Interesting Histories

Jul. 22nd, 2017 07:47 am
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[personal profile] cahwyguy

Continuing the clearing of some themed groups, here are some interesting histories that I’ve seen come across my feeds of late:

  • LA Theatre. Here’s a complete history of LA Theatre while standing on one foot.  OK, well, it’s not complete (there’s no mention of the LA Civic Light Opera, for example, or the other major large theatres that are no more, like the Huntington Hartford or the Shubert in Century City), but it is a great summary of the current situation with 99 seat theatres and how we got there.
  • Jewish Culinary Tradition. Here’s an article (and a discussion of a cookbook) related to a classic Jewish food tradition: pickling and preservation. A number of the recipes described sound really interesting .
  • Left Turns. If you’re like me, you get … annoyed … at the current crop of drivers that wait behind the limit line to make a left turn, and then do a sweeping arc that almost cuts off the car waiting on the cross street to turn (plus, it means one car per light). If you’re like me, you were taught to pull into the middle of the intersection, and then to do an almost 90 degree turn to go from left lane into left lane. Turns out, left turns have changed over time, and I’m old-school.
  • Old Subway Cars. When your light rail cars die, where do they go? Often, they are dumped in the ocean. Los Angeles did that with some of the Red and Yellow Cars. New York does it with its subway cars. But this isn’t pollution, and here are the pictures to prove it. Rather, it is creating reefs for oceanlife.
  • Tunnels Back In Service. An LADWP tunnel that dates back to 1915 is going back in service.The Los Angeles Daily News reports the tunnel is being refurbished to capture water runoff from the Sierras, which was inundated with snow this winter.The tunnel is part of a larger system, called the Maclay Highline, that runs from “the L.A. Aqueduct Cascades in Sylmar to a group of meadows in Pacoima.” Once restored, the tunnel will carry a significant amount of water—130 acre-feet a day—to the Pacoima Spreading Grounds, where it will filter down into the city aquifer and become drinking water. (One acre-foot can supply two households with water for a year.)

As we’re talking history, here’s another interesting themed historical group, this time focused on air travel:

  • Lockheed L-1011. I remember back in the 1990s flying between LAX and IAD, when I could still occasionally get an L-1011. This was a tri-jet from Lockheed, and was nice and spacious with great overhead space. They have long since disappeared, but one recently took to the skies as part of a ferry to a museum. The refurbished plane will be used as part of a STEM teaching experience.
  • Boeing 747. The Queen of the Skies has been dethroned by someone skinnier and cheaper. The last few 747s for passenger service are coming off the line; airlines are phasing them out of the fleets. There will be a few more for freight service, but like the DC-10, they will be disappearing. The market can not really support such large loads — and the multiple engines and fuel it takes to ferry them. The Airbus A380 is facing similar problems. Airlines want at most two engines, with the planes packed to the gills.
  • Old Airports. Here’s an article on an interesting dilemma: What to do with old municipal airports, such as the one in downtown Detroit? (NYTimes article) Should they be restored for general aviation purposes, and perhaps the occasional commercial craft? Should their land be repurposed for more housing and manufacturing, as was done quite successfully with the old DEN (Denver Stapleton). Repurposing can be temping. Cities such as Detroit will soon run out of wide-open, city-owned spaces that can be offered to companies looking to build manufacturing or other commercial facilities here. A decomissioned airport can provide just the opportunity needed. But others say cities should reinvest in the airports, saying it could be an economic engine as well. (I’ll note similar questions exists for former Air Force bases as well — how is former George AFB working out, San Bernardino?) The article  notes that cities across the nation are reconsidering the value of municipal airports in the era of superjumbo jets and budget cuts. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association estimated the nation loses 50 public-use airports a year. Almost all are general-aviation airports, ones that cater primarily to owners of private planes, and most have operating deficits that the cities must make up for in their budgets. Detroit, for instance, faces a $1.3 million operating loss in the 2017 fiscal year for Coleman Young, which averages just 30 landings a day. The main airport for the region is Detroit Metropolitan, a Delta Air Lines hub about 20 miles west of the city limits.

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Technology for the Win

Jul. 22nd, 2017 07:15 am
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[personal profile] cahwyguy

Here are three interesting uses of technology that I’ve seen come across my various feeds lately:

  • Cats without the Litterbox. Do you love cats for the relaxing purr, but hate cleaning litter boxes? Are you allergic to cats but still find the sound relaxing. Problem solved. The Internet has a cat, and it is ready and willing to purr just for you.
  • Travel Tips. I regularly bemoan the fact that kids these days can’t read maps. They are addicted to their GPS and navigation apps. But here’s a cool navigation thing for when you don’t have real experience: Google Maps will now tell you the best time to leave to avoid traffic to your destination.
  • Finding Counterfeits. People who operate pawn shops have a big problem: counterfeits. They have no control over their supply chain (no SCRM here), so that Gucci handbag that was brought in might not be the real thing. Luckily, technology helps. There’s now an app/camera combination that can examine a handbag (or other products) to determine their authenticity. Entrupy’s microscopic camera device is used in conjunction with the Entrupy app on a Apple device to take images of handbags, its seams, its inner fabric and any serial number or date code in the bag. Artificial intelligence algorithms analyze the images to determine authenticity, and results are received in real time. Entrupy backs up the authentication service with a financial guarantee. If a bag is deemed to be authentic and later is discovered to be fake, Entrupy will cover any financial loss. Entrupy plans to enter the shoe authentication sector next. Shoes such as Air Jordans, Yeezys and others can fetch hundreds to thousands of dollars on the resale market.

