Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Don’t Be Nice



I occasionally rant about the lack of polite drivers in my area.

But here’s one area where politeness does not pay off.

From the article:

“A driver in the oncoming lane motioned for him to turn and he did when the driver of a blue van in the far lane didn’t see him and collided with him,” Idaho Falls Police Officer Brandon Harkness said.

People do this all the time at this intersection. And some of them get a little insistent – and then miffed – if you brush them off and stay in that left-turn lane even though they’re “being nice” and stopping the traffic so you can go.

I’ve been in a similar accident – nobody ended up on their side – because someone was nice, and I went without considering what was coming in the other lane.

It was stupid of me.

So don’t be nice in this situation. And if someone’s being nice, give them the brush-off and don’t go. Because nice people are nice but they can’t control the second lane of traffic, who don’t know why traffic in one lane is stopped and rather than reflect on that, just go into the other lane and proceed through. Which is right, per the right-of-way.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Eclipse Report: One Week Out

So the eclipse is nearly upon us.
 
My plans for that weekend: Finishing drywall, plaster, painting, tile, and shelving work in the laundry room. Then watching the eclipse.
 
A few things to report:
 
1. A sister reports a friend who works for the county received at least one call from an out-of-towner wondering if a permit were required for animal sacrifices. So somewhere nearby during the eclipse Monday, that will be happening.
 
2. At least one local store sold out of one percent milk and bananas, but is not – shockingly – sold out of squash, per local news reports. (Update: My wife visited the same store today and found it completely restocked with bananas. The yellow onions, however, were gone.)
 
3. Our local Walmarts have shipped in an enormous amount of firewood – right in time for the county to initiate a burn ban. Also, the parking lot of the Walmart closest to us is already starting to fill with RVs.
 
4. Farmers are frantically cutting grain so as to mitigate any crop losses when the burn ban is inevitably violated.
 
5. Dire warnings are spreading via the Internet on two fronts:
 
Front One: Whatever you do, DO NOT LOOK at the eclipse through anything but ISO-certified glasses with these specific numbers printed on them along with the name of the company which made them.
 
Front Two: Be on the lookout for counterfeit glasses that have the tell-tale required numbers and company names printed on them, but that will BURN YOUR EYES DOWN TO THE NUBS if you use them to look at the eclipse.
 
Front Two-Supplemental: Check lists published online by reputable sources showing the correct glasses to buy. Lists are always helpfully marked as not all-inclusive.
 
Front FYI: Dogs and cats won’t need eclipse glasses because as Space.com notes, “animals don’t really look right at the sun, so their eyes probably will be OK.” 
 
6. I should probably go to the hardware store for the drywall corner bead I need sooner rather than later, just in case the eclipse causes a run on building materials. I don’t expect there to be such a run, but with the loons coming into town mixing with the loons already here, you never know.
 
7. Gelflings still know nothing.
 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Technical Writing Exercise No. 2,908: Be Mysterious.

Technical Writing Exercise No. 2,908: Be Mysterious.
1. Print a 3x5 warranty registration card for a product in two languages, so the print is in approximately 8 point type (I've misplaced my pica pole, or I'd be able to tell you exactly).

2. Ensure the print is made even smaller by including, in two languages, a copyright notice for the logo of the company company that owns the company for which the product is branded, and the logo of the branded company as well.

3. Conveniently print the return address and "place stamp here" on the reverse side of the card.

4. Inconveniently require your customer to "include" a copy of the receipt for the product they're attempting to register, thus negating the convenience of printing the return address on the obverse.

5. Put the UPC symbol on the bottom of the box into which the device and its associated cords won't fit because the buyer wasn't there for the unboxing, thus causing all of the as-yet unwarranted parts to fall out onto the floor, and then REQUIRE the buyer copy the UPC number onto the card (in 8-point type because that's all the space the buyer's got EVEN THOUGH the UPC number is printed on the copy of the receipt the buyer has to include with the mail-in card).

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Iapetus Sings



Is Iapetus silent?

No. Iapetus is not. Iapetus sings.

That is when people tend to gather ‘round, with that “listen to the madman” look on their faces.

So I oblige. I tell them a story.

Imagine you’re on a bus. A buss rolling gently on a smooth, straight highway through the dark. You’re seated near the rear of the bus, not surrounded by other riders. But there are other riders. Some, in these winter pre-dawn hours, are asleep. A few snore gently, some bathed in the gentle breeze of a blower from the ceiling, others not.

So you have snoring. You have the breeze blowing.

Others on the bus are awake. Some sit in the dark and stare out at the dark rolling by. There is little to see. Not even the stripe on the side of the road, as since it is winter, the stripe is mostly covered up by packed snow.

Add the rumbling squeak of tires on snow.

Those not staring out the windows are tapping away at their phones, their faces illuminated by the glow form their tiny screens. But as you’re at the back of the bus, you do not see faces. You see the diffused glow. Some of them are watching videos, others are listening to music. They all do so with their headphones on. But their volume is loud so from those nearest you, you hear the tinny sounds.

So add muted music, laughter, dialogue.

You yourself are sleepy. You’re not staring out the window, nor are you tapping on a phone or listening to music. You’re half asleep and sometimes you do fall asleep and snore – not gently.

Now add the sound of you snorting yourself awake.

Take away those sounds, you have the sound of Iapetus.

