Jun. 13th, 2018
08:26 pm - My dog died
Age = 14.9 years. Cancer.
My laptop died last week. Age = about 12 years. Seems to be a motherboard failure at the power connector. I haven't replaced it yet and am making do with a smartphone.
My aunt died in January, age 87. She was supposed to leave me all her money, but stuff happened and now her estate has become a seemingly-endless lawsuit.
At her request, I have been saying the Mourner's Kaddish for her at my local synagogue. So far I have said it on 12 occasions in the last four months.
It would be inappropriate to say the Kaddish for a pet animal. Saying it for a computer would be just plain weird.
"Walnut" (as I once called him on this blog) was a good dog. He just wanted to help, although in his last month he wasn't able to do much of anything. His favourite activity was walkies.
Aug. 17th, 2017
02:58 pm - Status
My five years of Hell continue. I have no job and no chance of ever getting one. In June I applied for a position at the Post Office. It took two months to get through the aptitude test, the security check, and the various scheduling delays. When they finally granted me an in-person interview, it turned out I never could have done the job, which involves 8-hour shifts of tossing ten-pound boxes into bins by province. It's "part-time" in the sense that it's only October through Christmas. So the interviewers begin by telling me that the job has only one task, done over and over, and *then* they ask if I need accommodation for my physical infirmities. What's the point if no accommodation is possible?
I checked through Indeed recently. If you can't do full-time work, or heavy lifting, and don't have teaching or nursing certificates, and have no aptitude for customer service, then there is simply nothing available. I don't mean there's nothing GOOD available, I mean there is NOTHING available.
Last month the Government of Canada announced that the Canadian unemployment rate had fallen to 6.3% (corresponding to 5.3% in the American way of lying about the economy), even though there were 2,400 fewer full-time jobs and 24,300 fewer part-time jobs. This statistical legerdemain was accomplished by treating self-employed people as if they were full-time, even though self-employment is more work than full-time and pays less than part-time. If I don't have the stamina for full-time then I certainly can't do the "gig economy" which is even worse.
I asked my family doctor if I could get myself declared disabled, but she didn't think that would go well (it's been 15 years since the triggering event and you're supposed to apply immediately). She suggested I go to Lutherwood; I am currently in the middle of scheduling delays with them. It remains to be seen what they could possibly do for me, since they cannot create jobs out of thin air. There are government programs to assist disabled people, but I'm not eligible. There are other government programs for down-on-their-luck oldsters, but I'm not eligible because my house hasn't been foreclosed yet. There are programs for able-bodied people who need a new career, but I'm not able-bodied. There are programs for people who never got a college diploma, but I have a master's degree. Here in Socialist Canada there are programs for everything — but none of them are for me.
This post has been brought to you by Wifey/stuffedwithfluf, who complains that I never write anything here anymore. The last comment I posted was to deffox on April 18th. The next day I received a reply from whitetail, who refuses to accept that his computer's inability to display 𝕌𝕟𝕚𝕔𝕠𝕕𝕖 is his problem, not everyone else's. (Hint: what you need is a software upgrade so you can read what everyone else is writing 🌶 in 2017).
A month later I received a query from rain_gryphon, which was very nice of him. (In a previous year, when he had stopped writing for awhile, I had sent him a nudge.) So here it is, four months later, and it seems time has stopped. The front page of Dreamwidth hasn't been updated since April 14th. rain_gryphon hasn't posted anything since July 8th. frith has many posts of his drawings but none of the animals at the zoo he works at. loganberrybunny has only one post in the last 14 days, which is all DW will show me. Over at LJ, sabotlours is still posting (I wonder if he's retired yet), as is porsupah (good to hear things are going better for him) and whitetail (I wonder how his eye is doing.) There's some posts from mejeep (whom I haven't seen in person since 2005). That's it. It's dead, Jim.
Astute readers will note that this post begins and ends with 𝙎𝘵𝘢𝘳 𝙏𝘳𝘦𝘬 references and that none of the Unicode glyphs in this post were truly "necessary".
Apr. 9th, 2017
I criticized Pharyngula recently, so I'd like to mention one of his nicer posts. He pretends to hate kittens, world peace, flying cars and the transformative power of love. But then his sneer failed and his bitterness evaporated. (But his heart did not grow two sizes that day, because cardiomegaly is no laughing matter.)
Best line: "That pointy triangular shape looks exactly like the heart of a salmon, which are better than people anyway." But, as a furry, Pharyngula self-identifies as a squid. And salmon eat squid! But then people eat squid, too. In fact, Google tells me that people eat salmon and squid on the same plate.
