Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Dog Bites Man: Yes, Ron DeSantis is Still a Careerist Authoritarian Swamp Creature

And he almost never passes up an opportunity to prove it.

This time, he's penalizing business owners who decline to be conscripted as unpaid agents of the unconstitutional federal police/surveillance state. Why? Presumably to own the libs in yet another way that appeals to his authoritarian base so maybe he can keep on collecting a salary from the taxpayers who have supported his lazy, entitled, snowflake ass for pretty much all of his adult life.

Computer Update ...

I've been using the ATOPNUC Mini PC as my "daily driver" computer for nearly a month now.

My verdict on it is becoming less and less provisional: It's just a damn good deal at about $100 from Amazon (not an affiliate link).

My original goal was "get and use a Chromebox with 8Gb of RAM, without spending $400+."

I never got there, and I've mostly given up messing with it. I did install FydeOS to a bootable USB drive, but I've barely used it, as I'm suspicious of the whole idea of a non-Google-"managed" ChromeOS fork, especially one that's "managed" from China. I may try some other things later, especially when and if ChromeOS Flex becomes available for the ATOPNUC's processor, but no biggie.

I ended up going with Lubuntu with the LXQt desktop environment versus regular Ubuntu with, I think, Gnome, which came preinstalled on the machine (that's still installed -- I went dual-boot, defaulting to Lubuntu). The main difference is that I had trouble getting regular Ubuntu to configure my desktop the way I like, while LXQt was an easy configuration. In theory, Lubuntu is lighter on resources than Ubuntu. I can't say I've really noticed a difference there in terms of speed, power consumption, etc. I just like it better.

The machine boots up fast, runs well, etc. It cost $50 less than my previous machine, a Raspberry Pi 4B with 8Gb of RAM but with an ARM processor instead of the ATOPNUC's AMD CPU (the latter meaning I can run "real" Chrome instead of Chromium as my browser, with the attendant sync capabilities, DRM handling so I can stream Netflix or whatever, etc.).

I've really had zero significant problems with the machine that I can recall, other than the initial problems caused by auditioning multiple OSes and trying to get boot orders, etc. right. The only ongoing problem I can think of is that the OS occasionally forgets my audio settings. Not on every boot, just every once in a while. When it happens, it takes about two seconds to fix from the volume/mixer control in the always-present bottom task bar. 

Side note:

I've auditioned I don't know how many password managers to replace LastPass, which I no longer trust. I can't recall how many, but I found Dashlane meh/OK and Zoho Vault unsatisfactory for various reasons. Right now I'm on Nordpass. Their "free" plan is plenty for me, the only feature I dislike is having to have an app installed on the machine rather than merely using a Chrome extension, and the only problem I've had with it is that sometimes the Chrome extension doesn't want to load (but since the app is "always on" in my taskbar, I can just grab a password from there if I need to). I may try some others out later.

So, the verdict re-stated: You're not likely to get a better computer than the ATOPNUC for the price. It's not a high-end gaming PC, but it will run Windows 10 (I'm not sure about 11) or any of many Linux variants, and can handle my (and probably your) usual activities such as browsing the Web, watching videos, editing text, etc. It's quiet, it uses very little electricity (almost always less than 20 watts and sometimes less than 10), it's compact, and according to psensor the CPU remains relatively cool even under load, so I figure it will likely last some time.

The only "down side" I can see, and only for some users, is that its built-in SSD "only" stores 128Gb. So if you store a lot of data, you may want to consider an external USB drive, or a replacement internal one, or a cloud storage solution. Personally, I store very little data, and I've got my essentials on an SD card for portability, so this doesn't bother me.

Wordle 591 Hint

 Hint: If you're not already on the sunny side of the street, do this.

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First Letter: C

Monday, January 30, 2023

Why I'm Not Blogging Much About Politics at the Moment

TL;DR: It's just boring to me lately.

Longer version:

At the moment, it's really all I can do to put together each day's RRND and pump out three columns a week at the Garrison Center. And the occasional nasty tweet about some tax parasite or whatever.

I could blame all that on my personal life -- death in the family, health concerns of my own, etc. -- but that's just part of it. I go through periods of "burnout" where nothing political really seems especially exciting -- and when I'm in one of those periods it's a struggle to put an interesting spin on the news.

I try not to be boring, and at the moment any blog posts on politics probably would be boring.

I'm sure something will spark my interest, or at least my outrage, soon. Until then, I guess it's Wordle hints and sportsball. Sorry about that.

Super Bowl Pick

I went 50/50 for the conference championship round -- I had the 49ers picked to beat the Eagles and they took a drubbing instead, but the Chiefs did finally beat the Bengals (after losing three in a row, including last season's AFC championship, to them).

More on all that below, but first my Super Bowl pick:

Kansas City Chiefs beat Philadelphia Eagles -- 100%

While I picked half the games correctly this weekend, I lost 100 points in the FiveThirtyEight NFL Forecasting Game because I gave each of my picks 100% chance of winning. So I gained 50 points on the Chiefs win but lost 150 points on the Eagles win. That leaves me with a season total of 327.2 points, in the top 23% of players.

Why did the Eagles beat the 49ers? Well, let's be honest: It was kind of a coin toss anyway. Both teams are great teams.

But third-string 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy -- who won his first five NFL games and took the 49ers two games deep into the playoffs -- got his elbow injured early in the game.

Then their fourth-string quarterback, Josh Johnson, took a nasty hit that immediately put him off the field and into concussion protocol. After briefly flirting with using running back Christian McCaffrey as their fifth-string quarterback, they put Purdy back in (for one thing, McCaffrey is their principal non-quarterback weapon), but damn ... with those handicaps, it's a miracle that the final score was "only" 31-7. And it really should have been 24-7. The Eagles were given the ball by terrible officiating and a complete bullshit roughing the kicker call on San Francisco.

Speaking of bad officiating, referees took a touchdown away from the Chiefs on a bad call that got challenged and affirmed despite being obviously and indisputably incorrect, then decided to treat an incomplete Patrick Mahomes pass as a fumble, giving the ball to the Bengals. That put the Chiefs in the position of having to win with a last-minute field goal (which is how the Chiefs/Bengals games generally seem to go regardless of who wins).

