Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Past Lovers

As for past lovers, they are forgettable and regrettable. They allowed me to say, "Well, now I know what all of that's about."

One does not wish to miss out on any of the delicious cake that others are enjoying and praising as the finest cake in the world. Perhaps their cake was overrated, but I had to find out for myself, because everyone is different.

For me, lovers comprised a series of experiments until the final discovery was made, at which point, "Eureka!" Time to publish my papers and mark my discovery before the world.

Monday, December 30, 2013

The Case of the Pregnant Nurse

I found the story of a pregnant nurse fired over a flu shot interesting. Her employer grants exceptions in the case of religious objections. Had the nurse joined the Church of the Narrow Mind, she could have declined the flu shot and remained employed. "Special rights" are accorded to cultists only, the privileged ones that know better than the rest of us.

I remember back in the day, when one suggested that gay people should not be fired merely for being gay, the cultists charged that this was "special rights for gays". That old jug did not hold water, because equal rights are not "special" rights. However, "special rights" are indeed accorded to cultists in America, where religion and religion alone is afforded special privileges and considerations. On the other hand, philosophy and conscience receive little protection. This is a strange state of affairs with many far-reaching implications.

Is not religion the derivative of conscience? I would hope so. If religion is instead the cause, rather than the effect of conscience, then that creates a vulnerability in conscience. Conscience should have no dependencies. Losing one's religion could result in losing one's conscience. I lost my moral framework when I lost my religion at the age of fourteen. I knew very little about philosophy at that age and was not in the slightest way philosophical.

Church taught the history of certain religious figures, flavored by the Church's bias. That was not useful to me for inculcating morality. I learned the history of every book in the Bible. In many cases, the lessons were taught multiple times. Such knowledge was interesting, as I tend to find all knowledge interesting, and rather colorful actually, but not useful. I have forgotten much over the decades since. However, I love history and love imagining people of old, so I eagerly devoured the books of the Bible. No one could maintain against all argument that the books of the Bible were written without bias and even vindictiveness in some instances, but I do find the Bible interesting. I do not imbue the stories with the gravity that some do. They are stories. Some I like more than others.

I believe that if a comparison must be made, then conscience and philosophy are more important than religion. Religion is someone else's thoughts taken second-hand, is it not? If not, then one's belief isn't religion at all, but heresy or even shamanism.

Returning to the case of the pregnant nurse, I am not for firing workers over trivial things. I believe the nurse's employer should allow her to take an unpaid leave of absence until she gives birth. That seems like a fair resolution of the matter to me. As I understand the issue, she is willing to take the flu shot after, but not during her pregnancy. A decent and caring employer should show willingness to make a minor accommodation for a pregnant woman's conscience.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Ainshent and Justified

Some chess openings are ainshent and justified. Sometimes I feel guided as I play them. I have an intuitive feel for what the objectives are. Does my opponent? Sometimes I find my opponent does not have a plan at all. They bounce from one tempo to the next, looking for tactical gotcha's. That is a cheap, frivolous way to play. That is how I know that they do not take the game seriously. They might glance at the board over a coffee. But they are not really studying the game, not like I am. Not many players, I find, bother going deep. I immerse myself in some positions. I reach a point where I am guided, by logic, perhaps. But I can almost feel the hand of a master on my shoulder and his breath whispering against my ear, "No, not there. Over here, you see... Yes, it is clear... They have overlooked... They are not prepared for..." It is pleasant and comforting.

When I was a boy, my older brother talked like an advanced player when he discussed chess. He introduced words he never used outside the context of chess. He had absorbed a certain vocabulary from chess books and magazines. I, in turn, absorbed from him second-hand the same words, ideas, and attitudes, becoming the logical chessplayer. Perhaps I project such words in, say, the spectral form of GM Tartakower, who was such a good-looking grandmaster, judging by Wikipedia's photo. It would be nice to conjure up such a presence for consultation, I should think.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Age of Titans Works in Linux Under Wine

I was surprised to find that Age of the Titans, a classic Windows game, really does work in Linux using Wine. As far as I'm concerned, they just don't make video games like they used to. I'm a creature of habit and remain loyal to some of the old video games. Upon reflection, all the games I like are old. Chess is the oldest of them all, but Dungeon Crawl is certainly no spring chicken and is based on something even older, Rogue.

I have a purchased copy of both Age of Mythology and Age of the Titans. Like many charming old video games, they are available for peanuts on E-bay or Amazon. One can always purchase an old game for a fraction of the price of a new one. I think I bought my copies for about $5-15, tops, including shipping. Of course, I use some sort of No-CD patch in order to remove the copy protection, because I find the games virtually unplayable otherwise. I don't mind paying for software, but I can't be bothered shuffling a CD around, and copy protection also interferes with Wine on Linux.

I plan to burn a DVD with everything needed to install and enhance Age of the Titans. I think that will be a time-saver if I ever need to install it again, which I think is quite likely in the years to come.

I like to use a lot of enhancements from Age of Mythology Heaven. There are some very talented gamers in the world that have no problem developing enhancements for a game for free. I suppose I'm no different in that regard. There is a delight to be had in creation.

One of the problems in Linux has always been a lack of games, when compared to Windows, but Wine helps bridge that gap. I am pleased I won't have to keep a silly Windows XP system alive just to play a game.


No one from either our families will be attending our wedding. Some have sound-seeming reasons, others not, but in all cases, I am not surprised, and would have predicted the same if asked a year ago, five years ago, ten years ago, or thirty years ago.

People will say this and people will say that. People do not understand. I do not make the mistake of expecting people to understand. It is a foolish mistake to make.

A mark will be written in a book for all time. I do what is good and true and right. I am pleased, because I am justified.

And what of them? If they say later, you did not mark my special occasion, then I can say, where were you, when I married my one and only love? You elected not to come. Nor did you wish me well, nor send a card, nor even call on the telephone. So wherefore can you find fault in me, when you did the same? Look instead to the stranger on your left or the stranger on your right, and see whether they will consent to be your family, because that is where I have found mine.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Litmus Test for Kindness

I think that much is revealed by a person's treatment of animals. Good, kind people treat the weaker species with understanding, patience, and gentleness. Such people must be good and kind, because the power differential between the animals and ourselves is vast. We are like gods to our pets. We have god-like abilities. How could a cat understand the way by which we control light, sound, temperature, and even the availability of food and water with seemingly little or no effort? Other humans can defend themselves, or are otherwise protected by our community. Animals are largely defenseless, with only a thin degree of protection by the law and custom. For reason of their defenselessness, it is particularly wicked to mistreat animals. I believe that if someone is mean to an animal, then they are capable of worse deeds towards human beings.

Both of my cats like me and seek out my company. They do not hide when I am around. I feel like they consider me to be their friend. I feel like they both understand my ways. I can communicate easily with them about simple things. They do not understand English, but understand the basic parameters of reading my body language. When I tell them something, if it is simple and can be easily guessed, then more times than not, they guess the correct meaning. I respect their intelligence, such as it is. I feel flattered and privileged to have their friendship.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Death Has Many Splendours

In another time and place, I knelt before him and said, "Master, is it true what they have told me, that death has many splendours?"

The answer I was given cannot be translated into this world, because the knowledge is forbidden.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

IRC is a Fetid Corpse

IRC is beyond dead. I visited again tonight just to confirm my initial impression. Oh, God. It's horrible. Deathly quiet. A pall over all the channels, all of them with the exception of the ones that have text (spam) flowing in from outside sources. The few human beings slant towards being extremely anti-social, cliquish and downright hostile to anyone they do not know. I cannot imagine why anyone would want to communicate with anyone on IRC, so I uninstalled my IRC program and have no plans to ever play around with that nonsense again.

I did, however, find a site on the Internet where it is possible to communicate with human beings online in a fun and engaging manner. I think web sites have supplanted IRC, and good riddance, because IRC stands for I Reject Communicating. The problem always was that IRC favored the geeks, while normal people steered clear.

Even spammy, weird, virus-strewn and random Usenet is friendlier than IRC.


A depressed mind scapegoats issues as the cause of depression. Our minds are perpetual problem-solvers and trouble-shooters, and so we always try to look for a reason. It is only natural to look for the cause of a problem and try to resolve it. But if the cause is in reality biochemical, then it is invisible and cannot be perceived by the mind. Thus we run the risk of mistaking visible things for being the cause of depression, when in reality, they are just things.

One key to alleviating depression, anger, shame, and other negative emotions, I think, is to accept that things do not matter. I suppose nothing matters ultimately. Things do not matter in the sense that they are not worth feeling unhappy about for any extended period of time.

I think high-achievers have difficulty finding happiness. They feel upset when things are not going their way, because they are used to ensuring that things go their way. They are used to working hard and experiencing success. Once one has tasted the sweet flavor of success, it is difficult to get used to the bitter dregs of failure.

Although some people are excellent problem-solvers, unfortunately, as one gets older, one encounters problems that are intractable and have no resolution. Such problems might as well be accepted as the normal state of being. Acceptance is freedom, freedom from care and worry. There is no sense in fighting a battle that has already been lost. One lives and tries to make the most of each situation. Happiness sometimes requires reducing expectations and accepting imperfection and impermanence. Happiness is about being satisfied with a "C" and not expecting an "A". Sometimes the "grading policy" is such that an "A" cannot be achieved. It is impossible to make an "A". Instead, a "C" is the best one can do. In such a scenario, one might as well be happy with the "C".

The reality is we are dust. From star-dust we derived and to dust we return. There is only so much an ordinary human being can do. We are feeble, limited, temporary creatures, dead and gone and forgotten. Impermanence seems self-evident yet is not often emphasized.

Many people believe that the individual consciousness is so important that the soul survives death and persists somehow. They do not know how, and so they employ abstract words to describe the process by which the soul lingers on after the body dies. Even the concept of the soul itself is rather abstract.

