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[personal profile] graculus
You'd be forgiven for thinking I didn't go on holiday this year, since I may have mentioned it in the run-up to actually going but then haven't posted anything about it over here - folks who follow me on Twitter will have seen some flailing about the trip, for reasons I'll detail in due course, but that's it.

A couple of years ago, I went to WorldCon in London (that's the World Science Fiction Convention, in case anyone reading this was unaware) and at the time there was a bid in to host a future WorldCon in Helsinki, Finland. In its lengthy history, the majority of WorldCons have been in the US and I was keen to support the idea of it being this side of the Atlantic again, so bought a supporting membership. The bid was successful and 2017 was therefore when it was due to happen - in 2014, it seemed like a long way away! Anyway, I felt I should support this plan in person and, if I was going to go to Finland, it seemed like a good idea to have other things to do...

Which is how I ended up with this year's holiday - first off, a week's hiking in a National Park near the Finnish-Russian before heading back to the Baltic, a few days in Turku (medieval capital of the country) and then back to Helsinki for the con and whatever else I felt like doing. That was also how I ended up getting up at 4am to drive to the airport to get a flight to Amsterdam, then to Helsinki and then another flight north, to Kuusamo. Or at least that was the plan, until Finnair overbooked my third flight and I got stuck in Helsinki for 18 hours.

I've travelled quite a bit and this is the first time that I've ever been caught by overbooking. I think I've been lucky in that I once got stuck in Paris on the way back from a trip to Canada, but that was because the flight in was delayed and I missed the connection, not the airline selling something it didn't actually have. What other business is allowed to work that way? The only positive thing I can say about Finnair was that as well as organising a hotel & meals, they gave me compensation there and then, while other airlines have a bad reputation for expecting you to claim later and then, oddly enough, taking forever to pay you back for what you've spent.

My main concern was that I was due to join a group and knew that they'd already left the Kuusamo area and travelled into the middle of nowhere, as well as being due to go bear-watching that afternoon and that was one of the main reasons why I'd chosen that particular trip! In the end, I spent the majority of my compensation on a very long taxi ride from the airport (200km, to be precise!) and arrived just in time to bolt down a cup of coffee, run to the loo and then go bear-watching. The bears were awesome and I'll post some pics at the weekend.

The rest of the week was spent hiking 10-15km a day, with our luggage being taken to the next place we were staying, then sauna and a swim in the lake if you felt so inclined (which I did, in two different lakes, while others in the group younger than me chickened out). I also had a go at canoeing for the first time - I've kayaked before, but this whole thing with one paddle and switching hands is far too much work! The only downsides to the trip were the mosquitoes, which loved me greatly despite bug spray, and that it was too early in the season for cloudberries by about a week! They were everywhere in the bogs we were crossing and I only found one that was ripe the entire trip. :(

Then it was a flight back to Helsinki and a train to Turku for a couple of days. It's a nice, compact little city and I liked it very much, though one of the main attractions was being able to go kayaking in the Baltic for the day. The trains in Finland are significantly cheaper than in the UK (though this isn't difficult) and I definitely recommend them.

Once back in Helsinki, we had a complementary travel card for the bus and tram system as part of being a WorldCon member and this got used a lot - I was staying in the city centre, near the train station, and could either get a commuter train (10 mins) or a tram (25-30 mins), usually depending on whether I could be bothered to walk to and from the respective train stations, since the trams were also frequent. I only managed to get a bit lost once, waiting for a bus that never arrived and then deciding to walk (and walk and walk) before spotting my hotel from a distance and navigating towards it by guesswork. That was also partly caused by my not trusting my instincts, as partway through this journey I'd got on a tram that was actually going the right way then second-guessed myself and got off a couple of stops later.

I was also pleasantly surprised by how easy Finland was for me as a vegetarian, though I think being a vegan might be significantly more difficult. Helsinki in particular seems to have embraced soy as an alternative to meat - the local burger chain, Hesburger, was doing soy burgers and tortillas, for example - while I ate a lot of potatoes and vegetables, it wasn't anything like as one-dimensional as my trip to Newfoundland a few years back where I pretty much lived on grilled cheese sandwiches for most of my time there.

Anyway, back to WorldCon. I think my main criticism would be about the panels, but that's probably because I've been spoiled by other conventions, NineWorlds in particular. The panels were short, scheduled for an hour but really limited to 45 minutes to allow for people to get to the next panel, which then turns into 30 minutes plus time for questions. There was a problem on the first day about getting in to some of the panels as well, with the convention having to organise some additional panel rooms for subsequent days, which meant that even then people were leaving panels early - I don't really see the point of going in the first place if you're going to do that. As a result, most of the panels I went to felt a bit lightweight and at least one suffered from a lack of robust moderation, or a moderator who wouldn't shut up and let the panellists talk. It was ever thus, I guess!

I knew a few people at the con but felt the lack of people to chew stuff over with, which I've become used to. Anyway, the next European WorldCon is going to be Dublin in 2019, so I guess I'm going to Ireland again in 2 years time! Hopefully more folks I know will go and help keep me entertained.

