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Goodbye, LiveJournal

LiveJournal has come out with new terms and conditions that are unacceptable. Unfortunately, I had to agree to them to access my content even though I was given the option not to. So no I really do not agree to them because they are make you agree to be subject to Russian anti-LGBT laws. I'll let Charles Stross explain why this is the shits.

I am in the process of migrating to Dreamwidth. I'm keeping the same username. So you can find me at entp2007.dreamwidth.org. It's a fairly straightforward process. This account may end up going away, but it will no longer be updated, though I may respond to any comments posted here. I suggest anyone else looking for a new LiveJournal home check out Dreamwidth. It's made by some of the original founders of LJ.

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Tubular Bells

Here's something you didn't know you needed to watch. I know for some people Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells" it is one of their favorite albums. I certainly rank it pretty highly.

Vernal Equinox

Today we get to experience an equal number of hours of day and night.



Oh, and our temperamentally unfit man-baby of a president thought it would be a great idea to antagonize North Korea. Have a nice life.

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Presidents Day

The first 30 days have gone swimmingly. I can only imagine what the next 30 days hold in store for us.

I'd celebrate Presidents Day but there aren't taco trucks on every corner.

And then a miracle happened

I'm feeling somewhat more optimistic after the record low turnout at the inauguration and the record high turnout at the women's march (in DC, all across the country, around the world including Antartica).



This group joined the Women’s March from Antarctica

The Last Day

Today is the last day of President Obama's term of office. I haven't decided how I will spend it. Some of it working to be sure, but I want to make it something joyful, something memorable for the dark days, dark weeks, dark months and possibly dark years ahead.

2017: Orange is the New Black

I have a habit of naming years. If I didn't call 2016 The Year the Chickens Came Home to Roost, I should have. I don't remember what I called previous years, and I'm too lazy to go back through my posts to find them nor to even see how long I've been doing it. I didn't pick the name 2017, I got it from Obama's anger translator, Luther, farewell address sketch. The actual address starts at 2:57.

The video will not embed here so you must view it at Comedy Central.
A Farewell Address from Obama's Anger Translator

By calling 2017 Orange is the New Black year it is apropos on so many levels. President Obama has done a remarkable job despite the enormous amount of shit thrown at him. There were things he did that I strongly did not approve of (like expanding the use of armed drones). Perhaps no president coming in how well intentioned can avoid being compromised by the office. It's not right, but that's the way it is. We already know how compromised our incoming president is going to be. We just don't know how awful it's going to get nor how quickly it will turn awful. It could all go south in less than 100 days. I'd like to be very wrong about what might happen. Better for me to be ridiculed than to see millions of people harmed (like losing health insurance coverage by repealing the ACA).

Update 30 Jan 17: It went to shit pretty fast with the Muslim ban. I'm thinking about changing my mind and calling it The Year That Went to Shit. And the thing is we haven't see the worst yet. I'm going to revise my 100 day time frame to 30 days.

Boxing Day

This is perhaps my favorite non-American holiday. It's the day after Christmas. It's celebrated in Canada and the UK and probably Australia and New Zealand. I don't know all the details, but it seems to be their equivalent of Black Friday after our Thanksgiving. A huge shopping day. I'd heard it was the day you exchange unwanted gifts. That sounds more fun. You get a gift you didn't like and exchange it with someone else who got a gift they didn't like. However, it was traditional to give money and gifts to the needy and that sounds a lot more worthwhile. The Boxing Day event I attended once was basically a decompressor with friends. Yes, we love our family, but family at holidays can be stressful. A decompressor with your friends who don't have the same expectations or baggage seems like a worthwhile endeavor.

8 Days

And it will be official or we'll have a constitutional crisis. Either outcome is not good.

Update: 5 days now. We shall soon know if political courage still exists.

Update (Jan 2, 2017): And no it does not. The electors gave absolutely zero fucks about the Constitution. Zero.

Well, that didn't go as planned

My NaNoWriMo hadn't been going well, and now it's been completely derailed after Black Tuesday. I can put it back on the tracks and will, but I probably won't meet the goal of 50,000 words. Onward.