Socrates believed in the immortality of the soul, although he never defined the soul in an adequate manner for my satisfaction. His definition of the soul resembles DNA to me. He did not know about DNA or many other things to do with science, but I think he can be forgiven that. He found a belief in the afterlife to be a comforting thought, given that he was condemned to die. None of his arguments persuade me.

I think we are just aspects of the whole, and our individual consciousness is unimportant and will be unpreserved. Such a belief does not make me fear death any more than anyone else. I think the belief in immortality is a symptom of vanity. Humans are vain creatures. To my mind, we have no more right to a soul than a cat. What is special about a human, except that we have more agile brains?

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Death Trip

I stopped using marijuana about a year ago.

Using is like diving. One is underwater and may perceive things that are not quite as apparent on the surface. I don't like to stay underwater long. I prefer to come up for air and breathe.

Urinalysis is marijuana's chief liability. Of course, it can be defeated. "Dilute and substitute" is folk wisdom. I've never bothered with subterfuge. I will purify in order to qualify. I went ten years clean at a job with urinalysis, although "clean" must be interpreted as "substituting alcohol for marijuana." Alcohol is a poor substitute. I saw what it did to my supervisor and others. I do not understand what businesses gain by prodding their employees away from marijuana and toward alcohol. I think they lose, if anything. Urinalysis is a strange artifact of modern America. Urinalysis targets marijuana to a much greater extent than anything else. Of course, marijuana equates to poor performance during the high, as laboratory tests verify. All right, but what about alcohol? There are many other substances, and new substances are getting invented all the time. Marijuana is the chief villain to be apprehended in a cup, while meth and coke can slide on by without too much difficulty, after a few days.

My last trip was a death trip. The herb accentuates whatever one's thoughts focus upon. My thoughts were shrouded deep in gloom. I imagined death. I perceived it. The body does not wish to die and rebels at the very suggestion. Death is not a difficult feat to accomplish. We are all hanging by a thread. There is no need to swing from side to side and see whether the thread will break. It might break. The thought of death is not as unpleasant as the thought of the consequences for the living, those that are dear to one, the cherished and beloved. Once dead, one is beyond all power to help and comfort them. One can do no more good, but is rendered useless and unimportant. I suppose that is why people who live alone, without friends or close relations, are more likely to give in to the siren call that sings to all living things.

A superstitious fancy amuses me. Perhaps it is all rot like religion. On the other hand, imagination is fun, and I don't take it very seriously. I like to imagine that usage is a two-way street. A human makes the decision to enter the altered state offered by the herb, but there is a gatekeeper. To my mind, she is a goddess, wise and knowing. Her sex is appropriate, because commercial marijuana derives from the female plant. Sometimes she offers insight on one little matter or another, advice and guidance. If she deems use acceptable at a particular place and time, she grants a good experience. Otherwise, she gives the opposite. In that context, the death trip was a warning, so I have followed the advice of the goddess.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Socrates Talked a Lot of Nonsense

I have trouble following Socrates. He talked a lot of nonsense. Not many of his arguments have the power to persuade. I am annoyed none of his followers ever spent the least effort at a refutation to any of his wild, rambling arguments. Nevertheless I like his story. The drama appeals to me--friends gathering about a condemned man to hear his last outpourings of what they perceive as wisdom. I think he was an ancestor to the modern mind. There would be many changes to his model in the course of history. I also have a certain regard for the intellectual integrity of Socrates. I think if Socrates knew then what we know now, his arguments would undergo vast revisions as he assimilated the knowledge and corrected his many errors.

IRC is a Desert

I tried IRC tonight. It was a desert. Every channel I joined had few to no comments. The few channels with activity slanted toward the geeky end of the spectrum and were neither welcoming nor interesting unless one has a great deal of expertise in the particular technical niche being discussed. For three hours I trudged through the sands of this desert. There was no oasis anywhere. Everywhere were signs warning of the consequences for spammers, trolls, and assorted rule-breakers. I thought that was amusing. The admins would be lucky to have a spammer, troll, or rule-breaker, because at least that would constitute activity. IRC seemed to me boring and pointless. Most channels have no activity at all, but the activity I did detect was of the snooze-inducing variety. I suppose all the nice people are on Facebook these days. I'm done with IRC for the time being. I feel the same way about Craigslist. There are ghettos on the Internet where one does not wish to go or where one might drive by in transit to a better place.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Avoiding a Critical Pitfall in Windows Backup and Restore

Windows Backup and Restore does not handle hardware I/O errors in an elegant manner. It displays a cryptic error message and aborts the process. That is a potential pitfall, because hard drives develop I/O errors over time. To my knowledge, all media are vulnerable to I/O errors. The only variance involves the degree of vulnerability.

In the future, I will use Windows Backup only for system-related files and directories. Media directories should be backed up separately using Windows Explorer. This will minimize the size of the Windows backup image while increasing the speed of restoration, but most importantly, it will minimize the potential of an I/O error stopping the restoration.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

India, Microsoft's Favorite Nation

Microsoft's darling, India, has been in the media lately. It seems the foreigners that took all the computer jobs away from Americans are displeased because the U.S. actually has laws and expects visitors to follow them. They say America is barbaric.

I don't know about that. Seems like much ado over nothing to me, except where the strip-search is concerned. I hate the idea of strip-searching anyone. My first thought is that a metal-detector would be sufficient to eliminate the possibility of firearms and most weapons, but that ignores the risk of hidden poison capsules, acids, explosive chemicals, drugs, and plastic firearms, a new danger brought on by modern technology. If everyone is being strip-searched and cavity-searched upon incarceration, then how can an exception be made, even for a big shot? One might counter than X-rays could be used instead of strip-searches. I am not sure about that. I suppose a Department of Corrections officer would counter that strip-searches are more effective at detecting contraband than X-rays, but really it depends upon the location of the contraband. Ingested contraband can elude a strip-search, but not an X-ray. Contraband hidden in clothing might elude an X-ray, but not a strip-search. This is a complicated technological problem with social and political implications. Probably the overriding factor is that strip-searches are simpler, cheaper and faster than X-rays.

A more important issue to me is the number of jobs that have been removed from the U.S. economy and put over in India, where there is talk about arresting the spouses of our diplomats and putting them in prison. I think we should tax U.S. corporations $30,000 per year for each job they outsource to India, whether it be a call center job or computer programming. That will help compensate for the damage the disloyal business executives are doing to the U.S. economy.

The Indian arrested by U.S. authorities that the Indians want to place on a pedestal as a shining example of feminine virtue, was pure and simple, someone who lied to avoid paying her maid a living wage. She should have stayed in India if she didn't consider her maid a human being worthy of any dignity. Indian politicians now want to enforce their barbaric sodomy laws against gay spouses in the U.S. diplomatic staff. I hope that they do so and that the situation continues to escalate on an exponential basis. It would be an excellent outcome for the U.S. if American businesses were directed to eliminate their investments in India and bring all of the jobs back home. We all should thank India for creating a vehicle by which public attention can be focused on all the jobs India has sucked out of the American economy.


I like the idea of volunteering, but I'm also afraid of it. My fear is that whatever work I do will consume my time and energy and leave me oblivious to money-making and other productive and social opportunities. I'm also afraid there is zero reward to doing things for free, as indeed has been my experience. I have found that if one does things without being asked, even to the point of volunteering hundreds or thousands of hours, and without expecting compensation, then the recipients, instead of being grateful, may feel rather indifferent or even demand more and more, assuming the attitude of a slave-driver rather than a beneficiary. Over time I have developed what I think is a wise and prudent reluctance to making commitments of the free variety. I can't say I never feel drawn to what may be quixotic projects and ideas from time to time, but that voice of caution has only grown more insistent as I've grown older and more experienced. I think I will have to perceive tangible benefits of some kind before I commit to anything.

Midori and Rekonq, Lightweight Subtitutes for Firefox

I used to wonder why Midori and Rekonq existed. That was before Firefox crashed on me while I was composing on Blogspot. Midori for Xfce and Rekonq for KDE are excellent browsers that can navigate hairy sites like Blogspot without breaking a sweat.

The most obvious missing element in Midori is the Home Page icon. Contemporary browser design suggests that home pages are falling out of fashion a bit. Mine has evolved over many years to be quite adept at saving me time. I require an icon to return to my home page at all times. In Midori, I found one can adjust settings by clicking the right-most icon resembling pen and paper. Then there is the simple matter of going to Preferences | Customizations and installing the "Toolbar Editor", which allows one to customize the toolbar in much the same way that Firefox does. I do the same thing in Firefox and Midori whenever I customize my browser.

Firefox gives short shrift to the home page. New tabs, by default, open a page with nine or more windows crammed together. The user is supposed to select one. The developers assume users want to visit pages they have recently visited. I don't know why anyone would be interested in looking at that mess. It is a very puzzling design choice. After installing Firefox, the first thing I always do is go to about:config and change the newtab page to be my home page. Thus creating a newtab is lightning-fast on my rig, and I can access the sites I really want, rather than what Firefox's primitive AI thinks I want. They may be making progress in the area of artificial intelligence, but I think during my lifetime I will know better than Firefox about which sites I want to visit.

SolydX Works For Me

After several attempts, I managed to install SolydX on one of my systems. I know now why my previous installation attempts failed. Solyd's installer didn't like my AMD/ATI kludge, an E-350 apu that uses the ATI video hardware. I do not have a good opinion of AMD/ATI due to overall poor support in Linux. I had a lot of different problems trying to install SolydX/K on the ATI system. Sometimes the installation completed all the way to the end, and then updates were downloaded, and the system was customized. Upon reboot, I restarted in grub rescue mode. Always I wound up putting Solyd aside and using something else instead. This is by no means an exclusive problem of Solyd's. Manjaro uses a strikingly similar installer and had the exact same problem. I believe Linux Mint Debian Edition has the same problem as well.

However, SolydX installed smooth as butter on my Intel-powered laptop, replacing Linux Mint 14 XFCE. As an aside, I think developers incur a certain risk by releasing a distro that becomes obsolete in a brief amount of time. At that point the user may reevaluate. I sure did. I'm not keen on the idea of reinstalling every nine months or so. Sorry, Linux Mint. You're great, you're wonderful, but I just don't want to bother with a reinstall in order to get the latest versions of my favorite applications.