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random lunch thoughts

Jul. 21st, 2017 03:28 pm
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[personal profile] topaz119
I started to do the Wednesday book meme, realized it had been months since I’d last done it--including Beach Week, where I read non-stop--and threw up my hands. I’ve finished/abandoned 20ish books since then and typing them all out is a bit overwhelming. (If you’re interested, I’m here on Goodreads. Also, I'm happy to add/friend you there, too, just let me know.)

I did want to note that I have finally gotten to the end of the published Dresden books – it’s taken almost 2 years, but I’ve listened to every single one of them. This, btw, is a lot of James Marsters in my ears. (This is generally not a bad thing.) The boys are ecstatic that I am not spoilable any more.

It’s weird, though… Between catching up on that and finishing up watching Parks & Rec, my brain is all adrift for what I should be watching/listening to next. Even if I detoured off to something different, there’s always been that next ep/book waiting in the wings. For *years*…

For my tv-watching, I think I’m going for Brooklyn 99 next – it seems to have a similar tone as P&R and for audiobooks, maybe Rivers of London. I’ve downloaded the first of that, but then I got sidetracked on all the Disney podcasts flipping out over all the new stuff from D23. I’ve reached my Disney fanboy limit, though, so it’s probably time to get back into narrative mode. (But if any of you want to talk Galaxy’s Edge, etc, please feel free to chime in in the comments. Also, if you need a traveling partner to Orlando, I do still have that Annual Pass just burning a hole in my (virtual) pocket…)

(I should also do a rewatch of Battlestar Galactica, before DragonCon, and the boys are clamoring for me to go finish up Clone Wars so I can watch Rebels, also in time for DragonCon. Yeah, that’s going to happen…)

Shall We Pitch? La La La

Jul. 21st, 2017 02:41 pm
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[personal profile] fauxklore
The King and I: I went with a friend to see The King and I at the Kennedy Center on Wednesday night. This is (like most Rodgers and Hammerstein) a musical I have mixed feelings about. There is some glorious music, e.g. "We Kiss in a Shadow." And, of course, "Shall We Dance?" is a nice showy number. But is "The March of Siamese Children" anything more than a way to show off kids so parents will go to the theatre? Louis (Anna’s son) could use a lot more development as a character. And "I Whistle a Happy Tune" simply annoys me, aside from its earworm potential.

Despite those inherent flaws, the production was quite good, with special kudos to Jose Llana as the King of Siam. I also thought Manna Nichols was very good as Tuptim. The choreography made good use of a relatively small space (this was in the Opera House, not the Eisenhower, which also has the disadvantage of less than wonderful acoustics). Could one write a musical nowadays with an internal ballet like "The Small House of Uncle Thomas?"

My only real complaint (aside from my overall lukewarmness towards the score) is that the show was awfully long. I was nervous about the metro schedule, since trains stop running at 11:30 on weeknights now. I may have to limit weeknight excursions to things that are driveable or that I know will end by 10ish.

Chinotto: We had dinner before the show at Campono, which has okay food and is right across the street from the Kennedy Center. The café in the Kennedy Center is dreadful, with mediocre food and high prices. And the friend I went with was driving, so didn’t want to do dinner in Foggy Bottom beforehand. My salad was fine, but the real reason I am mentioning this is that they have chinotto! I know I am the only North American who actually likes those bitter Italian drinks, but the point is that I do like them and they are hard to find here. So it was a rare treat.

Now, if I could only find somewhere that has Schweppes bitter lemon…

Fielding Dreams: I shouldn’t really go out two nights in a row, but the DC JCC had a program on Washington’s Jewish Ballplayers and, given my minor obsession with Jews in baseball, how could I resist? Fred Frommer (who authored a book on Washington baseball, not limited to Jewish players) moderated the event. The other speakers were Phil Hochberg who, in addition to a career in sports law, was an announcer at RFK Stadium, and Aviva Kempner, who is well known for her documentaries, including The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg. The big news is that she is now working on a documentary about Moe Greenberg and she talked extensively about him.

Anyway, there were 18 Jews who played major league baseball in Washington, though some played only 1 or 2 games. The number should really be 17 because Buddy Myer, despite being in nearly every Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, was not actually Jewish. Most of the players talked about were active in the 1930’s or so, but there were a few I remembered. For example, Greg Goossen played for the Mets for a while, though, of course, their real Jewish star was Art Shamsky. (As far as I know, Ed Kranepool is not Jewish, though he did give a talk at our shul when I was a kid.) It was Goossen about whom Casey Stengel allegedly said "I have a 19 year old player. In 10 years, he has a chance to be 29."