Meanwhile 3/4 of America is reeling from the outcome of the US election, 1/4 is positively gleeful. I knew this outcome was a distinct possilibilty after Brexit left much of UK reeling. Much of the same mindset that voted for Brexit was the same mindset that voted for him. I simply had not prepared enough for the shock. It's going to take me time to come to terms with what just happened, what may happen now, and how to move forward in the event of a worse case scenario. And if things don't turn out that bad, I'll consider that time well wasted.

To NaNoWriMo or Not to NaNoWriMo

I've thought about participating, but I've been too lazy. I did start unofficially one year, but gave up after a few days. On the other hand if I don't give it a shot this year, I may never do it. And I want to write a novel.

If you are thinking of giving it a try you also only have a day to decide. Here's the link: http://nanowrimo.org

Update: Apparently, I'd signed up for an account in a previous year. I'd forgot. I reset my password and I had signed up four years ago.

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Oh, Great Pumpkin

This is the best Charlie Brown special ever. Happy Halloween folks!

15 + 8

23 days until the election. I don't know how it's going to turn out. Odds are Hillary Clinton will win, but by how much? It needs to be by a good deal more than the margin of error and a comfortable lead in the Electoral College. There will be chaos, there will be violent incidents, but let us hope they will not reduce the vote. Not one of the pollsters seems to have taken into account or acknowledged voting suppression efforts by various Republican controlled states. Courts have ordered a number of them to restore voting rights but have refused to do so. Herr Drumpf is organizing "poll watchers" to scare away or intimidiate minority voters. If it is a close election, close as it was in 2000, it could lead to a constitutional crisis.

Herr Drumpf has overshadowed all the other things, dark money from the likes of the Koch brothers, downticket candidates. The two most important things goin on right now are the protests in North Dakota against the DAPL going through the Standing Rock Reservation and TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) ratification process. It needs to be stopped too. Locally, Democrats need to retake the Arizona state legislature or win enough seats to create a gridlock to prevent Governor Ducey from continuing to turn this state into another Kansas or Oklahoma, a financial ruin.

It's not over til it's over. I'll probably do some heavy drinking on election night, but I hope it will be celebratory in nature.

RinCon 2016

I attended my first gaming convention ever this past weekend. I've known about it since moving to Tucson but was hesitant to go. I was worried that I'd be twice as old as the other games and feel out of place. There used to be one in Tulsa but I never attended. I did game at a few conventions back in the late 1980's (mostly Star Fleet Battles) and gamed at one convention in 2000. I did a lot of gaming in the mid to late 80's (again mostly Star Fleet Battles). I have attended literary science fiction conventions off and on since 1978, so there's a lot of overlap. I haven't done much gaming since the early 90's, but I still have most of my games (I did get rid of Star Fleet Battles though).

Anyway, there were plenty of gamers my age and all age groups seem to be represented, about a quarter of the gamers were women and there were some people of color. Most of the attendees were local and there was a fair contingent from the Phoenix area, but people came from El Paso and Los Angeles. If I were to guess there were probably about 200 people in attendance.

A lot has changed in the gaming world. I pretty much stopped before Magic The Gathering took off. I never really got into role playing though I did try D&D very early on in high school when it was brand new. I got introduced to Star Fleet Battles in college plus some other games, Car Wars, OGRE/GEV, Illuminati, Kingmaker, Titan, Talisman, Cosmic Encounter, Tales of the Arabian Nights, Globbo, Call of Cthulhu (The only roll playing game that appealed to me. I got tired of 80th level dark half-elves in D&D. CoC was self-limiting, the more powerful a character became the more insane he became. I only played it a few times). Battletech had become pretty popular back then too but I never got into it. I was spoiled by SFB which was a better gaming system, but I had a fair number of gaming friends who got into BT.

I didn't want to be that gamer who hated all new games because he thought the old games were better. There were plenty of older Napoleonic minitiatures/Avalon Hill Games folks who didn't like the new games I was playing at the time. So I tried a bunch of new games this weekend. I didn't pre-register, so I had to sign up with what was available. I'm glad I did. None were combat games. That's mostly what I played back in the day were combat tactical games, very few builder or cooperative games.

