure that most artists in societies with significant Christian presences (especially the paganized Pauline variants) tend to make their own Jesuses look ... local.

Here's Russian artist Ivan Kramskoi's Christ in the Wilderness:

Christ in the Wilderness - Ivan Kramskoy - Google Cultural Institute

Here's a 9th century T'ang dynasty rendering:

Restoration of T'ang dynasty Nestorian image of Jesus Christ

And hey, look, here's a 15th century Ethiopian painting of Diptych with Mary and Her Son Flanked by Archangels, Apostles and a Saint:

Fre Seyon - Diptych with Mary and Her Son Flanked by Archangels, Apostles and a Saint - Walters 3612 - Open

I'm not so much surprised that the descendants of European colonizers in the Americas have tended to go with depictions of Jesus that make him look like a European colonizer, as I am that they've tended to stick with medieval/renaissance depictions rather than updating the character's appearance over time.

I would have expected American Catholic depictions of Jesus for the last 60 years or so to have looked something like this:

And the more general pop culture version of the last couple of decades, well ...

Poster for The Matrix

Friday, July 15, 2022

It's Coming ...

 ... on Callin.

I haven't figured out quite how it's going to work yet, but I've been yapping about returning to podcasting ever since I gave up on The KN@PP Stir, and while I was messing with the Callin app today, I thought "hey, why not expand the monthly Thanks For Asking! post to audio in some way?"

So here's my tentative plan:

  1. I'll put up the monthly Thanks For Asking! post/thread as usual, early on the morning of the first day of the month.
  2. I'll schedule a Thanks For Asking! show for later that day, and publicize/link it in that post.
  3. When the time comes for the show, I'll answer any questions that have been posted in blog comments, then take questions live from those who care enough to download the Callin app on their phones and, well, call in (if you just log into Callin on your computer, I'm pretty sure all you can do is listen and participate in text chat in the sidebar).
I may do a bonus/extra/intro Thanks For Asking! thread and show before the end of this month, just to see how it works out, if I hear in comments that people are interested and want to get started.

Let me know what you think.

Yet Another Commercial Endeavor I Lack the Wherewithal to Even Try

This morning, I was thinking about watermelon.

Why? Well, a scene from the movie Glory kept turning over in my head. I wasn't able to easily find a clip, but it's something like this: Colonel Robert Gould Shaw (played by Matthew Broderick) is, on horse, going through a sort of little obstacle course in which he weaves between posts with watermelons atop them, slashing at the melons with his saber.

And something about it kept bugging me. This was in Massachusetts circa 1863. Did they have watermelon in Massachusetts in 1863?

The fruit has always mostly struck me as a southern kind of thing. When I was a kid in southern Missouri, my brother worked for a guy who, at a certain point in the summer, would lead a convoy of pickup trucks down to southern Arkansas on a Thursday afternoon, fill them with melons, drive back, and park the trucks around the county to sell the melons roadside all weekend.

I went looking, and according to Wikipedia, watermelon "was being grown in Massachusetts by 1629." So the presence of watermelon in the movie is not an anachronism (whether the little training exercise involved was a thing, I still don't know).

But that didn't stop me from thinking about watermelon. What my mind turned to next was the ingenious (but so far as I can tell, not especially popular, at least in the US) Japanese idea of growing watermelons in square boxes to shape them so that they stack more easily and stably and more of them will fit in a shipping container. And, again per Wikipedia, "[p]yramid-shaped watermelons have also been developed and any polyhedral shape may potentially be used."

At which point it occurred to me how fun it would be to grow and sell watermelon in sets of these shapes:

But even if there was really a market for that kind of thing, I'd need a bunch of land to grow the melons on and time and money to have them grown on any scale at all, and a mechanism for distribution and sale. None of which I have, or am likely to magically get, or am interested in doing a bunch of work trying to get (I have plenty of other work to do).

So no dice (see what I did there?).

