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Sunday, September 8, 2019

Up and Down

Listening to Terry Fallis' 2012 novel "Up and Down," his third I believe.  I'm trying to listen my way through all of those available as podcast feeds.

The idea is that a PR firm is given the task of reinvigorating public support for NASA and and Canada's CSA.  The new guy (David) throws out a brainstorm for a contest so a regular citizen of each of the countries gets a "working" trip to the ISS.  (They would be doing some of the work up there, not just staring out the window.). The selection of the vetted candidates would be made by a random drawing.

It may be a 2012 thing.  But an' t'were me, I'd do more of a "America's Got Talent" thing, with perhaps periodic interviews or minidocumentaries about each of the top X contestants, and the audience voting for their favorite candidates.  A drawing is like the lottery, people are interested till they find out their number wasn't drawn, then they're off to something else.

Have them do the voting and they have some ownership of *their* candidate. And if their candidate doesn't win, they were still part of the process, and they're still invested in the success of The Whole Thing.

Then again, Terry has decades of experience in PR, so I suppose he'd know better than I.  And it's likely a moot point; closest we came to Citizen Astronaut was Teacher in Space -- which didn't turn out well, no fault of the Teacher in Space idea.  Maybe someday.

"I blame you for the moonlit sky...."

FIR on Technology # 3 - Markdown

Listening to a podcast from 2016 (cause that's how I roll) from FIR Podcast Network where Chip Griffin talks about something called Markdown.  The idea is, rather than mousing around and clicking buttons, or typing truly arcane HTML, one types their content -- and in appropriate spots, one adds a few characters as part of the text to create special format items, headers and bulleted lists and whatnot.  Sweet!

Being old enough that I still own a sliderule... I learned how to use most of this back in the day when we wrote actual letters, stuck them in envelopes with stamps on them, and gave them to some guy in a blue uniform.  I also learned formatting by creating newsletters that got printed on paper.  And I learned by using WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS.

I still prefer the idea of WP over MS Word.  Microsoft created Word kinda backwards in my humble opinion.  Spend an extended period making your document all pretty, create a bunch of formatting stuff and put in graphics and all that, and then if you have any time left, maybe do some actual writing.

WordPerfect was written for people who learned typing by typing, who learned to create content by creating content.  Once you'd written what you wanted to say, then you went back and added on any fancy formatting stuff and graphics, if needed.  If it wasn't needed, if you were one of us, well, then you didn't put it in.  Start by writing content.  You may well be able to stop there.

I have yet to use Markdown.  But what I admired about Markdown from Chip's description is, you can create a Markdown document without using a mouse -- another strength of WP.   A couple decades down the road, I can certainly flip back and forth from keyboard to mouse to keyboard to mouse with reasonable facility.  But if I want to get actual content created without wasting time, use the keyboard.  Because that's what it's for.  Straight-up keyboarding, once I've learned what is where, is much faster. And with muscle memory, as with typing itself, I honestly couldn't tell you what key combination I just used -- I think what I want to produce and my fingers respond.

So I look forward to doing a bit of fiddling with Markdown.  Sad to say, I've lost most of the WP muscle memory I had, though when I want to print something my hands still start toward the right keys to get WP to print.

In a larger sense, I still recommend Play Episodes in Order on podcasts.  It is especially educational where the podcast feed goes back a few years.  You don't just hear the current commentary about The Next Big Thing.  You hear what they said about it when it hadn't proven itself.  Investment guys back in 2010 saying Google isn't a good investment, and Facebook is a fad that'll soon be gone.

It's history. If you want to understand what is there, you should understand why it's there and how it got there, and what it replaced.

Here endeth the sermon.

Friday, August 23, 2019

A comment on This Week in Google 513

Was just listening to This Week in Google 513, "A Secret Route in Jersey" with a rather vehement discussion about a column about privacy called "The New Wilderness" which went off track a long way.  Was going to comment

Jeff Jarvis made a valid point which got lost in the shouting.  His original point was, as I heard it, we need to be very careful about how we regulate the handling of the vast amount of data we are allowing to be accumulated.  The argument devolved into an almost-shouting match, and the objections presented to Jeff's point amounted to claiming that he was arguing for not regulating the use of that data.  So then he had to devote time and energy to defending a stand he hadn't taken in the first place.