Most of the games I played were in beta, getting ready to go to Kickstarter, Castle Mania, CO-OP, Excavate! and Capital City. I also played Gangster Dice, and Viticulture. GD had been a Kickstarter. All except Viticulture played in less than an hour and were card based games. Viticulture was what is known as a euro game. It was a new term I learned. It could also be called a German game. These are resource based games that are more with building things and economics than with combat. I like to call them German games because they had lots of rules and were no fun. Viticulture was interesting, you ran a vinyard in 19th century Italy. It was the most complex game but not as complex as  SFB.

Some of the old games I would like to play again. I could use the old versions I have or get new versions. Some of them are still in print from different game publishers. They are Tales of the Arabian Nights, Talismen, and Cosmic Encounter. What I'm trying to find out is are the new versions worth buying? How do they compare to the new versions/editions? And now that I'm likely to get plugged back into gaming culture, I'll be able to find other people to play with.

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Gettysburg

So this past summer I visited Gettysburg for the second time. It was a more in depth visit this time. The takeaway was that it was the turning point of the Civil War and it could have gone either way. It wasn't until the third day and Pickett's Charge was stopped and the Union won. It was the high watermark of the Confederacy and from then on it was a matter of grinding them down.

Last night was the first presidental debate between the two main candidates. It wasn't a decisive win for HIllary Clinton, but she did what she needed to do and got in one very good hit. There are two debates to go. They may not decide the outcome of the election. However, what she did told me she has the skills to land several more hits including the knockout blow. Now, we cannot understimate Herr Drumpf, he of tiny hands, expensive hair weave, and spray-on tan, but he can be defeated and the consequences of not doing could easily play out at best what happened in Italy with Berlusconni, or slighly worse in the Phillipines with Duterte, or even worse what has happened in Russia with Putin.

Now, you have to ask yourself why do I think Clinton is a better candidate? I'll let John Oliver explain. He does not gloss over her defects. All I'm going to say is that Oliver deserves an Emmy for best use of raisins as a metaphor.


Gettysburg-Debate connection: The battle of Gettysburg lasted 3 days; there are 3 debates. The consequences of that battle lives with us to this very day and the consequences of this election could equally last as long. I await Drumpf's Charge.

The Long and Winding Road

I've been a science fiction fan since almost as long as I can remember. Star Trek was my gateway to science fiction. I read a lot of comic books as a child and eventually started reading science fiction in the 5th or 6th grade. I picked up a used copy of Beyond Tomorrow in a dime store. It was edited by Damon Knight.

iPhone 7

So the biggest suprise about the iPhone 7 announcement is that it includes an adapter for your analog headphones. I must say Apple does a great job of creating gadget envy. I want to see how it does in the field after a people have started using it for a few weeks before I decide. I had decided to get an IPhone 6s prior to the event release today, but now I'm dithering.

When they brought out Sia to do a few songs and they showed the dystopian music video on the screen all I could think of is why didn't they give her a huge hammer?





The purpose of removing the audio jack is leverage. It means if you want a device like a SquareUp card reader, you'll have to pay Apple's Lightning connector lighting fee. Or they may simply refuse. And it may not pass through audio from other services. It remains to be seen how it's going to work and how much of a backlash there is going to be.

The other big surprise was I'd never heard of Sia before seeing the Apple Event today. I do not feel deprived.

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August is almost over

School has started so evertyhing around the university which we live near is more crowded. It's still hot but has cooled a bit. Still in monsoon season and it has rained a fair bit, even had some flooding. November looms large in my thoughts but I try not to think about it. It's a choice between things as they are or the end of everything. The former is not sustainable, but it does buy me more time to prepare and hope for a smoother transition to a world with less diversity in the biosphere, more freak weather, acidified oceans and higher sea levels. 

Nonsoon

A nonsoon is a lot like a monsoon in that it has clouds, lightning and thunder. It even smells like rain, but there's no rain. Since we went on our roadtrip to Oklahoma and back for my dad's 75th birthday, there was no rain in Tucson. Last night I saw lightning in the distance but nothing ever came of it. And there is lightning and thunder tonight but no rain (as of yet). It will rain again eventually.