In general though, I'm glad I went and Finland is a very beautiful but expensive country. I ate a lot of chocolate and licorice, although the salty licorice they love so much (salmiakki) is vile and I don't know how anyone can eat more than one piece. I wish I'd been there for cloudberry season and also that the mosquitoes didn't love me so much. And yes, I did sauna naked - it's traditional, you know! - but put on a swimming costume for the lake because we weren't the only people there. I highly recommend the sauna + lake combination if you ever visit...

noticing things

Sep. 20th, 2017 09:17 pm
gurdonark: (Default)
[personal profile] gurdonark
I got up very early this morning. I caught a train to downtown Dallas. I finished my business in mid-morning. I took the train back north. At my office, I got some things done. In the afternoon, I rode with a colleague back to downtown Dallas. When our business finished in the late afternoon, I rode the train back to Garland. I finished some work, then headed home. When I got home,  I found that my wife accidentally locked Beatrice outside in our fenced  yard. This was non-ideal, but Beatrice seemed happy as a clam. 

My wife and I walked in Glendover Park. We ate soft tacos.

This week I notice lots of things. Natural disasters in Mexico, Florida, south Texas, numerous Carribean islands and Sri Lanka. A friend from when I was a small child who is now a professor at SMU got a national honor as a teacher. A musician in Germany wrote a weblog post about, after her parents lived in East Germany, being the first generation in her family able to speak freely on political matters. On the train, the transit rail police tried to catch a minor transgressor. I got shaving cream at Sprouts, and feel relieved that it is not derived from organic rye oatmeal bits.

Our niece learned this week that she is flying down to see us in October. She thinks that's grand.

Breakfast: Kix Cereal and skim milk
Lunch: none
Dinner: soft chicken tacos

cahwyguy: (Default)
[personal profile] cahwyguy

Apple in Honeyuserpic=tallitRosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, starts at sundown tonight, September 20th. Thus, it’s time for my annual New Years message for my family, my real-life, Blog,  Dreamwidth, Google+, Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook friends (including all the new ones I have made this year), and all other readers of my journal:

L’Shana Tovah. Happy New Year 5778. May you be written and inscribed for a very happy, sweet, and healthy new year.

For those curious about Jewish customs at this time: There are a number of things you will see. The first is an abundance of sweet foods. Apples dipped in honey. Honey cakes. The sweet foods remind us of the sweet year to come. Apples in honey, specifically, express our hopes for a sweet and fruitful year. Apples were selected because in ancient times they became a symbol of the Jewish people in relationship to God. In Song of Songs, we read, “As the apple is rare and unique among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved [Israel] amongst the maidens [nations] of the world.” In medieval times, writes Patti Shosteck in A Lexicon of Jewish Cooking, apples were considered so special that individuals would use a sharp utensil or their nails to hand-carve their personal hopes and prayers into the apple skins before they were eaten. And the Zohar, a 13th-century Jewish mystical text, states that beauty – represented by God – “diffuses itself in the world as an apple.” With respect to the honey: honey – whether from dates, figs, or apiaries – was the most prevalent sweetener in the Jewish world and was the most available “sweet” for dipping purposes. And as for the biblical description of Israel as a land flowing with “milk and honey,” the Torah is alluding to a paste made from overripe dates, not honey from beehives. Still, enjoying honey at Rosh HaShanah reminds us of our historic connection with the Holy Land. Although the tradition is not in the Torah or Talmud, even as early as the 7th century, it was customary to wish someone, “Shana Tova Umetukah” (A Good and Sweet Year).
(Source: Reform Judaism Website)

Rosh Hashanah ImagesAnother traditional food is a round challah. Some say they it represents a crown that reflects our coronating God as the Ruler of the world. Others suggest that the circular shape points to the cyclical nature of the year. The Hebrew word for year is “shana,” which comes from the Hebrew word “repeat.” Perhaps the circle illustrates how the years just go round and round. But Rosh Hashana challahs are not really circles; they are spirals… The word “shana” has a double meaning as well. In addition to “repeat,” it also means “change”. As the year goes go round and round, repeating the same seasons and holidays as the year before, we are presented with a choice: Do we want this shana (year) to be a repetition, or do we want to make a change (shinui)? Hopefully, each year we make choices for change that are positive, and each year we will climb higher and higher, creating a spiritual spiral. The shape of the Rosh Hashana challah reminds us that this is the time of year to make those decisions. This is the time to engage in the creative spiritual process that lifts us out of the repetitive cycle, and directs our energies toward a higher end.
(Source: Aish Ha’Torah)

There are also apologies, for during the ten days starting Sunday evening, Jews examine their lives and see how they can do better. On Yom Kippur (starting the evening of September 29th), Jews apologize to G-d for their misdeeds during the past year. However, for an action against another person, one must apologize to that person.

So, in that spirit:

If I have offended any of you, in any way, shape, manner, or form, real or imagined, then I apologize and beg forgiveness. If I have done anything to hurt, demean, or otherwise injure you, I apologize and beg forgiveness. If I have done or said over the past year that has upset, or otherwise bothered you, I sincerely apologize, and will do my best to ensure it won’t happen again.

If you have done something in the above categories, don’t worry. I know it wasn’t intentional, and I would accept any apology you would make.

May all my blog readers and all my friends have a very happy, healthy, and meaningful new year. May you find in this year what you need to find in life.

This entry was originally posted on Observations Along The Road (on cahighways.org) as this entry by cahwyguy. Although you can comment on DW, please make comments on original post at the Wordpress blog using the link below; you can sign in with your LJ, FB, or a myriad of other accounts. There are currently comments on the Wordpress blog. PS: If you see share buttons above, note that they do not work outside of the Wordpress blog.