Should the capture and use of such data be regulated?  Probably, though I'm not sure what the right way would be, I'm sure there isn't a simple answer with no possible flaws.  Jeff's argument as I heard it  was partly about the baby and the bathwater.  Write your regulations too broadly and you lose what good might come from the existence of that data.  And what good will that be?  I don't know.  You don't either.  Neither does Jeff.  "Of what use is a newborn baby?"

Likewise, legislation written with a battleaxe can demolish elements of the free discussion to which we now have access.  It can get ugly and bloody, but muffled silence is not an improvement.  Google, Facebook, et al, are not the ideal custodians of public discourse.  But for now they're what we have.

And simply because legislation claims to be for protection of privacy or restriction of excessive power, that doesn't mean it is.  A solution that claims to protect doesn't always protect.  I saw an article the other day, mentioning how shocked the administrators of a school were to discover some first graders had taken a gun from an unlocked box in the school's administrative office -- likely put there for Protection.  "But it's for the children!"  Uh-huh.  Heard that song before.

My own belief is that there should be an open mechanism that allows communication among a few billion people worldwide.  I don't think it should be run by Mark Zuckerberg.  But the US Government wouldn't be my choice either.  I honestly couldn't tell you who should.

We don't want multi-billion-dollar multinationals censoring our speech.  But we have folks introducing laws requiring them to do so -- and the people introducing those laws are also people we don't want censoring our speech.  So they pass laws that allow them to do the censoring at one remove, in obscurity and with no accountability.

So, Professor Jarvis, you are correct.  You didn't offer a solution.  But you did clearly state what the solution is not.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Is This Better?

Wierd. Just installed the Blogger app, and at best I'd say it's a lot to get used to. It makes obvious how to add a title (fine) and labels (okay)... but I sure would have expected entering actual content should be obvious, too.  Not unfindable, but not obvious.
On the other hand, it doesn't appear to have that "feature" of doing a line through when I put in double hyphens -- like that for example.  Probably worth making sure, huh?  ;-)
I have seen reviews on Play Store contending that this has some issues with uploading pictures.  Since I use pictures for essentially nothing on my blog, I may never notice those issues.
So in other words, so far, so good.

Android with one working eye

Decided Bloggeroid wasn't doing what I wanted it to do. I learned to type a million years ago, so I habitually use a double hyphen in place of a dash, and Bloggeroid thinks that means I want to line through the next bit of text (why in god's name would I want to do that?), so I decided to uninstall it from my Amazon Fire to try using the Google Blogger client.
Given I'm essentially blind in my left eye, and my aging Fire has a failing backlight... I selected the wrong thing.  I managed to uninstall my podcatcher app, BeyondPod.  Same color icon, right next to each other in the alphabetical listing.
So BeyondPod is gone.
So are the six months of podcasts I was behind.
So are those special URLs with the arcane jumbles of random-ish characters that Patreon gives you when you're supporting a podcast, that I had to key in manually.
Guess I get to reconstruct things on my older Amazon Fire.  Less storage, but at least the backlight works.

Transcribe Live

Came across mention of a Microsoft Android app called Transcribe Live on a podcast recently. If I could remember which one, I'd link to it. It was back in February; I'm that far behind on podcasts.
So, initial impression, it's Kinda Cool. Going with what I have en masse, months and months of podcasts, that's what I tested with. I notice that people on the podcasts I listen to talk very quickly. And the app struggles to keep up, kind of munges together the different participants in a conversation and shows no idea there are multiple people talking.People speaking slowly and clearly would be transcribed better, it appears. If I just talk into the thing it does a pretty fair job -- seemingy better than the GBoard voice typing mechanism, not sure why that'd be.
Scripted folks tend to speak more slowly and clearly anyway, and scripted statements do tend to be transcribed fairly well. I gather the goal is a listening prosthesis, and it's kinda marginal for that purpose IMHO.
Trouble is, deaf people might get no useful content from this at all. Somewhat hearing impaired folks, and I am a bit, would mostly need the help with the harder words and proper names and those are exactly what the app misses.
So it's a clever toy, and yet another maybe-someday-it'll-be-useful gadget. Feel free to play with it, but don't bet your life or livelihood on its accuracy.
posted from Bloggeroid