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Monsoon again!

Looks like the monsoon season has officialy started. 

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Brexit. Holy crap!

What hath austerity wrought. So basically everything the Brits are legitimately angry at have nothing to do with leaving the EU. Basically, the older voters have ruined the future of young voters in the UK. The immediate effect is that with the plunging Pound was to ruin their economy.

The only sliver lining is that Scottish independence is back on the table. If they vote to leave the UK which was going to happen eventually, they'll join the EU. All of this is going to take time to sort out. 

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Not Monsoon!

Apparently that rain was just a teaser and the real monsoon season probably won't start until July. When we came back from our trip to Gettysburg, we had record heat warnings. In fact, several people have died in the Phoenix and Tucson areas from heat. They were hiking. Hiking? In this heat? I have no idea why anyone would want to hike in temperatures above 100F/38C.

Update: It would appear after a record breaking spell of temperatures we might actually get a bit of monsoon rain. A few hours after I posted this I went to bring in the trash and recycle bins back from the curb and I noticed a lot of clouds. I even heard thunder. It didn't smell like monsoon. So we may get some rain. Fingers crossed.

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Monsoon!

It looks like our monsoon season started really early this here in Tucson. We started getting some clouds moving in last night and I thought is monsoon season going to start early? It officially starts June 15 but we usually don't get rain until the start of July. It's been pretty cloudy today and I went outside and I could smell a change in the air, not quite monsoon rain.

Just a little while ago we heard thunder, and on twitter someone in the Tucson area, reported hail and tweeted a picture if it hitting their backyard.

I just stepped outside and definitely could smell the rain. And a litle while later the skies opened up. It rained pretty hard for about 10 minutes then died off.

Note: We've had an unusually wet and slightly cooler year so far, though this past week we had some record temperatures. You've heard the expression for March, "In like a lion. Out like a lamb." There should be one for June in Tucson. "In like an oven. Out like a steamer."

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And now for a musical interlude

This captures my mood this evening.

2016 Fury Road

I have had a habit of naming years and I don't remember what I named previous years. I'm too lazy to review all of my previous posts and I don't know how to search my past posts for those year names. There may be a way, but I'll check later or peruse later when I have more time.

As Samantha Bee pointed out 2010 was the most important election in our lifetime and Republicans won. They fucked us over good and hard. Assuming the 2016 election goes well for Democrats, they won't even begin to undo the damage done. That will take decades. Decades we don't have. Anytime Democrats win the White House and Congress, Republicans fight back hard to keep them from doing anything useful. They did it 1968. They did it in 1980. They did it in 1994. They really did it 2010. And they did it 2014.

Democrats aren't perfect. In fact many of the elite are just as beholden to Wall Street and the Military-Industrial Complex as Republicans are, but there are two candidates who have tapped into the vast majority of people who have been screwed by their party elites, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Those two could not be more different.

Donald Trump is a con man. Bernie Sanders is an activist. Trump directs the anger of his fans at those not responsible for the current mess, at immigrants, at gays, at refugees, at women, at minorities. Bernie doesn't so much direct the anger of his supporters as explain who is responsible, Wall Street. Donald does correctly point out how trade and outsource jobs have hurt Americans, but his solutions won't work, and will only harm his supporters even more.

Stripped of his adopted family name and fake tan, Drumpf looks about as appealing as a waterlogged corpse. Remove his hair too and he looks like a paroled ex-con from The Sopranos.

Here's the thing. There's a lot of anger at those responsible for the destruction of the middle class over the past thirty years. Only Bernie Sanders offers solutions to stop the decline and reverse it, but then we have enormous environmental challenges to deal with, global warming, ocean acidifcation, species loss, habitat loss, to name a few. His movement can't solve everything but it's a start.

I'd started composing the post before Trump became the presumptive GOP nominee and that Sanders chances had dramatically dwindled. Given the voter suppression efforts ( gerrymandering) of the Republicans over the past few years and the gutting of the Voting Rights Act, it's a very real possibility that Trump will be our next president.