If you're a watermelon farmer (or even a hobbyist or crank) who sees this and decides to try it, I'd love to hear about it. No, not so I can sue you. I hereby specifically renounce any potential "intellectual property" claims on the idea to the extent that any such claims could potentially exist. But if you want to send me a melon shaped like a 20-sided die, I'll take it.

Turtles ... er, Decisions ... All the Way Down

In a recent Garrison Center column, I argue that the Supreme Court's ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization is the opposite of "decentralization":

Per Roe, decisions concerning abortion were largely decentralized to the lowest possible level, that of individual choice. Agree with the logic of the decision or not, that was its effect.

Per Dobbs, such decisions are now largely centralized into the hands of state legislatures.

I stand by that argument ... but there's actually more to the problem of "centralization" versus "decentralization."

First, there's who decides whether Person X can or will have an abortion. Under Roe, the answer to that question was decentralized from state legislatures to Person X and her doctor. Under Dobbs, the answer was recentralized from Person X and her doctor to state legislatures.

But then there's the question of who decides who decides whether person X can or will have an abortion? The answer to that question in both cases is highly centralized: The nine justices of the Supreme Court of the United States decide who decides. They just decided one way in Roe and another way in Dobbs.

And who decides who decides who decides whether person X can or will have an abortion? That is, who made the SCOTUS justices the boss of all that?

The very far, fringe, most "decentralized" answer would be "the few hundred people -- a tiny fraction of one percent of the population of the United States circa 1788 -- who ratified the US Constitution and imposed it on the other three million."

But some people would offer an even more "centralized" answer to the question and say that four people -- John Marshall, William Paterson, Samuel Chase, and Bushrod Washington -- made themselves and their successors the boss of all that, perhaps illicitly, with their ruling in Marbury v. Madison.

But then when we get to the question of who decides who decides who decides who decides whether person X can or will have an abortion, that would re-decentralize things to all of the people who decided to up and have a revolution taking that decision away from George III and resulting eventually in the Constitution, Marbury v. Madison, Roe v. Wade, and Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

And back on down through the episodes of history to when Adam delved and Eve span, etc., centralizing and decentralizing and re-centralizing and re-decentralizing. If you believe in a supernatural creator, I guess that's the ultimate/final centralization, isn't it?

Well, I'm Pretty Sure This is a First ...

I've been cited/quoted in Chinese state media.

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Because I am a "Thin" Libertarian ...

... I don't consider "decentralization" per se to be a necessary component of libertarianism.

I define libertarianism in terms of the non-aggression principle.

It is entirely possible for a system to be both centralized and not in violation of the non-aggression principle. For example, a bank centralizing all the deposits of its (entirely voluntary and agreeing) customers in one vault, rather than decentralizing those deposits around various locations. Either of those approaches might be better or worse than the other in various ways, but neither approach initiates force.

It is entirely possible for a system to be both decentralized and in violation of the non-aggression principle. For example, a network of terror cells with no central commander or hierarchy, each cell operating on its own in, say, firebombing synagogues or assassinating people whose religion they disagree with.

QED, centralization/decentralization are orthogonal to libertarianism "thinly" defined.

Attempting to posit decentralization per se as a necessary component of libertarianism is an attempt to add either an application thickness or a strategic thickness to the definition of libertarianism.

Which is fine, if you're OK with "thick" libertarianism.

I'm fine with many thick libertarians, because I can agree with them that whatever thing they want to add to libertarianism as a thickness is a good thing, without also having to agree that it's part and parcel of libertarianism.

My "thin" preference has to do with liking parsimonious definitions that allow for strict context-keeping. I'm not into an idea of libertarianism that requires or precludes pineapple on pizza, even though I agree that pineapple on pizza is a terrible and disgusting idea. Absent a component of aggression, trying to cram such matters into the definition of libertarianism just muddies the waters.

Housekeeping Note

I am no longer affiliated with Independent Political Report.

In practical terms, I haven't been associated with IPR for some years. They occasionally run my (public domain) Garrison Center columns and KN@PPSTER posts, etc., and are of course welcome to continue doing so. But I am not, and never have been, the person posting those columns to the site.