Add those sounds, you have the sound of yourself on Iapetus.

But there is no rolling bus. There is no blowing breeze. There are neither snorers nor listeners of music.

There is you. And the sounds you make or the sounds your brain brings to the silence of Iapetus so the long silence of Iapetus doesn’t cause you to become startled at the sound of your own voice.

Those listening squirm with the frisson of listening to a lunatic.

One skeptic speaks: “But you said Iapetus sings.”

“I did,” I say. “And it does.”

“But you just—“

“Here is the song.”

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight!

Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!

And I sing.

The crowd gets confused, but leans in even closer to the singing lunatic.

Sometimes there is a student of ancient television in the crowd who recognizes the song.
“Iapetus,” they sneer, “sings the theme for ‘Laverne and Shirley’?”

“Only in my head,” I reply. “Iapetus itself is silent.”

I may as well be on Trafalmadore.

TMSC in the Ethers


So it's clear that my wife has become a fixture at Treasure Mountain Scout Camp, at least as far as Google Maps goes. Behold:


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Flip Phone Nirvana



I love the look on my Scouts’ faces when I had them my phone when they ask to use it.
They are, of course, expecting an Internet-connected smartphone, because the last thing they want to do with a phone is, you know, text or make a call.

So the frowns I get when I hand over my LG flip phone are precious to me.

Now, this.

The FCC suddenly thinks maybe deployment of “fast” mobile broadband Internet service is enough, and that pushing for faster – as in 25Mbps compared to the 10Mpbs for mobile – shouldn’t be a priority anymore.

Do you want more publicly-owned broadband networks, FCC? Because this is sure how you’re going to get them.

I obviously do not use my phone for Internet. And while I have a Kindle Fire HD, it’s of the wi-fi only variety. I like the Internet on my bulky desktop at home, 
thankyouverymuch. If I’m going to drop $50 a month for Internet service, it’s going to be on devices I can actually see with my progressive-lensed eyes, and for which I have no data caps (as of yet) or other restrictions on service (so far).

So, FCC, I’m a big fan of net neutrality. And I’m not a fan of the idea of mobile broadband becoming king, no matter what the bigcorporations want.

Want to let the FCC know what you think of mobile broadband being the go-to? Go here.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

He’s Guilty. Guilty! GUILTY!




So. Who deserves to lose his job? The guy who writes themanifesto, or the gaggles of employees who privately and publicly agree with it?

I haven’t read the manifesto in question – written by Google Engineer James Damore who laments the diversity culture at Google. All I know is this:
  1. Damore wrote the manifesto
  2. Many at Google agreed with it
  3. Damore is the only one (so far) who got fired.
I’m not calling for a mass lopping of heads at Google, or in any other place where agreeing with a malcontent gets one fired.

I’m just thinking here: Why draw the line at firing Damore? He’s the author, yes. But where does the culpability stop? He wrote the manifest and assigned his name to it. But surely he received feedback from others, re-wrote sections, added things, deleted things at their behest. Are they too guilty? Or not?

Hitler wrote “Mein Kampf.”

Did those who read and applied what he wrote avoid punishment? (And yes, I just Godwined this post.)

What this may bean for Google, on the face of things: A clear line drawn in the sand that sexist talk isn’t welcome.

What it may mean for Damore and those who agree with him: Self-fulfilling prophecy that to even speak out against such things labels one as a doubleplusgood duckspeaker, worthy of being fired.

Now, I’m not arguing free speech or First Amendment, as this does not have anything to do with government.

Companies can and do have policies that outline what constitutes a firing offense. The companies I work for certainly do, and have exercised them in the past. And none of them have gone after those who associated with the offending matter.

One guy writes. One guy gets caught. One guy gets fired. But the feelings that germinated the manifesto are still there. Fomenting. With fresh fuel added to the fire.

Google could have talked with Damore. Tried to come up with a solution short o firing. And maybe they did talk with him, and nothing constructive came of it. We’ll never know.

Perhaps it’s a measure of the times we live in that we limit ourselves to beheadings rather than mass slaughters. It’s an orthodoxy that goes for the leadership, not the masses.
I hold no sympathy for Damore’s views, just so you know. I work in a technical field where a good 50% of my co-workers are women. They’re as likable, capable, skilled and talented as the men – and many of them (as are many of the men) are smarter than I am. 

There’s probably something twistable in my praise here, but you can’t satisfy all the pickers of nits.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

With My Own Eyes


Arthur C. Clarke, in his novel “Imperial Earth,” describes a type of people he calls a “tapeworm”.

Tapeworms, his principal character Duncan Makenzie points out, are typically Earth-dwellers who believe their lives are so important or significant they record themselves, both audio and visual, saying and doing every little bitty thing that happens to them. Day and night. He credits this to narcissism and the ubiquity of portable recording devices.

Sounds familiar, right? Never mind that Clarke’s novel was published in the mid-1970s, when such ubiquity wasn’t.

That brings me to the point of this post: The eclipse.

I’m dead certain there will be millions of photos and videos of the event, published everywhere, probably to the point sites like YouTube and Facebook will break down the day of.

So I want to watch the eclipse unrecorded. Using only the eclipse glasses I bought.

Because I’ve got lots of pictures and video of the places I’ve visited. And I never look at it.

Like Linus, I wish to gaze upon this Great Pumpkin with my own eyes.