Another familiar player was Jason Marquis, who I saw pitch here several times. The only Jewish pitcher who had a winning career in Washington, however, was Al Schacht, who went 14-10 in the early 1920’s. The other really significant pitcher who was discussed was Syd Cohen, who gave up Babe Ruth’s final home run. But the better story about him is that he played winter ball in Mexico under the name Pablo Garcia. The minor league ballpark in El Paso (where he grew up) is named after him – and his brother, Andy, who was the more successful ballplayer.

The big story, however, was Moe Berg. His baseball career wasn’t exactly impressive, but his career in the OSS made up for it. Apparently, he spoke at least 7 languages – and couldn’t hit in any of them. But his linguistic skills got him sent to Japan with much bigger names and to Switzerland to meet Heisenberg and so on. He was a genuine character and I’m looking forward to Aviva’s movie.

Speaking of Baseball: Jackie Bradley made an awesome catch Sunday night, robbing Aaron Judge of a home run. That is exactly how I like to see my Red Sox deal with the Source of All Evil in the Universe.

Don’t Analyze This Dream: I had, for some reason, been given an opportunity to do another Zero-G flight, for free this time. But there was a lot of paperwork to fill out – enough for a 100+ page book. I got hung up on a question asking me to check off which conditions I had, which including being blind, blonde, or blinde.

Food, Medicine, and Science

Jul. 21st, 2017 11:25 am
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Today’s lunchtime news chum post brings you three interesting recent reports related to food and medicine:

  • Artificial Sweeteners. Obesity is a growing problem in the world — although the issue should really be not the size, but the health of the individual. For the longest time, people believed that “diet” products were (a) good for you, and (b) helped you either lose or not gain weight. Increasingly, we’re believing and discovering otherwise. Specifically, a recent analysis of data from 37 studies has shown that artificial sweeteners are associated with weight gain and heart problems. After looking at two types of scientific research, the authors conclude that there is no solid evidence that sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose help people manage their weight. And observational data suggest that the people who regularly consume these sweeteners are also more likely to develop future health problems, though those studies can’t say those problems are caused by the sweeteners.  In other words, if you are going to have something sweet, have the real sugar.
  • Carbohydrates. If you have tried to lose weight, you know how it is. Those carbs call to you. Here’s an explanation of why it is so hard to cut carbs. The answer is: Insulin. It directly links what we eat to the accumulation of excess fat and that, in turn, is tied to the foods we crave and the hunger we experience. It’s been known since the 1960s that insulin signals fat cells to accumulate fat, while telling the other cells in our body to burn carbohydrates for fuel. By this thinking these carbohydrates are uniquely fattening. As insulin levels after meals are determined largely by the carbohydrates we eat — particularly easily digestible grains and starches, known as high glycemic index carbohydrates, as well as sugars like sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup — diets based on this approach specifically target these carbohydrates. If we don’t want to stay fat or get fatter, we don’t eat them. This effect of insulin on fat and carbohydrate metabolism offers an explanation for why these same carbohydrates, are typically the foods we crave most; why a little “slip,” as addiction specialists would call it, could so easily lead to a binge.Elevate insulin levels even a little, and the body switches over from burning fat for fuel to burning carbohydrates, by necessity. In other words: The more insulin you release, the more you crave carbs.
  • Expiration Dates. We’ve all been taught to throw away stuff that is expired. Food, medicine, grandparents. If it is expired, throw it away. But it turns out, that’s really bad advice and a waste of money. Food dates rarely are true expiration dates: most are “best by” dates and the food remains perfectly fine and nutritional, and for some, the printed date can be overtaken by poor handling. A study recently released shows that medicine expiration dates are also meaningless. A cache of medicine was recently found in a hospital from the late 1960s, and it was tested for efficacy. Of the 14 drugs, 12 were as potent as when they were manufactured.  Both of these findings point to needed better rules on “expiration dates” to avoid waste and early unnecessary disposal; it also should teach you to use your common sense. Look and smell before using. You may discover it is still good.

 

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Interrupted Silence

Jul. 20th, 2017 11:55 pm
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[personal profile] gurdonark
I worked another solid day. At lunch I walked in Heritage Park in Sachse. In the evening, I went to the Garland Salvation Army.  The Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program holds a monthly free legal clinic.  Tonight we had a few volunteers and a large number of clients. I did not keep a count on how many clients I met. But I know I met with several.

I read about the resignation of Mississippi football coach Hugo Freeze. Apparently, a school cellphone he used had a call on it to an escort service. I take no joy in his error. But I do wonder when folks will learn about using other folks' devices to conduct such calls.  It appears that an attorney for his predecessor, Houston Nutt, found the call using a Freedom of Information request.  As I understand it, Nutt is pursuing a defamation case against the university, claiming that Mr. Nutt is being blamed for recruiting violations at the school. Sports is its own soap opera.

I like social media. I do not like, though, the way that one loses touch with folks.


siderea: (Default)
[personal profile] siderea
Can somebody update me on the present legal status in the US of graphical user interfaces as intellectual property? Am I correct in believing they can't be patented (though the code can be copyrighted)?

