Post From A Few Years Ago

A new year, when we sometimes think about old things, especially when going through stuff after moving. Here is something I posted on a forum a few years ago, when I was still in Chicago.

I have mentioned my European non-girlfriend in a few posts.

She will be leaving in a few weeks for her home country. She will be gone for three weeks and back in January.

A couple of other guys in our social circle have gotten more friendly with her, and I admit that makes me upset.

But I still think she plans on eventually going back to her home country. In one conversation she said that eventually she would go back. Another person said, “You don’t have to go back”, and she said that does.

Her parents are getting older. Her mother has trouble walking. Her father has said that he might only have ten years left. One of her brothers is severely autistic. He lives in an institution, and I do not think he recognizes her.

I don’t think she really wants to go back to her home country. I do not think she is truly choosing it. I think she is acquiescing to a trajectory for her life that she does not really want. Granted, when your family is in bad shape, it can be hard to walk away from all of that.

Plus she is not too happy at her job. And even though she has been here ten years she is no closer to becoming eligible for citizenship due to the type of visa she has.

If/when she goes back, she will take care of her parents. Eventually her parents will die. After that, who will be around for her?

I have the urge to tell her that I wish she would change her mind, even though I know she won’t. I get the feeling that she did not say no to me because of something that she wants, but because of something she does not want. I know this sounds selfish, but that bothers me.

Looking back, there were times I thought we were on the same wavelength, and there were times when I felt I did not know her well at all.

Image from Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

Thoughts On Ireland and the Roman Corrupt Church

Recently, the Republic of Ireland voted to allow same sex marriage. I’m sure you have heard all about it.

Some Catholic conservatives are saying that foreign money influenced the vote. They are upset about this. And completely oblivious to the fact that the Roman Catholic Church is ultimately a foreign institution in Ireland. They seem okay with the Roman Corrupt Church.

Jim Bob Duggar ran for US Senate and lost. He thought he lost because of “sin in the camp.” Granted, there was sin in the camp, but in both cases it is interesting that a lot of conservatives just cannot accept that some people disagree with them. There always has to be some cosmic explanation or the other side cheated or grand conspiracy to keep people from the truth. They never look at the most obvious possibility: People really do not want what you are selling.

A few conservatives hoped that Ireland will endure another Cromwell or another famine. Someone wishes that a country will endure a repeat of two of the worst things that ever happened to it. Simply because Ireland wants all people to have the same rights. Please, conservatives, define freedom for me.

The Roman Cadillac Church has been losing influence in Ireland ever since it was revealed that Eamon Casey, the bishop of Galway, had used church funds for several years to pay child support for his son. There have been other abuse cases all over Ireland. Frankly, Ireland should have booted the Roman Corrupt Church out 1500 years ago. Lost the land, lost the language, kept the oppressive religion. Pretty raw deal. I think the Irish have done more for the Roman Corrupt Church than they have done for us.

There have been a lot of abuse cases for the Roman Corrupt Church on multiple continents over several decades. The standard response from the Roman Corrupt Church is to pay hush money, move the priest somewhere else, and wind up repeating the cycle. And blame the victim if it ever goes public. This pattern is so pervasive in the Roman Corrupt Church and has gone on for so long, I think it comes from or has the approval, knowledge or imprimatur of people high up in hierarchy in the Vatican itself.

I know a guy here in Austin who grew up in Dublin in the 1970s. When he started junior high school, his older brother took him aside one day and told him not to get too close to any priests: No retreats, no sports. He might meet one of “those” priests. There were not that many, but if things go badly you were on your own. So people in Ireland knew about this in the 1970s. It looks like Sinéad O’Connor was correct.

Some people defend the Roman Corrupt Church by saying “it’s not that many priests”. True, it’s not. I have read that the number of priests who engage in this bad behavior is actually in the low single digits. The problem is that the Roman Corrupt Church protects its own criminals, pays off the victims, moves the criminal priests around without any attempt at rehabilitation or finding them some other job or turning them over for prosecution, and then the criminal priest engages in the same behavior in their new parish. As people said during Watergate: It’s not the crime, it’s the coverup that counts. And a coverup usually results in the crime repeating.

When people defend the Roman Corrupt Church by saying “it’s not that many priests”, they are showing that 1. They are pretty stupid individuals, and 2. Tacitly admitting how truly evil and stupid the Roman Corrupt Church is. If they Roman Corrupt Church took these guys out of circulation somehow at the first sign of trouble, there really would not be a problem. But, no, protecting the church takes priority.