When I say I am not "affiliated" with IPR, I do not mean to say that I will not continue reading the site, commenting on the site, linking to stories on the site, etc., or that I intend to discourage others from doing so. Quite the opposite.

But after being asked if I'd like to take a larger role in the site under its new ownership/management (I was one of its original writers), and deciding not to for various reasons, I decided I should ask them to take my name off the masthead.

I don't like having incorrect resume items /affiliations hanging out there. If they fuck up, the affiliation reflects poorly on me. If I fuck up, the affiliation reflects poorly on them.

That is all.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Prediction: You Probably Only Vaguely, if at All, Recognize the Name of the 2024 Democratic Presidential Nominee

I don't really have a dog in the 2024 presidential hunt. I've never voted for a Republican and never plan to. I've only voted for a Democrat once (as a callow youth in my first presidential election in 1988 -- Michael Dukakis) and never plan to again. If the Libertarian Party doesn't offer up a satisfactory alternative, I probably just won't vote at all.

But assuming Joe Biden doesn't run again in 2024 (I don't think he will), there's been a lot of talk about whom the Democrats will nominate.

My first prediction is that it will obviously not be vice-president Kamala Harris. Nobody liked her when she ran for the 2020 presidential nomination. Nobody liked her when she ran for VP on the Biden ticket (I suspect she cost him a million votes, minimum). Nobody likes her now. She's a continuous train wreck of undisguised, poorly-implemented opportunism and poor public speaking skills. If she does seek the nomination, her status as sitting VP might -- might -- bring her in a distant and embarrassing second place, but I wouldn't bet on even that.

My second prediction is that the three front-runners and most likely nominees, all unannounced and if they decide they want it, are (in alphabetical order):

  1. Andy Beshear;
  2. Laura Kelly; and
  3. Jared Polis.
They are, respectively, the governors of Kentucky, Kansans, and Colorado.

They're Democratic governors who got elected in red (Kansas and Kentucky) or "purple" (Colorado) states.

They're Democrats who've proven they can compete with Republicans in places where the electorate leans Republican, or at least not strongly Democrat.

Does the name "Jimmy Carter" ring any bells? In 1964, Georgia went for Republican Barry Goldwater. In 1968, it went for George Wallace, but with Republican Richard Nixon in second place and Democrat Hubert Humphrey in third. In 1972, it went for Nixon. But in the middle of all that, Carter got elected governor as a Democrat and went on to the presidency.

How about Bill Clinton? Arkansas also went Wallace/Nixon/Humphrey in 1968, Nixon in 1972, Reagan in 1980 and 1984, and Bush in 1988 ... while electing as governor a Democrat who went on to the presidency.

Most of the states tend to remain aligned with the same party over long periods of time. No matter who the Democrats nominate, they'll carry the states that "always vote Democratic." In the swing states, they need a candidate who can beat Republicans in competitive races.

Of course, there's a caveat here: I'm assuming that the Democratic primary electorate is interested in actually winning the 2024 election. It may be that the party splits badly enough along "progressive" / "moderate" lines that there just won't be any enthusiasm and that there will be the possibility of an outlier candidate with no real shot (like George McGovern) getting the nomination.

But if they want to win, one of the three people I just named in the top slot is likely their best shot at doing so.

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

For My Next Listening Adventure ...

... I've decided to give a chronological listen to everything Jack White has recorded (that I can find -- I know he's done some "vinyl only" releases for e.g. Record Store Week and such, and may have difficulty tracking down online versions).

It looks like I've got four interwoven discographies to work with:

  1. Jack White proper (his solo releases, songs/albums he's guested on, etc.);
  2. The White Stripes;
  3. The Raconteurs; and
  4. The Dead Weather.
My top to bottom ranked order of preference from among those is 2, 3, 1, 4.

But that might change, because I've never listened to his stuff in any organized kind of way before.