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usability struggles

Sep. 19th, 2017 10:51 pm
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[personal profile] cellio

I spend a lot of time on, and am a volunteer moderator for, several Stack Exchange sites. (Mi Yodeya is one of them.) SE has a banner ("top bar") that is the same across all sites. It contains notifications, information about the logged-in user, and some key navigation links. For moderators it contains a few more things relevant to that job.

Until recently it looked like this (non-moderator view):

original

The red counter is the inbox (waiting messages) and the green one is reputation changes. If there aren't any, you just get the gray icons that those alerts are positioned over. If I were a moderator on that site, there'd be a diamond to the left of my user picture and a blue square with the flag count to the left of that.

They've just changed this design. (Well, the change is rolling out.) Here's what it looks like now (for a moderator):

new, notifications

The most important links for moderation are the last two things, the diamond and the blue box with the number (flags). They're on the far right, where they're less likely to be seen for various reasons. (Non-moderators don't get those indicators.)

In the old design, those moderator indicators -- which are important -- were toward the center where they're easier to see. Also, all the numbers were a little bigger and easier to see.

When this was announced there was a lot of immediate discussion in the moderators-only chat room, during which I got a little upset about the reduced usability, especially those moderator controls -- which had a good chance of being scrolled away in a not-huge browser window, because SE doesn't use responsive design. After I calmed down I wrote a post on Meta about how this was going to make it harder for me to do my volunteer job, particularly with vision challenges. I expected to get a few sympathy votes, some "get a bigger monitor" snark (which wouldn't help, by the way), and no results.

That post is now one of my highest-scoring posts on the network. And I have a meeting with the product manager and a designer at SE next week to demonstrate my difficulties in using this in more detail.

Meanwhile, I've gotten some help with userscripts from some other moderators. It's hacky and a little buggy and it slows down page loads and I have no idea how to adjust some things, but at least I can see my notifications and the moderator stuff is in a better place. It'll do for now.

I sure hope I can get them to bake some of this in, though. The page-load delay is a little disconcerting as stuff jumps around on the screen. (Also, userscripts do not work on my Android tablet.)

Beyond the immediate problem, though, what I really hope for is to find some way to raise a little awareness that usability is hard, designers are not the users, there are all kinds of people with all kinds of usage patterns and constraints, and you need to somehow, systematically, figure out how to design for the larger audience. That's going to be the hard part.

should be free

Sep. 19th, 2017 08:44 pm
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[personal profile] gurdonark
Today I walked in the shopping center in which my office building sits. I heard a story on the radio about a couple in Arkansas who needed relaxed underwriting standards to buy a house in light of $ 100,000 in student debt. The primary cause of this debt was not a decade in a Ph.D. program, but a simple library science master's. This bolstered my feeling that post-secondary public education should be free or reduced-cost.

Tomorrow I must rise early and go to downtown Dallas. I am usually pretty good at early rising. Our weather is a bit warm for the season.

breakfast: kix cereal
lunch: t-k-y sandwich, vegetable soup and baked chips
dinner pork chops, sweet potato and cabbage slaw

Emmy Awards: Relevance and Privilege

Sep. 19th, 2017 05:38 pm
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[personal profile] cahwyguy

Over on Facebook today, a friend of mine posted a very interesting query: “So of all who watch the Emmy’s year after year…. do you actually have access to all those networks and shows that are nominated?”. This dovetailed with a feeling I had watching this year’s Emmys: What happened to the days when most people could see the Emmy winning shows on broadcast TV? This year there were very few network shows nominated, and even fewer winners. In fact, many of the winners weren’t even broadcast on channels one could get on traditional over-the-air, cable, or satellite TV as part of the basic subscription packages. They were on channels that, like HBO, you had to pay premium prices for, or channels like Hulu which you had to have an Internet subscription to watch.

Thinking about this further, on my Facebook, I asked: Wouldn’t it be great if we could get an awards show for excellent on channels that everyone could see: free channels or those included is most basic packages. That would encourage those channels to be excellent, not just those that can command premium prices.

But, driving home, what I realized is something unspoken about the Emmys: We may celebrate diversity behind the camera — especially this year. But we don’t have diversity in front of the screen. The inclusion in the Emmys of premium channels and channels that depend on the Internet have an unwritten presumption of a form of privilege: the privilege that provides the means to pay for premium subscriptions, to have Internet service, to pay for the extra devices, to pay for the computers and such. Many of the poor in this country don’t have those means — our rush to the Internet has simply passed them by and most people don’t care. There is no requirement of Universal Internet Access, like there is for phone service.

In our push to recognize quality in premium channels, we are sucking the quality from the accessible-to-all channels. And in doing so, we are dumbing down those channels and hurting the entire viewership of TV.

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Talking Like a Pirate

Sep. 19th, 2017 11:12 am
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[personal profile] cahwyguy

Today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day, so let’s all talk like pirates: Arr, Hedge Fund Landlords. Arr, Student Loan Servicers. Arr, Developers.

 

This entry was originally posted on Observations Along The Road (on cahighways.org) as this entry by cahwyguy. Although you can comment on DW, please make comments on original post at the Wordpress blog using the link below; you can sign in with your LJ, FB, or a myriad of other accounts. There are currently comments on the Wordpress blog. PS: If you see share buttons above, note that they do not work outside of the Wordpress blog.

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church, me and food

Sep. 18th, 2017 03:19 pm
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[personal profile] kayre
I'm lactose intolerant. It's pretty much a joke in our culture now, but I really am, and quite severely, plus I get a couple of extra reactions as a bonus. Even a small dose of milk means 6 to 12 hours of diarrhea and stinky farts, another day or two of feeling achy and uncomfortable, patches of eczema that last a few days. LactAid pills help; they most definitely don't prevent reaction.