A few years ago, Mark Zuckerberg gave Newark public schools $100 million. My brother posted a long rant on Facebook (of all places) going on and on about how stupid Mark Zuckerberg was for doing this. He said that problem was that the Newark public school system was a bloated bureaucracy that cared more about itself than the people it claimed to be serving.

Which to me sounds like the Roman Corrupt Church.

Image from Wikimedia,  assumed allowed under Fair Use. Ever since the 2000 United States presidential appointment, I thought that blue on maps was good, and red was bad. This is an exception (although the Ulster Prods are real loony tunes).

I Am Now TBTF Bank-Free

I have gotten rid of all of my accounts with JP Morgan Chase. I am now TBTF Bank-free.

There were some issues with the second credit card. I thought about getting one through my IRA broker or the U of I Alumni Association, but they are both through a company owned by Bank Of America. It looks like a lot of affiliate cards are handled by Bank Of America.

Then when I got the card, there seemed to be no way on their website to make a payment. I made a small payment through my bank. It took about a week, which I really did not like.

Then I went back to the credit union site, and it turns out the credit card is run by a company EZCardInfo. I have not been able to figure out who owns them. They seem to do third-party credit card processing for a lot of credit unions. When I searched for excardinfo on Google, I got a lot of hits to the sites for different credit unions. I had to set up an additional user name and password with this site, I had to pick a security image, and go through four security questions. It’s nice that they take security seriously, but it would have been great if I had an idea of how many steps were in the process as I was going through it.

So after I made a few payments, I called Chase and shut down both of my remaining Chase accounts.

I do not know if I will stay in Texas for the rest of my life. If I do not, having banks in Texas may be more hassle than it is worth. But a lot of people say they are tired of the big banks kicking them around, yet the market share of the big banks actually increased. Maybe a lot of other people have tried this experiment and failed, or maybe a lot of people do not strive for consistency in their lives.

That said, I might still invest in Wells Fargo. I know they have kicked some people around, but I have accepted it might be necessary to have a bit of amorality when investing.

Image from Wikipedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

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Thoughts On Embracing Failure

I think I realized part of the reason I don’t get too much stuff done during the weekends. I think I am afraid of failure.

I try to learn new software skills on my free time (because I frankly hate my job). Everybody says practice makes perfect. But when I get a lot of stack traces and error messages it is hard to believe that I am making progress.

Especially when I realize I am making a mistake that I should not have made. Today I tried to use a closure to iterate through a map in Groovy, but instead of typing “mymap.each” before the closure, I typed “mymap”, and for several minutes I could not figure out why it was not working.

I know we should all be open to learning, but my employer does not pay me to learn. They pay me to get stuff done, and frankly that frequently takes me longer than it should.

Image from Wikipedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

Language: The word “diet”

I want to look at how people use the word “diet”.

When I was younger, people would use the word “diet” to refer to something temporary. The word was mostly used as a noun. They would “go on a diet”, usually before some event, such as a wedding or a reunion. The main idea was to reduce the amount they ate, or to radically change what they ate. This would be done temporarily. After the big event and they impressed their old friends, people would go back to their old patterns of eating behavior.

Today we call this behavior a “fad diet”: A short-term change or reduction. This is why some people say “diets don’t work; you just go back to your old way of doing things.” Many of the screenshots on the fatlogic subreddit are from people in the fat acceptance/health at every size movements who use the word “diet” in this way.

The word “diet” was used to refer to the short-term change. But the normal, regular eating habits and patterns were never given a label.

If you talk to a biologist who studies another species, they will talk about the diet of that species. The biologist uses it to mean that species’ patterns of eating behavior: what they eat, when they eay, in some cases where and/or how they eat. They do not use the word “diet” to refer to a temporary change or restriction.

Over the past decade, people’s use of the word has been changing. More and more people are starting to use it in the second sense of the word. People talk about “low carb diets”, or “the paleo diet”, or the “Mediterranean diet”. I read and hear people talk about changing their diet, not “going on a diet”.

Now, people use the word “diet” to refer to their normal, common, consistent eating behaviors.

This is a good change. The fact is, everybody is always “on a diet”. Even Elvis was on a diet. It seemed to be fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches, with lots and lots of pills. It was a terrible diet, but it was still a diet.