Friday, July 19, 2019

Here's That Rainy Day

For the past few years, I have just barely been squeaking by with my limited income versus what I end up paying for things.
Usually I would use my credit cards to cover what needed to be covered till payday. Not a great solution, not at all. Credit cards are hideously expensive. I have managed to pay a bit over the minimum payments on all my cards, too. So on paper I'm a fair credit risk. But my debt is, honestly, way over anything I could pay in any short period of time. Under current circumstances, I can never pay it all off.
After 12 years with my current employers I make 41 cents an hour more than I would be making if I started last week. I'm reminded someone in the last Presidential election said it just wasn't right that someone with a fulltime job would end up broke all the time. The person who said that didn't get elected, and the person who did wouldn't understand it, ever.
I suppose some of this, and some of the pain of this, comes with age. When I was younger I could believe "but someday I'll get something better and be able to fix all this." Men my age don't get offered something better. Best money I ever made was in an auto parts processing plant in southern Michigan. We don't have plants here in my home town. The jobs that are available would be great for high school kids getting that first job. Hell, my current job would be. But I'm not a high school kid anymore.
In the past I always had someplace I could push or squeeze to get out a few more dollars. I'm out of those places. I don't think anyone in my family is better off, so I don't have anyone to ask for help. There are no miracle fixes to hope for, no someday to look forward to.
When we were kids, they told us if you work hard and live an ethical life, you'll get what you need. I've worked as hard as I can, and been reasonably well behaved, I think. And here I am.
Here's that rainy day.

posted from Bloggeroid

Tuesday, July 9, 2019


Philately is perfectly acceptable, as long as you do it in privacy and wash your hands afterward. Actually it's a good idea to wash your hands before, too.

posted from Bloggeroid

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Wait Wait

Listening to the Wait Wait Don't Tell Me podcast again. Don't think I've mentioned this before. I want to be a caller on the show. I want to play the limerick one because it's easy. And I want my prize to be my voice on Bill Curtis' voicemail.

Did I already say that?

posted from Bloggeroid

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

What I'm Worth

Just had a truly terrible day of work. It was like far too many days anymore.

I do telephone customer service. I work hard and try to provide the best customer
service I can. Up to a point I can put up with a lot from the customers who call in, because up to a point, that's the job.

But there seems to be this belief that if someone has a customer service job, it is perfectly fine to treat them, treat us, like dirt. We are not worthy of being treated with respect and dignity. Perhaps it's the depersonalization. I'm just a voice on the other end of the phone, so I'm not fully human, and not worthy of dignity, respect, or even fairness
My employers seem to believe that all of us are interchangeable, valueless, and easily replaced. I don't know all employers, but I'd wager that's par for the course. We are pushed harder and harder to act like machines and not complain, and if we go along, they replace us with machines which may suck at the job, but at least they're cheaper, and don't complain.

Experienced customer service agents are chewed up and spit out -- and then customers complain they "can't get a person," and employers complain they "can't get good help," as they pick the flesh of their last agent out of their teeth.

The good days are good, as with any job. The good days get more scarce, year over year. The trouble with treating any worker as expendable is that sooner than you think they will be expended. And you'll go from having good experienced people, to adequate inexperienced people, to folks who can only read what's on the script -- which is fine, because they work cheap and are easier to manage.

The only reward for a Job Well Done is another job. And sometimes not that.

"She said a good day, ain't got no rain. She said a bad day's when you lie in bed and think of things that might have been."
Paul Simon

posted from Bloggeroid

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Dubai on Wait-Wait

Listening to a game on Wait Wait Don't Tell Me where the call-in listener attempts to determine which news story is the true one. Two of three are made up, though usually quite clever. Today's stories were about the crazy things rich folks in Dubai there are quite a few they tell me do to show off the fact they have too much money and not enough time to waste it all.

The episode is from January, you can go find it. My only observation was, that all three stories were pretty crazy. And all of them were quite plausible.

Which says something about Dubai, and says something about our perceptions of rich people. Well, okay, my perceptions. The rich, they are not like us.

posted from Bloggeroid

Saturday, June 29, 2019


So, spent about a week doing something vaguely resembling a vacation. Didn't travel out of town, so the term I kinda hate, "staycation," fits I guess.