In SolydX, as with all the Linux distros I've ever tried, there was no need to install any device drivers. Everything set up itself automatically. My laptop accesses wireless or ethernet Internet sources without any difficulty. Contrast this wonderful scenario with that of Windows. I was annoyed recently reading offensive forum messages in a forum stacked with Windows fan boys. They call Linux users "freetards" and claim that the only reason home users use Linux is because they're poor or cheap. Yes, the absence of cost is an important factor to me. However, Linux has a lot of other advantages, and to pretend that it doesn't is not very fair. Windows is good in some ways, such as software availability, but Linux can do a lot, including things that Windows can't do, and Linux is designed with security in mind, and continues to become more user-friendly as time goes on.

I've been pleased with how nice everything is in SolydX. It seems to have the advantages of Linux Mint, such as custom Thunar actions defined from the get-go, without the disadvantages, such as planned obsolescence and outdated software. I like the install-once and forget about it plan. I was pleased to see SolydX pull the latest Wesnoth and Digikam from its filtered Debian Testing repository. While SolydX pulls Digikam 3.5, the latest stable, Linux Mint 14 was only offering Digikam 3.3. I would recommend SolydX to anyone with Intel hardware, which is all I ever buy anymore.

Want to try Solyd (Xfce or Kde), a modern Linux distro? Visit the SolydXK web site.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Thanks for the Belly-Laugh

On November 30th, 2013, someone wrote a message on Usenet to express their opinion on cheating in Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup.

"This is pathetic. If you're going to save scum, don't play."
It is amusing to imagine how the world would be ordered if a nerd-tyrant seized control of all living beings. I suppose I would be denied forever the privilege of playing Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup the very moment I attempted to run a script file that preserved my save files from deletion by the game. My punishment would be life without Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup. Somehow I'd manage. I suppose I'd play chess more often or perhaps Wesnoth or Lexulous.

The world has no lack of nerd-tyrants revealing how things would be ordered under their regime. I may be a bit of a nerd myself, but I flatter myself on being more democratic. I don't care so much how others order their affairs, as long as their behavior doesn't harm others. The idea of someone cheating on a game in the privacy of their own home does not send me into a lather nor cause frothing at the mouth.

Over on Craigslist, I posted a message in support of my favorite computer program, and people promptly wrote in to speculate on my sex life. They assessed my mental capacity as being subnormal, and then said that actually I must be a spammer, because the definition of "spammer" apparently has been expanded to include anyone that disagrees with one's viewpoint.

I stay away from online arenas that have such examples of incivility. They can be amusing, it is true, but the problem is that sometimes I am not in the mood to laugh. Sometimes I find myself tempted to respond in like manner, which is a regression to a more primitive state of mind, a juvenile state. I prefer to surround myself with examples of behavior I would like to emulate, rather than behavior I should never want to emulate. I find that I learn from example and that I profit from observing good examples. I like being around good people.

I think it would be dangerous to be a police officer. The danger from physical violence perhaps is not quite as great as the danger from spiritual violence. That is to say, having to deal with evil-doers for a long time offers many temptations and many bad examples, so that a person would require extraordinary resilience to avoid regressing, to avoid turning from good to evil.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

All Linux Distros Have Value

I find merit in all Linux distros. Even if I do not use a distro, still there are often tips and tricks somewhere in that distro's forums or online documentation that may prove useful to me. For example, I often refer to the Arch Linux wiki, because their documentation, in my opinion, is the best in the Linux world. I don't know what kind of geniuses are writing on there, but they know what they are talking about.

Even so, I would like to get all the developers together working on one distro. One ring to rule them all, you see, and one ring to bind them. All this effort diffused into a hundred different directions is counter-productive. As the ants know, there is great virtue in teamwork. Learn to like one another, to share the glory, to cooperate rather than compete. Perhaps the same could be said to the nations of the world.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Fake Sign Language Interpreter?

I was amused by the fake sign language interpreter at the ceremony honoring Nelson Mandela. It seems to indicate the level of competence in the executive branch of South Africa's government. I am of the opinion that many governments around the world are run by nincompoops. Why is it so difficult to run a competent government? Perhaps because those who obtain power know all about power, but do not know or care very much about anything else. I think hiring a fake sign language interpreter reveals a pervasive culture of corruption and incompetence in Zuma's administration. They are not capable of getting things done in a correct manner. They are buffoons, fodder for comedy. If one invests all available energy and intellect on politics, then there is nothing left over to make sure the trains run on time. I am reminded of the situation with Obama, who seems to spend all his time on politics and on foreign wars instead of making sure his web site runs on time.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Does the U.N. stand for "Uninformed Nincompoops"?

'The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) warned that [Uruguay's legalization of marijuana] would endanger young people and 'contribute to the earlier onset of addiction'."

That U.N. body does not understand the meaning of the word "addiction". Perhaps they should learn the meaning of words before using them. But that would be out of character. Since when do human beings learn the proper ways of using something before abusing it? The club, fire, the crossbow, and the gun are all examples of technologies that humans have developed and then misused for evil ends. Language is a form of technology, and the same things are done with all technologies. The motive is power over others and the incessant desire to control what others think and do.

I wonder how many in the U.N. are "addicted" to drinking tea? What if the governments of the world decide, based upon nothing, that tea is bad? Perhaps the tea-drinkers need to be placed in prison in order to learn not to drink tea. This is the same rationale that has been used to persecute cannabis consumers around the world. Prohibition of cannabis has no rhyme or reason.

INCB seems excessively concerned over a substance less harmful than alcohol, aspirin or coffee. Information about cannabis is widely available, and cannabis has been researched for longer than most pharmaceutical drugs in use today. The only possible conclusions to draw from the INCB's statement is that they are either lying for some hidden purpose or else ignorant. I doubt very much they are ignorant. I wonder, therefore, why they are lying? Do they expect people to believe their lies, and if so, who are these people, and why do they not educate themselves regarding the facts?

Uruguay's new law shows enlightenment and intelligence. It is the rest of the world that is barbaric and ignorant. The world is enthralled with the use of force. People will never be addicted to marijuana. There is nothing to worry about there. The very idea of addiction to marijuana is ludicrous. People will become addicted to violence. This is the real addiction. It is the tool of those who seek power over others.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Exceptional Soul

Given the choice between recanting and death, Socrates chose death. Even after Socrates was condemned to die, many days later, his wealthy friends offered him the option of fleeing and being supported for the rest of his life in a foreign city. They begged him to do so with tears streaming from their eyes. He rejected their offer and chose death because he believed it was the right thing to do.

Socrates believed in righteousness.

It seems that others, given a similar option, take the opposite tact. Clinging even to the last few days that might remain in the feeble human form, such a soul abases itself, kneeling and grasping the tyrant's foot, begging for mercy and forgiveness, recanting all that was once held to be true and good.

Men in the style of Socrates are rare, while the other sort are common, yet it is Socrates we remember. Socrates was the exceptional soul.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Xscreensaver Config for GLPhotoShow Slideshow

"Slideshow" can mean one of two things, the business version where one is presenting images to others, and the casual version, where one wants to view selections from an art collection. I use the latter. The best casual slideshow for Linux seems to be xscreensaver's GLPhotoShow hack, once it is configured properly, and so I use xscreensaver. Xubuntu plans to scrap xscreensaver in favor of something else in version 14.04 LTS. I will disable whatever they come up with and replace it with xscreensaver. Replacing xscreensaver seems to be common among desktops and distros. I don't know why. Developers could instead try to patch the tried and true. Xscreensaver's developer invites them to do so on his web site. Other screensavers seem to have a lot of problems, especially with the slideshow. But that is their problem, not mine, because whenever I install a Linux distro, the first thing I do is disable their problem, and install xscreensaver. So all of the work that Xubuntu plans  to do reinventing the wheel will not bother me in the slightest--but if it does, then I will abandon Xubuntu.

This config file for xscreensaver is the dope. It is the result of much experimentation and solves a couple of problems. Place it in /home as .xscreensaver to have GLPhotoShow behave as the fully-featured, no-nonsense, intelligent slideshow it was meant to be.

# XScreenSaver Preferences File
# Written by xscreensaver-demo 5.15 for igor on Tue Sep 20 11:21:31 2013.
# http://www.jwz.org/xscreensaver/
# igor's version. http//techlorebyigor.blogspot.com/

timeout: 0:30:00
cycle: 0:10:00
lock: False
lockTimeout: 0:00:00
passwdTimeout: 0:00:30
visualID: default
installColormap: True
verbose: False
timestamp: False
splash: False
splashDuration: 0:00:05
demoCommand: xscreensaver-demo
prefsCommand: xscreensaver-demo -prefs
nice: 20
memoryLimit: 0
fade: False
unfade: False
fadeSeconds: 0:00:01
fadeTicks: 10
captureStderr: False
font: *-medium-r-*-140-*-m-*
dpmsEnabled: False
dpmsQuickOff: False
dpmsStandby: 2:00:00
dpmsSuspend: 2:00:00
dpmsOff: 4:00:00
grabDesktopImages: False
grabVideoFrames: False
chooseRandomImages: True
imageDirectory: /home/yourname/Pictures

mode: one
selected: 142

textMode: none
textLiteral: XScreenSaver
textProgram: none
textURL: none

programs: \
- GL: glslideshow -root -delay 100000 -duration \
50 -zoom 100 -pan 1 -fade 1 \n\

pointerPollTime: 0:00:05
pointerHysteresis: 200
initialDelay: 0:00:00
procInterrupts: True
xinputExtensionDev: False
overlayStderr: False


I like to use XFCE as a desktop environment, and Thunar is the file manager in XFCE. One of the nicest things about Thunar that sets it above many other file managers is that one can easily configure complicated custom actions. I would like to see such a feature in KDE's Dolphin.