The media is to blame for the rise of Drumpf. They love him. They earn him lots and lots of advertising dollars, because to the corporate owned media it's not about substance it's about spectacle, and Drumpf knows it. They love portraying the campaign as a horse race. It's not a race. It's not about who is up or who is down. It's not a fucking rollercoaster but that's what it feels like. It's not a chase but they are doing everything they can to portray it that way.

But if it's a chase then may I present Immortan Trump:



I wouldn't go so far as to say that Hillary Clinton is Furioso or that Bernie Sanders is Mad Max, but those are the roles available to them in this chase, and they almost work. But if anyone fully represents the values of Immortan Joe it is Donald Trump. Furioso worked within the system until it came time to make her break; Hillary worked within the system but will she make her break? Bernie is outside the system, but wants to do right, make the system better. And in a lot of ways he is making Hillary a better candidate. A lot of people talk about fleeing America if Drumpf is elected. There's no place to go. Just like in the movie they thought they could get away but the best place was where they came from. They had to remove Immortan Joe and his War Boys. So if we're going to have a metaphor for this year, for this campaign that could very well determine the future of the US, Fury Road is it.

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Fountain Pens

I decided that I needed to improve my penmanship and this led me down the deep dark path to the fountain pen. I started with a Pilot Varsity then switched to a Platinum Preppy and upgraded to a Platinum Plaisir (Preppy with an aluminun shell) and bought a fancy fountain pen at NTIF this past weekend. It's lovely. It's made from a kit and has a lovely wood barrel and cap. The nib is a Dayacom Germany M. It came with a very short cartridge and a Schmidt converter. Today I bought some Lany blue/black ink and filled it. It writes very smoothly. Apparently there is a whole cottage industry of pen kits for woodturner hobbyists.

Originally, my idea was to use my iPhone for writing and notetaking. Yeah, that didn't work. I went back to writing in a notebook (moleskine and Rhodia) and I really like it. It's just me, the pen and the paper. No distractions.

Note: my penmanship has improved just a wee bit. At least I can read it.

Mir i Voina

This is the year I finish War & Peace. I broke 1000 pages this year and I've less than 300 pages to go. Prince Andrew just kicked the bucket and Moscow is burning.

UPDATE: At long last I have finished the goddamned book.

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So I Married an Axe Murderer

Our Valentines Day movie for the evening. It is not suggestive of anything.

"We have a piper down. I repeat. We have a piper down."

2016

It's off to a helluva start and it promises only to get uglier.

Winter Solstice

It's only a little thing. We used to go to a friend's house for a Winter Solstice party and one of the ceremonies was to write on a piece of paper things we'd like to get rid of and things we'd like to come in to our lives. Then we'd throw them in a small fire outdoors and make some kind of incantation. Of which I'd forgotten the words.

Those friends have moved away and we have moved away. Those parties are no more. So this year I thought about what I'd like to go and what I'd like to come in: resentment and forgiveness. I need to let go of my resentment that a different friendship was destroyed and that I need to forgive those that destroyed it. The friend who was lost has passed away, so there is no restoring it.

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I'm working my way through Test Driven Development With Python and I don't quite grok it yet. It feels like I'm missing part of the puzzle. Granted I'm only in the early stages of the book, but still. It feels like how the Underpants Gnomes operate:

Step 1: Collect underpants.
Step 2: ???
Step 3: Profit!

As a developer I want to be more rigorous in my development process. Right now I'm a bit of a cowboy coder (no, not in the cyberpunk cowboy hacker sense). In the sense I play it by ear and that my process changes with little formal documentation. My source control is making copies and storing them on my computer or having two setups. I do keep notes but they aren't in one central repository nor labeled for what project they belong to. Most of my documentation is the email conversation I have with my clients.

The TDD process is

Step 1: Write a test that fails
Step 2: Write shell code that makes the test pass barely
Step 3: Rewrite the code so it actually functions and passes the test.
TDD Global Lifecycle

It seems backwards. You write a test first then write the code that will pass it. The step I'm missing is the requirements. Just because you write it so that it passes, it doesn't mean the code will actually do what you or the client wants it to do. And then in the back of my mind I'm conflating it with today's teaching methods in grade school. Kids aren't being taught to learn. They are being taught to pass the test which means they aren't really learning anything.