What I really want to know: Can I rip off GVoice's old/retired web interface legally? Or more accurately, can I pay somebody else to do it for me with reasonable ability to assure them they won't go to jail or get sued into oblivion for doing it?

To be clear, there are some nifty functional subtleties I'd want to make off with, which I wouldn't even want to bother pretending I came up with on my own. For instance, there's some interesting algorithm for how texts are batched into threads which I haven't entirely reversed engineered, but make a huge difference in readability.

daf bit: Sanhedrin 2

Jul. 20th, 2017 08:55 am
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[personal profile] cellio

We begin a new tractate, Sanhedrin, which discusses court cases. Unlike in many secular court systems, the judges are active participants (they're the ones who question witnesses) and the ultimate decisors; there are no lawyers or juries.

A court is made up of some number of judges, depending on the type of case (at least 3, sometimes 23 or 71 or occasionally other numbers). Here are some of the cases listed in the first mishna of the tractate (this is not a complete list):

  • Various types of monetary damages are judged by three.

  • Rape, seduction, and libel require three according to R' Meir, but the sages say libel requires 23 because it could involve a capital charge. (A note suggests this comes up with adultery but doesn't connect the dots. Also, rape and seduction can involve capital charges too, so I don't know why they only call out libel. Perhaps it's addressed later in the g'mara.)

  • Capital cases, as implied in the previous bullet, require 23.

  • Cases for which the punishment is flogging require three, but according to R' Yishmael, 23.

  • Calendar decisions (witnessing the new moon, adding a leap month) are judged by three, though R' Shimon b. Gamaliel describes a more complicated scheme.

  • A tribe charged with idolatry, a false prophet, and a high priest can be tried only by a court of 71.

  • The following require 71: authorizing wars of free choice, adding to the temple courtyards, establishing small sanhedrins (of 23) for the tribes, condemning a city, condemning frontier towns.

Why is a great sanhedrin 71? Because Moshe was commanded to gather 70 (other) men. And why is a small sanhedrin 23? It's complicated. (I don't completely follow their math, sorry.)

This is all from 2a. The mishna continues onto 2b before the g'mara starts there.

(Today's daf is 4.)

very merry

Jul. 19th, 2017 11:15 pm
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[personal profile] gurdonark
I worked hard but well today. After work. I walked in Glendover Park. I read the sad news that Senator John McCain contracted brain cancer. I read someone's semi-snarky tweet about his condition. I nearly responded with my disapproval, but refrained. I wish people had a little more heart sometimes.  I learned a better new thing this week--an old friend's cancer went into remission. I re-watched the first "Guardians of the Galaxy" movie on television.  I listened to the "Ask Noah" podcast. I read a journal entry from Christmas Eve 2014.  I thought yesterday how much I love Edna St. Vincent Millay's poem "Recuerdo".


breakfast: instant oatmeal
lunch: BBQ chicken breast, green beans and a roll
dinner: baked salmon, roast potatoes, and green beans

A Secure Companion

Jul. 19th, 2017 11:48 am
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[personal profile] cahwyguy

This is a companion lunchtime post to my previous one. Whereas that post focused on government-related areas, this posts shares some cybersecurity items of broader interest:

  • Two Factor Authentication. The Verge has an interesting opinion piece on why two-factor authentication has failed us. We have a mix of approaches, some still depending on SMS even though there are significant weaknesses there. As they say: “Nearly all major web services now provide some form of two-factor authentication, but they vary greatly in how well they protect accounts. Dedicated hackers have little problem bypassing through the weaker implementations, either by intercepting codes or exploiting account-recovery systems. We talk about two-factor like aspirin — a uniform, all-purpose fix that’s straightforward to apply — but the reality is far more complex. The general framework still offers meaningful protection, but it’s time to be honest about its limits. In 2017, just having two-factor is no longer enough.”
  • Backup Software. One of the best solutions for security — and a key protection against ransomware — is having backups. But Windows backup software is often hit or miss. Here’s a good review of various packages from PC World. I’ve been using an older version of their top-rated software for a few years now: I’m on Acronis True Image 2015. It backs up to the cloud without a subscription. Their newer stuff seems to have some different models, and I haven’t decided (a) if I want to upgrade, and (b) if I want to go with their subscription approach. I’ll also note that I’ve used the Paragon backup (an older version). What I didn’t like was that it grabbed every partition on the system, and did really bad space management such that your backups would fill a drive.
  • Family Passwords. This week, Lastpass announced a new service: A family password manager. As they write: “Enter LastPass Families, where you can store everything from bank accounts to passports to credit cards. Your details are secure, organized the way you want, and easily shared with your spouse, kids, in-laws, and more. You can even give access to others in the event of an emergency. The family manager can quickly add and remove members to the account, making it easy to get everyone up and running.” I still need to figure out if this service (or how this service) is an improvement over multiple Lastpass accounts. They also indicate that there is a fee for the service beyond Lastpass Premium, but if I have multiple family members with LP Premium, can things somehow be combined into one account that takes into account what has been paid. Perhaps they’ll answer this post.
  • Alice and Bob. I’ve always joked that when I hear the names Alice and Bob, my eyes glaze over for the crypto discussion that follows. But why Alice and Bob? What is their history? This article answers that question. It details the major events in the “lives” of Alice and Bob, from their birth in 1978 onwards.
  • Erasing Data. Here’s a pretty good summary of how to erase data from both magnetic and solid state drives. File it away; it may prove useful.