Configure a custom action in Thunar. Have it appear only for directories and audio files. The action should be "Play Music in VLC & Run Slideshow". The command is /bin/vlcs.sh %F. Executable permission may need to be set for that file. The contents of vlcs.sh are:

vlc "$@" & sleep 8 && xscreensaver-command -activate

For movie files, the following custom action should be used:

vlc --play-and-stop %F

The configuration of VLC itself is complicated and highly dependent upon the system's resources. I always like to configure from scratch, in order to optimize the configuration for the particular hardware in use.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Good Politicians

A good politician is one that can see when something isn't working and knocks it off. There are some good politicians. It's a mistake to paint them all with one brush.

Intellectual honesty is refreshing. One of my favorite quotes from the Bible is 1 Corinthians 13:12, "For now we see through a glass, darkly..." It is difficult to find the right path at every juncture. Sometimes one chooses the wrong path. I like someone who can look at a situation and not only realize they were mistaken, but admit it and change their position to reflect their new understanding. This is called "wishy-washiness" by the ignorant. There is no value in remaining on a sinking ship. In our time, we have seen a number of politicians come around on at least two issues, marijuana and gay marriage. That represents progress, albeit a slow pace of progress, when one considers how much time and effort for reform has been invested and for how many decades. In both cases, the laws, going back many generations into the past, have been absolutely bananas and haywire. They have not been working in the optimal manner. They were not based either upon reason or upon compassion. They were based upon prejudice and outdated and disproved notions. The laws were wrong and served evil, rather than good. In some states of the U.S., the politicians still cling to the old, wrong ways.

The reason people want laws and obey laws without even being monitored or forced to do so is that they believe law to be a good thing. When contradictions are observed, then respect for the law sensibly decreases. That is why it is important to correct inequities in the law. Even a minor inequity is cause for concern. But when the law reaches deep into people's personal lives, then an urgency is assigned to the problem.

Laws must be crafted with great care. Laws can do great harm that is often unforeseen and unintended. Sometimes the harm is not appreciated until many years in the future when new information has come to light or the situation has changed. Change is the one constant. Everything changes. People, places, nations, culture, society, and even religion and our understanding of existence itself. There is no point in resisting change. To resist change is impossible, because our bodies are changing on their way to the grave. Instead, one flows with change, taking the good along with the bad.

Mismanagement Extends to Schools

I'm not surprised to read that our nation's mismanagement extends to the school system. Billions of dollars were tossed into the fire, as usual. Our politicians passed laws to throw a battery of tests on students that are already over-tested. Billions were wasted, or rather diverted into the pockets of those slick businessmen that cozied up to politicians and sold them on tests and fancy gadgets that don't help. Perhaps it is for the best. We are a nation of sweepers, short-order cooks and toilet-cleaners, so there is really no need to learn anything other than how to scrub, mop, sweep, clean and prepare simple meals.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Futility of Lies

Truth is the best guide and the surest path to wisdom. Believing in things that are not so is a step into madness and error. If truth is on one's side, then one has already won. There is no contest. There is no need to prove anything to anyone. The other side has already lost. Truth prevails. Some think that there is a contest. They place their trust in contests. They are impressed by power.

If everyone who perceives the truth is condemned, and only those who believe in the lie are left, then the truth is still true, and the lie is still a lie. It is not possible to make something that is true, not true. If two multiplied by three is six, then the answer of six prevails, now, in the past, and for all time, no matter what anyone says or does about it. That is the charm of the truth. Truth is immune to interference from human beings. It cannot be destroyed or diminished. It is immutable and permanent in a world of impermanence and death.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Closed Forums

I've noticed an increasing trend of closed forums on the Internet. Some forum admins don't even know their forums are closed. Their registration is broken or inept. Kubuntu's forum is a case in point. I tried eight times to register for that forum. It's like trying to break into Fort Knox. Linuxgames is another web site that one cannot register for.

I do not require registration to post comments on my blog. I even allow anonymous comments. All I require is the solution to a simple CAPTCHA, because that's what Blogger offers me in terms of anti-spam tools. Yes, I still get a spam comment maybe once a month. I delete it. Problem solved. Deleting a spam comment takes maybe five seconds of my time. I don't force my users to squint their eyes at a graphical image of blurred, semi-legible words or numbers. I don't care who they are or what their email address is.

I have some advice for forum admins that are wondering why few people post messages on their forums. The problem is you. You raise the hurdle too high, and most people just aren't going to bother. They will go somewhere else. I do not know why someone would go to the trouble of maintaining a forum and then set a big barrier in place to prevent people from using it. That wastes everybody's time.

When I was a forum admin, and I was one for many years and in many different places, I developed elegant means of dealing with spammers. The most effective method is a blacklist. Mine seems to bounce the majority of spambots now in existence. I regularly add new IP ranges when I notice some bots slipping past my defenses. Traps are helpful too. Captcha works, but I am not a big fan of Captcha, because all too often, forum admins choose an impossible Captcha that humans have difficulty solving. I have grown to hate the complicated versions of Captcha, the ones that use a combination of an image and text. There are better, simpler methods available, such as requiring the solution to a simple mathematical problem, such as, "What is fifteen divided by three plus four, written in numeric form?" The answer is 9, but it is an answer that very few spambots are prepared to offer at this time, and if any ever do, then additional wrinkles could easily be added.

The reality is that your fancy-pantsy semi-legible or illegible Captcha isn't going to stop a determined spammer, who can and does hire humans to complete registration. Outfits like E-lance offer cheap labor--online labor--all over the world for hire for often unethical endeavors.

Retain Backups of Previous Versions

This morning while Dungeon Crawling, I picked up a potion of strong poison and did an (I)nventory check on its description. The literary quote chosen was "Poison is a harsh word. I prefer 'potion of shut the hell up.'"

Hm. Orc humor. This is not the sort of style I've seen in Dungeon Crawl before and could be a harbinger. But perhaps the elves will prevail after all.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Dust-Up Over Japanese Islands

Currently making headlines is a dust-up involving China on the one side and Japan, South Korea and the U.S. on the other over the ownership of a handful of uninhabited islands and their surrounding, mineral-rich ocean. I looked at a photo published by Bloomberg of a Chinese sailor looking through binoculars on an aircraft carrier and thought to myself, everything in that photo, from his uniform to the binoculars to the carrier itself was made in China. Any photo of something in America would betray this, that, and the other thing that was made in China. The reason is because American leaders are stupid and have allowed American manufacturing to be exported over to China. The only thing to replace the jobs that were lost is McDonalds and Wal-Mart. I remember back in the 1990's when people actually debated over whether to do something about American manufacturing. The argument for doing nothing, which carried the day, was that Americans would transition to higher-level, higher-paid information technology jobs. That was a lie, and the people who said it back then either knew it was a lie or were stupid. The reality is Americans are pushing brooms and mops. In the future, Americans will be serving Chinese overlords and wishing them a nice day and "Would you like to have fries with that?" When Americans get old, they will be thrown on a bonfire and set ablaze as they will be useless at that point, due to increasing medical costs. Or perhaps the Chinese, ever efficient, will turn us into glue like old horses.

I think that American executives that want to manufacture in China should relocate their families to China and become Chinese nationals. They can enjoy all the rights and privileges and protections of being Chinese. Clearly they see no advantage in the U.S. and should cast their fortune with a foreign country. This would apply also to Bill Gates, Steve Jobs when he was alive, and all the other Chinese wannabes. If they think China is so great, they should go live there and tell us all about it. No need to be clinging to America and all the unique things that make America what it is. Like the Venetian traders of old, they should relocate to Constantinople and expose themselves to the tender mercy of the Byzantine Empire.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Wesnoth & Dungeon Crawl

On Thanksgiving, one should reflect upon things to be thankful for. One of the many things I celebrate is Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup. It is the best game for Windows or Linux at the amazing price of free. There isn't a better game anywhere at any price. One of the things that makes it so good is that it undergoes active development, so that new wrinkles are being added every six months or so. The wrinkles have, on the whole, been good ones, although the developers finally caught on to the Spriggan elite and clipped their wings in the latest version. No longer can Spriggans wear cloaks or boots, which is a significant handicap, although I still feel Spriggans are a race to be reckoned with. There is something cool about slaying a frost giant with a single blow by stealth.

I like Wesnoth too, and comparisons naturally arise between Wesnoth and DCSS because they are both turn-based strategy games, supporting Linux, Mac, and Windows, as all games should, free and open-source, based in a hypothetical, alternative Medieval era where magic is real and used in combat, and humans are just one of many intelligent species roaming the world. I do wish humans were not the only intelligent race in our own world, because then there should be greater unity among us, for we would have to unite against common threats, such as orcs and goblins. Indeed, we need orcs and goblins to keep us straight. I woke up this morning thinking what foolish things WW1 and WW2 were. In WW2, I lost my uncle, shot down over the skies of France. Germany gained nothing by the wars it initiated. It only lost. Such is often the case with modern warfare. One would hope that world leaders would take a clue from history, but they don't. As far as world leaders are concerned, history is just a topic for academics. The same mistakes are repeated, ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

Wesnoth does have issues that come along with the better graphics. I think that the AI is too ambitious, causing substantial delays on some maps, because the AI is busily crunching numbers prior to deciding which unit to attack or which direction to move. In Dungeon Crawl, the AI is quite simple. There is only one target, and all monsters stream toward it. Stronger monsters try to get ahead of the weaker ones. No numbers are crunched, only maze-solving to find the fastest route to the player. Thus, there are no delays at any time. I've left the room to go make coffee in the time it takes Wesnoth's AI to decide what to do, and when I came back, sometimes it is still deciding, and at that point I simply quit the game. But there are other reasons to prefer Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup over Wesnoth, such as the rich complexity of DCSS, in stark contrast to the simplicity of Wesnoth. Simplicity is not necessarily a demerit--chess is one of the simplest games ever--but complexity makes for a less predictable, more random game experience that makes each game different from the last. Wesnoth I think is more subject to the whims of Lady Luck than Dungeon Crawl, because in Wesnoth, a single ill-fated attack can kill one's leader.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

I Used to Love Rock Music

When I was young, all the kids were excited about rock concerts. I went to one once. I hated it. The music was so loud that it bruised my eardrums. All I could think about was when I could leave and what I would be doing after the show. I never went to another rock concert.