So I guess that is my big fear that I'm not learning anything. Just how to be a better test writer.

Don't get me wrong. Testing code is essential but you can't think of all the use cases. People will try to use software in ways that it was not intended. You can write code that will test functionality and you can write code that will test the code, unit tests. Then there's refactoring, rewriting the code so that it's cleaner and easier to understand. Why don't you write the code clearly in the first place? As with any writing revision is important even in programming.

TDD is only one part of the development to deployment cycle. It looks useful and I'll keep plowing through the book and hopefully it will begin to make sense.

More CSS (Actually CSS3)

Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) have come along way since I started doing web development. I had to design a simple front page for a client and, boy, howdy, is that hard to do. Trying to be minimalist requires a lot of thought. Also the this front page has to be responsive (look good on all devices and adjust to their parameters) that is the same content has to look good for a mobile device such as an iPhone, a tablet such as an iPad, or a laptop such as a MacBook Pro. Alternately, you could say Android, Android tablet, and Windows 10 laptop.

I finally pulled down The Book of CSS3 off the shelf and started reading it (I purchased it last spring). I learned all about media queries which allows a single page to adjust to the device it's being viewed on. Each release of CSS standards comes with a number. The first version was CSS then CSS 2 then CSS2.1 and now CSS3. So what is a cascading stylesheet. It tells the browser how to render a web page. It tells it what fonts to show and what size, whether it's normal, bold, italics, underline, or strikethrough. Or a combination of all of them. It can do much much more.

I've got a deadline for this site. I can get it done, but it is mentally exhausting. Still, it beats delivering pizzas.

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CSS

The image overlaying the thumbnail can be translucent which I don't want. The overlaid image can be solid where it isn't transparent but then you can't click on the thumbnail. I've tried various rearrangements of the items in the templates for the page. I can have one desirable trait but not both. HTML doesn't allowed nested links but I removed those.

Of course this was all to solve the problem of even being able to tap on the thumbnail so it would take you to a new page on a mobile device which has a touchscreen. It needs to be a double tap solution. Because on a computer where you have hover with a mouse the text appears over the image. On mobile you tap and no text just goes to the new page. You need to be able to tap once to see the text then tap again to see the page. There are themes that actually do this. I may have to switch to one of them.

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Paris

I won't let some mass murderers in Paris ruin my little Friday the Thirteenth post. I just won't. There is nothing inherently unlucky about the date. It is a superstition, and that is what I'm poking fun at. However, the attackers deliberately chose the date. It's clear this had been planned for sometime given the terrible scale of it. I think it's more likely they chose they day of the week for maximum casualties rather than the 13th per se.

It'll take some time to figure out the details of what unfolded, but what I dread more is not the horrific details of what was carried out. It is the people who will use these events to promote whatever horrible agenda they have that have nothing to do with the attacks.

Friday the Thirteenth

Zoinks! This is it. Better stay home today.

Friday the Thirteenth

Feeding Robot

I for one welcome our robot feeding overlords.

feeding robot

emacs

I briefly flirted with emacs this evening. It was not pretty.

Of Fountain Pens and Notebooks

I've always written in notebooks. I've never kept a proper journal or diary. There is no coherence to them. I often don't even go back to the old ones. In fact, I tossed a great number of steno pads when I got a divorce from my first wife.

However, writing in notebooks is an old habit to break. I jumped on the moleskine bandwagon and haven't looked back, though I was dragged into using them kicking and screaming. Okay, not exactly, but I gave them a try and I liked it. Since it is a high quality notebook I decided it was time to up my penmanship game. A little research showed me that fountain pens were the way to go. I gave up on expensive pens long ago because I kept losing them. There are cheap fountain pens, Pilot Varsity is an inexpensive disposable fountain pen and they are quite nice.

Writing with a fountain pen is different than a ballpoint. The ink flows more readily. You really need to write in cursive, so now I need to up my cursive game. My handwriting isn't always the most legible. [Note-when I was learning how to write in cursive Russian I couldn't write in cursive English for a while. It was weird.]