Mainly, I didn't have to do the Dayjob. Which was very good. My dayjob makes me intensely unhappy after 17 years doing the same thing for two different companies. I shouldn't have tried being clever starting with my current employers. Got out of media studies & production school and these nice folks were catching calls for a public radio fundraiser, and I thought it'd be a good place to start for a little while. Twelve years later...

Anyway, whining-about-dayjob isn't terribly interesting, so, moving on.

Did get to do some things I like. The week started out looking very bad. Saturday morning the weather thing on my phone was claiming it was going to rain basically all week. Boy was I down at that point. By a couple days out, though, started getting a few sunny days, with occasional rain. Even had a couple days at 80 degrees F or higher a little excessive but for northern Minnesota, the sort of problem you want to have. It's not snowing, it's great weather. ;-)

I take great enjoyment from going to rummage sales. I don't feel compelled to buy more Rummage, our house is plenty full of Rummage already. But rummage sales give me a place to go, and when I get there, generally speaking, is still out in the sun. Might well buy nothing at all. But from time to time I find that one small thing that is unique-ish and serves a purpose for me -- even if the purpose is me staring at the thing while it sits on a shelf and I do nothing with it.

I use an app on my phone called Garage Sales Everywhere. It filters through the appropriate listings in Craigslist, and sends them through Google Maps giving me a map that (usually) shows where those events are relative to where I live. Sometimes I walk to the sale, sometimes I might ride my bike, and very rarely I might take a bus. The busses now have bike racks on the front so I could bus near and bike around an area. I get a bit of exercise and maybe I actually buy something, maybe not.

Last couple days I walked up the hill to Piedmont Heights. It's up a pretty steep hill, way to steep to bike up or down for me, and not easy to walk for that matter. But I feel like I've accomplished something when I get there, even if I don't end up buying stuff.

(Why yes, this is the exciting part of my RL life...)

Far as SL goes, I've done a bit of that, too. In fact, I picked this particular week off because it's also the time of SL16B, the Second Life 16th Birthday event. I originally intended to do what I'd done in the past, a couple of events DJing and a couple singing. Yes I do sing in Second Life. There's significant tech involved, but bottom line it's still me in front of a microphone.

Just did the DJing so far this year. I've been an SL DJ for 10 years, so I'm pretty good. I'm always a bit anxious about singing in comparison. Got in touch with a friend who'd been in charge of some of that stuff at previous SLBs. Turns out Linden Labs, our Glorious Leaders, may their tribe increase, decided to run the event themselves this year instead of having user volunteers manage it. This may be perfectly fine. But without the comfort of working with someone I know, I didn't feel up for singing this year.

So the main vacation thing I did was not work, but I also did some Non-Work Stuff. A small vacation, but adequate to its purpose. Couldn't get the week of Independence Day off, but the week after I'm out again for a few days
couldn't get that Monday off, those are busy on the Dayjob.

I think I'm going to be unhappy having to go back to day after day of Dayjob. (sigh)

Friday, June 28, 2019


So, checked my MegaMillions ticket tonight. Looked at the numbers on the website, and noticed the megaball was one digit different from last time's and recalled that my ticket was one different last week it was 18, and mine was a 19. Yay!

Turned out this time's was one digit different from last time. It was 17. So, no, I didn't win the MegaMillions. Again.

I'm thinking perhaps I'd have done better to have some other sort of retirement plan. Maybe that 401K thing they have for work. Teensy bit late, though.

If I'd taken the money I'd put into MegaMillions and put it in my 401K instead... I'd still be broke. But a boy can dream.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Thanks for the help

Trying to puzzle out what should be a simple question in LSL, the Linden Scripting Language used in Second Life.  I want to read one small patch of data off one small web page so I can use it in my script.

Went through several groups that purport to offer help on scripting.  I'm fairly good with the bits I've done before, but llHTTPRequest I have used vanishingly little, though with some success.

Found exactly one person who helped a bit.  He couldn't stay long.

Other than him, what did I get for asking?  Asked in a couple of different "Support" groups.  Got answers that translate to "See, I'm smarter than you, nyah nyah nyah?"  This they call help.

The LSL Wiki is like most references.  It will answer all your questions, if you already know the answers.