Churches love food. Coffee hour with sweet baked treats. Refreshments at almost every gathering, ranging from more sweet goodies to pizza. Potluck suppers. Catered suppers-- spaghetti, lasagna, even turkey dinners.

If I don't tell folks (and maybe if I do, see below), my choices are: eat and get sick; don't eat anything; bring my own food; or skip the event. Oddly, anything but the first will upset some folk. Abstaining or bringing my own food leads to people being hurt that I won't try their offerings, or even accusing me of 'trying to make them feel guilty.' And as a church staffer, skipping food events can be a professional problem as well as a social sadness.

From the church point of view? It's a bother to accommodate food issues. There are at least four of us who are lactose intolerant to some degree; two vegetarians; two people with celiac disease who are only occasional attenders; one minor nut allergy (but not to the point of violent reaction); and, unknown to most, at least one recovering alcoholic. Folks who can and do eat anything and everything seem to find it overwhelming to contemplate feeding those of us with food issues. Mostly the reactions I see are thinly veiled irritation.

What could be done? First and easiest would just be to LABEL everything. Put out a card with the name of the dish on one side, and ingredients on the other (or I don't know/made from mix). Next-- actually talk to us and ask what works? I am absolutely happy to suggest possibilities, substitutions, or modifications that aren't burdensome; after all, I do them daily. Considering varying needs early in the planning is especially helpful-- salad bar rather than tossed and dressed salad, please!

But the bottom line... is that I am often reminded that I'm not worth the trouble of feeding me. (Not only at church, but honestly, it's the worst.) Me being lactose intolerant is inconvenient for other people. Sorry, not terribly sympathetic to that point of view.
fauxklore: (Default)
[personal profile] fauxklore
Celebrity Death Watch: Maurice Bluestein modernized the wind-chill index. Edie Windsor was an activist who played a major role in overturning the Defense of Marriage Act. J. P. Donleavy was a novelist, whose works included Fairy Tale of New York. Frank Vincent was an actor who sort of specialized in playing gangsters. Grant Hart was one of the founders of Husker Du. Harry Dean Stanton was a character actor who was in too many movies to attempt to single out a few to mention. Paul E. Gray was the president of MIT from 1980 to 1990.

Pete Domenici was a senator who represented New Mexico for many years. In general, I disagreed with his positions on environmental issues. He also got into trouble for reports about having fathered an illegitimate child and supposedly had pretty awful phone manners. However, he was a strong supporter of treating mental illness the same as physical illness.

Book Club: Book Club was on Wednesday. We had a pretty good discussion about Commonwealth by Ann Patchett. I like the central question at the heart of the novel, which is who should tell another’s story. But the reason I am mentioning this is that part of the novel involves one of the characters having an affair with a writer she admires. I made a comment to the effect of, "if Neil Gaiman showed up on my doorstep…" and was shocked that two of the people present were entirely unfamiliar with him. (I explained him as a writer of humorous fantasy with floppy hair and a British accent.) It also turned out that there were several people who had never read "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." Philistines!

Christine Lavin: Friday night I went to see Christine Lavin at Jammin’ Java, one of my favorite local venues, not least for its proximity to home. Doug Mishkin opened for her and was thoroughly delightful, getting everybody singing his song "Woody’s Children." As for Christine, she was as funny as ever, with a mixture of old and new material. Many of her songs tell stories, e.g. one that described a dinner with a famous person with atrocious table manners. (I won’t reveal who it was, so you can have the joy of the surprise at the end.) During intermission, she taught members of the audience how to do some elaborate napkin folds. (I, alas, was in line for the facilities, so missed out on the lesson, though I saw the results.) All in all, it was a thoroughly delightful evening of folk song and laughter.

Loser Brunch: There were several things I could have done this weekend, but it had been a while since I’d been to brunch with the Style Invitational Losers and Devotees, i.e. fans of the Washington Post’s humor contest. This brunch was at Brion’s Grill in Fairfax, so reasonably convenient. The buffet was just okay, losing points from me for not having any fruit beyond a bowl of mixed melon. On the plus side, they did have cooked to order omelets. And they had French toast donuts, something I had never experienced before. This sort of thing is all about people, in my opinion, so I don’t really care much about the food. The conversation was lively and it was a good way to get out of the house for a couple of hours.

Lazarus and eggs

Sep. 18th, 2017 07:33 am
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[personal profile] gurdonark
Sunday morning I walked on the Chisholm Trail in Plano. I went to Weight Watchers at 9.30, where I was up 2/10ths of a pound. I drove home. My wife and I went to the 11 a.m. The Way service at First United Methodist Church of Allen. The Way is being re-launched as a service for seminary students to practice preaching. The first Sunday their professor, Alyce McKenzie of the Perkins School of Theology, gave the sermon. Her topic was the story of Lazarus, and the idea that eternal life starts today. She is a gifted speaker. After the service, I worked on my voluntary duty--I put away the chairs.

We ate lunch at Two Rows in Allen. We had not been in years, but perhaps we should have been going all along. We had a very good breakfast buffet. I ate scrambled eggs and fruit and managed to control my biscuit intake to one biscuit.

In the afternoon, I watched sports on television, but managed to get in a walk in Green Park during an intermission caused by storms in Denver. In the evening I watched The Orville, which has the potential to be a good television science fiction comedic show. I woked up at 1 a.m., watched a little of the movie Serenity, but cut it off before the massive wave of violence near the end of the movie.