Apr. 4th, 2017
This blog is now hosted in Russia! Как еврей, я уже знаком с предрассудками русских. Но, по крайней мере, они любят собак!
The new Terms of Service were presented as a modal dialogue with 2,900 words and a required click-through, which in sensible countries (not Russia) is considered legally non-binding because no reasonable person could be expected to have scrolled through that giant piece of text presented in a tiny dialogue box. Also the new English terms assert that they are not legally binding because they are a mere translation of the new Russian service terms, which are the real ones. I think the most objectionable new term is that LiveJournal may unilaterally change their terms at any time without notice and the new terms of service come into force immediately, even though no one knows about them yet (other countries have ruled that this is unconscionable and unenforceable). So basically the English-speaking users of LiveJournal are being asked to GTFO.
This entry was automatically posted from DreamWidth, which reports that LJ people are switching to them in droves. DreamWidth's computers are still located in the USA, which is another nasty country whose government thinks it has the right to demand access to customer data while also demanding exemptions for itself from its own laws requiring that customers be told when they've been hacked. I could move my blog to my own server in Canada, but then nobody would read it. As things are, *almost* nobody reads it.
The DW journal-posting page is less flaky than LJ's, but it doesn't offer a pop-up list of your tags, requiring you to type in their first few letters. Many of my tags begin with Unicode characters that I cannot type! But this doesn't really matter, as experiments I conducted years ago (back when LJ was cool) indicated that only one person ever clicked on any of my tags.
Mar. 27th, 2017
09:08 pm - I agree with the president!
On Thursday, President Trump announced that if the Republicans did not pass the replacement healthcare system by Friday, then he would drop the matter and stay with ObamaCare (which remember is basically the same as RomneyCare, which was a Republican initiative to begin with). On Friday, as expected, the replacement plan did not pass because it wasn't mean enough to poor people. Here we are on Monday night and apparently the TrumpCare plan remains dead.
This is the correct outcome! The Repubs have been saying for seven years that they would "repair or replace" ObamaCare, which they hated because Barack Obama has black skin. (It couldn't have been because of anything *in* the plan, because Obama had copied it from the Repubs to begin with.) For seven years they fundraised off racist donors who hated a plan that helps Black people more than Whites. The (R)'s won the 2016 election, in part, by promising to get rid of ObamaCare and make Black people die in the gutter as God intended. But of course they can't actually do that. ObamaCare, like MediCare, is now a permanent entitlement. Too many voters are getting benefits from it and it would cost too many votes to get rid of it.
So how did Trump get out of this unimplementable campaign promise, this "pre-existing condition" signature issue of the Republican party? He made a big show of *trying* to pass a lame attempt at replacement, which of course failed, and then he dusted off his hands, declared failure, and moved on. End of campaign promise! ObamaCare is now the law of the Republican land — which is the right answer for America. Of course, ObamaCare is a stinking pile of rotting garbage compared to what Canadians get, or what most every well-off country on the planet offers to their citizens (except Andorra — what is wrong with those people?). But Americans can't have nice things, so ObamaCare is the best they can do. And Trump has now announced what amounts to bipartisan support for it. Such a nice president!
I sometimes wonder whether the ban-on-some-Muslims is a similar trick. Trump repeated that promise over and over during the campaign because it got such big roars from the crowd, but banning Muslims will not Make America Great Again. We've tried that before. Banning Chinese people did not MAGA. Putting quotas on Catholic immigrants did not MAGA. Throwing all the Japanese-looking people into concentration camps did not MAGA. We know this approach doesn't actually help with anything except generating applause at election rallies. So Trump has twice now issued an "executive proclamation" in which he appears to be trying to keep his campaign promise to ban Muslims, only to be shut down by Conservative judges appointed by President W. Did Trump know that would happen? Was the whole Muslim-ban just a feint to get out of a inadvisable campaign promise?
And how about "Mexico will pay for the wall"? What a great applause line that was! But it seems pretty clear that Donald has no idea how to make it actually happen. Somehow he will need to make an attempt, declare failure, and move on. Might I suggest that the USA buy something for Canada, which then buys something for Mexico, which then buys the wall for the USA? It's a three amigos gift exchange! I can't imagine anything else that could possibly work.
Feb. 28th, 2017
This article by Anis Shivani is very good, but perhaps overlong. He thinks Trump is more like Mussolini than Hitler; I would like to have also seen some mention of Silvio Berlusconi as an analogue for Trump.