What an utterly poisonous experience.  I'd like to believe there are better folks out there somewhere.  But maybe they all left Second Life, as they all appear to have left Washington DC.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Well,So Much for That Plan..

So, I had this lovely idea. Use my Amazon Fire, an app called Bloggeeroid, GBorard and Google speech-to-text to do my blogposts from my porch. You will note I hardly ever do blogposts, and when I do they're mostly "simulcast" from my podcast page anyway. Thought a change of technique would encourage me to prodcue more. Well...

Google Voice to Randomly Selected Words That Are Almost What You Wanted To Say doesn't work very well. But you knew that. It might be that my porch is 15 feet or so away from a busy street, and there's just too much traffic noise. Maybe.

This is another alternative. I have a little Bluetooth keyboard, barely usable for touch-typing in size. I could type posts using this, and it has the advantage of being typing. I've been typing badly since the 1970s, and well since the 1990s, back when people actually typed letters on paper and put them in envelopes with stamps on them. You know, like writing. English. Whole words, sentences, all that effete snobbery.

This speeds me up because I'm a quick typist, and slows me down because I'm a careful typist. This also adds errors, because I'm mostly an out-of-practrice typist. The current Dayjob mostly doesn't call for typing, just data entry. If you're my age, you know the difference. If you're not, you're likely convinced UR typing LOL!

Voice to text is another of those Science Fiction technologies that never got as good as it was supposed to. If I were to go all crochety-old-guy I might say all technology turns out like that. I won't, but I wouldn't be far wrong if I did. (he said with a smile)

Mature technology is boring. A telephone I mean the black Bakelite brick on the wall with the coily thing going to the handset you have to pick up and put down does what a telephone does. You can talk to and listen to someone at a distance, sometimes a very long distance. Does exactly that and nothing more. Works reliably. Boring.

That piece of glass in your pocket you call a phone may be capable of making a call, but if it wasn't, you might never know, because you probably haven't used that in years. It does a thousand other things, barely adequately or unreliably or both. And maybe makes phone calls.

A television shows you moving images of stuff happening a long way away. You may have a large flat black thing you call a television. You use it as a monitor for your computer or your game system or that camera inside your doorbell, and when you watch moving images it's often movies from back when people talked on telephones on their desk or stuck on the wall.

I recall noticing in an old Bogart movie (like there's another kind) that much of the plot was driven by where phones were. They're at the isolated house, no phone there. If someone gets in the car they can drive to that place down the road where there's a phone, and so on. The old Lou Grant TV show, at the time an edgy example of modernity (such as it was) had plots often driven by whether a reporter could get to the nearest payphone before the other reporters.

Payphones. You put in a quarter to call someone. Ask your grandmother.

Computers were gonna be so cool. I was thoroughly chuffed (ask a Brit) to get my first computers of my very own. Programming was magical, and by typing in the right stuff I could get my very own Personal Computer to do what I wanted it do do, limited by the very few things it actually could do. Computers were amazing and magical. And now you have a computer in your microwave to beep at you when your popcorn has started producing smoke, probably more powerful than the ones I bought as a kid.

So does your smoke detector, you know that thing that lets out one beep every 20 minutes to remind you that you didn't replace the battery. If you'd replaced the battery, it'd be beeping louder because of the popcorn smoke.

Self-driving cars. We seem to be having trouble producing self-driving cars, possibly because we've kinda sucked at producing self-driving people. And then there are the meta-issues. We produce more and more technologies to (supposedly) do all the jobs we don't want to do. But the people who don't want to do those jobs are the people who program the tech and the people who own the companies who sell the tech. And we're approaching a world where they won't be selling the tech, because the people who used to buy the tech no longer have jobs and can't afford it.

Apple makes 84 billion dollars instead of 89 billion dollars... and that couldn't possibly be because $1000 is a hell of a lot of money for a phone, could it?

So, yeah, I could use this setup to do blogposts... but they'd still be old-man rants. You may even have decided I'm a Luddite, though you have no idea what a Luddite actually was. Just remember, 30 years ago, I was you.

posted from Bloggeroid

Episode Zero -- A Minor Local Celebrity

With "Meditation Impromptu" by Kevin MacLeod Originally posted to Libsyn under my original setup around 02/2007.  When I ran out ...