Why now? Just the other day, I was discussing music with my brother, with both of us lamenting that the high point of it all was late '60s/early '70s, and me opining that to me, White is the most significant recording artist to come along in the last 25 years or so, precisely because a lot of his stuff captures what was best about that period.

There are newer bands whose music I think is OK, and there are older bands who have recorded stuff during that period that I've liked, but if I was told I was going to a desert island and could take the music of one person or group, and it had to be a person or group whose first album was released in 1997 or later, I can't think of anyone who'd compete with White as my choice. It's not even close. I can't think of any competition at all there.

On an "oh, how great the modern era is" triumphalism note, can you imagine what I'd have had to do to round up a similar quantity of specific musical output in, say, 1982? Going to physical record stores. Special ordering rare stuff or hoping to find it in bins in the back. Visiting friends to listen to or borrow their copies of stuff that was hard to find. Hell, even figuring out what all there was TO find.

I once walked several miles each way to get a new Rush album (Power Windows, 1985) on release day -- a year after I'd happened across a new Rush album (Grace Under Pressure, 1984) that I hadn't known was even out yet at a mall store.

Now, the vast majority of it will be as simple as saying "Alexa, play [insert album or song title] by [insert artist name]."

Speaking of which, I'll need to re-stream It Might Get Loud as part of this little project.

He's playing in St. Augustine in September, but Tamara seems curiously resistant to getting tickets. I gotta work on that. Never have seen him live.

IIRC, It's Five Out of Seven Times This Year

I've been a Cox customer for more than nine years, and I'm pretty sure I've paid my bill online for that entire time. I don't do "autopay" -- I want to see my bill before I pay it, and take the action myself.

So, each month, I get an email: "Your bill is now available to view online." And I click on a link, make sure nothing's hinky, and pay it.

All went swimmingly/smoothly for the first, well, nine years.

But I just received my seventh "Your bill is now available to view online" email of 2022, and I'm pretty sure that it's the fifth time this year that when I click thru, I get something like this:

Why not wait until your site is up to send me an email asking me to visit it and send you money, Cox?

So far, I've remembered every time to keep checking back every few hours (in one case for a couple of days) until they'd let me pay them. But one of these days I might forget and end up being late on a payment for the very first time.

Sunday, July 10, 2022

They Got Me on the Upsell

One of Amazon's "early Prime Day deals" is the 4th Generation Echo Dot for $19.99.

That's a pretty good deal (60% off), but I wasn't really sure I would take it when I clicked through to have a look.

When I did click through to have a look, though, there was a little message that, as a Prime member, I got $10 off. It wasn't obvious whether that was included in the $19.99 price or whether the price was actually going to be $19.99. Oh, and there was an option for the same price, whatever that price might be, for the device and a free smart light bulb.

So I put it in my cart and yes, it was $9.99 total for the device and the bulb. So I bought it.

But then today I got a different offer.

For the last few years, I've had Amazon Music Unlimited (as opposed to plain old Amazon music or Amazon Prime Music) on the "one speaker only" (my bedroom) plan for $4.99 a month.

The offer was a two-month upgrade to the any speaker (but only one at a time) plan for the same price, after which it will be $8.99 a month.

So now everyone else in the house can stream almost any song ever recorded. For the next two months, anyway. I suspect it will be permanent, since about half the time when I hear one of the kids ask Alexa for a particular song, they get the "sorry, that's only available with Unlimited" reply.

But heck, the price savings on the speaker covers about ten months' worth of that price difference, and I'm also getting two months at the lower price before the higher price kicks in. 

Friday, July 08, 2022

Shocking? Not in the Least

USA Today describes it as "shocking" that former prime minister Shinzo Abe was shot "in a country that has some of the strictest gun control laws anywhere."

It's not "shocking" at all to anyone who doesn't superstitiously regard firearms as some kind of magical technology that can be disappeared with equally magical prayers/incantations phrased as legislation.