However, the only thing my peers listened to was rock and roll, rap, country, punk, and heavy metal music, so that was what I listened to, and I thought it wasn't so bad, played at a moderate level. Over time, I began to play it louder as I got used to loud music. I think "getting used to loud music" actually involves permanent hearing loss.

As I got older and upgraded my friends, I became exposed to better music, such as classical, folk, and jazz. It is like going from cow manure to diamonds. Both are carbon-based and certainly have their uses, but the diamonds are more elegant. I began to notice how simple, boring and predictable rock music was. I think the clincher for me was reading the lyrics of my former favorite songs. Unfortunately, most rock musicians write at the fifth-grade level.

I watched two documentaries about Pink Floyd yesterday that featured several of their live performances. The music left me unmoved, which I thought was strange, because I used to think it was great, even the work of genius. One of the performances was "Comfortably Numb," and the lyrics remained with me. I thought about them this morning as I woke up.

Just a little pinprick. There'll be no more aaaaaaaaaa-aaaaaaaaaah,
But you may feel a little sick.
This'll keep ya going for the show, come on it's time to go.

The clingy-clangy rhyme scheme seems all wrong. The words don't fit. They just are there because of the stupid, stupid rhyme.

Why does the pinprick make one sick? Does it always result in sickness? If so, then why receive the injection at all? The only reason "you might feel a little sick" is that "sick" rhymes with "pinprick."

Why is it time to go? Can't a junkie have a moment? The only reason it is time to go is that "go" rhymes with "show."

I know of a junkie that wrote better lyrics than Pink Floyd, and his name was Samuel Coleridge. He would give a junkie a moment, and he wouldn't make him sick, either.

Pink Floyd is the purest overrated pink polka-dot poppycock. And I used to listen to them all the time. They were a little pinprick that made me sick. I was programmed by the radio, constantly streaming in nothing but cow manure, and by all my friends who were also programmed by radio. Maybe I'm being unfair to radio, though. We could have tuned into PBS. Why didn't we? I think it was due to hormones. Rock celebrates the erotic urge. It is not about music at all. Rock is an outlet for sexual expression that may seem very attractive due to the censorship of sexuality in other areas of society. But I wonder if it is really quite as necessary now as it was back in the 1960's.

I hope that one day our society can dispense with rock altogether and fully embrace real music again. We should pay attention to actual musicians rather than erotic performers.

I have gone to many classical and jazz concerts featuring live instruments, and I have always had a good time. Yet when I look around at the audience, mostly I see gray heads. That's too bad. I think I would have enjoyed such concerts even at a young age, if I had been exposed to them. It's a pity that young people learn to like garbage instead of music.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Gay Atheist Marriage Vows

I edited already existing marriage vows to reduce their verbosity and make them appropriate for an atheist gay male couple. Feel free to use as desired.

"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here together to join together this man and this man in Matrimony. Into this important institution these two persons come now to be joined.

"If any man can show just cause why they may not lawfully be joined together, let him speak now or forever hold his peace.

"__________________will you have this man to be your lawful wedded
husband? Will you love him, comfort him, honor and keep him in sickness and
 in health; and, forsaking all others, keep you only unto him as long as
you both shall live?

"__________________, will you have this man to be your lawful wedded
husband? Will you love him, comfort him, honor and keep him in sickness
and in health; and, forsaking all others, keep you only unto him as long
as you both shall live?"

[Present one ring for each man] "The marriage rings seal the vows of marriage and represents a promise for eternal and everlasting love.

"(Groom: Repeat after me) I __________________ take thee,
_______________ to be my wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day
forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and
in health, to love and to cherish forever, and thereto I give thee my

"(Groom: Repeat after me) I __________________ take thee,
_______________ to be my wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day
forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and
in health, to love and to cherish forever, and thereto I give thee my

"Forasmuch as ____________ and ___________ have consented together in
marriage, and have witnessed the same before this company of witnesses
and each other, and there to have given their pledge, each to the other,
 and have declared the same by giving and receiving a ring, and by
joining hands; by the power vested in me by the good State of ____, I now
pronounce you husband and husband.

"You may now kiss.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, I now present to you Mr. And Mr. ________________."

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Xubuntu Bug: Open Word Documents with Archive Manager?

I finally found a bug in Xubuntu 13.10. Its default is to open Word documents with the Archive Manager, which makes about as much sense as elephants that fly. To fix Xubuntu, one must go to the Settings Manager, click on the anti-intuitive MIME Type Editor (No, not "Preferred Applications," because that would be too easy), enter "doc" in the search window, and change the wordprocessing types to be opened with AbiWord rather than Archive Manager. I spun my wheels a bit this morning, because I couldn't remember whether I had installed LibreOffice yet or not and kept looking for that. AbiWord seems to work well for my purposes however and I have no problem with it so far. Indeed, I may never need the power of LibreOffice, because my word processing needs are quite modest. I'm not one for fancy graphs and charts and graphics. I just wish that Xubuntu let AbiWord open Word documents, because I would rather read and edit what is in the Word document than examine the file types within the Word document.

Bluehost Keeps Subtracting Features

I figured out where all of Bluehost's development goes. They pay their developers to subtract features or make them difficult or impossible to use. There was a time when I could download a log of all site transactions--that stopped about a year ago. Now it's a huge hassle, for no reason other than Bluehost hates its customers. There was a time when I could backup the SQL database. Now that is completely impossible. Bluehost instead gives me the option of a full-site backup, which never completes but just gives me what amounts to an error message saying, "Sorry, but we at Bluehost do not know how to program computers. We're still learning, and you're stuck with us while we're in training diapers!" I see the reason why. Bluehost wants me to pay $20 for the upgrade to "Backup Pro". That is, if I want to back up my web site, I have to cough up more money now. Bluehost is basically sticking a gun to my head and saying cough up the dough or say goodbye to all your hard work. I wish Bluehost would just quit jerking their customers around and leave CPanel alone. All their changes have been negative with consequences for their customers. I am sure of one thing, I will not be renewing with Bluehost whenever renewal time comes around. I will spend ten, twenty, however many hours it takes to backup my database using SQL statements, but one thing is certain, I will not pay even $0.01 for additional captivity with "Bluebeard," the web-hosting pirate. I like a company that does what it says and sticks by its word, not one that pulls dirty tricks out of the blue to rake in more cash.

Adios, WinAmp

I've used WinAmp the better part of a decade. It's set to disappear thanks to mismanagement by AOL, like a lot of other things. I downloaded a copy today that I intend to burn to CD, because it will no longer be available from the developers after Dec. 20th, 2013.

Unfortunately, the world is still saddled with an aristocracy. The lower classes have to work exceptionally hard to get anywhere, for instance, to become a software engineer at a company like WinAmp. The upper classes simply call up a friend for a job and rake in the millions just because of their family and social ties. Their competence level can be dirt, and they still make big money. They may know nothing other than how to play golf. There are countless brands and ideas this aristocracy has killed due to incompetence and negligence. The U.S. as a whole is reeling from the mistakes of this aristocracy. There's no question the country has been mismanaged by both the legislative and executive branches of government for at least the last fifty years and possibly longer. While the aristocracy dabbles in pointless war games to satisfy their vanity, the country crumbles.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Games that I Love

I despair of my blitz chess capability. I just can't seem to pull moves out my hat fast enough to win. Even when I achieve a winning game in the opening, which happens enough times for my satisfaction, I still lose, either on time or due to oversight. I wonder if I may be in a downward spiral due to the aging process. I've never been very good at blitz, but I seem to be getting worse.

Perhaps I should stay with correspondence chess, in which time is not a factor at all. That has been my preference. Another format I like is the long game, at least 15 | 10 (15 minutes and 10 bonus seconds per move) or more. I need time to work out all the obvious things. My mind is simply not gifted in the way that a grandmaster's certainly is. I know very well that some individuals can glance at a game and work out the best move in mere seconds. I have a slower algorithm.

I've been pleased with Wesnoth multiplayer since I learned all of its many quirks, social and technical. It is impossible to have a good game on an average Internet connection. One needs wide pipes. I can only play it at some locations. I would like to inspect Wesnoth's source code one day and fix a number of rough edges, but if it is in written in C, that is a deterrent. I've never liked C. I do not think C is human-friendly. I like human-friendly languages that are verbose and easy to use. I always associate "C" with "Cryptic." I know that it is half as efficient as assembler, and for that reason preferred by some, but I think modern processors can handle a bit of inefficiency in the source code. Besides, human-friendly languages continue to improve their efficiency, and their payoff is that source code that is easy to understand is also easy to maintain and enhance.

I have given Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup a rest, but intend to come back to it some day. I'm irritated that Ubuntu never has the latest version. I always have to add the Stone Soup repository. I find Ubuntu extremely conservative where new versions of games are concerned.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Obama's Too Republican

Obama's problem is that he is too much of a Republican. Instead of concentrating on basics, like his signature health care reform, and ensuring that it was a success, as anyone with competence would wish to do, he squandered his attention and his energies upon Syria and other foreign conflicts. A perfect analogy would be a surgeon deciding to go play golf instead of preparing for surgery. I can't understand our Presidents and their obsession with little barbarian ratholes that scarcely deserve to be considered civilized nations. These Presidents seem to think that the U.S. is still fighting WW2. The real job of the Presidency is to look after the U.S., and U.S. interests mainly concern what happens within our borders. Spending so much time strutting about as policeman of the world has consequences, such as the fact that President Obama looks like a nincompoop right now due to his administration's inability to maintain a web site. However, it is certainly true that his predecessor was a greater nincompoop and that the Republicans are not even his equals, but far worse by every measure that one would care to apply.