Shivani correctly notes that Donald's policies are not really that much different from W.'s or Barack's, because both (D) and (R) parties subscribe to the neoliberal ideology. Only the rhetorical flourishes are different, but otherwise the new boss is the same as the old boss. Obama said he loved DREAMers, but deported 2.5 million of them. Trump says he hates Mexicans, but deported fewer of them in his first month than Obama did in his. It is always a mistake to believe what a politician says.
Ralph Nader is mentioned once, but only as an avatar for the uselessness of protest against the neoliberal agenda. If you're a millennial American, Mr. Shivani says you should move to Canada or Europe (but says that he himself is too old to move). I disagree slightly, since it seems that Trump is markedly more willing to listen to protests than Bush Jr or Obama were. Still, the point stands that the rise of American Fascism over the last 30 years will probably continue until the USA loses a war in a big way — and surely you don't want to be drafted for that, so what's the point of hanging around to protest? Like the Jews from Germany, young liberal Americans should get out while you still can.
"Anis Shivani" is an Muslim name, but Mr. Shivani's bio does not talk about his ethnicity. He assumes without evidence that Trump will surely start a new war in the Middle East, but this is based on historical trends and possibly unconnected with any personal interest that Shivani might have in that area. He idly fantasizes about Trump nuking Iran, which I think is mistaking style for substance — but who knows?
Feb. 19th, 2017
Recently, the world-famous blogger Pharyngula (who is actually Professor P.Z. Myers of UMinn/Morris) noted that the president was running an online survey, so he asked his minions to screw it up by choosing their answers to "go against the result the poll is engineered to generate". I generally like Pharyngula, although he is sometimes too willing to conflate "scientifically proven" with "true". (Newton's laws were scientifically proven for over 300 years, but they were false the entire time. F = m⋅a is a statement about the universe that you can only "prove" if your equipment isn't very precise.)
So anyway, I clicked on the link to the poll, even though it seems politically incorrect to visit a page that has "DonaldJTrump" right there in its URL. Oh noes — my address bar is displaying Voldemort's name! But really, the poll isn't so bad, if you are willing to let the president speak his own icky Republican language.
The poll asks 25 questions, for 13 of which I am able to give the answers that The Donald wanted to evoke. That's over half! Maybe this guy isn't so bad. I suppose it's time for me to bore you with my rundown on his poll.( Read more...Collapse )
In other news, Craig Deare has lost his job at the National Security Council and returned to his previous job of Dean of Administration at the National Defense University (née the National War College). Deare had to go because he is an expert on Mexico and Trump doesn't want to hear opinions that disagree with his own — and Deare couldn't keep his mouth shut about that, which was fatal. Now *this* is the Trump Administration that I was expecting! It doesn't matter that Trump's initial cabinet is the "worstest ever" because many of these people will not last long on the executive payroll.
Nov. 21st, 2016
Wil Wheaton is depressed. His preferred candidate did not win the election. That's understandable. The election told him things he didn't want to know about the people of the country he lives in, so now he is caught in a whirlpool of lies he tells himself that make him feel bad while avoiding the real issues. Having studied his affliction, he is only too aware that the things he says to himself are not true (such as the climate of Los Angeles, which actually gets an average of 35 rainy days each year) but his self-knowledge that he is in a whirlpool of his own making does not cause the waters to recede. There are things I could say to him, but they would not make him feel better, so I'll say them here instead.
Star Trek: The Original Series was a fantasy. It wasn’t *really* an egalitarian paradise, it just *said* it was. The Federation *said* it came in peace, but Captain Kirk & crew were constantly starting wars with planets whose only real crime was disagreeing with them about the proper philosophy of government. The Federation were a bunch of self-righteous bullies, much like the Americans of the 1960’s and the Hillary-voters of today. Sometimes it seemed the only reason the Federation fought with the Klingon Empire was because they were in constant need of some enemy to fight in order to justify their militaristic society; this also seemed to be Hillary’s only reason for picking a fight with Russia.
American presidential elections are morality plays: the lesser-evil candidate wins. The candidates spend the entire election lying about everything, trying to create the impression that they are evil enough to deserve mega-donations yet somehow good enough to deserve votes. You can’t believe a word that either of them says about anything. If you allow yourself to believe the hype, you’ll get a post-election depression even if your preferred candidate wins. I remember when Barack Obama won, and started doing stuff that did not match his campaign rhetoric. The phrase “hyperdimensional chess” was briefly popular among Democrats. You see, Obama must be playing a game in which he pretends to be evil in order to better position himself for doing good things later. But “later” never came and eventually people realized that Obama is just another corrupt politician like all the others. I like to think that Barack does actually *want* to do good (such as the ACA), but most of the time he just can’t because of the constant overriding need to suck up to Wall St in order to have any ability to get anything at all done. The presidency does not have as much independence of action as many people like to think. Our current president is Black but still life sucks for ordinary Black Americans; the president-elect is a White supremacist but I expect that life will continue to suck for ordinary Whites (though less than Blacks). We are in year 16 of what will probably be a 20-year global economic recession and there isn’t much that a president can do about that.