Per The Daily Beast, Abe was shot "with what looked like a bizarre homemade firearm." A reporter on the scene reported hearing "at least two" shots. A former detective describes the gun as a "box-like device ... wrapped in black tape ... smoke can be seen coming from the muzzle."

If there were multiple shots, it was probably more sophisticated than the single-shot, muzzle-loading firearm that anyone can make (including ammo) from a few dollars' worth of innocuous materials available at the nearest department store. But not necessarily a lot more sophisticated.

Victim disarmament ("gun control") laws only prevent those who are not determined to get/make/have/use a gun from getting, making, having, or using a gun. Anyone who wants to get, make, have, or use a gun can do so and no amount or type of government verbiage will ever change that.

Thursday, July 07, 2022

Well, No ...

... California -- or at least its governing politicians and pluralities/majorities of its voters -- doesn't "believe in freedom."

On the other hand, neither does Florida -- or at least its governing politicians and pluralities/majorities of its voters don't, anyway.

The big difference is that Florida's un-freedom tends to take the form of own-the-libs culture war bullshit that tends to hit conveniently vulnerable minorities of which I'm not necessarily a member, while California's un-freedom tends to be more equally distributed across everyone in the form of confiscatory taxation, stifling regulation, etc.

Florida works better for me. If Californians overthrew their government, though, I can think of several areas of California (general area of San Diego, general area of 29 Palms, general area of Bridgeport would be the top three, not necessarily in that order) I'd rather move to than stay in Florida.

I sure as hell wouldn't want either authoritarian Gavin Newsom or authoritarian Ron DeSantis for president, which seems to be what this ad is really about, though.

I Can't Decide if the Problem is "Scam" or "Japan"

As many of you may remember, a long time ago in a galaxy far away, one of the earliest/biggest crypto exchanges, MtGox, got hacked and went bankrupt.

For the last several years, I've received periodic instructions on how to receive a settlement of some portion of, IIRC, the 2 or 3 Bitcoins I had stored there at the time.

Every time this comes around, it is a "do the hokey pokey" routine with a bunch of complex stuff, like uploading photos of government-issued ID, taking selfies from various angles of myself holding said ID and a piece of paper with "MtGox" and the date on it, etc.

And when you try to comply with these instructions, count on getting site errors at least two or three times with every form submission. Get an "authentication code." Use the "authentication code" to upload the docs/selfies so that you can get a "creditor code." On and on, as difficult and silly as humanly possible.

I don't know if this is just a scam to discourage as many creditors as possible from claiming their settlement, or if it's due to features in Japanese bankruptcy law.

I've received small settlements in several US class action suits, and all I ever had to give them was my name and a claim (sometimes with e.g. a receipt for evidence) that I belonged to the class being settled with.

MtGox had my account, associated with my email address. It shouldn't be too damn difficult to ask me for either 1) a crypto address to send a settlement in BTC to or 2) a mailing address to send a check to.

Wednesday, July 06, 2022

Ghosting, But Happily Not Ghosting You

Well, it's been a few days since my last post, and I was surprised to notice that I've already got eight in the bag (this makes nine) on only the sixth day of the month. So even though it's been a few days, I haven't been ghosting you.

I have, however, been ghosting for others the last week or two. It's election season. While I no longer offer the full-service management bit (thank God, and frankly I was only ever very good at that in local races that I could give my full attention to), and don't bother to advertise, I do still do some writing for the right candidates. You'll know them when you see them.

Sunday, July 03, 2022

I Don't Object to the United States Breaking Up ...

... but I see no compelling reason why such a breakup would have to be along the lines of its 50 component parts, which are each at least as irrationally composed as the whole.

All of this "national divorce" talk seems to be about some or all of those 50 component parts seceding, and probably forming multiple new federations to replace the old single one.

There are people in all of those states with whom I have more in common than I do with the vast majority of people in Florida. Why should I have to move to exercise those things in common?

There's a better way.

Rumors of the GOP's Death are Greatly Exaggerated

Back in 1997, the late and lamented RW Bradford of Liberty magazine edited and published an interesting volume of essays, including some by authors you may have heard of:

 The Last Democrat: Why Bill Clinton Will Be The Last Democrat Americans Elect President

Not an affiliate link, btw.