If they hadn't been robbed of that touchdown and settled for a field goal, they'd have ceteris paribus been up by four points before that field goal, and who knows what might have happened if the refs hadn't faked a fumble as well? And that field goal would have been an iffy thing if not for an unnecessary roughness foul by the Bengals on the last Chiefs drive, which got them 15 yards closer.

Which is not to say that the Bengals played poorly. They played an excellent game. It may have been the venue -- Arrowhead stadium, where crowd noise accounted for at least one delay of game penalty when the Bengals couldn't hear the play call -- that made the difference.

I don't know if I will bother playing this forecasting game, or following NFL football, next year. I'm undecided. One major factor in my football enthusiasm has been that my brother, Mike, was all about football, and following it closely gave me many opportunities to get on the phone and shoot the shit with him. As I've mentioned here, he died a week ago last Wednesday. I've continued watching because he was a king-hell Chiefs fan and I'd like to see a new set of Chiefs Super Bowl rings as part of, in my mind, his memorial. I guess we'll see.

Wordle 590 Hint

 Hint: Trying to solve today's Wordle? You gotta really, really want it!

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First Letter: C

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Wordle 589 Hint

 Hint: Today's Wordle makes me suspicious in a smelly way.

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First Letter: F 

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Wordle 588 Hint

 Hint: If you want to catch today's Wordle, let it know you like it -- but do so in a coquettish manner.

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First Letter: F

Friday, January 27, 2023

Wordle 587 Hint

 Hint: Don't do this. Instead, be happy.

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First Letter: W

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Week 21 NFL Picks

Well, it's down to four teams and two conference championships.

Last week there were four games (the divisional round of the post-season). I picked all four correctly for 200 points, for a to-date score of 427.2 points, putting me in the top 20% of players in the FiveThirtyEight NFL Forecasting Game.

FiveThirtyEight's model has outperformed me for the season in a big way (it has 1003.2 total points), but the model blew the Bengals/Bills game for a loss of 32 points and gave the winners it picked lower odds than me (I went 100% on every game) and only racked up 70.4 points for the week.

So, this week's picks:

AFC Championship: Kansas City Chiefs beat Cincinnati Bengals -- 100%
NFC Championship: San Francisco 49ers beat Philadelphia Eagles -- 100%*

The asterisk indicates that FiveThirtyEight's model disagrees with me -- it gives the Eagles a 59% chance of winning. And while we agree on the Chiefs/Bengals games, the model only gives KC a 58% chance.

I'm going 100% to either move up in the rankings or go out in a blaze of glory.

I agree that the Eagles are the obvious choice in the NFC championship, but I kinda believe the stars have aligned for rookie third-string quarterback Brock Purdy. The 49ers have one 12 straight games. Purdy has won all five NFL games he's played in ... ever. And the 49ers are a strong team all around, with a fantastic defense and getting even stronger on offense  with the acquisition of running back Christian McCaffrey from the Carolina Panthers in October (he's on the injured list, game status "unspecified," as are some others, but the Eagles' injury list is even bigger and includes several defensive ends). This pick is all feelz, but the feelz are strong.

OMG. Chiefs vs. Bengals. Again.

And four key KC players -- quarterback Patrick Mahomes, running back Jerick McKinnon with ankle sprains, outside linebacker Willie Gay Jr. with a toe injury, and wide receiver Mecole Hardman with a pelvis injury -- are on the injured list, all "unspecified" as to game status.

No matter how bad that ankle is, Mahomes will play if Andy Reid lets him play ... and Andy Reid will let him play. If his movement is limited, he'll likely be leaning harder than usual on running back Isiah Pacheco to move the ball on the ground, and tight end Travis Kelse to take short passes instead of spending time limping around going for the long bombs. Which, if that is clicking, will result in longer, more time-consuming drives and less time with Bengals QB Joe Burrow in possession of the ball on offense.

The Bengals have a longer injury list, but they're still formidable opponents and they seem to have the Chiefs' number, beating them three times in a row, this year (including last season's conference championship).

At least the Chiefs have home field advantage. Arrowhead Stadium may not quite be a twelfth player on the field, but it's a huge supportive crowd that's been known to trigger false starts by opponents with well-timed fan loudness (it's the loudest stadium in the NFL).

But this call is still a matter of feelz ... and faith. When it comes to football, the Chiefs are my religion.

I guess we'll see how it goes, right?

Wordle 586 Hint

Hint: Today's Wordle is delicious, but it doesn't taste like chicken.

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First Letter: B

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Wordle 585 Hint

Hint: I'm not an especially sentimental guy, but today's Wordle felt really corny.

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First Letter: M

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

The Rest is Just Details

On my reading of current (and historical) debate, lots of people seem to want to make Christianity complex and difficult. And, for reasons I won't go into here, I read a lot of that debate. One of those I read on a fairly regular basis is Rod Dreher, who has lots of interesting opinions on what constitutes "traditional" and "orthodox" Christianity, especially with respect to congregations and denominations. Like this one, for example:

Scripture is so clear and strong on the question of homosexuality that I could not stay in a denomination that treated the question of same-sex marriage as a matter of local opinion. Whether you are pro-SSM or anti-SSM, it is a very big deal, for what the practice says about the authority of Scripture and the Bible's teaching about what sex is, what marriage and married love is for, and indeed what it means to be a man or a woman created in God's image. It's such a big issue that I simply cannot see Christians agreeing to disagree within the same communion, as if something so central to Christian life was ancillary to the real work of the Church.

I don't claim to be a deeply educated theologian, nor am I an expert on the internal dynamics of churches. And my perception of the religion that Jesus taught (versus the Pauline heresy) is that it's what we today call "Judaism." But when I come across stuff like this, my tendency is to default to two passages from scripture.

The first is Luke 10:25-28:
25 And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?

26 He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?

27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.

28 And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.

The second is Matthew 18:20:

18 Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

19 Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.

20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

If a congregation or denomination can agree, for whatever reason, that it's OK to eat shellfish, or plant mixed crops in the same field, or worship on the day of the Roman sun god rather than on the sabbath, or bond romantically/sexually/maritally within the same sex rather than opposite sexes, especially in light of that first passage, the only hangups I can see there are either Jewish or Pauline (aka pagan), rather than "Christian," in nature.