I found Hillary’s campaign rhetoric to be extremely offensive. Donald’s misogyny makes him completely unfit for the presidency, but Bill Clinton’s very similar misogyny was — shut up, don’t talk about my husband! Hillary’s actions in Ukraine and Syria probably amounted to war crimes, but — Shut Up! Hillary has NEVER done ANYTHING wrong EVER!!! Hillary’s adamant refusal to secure her email server showed appallingly bad judgment and probably should result in her being banned from having a security clearance — SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP DONALD IS A POOPY HEAD THAT’S ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW. But you can’t win an election by telling people to shut up all the time.
Oct. 31st, 2016
(Brown text = post-election edits.)
It’s been almost six years(!) since
the last time I
linked to the blog of my American friend and colleague,
Dr. J. Gotta cross-link
to your homies to keep our Google rankings up! Anyway, Dr. J works for the
US gov’t, so he may be obligated to write political tracts in support of the
Stalinist dictator Constitutionally-limited
president. He published this tract on a Sunday, perhaps to hide the fact
(if it is one) that he was required to write it on paid government time.
There is a law against that, but it’s widely ignored like most
good-government laws in the USA.
The didactic form that Dr. J chose is the “in an alternate universe, Hillary is actually guilty of something” meme, which isn’t bad as propaganda styles go. Certainly it is less objectionable than the style chosen by Dr. Phil Plait, who basically starts from the reasonable “Global Warming is the most important issue” and the unreasonable ”politicians do not lie” and somehow manages to conclude that Hillary is the best candidate — even though she is pro-WWIII and Donald is against it and the world wars show up as spikes on the historical temperature chart. So I guess I could perhaps join in on this fun, although personally I endorse Jill Stein because she tells the fewest lies.
Before we begin, I should note that Dr. J’s piece is actually funny, which is probably more than I can hope to achieve with my own work. His Churchillian grammar reference is excellent and I found myself agreeing with the imaginary crowd furious at Hillary’s misquote. It’s “shall not”, I say! Yet even in an alternate universe, it is still the anti-Hillary forces that are correct.Alternate Universe № ❰∞,∞,∞,26,∞,0,19,∞̅…❱ (see supernatural numbers, which I don’t actually believe in because ∞ is a figment of the mathematical imagination; Objective Reality probably doesn’t contain any numbers larger than around 10⁸⁵ or so).
Conceit: In this universe (which we can never locate because its ID number is transfinite), Hillary actually had a legitimate reason to operate her honeypot email server that provided live feeds to Russia and Al Qaeda and Goldman Sachs containing the classified info that she received.
Resulting difference: Not much, really. The Espionage Act of 1917 says it applies to everyone, including the president. It does not offer any exemption for politicians who possess a legitimate national-security reason to burn an agent’s cover; if that action results in another agent’s death then the politician is supposed to get the electric chair. So Hillary Clinton is basically in the same category as Dick Cheney. Alternate Universe № 5.2761 (but keeping in mind that fractional numbers which are not ratios might not actually exist; they might instead be mere measurement conveniences arising from the enormous gap between human-sized units and physics-sized ones).
Conceit: In this universe, Hillary actually still has a shred of decency left in her, so she does not make a big deal of Donald’s misogynistic ways. Because, you know, her husband Bill has done most of the same things — except only Donald dared to talk about it when he knew the mic was on, thus showing that Donald is an idiot. And Hillary has insisted all along that absolutely nothing Bill has ever done was actually wrong, so therefore (for her) those same things should also not have been wrong when Donald did them. Donald's contemptible attitude toward women could certainly be criticized by other Democrats (such as Huma Abedin, who divorced her own husband for less) but this would lead to questions about Bill that Hillary doesn't want to hear.
Resulting difference: None. It doesn’t matter which acts of muck-raking Hillary decides are beneath her (if any). Barack Obama has already announced that the winner of the election shall be Hillary. He has also hinted that if for any reason the vote-counting machines ring up “Donald” as their answer, that could only mean that the machines were hacked by the Russians because the American people do not have permission from their president to vote for Donald. Heil☭Hillary! It outta be a crime not to love her! Alternate Universe № 3141592653589793238462643383279502884197
Conceit: In this universe, Hillary is openly working for Goldman Sachs, the vampire squid that wants to RULE THE WORLD by installing its Manchurian candidates as the leaders of all major governments. None of the policies she espouses on the campaign trail have anything to do with her actual plans for her presidency, which consist of transferring all remaining wealth from Main St to Wall St while waging a causeless war against Russia in order to bring about the Nuclear Apocalypse, thus ensuring the Second Coming of Jesus Christ among the poor bedraggled survivors on a burnt-out planet.