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Cyber (Security + Space)

Jul. 19th, 2017 11:13 am
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[personal profile] cahwyguy

Over the past few weeks, I’ve collected a number of articles related to, shall we say, work-related topics. Here is where I share them with you, while enjoying my lunch:

  • Headline: “Air Force operationalizes new cybersecurity plans. This is a real interesting article detailing some of the changes being made in the Air Force to improve their cybersecurity stance. For those with an interest in cybersecurity and resilience, it is a move in the right direction.
  • Headline: “There may soon be a new US military service — for space. There’s one problem with the US Air Force. There’s no air in space. This article is about a potential separation between the Air Force side and the “Space Force”, with a notion that the Space Force would be like the Marines: part of, but yet separate from, the Air Force. It will be interesting to see how this pans out.
  • Headline: “Malware protection for air-gapped systems. One of the ways we supposedly protect system is through air gaps — that is, no actual network connections. Yet as we saw with Stuxnet, such gaps don’t always work. This explores the way one vendor is addressing protection for such systems.
  • Headline: “U.S. to create the independent U.S. Cyber Command, split off from NSA. The Department of Defense has many broad commands, most representing geographic areas (think Atlantic Command, Pacific Command, etc.) or broad functional areas (Strategic Command). One recent command created was Cyber Command, but it was part of and colocated with NSA. This article, as well as this one, discuss the potential separation of the two. This would permit Cyber Command to focus on cyber-related defense activities  (and possibly offense), and NSA to focus on its intelligence role. What they don’t discussion is the disposition of the unclassified side of NSA — what was once the National Computer Security Center, and now would include things like the Common Criteria folk. My guess is that the separation is easier in theory than practice.

 

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non-fearsome but feared

Jul. 18th, 2017 09:26 pm
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[personal profile] gurdonark
I like work now. It's a bit busy. After work I walked on the Celebration Trail in Allen. When I walked in the underpass beneath Angel Parkway, a small non-poisonous snake crawled into the shade. I worried that the little snake would be harmed by a panicked hiker, runner or bicyclist. I steeled myself for the worst. People get so carried away about snakes.

When I walked back, I got passed by a dad and daughter on their bicycles (Dad had a son in a pull cart) rode. The daughter, perhaps  5 or 6, said "this will take forever, daddy!". He tried to show her on a map on his phone that they had nearly finished the ride. She looked at the map but was unimpressed.

When I got back to the pedestrian underpass the snake was in good and unobtrusive shape.  But the little girl was afraid. The Dad pointed out out it was only a rat snake. They bicycled by the snake without incident. But the little girl cried once she had ridden past. 

breakfast: brown rice crisp cereal
lunch: turkey sandwich, baked chips, vegetable soup
dinner: turkey sandwiches on sandwich slims with chips

almost helpful

Jul. 18th, 2017 08:52 pm
cellio: (house)
[personal profile] cellio

My (Android) phone alerts me when traffic is bad near me. This can be handy at the end of the day because I work downtown. Except... it's telling me about traffic on roads I don't use to get home. Sure, there's spillover so it's not unhelpful, but it'd be great if I could tell it -- maybe by gesturing on a map -- what paths I care about, so it could tell me about those ones.

Does anybody reading this know of an app that does that, or a way to get Google Maps to do it? It needs to be fire and forget; I don't want to have to open the map app to look for red lines on it.

It feels like all the information is already there, if only my phone were making use of it.

(This would also let me know before I leave in the morning if traffic is still bad at the other end. At that time I don't really need extra information about traffic near my house; I need it 3-5 miles away.)

Green Thumbs

Jul. 18th, 2017 01:17 pm
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[personal profile] robling_t
I MADE A BUTTERFLY.



Four, to be exact; I planted dill this year, and one by one captured and interned five caterpillars that research determined were black swallowtails:



They eat plants in the family that includes dill and, fortunately, common-midwestern-weed Queen Anne's Lace, so I was able to keep them happy without having to sacrifice all of my dill. As it turns out, they get a little restless right before Caterpillar Puberty; I came home one night to find one making a break for it into the living room and only three still in the vase of QAL, and a day or so later two more were gone and turned up some six feet away trying to abseil to freedom down my stack of blocking mats, so I built them a caterpillar Supermax facility:



And the four remaining subjects spun themselves linesmen's harnesses and pupated:



(One of these days I'm going to find a dead caterpillar or butterfly in a corner of the studio, unless it went the other way into the living room and Ren ate it...)

Naturally I was out of town when all the Butterfly Hatching Action happened :( , but Mum kindly took some beauty shots:





What she did not do whilst I was gone, however, was keep an eye on the cucumber patch:



This, ladies and gentlemen and decline to answer, is the after picture once I'd hacked a pathway to the garden faucet around the edge of the planter...