I was hip to the idea of using my iPhone for taking notes and writing but have given up for now. There are people that can do it. I even own a bluetooth keyboard. Writing longhand gives me clarity. It reduces distractions and leaves me to my own thoughts. It gives me more time to ponder as I put down words on the page.

I'm looking at other notebooks. Moleskines are pricey though paper in general is getting more expensive, so I'm looking at other brands. Rhodia seems to be another popular brand amongst aficionados of writing by hand. I'll have to try one out. I have to use the technology that matches my thinking style. Touchscreen devices will improve and become more reliable and secure but until then pen and paper is my preferred aberration.

Back from Down Under

Just returned from our second trip to Australia. We only went to Melbourne and Sydney this time. We did a bus tour of Melbourne; last time we did a walking tour. In Sydney we did walking tour of the The Rocks and visited the Maritime Museum. This time we got to go on board the replica of the Endeavor (which is seaworthy and sails on an irregular basis).


Sunset over Sydney

I still did not get to see any flying foxes nor either of the Magellanic Clouds. We ate at a really good Thai restaurant near our hotel in Sydney and a really good Turkish restaurant in Newtown. In Melbourne our first stop after checking into our hotel on Lygon street was to get sims for our devices and then hit Brunetti for their amazing pastries.


ANZAC War Memorial in Sydney

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It's all over except for the shouting

Another Hugo Awards ceremony has come and gone. I watched a good chunk of the pre-show (Ustream.tv) and a good chunk of the award ceremony until the John W Campbell Award was given out. I then followed it on Twitter. The best part I saw was Robert Silverberg's prayer invocation and compared the events of the 1968 WorldCon with 2015. The only speech I missed was Connie Willis'. I'll have to watch it later when the full ceremony is posted.

If you've been following this year's Hugos you will have heard of the Sad & Rabid Puppies gaming of the nomination process. They were routed last night, but had pre-declared a rout as one of their victory conditions. Go figure.

Much digital ink has been spilled since the nominations were announced and more will be spilled over the coming months. The Hugo Awards were damaged but not destroyed. The polarization will continue because that is what some people want and the Internet echo chamber provides a negative feedback loop to boost it.

No one knows what the future will hold for the Hugo Awards. They are the Oscars of the literary science fiction world and thus the most prestigious (though technically the Nebulas more resemble the Oscars as they are voted on by their peers). Very few people actually vote on them (even this year) when you consider the size of the readership.

My only hope is that fans love of science fiction will outweigh their politics.

Alaska and BC

Just got back from our vacation to Alaska. We did an overnight train trip to Denali. Didn't spend much time in the park. Saw bits of Denali but not the whole mountain. Did see the top of Mount Foraker. Then we went back to Anchorage. Next day we were shuttled to Whittier and put on the Pacific Princess for a seven day Alaska cruise. Long story short. It was great. Saw Mount St. Elias and probably Mount Logan. We saw lots of glaciers and some whales. Sailed into Yakatat Bay and saw Hubbard Glacier. Next day sailed into Glacier Bay National Park picked up park rangers who gave us a tour of the bay. We sailed all the way up to Margerie Glacier and saw bits of it fall off. Saw lots of spouts but not the actual whales. Saw them later. After that we stopped in Skagway road the White Pass train, then stopped in Juneau went to Mendenhall Glacier. Stopped in Ketchikan and went to Saxman Native Village then two more days of sailing the inside passage to Vancouver where we ended ended our cruise. We spent two days in Victoria then two days in Vancouver before flying home.

I may post a more detailed log of the trip.

While in Victoria we got a ride in a convertible Mustang saw Mount Rainier and Mount Baker. Also saw Rainier and final approach to Seattle. We flew from Tucson to SEATAC then to Anchorage. We flew home from Vancouver to Phoenix then Tucson. Our luggage didn't arrive with us but we picked it up the next day.