That instantly came to mind when I saw the headline at the Washington Examiner today:

Liz Cheney warns GOP 'can't survive' if Trump becomes 2024 nominee

All good (and bad) things must come to an end, of course, but chances are that the Republican Party will cease to exist at the same time as, and for the same reason as, the Democratic Party. That reason being the final collapse of United States itself.

The Republicans lost five presidential elections in a row once (1932, 1936, 1940, 1944, and 1948) without dying off.

They also they went from 1955 to 1994 without ever controlling the US House of Representatives, and from 1955 to 1979 without ever controlling the Senate, without dying off.

One reason for that is that neither the Democrats nor Republicans are really parties.

We've lived in a de facto one-party state since the late 19th century when the government seized control of voting with "ballot access" laws so as to effectually exclude any would-be competitors to the two then-dominant parties.

Since then, the two "parties" have converged into one actual party of two factions. Both jealously guard the single party's prerogatives while going through occasional cycles of re-balancing their comparative power while divvying up the spoils.

The fiction that the US is a multi-party democracy rather than a single-party regime is a useful fiction, so the two factions of the single party will maintain that fiction. But it's still a fiction.

Saturday, July 02, 2022

Garden 2.0 is in Motion ...

... because so many different sources offer so many different planting times under so many different conditions that it's pretty much just guess work.

For example, one source tells me (for my area) to have started bell pepper seeds indoors by June 11th, for transplant outdoors by August 6 ... and "N/A" next to "start seeds outdoors by ..." Similar information for tomatoes, etc.

Two things:

1) I've given up on starting seeds in cells, let alone indoors, because I've just not had a lot of good luck with that; and

2) While I may not plant all crops on the same day, I'm not going to hop around planting each crop on a different day, over the course of weeks. Everything's going in over the course of a week or two, although in two separate swoops.

That may produce worse results, but while I'm trying to put gardening just a little bit higher on my priority list, I'm not going to be putting it anywhere near "full-time job and constant worry."

Making sure I have fertile soil, putting the stuff in the ground, feeding it, watering it, weeding it, and harvesting it is pretty much my limit.

So, this morning (at pretty high density -- a 4x4 plot) I planted four cucumber, seven zucchini, ten tomato, about 20 radish, and 15 bell pepper seeds. The squash and cucumber have some metal framing to climb, and the tomatoes are in those round metal "cages."

Some time in the next few days, I'll do another 4x4 space with, likely, an onion set (still have to go buy some), some kind of lettuce or spinach, and maybe peas with more climbing structures.

The guide I'm going by says corn goes in the ground by August 16 and cauliflower is to be planted inside by August 13 and outside by September 10, so I plan to put them, and tobacco, in the ground in early August, and use whatever room I happen to have left for potatoes, cantaloupe, and maybe more zucchini. Between now and then I'll be getting the space for that stuff weed-free and tilling some compost into it (I still have corn that may or may not be producing edible ears to harvest from part of that space).

Hopefully that means a reasonably bountiful harvest circa October. I'll try to remember to take and post pictures when there's something more than bare dirt to take pictures of.

Garden 1.0 produced some stuff that got eaten. Not as much as I'd have preferred -- a lot got grown, picked, and went to waste -- but that just gives me more information on what to bother planting (and how much -- we had enough cucumbers to open a pickle factory) and what not to.

I'm Shocked -- Shocked!

That a formerly promising institution which memory-holed all of one of its co-founders' writings would eventually descend to the level of public Maoist self-criticism sessions.

That's the sarcastic version of shocked -- shocked.

The non-sarcastic version is real shock that a few otherwise quite worthwhile writers still willingly associate their good names with that raging dumpster fire.

Slippery Slopery vs. Easy Availability

Over time, I've tended to resist "slippery slope" arguments as applied to policy, and abortion was one of the obvious candidates for that rejection.