Getting my mojo back

Jul. 18th, 2017 10:47 am
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[personal profile] graculus
Apologies to anyone who followed me expecting fannish stuff - it'll happen, as sure as eggs is eggs, but at the moment I just seem to have more to say about fencing than anything else. *shrugs*

The pointy end goes in your opponent... )

busy bee

Jul. 17th, 2017 10:24 pm
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[personal profile] gurdonark
I woke up early and began working. After a time, I got ready and drove to work, after reading some pages of a novel.  I watched American Kestrels in Timber Nature Preserve at lunch.

I walked after work in Bob Woodruff Park.  At home, I had to work some more.  Now I am watching Star Trek: Voyager.

Breakfast: toasted o's cereal and skim milk
Lunch: turkey sandwich and baked BBQ chips
Dinner: two wonderful chicken tacos

[tech, domesticity] Oy, Verizon

Jul. 17th, 2017 06:28 pm
siderea: (Default)
[personal profile] siderea
The one logistical thing that has not gone swimmingly with D's move to assisted living has been moving her landline.

The extent to which Verizon has screwed this up has been epic. [personal profile] tn3270 referred to it as a Russian novel.

Penultimately, I had a conversation with billing that went approximately thus:
Billing: Hello, Verizon Billing, this is [NAME]. How can I help you today?

Me: You can waive this month's bill because Verizon has screwed up two move orders so far, and the 90 year old account holder hasn't had access to her phone line for five days and counting. It's still not on at her new place, but I understand there's an expedited technician order for today. But who knows? You're the seventh Verizon employee I've talked to so far, and I've been told a variety of wrong and contradictory things every step of the way. This has been the worst corporate fiasco I've been involved with in years.

Billing: ...yes, we will totally credit the account for the month.

I had originally thought that we might have trouble because Verizon had security and stuff, and I wasn't the account holder (D) and I wasn't the contact on the account ([personal profile] tn3270). But no. I text chatted with Verizon in advance of putting in the order (CSR #1), and they told me what authentication tokens I needed to authorize the move order, I got them, and they worked fine when I put the order in.

No, everything went to hell apparently due to galloping incompetence on Verizon's (staff's) part(s).

Initially, I was told we didn't need a technician to come out for the line move, unless we wanted help plugging the phone into the wall; they could do it on their end. For the record, this is a good ol' fashioned POTS line, and moving within the same town. Fine. Once we'd nailed down the move date and booked movers – June 30th, to be precise – I got back in touch – btw, I was using the Verizon website realtime customer service chat, because I couldn't find a damn customer service phone number. It's 1800VERIZON, btw. So I fired up the chat thingy, and talked to a customer serv rep (CSR#2), who said they'd be happy to do the move order for me. Somewhere in the middle of the process, he apologized to me and said that the system was saying that a technician is required for that address; that there were no available technicians on the move in date, but could do the day after (7/13) between 1pm and 5pm, and it wouldn't cost anything to have the technician. I said to make it so, so he put the move order in. I asked him to confirm the service and he quotes me a price that I later find out is almost twice D's usual bill. I ask him whether he needs the account contact there to meet the technician, and he doesn't know, so he transfers me to another cust serv rep (CSR#3), who says, no, any adult who can let the tech in is fine, and who confirms the order is all complete, and (he specifically said this) the previous CSR did everything necessary.

Subsequently, [personal profile] tn3270 got a phone call from Verizon confirming the incipient move.

On Thursday, 7/13, 6pm no Verizon tech, and D's landline still has no dial tone at the new place, and is still working at her old place.

I am working until 9pm, so when I get home around 10pm, I get back on the text chat, and ask what happened. I'm informed they can find no move order on the account. The cust serv rep (CSR#4) asks if I have an ID number for the move order, and I don't have one. But they're happy to submit a new move order. Grrrrr. I say, yes, do it. After a long pause, the cust serv rep apologizes and says they can't do the move. Because it's a landline. The text-chat customer serv reps can't do landline moves. For that you have to call in. 8:00 AM and 9:00 PM EST Monday through Friday or 9:00AM to 5:00PM on Saturday. Also, he tells me, I might need to present paperwork in person at a local Verizon office.

It's after 10pm on Thursday, so I have to wait until the phone is staffed again. Why they can have 24/7 text chat CSRs but not 24/7 phone CSRs, I don't know.

Other stuff comes up, that has priority Friday, so I don't get to call Verizon until Saturday, 7/15. The rep I speak to (CSR#5) tells me she sees no record of the move order for Thursday, but she can totally put in a move order for right now immediately. I say the guy I talked to on Thursday said I needed a technician and special documentation; she said she had no idea what he was on about, no technician was needed, and no, they didn't need any special documentation. She said it would be done by "5 today, though maybe really more like by midnight". I make her give me the order number for this move order.

Sunday, 7/16, still no dialtone at her new place, dialtone at the old place. Verizon is closed for phone calls.