This morning I slept until nearly 7 a.m., I put out birdseed.

Sunday breakfast: Kix cereal and skim milk
Sunday lunch: scrambled eggs, a biscuit, potatoes, pineapple, cantaloupe
Sunday dinner: skirt steak, salad
Monday breakfast: Kix cereal and skim milk

Finding Lemon

Sep. 16th, 2017 11:42 pm
gurdonark: (Default)
[personal profile] gurdonark
First thing this morning I took Beatrice for a walk in the park. All the other dogs in the park, like Beatrice, sported darker fur. It was a bit like the story "the Red-Headed League" except nobody was paying the dogs for their dark fur and no robbery was being planned. Even the crows had dark feathers.

At 9 I headed out for a bicycle ride. I rode on the Watters Branch Trail to the Urban Center Loop Trail.  Then I rode to the Cottonwood Creek Trail to Allen Station Park. I pedaled by a house with a Black Vulture perched on it, staring at the trail. I do not know if the vulture had a presentiment about a hiker or biker having issues.

At Noon my wife and I headed to Elke's, the good lunch place in town. Then we went to the Allen Antiques Mall, which recently relocated to the east side of Greenville Avenue at McDermott.  We did not buy anything. We also went to Dirt Cheap, a new chain store across the street. This place picks up liquidation sale stuff and sells it deeply discounted AS IS. Sign warned us to inspect things carefully because ALL SALES ARE FINAL. I liked this odd store, and resolved to stop in and dig in its various scattered wares some day when I have more patience.

In the afternoon I rested and watched television.  We went for dinner at Firewater Grill. As we turned into the alleyway in our neighborhood, a happy young hound ran up, off its leash.  We stopped, and my wife scooped up the sweet young dog. Then she called the service listed on its ID tag. Soon she was taking the dog to its owner, down the street.  I stayed home with young Beatrice.  It turned out this charming little hound, some kind of beagle, I believe, was named Lemon. I am pro-Lemon. Apparently, Lemon got out when careless HVAC workers left the back fence open. Lemon is safely at home now, with Lemon's caring owner.

I found an article which explained the relative percentiles of LSAT scores for years including 1980, when i took it. This helped me understand how my ancient LSAT score would scale in today's scoring system.  The point is irrelevant in my life. Yet when I read on twitter as kids say they need to score x, I wanted to understand the context a bit better as it connected to how things were in "my day". I found that my score is analogous to a score a goodish bit above average but short of great--which was as true then as it is now. At the time I understood that while I could not get into a top-tier law school, I could get into a law school with a bit more prestige than my local state law school. I chose the local state law school, though, and it turned out to be a great fit for me. 

One thing that changed a lot is the cost of the education.  In today's dollars, I paid roughly $ 3,300 a semester in tuition. Now the fees and tuition are closer to $ 15,000 per year at my alma mater. So the cost in 2017 dollars is a bit more than twice as expensive. Yet the law school I attended is one of the least expensive law schools in the country. I think that education should be more affordable for post-secondary education, including professional school.  I see the tuition increase as one more manifestation of the divide between people who grow up with economic advantages and those who do not.  If I were in the charge of the world, this would change.



breakfast: kix cereal and skim milk
lunch: turkey sandwich on ciabatta and a cup of pork tamale soup
dinner: 6 oz. sirloin, vegetables and salad



[sci hist] A Most Remarkable Week

Sep. 17th, 2017 12:52 am
siderea: (Default)
[personal profile] siderea
(h/t Metafilter)

This link should take you to the audio player for The Moth, cued to a story, "Who Can You Trust", 12 minutes long.

The Moth, if you didn't know, is an organization that supports storytelling – solo spoken word prose – true stories. This story is told by Dr. Mary-Clare King, the discoverer of BRC1. It concerns a most extraordinary week in her life, when pretty much everything went absurdly wrong and right at all once. It is by turns appalling and amazing and touching and throughout hilarious.

It's worth hearing her tell herself before the live audience. But if you prefer transcript, that's here – but even the link is a spoiler.

Recommended.

a conversation snippet

Sep. 16th, 2017 10:36 pm
cellio: (shira)
[personal profile] cellio
Tonight at our s'lichot service (something tied to the high holy days), a fellow congregant greeted me and said "I haven't seen you in hours!". (We'd both been there this morning.) I said "hours and hours!". He complained that I was getting carried away.

I responded by saying: "hours" means at least two; "hours and hours" therefore means at least four; it's been longer than that since this morning, so "hours and hours" is not inappropriate.

It was at this point that somebody standing nearby said "oh, that's where I know you from!". We'd both been in a talmud-heavy class a while back.

There are worse things to be remembered for. :-)

Gee, Six

Sep. 16th, 2017 10:24 am
cahwyguy: (Default)
[personal profile] cahwyguy

(to the tune of “The Saga Begins” “American Pie”)

About a week ago
At Verizon in the mall
My phone was starting to die…
And I thought me and my picks
Could talk Verizon into
A deal on an LG G6
But their response, it didn’t thrill me
They called mall-cops, and tried to shill me
I escaped from that fight
Called *611, and made it right
I checked again, redid the order
Picked it up at a Ranch called Porter
They behaved like they orter
That’s where I got this phone…

Oh my my Verizon Cellphone
You’ve the only brand I ever have owned
Northridge Mall sucks, but Porter Ranch pwned
And now I’ve got the latest smartphone
Now I’ve got the latest smartphone.