"If abortion is outlawed, or even regulated, women will have to report their menstrual cycles to the government and police will be rummaging through garbage to find the tampons to prove/disprove the reports" never struck me as obvious or inevitable, because we have historical examples of things running both ways.

In the US, prior to Roe v. Wade, I've never seen claims that there was any kind of universal "pre-crime" investigatory regime. The closest things I've seen are claims that Border Patrol would question young women crossing into Mexico on the possibility that they were going abroad to procure abortions. Other than that, it was more a matter of acting on reports ("I think my neighbor is running an abortion clinic out of his house").

On the other hand, the communist Ceausescu dictatorship in Romania does seem to have resembled that surveillance state prediction.

And I think there's good reason to believe that what's coming here and now in the US is closer to the Romanian experience than the pre-Roe US experience.

I have two reasons for thinking that.

One is that modern American "conservatism" has evolved over the last 30 years or so into something closely resembling East German communism, with Jesus rather than Honecker as General Secretary of the Party.

The median age in the US is about 38, which means most Americans weren't even born when Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush ran against each other in the 1980 Republican presidential primary in part on which was the more "open borders" (in those exact words) candidate.

That majority was also either not alive, or not of voting or typical "political awareness" age, during the period when "conservatives" were fairly united against the notion of a "national ID" to control internal travel and employment.

These days, "conservatives" largely support East-German-style border walls, Soviet-style internal passports ("REALID compliant" state-issued identification to travel by plane -- with bus and train in the works -- between states), universal "E-Verify" checks before you're allowed to work for a living, etc.

The intent to build a king-hell panopticon surveillance state is definitely there, where it doesn't seem to have been pre-Roe.

The other reason is that the means is increasingly there, as we've learned from e.g. Edward Snowden's disclosures of government eavesdropping, data mining, etc.

A few years ago there was quite a bit of talk about Google's advertising algorithm being able to figure out that women were pregnant before the women themselves knew -- the woman would start seeing advertisements for disposable diapers, car seats, etc. before she ever peed on a stick and saw a plus sign. If governments really want to enforce abortion bans, is there any real doubt that they'll seek access to such algorithms, or develop similar ones?

The slippery slope does seem to exist, and we seem to be more than halfway down it.

On the flip side, though, access to reasonably safe abortion, legal or not, is probably far closer to universal now than it was pre-Roe and will probably stay that way. In many cases, it's as simple as a pill, and government has proven itself incapable of suppressing traffic in pills for more than a century. Even "surgical" abortion is probably something that pretty much anyone can procure the basic equipment for (no more coathangers) and, I suspect, learn how to perform online. Maybe not as safe as with an MD at a clinic, but far safer than the kitchen table scene in If These Walls Could Talk. And there are ways to avoid all but the most specifically targeted government surveillance of one's browsing and purchasing and communications histories.

As Harry Browne pointed out a quarter of a century ago concerning government "wars" on domestic "problems," if government declares war on abortion it won't be long before men are having them. But, as with the war on drugs, the prisons will probably also be full of people accused of involvement in abortion, even as it remains available to anyone who wants it.

Which sounds like the worst of all possible worlds to me.

But to today's neo-Stalinist "conservatives," it probably sounds like utopia.

Friday, July 01, 2022

Here's How to Either Resurrect the JCPOA or Put it to Bed with Finality

It's pretty much a constant theme in's news section -- the Iranians are ready and willing to enter into a new "nuclear deal" to replace the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, but the US (which is in continuing violation of the existing deal) keeps backing, filling, hemming, hawing, etc.

Let's rehearse the steps that led to the JCPOA in the first place:

US: We want a deal. Here are our demands.

Iranians: OK, cool, let's do this!

US: Well, in that case, no, we have further demands.

Iranians: Sounds good, let's do this!

US: Wait there's more!

Lather, rinse, repeat for more than a decade until Barack Obama needed a foreign policy accomplishment and finally did the JCPOA with Iran (and China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and Germany).