Today, Monday, 7/17, I call Verizon and ask WTELF. The CSR (CSR#6) calls up the account and says, "Oh, I see you had a move order for last Thursday." "WAIT. WUT. You can see that order? I was told you guys had no record of that order!" I make him read me the order number; so now I have the order numbers for both move orders that failed to happen. He then apologizes on Verizon's behalf and tells me they over-booked technicians, and that is why no technician came out. "BUT, BUT, WAIT. NOBODY EVER CALLED OR EMAILED. I WAS TOLD THERE WAS NO ORDER. THE LAST PERSON TOLD ME WE DIDN'T NEED A TECHNICIAN AT ALL." The CSR apologized again, and said he'd put the order in, and expedite it, and a technician would be by today.

Then I explained that I wanted the bill credited, and he referred me to billing (CSR#7), who both credited the bill ([personal profile] tn3270 has already got the confirmation email) and confirmed her service level and price, contra CSR#2.

Miraculously, a Verizon technician actually showed up at the assisted living facility today. He did a bunch of stuff, including something in the network closet and sticking some sort of probe in her wall socket, and assured us everything in the building is all set.

She still doesn't have dialtone, though; the technician confidently told [personal profile] tn3270 that the problem was on the pole outside. They'll have a lineman deal with that tomorrow (Tuesday, 7/18).

Next up, contacting the Mass DTC to see about filing an official complaint.

the weekend update & new fic

Jul. 17th, 2017 06:08 pm
topaz119: (it was a dark and stormy night)
[personal profile] topaz119
It was fairly busy, in a domestic sort of way:

  • Took BabyBoy to volunteer at the Shakespeare Tavern so he could see the professional cast who directed his youth players' group perform in Midsummer's Night Dream. Twice.

  • Got an actual haircut (as opposed to just hacking off the bangs/wisps around my face.) Did *not* do the color-the-gray thing... eh, I'm legit old enough to not care about the gray now I guess

  • Periscoped into Disney's D23 Parks & Resorts panel and started saving all my money for the previously-just-rumored-but-now-totally-official Star Wars hotel / LARP experience.

  • Had a very exciting Sunday morning of getting up early and going to Trader Joe's

  • Took BB up to Shared Worlds, said hi to various ppls, came back (it's a little bittersweet as it will be the last year I'll have kids there. I think at least one or another of the boys has been there all but one year of its existence.)

  • Finished the last Dresden audiobook. I'm a little lost, now--14 audiobooks is a lot of time with James Marsters in my earbuds. It's like my brain doesn't know what to do next.

  • Finished the fluffiest fic I have written in ages: just a perfect blendship, Wonder Woman, Etta & Diana, gen -- featuring several of my most favorite tropes: food & team-as-family


    Today I had an all-day orientation for the new job, wherein I discovered that wow, this is a huge company (which I kind of knew, but yow. Really big.) My brain is kind of mush at this point, so have a nice evening and I hope you enjoy the fic. (New fandoms are nerve-wracking.)
  • Mostly Hotels and Theatre-Going

    Jul. 17th, 2017 04:47 pm
    fauxklore: (Default)
    [personal profile] fauxklore
    Celebrity Death Watch: Ilya Glazunov was a Russian painter. Liu Xiaobo was a Chinese writer and dissident. More significantly, he was on my ghoul pool list, since I saw a newspaper article that said his organs were failing in time to use him for my one-time trade. (Tommy Tune should now live until next year.) Fresh Kid Ice was a rapper. Mahi Beamer was a Hawaiian singer. George Romero was a director, best known for the movie Night of the Living Dead. Martin Landau was an actor, notable for starring in Mission: Impossible.

    I want to especially highlight Maryam Mirzakhani. She was the first woman to win the Fields Medal, which is the top honor for a mathematician. I will refrain from commenting on the spelling of her first name.

    What I Left Out of the NPL Con Write-up: I completely forgot to include my appreciation for all the hard work that Hathor and B-side did as Con hosts. Mea maxima culpa.

    The Hotel Rant: I spend a lot of time at hotels. Therefore, I feel qualified to state that most hotels suck. I have already mentioned slow elevators. But there are many many many ways that hotels can make my life miserable.

    My chief complaint is hotels that hide their light switches. This was one of the sins of the Hotel Revere, where the NPL con was. There was one dim light near the door, which was not adequate for finding the black on black switches that turned on both the desk lamp and the lamp between the two beds. The latter was especially annoying as there was a switch nearby that did not, so far as I could tell, control anything. At least there was a nearly adequate amount of light once I located those switches. There is one hotel I used to sometimes stay at on business trips (The Boulder Broker) where I learned to pack my own light bulbs, since there wasn’t anything brighter than 25 watts within their guest rooms.

    Next on the list is the near impossibility of getting mattresses and pillows right. Most hotel mattresses are too soft. Except for the ones that appear to have been hewn out of granite. It is one thing to have had a super-hard surface when I stayed at the Ice Hotel in Quebec. And, actually, that had several layers of reindeer skins, which made it softer than the mattress at a particularly dreadful hotel in Benin that I have mercifully forgotten the name of. Pillows are even more of a problem, as there are usually too many of them and no good place to leave the extra 20 or so they pile on the bed. The worst offenders in this category are bolsters. I have never met a person who actually uses those bolsters. All hotel managers and designers need to read "The Princess and the Pea" and/or watch the musical, Once Upon a Mattress. Or at least try to sleep in the beds at their hotels.