This has been an interesting week. Back in August, while we were on vacation, I had a problem with my 4+ year old, 1st generation, Moto X. Driving through Aspen to Colorado Springs, my phone had trouble finding signal after we got out of the canyon, even after multiple reboots, when my wife’s newer Droid Turbo was doing fine. I had been having significant battery life problems, and we noticed the sides of the phone were starting to crack — indicating potential battery expansion. Given my contract was long up (meaning, given our old plan, I was essentially making payments for nothing), the conclusion was: replace the phone.

Doing research during and after the trip, I settled on two primary candidates, as the Moto X4 (though just announced), wasn’t at Verizon yet: The Moto Z2 Play and the LG G6.  Both were running Android Nougat, and both had the right mix of features. Although I was leaning to Moto because I liked their Apps, the smaller size of the G6 (the G6 was 5.86 x 2.83″, and the Z2 was 6.15 x 3.00) combined with the larger battery (the G6 was 3300 mAh, the Z2 was 3000 mAh) led me to the G6. Both were in my price range: under $25 a month. That number derives from the fact I was paying $40 a month for line access, and with the new phone, I’d be paying $15 with a $25 credit towards the phone: thus my overall bill would not increase. I planned to get the new phone once our current billing cycle ended.

Checking online, of the two Verizon Wireless stores closest to our house, only the Northridge Mall had them in stock. So I went over there. I dazzled them with my data, and we sat down to discuss the G6. They said the price was $28/month. I said it was $20/month online. They said, “Well then buy it online.”. I got on my phone and attempted to do so. However, I got to a screen instructing me to scan a barcode, with no other options. I asked them for help — they had no clue. I asked for a supervisor — he was out. I asked if anyone else knew what this screen meant. They didn’t, and they refused to tell me if the order had actually gone through. I gave a loud “Harrumpf” of exasperation… and they told me to leave the store and that they were calling mall security to escort me out. That got me even more frustrated (and when that happens, I tend to trip). I tripped over a chair, went flying, and they kept insisting security was on their way. I finally got out of the store, sat outside, and tried to call customer service (with the mall cops standing over me watching). After 1/2 hour on hold with my phone about out of power, I called my wife. She came over, went in the store (because they wouldn’t let me in), confirmed the order was not placed, and we went home.

Once home, I called customer service and placed an order for the phone — at $20/month, no problem — through customer service. Receiving the request to pay the sales tax online, I went to their website to do so. However, the plan price confused me, so I called them back. We sorted things out and I entered the card, thinking the order was placed.

Checked the next day at work, and the order was still “pending, call the credit department”. Evidently, the card didn’t go through for some reason, and they couldn’t fix the order. They cancelled it (which took a day to show up in their system as cancelled), and we redid the order.

That evening, I received mail that the phone was ready for pickup (within 3 days, although the website said 7). I called the store that evening to make sure I had all I needed to transfer, and to talk to a representative. Nice as could be. Driving home the next day, I got a call the phone was ready. I went up there yesterday evening. Francisco Linares helped me, and was as nice as could be. He helped me start the initial transfer, told me what I needed to do when I got home, and we confirmed that my current plan was just fine and the monthly pricing would be as I thought it would be (I’ll need to check that on the next bill). I picked up an extra Micro-USB to USB-C dongle, and I was home in under 40 minutes, when I thought it would take 3 hours. Yet again, the Porter Ranch store demonstrated that they understand customer service: they did it right.

Later that evening I ordered more USB-C stuff: a new power brick, a wireless charger, and cords and such.

I’m now the owner of a new LG G6, just waiting for the cases and cords to arrive. Comfortable in the hand and easy to use.

And that, friends, is the Saga of LG. Kudos and stars to the Verizon telephone personnel that helped, and to Francisco and the staff of Verizon Wireless in Porter Ranch for doing it right. Boos and 💩💩💩 to the staff of the Northridge Mall store, who care more about sales than customers. If you have a choice between the two, go to Porter Ranch.

Two final notes: People ask: Why Verizon? We’ve been with them since they were Airtouch Cellular, meaning about 20 years. We have 3 phone lines and 2 tablets, and in general they’ve been good. People ask: Why not an iPhone? I’m a big iPod Classic user, and I don’t want to pollute the iTunes ecosystem.

This entry was originally posted on Observations Along The Road (on cahighways.org) as this entry by cahwyguy. Although you can comment on DW, please make comments on original post at the Wordpress blog using the link below; you can sign in with your LJ, FB, or a myriad of other accounts. There are currently comments on the Wordpress blog. PS: If you see share buttons above, note that they do not work outside of the Wordpress blog.

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I see hawk people

Sep. 15th, 2017 09:57 pm
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The ending of the movie "The Sixth Sense" is playing on television. The weather is warmer again. Tonight I picked up bird seed and small milk bones. I saw five Red-Tailed Hawks in Oak Point Park this evening. I want to get a good night's sleep so I can get an early start tomorrow.

breakfast Kix cereal and skim milk
lunch: panda express string bean chicken, broccoli beef, mixed vegetables and a fortune cookie.
dinner: chicken enchiladas verde, refried beans and salad

The Story Behind…

Sep. 15th, 2017 12:12 pm
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Over the last few weeks, I’ve accumulated a number of news stories that tell “the story behind the story”. I hope you find them as fascinating as I have:

  • The Story Behind… Damaged Voices. An interesting article from the Guardian explores why so many singing stars have been losing their voices. The answer, on the surface, is that they have damaged their vocal cords. The solution is microsurgery and vocal rest while things heal, and they hope that their voices return to normal. But is that the cause? According to the article: “The rise in vocal injuries is linked to a change in what we consider good singing. Across all genres, it has become normal to believe that louder is better. (One reason that Adele is such a big star is because her voice is so big.) As a result, singers are pushing their cords like never before, which leads to vocal breakdown.” Why didn’t this happen earlier? Artists were taught to sing differently. Two artists quoted in the article, Brilla and Paglin, have been saying this for years. “You cannot solve the problem by simply relieving the symptom,” Brilla said. “It’s a motor problem. The singer has to understand it’s the way you’re running your engine” – the techniques they’re using to sing. “If you don’t fix the engine, it’s going to happen again.”
  • The Story Behind… The Brooklyn Dodgers Moving to LA. Los Angeles celebrates some of its sports teams such as the Lakers and the Dodgers. But neither started in LA. An article from the NY Daily News explores the Dodgers move to Los Angeles. The person to blame: Robert Moses, who designed much of New York’s highways, who didn’t want the new ballpark proposed by the boys in blue.
  • The Story Behind… Jewish Codebreakers. Many folks — especially cryptographers — are familiar with the story of Alan Turing and Bletchley Park (told in the recent movie “The Imitation Game”). But Turning wasn’t alone, and much of the hard work at Bletchley breaking the code was performed by a cadre of Jewish cryptographers. Here is their story. It is written by a former director of GCHQ, who notes: “Their role in codebreaking and in our “signals intelligence” mission was out of all proportion to the size of the Jewish community in Britain at the time. In turn, Bletchley’s contribution to winning and shortening the course of the war and therefore bringing to an end the Holocaust in Europe is clear. Less well known is the role of some of these staff in establishing and building the new state of Israel. This is a fitting time in which to remember and to celebrate their story, and to remind ourselves of the enduring values and unbroken line which links these great individuals and our work today.”
  • The Story Behind… Civil War Statues. Most of us (OK, well a few folks) believe that the civil war statues in the news today were erected to commemorate the civil war, and were put up right after the war. That’s not as true as you think. The reality is that the civil war statues were mass-manufactured, often with generic soldiers, erected half a century after the war (in the first two decades of the 1900s) when organizations like the United Daughters of the Confederacy were looking to reframe and glorify the Confederate cause, and in many states, the descendants of slaves had been stripped of the right to vote, which impeded their ability to effectively voice opposition.
  • The Story Behind… Hurricane Reporters. This really interesting article is a collection of tips for reporters reporting from inside or near a hurricane. My favorite? “Don’t stand in standing water. Let the other idiots get electrocuted — we don’t need them anyway. You, we can’t replace because we’re in a hiring freeze. Also, if you die, we need to fill out a lot of messy paperwork.”
  • The Story Behind… Adult Survivors of Childhood Abuse. This is a really interesting article that explores common behaviors in those who have experienced emotional abuse as a child.

 

This entry was originally posted on Observations Along The Road (on cahighways.org) as this entry by cahwyguy. Although you can comment on DW, please make comments on original post at the Wordpress blog using the link below; you can sign in with your LJ, FB, or a myriad of other accounts. There are currently comments on the Wordpress blog. PS: If you see share buttons above, note that they do not work outside of the Wordpress blog.

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Hatred and Jews

Sep. 15th, 2017 05:08 am
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Two articles that have crossed my feeds of late both highlight the issue of hatred: one of hatred of Jews, the other of hatred by Jews. Both demonstrate significant failures of our society.

The first was brought to my attention by Rabbi Barry Lutz of our congregation. Titled “Reform is Not a Four-Letter Word“, it describes a problem that is growing in Israel these days: the divide between the “ultra-Orthodox” (note that I do not put all Orthodox in this category) and the more progressive movements within Judaism. I’m familiar with this divide, for it isn’t a new one. Back in the early 1990s I started a mailing list where we explicitly prohibited that device, as the RCO fights (as well called them) were taking over soc.culture.jewish (the Usenet group) with their invective and hatred. It seems this hasn’t gone away: some ultra-Orthodox are using “Reform” as an insult. As the author of the opinion piece writes:

Still, I’d probably not have gotten around to writing this piece had Deri’s remarks not been echoed – almost drowned out – by those of Shlomo Amar, Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem and past Sephardic Chief Rabbi, who proclaimed a few days later that Reform Jews are worse than holocaust deniers.” You can catch his remarks, word for word, on the ultra-Orthodox Haredi website Kikar Shabbat as he responds to the latest appeal of progressive Jewish groups to the Supreme Court regarding the Kotel (Western Wall). “They don’t have Yom Kippur or Shabbat but they want to pray [at the Western Wall]. But no one should think that they want to pray, they want to desecrate the holy,” was Amar’s take on the matter. “Today there was a hearing on the Kotel on the petition of the cursed evil people who do every iniquity in the world against the Torah,” he added, including both Conservative Masorti Jews as well as the Women of the Wall (original and otherwise) as objects of his wrath as all were party to this litigation.

Did you catch that? Reform Jews are worse than holocaust deniers. Who needs Nazis in the streets when we have the ultra-Orthodox to hate us (without ever knowing what Reform really is, just like many of the Nazis know Judaism only from false stereotypes like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion). Hatred built on fake news and fake information is not new, folks; it has long been the domain of the ignorant, uninformed, and more importantly, those who do not want to be informed.