Wordle 584 Hint

Hint: Dracula was one of these, and Five made a band.

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First Letter: C

Monday, January 23, 2023

Wordle 583 Hint

Hint: If you're not careful, today's Wordle may slip your pursuit.

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First Letter: E

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Wordle 582 Hint

Hint: Wordle must be running low on words to resort to this cutesy Britishism for "friend."

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First Letter: M

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Wordle 581 Hint

Hint: Once you've solved today's Wordle, you should promote my daily Wordle hints to your friends with a short, punchy description.

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First Letter: B

Friday, January 20, 2023

Wordle 580 Hint

Hint: Today's Wordle might change your life, or at least strongly affect your ego.

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First Letter: A

Thursday, January 19, 2023

I Consider Myself Pretty Thick-Skinned, So If I'm Annoyed I Can Only Guess How This Affects More Sensitive People

Overnight, my brother died. The cause: A massive brain bleed. After mentioning a headache, he collapsed and never regained consciousness.

So, of course, a non-trivial portion of comments on my mentioning this (on Facebook) run along the lines of:

"Was it the jab? Could it have been the jab? I bet it was the jab. He shouldn't have got the jab."

TL;DR: It almost certainly wasn't the jab -- and seriously, what the fuck, people? Can't you let someone mention that his or her loved one just died without having to work your own pet hypotheses into it? Condolences are appreciated. Silence is acceptable.

The longer version:

In the 1990s, my brother collapsed with a brain aneurysm, from which he fully recovered (enough to graduate the police academy where he collapsed).

A few years ago, while looking at/for something else, doctors discovered six aortic aneurysms.

He obviously had some kind of predisposition to that kind of thing, and if I'd had to place a bet on his manner of death, it would have been that.

Due to injuries sustained in the Marine Corps, he had difficulty walking, and was overweight.

While he was nominally cooperative with doctors on medications, procedures, etc., he ate what he damn well pleased and did the things he damn well enjoyed and was capable of doing.

My understanding is that while yes, he was vaccinated for COVID-19, it was early on in the first wave of eligibility (disabled veteran) and he didn't bother with the boosters. So it's basically been two years since he had "the shot."

He and I discussed death numerous times over the last few years as our parents and older brother died. His attitude was that he was in no hurry for it, but also not especially worried about its inevitability; he just hoped it would be reasonably quick and mostly painless. That seems to be how it went. We pays our money and we takes our chances.

I'm not interested in agonizing over whether "the shot" might conceivably have had something to do with it. If you are, for fuck's sake do so with someone else.

There's No Easy Way to Say These Things

Last night, my brother Mike collapsed and was rushed to the hospital with what turned out to be a massive brain bleed.

A couple of hours ago, I spoke with a doctor who informed me he was not expected to survive.

A few minutes ago, I spoke with his wife, Pam, who was preparing to say goodbye before they removed the breathing tube.

When I was a child, he was my biggest hero.

That's never changed.

Wordle 579 Hint

Hint: I can't believe they chose such a filthy Wordle.

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First Letter: M

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Wordle 578 Hint

Hint: Like kale or spinach, but "Swiss."

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First Letter: C

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Week 20 NFL Picks

In Week 19 -- "Wildcard Week" -- I picked five of six games correctly (no matter what I expect them to do, it seems like the Vikings always f*ck me), for a net gain of 100 points in the FiveThirtyEight NFL Forecasting Game. I'm currently in the top 26% of players.

Week 20 is the "Divisional Round," and once again I'm going big with all "100% to win/lose, go big or go out in a blaze of glory" picks:

Kansas City Chiefs beat Jacksonville Jaguars -- 100%
Philadelphia Eagles beat New York Giants -- 100%
Cincinnati Bengals beat Buffalo Bills -- 100%*
San Francisco 49ers beat Dallas Cowboys -- 100%

I agree with the FiveThirtyEight model (on outcome, not percentage) on all of those games except the Bengals/Bills matchup.

Of course, I always bet 100% Chiefs, but even if that wasn't the case I'd pick them to beat the Jaguars. The Jags are my second most liked team this year. I've really enjoyed watching them completely turn things around in one season. They are building a formidable franchise. But they're going up against Pat Mahomes, at Andy Reid's house. And the Chiefs had a bye week and will be tanned, rested, and ready. No shame -- the Jags are just out-classed ... for the moment.

The Eagles/Giants game and the 49ers/Cowboys game are similar to each other: Reliable winners who grind out victories on a regular basis, versus teams who've had the moxie to make it into the post-season and past the wildcard round, but who ... well, don't always really show up. This is the big show. You can't half-ass it and expect to beat the Eagles or the 49ers.

Which leaves the Bengals versus the Bills. Most of the experts seem to have the Bills winning this one. Why don't I?

The Bills have home-field advantage, but have been playing better on the road than at home.

The Bills should have had an easy time against the Miami Dolphins -- who were playing their third-string quarterback -- this weekend, but ended up barely pulling the thing off.

And say what you want about the Bills' morale bounce-back after Damar Hamlin went down in cardiac arrest on the field ... the Bengals are the team who did that to them, while already up in the game, and now they're coming to Buffalo. Yes, it was just one of those crazy one-in-a-million accidents, but it happened and I think it will have at least some effect on Buffalo's team morale/confidence/energy.

This is my head, not my heart, talking. Frankly, I'd rather the Chiefs faced the Bills than the Bengals in the AFC championship game. But I think the Bengals will pull this one off.

Of course, I could change my mind. And if I do, I will do so before kickoff, and explain in an update to this post.

Wordle 577 Hint

Hint: People might do this with a child, a pet, or a resolution.

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First Letter: A

Monday, January 16, 2023

Garden, Version [I Forgot What Number I Was On]

I guess I'm going to give up versioning my attempts at gardening.

The last version was not a complete failure: I successfully harvested radishes, carrots, and corn.