Things we did NOT see in Victoria: Butchart Gardens nor Craigdorrach Castle. We did go to the Royal BC Museum. We did go to Gastown in Vancouver and rode the hop-on hop-off bus. I don't feel too deprived that we didn't do a bus tour of Denali National Park and see attractions in B.C. because we saw and did a lot of stuff for the first time. I hope there's another trip to Alaska and Victoria in our future but this one will keep me satisfied for a few years.

Glad to be home.

Procrastination

Currently reading Solving the Procrastination Puzzle. I'll tell you more about it tomorrow.

just get started

April 2015

It's quiet here. Not much happens on LJ anymore. It's a backwater social network. And I like it that way.

Just wanted to post something here to say I'm still here even though I don't post here that often.

With One Voice One Guitar

Winter Solstice

Is a time for reflection. It is a time to let go of the bad and embrace the good. The problem is knowing what is good and bad. Perhaps, harmful and beneficial.

Letting go of procrastination and embracing getting started would be a good first step.

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Doubling Down

This has not been a good year. Next year portends to be even worse. But there is much to look forward to, and some good things did happen this year. I've given a name for every year for the past few years. I have an idea what I'm going to call 2015. I'd have to go back through my old posts to see what I called them. I think I'll call year 2015 Doubling Down on the Wrong Thing to Do.

Good is a relative term. We aren't in North Korea or any ISIS occupied territory or in an Ebola infected country. And I don't expect the US to collapse over the next two years, so there's that. But I expect the infrastructure of this country will continue to deteriorate and we'll lose two more years to deal with global warming. The longer the delay in dealing with these problems the less able we'll be able to deal with them as the effects of them get worse.

Update 12/15/2014: In light of recent news events, I think that 2015 will subtitled:GOP, rectally force feeding America since 2000 (or 1980 or 1968).

Book Recommendations

The first book I read on paleontology was Stephen Jay Gould's Ever Since Darwin, a collection of his essays from Natural History magazine, and over the years I've read all of them except for the last collection I Have Landed: The End of a Beginning in Natural History. So I read popular books on evolution, paleontology, geology, and ancient history from time to time.

I am not here to recommend Gould's books. I'm here to recommend one book I just read and one book I'm in the middle of. The first is My Beloved Brontosaurus by Brian Switek and the second is Neanderthal Man by Svante Pääbo. Of the second I'll say that I'm learning how much DNA sequence has advanced since the early 1980's and how very very hard it is to extract ancient DNA which makes it all the more impressive that they were able to sequence the Denisovan genome from one tiny finger bone and that we have been able to tell anything at all about this heretofore undiscovered human relative whose genes have been found in populations in Asia and may very well be responsible for Tibetans adaptation to high altitudes. Anyway it took a lot of effort and many years to sequence the Neanderthal genome.

Of the first book it's a loving look at the dinosaurs we grew up with in the 1970's and 80's and how advances in our understanding of the fossil record have changed our perceptions of dinosaurs. The brontosaurus of the title never existed but it's more of a nomenclature thing which name gets priority.

Still Here

I should post here more often. It's much quieter than my other social networks.

Right now I'm reading Five Billion Years of Solitude about the search for extraterrestrial life.

In other news, no Montana this summer nor Alaska. We were going to do an Alaska cruise to celebrate my 50th birthday. Couldn't get the cruise we wanted, so it'll have to be next summer. Probably won't be going back to Montana anytime soon. Stuck in hot sunny Tucson for June. After having lived here five years, I now know why people go elsewhere for the summer. So far travel is much less than last year. I went to PyCon 2014 in Montreal in April. There was still snow on the ground, though for the most part it was warm enough.

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Yorkshire Pudding

OK. Got to go to England this December. Went to York and Leeds. Saw lots of cool historical stuff. And I had my very first Yorkshire pudding. More later. Oh, and I saw Kate Rusby in concert.

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Physics Humor

1. A neutron walks into a bar and asks "how much for a beer?"

The bartender says, "for you? no charge."

2. Two atoms are walking down the street together. The first atom turns and says, "Hey, you just stole an electron from me!"

"Are you sure?" asks the second atom.

To which the first atom replies, "Yeah, I'm positive!"

3. Q: Why don't anions have many friends?

A: They're negative.

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