Mental illness is the worst. Someone dear to my heart remains in this world, living, breathing, and talking, but they are not there, they are only a simulacrum. As was said of such people in times past, they are possessed by a demon. I came to visit a year ago, but my visit was unappreciated, and I don't think it did any good at all. One can be here and not be here, can see and yet not see, can hear and yet not hear. Such a person has left the community of living souls and become a mad hermit, isolated, alone, and lonely, oh, so desperately lonely that they commune with the dead, who are closer to them than the living. When last I visited, the black-and-white photographs of long-gone ancestors were of greater interest than anything I had to say, and when after many hours of listening I made clear I needed to adjourn for lunch, sour resentment was the result.

I wish to visit, but I think such an effort would be wasted and only for my own benefit, but I am not sure whether there is any benefit for myself. My memories are better than the present. I would only be perceived like a distant noise, and all that I said would be either unheard or misinterpreted, and my visit would soon be forgotten.

I am reminded of a coworker who had a mad woman living in his house, his aged mother, whose mind was irreparably gone. In the past, she had been kind, he said, but now, she was possessed by a demon and did everything possible to disrupt and distress. She would throw food at the walls, bang on the walls at night to wake people up, scream, moan, yell, and say hurtful things. He believed it was his moral duty to keep her in his house. He hated his brother for not showing gratitude for his sacrifice and not helping. I sympathized with him and thought him a good and decent man, but I was uncertain regarding the morality, because his mother had lost her wits beyond recovery, and made miserable the life of his entire family. I felt there was not only his mother's welfare to weigh, but also the welfare of his family and even of himself. Self-sacrifice appears noble and good, and it moves me, but can it also be a subtle form of selfishness? I think there is something known as the "martyr complex," wherein one may be too ready and eager to sacrifice, apparently, one's own interests. No sacrifice is free of cost. With each sacrifice, one reduces the capacity to support other good and worthy causes. To sacrifice for one cause is to say that it is worthier than other causes.

Xubuntu > Kubuntu

I much prefer Xubuntu 13.10 over Kubuntu 13.10, because Xubuntu software updating just works as smooth as butter. I also like Xubuntu's default applications. If Xubuntu 14.04 LTS is at least as good as 13.10, then I plan to install Xubuntu on a second PC, my htpc, and possibly a third, my laptop. I am starting to wonder what KDE's desktop actually brings to the table other than bells and whistles--and occasional bugs and gotchas. The only KDE-based distro I like is Linux Mint KDE, because Linux Mint does everything exactly right, all of the time. The only downside to Linux Mint is the waiting period of 2-3 months after a Ubuntu release.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Cherish Mistakes

I like to recall past errors to rectify present behavior. In this manner, instead of being all negative and lamentable, a mistake can help to ensure positive results for the future. I cherish my mistakes, because they are effective teachers. Perhaps this is why, or so it is said, that certainty and idealism and their close relation, fanaticism, are more common among the young than the old. The young have not had time and opportunity yet to make their mistakes. They tend to see the choices before them as simple and straight-cut. With experience, new dimensions to situations and behavior become evident, and one grows more circumspect.

My brother believed that life imitated chess and vice versa, and one of his reasons was that mistakes in chess are similar to mistakes in life due to their being the result of oversight.

Off topic: I find oversight an odd word. The primary meaning is an unintended mistake. The secondary meaning is watchful care or management. The implication seems to be that managers are clueless.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

DoomsDay Project

I concur with many others that there needs to be a backup made of all the world's knowledge, for the potential event, which is well within the realm of possibility, that civilization as we know it is destroyed. The backup must be in imperishable format, which excludes magnetic copies. Perhaps a certain hardy breed of optical discs could be used, but the knowledge regarding how to build machines that will read and power these discs must obviously be stored in a different format, perhaps paper, parchment or papyrus. We must include a Rosetta Stone consisting of images and their verbal equivalents, because it is not certain that language will remain unchanged. The security of this backup is the most important aspect, because if it is discovered by primitive people of no understanding, it will all be wasted upon them. The archive must be sealed using a method that is impenetrable except by technological means that reflect a Renaissance-era civilization, and it must also be hidden, yet detectable by advanced deduction, for instance, recognizing artificial (man-made) features in an environment. Redundancy is essential too, because some backup locations may be compromised by primitives or obscured by the shifting landmasses of the planet. A thousand airtight and waterproof capsules should be dispersed over the globe, some underwater, some in the desert, some in the tundra, and everywhere in between.

A further refinement to this idea would be to lock and entrap the capsule, requiring the answer to a riddle for access. If an incorrect answer is attempted, the contents of the capsule can be destroyed using acid or perhaps a different kind of chemical reaction. The riddle will require empathy in order to solve. This would offer the capsule some protection against being discovered and misused by evil-doers. Unfortunately, history has a way of repeating itself, and a capsule with a lot of technological knowledge in it is not necessarily a good idea. What the human race needs more than technology is philosophy. Technology brings many horrors into the world and empowers the dark, powerful, tyrannical souls to dominate others. Perhaps the capsule should indeed contain nothing of technology and only philosophy, to point out the ways to obtain learning merely, without giving explicit instructions on how to build this and that. The great frailty in the human race is that a human mind can be very apt at technology and care nothing at all for philosophy. It is better that philosophers hold the keys to technology rather than tyrants and would-be tyrants, as is the case in many countries today.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Windows: As Stupid as the Day is Long

Q. How many days are required to install Windows 7?

A. Wrong question. Replace "days" with "weeks." Windows refuses to install any drivers, so upon installation, the computer cannot connect to the Internet, cannot display higher than 640 x 480 resolution, and cannot read from USB drives. Linux distros perform these tasks, which is why Linux is more user-friendly than any Windows product.

But the very worst problem with Windows is that when an old hard drive begins failing, and a user connects a new hard drive to install Windows, Windows will secretly botch the install and sabotage all labor performed. That is, after Windows has (presumably) been installed on the new hard drive, and dozens of software applications have been installed and configured and updated, and Windows Update has downloaded 600+MB of updates and installed them, and all the media files have been copied onto the new hard drive, and then the old hard drive is disconnected and the power shut off--Windows won't boot. Ever. It's a botched install. Why? Because Microsoft is stupid and hates its customers. Instead of installing Windows to the new hard drive, what Microsoft did was install it to both drives, so that the new hard drive is forever dependent upon the old.

Almost any Linux distro is better than Windows due to the many "gotchas" in the Windows world, which inflict a multitude of pranks on the end users to compel them to either buy entire new systems or spend countless hours dealing with Microsoft-imposed problems. Most people I know simply chunk their old computer and buy a new one. I am one of the few that are willing to put up with all the crap Windows dishes out in order to save money. Indeed this is probably the reason why Microsoft inserted that little trap. Their system is malicious by design. Since Microsoft colludes with manufacturers, it is in "their" interest (Microsoft and the manufacturers) to prod users to replace, rather than repair aging computer systems. I don't know how much money is sucked out of the world economy due to Windows, but the figure is probably in the billions.

Windows is very similar to malware in a number of respects, from its poor design to its bugginess and its ways of harming the user by stealing time and effort. I wouldn't use Windows at all if it were not for ACDSee and Call Clerk, two applications that require it. The main problem with Windows is that it hides the details from the user and tries to simplify complicated matters, but the way that they go about achieving these objectives is completely wrong. Windows 7 is worse than Kubuntu, worse than PCLinuxOS, worse than Open Suse, and worse than almost any major Linux distribution I can think of, any distro that occupies a slot in the top ten list of Distro Watch. Anyone who tries these Linux distros cannot fail to arrive at the same conclusion. I look forward to the day when I can run nothing but Linux, when ACDSee and Call Clerk will at least work from Wine. Until that blessed day arrives, I am compelled to struggle with the weird maliciousness of Windows.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

From Kubuntu to Xubuntu

I am happy I made the switch from Kubuntu 13.10 to Xubuntu 13.10. The problem with Kubuntu centered around the update process. I don't know why, but every program with a "Muon" noun in the title is buggy. My desktop got to the point where I had to disconnect the power cord from the back of the computer in order, not to stop Muon from spinning its wheels, but simply to turn the computer off. You see, Muon seizes control of the shutdown and restart commands and will not permit the user to power off until Eternity arrives, or is that Infinity? In other words, Kubuntu has decided in its infinite wisdom that the user does not need to control the computer. The user is irrelevant. Kubuntu is the supreme commander, not the human being, not I, a mere peon. Now, I begged to differ, since I am the one that actually purchased the computer in the first place. Perhaps I am impudent in the eyes of Kubuntu. I deleted Kubuntu from my system and searched for a replacement.

My first pick to replace Kubuntu was actually SolydX, because I admire one of the principals behind it, zerozero, who has helped me and many others on more than one occasion in the Linux Mint forums. However, to my dismay and bewilderment, SolydX/K does not work on my system and I do not know why. All I ever got was a terminal screen with "grub rescue" on it. Based on my reading, perhaps this has something to do with my motherboard's support of UEFI. I haven't the foggiest idea. I found a thread on the SolydXK forums that discussed the commands needed to recover, and after a brief stab at following the recommendations, I decided I did not want to bother with all of that jazz. If installation is so difficult, I can only imagine what maintenance will be like. Instead, I installed Xubuntu, which just worked, at least, after the second attempt at installation. So far, Xubuntu has been smooth and easy, although of all things in the KDE world, I do miss Dolphin.


Guake is an awesome idea--a terminal emulator for Linux that is activated by a keystroke and is transparent. At first glance, it seems so useful that every distro should include it by default. I often wish that Windows had such an innovation.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Namecheap, the Worst Web Hosting Company

Namecheap, Inc. just sent me an invoice for--well, I don't know what. They expect me to pay a bunch of money because, I guess, they need money. I haven't hosted with them in years and my domain is no longer registered with them. I'm not surprised their morals are amiss. Namecheap is possibly the worst web host in existence. Their service was lousy, with unexplained bizarre errors, and their tech support, which I frequently had to use, was foreign, incompetent, unresponsive, and uncaring. I was never so happy as when I abandoned my Namecheap account and moved to a different host, even though it cost me financially to do so. Namecheat is more like it.