The corn, frankly, wasn't very good. I don't know if it's the variety I chose (can't remember -- it was a white sweet corn from a variety pack of seeds I purchased), the soil characteristics, or what. I grilled it, and the family consensus was ... meh. That's my third attempt at corn and, I think, my last.

The carrots were good, and a few of them got used in various things. I may come back to those.

Ditto the radishes. Tamara uses them in her salads. Although anything more than a handful is really more than she wants.

I failed to sufficiently protect the peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant from our first freeze and they were lost.

The zucchini got eaten. Just not by us. Every time I'd see a squash starting to develop, within a day or two I'd come out one morning and see it gone, with a nice precise bite right where it had been joined to the plant. So I guess the rabbits or whatever enjoy zucchini. No biggie.

The next garden -- going in around the 1st of February -- will likely consist of one raised bed with:

  1. red potatoes; and
  2. yellow onions
I've already purchased seed taters and onion bulbs.

Potatoes and onions are things we use. A lot.

And they're pretty forgiving as to harvest times, so I don't have to dig/pull everything all at once and store it. In fact, I'm looking forward to "graveling" some new potatoes at first and harvesting more mature ones latter. Some fried taters with onions are ... well, a meal! And both can be used in other dishes, or the occasional "how about a bowl of hot, fresh potato chips?" kind of thing.

Also, they're just not a whole lot of trouble. I won't say I'm tired of messing around with a garden, but this will feel like a bit of a break.

To put it a different way, I'm transitioning from "how much of our food could I grow?" to "what could I grow that would make a nice occasional addition to, or substitute for, stuff we buy on a 'just in time' basis right before preparing it?"

Wordle 576 Hint

Hint: These days, if this word is used at all, it usually refers to a woman's dress. But in older days it was used to describe other loose garments as well.

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First Letter: F

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Wordle 575 Hint

Hint: Depending on what prefix you stick in front of it, today's word might involve 1) breaking a sweat while 2) seeking to 3) motivate someone else.

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First Letter: S

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Wordle 574 Hint

Hint: What? You thought you saw a bear? You didn't see a bear. You're in Australia, mate. We don't have bears here!

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First Letter: K

Friday, January 13, 2023

Follow-Up on My Impending Demise

As I initially noted, "OK, it might not be that bad."

Had my followup with my primary care physician this morning.

TL;DR: It's probably not that bad.

Longer version:

She wasn't nearly as concerned with the liver part as I was (liver labs are normal, and I had an ultrasound/exam just four years ago that turned up no big problems). I'll be following up on that after at least the initial round of dealing with the lungs.

As for the lungs, in 30-odd years of practicing medicine, mine is the first case of Langerhans cell histiocytosis she's ever seen, and I've got a referral to a lung guy, but she considered cancer a future, not present, worry. And the good news on the histiocytosis is that it sometimes reverses itself when the patient stops smoking. Which I'm preparing to do. Again.

So, I may be with y'all for a little while longer.

It Does Rattle My Cage a Little, But Austrian Economics Saves the Day IMO

So, suppose AI soon becomes capable of writing all the things, as Michael Munger ponders at Reason and I riff on at the Garrison Center.

Maybe I have to seek other work.

Or maybe the "text singularity" is accompanied shortly thereafter by all kinds of "post-scarcity" developments that fix me up with, essentially, a "universal basic income" where my material needs (and everyone else's) are seen to by benevolent AI masters and I can just sit around all day munching on free chocolate-covered pork rinds and watching (AI-generated, of course) music videos and (deepfake) porn.

Or maybe there's a third possibility.

Value is thus nothing inherent in goods, no property of them, nor an independent thing existing by itself. It is a judgment economizing men make about the importance of the goods at their disposal for the maintenance of their lives and well-being. Hence value does not exist outside the consciousness of men.

Value subjectivism suggests that at least some people may judge the "human touch" versus AI output as important to "the maintenance of their lives and well-being," at least as regards maximizing their interest and happiness.

Actual experience supports the theory.

How many people prefer hearing humans (especially live, but also recorded) perform music to simply plugging some sheet music into a synthesizer and listening to the output? I suspect that the quality and abilities of that synthesizer are only marginally relevant to the preference.

How many people go out of their way to buy -- and pay more for -- bespoke "hand-made" products instead of mass-produced versions that, even if not necessarily superior, are standardized such that one is less likely to get a "lemon?"

This is actually not my first "human vs. algorithm" job situation.

Over the last couple of decades, news web sites and email newsletters have become increasingly automated. A script searches the web for certain topics, finds material on those topics, and shows that content to readers with little if any intervention. If I had to guess, I'd guess that that's 90% of market share (see e.g. Google News, Bing News, et al.).

Rational Review News Digest, on the other hand, consists entirely of human-selected, human-curated, human-formatted material. That's something I don't usually belabor, but whenever I've mentioned it I've received a reader note or three saying that that's one of the things people really like about it.

So even if ChatGPT and friends are able to write Tom Knapp stuff faster and better than Tom Knapp can (a recent test says "not yet, anyway"), Tom Knapp will probably just keep writing Tom Knapp stuff himself and emphasize the "hand-made, not automated" aspect. Maybe readers and supporters will prefer that. Maybe not. But the latter is not the obvious foreordained outcome.

Wordle 573 Hint

 Hint: Trouble with today's Wordle? Don't let it get you down -- after all, you're only this.

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First Letter: H

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Wordle 572 Hint

 Hint: You can probably remember at least one instance in which you wish you'd have looked before you did this.

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First Letter: L

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

An Unintended but Welcome Consequence of Purchasing the ATOPNUC Mini PC

The OS auditions continue apace. I'm reasonably happy with Lubuntu, but burned FydeOS to a USB and may give it something of a try. It's a ChromiumOS variant that raises my security/surveillance hackles a bit because it's a Chinese product aimed at a Chinese audience, though. And I'm still looking at other stuff.

But the big -- OK, actually quite small -- news is that the ATOPNUC Mini PC solves an annoying problem that I didn't expect it to have any impact at all upon.

My work involves a number of specific text files / templates that are updated daily (in the case of RRND) or at least frequently (in the case of media lists for Garrison Center op-ed submissions). And since my preferred text editor doesn't work with e.g. Google Drive, I store those files locally.