Resulting difference: Um, there seems to be a technical glitch in our Inter-Universal Counterfactuality gizmo. Apparently the ID number for this “alternate universe” is actually a synonym of our own. Anyway, by the Reflexive Property, there cannot be any difference between two universes that differ only in name and not in character.
Sep. 24th, 2016
01:14 am - Absurdist analogy
"Fox News offered former anchor Gretchen Carlson 20 million dollars and an apology after she spent years being sexually harassed by Roger Ailes, who looks like they tried to clone Alfred Hitchcock but the DNA was incomplete so they just filled it in with genetic material from a Basset hound, mashed potatoes, and the mumps, which they then stirred around in a Waffle House toilet after the toilet had just looked at the Ark of the Covenant."
---Chris Hardwick, host of @Midnight
Sep. 7th, 2016
11:35 am - The importance of a hyphenIn this article, Bill Harnsberger states
|Number of states with no-texting-while-driving laws: 46|
The h-y-p-h-e-n is a very important punctuation mark!
Jul. 30th, 2016
11:47 am - Politics
I don't believe the polls that say Donald is leading. The media need to create the illusion of a close race in order to sell their ads. Actually, a vote for anyone other than Donald (or no vote at all) is a vote for Hillary because she has convinced everyone that the election is rigged in her favour and her coronation is now assured unless something catastrophic happens (such as Hillary spending 100× as much as Donald on TV ads, causing everyone to become sick to death of her and voting for him just as a protest).
But protest votes can be dangerous, as England and Wales discovered recently. It was widely believed that the Brexit was rigged and the "Leave the EU" side would not be permitted to win, so there was no harm in voting for it as a protest against rigged elections. But there were so many protest votes that "Leave" actually won — and then, unexpectedly, the government accepted the will of the people. Something like that seems like the only way Donald could win.
I might be willing to vote for Jill Stein as a protest vote (she's pro-Bernie and not actually anti-vax but just anti-FDA/CDC corruption; also she lives in my boyhood hometown). But Jill is not on the ballot in New Jersey and probably can't get on it by November because NJ is a party-machine state and the Greens have never won more than a schoolboard seat there. So I guess I'll let Hillary win by not voting for anyone.
The improper use of the "success baby" meme is just icing on the cake.
Jul. 11th, 2016
(This post probably won't look like much to shiver_raccoon.)
I don't speak Chinese. I can't even read it. One could say that "It's all Greek to me" but actually I find the Greek language considerably easier to read, even though I don't speak that one, either. Via Unicode and the power of the Internet, I can look up Chinese words in a dictionary — but it is often quite unclear how a word could have ended up with the range of meanings that many Chinese words have.
Recently I was reminded of the concept of the Socialist Harmonious Society (和谐社会), which was a slogan of the Hu Jintao administration (2002-2012). You see, when a Chinese person says something disharmonious, that utterance needs to be censored for the good of the country. The people of China do not feel well about their government when they are reminded that it is corrupt and self-dealing, so it would be wrong to remind them of that. Naturally, it is also wrong to remind people that censorship of news about corruption causes corruption to increase, so online posts about censorship must themselves also be censored in order to construct a Harmonious Society. (Sort of like Obama's "the country will do well if everyone believes the government's lies about how well the country is doing".)
Without censorship there would be no art, so the Chinese have found various puns and circumlocutions for talking about the fact that there are things they are prohibited from talking about. The word "河蟹" (river crab) has the same consonants and vowels as "和諧" (harmonious) but different tone, so it doesn't trigger the illegal-word detector (or didn't, for awhile). If a message is deleted from the Internet in order to promote a harmonious society, you could say that that it "被和谐了" (has been harmonized). Let's look more closely at that last phrase:
|ℹ 被||"bedding", "quilt"; (passive-voice marker)|
|ℹ 和諧||"harmonious", "harmony", "harmonize"|
|ℹ 了||(perfective aspect); (change of state)|
So you see, Chinese makes *perfect* sense! You just take the base-word for ‘harmony’, put a passive-marker in front of it and a perfective-marker after, and voilà — you get the past passive participle for "to have been censored"! Too bad the rest of the language is so difficult.