The current alt-Right and neo-Nazi — hell, Nazi — movements are bringing this all back to America. I met Shmuel Gonzalez when he recently gave a talk to the San Fernando Valley Historical Society on the community of Boyle Heights. This was an ethnically mixed community east of DTLA that — in the days of red-lining — brought together Jews and Latinos and Russians and Japanese and Blacks and all sorts of ethnicities into a loose coalition that worked for the rights of workers and the rights of people. Those Jewish Community Centers you see these days where nice economically advantaged families bring up their children outside of the horrid public schools were once Yiddishist centers fighting for workers and teaching English to immigrants. Shmuel, a very nice and gentle fellow, talks about this history all the time and preserves the Jewish heritage of those communities while celebrating both his hispanic and his Jewish background. Shmuel describes himself as follows in a recent post on his Barrio Boychik blog: “I am an activist historian and community organizer from Southern California; many of you might know me as the author of the Barrio Boychik blog, which is dedicated to presenting our local heritage of civil rights activism, with special focus on the historical and present inter-section of Jewish and Latino civil rights organizing. As a Mexican American of the Jewish faith, I also proudly serve the as teacher of Jewish education and leader in sacred Hebrew ritual, serving Southeast Los Angeles and North Orange County.”

Shmuel was recently at a counter-protest of the America First Rally – an anti-immigrant and anti-refugee rally organized by the so-called “alt-Right” – at Main Beach in Laguna Beach, California on Sunday, August 20, 2017. As he writes on his blog:

On this day I was in attendance to stand with local friends and business people as they stand against hate. Among them my good friend and a father figure to me, Irv Weiser; whose family came to this country as refugees following the holocaust. I came to stand shoulder to shoulder with him as he protested against this nationalist hate rhetoric. There were just a few dozen anti-immigrant/refugee protesters that day, a mixed race group of far right extremists that noticeably even had neo-Nazis and white supremacists participating in the event; while there were several hundred counter-protesters in attendance. After the right-wing protesters group dwindled they started making incursions into the counter-protest, to get in people’s’ face and to agitate the crowd; they caused some minor scuffles and were shooed back by the police. While documenting the event on video, I followed the right-wing group back. By this time the right-wing protesters on the other end were encircled and engaging a crowd. I engaged the right-wing protesters in their rhetoric angering them several times with just verbal rebuttals, while also taking video of the protest.

He continued:

As I was still documenting this event on video with the camera running, I went in for a close-up shot as we argued, and one of them quickly approached and hit my hand, sending my camera flying. At that point I was immediately arrested by five officers in riot gear from the Laguna Beach Police department. I was arrested, instead of these nationalist extremists who wanted to assault me. And that was just the begin of a long ordeal. I would be arrested, taken to central jail – where I would be subjected to racist and anti-semitic treatment by the jailer.

His blog provides all the details of this, and he has a court date this coming Monday. Why they arrested a counter-protestor, and not the perpetrators of hate is beyond me.

The reason I bring up Shmuel’s story (in addition to bringing it the attention it deserves) is to highlight the hate aspect of it. Both stories — the one from Israel, and the one from Orange County — deal with hatred of Jews. One is from the ultra-Orthodox (many of the same folks who, in America, are still supporters of Trump). One from the alt-Right — again, a supporter of Trump. Further, as I write this, a bipartisan group in Congress has sent a resolution to Trump condemning such behavior . Why did Congress send it? According to the Washington Post: “Trump was roundly criticized by lawmakers of both parties last month after he blamed “both sides” for the Aug. 12 violence that resulted in the death of counterprotester Heather Heyer, as well as his suggestion that some “very fine people” were among the white-nationalist marchers.” Of course, the White House is saying he will sign it but the reason why is unclear: political expediency, or because he really believes in it. I guess we’ll find out in the after-the-fact tweets.

Whether the behavior is from our fellow Jews or from the alt-Right/neo-Nazi groups: we must fight hatred in any form. Further, as in the early days of Boyle Heights, we must remember that our cause is tied up with the immigrant — be they be from South of the Border, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East, or Africa. Hatred of minorities in any form eventually turns to us Jews, and we have to stop it before it starts. Both of these stories are lessons and poignant reminders of where things can go.

 

This entry was originally posted on Observations Along The Road (on cahighways.org) as this entry by cahwyguy. Although you can comment on DW, please make comments on original post at the Wordpress blog using the link below; you can sign in with your LJ, FB, or a myriad of other accounts. There are currently comments on the Wordpress blog. PS: If you see share buttons above, note that they do not work outside of the Wordpress blog.

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Angelo Ardern

Sep. 14th, 2017 10:20 pm
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I read this evening about San Angelo. I like that city, about five hours' drive from here. I have been there a few times on business. It's got a west Texas feel to it--stark and open.

I got an email from a former  law partner I need to answer.  Golden Chick had a new $ 5 special, but it did not make sense for me. I managed to run the bill up with an extra piece order anyway.

I walked tonight in Crowley Park in Richardson. I read about a friend from university days. She went to Harvard Law and became a solicitor in London as well as a U.S. lawyer and who practices international tax law at a large law firm. When she was young, she raised Welsh ponies.

I'm intrigued by the New Zealand politician Jacinda Ardern. The weather today returned to "hot Summer". I charged the battery on my camera tonight, after it died during my walk.

Breakfast: kix cereal and skim milk
Lunch: roast chicken breast and leg, green beans and roll
Dinner: chicken breast, sliced raw carrots