Which means that any time I switch computers, I have to do one of three things:

  • Email the files to myself so that I can download the latest versions to the computer I'm switching to;
  • Upload the files to Google Drive or whatever and download them to the computer I'm switching to; or
  • Copy the files to a USB drive and plug it into the computer I'm switching to.
None of which are major tasks, but I do find them annoying.


The ATOPNUC has a micro SD card read slot.

And so does my Chromebook, the main other computer I use (e.g. when I travel, or just want to work outside instead of at my desk.

Once I decided the changeover from the Raspberry Pi 4B would be permanent, I had two micro SD cards, each with an OS for that machine on it.

One of those cards, I wiped, burned a clean install of Raspbian OS onto, and stuck in the 4B so that when and if I ever go back to it for anything I'm ready to rumble.

The other one, I formatted, stuck in the ATOPNUC's card slot, and now store those files on.

When I switch computers, all I have to do is pop the card out of one machine and into the other and I'm doing my thing.

Which I suppose I could have done with a USB drive this whole time, but I hate having an ugly USB drive hanging out of my computer, and also if I'm traveling I can lose the USB drive in my luggage or whatever, while the SD card just sits snug as a bug in a rug inside the computer.

So that's a nice little daily work win IMHO.

An Area Where I Hate to Make Sound Suggestions

I don't support allowing government to keep secrets. Period. If I had it my way (short of abolishing the state, which I'd prefer), all government documents would, by law, posted to publicly searchable databases, and all government employees would be required to perform all job tasks on publicly viewable web cams.

That said, we now have two situations in which a former president or vice-president has turned out to have kept classified documents after his term in office has expired.

Yes, there are some seeming material differences in the situations. Former president Donald Trump (and.or his employees) kept documents, promised to return them and didn't after being notified, hemmed, hawed, obfuscated, lied, and made excuses, while former vice-president Joe Biden (and/or his employees) apparently didn't realize he had kept the documents and immediately turned them over when he discovered he had.


It seems to me that if we're going to let the government keep secrets and if the president and vice-president are going to be allowed to look at those secrets, Congress should prescribe specific handling regulations vis a vis those two positions.

Such as:

If a president or vice-president wants or needs to see a classified document, that document will be walked over to his or her office by a government employee personally charged with custody of that document, and walked back to its vault of whatever immediately afterward.

No "I'm just gonna keep this overnight."

No "stick it in that file cabinet, I'll look at it later."

Not even any "go get some coffee, I'll be done in 15 minutes."

The document never leaves the custodian's sight (maybe it's even in a plastic casing handcuffed to the custodian's wrist). It's looked at and then it goes back. And if the president or vice-president needs it again an hour later, it gets walked over and back again.

Wordle 571 Hint

Hint: Could be a car, could be a chair, could be a town in France.

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First Letter: S

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Wordle 570 Hint

Hint: Today's answer isn't a dirty trick, but it is dirty.

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New to Wordle? Here are some thoughts on how I go about solving each day's puzzle.

First Letter: G

Monday, January 09, 2023

Week 19 NFL Picks

I gained 51 points in the FiveThirtyEight NFL Forecasting Game on my Week 18 picks.  I got 11 of 16 games right, and the only one of my multiple 100% picks that went south was the Cowboys to beat the Commanders. My aggregate score is 127.2, putting me in the top 30% of players.

So, it's playoff time. I'm going big with all 100% picks. If I was going to vary from that, it would be on the Dolphins/Bills game -- I'd like to see the Dolphins win, it's possible the Dolphins will win, but it's very unlikely that the Dolphins will win. And hey, I may change my mind before Saturday. Anyway:

San Francisco 49ers beat Seattle Seahawks -- 100%
Jacksonville Jaguars beat Los Angeles Chargers -- 100%
Buffalo Bills beat Miami Dolphins -- 100%
Minnesota Vikings beat New York Giants -- 100%
Cincinnati Bengals beat Baltimore Ravens -- 100%
Dallas Cowboys beat Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- 100%

This may be the first time that none of my picks have differed from the FiveThirtyEight model's.

If I make any changes to my predictions, they'll be made before kickoff and appear in updates to this post.

If You're Considering Career Options ...

... this screen grab from my Bing home page might prove informational.

Wordle 569 Hint

Hint: Today's answer could be a fairy, a hairstyle, or a band member.

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New to Wordle? Here are some thoughts on how I go about solving each day's puzzle.

First Letter: P

Sunday, January 08, 2023

Wordle 568 Hint

Hint: Today's Wordle will make some people think of musical theatre and others think of browsing the web.

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New to Wordle? Here are some thoughts on how I go about solving each day's puzzle.

First Letter: O

Saturday, January 07, 2023

Wordle 567 Hint

Hint: If today's Wordle was a car, you might try to return it for a refund.

Not Enough? Get the first letter of today's Wordle after the ads below.

New to Wordle? Here are some thoughts on how I go about solving each day's puzzle.

First Letter: L

Friday, January 06, 2023

ATOPNUC Mini PC, OS, and Password Manager Updates

Yesterday was a fairly smooth workday with the new ATOPNUC Mini PC. I was able to do everything I needed to do, and the machine seemed to run faster and more smoothly than the Rapsberry Pi 4B. Which, by the way, it cost only about 2/3 as much as.

So, now it's Friday, which is my "Saturday" in terms of work week, so I have more time to mess around.

At first blush, I did not like the Lubuntu operating system as well as the preinstalled Ubuntu 20.04.5 LTS. The only reason I installed Lubuntu was that I needed to have some other OS to go to after messing up GRUB and not being able to boot into anything except, repetitively, BIOS.

This morning (after wrapping up the morning edition of RRND), I went to work on Lubuntu to see if I could make it faster, friendlier, and more appealing. That turned out to be fairly easy.

I installed Chrome.

I turned off multiple "desktops."

I solved an audio problem which I also have in the other version of Ubuntu -- my sound output settings weren't sticking through reboots.

I set up the task bar to my liking. One thing I don't like about the other Ubuntu version is that it doesn't seem to want to let me put everything -- launcher, statuses, controls, clock --  on the bottom and insists on keeping certain things up top, wasting screen space.