    Speaking of useless things on beds, I have never understood those ridiculous shawl-like pieces of fabrics hotels like to drape across the foot of the bed.

    Drapes are often a problem. I tend to bring some duct tape so I can get them to close all the way and blot out light. I have probably ranted before on the subject of hotels that locate their drapes in places that require you to climb over or rearrange furniture in order to close them.

    Sound is an even more annoying thing than light. I will note that the Hotel Revere had good sound-proofing. But many hotels do not. I particularly despise atrium hotels, i.e. ones where the rooms are arranged around a tall, sound-reflecting open area. This is an especially common design for Hyatts, which is a reason why I usually prefer Marriotts if I am going to stay at chain hotels.

    Bathrooms pose a number of issues. If there is going to be a tub, it should be deep enough to soak in. Bonus points if the hotel provides bath salts or bubble bath. But a shower alone is acceptable, as long as: a) you don’t have to spend a half hour figuring out how the fuck to turn it on and adjust the temperature, b) the shower head is not so far away from where a person would stand to allow the shower water to cool too much by the time it reaches the body, and c) there is some sort of closure that prevents the shower from flooding the entire bathroom when it is used. (I am speaking to every hotel in France here.) Good things include heated floors (ah, Norway) and heated towel racks. However, hot water remains more important. I think it was Ulan Ude where I first encountered the notion that a hotel might have heated towel racks without having hot water, but I’ve run into it once or twice since. And I hope never to have that happen again.

    I am not particularly fussy with respect to toiletries, with the proviso that they shouldn’t smell weird. I prefer individual bottles rather than the current eco-trend of large squeezy bottles that: a) you can’t take home with you and b) I don’t trust not to be contaminated with something disgusting. If worst comes to worst, my standard toiletries bag includes a small bottle of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap, which is also useable as shampoo, laundry detergent, and reading material.

    Finally, there is temperature control. It goes without saying that the thermostat should be easily visible when you enter the room and should not require rearranging furniture to reach. The thermostat should be digital and it should be possible to set the controls for either Fahrenheit (i.e. real temperature) or Celsius. The thermostat should be easily visible and not require an advanced degree in engineering to operate. Come to think of it, I have an advanced degree in engineering and half the time I can’t figure out how to get the bloody temperature to something I can tolerate. (Admittedly, I have about a 1.5 degree comfort range.) The default temperature setting should not be 90F in winter and 60F in summer. If I ruled the world, it would be 76F everywhere all the time.

    Hotels that don’t suck include half the hotels in Italy (though the other half are amongst the noisiest places on the planet, so one must seek expert advice) and exactly two hotels in New York (The Algonquin and The Library Hotel). The former is bookable using Marriott points. But one needn’t spend a fortune to stay at one of the rare tolerable hotels in the world. The Albergo Atlantic in Bologna can be had for under 60 bucks a night, including breakfast.

    Mr. Taken: The first show I saw at this year’s Capital Fringe was Mr. Taken. Ward Kay, who wrote it, is a Style Invitational devotee. And Valerie Holt, daughter of Empress Pat Myers, was part of the six person cast. The story involves a group of friends and their relationships. At the beginning, Jen is living with Marcus, though they don’t treat each other very well. Eric and Liz have just gotten engaged. And then there is Patty, who is crazy about a guy who has a girlfriend (hence, nicknamed "Mr. Taken") but who Jen is sort of trying to fix up with nerdy Charles. Marcus confronts Jen about her behavior, in front of the others (at a pre-Christmas get-together) and then moves out. Some months later, Patty has spent the night with Eric, whose engagement ended because Liz slept with someone else, when Liz suddenly walks in... All of the performances were good, especially those of Jamel Lewis as Charles, Brooke Bangston as Patty, and, of course, Valerie as Liz. But the show didn’t completely work for me. I had a hard time figuring out why these people were even friends in the first place, never mind sleeping together in various combinations. Then again, this is mostly farce, which is a form of theatre I don’t much care for.

    The Originalist: On Saturday, I went to see The Originalist at Arena Stage. This is a play about Antonin Scalia, who was very convincingly played by Edward Gero. His foil throughout is a young African-American lesbian law clerk, Cat, played by Jade Wheeler. There is another clerk, Brad (played by Brett Mack) helping out, but he’s mostly there as sort of the anti-Cat and plays a much smaller role. Why does a flaming liberal want to clerk for a justice like Scalia? Well, she explains, she needs to understand monsters to know how to fight them. Scalia is only partly monstrous in this. He is capable of learning some things from Cat, as well as influencing her. At any rate, I thought this was an excellent play. It was often genuinely funny, while carrying a serious message about whether it is even possible to find a political middle. That’s a question I find even more relevant now than when this play was first produced in 2015. (And, remember, I am a charter member of the Dead Armadillo Party.) I also thought that the use of music – mostly opera excerpts – to delineate scenes was very effective. Overall, I highly recommend seeing this. If one could, it would be ideal to see the evening performance on 22 July, when Ruth Bader Ginsburg is going to be doing the talkback (along with Arena’s artistic director, Molly Smith.)