The host I recommend is Bluehost, a class act all around. They may be Mormon-owned for all I know, but they do web hosting right, and on the extremely rare occasion that I have needed their tech support, I have talked to real, live American techies on the telephone who know what they are doing. I've never been talking to a Bluehost representative without feeling like they are intelligent and, perhaps more importantly, care. I've used Bluehost for many years. I don't know of any other web host that is as good as they are, although it's true I haven't tried many. Bluehost is even recommended by Wordpress, which I think is very impressive in itself. Their founder runs the entire company on Mac or Linux, scorning Microsoft. I've followed his blog off and on through the years. I doubt we would agree on politics, but as far as computers go, I think we are in agreement.

For the past couple days, my site on Bluehost has become inaccessible around midnight every day without explanation and stays slow until the morning. So I can't recommend Bluehost without reservation. I need to become more cautious about my enthusiasm for things. It seems like the very moment that I praise something, that's when I discover its shortcoming. In the case of Bluehost, I discovered their nightly slowdown about the same time that I renewed for two years. However, I think that this may have been a temporary glitch, possibly due to Wordpress attackers.

If this is the only post any visitor to my blog ever reads, then so much the better. Namecheap caused me hardship with their unexplained errors and incompetent service.

7/30/2013 Update: This post against Namecheap has been attacked on over ten separate occasions by spam comments linking to malware sites that try to infect people's computers with viruses. My policy now is that whenever that happens, this post will be updated to be the front-page, very first post; or else I may post another message about Namecheap and its sleazy, unethical business practices. There's no way that Namecheap can get out of their well-deserved poor reputation. They are going to have to live with it, no matter how many spammers they hire.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Project Runway and RuPaul's Drag Race

There are two television shows that are must-see TV for geeks like me--"RuPaul's Drag Race" and "Project Runway." I grew up without the slightest interest in clothes. I think I have improved a great deal. Shows that deal with fashion are highly educational for those who have little natural inclination toward fashion. I find my awareness of clothes has increased, and I am more likely to "dress up" than I ever was in the past. I told my partner the other day, "I want to look like Tim Gunn," the mentor on "Project Runway" that is one of my favorite television personalities. He seems to me dignified, intelligent, perceptive, and seems to have a warm and affectionate side as well.

Another area where I've made great strides is public speaking. I'm not a good charlatan. I need to know a subject well before I speak. I hate faking and I hate fakers. However, if I do know a subject well, then fear melts away, and I transform into a dragon. I did a speech on a disease not long ago in front of a group of nursing students. I had researched the disease well and rehearsed my speech about a dozen times. For me, preparation is essential. I like to feel that I am not wasting my time or anyone else's. The speech was well-received and some people told me that mine was the best of the lot.

Knowledge makes a big difference for me. I think that I would have made a good college professor if I had long ago chosen a different route, abandoning computer technology and pursuing instead a doctorate. Technology is a fickle field where only the last two years matter. I never expected that one day all my knowledge would be deemed obsolete and my aptitude not given a moment's consideration. There are zero opportunities, and no employer cares what one has learned or can learn. They would as soon hire workers from India or China or not hire in America at all and simply invest in overseas operations.

Old Books

I like old books. If the author is dead, that to me is a recommendation. If a book has survived its author and is still being sold, then it probably has merit.

I don't like most news magazines. Someone bought me a year's subscription to TIME, which is one of the worst, with many charts, graphs, numbers, and random facts, and little or nothing of any interest. I can consume a TIME magazine in about sixty seconds, and I always throw it in the wastebasket afterwards, because it is never worth saving.

I read Socrates just about every day. I don't mind reading the same passages. It is better to reread Socrates a thousand times than to read TIME magazine once. His ideas inspire reflection and relate to many things under the Sun. I find myself agreeing with Socrates more and more, but still I disagree with some of his most radical propositions, for instance that all bodily desires are to be ignored or minimized in sacrifice to the greater goal of philosophy. He conjures up this idea of the philosopher as a monastic scholar who eats simple food, say porridge and onions, just enough to survive, wears simple clothes, lives in poverty by choice, and finds no value in any of the nicer things in life, what ordinary men regard as pleasures. The philosopher instead looks forward to death, when he will be reunited with the gods and with spiritual beings and achieve his ultimate goal, which is acquisition of the truth. That to me seems rather unpleasant and extreme. I do think life has a purpose and so does pleasure. When available and morally acceptable, pleasure should be enjoyed rather than scorned. I don't share Socrates' dismissal of the senses, but he is correct in pointing out that the senses do mislead us when we are searching for truth, and that the most powerful deductive tools make use of pure reason. Indeed, I think that is how the astrophysicists go about things--by using mathematical theories.

Socrates is a dear old heart, cheerfully anticipating his death. At first I felt pity for Socrates and annoyance at the injustice of the Athenians in condemning their sincere and honest critic. But I am persuaded by Socrates to forgive his accusers. One can't help but envy such a civilized exit from this world--surrounded by loving and loyal friends--knowing the precise day and hour and manner of one's passing--feeling no pain at all. Upon reflection, his was the very best of all deaths. Many humans die in an abrupt manner, with their financial and social affairs in disarray, and even the rich and intelligent are not immune to this fate, as I have observed. Many humans die young, before their time, whereas Socrates died in his seventies. Many die in pain or alone or unloved, whereas Socrates suffered none of that. In the final analysis, one cannot pity him. His accusers are condemned by history, and Socrates is exonerated and immortalized.

I do not know if his individual consciousness still exists, but I rather doubt it. Socrates believed he would still be around, somewhere, in some shape or form. I just don't feel we humans are important or good or powerful enough to escape annihilation. Death seems final to me, and the finality seems just and equitable. Yet perhaps Socrates was right in one sense, if we are all a part of a whole. For if the universe is one, and I think it may be, and the astrophysicists say we all derive from star dust, then individual consciousness is beside the point, because there is one consciousness only, the greater one that transcends all, and our individuality is a kind of illusion.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

College is a Waste of Time and Money

I am always surprised to hear about the enrollment statistics at local colleges. As college is deemed worthless by employers, why do so many people still enroll, incurring debt in the process? It is as though they and their parents assume that nothing has changed since 1940, and a college degree remains the stepladder into the middle class. The reality is quite different now. There are a lot of people with Bachelor's and even Master's degrees that cannot find anything other than minimum-wage jobs. In reality, there is more to be gained by working at McDonalds for four years than incurring debt for four years. At least at McDonalds, no debt will be incurred, and some amount of money will be earned. There is always the possibility of becoming a store manager as well. I think the real reason kids still go to college is that an expectation has been to baked into their minds by our culture. There remains this almost religious awe of getting a college degree. After all, that may be how their parents moved up the ladder, back in the day when the economy was working. Graduation into the world of highly educated unemployment or under-employment or menial labor will come as a rude shock.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Forced Moves in Chess

Forced moves have strong appeal to beginners. I have noticed they will always check, when they see a check, or choose another type of forcing move, when there is one. I smile when a novice checks me and allows me time to improve my King's position. Analysis is essential to determining whether such moves are beneficial. All forced lines must be analyzed to some kind of conclusion.

Some people are faster at analysis, because they have innate talent. It is often not possible to defeat a player with a faster "processor," so to speak, except in a long or correspondence game. I consider myself slow at analysis, and that is why I prefer long games to blitz. I do not think it is possible to improve much at blitz. One has the hardware or one doesn't. I do think it is possible to get better at long games, in which both players have adequate time to prioritize and then analyze the possible moves.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Is the Supernatural Natural?

I am most tempted to speculate upon the supernatural, that is, magic and ESP and telepathy and gods, when I listen to astrophysicists talk about string theory, time, the multiverse, what happened before the Big Bang, and wormholes. Then I wonder whether all of the tales we have heard are false, or if some of them have a basis in something that is just now only dimly understood.

Lately, when I close my eyes at night, I think back to the prophesy I heard a long time ago that seems to have come true in many respects. It was not a good prophesy on the whole. I wish I had not heard it. I remember asking whether it were possible to defy fate, and the answer I received was in the negative. There is something irresponsible, I think, in a seer telling a person of a future that is inevitable. With great power comes great responsibility. I wonder whether she really saw what she said she saw or if she were merely speculating based upon intuition and intelligent perception. If she did see truly, then how and by what means? I asked this exact question at the time of the reading and received nothing but mumbo-jumbo for an answer.

The NOVA documentaries I watched over the last several nights explained several theories and hypotheses circulating in the world of astrophysics. One of the biggest discoveries that has been made, albeit one that is "old," dating back to Einstein, is that time is relative. Space and time are related, forming the concept known by Einstein as spacetime. I get dizzy thinking about these things. They are so far beyond my comprehension. I can only just grasp the surface of the basic ideas. There are many implications deriving from the relativity of space and time. Thus, my entire lifespan can elapse in a single moment--say, sixty seconds--of an extraterrestrial being living at a vast distance away from me. Therefore, if there were any means whatsoever for communication, images, or knowledge to be transmitted to and from that consciousness to, say, a human being living in my time and sitting beside me holding my hand, then that might be the scientific way for the seer to see. Mumbo-jumbo, or magic, in the common sense of the word, need play no role. Science suffices for an explanation that passes muster with the modern mind. Much of advanced science is as good as magic for most of us, anyway. How many of us could build a computer from scratch or, for that matter, an automobile? Observe that quantum mechanics speculates that teleporting between vast distances is possible. If this is so, why cannot a thought, word or image be transmitted from one brain to another? Would that not be easier?