I uninstalled a bunch of software that I do not use and don't ever plan to use.

The result: I think I like Lubuntu better than non-L-Ubuntu now. Everything is running at least as fast as in 20.04.5 LTS, and according to psensor my CPU temperatures are lower and I'm using less CPU and RAM as well. Which probably means I'm also drawing fewer watts (haven't checked that yet). And the desktop looks/feels like what I had been getting quite used to with Manjaro Linux on the Pi.

Still not quite a $100 8Gb Chromebox, but getting there.

I'm on my third password manager try-out now: Zoho Vault. Main features I like about it:

  1. Unlimited passwords on the free version.
  2. Unlimited devices on the free version.
  3. Runs from a browser extension without having to install an app on the computer (that's what I don't like about NordPass).
Outside of passwords, it's not as robust (it won't store credit card info, etc.), but that's fine. I wanted a password manager. It's a password manager.

Wordle 566 Hint

Hint: Today's Wordle gives a false impression of itself and is one letter short of evoking faith.

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First Letter: B

Thursday, January 05, 2023

I'm Auditioning Password Managers ...

... because, as explained on today's episode of Sophos's naked security podcast, LastPass has well and truly shit the bed, Amber Heard style.

I can't say for sure that my data was compromised in the LastPass breach. But I've definitely had technical problems with it.

Not long ago, I started having problems with my "master password." It wouldn't work. Then it wouldn't work some more. Then it finally worked. So I changed it. And then it stopped working again. Except when it worked. And I'm not talking about fat fingers typing errors -- I had it written down and was very careful entering it.

Today, I went through their "reset account" process, which (at least according to them) erased all my existing data and had me create a new master password. I haven't tried the new master password yet, because I'm no longer interested in using their service. As for my data, if it was compromised in the breach, it's still compromised.

For the last couple of days, I've been testing Dashlane (not an affiliate link). Not bad, but the "free" version limits you to 50 passwords. I may end up paying for a password manager, and if I do, $2.75 per month isn't a terrible price for unlimited passwords on multiple devices.

Now I'm trying NordPass (not an affiliate link). So far so good -- my only complaint is that I had to actually install an app on a device (as opposed to just e.g. a browser extension) to get started. Their free version includes unlimited passwords, and their premium version starts at $1.49 per month for the first two years (or $2.79 for a "family" version with up to six user accounts), with up to six devices simultaneously logged in.

If NordPass works out well, I'll probably stop looking. If not, I'll try others, and/or consider paying for Dashlane.

I Think I May Wait for the WB/Volvo Product

Per Reuters:

Japan's Sony on Wednesday unveiled a prototype of the new "Afeela" electric vehicles it will build together with Honda, saying it would harness its vast entertainment content as it looks to become a player in next-generation cars. Sony's long-awaited push into electric vehicles -- it announced the venture with Honda in March -- shows how manufacturers are increasingly focused on the cockpit experience in cars, which offers the potential to sell content via subscription services cars, especially as autonomous driving capabilities improve.

Presumably there's a time coming, and soon, when you'll be able to get in your car and binge the latest Marvel epics, or re-watch the James Bond ouvre while it takes you from Dallas to Durango.

Or, if you've got outstanding warrants, directly to jail without passing go or collecting the $200 per billing period you'll need to pay for the entertainment package.

Wordle 565 Hint

Hint: Use your polishing and buffing skills to reach today's lustrous Wordle result.

Not Enough? Get the first letter of today's Wordle after the ads below.

New to Wordle? Here are some thoughts on how I go about solving each day's puzzle.

First Letter: S

Wednesday, January 04, 2023

You Might Think You Could Easily Find Something That Was Everywhere Just a Few Short Years Ago, But You'd Be Wrong

So, the TV disaster the other day:

We were doing some rearranging, and that rearranging included moving the 67.5" ONN Roku Smart TV off of an improvised platform, getting rid of that improvised platform (an old coffee table with an old shelving unit atop it), and replacing the improvised platform with an entertainment center from Tamara's parents' estate.

Everything went OK, until we got the TV back into position atop the new entertainment center. And then: Damaged screen. TV powers on, but the screen is black other than a spider web of color.

OK, no biggie. My daughter was recently given a similarly sized "dumb" plasma TV that's just been taking up space in an inconvenient location, so I borrowed that, set it up, ordered an inexpensive standalone streaming device (Roku Express 4K -- I'd have foregone the "4K" model, but it was on sale for only a buck more than the basic model, and comes with a voice remote), assigned Tamara to research whether screen repair/replacement was feasible, and if not I'd look at new TVs (in theory, the plasma will leave when my daughter moves out, which isn't something I expect to happen soon).

Screen repair: At least $100.

Price paid for the TV: $268.

Age of the TV: 2.5 years.

That doesn't seem like a worthwhile investment, especially since I now have a streaming device I can just plug into a "dumb" TV.

So, how much do "dumb" TVs cost versus "smart" TVs?

If you can find one -- I found only one in that size range on Amazon after looking through several pages of results -- at least as much as many, and more than most, "smart" TVs of similar size.

I guess I can see the logic. The electronics to make a TV "smart" are obviously cheap (since plug-in streaming devices go for as little as $15 or so), and most people probably want "smart" TVs. It may just not be worth manufacturing "dumb" models anymore, except maybe for tiny units that are as likely to be used as e.g. computer monitors as for living room entertainment centers.

Of course, I'm not finding anything like a $268 deal on the equivalent of the old TV (if I'm getting "smart," it's going to be Roku, not Fire, etc.). But I bet I will at some point, and I can wait.

Dark Horse for Speaker Proposal

I don't really see any way Kevin McCarthy gets to 218.

I don't see any other Republican member of the House getting there either.

And it's unlikely that enough Republicans would back a minority Democratic option.

Yeah, I could be wrong. But let's assume I'm not.

The Speaker of the House doesn't have to be a member of the House. They could pick you, or me, or Ryan Reynolds.

I can think of one former House member who would probably pick up a few Republican votes, and who might get unanimous or near-unanimous support from Democrats just to stick it to the Trumpists.

Yes, I'm talking about Liz Cheney.