Jul. 4th, 2016
03:21 pm - I recommend InstantFox!
InstantFox is an add-on for Firefox that makes its address bar act like Opera's. Now I can enter the fake URL
w Boris Johnson
to look him up at Wikipedia, or
m Wilmot ON
to see Google's map, or
to see Wiktionary's definition for this Chinese word.
Doesn't that just brighten your day? 🔆
12:58 pm - Emoji for Linux
Today, Rabbi Brian sent me a newsletter whose subject line was "Dealing with 💩 it.". Obviously the subject is supposed to be a reference to excrement, but the U+1F4A9 PILE OF POO emoji was displayed as a box with hex digits inside, even though I had just upgraded my laptop to the latest Linux Mint.
So I installed the EmojiOne font, which includes colour drawings for the emoji. It uses the new “SVGinOT” font-type which is supported only by firefox and thunderbird, which just happen to be the programs I use. In other programs (such as gnome-terminal), the emoji are monochrome. In weird programs such as emacs, the emoji still appear as boxed hex digits.
There is also an EmojiOne picker app, which is for Ubuntu but says it mostly works with Cinnamon except for the long menus. I haven't installed it. Instead, I downloaded the Unicode 9 NamesList.txt file and then altered it so each line begins with an example of the character being named. (This replaces my previous copy of the Unicode 3.2 names list that I downloaded back in 2002.)
Jul. 1st, 2016
04:18 pm - Upgrade log
(Hi, porsupah! Thanks for stopping by again! You are the only person who has commented on my journal this year. In previous years, xolo was often the only commenter, but he seems to have left LJ now.)I decided in April that my Dell D620 laptop needed an OS upgrade. The major issues were:
- My 3-year-old fonts did not contain the latest emoji characters, which *everyone* has started to use all over the Internet.
- Opera 12.16 was so old, it didn’t support the latest HTTPS standard. Many websites refused to be visited by this old browser (“for your protection”). Newer versions of Opera refused to install on my old OS.
- Firefox 41.0.2 did not play well with the new Reditr 0.3.2.1ᴀ, which was a forced upgrade (they didn’t tell me until after it was installed). Most images displayed as blanks and memory usage was astronomical.
Now it’s time to say So long! to Linux Mint Debian Edition with Cinnamon 201303 (“Jessie”) and say Hello! to Linux Mint 17.3 with Cinnamon (“Rosa”). I’ve been down this road before, so my hard drive is already partitioned into “/home” for files that should survive an OS upgrade, “/” for the OS, plus “/windows” for my dual-boot Windows 7.
April 28th: Finally get around to it: repartition /home to be 13 GB smaller, download Linux Mint 17, write it to a USB stick, boot it up, then let it install itself onto the new partition. Then reboot back to the familiar old system.
June 5th: Boot up the new “Rosa” system for the first time, after first saving copies of all the dot-files in my home directory (since Rosa will upgrade them and then Jessie won’t understand them anymore). Install some of my favourite Linux packages (emacs, wget, etc) and remove a few I don’t need (hplip, cups, bluez, etc). Then back to the old “Jessie” system, which still has those three problems forcing me to upgrade.
June 23rd: Time to get serious. The laptop’s ＦＮ keys for controlling volume and backlight do not work when logged in to Rosa/Cinnamon as ‘root’ (which I always do but it’s been deprecated for years). I futz around with it for a bit, but eventually decide to “act normal” and log in as an unprivileged user (this means that I can’t use my main Emacs session to edit system files). Firefox 47.0 works better with Reditr, although memory leakage is still excessive. Thunderbird cannot see my mail archives and Opera has lost my RSS feeds, but I decide that Rosa is good enough to use for now.
June 26th: Opera 38.0 is not very good. It has a wacky multi-level
menu system that can no longer be turned off, making bookmarks much less
accessible than they used to be. Also it seems that all support for RSS
feeds has been removed. Looks like Opera will need to be demoted to my
“backup browser”, even though Firefox does not have good support for search
accelerators (with Opera I could type in the address “w Boris_Johnson” and
instantly get a Wikipedia bio on this famous person, or type “e ProScan” to
get eBay listings for matching products).
I can’t figure out how to pull the list of RSS feeds from Opera’s data files, so I boot up Jessie (after switching my home directory to the saved dot-files) and start Opera to export the feeds as an OPML file. Back in Rosa (switching dot-files again), I start manually adding feeds from the OPML file to Thunderbird, then discover a poorly-documented feature Edit → Account Settings → Feeds → Manage Subscriptions → Import, which just happens to accept an OPML list of feeds to add. Those manually-added feeds are now duplicates, so I delete them.