After which it failed to fulfill its obligations under the deal until Donald Trump pretended to "withdraw" from the deal (he didn't actually "withdraw" from it because he couldn't -- it's a UN Security Council resolution and therefore binding on all UN member states -- he just announced the US would continue to be in intentional violation of it).

All of this, lest we forget, despite a lack of any substantial evidence that the Iranians had any desire to develop nuclear weapons, and despite that fact that the Iranians were perpetually in compliance with their obligations under the already existing Non-Proliferation Treaty.

So, here we are: The US is in continuing violation of the deal,  the European signatories kowtow to the US sanctions while telling Iran it's not their fault, and the Iranians have progressively gone into violation of the deal because why should they keep a deal that nobody else is keeping?

Here's what the Iranians should do:

  • Approach all the non-US state parties to the JCPOA with an offer to come back into immediate complete compliance if
  • Those other state parties immediately return to compliance with the deal (including any sanctions relief they're withholding under US pressure), and
  • Those other state parties agree to sanction the US in the same way and to the same degree that the US is sanctioning Iran if, within 90 days, the US remains in non-compliance.
If those other state parties agree and hold up their end of the deal, the US either extracts cranium from rectum and does what it committed to do, or the US gets all the sanctions it's levied on Iran levied on it.

If those other parties decline the deal or don't hold up their end of it, they can no longer just shrug their shoulders and blame the US when the Iranians walk.

Off The Hook

For the last couple of weeks, I've mostly kept my "smart phone" -- a Samsung S6 -- turned completely off. It started doing things like freezing up and heating up. The latter makes me think there are battery issues involved.

It so happens that I got the phone (and the service) eight years ago as part of ... well, a benefits package, I guess ... from a place I do some work for. In theory this was so they could get in touch with me ASAP, so I could use it as a "hot spot" if I was away from home and needed to get in to do the work, etc. In actuality, I consider it just a nice thing they did for me, since there's not been a WHOLE lot of work calling or hot-spotting involved.

So anyway, when I let them know that the old phone was going, they cheerfully agreed to get me a new one. There was some talk about what I needed, to which my answer was "pretty much any  reasonably modern Android phone will do." Until the hardware started screwing up, it was still plenty of phone for me even after nearly a decade. I don't run a whole bunch of wild apps or anything. I talk, text, message, run crypto wallets, etc. Heck, I don't think I even have any games still installed, and when I did they were "casual" apps that weren't too resource intensive.

One question I got asked was, did I want a phone with a physical home button? And yes, I prefer that. Tamara has a Motorola Moto, and any time she hands it to me and asks me to do something, I find it confusing because it's ALL touchscreen stuff. But times are moving on, and if I have to learn to do things the new way, I will.

Anyway, they found me a phone with a home button.

And, if it's the phone I think it is, 4Gb of RAM instead of 3Gb.

And 64Gb of internal storage instead of 32Gb.

And a slightly faster CPU.

None of which is surprising since my phone is so old, but like I said, the old phone was plenty of phone for me even now, so I figure this one should be good for at least another eight years.

Also its case is pretty much an Otterbox, so I don't have to buy one. I got my first Otterbox on sale for something like seven bucks, probably because it's pink (I consider that a feature, not a bug -- makes my phone more easily identifiable) and for an older phone, but they're normally much more expensive. Not that I drop my phone a lot. I bought the Otterbox after the first and only time that I laid my bicycle down and the phone went flying, years ago. I seem to be the only person in the house whose screen doesn't crack when I look at a phone sideways.

I think (based on trying to remember the conversation, and on a web page listing available phones under my benefactors' group plan) that the phone we're talking about here is the Sonim XP8. It seems to be designed for -- or at least marketed toward -- military, "first responder," and outdoor utility worker types. Not just the rugged casing, but a speaker that will hit 100 decibels, a "SecureAudio" connector that you can get a "push to talk" handset for, etc.

So that's on the way, and then I'll be connected 24/7 by phone again. Which may be a bug rather than a feature.