Week 18 NFL Picks

Week 17 still has one game marked as "live" -- the Buffalo Bills/Cincinnati Bengals game that was "suspended" after Damar Hamlin collapsed and went into cardiac arrest. Still no word on how that game (and its effects on e.g. playoff seeding) will be resolved.

Of the 15 games that were completed, I picked nine correctly, but still came out negative on points (-6.4 points to be precise) because I went big on the Eagles' chances of beating the Saints (100%) and the Vikings chances of beating the Packers (91%), for a loss of 132.8 points. In the FiveThirtyEight NFL Forecasting Game, I have a season-to-date total of 76.2 points and am performing better than 65% of players.

Week 18 picks:

Kansas City Chiefs beat Las Vegas Raiders-- 100%
Jacksonville Jaguars beat Tennessee Titans -- 100%
Cincinnati Bengals beat Baltimore Ravens -- 71%
Carolina Panthers beat New Orleans Saints -- 53%*
Pittsburgh Steelers beat Cleveland Browns -- 53%
Indianapolis Colts beat Houston Texans -- 71%
Minnesota Vikings beat Chicago Bears -- 100%
New England Patriots beat Buffalo Bills -- 53%*
Miami Dolphins beat New York Jets -- 53%
Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat Atlanta Falcons -- 53%*
San Francisco 49ers beat Arizona Cardinals -- 100%
Dallas Cowboys beat Washington Commanders -- 100%
Los Angeles Chargers beat Denver Broncos -- 61%
Seattle Seahawks beat Los Angeles Rams -- 71%
Philadelphia Eagles beat New York Giants -- 100%
Detroit Lions beat Green Bay Packers -- 53%*

Asterisks denote games where my pick to win disagrees with the FiveThirtyEight model's pick.

As you can see, I've gone all in, 100%, on six games -- for a potential pickup of up to 150 points, or a potential loss of up to 450 points. I plan to either massively boost my score or go out in a blaze of glory.

If I make any changes to my picks, those changes will be made before kickoff and mentioned in an update to this post.

ATOPNUC Mini PC: Impressions After One Full (More or Less) Day of Use

As previously stated, my goal with the ATOPNUC Mini PC was, pretty much, "turn a $100 mini PC into an 8Gb Chromebox instead of paying $400 for an 8Gb Chromebox."

So far, that hasn't quite worked out.

ChromeOS Flex doesn't have a build for this specific model, and a build for another model with the same processor wouldn't boot.

There also doesn't seem to be a ChromiumOS build for this specific model, nor would the generic x86 build boot.

I spent a good chunk of time yesterday downloading "light" Linux distributions, burning them to flash drives, and checking them out. Only one successfully booted, and that was Lubuntu. It's supposed to be a "light" version of Ubuntu, but I can't tell that it's any "lighter" in terms of resource usage than the pre-installed Ubuntu 20.04.5 LTS, and I don't like its GUI, etc. as well.

I spent another good chunk of time yesterday in panic mode after one of these experiments led to me making some boot order changes in Grub Customizer that ended up causing the machine to boot directly into its BIOS/setup screen, and then do that over and over without ever entering into an OS.

I finally (I don't remember how) got it to boot into the "live" USB drive Lubuntu, installed Lubuntu on a newly created hard drive partition, and let it do its automatic Grub setup so that I now have a dual boot machine and a choice of Lubuntu or regular Ubuntu. I'm using the latter. I don't begrudge the additional disk space, as I was always expecting to eventually run two partitions. It's a 128Gb SSD drive, and frankly I store very little information on a drive. I ditch all programs that I don't use. I've never even run short on drive space on the 16Gb SSDs typical of lower-end Chromebooks.

And hey, it's working out. I may eventually put something other than Lubuntu on that second partition, but I'm not in a big hurry now.

I've turned enough extraneous stuff off that my power usage is now much closer to being in line with the Raspberry Pi 4B's. More on that in a minute.

I've installed Google Chrome instead of the Chromium browser. It's visibly faster at rendering sites, has fewer problems with some embedded stuff, and even lets me view DRM-protected material from e.g. Netflix (always a problem trying to straighten out with other browsers in Linux).

I've also installed psensor to keep track of CPU temperatures, and I haven't seen anything about 50 degrees celsius yet.

Now, as to the slightly higher power usage: There's a down side and an up side.

The down side is that given my solar setup (160-watt panel, 300 watt-hour power station), I could conceivably have to plug into wall AC if I use the machine until very late at night such that I don't have enough stored power left over to keep me running in the early morning (pre-dawn) hours when I get my work day started.

The up side is that, hey, if I focus on getting my work done before sundown, turning off the machine will take care of that problem (the panel easily charges the station to 100% given reasonable daylight). Which means I can do things like 1) spend more time hanging with family, 2) actually make it to bed by my target time of 8:30pm, 3) etc., instead of sitting at the fucking computer for not really any good reason.

Over time, I'll continue tweaking the machine and probably experimenting with other operating systems, but so far it is meeting my needs quite well. And I can also recommend it to anyone who's still never tried Linux, would like to, and is afraid to do so on their "daily driver" computer. For about $100, you get a reasonably powerful machine with a very friendly Linux distribution already installed.

Wordle 564 Hint

Hint: We do this with cakes -- and, when it's cold out, clothing.

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First Letter: L

Tuesday, January 03, 2023

An NFL Prediction ...

... not apropos of Buffalo Bill defensive back Dakar Hamlin's collapse on the field last night. That seems to have been a "remarkably rare" case of getting hit a certain way at a certain time, causing ventricular fibrillation. Hamlin received CPR on the field before being hauled off to a hospital, and the game was suspended.

The bigger elephant in the NFL room is Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative neurological condition caused by getting hit on the head too hard and/or too many times.

A lot of NFL players (and football players in general) end up with CTE because that's what happens when 22 large, muscular guys attack each other for a full hour (of game time), week after week, 18 weeks a year, every year (not including pre- and post-season play and practice play).

Recently, the NFL has instituted a "concussion protocol" to get players off the field if they're suspected of having had a concussion, and keep them off the field until they've had time to heal.