Firefox has a tool called “Subscribe” (it’s hidden by default). It strongly promotes the use of Live Bookmarks for RSS feeds, but once you tell it to use /usr/bin/thunderbird instead then it Just Works™. Clicking on a link in Thunderbird opens the web page in Firefox, so these programs seem adequately integrated for my needs.
June 27th: Merge the old email archives into Thunderbird 38.8.0. This is a royal pain because disk space is now very tight on /home and so I can move only a few emails at a time. I delete the saved dot-files, which frees up a lot of space, but means I can no longer go back to Jessie. While I’m at it, I clean up the email archives for my seven years at Company 𝔾. It feels good to put that thing to bed, although it would be better if I had managed to find a replacement job by now.
June 28th: Java no longer works in the browser. This has been
deprecated for months, but I have IcedTea installed and it clearly
does start, but then a blank screen appears instead of the Java app. Same
behaviour in both Firefox and Opera. This is a problem. I use
to put trailing-stop protection on my stock trades, but it’s written in Java
and is now obsolete. I can still use
which is mostly plain HTML, but that is for “investors” rather than “traders”
and doesn’t offer trailing-stop orders. I could use
which is a .net app, but then I would have to reboot into Windows any
time I want to do something with the stock market.
But wait! One of the advanced new features of Linux Mint 17 is supposed to be improved support for VirtualBox. Maybe I could run StreetSmart Edge inside a paravirtualized Windows system inside a GUI window under Linux, just like all the cool kids do nowadays! It’s never worked for me before, but I try installing VirtualBox. It needs a Windows installation disk, so I download the Windows 8.1 evaluation as an .iso file, then write it to a USB stick. VirtualBox cannot reuse my /windows partition and needs several GB to create a simulated hard drive for windows, so I delete the .iso file to make room. Then it turns out that VirtualBox cannot use the USB stick and wants to simulate the installation disk using the .iso file, so I download it again. But Windows 8.1 refuses to boot inside VirtualBox, because my CPU is an old Centrino Duo which doesn’t have the VT-x instructions that Windows 8.1 requires when running in paravirtualized mode.
So I download the Windows 7 Starter .iso from this slightly-shady site, figuring that I’ll reuse the product key from my dual-boot Windows. But my officially-licenced product key is not accepted because it’s for Windows 7 Home Premium rather than Windows 7 Starter. So I get a key from this rather-shady site, which is accepted. But Windows 7 won’t install itself because it insists that the simulated hard drive needs at least 6 GB of space. (I remember when operating systems would fit on a single floppy disk! I used to use a computer whose entire hard-drive capacity was only 0.005 GB! So get off my lawn!) I decide to free up some space by deleting old Company 𝔾 stuff. The most useless stuff is non-final versions of slideshows for conference sessions, which surely I will never look at again (nor will anyone else). I try using an Emacs keyboard macro to select the non-final versions from a list of all conference-data files, but the list is long and the macro runs slowly. So I write a Lisp function to prune the list, which runs in an instant. It occurs to me that this is the first “computer program” I have written in many months.
June 29th: Windows 7 installs successfully inside the simulated computer, but it cannot access the
Internet. Google finds many people with similar problems, but most of their
“solutions” don’t work. It turns out that the default networking settings
for VirtualBox are not compatible with Windows 7, even though
there’s a drop-down menu with “Windows 7 (32-bit)” selected
so VirtualBox will know what kind of OS it’s supposed to be
supporting. The correct answer is to tell VirtualBox to use the
”Bridged Adapter” methodology and simulate the ”Intel PRO/1000 MT Desktop
(82540EM)” type of networking device, which is so old that even Windows 7 knows
how to deal with it.
StreetSmart Edge installs successfully and runs well. The “Live Chart” function correctly updates once per second to show the latest prices on Wall St. But the rest of my system lags a lot while VirtualBox is running. I improve this some by telling VirtualBox to simulate a computer with only 0.75 GB of RAM. (I spent most of my career writing software for computers with only 0.00003 GB of RAM, although those programs couldn’t do any fancy graphics.) I only have enough hard-drive space to store one “snapshot”, so I set it to resume to the moment when StreetSmart Edge asks for my username and password. I’m getting warnings that there’s *only* 1 GB of space available, so I invoke the wizard command “tune2fs -m 2” (kids, don’t try this at home), which reduces the /home partition’s safety margin from 5% to 2% and frees up another 2 GB of space.
June 30th: Begin writing up this document, which requires examining the log-files from the old Jessie partition. Some of the ”facts” documented above might be inaccurate because I didn’t keep careful records as I went along; sorry.