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Speed Up Windows Backup

Backing up Windows is essential, because forty forevers are needed to get a Windows install back up to snuff. I used to use Clonezilla to clone my Windows install, but Clonezilla is quite limited for use with a failing hard drive. There is the "rescue" mode, which I used, but I found that the display suffered severe corruption due to I/O errors that displayed rather untidily wherever. Apparently, Clonezilla only updates five numerical values during the cloning process. The labels for these values are not updated, so any errors that pop up simply result in a mess. I did not like looking at that, because in order to interpret the display, I had to google Clonezilla and find a screenshot of what the screen is supposed to look like during ordinary operation. The Clonezilla web site does not offer such a screenshot, I guess because it was deemed unimportant. I tried the very latest version of Clonezilla Debian and Clonezilla Ubuntu, and both had the same behavior. Compounding the problem, I noticed that the "time remaining" value was constantly increasing, rather than decreasing. Of course I do not wish for the cloning process to last all my days, so I aborted the process by hitting the power button, which to my knowledge is the only way to regain control. I think in the future I will only recommend Clonezilla for drives free of I/O errors, and suggest that a drive scan be performed prior to attempting to use the program.

I resorted to using the Windows Backup in Windows 7. I did not have high expectations, but actually I have found it is fairly good, although simple-minded. The display does not get corrupted, which is nice, and what is even nicer is that I can continue using the computer while it is backing things up. The one problem I ran into is that by accepting Windows Backup defaults, again the backing up takes forever. It is much slower than it should be. Googling for help, I found that many users complain about the same problem. I made a simple observation that I am sure has occurred to others. First of all, Windows Backup attempts to compress files, which is often a bad idea, because some files are already compressed, such as jpegs and many popular video and music formats. For some users, such files comprise the overwhelming majority of the space used on their hard drive. This I believe is the main reason that many users complain about slow backup. I do not think Windows Backup is intelligent enough to skip compression for already compressed file formats. For the sake of performance, it should be storing these files, rather than attempting compression. Instead, it is attempting to compress them further, wasting time, because little or nothing will be gained in space. Once a file is compressed, it is impossible to compress it further without using a more efficient algorithm, and I doubt that Windows Backup uses the most efficient algorithm in the world. I do not know why Microsoft went this route.

The solution to slow backup in Windows Backup, in such cases as described above, is to pick and choose the directories to be backed up. The video, music, and picture directories should be copied using Windows Explorer to the backup drive. Windows Backup should not touch them, because that will only slow the backup process down a great deal. Where Windows Backup excels is at compressing all of the system files, documents and data files and areas that the user cannot easily access. I let Windows Backup handle all of that for me. It is actually a pleasant little utility that seems a lot nicer to use than certain alternatives, but like all tools, it does have its limitations.

The NSA Spying Scandal

Each new revelation of NSA spying on people all over the world is a reminder of the type of people who have power in Washington, D.C. The warlords have great power of technology at their disposal, due to plundering the taxpayers and buying enormous amounts of hardware and hiring brilliant technology workers. But the warlords lack morality. They only care about their narrow, selfish interests. The ones that wrap themselves in the cloth of Jesus employ the ancient ruse of piety that deceives many people into thinking that they do have a moral compass, when they don't. At least one of their brilliant technology workers demonstrated that he possessed what they lack, and they hate him for it. Their wickedness exposed, they are wrathful, because they realize that their pretences have less power to persuade.

Great technology paired with low morality is the dilemma of the modern age. The moral aspect of the human species has not really evolved much since the bad old days. I think that the greatest surprise for people of my generation is that nuclear weapons were not used since the end of WW2. I would not rule out nuclear war, however. Nations do not always intend to go to war. War just happens. It is indeed possible to have a nuclear war by accident. I think that over time, if the nations of the world do not become moral, but remain as they are, then one day the world will win the lottery ticket for nuclear war.

In regard to spying, the United States has set a bad moral example for the other world powers. American power fades due to our leaders, the mighty warlords, who think constant warfare is the only necessity and that everything else can be ignored, delayed or mishandled. They have botched everything but a handful of overseas conflicts that benefited America very little or not at all. Out of arrogance, American leaders refused to draw any lesson from the Viet Nam conflict. They refused to learn from history. They believe that knowledge is unimportant, suitable only for academics, except where technology is concerned, because technology has direct military applications, and through the military, they think they can force their will on others.

While American power wanes, the power of China increases. A day will arrive, and I think it is not far away, when China, not America, calls the shots, both figurative and literal. Will China be moral? No, China will play "follow the leader" and do as we did and much, much worse. I do not look for China to set itself above us and be a shining example of morality, because China opts for whatever is expedient, never what is right, and their leaders are outright thieves, tyrants and hypocrites. So China will do much worse. Only fear holds China in check for now, but fear is on the wane in direct correlation with U.S. power. And Russia will do what it has always done, proving that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Close-Up of a Tick

I enjoyed this article in the New York Times for the close-up of a tick, which shows that the tick's mouth looks like a ratchet.

I first encountered ticks on my pet cat when I was a boy. Back then, I used to pry them off with pliers, which seemed like the only way to get them off. They were already engorged with blood at that point, and some were half the size of a dime. The cat seemed cooperative and did not appear to mind the procedure, which led me to suspect that the tick emitted some kind of localized anaesthetic.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

State-by-State Air Quality Data

I just discovered airnow.gov, which I suspect is another good idea from the Democrats. On that government-run site, air quality is clearly displayed on a map for all of the fifty states. I think it is very useful for anyone that might be considering relocating, but particularly those who suffer from asthma. I have noticed that living in one of the states with "moderate" air quality is bad for asthma sufferers.

Sunday, October 27, 2013


I'm one of the lucky ones on this planet. Violence tends to be something I read about in the paper rather than experience in daily life. The last time I experienced violence was long ago in high school. Back then, I was a victim. I had an incompetent teacher in gym class who did not have a conscience. There were many hurts that I received because of him. When I was fourteen, I used to consider the possibility of vengeance. In our modern world, vengeance can be easily obtained and does not require any skill, training or even maturity. Vengeance has a point-and-click interface. It is too easy. That is why certain headlines one reads about are not that surprising or uncommon, although they are sad, yes, sad to me, even if I understand more than I want to understand. I did not consider my old gym teacher to have more importance than any other cockroach I might encounter. I didn't step on and crush him, because I did not want to get my shoe dirty. Clean shoes are more important to me than stepping on cockroaches. There will always be cockroaches. One has to live one's life and forge a life that is about more than just cockroaches.

Impulses occur to many people, sometimes primitive impulses. I wonder whether it is so that everyone has thought of killing someone else at some point in time. Maybe that is not true of everyone. I have met many people in my life who seem exceptionally good. I think they have more goodness in them than I do. I am in awe of them and think they are holy, so I want to do things for them. I cannot say that they have ever thought of harming anyone else. I am not sure.

Certainly by listening to the lyrics of popular songs, watching television shows and reading books, it is clear that the thought of doing violence unto others is not uncommon in the general population. Some people lack sufficient impulse control. They would not make good chess players. They do not pause to consider all of the consequences of their actions. What good fortune I have, because I have good impulse control. But not everybody does.

I'm reminded of my good fortune in living a life free of violence whenever I read about the situations in the Middle East or Africa or read about the deeds of desperate criminals. For me, local crime hits home in a way that the conflict in Syria cannot. Where local crime is concerned, I know the city, I know the streets, I may have met some of the victim(s) before, and I may have even heard the sirens or moved my car aside in order to let emergency vehicles pass.

Some people are natural criminals. That is, they were born that way and don't seem very capable of doing anything else. Or maybe they are capable of doing something else, but we have not discovered the secret yet to directing their energies into more productive lines of behavior. It is too much to ask of society, at this point, to expect it to find the perfect answer for everybody. Society has many problems that remain unsolved. Those who create new problems are put away, either in prison or the cemetery. Even if a violent criminal is successful at one or more heists, I would not envy such a person. They are bound to get caught eventually, because law enforcement is the most advanced it has ever been. The money and manpower available to law enforcement in the U.S. is staggering. Any person, whether criminal or not, would have the odds stacked against him at the very outset of any endeavor that aroused the slightest suspicion.

Last night, I thought to myself how lucky I am compared to the criminal I read about in the local newspaper, who has been apprehended and is facing a sentence of well over a hundred years. Yet I suppose even he is luckier than some, because he did not kill or hurt anyone, though not for lack of trying. His was an old-fashioned crime that reminded me of the movies I used to watch in the 1970s. He was in a car chase from the police and fired a gun many times. Fortunately, he missed. But that will be attributed only to his being a poor shot. I don't think that he will get out of prison until he is very old, if ever. I cannot say that I have any sympathy for him, although I do feel pity.

From the documentaries I have watched, it seems to me that the worst thing about prison is not violence, but mere boredom, the monotony and irritation of seeing the same faces, the same clothes, the same building every day, all year around, possibly for life. I think prisoners resort to violence due to boredom. I suppose the only escape from boredom in prison would be found in reading books, if the warden is kind enough to permit well-written books, but it seems many prisoners are not that keen on reading.

Beyond the near-certain prospect of consequences for a crime, there is the even more important philosophical aspect to consider. The thought of harming others is repugnant to anyone with a philosophical viewpoint. I think conscience can prove an even greater consequence than law in such cases, at least for those individuals with a fully functioning conscience. I have met individuals that seemed to lack a conscience, or their conscience, such as it was, seemed tattered and ineffective. That is why I say that some people seem like natural criminals, because they don't really care about the consequences to other people of their actions. They only care about their own welfare. They do not perceive the connectedness between people, the network that joins us all together. Even in the lyrics of some popular songs, especially rap songs, I perceive this viewpoint. I think people who listen to such music are reinforcing a tendency that they were born with. They are trying to reduce the influence of their conscience, because they feel morality is a weakness, rather than a strength, and that to be evil is to be strong. I see the same philosophy, if it can be called a philosophy, and I suppose it can, in Putin, the strongman in Russia. He, too, believes that might is right, and that to be evil is to be strong. I don't think that such a viewpoint merits a response. The rebuttals are self-evident. China is no better. Both China and Russia are case examples of kleptocracies, or government by thieves.
techlorebyigor is my personal journal for ideas & opinions