Naturally, concussions and CTE are related. Sub-concussive brain trauma can contribute to CTE, but concussion is especially bad.

There are always a few NFL players out of action on "concussion protocol," but the poster boy for it at the moment is Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. He's out for a second time this season with concussion, and there were revisions to the protocol after the first time, as it appears he may have been concussed the game before he went down on the field.

My prediction: At some point, and probably fairly soon, the NFL is going to institute a concussion cap.

That is: If you are an NFL player and have been diagnosed with concussion X times (and perhaps a lower Y number times within a short period):

You. Are. Retired.

The players aren't going to like the idea. They're football players because playing football is what they do. You don't get to the NFL because football's a hobby you enjoy. You get to the NFL because you dedicate most, if not all, of your life to it. They love the game. They love being part of the team. They love winning. They love getting paid.

The fans aren't going to like the idea. It's going to involuntarily retire some of their favorite players at the heights of their careers and abilities.

NFL and team management/coaching aren't going to like the idea. They put lots of time and lots of money into finding and coaching up the players who can take them to the Promised Land.

But you know who else won't like the idea? Personal injury lawyers. They love taking organizations with deep pockets to court and walking away with piles of money. And sooner or later, they're going to start taking money from NFL teams and the NFL itself.

Which means that, at some point, the NFL/owners are going to sit down with the Players Association and hammer out a deal. That deal will include some kind of insurance that provides a decent retirement for players who are forced out of the game. It will also include specific numbers/types of injuries that exceed the cap, and probably a board of final appeal, etc. And it will be made as airtight as possible against litigation.

Could I be wrong? Yeah. But I'm not. And you probably read it here first.

That There is Some Pretty Good Unsolicited PR

Per NBC News: "Two children and two adults survive after Tesla plunges 250 feet off California cliff."

Tag line: "The two rescued adults suffered 'non-life-threatening injuries,' and the two children were unharmed, according to the San Mateo Sheriff's Office."

Then again, "[I]t's not clear what caused the car to go over the cliff." But if that part isn't the car's fault, it sure makes Tesla look good.

It's Here, But There Are Delays

My new ATOPNUC Mini PC arrived yesterday, but between work (never change computer horses in midstream) and another home electronics disaster (my television was damaged in a household recombobulation, requiring borrowing a TV from a kid, ordering a new Roku since the borrowed TV isn't "smart," etc.) I didn't have time to do much with it.

First impressions:

  • Booted right up -- and pretty fast.
  • In the past, I've not been a fan of Ubuntu (the preinstalled OS), but I may end up giving it an extended test drive, or at least keep it as part of a dual-boot system. I'd like to do some rearranging of the default desktop/dock stuff, at a minimum, but it seems to run well.
  • No obvious problems, other than it not recognizing one particular USB drive (which may be a problem with the drive). I haven't tried it with dual monitors yet, just messed with it on one screen then put it back into the box until I have time to really futz with things.
  • I ran it straight from an outlet rather than from my solar power station, so I don't know how it is on power usage just yet.
Depending on various things, I may get it fully set up and really start working with it as early as today, or it may be the weekend. My goal is to turn it into a $100 8Gb Chromebox instead of paying $400 for the real thing. But if that doesn't work out, I'm sure I'll find something to do with it, whether it replaces the Raspberry Pi 4B as my "daily driver" or not.

Naturally, after ordering two HDMI cables and finding one around the house, it came with one (not advertised in the description). So I'll have two spare HDMI cables. Whee.

Update, 10am: OK, I've got this thing up and running. Very nice. It wasn't able to boot Chromium OS from a USB (the problem was with the ChromiumOS version, not the machine, I think). I have installed actual Chrome, rather than Chromium (no build of Chrome for the ARM CPU in the Raspberry Pi), and will mess with other OS options later. Unfortunately, it looks like the machine wants to draw 15-20 watts instead of the less than 10 the Pi usually does. But that's the only down side so far (other than that I don't like the little status bar at the top of Ubuntu and haven't figured out how to fix that yet).

Update, 8:30pm: I've spent the day breaking and fixing the machine, including a pretty scary period where, no matter what I did, it booted into BIOS (and reloaded BIOS when BIOS was exited). So far the only alternative OS I've been able to get to work on the ATOPNUC is LUbuntu, which is supposed to be a "lighter" version of Ubuntu. But it seems at least as "heavy" as the other version of Ubuntu, and I don't like its desktop environment as well. I also see that once I turned off stuff I didn't need to be running (Wifi, Bluetooth, etc.), the machine doesn't draw a whole lot more power than the Raspberry Pi. Right now, with Chrome running and eight tabs open, 10-11 watts. So this thing may just work out.

Wordle 563 Hint

Hint: Is today's Wordle some kind of prank?

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New to Wordle? Here are some thoughts on how I go about solving each day's puzzle.

First Letter: A

Monday, January 02, 2023

Five Numbers (Two Actual, One Assumed, Two Calculated)

First Actual Number: 110
Second Actual Number: $139
Assumed Number: $5

The first actual number is how many Amazon orders my household placed in 2022.

The second actual number is the cost of an annual Amazon Prime membership (which comes with "free" two-day shipping on most items).

The third number is a Scientific Wild-Ass Guess as to average shipping cost per order without a Prime membership. Most of the stuff I order is small, and my impression is that most of it would run $3.99 to $5.99 for standard  (not two-day) shipping. A small (very small, but I'm not going to try to track them down to find out how small) number of orders were from third-party sellers without Prime shipping. Probably three or four orders, of books at $3.99 a pop for shipping.

First Calculated Number (Total Shipping Without Prime at Assumed Average Rate): $550
Second Calculated Number (Savings on Shipping After Paying for Prime Membership): $411

Of course, maybe we wouldn't have ordered as much stuff from Amazon if we didn't pay for a Prime membership. But if that was the case, I would expect us to have spent, rather than saved, even more money. Most of the stuff we order from Amazon is stuff we'd have bought anyway. Most of it is cheaper via Amazon than locally (or we'd have picked it up locally). And ordering it from Amazon means fewer special trips to stores with attendant gas expenses and so forth.

So even absent the video and music benefits, I have to call Prime a pretty damn good deal.