July 1st: Time to get rid of the old Jessie partition to free up 12
GB. To move partitions around on a hard drive you must boot from someplace
else, but my usual USB stick was overwritten with Windows 8.1, so I download
Linux Mint 17.3 again (meanwhile, Linux Mint has released version 18.0).
Write it to the stick and boot it up. Remember that I haven’t set up Rosa
to act as its own web-server yet, so save a copy of Jessie’s /etc
to Rosa in case I need it. Then use gparted to delete Jessie,
make /windows be 1 GB bigger, and put the rest of the released space
into /home. This requires moving 21 GB from one spot on the hard
drive to another, which takes half an hour. Despite all the warnings that
this could make my hard drive unbootable, Rosa boots up just fine. Windows
also boots correctly, after first spending a lot of time on chkdsk
which finds no problems.
So now all that’s left is to remove Jessie from the boot menu, since that menu item no longer points anywhere. I use the wizard command “grub-mkconfig” for that. All done! Happy Canada Day!
Jun. 25th, 2016
01:21 pm - A furry video
Jun. 21st, 2016
Last Saturday, I walked around west Kitchener, knocking on doors and asking people how they felt about their new-ish Liberal Government. This was part of the kickoff for a national campaign in which Liberal Party operatives walk around neighbourhoods, entering people's responses into an app on their smartphones.
One result of this effort is a collection of tweets showing photographs of the groups of canvassers. If you knew anything about local politics (which of course you don't), you could determine that one of these tweets came from the only Liberal candidate for Parliament in Waterloo Region last year who *didn't* win. Clicking on the pic.twitter.com link within that tweet takes you to a photo. I am the bearded guy with the poorly-parted hair.
It is clear that the Party puts a lot of effort into keeping track of who volunteers for these events and how much time they put in. Presumably such hours count as "brownie points" within the Party. What is less clear is the set of prizes for which these brownie points can be traded. It is perhaps like a Chuck E Cheese restaurant where the prizes are hidden and unadvertised and the only way to trade in your tickets is to ask whether a certain prize might be available.
Jun. 20th, 2016
07:11 pm - Random walk around the Internet
Every day I surf the web and collect links, then send them out via private email. Maybe I should post them here. Most links come from Reddit via Imgur. The most common type of link is a puppy-photo, because that goes over well with my email audience.
Fedex was targeted by the DEA for two years, apparently for refusing to pay the bribes that UPS did.
"Loch Ness woofer".
We're out of dog treats? How could this happen???
Time is an endless 3-hour loop!
It gets better around 0:53.
Father's Day breakfast, made out of the most dangerous objects in the house.
Father's Day present from Potter fans.
Presumably this requires lemon juice to keep it edible.
Jun. 10th, 2016
02:09 pm - Liberal news
My membership card arrived today! I am now a "card-carrying Liberal". And I still have my membership card for the Free Software Foundation, so I remain a "card-carrying Communist".
At this month's meeting of the riding association, they voted me onto the board of directors! Since we're now in the off-season for Canadian elections, becoming a director is simply a matter of showing up repeatedly for meetings. Problem: now I'm supposed to help them raise money for the 2019 election! I have no experience whatsoever in fund-raising, but I guess I have to do it to get some cred with this Old-Boy Network that I'm still hoping will someday get me a cushy job as a part-time software engineer, hopefully before all my remaining cash runs out.
Next problem: modern fund-raising requires a smartphone, which I don't have (and don't particularly want to get because the fonts are so damn small). Everyone is supposed to be running an app called MiniVAN to record the results of the voter-contacts. Maybe I can borrow Wifey's tablet and run it on that? Or maybe use WebVAN on my laptop? I'll find out at the upcoming fund-raising training workshop at the riding-president's house.
Another problem: who am I raising this money for? Some of it is for the national party, which needs it to support the riding associations, buy TV ads, and fly the Prime Minister around on a private jet. But much of it is supposed to go to the 2019 election fund. Who will the candidate be? If nothing changes between now and then, the riding association intends to nominate the same guy as last time (who didn't win). He seems like a nice and hard-working fellow.
But something is *supposed* to change. Justin Trudeau promised that 2015 would be the last time that Canada used a first-past-the-post winner-take-all election like the Americans. Switching over to a proportional-representation system will require either making Parliament 30% bigger or making the electoral districts 30% bigger, which seems to be the preferred option. Suppose the new district boundaries are drawn so that our candidate is in one riding and the money we raised for him is in a different one. What happens then? My guess is that no one really knows yet.
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