Maybe this is why many of the people in the screenshots on fatlogic can’t lost weight, and why they think “diets don’t work.” They are using the word to refer to something temporary, something that will get them towards some distant goal, and once they reach that goal, they will go of the “diet”. Stop using the definite and indefinite articles when using the word “diet”. Use pronouns. Do not go on “a diet”. Think about “your diet”.

As I get older, I am finding out that intense exercise is not as helpful to keeping in good shape and preventing myself from getting fat as it used to be. Now I need to pay attention to my diet.

I don’t need to go on a diet. But I do need to change my diet.

Image from My World, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

Language: Big Words

As someone with a degree in exercise physiology, spends more time than I should in the bowels of Reddit and Craig’s Lust, and a guy who tries in general to pay attention, I have noticed a few things about the use of language by some of the larger members of our society.

It is interesting that a lot of fat people like to say they have “a lot of meat on my bones”. You might have some meat, but frankly you also have a lot of fat on your bones, and that’s the turn-off.

Fit women never call themselves “curvy”, yet they themselves are not rectangular.

A lot of fat women describe themselves as “sassy”, and say they are a “queen” or a “goddess”. I don’t hear these words from fit women.

Fat people think they are “normal”, and everybody smaller than they are is “skinny”, as if being “skinny” is some sort of condition. Thin people seem to describe themselves as “thin”. As far as fat people calling themselves “normal”, it implies that fit people are abnormal. Then again, maybe few fat people have friends that exercise.

Usually when a woman calls herself or another woman “a real woman”, it is someone who is fat. Has any women pointed to a women who runs marathons and called those women “real women”?

Another observation: How can you tell if you are fat? Here is a little test. If you have no problems saying you would not date a fat person, but you get upset if you hear a fit person say they would not date a fat person, then you are fat.

Image from University Of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

Amazon Prime

I finally got a trial for Amazon Prime.

I did it so I could watch the rest of Star Trek that I had not seen.

I had gotten through most of the fifth seasons of Deep Space Nine and Voyager while there were episodes on the Star Trek site. For the past six months or so, they had only 11 episodes of Voyager. A couple of them were sixth season, so I skipped ahead to get my fix.

Then a few months ago, the put up 10 episodes of The Original Series. This past week, I was on You Tube, and I found a channel that was putting up full episodes of Enterprise. The only problem was part of the image was cut-off. So after a little hemming and hawing and searching, I signed up for the 30-day free trial of Amazon Prime. I hope that the free trial is really free, and that all the videos on Amazon Prime are included in the price. Otherwise I will be paying Amazon a lot of money in a couple of months.

(Sidebar: “Amazon Prime” sounds like it could be the title of an episode from almost any one of the series. Except perhaps The Next Generation; they seemed to prefer one word titles.)

So this has been eating up my weekend. I watched the four episodes of Enterprise that were never on the Star Trek site, as well as a few episodes of Deep Space Nine and Voyager from earlier seasons that were never on the site. I promised to give a presentation to a local technology group on Wednesday. I was planning to get it done this weekend, but I will have to whip it up on Monday. I also thought I would listen to a conference call for ADM this weekend.

Perhaps I will see Firefly, or Battlestar Galactica, or other stuff. Who knows? I have to watch it on my Windows laptop. For some reason the videos don’t load on my Linux laptop. I have no idea why videos on Amazon won’t load but videos on the Star Trek site will. I have never owned a television, which many people found surprising. One person told me I was the only person they knew without one. Now computers and televisions are merging.

Two of the Enterprise episodes that were never on the Star Trek site were parts 1 and 2 of “In a Mirror Darkly”. I can hear T’Pol’s voice saying, “Perhaps if Ms. Blalock had long hair in every episode, Enterprise would have been more successful.”

I also watched a couple of my favorite Enterprise episodes. “Future Tense” is still my favorite Star Trek episode ever, but I do have to make one quibble: If they assembled the warhead outside the launch bay, they could have made it work.

Two of the Enterprise episodes that were never on the Star Trek site were parts 1 and 2 of “In a Mirror Darkly”. I can hear T’Pol’s voice saying, “Perhaps if Ms. Blalock had long hair in every episode, Enterprise would have been more successful.”

I also watched a couple of my favorite Enterprise episodes. “Future Tense” is still my favorite Star Trek episode ever, but I do have to make one quibble: If they assembled the warhead outside the launch bay, they could have made it work.

Image from Memory Alpha, copyright owned by CBS, assumed allowed under Fair Use. If you watch “Future Tense”, you will understand why the last two paragraphs were repeated. This website is dangerous to you. dflhas@089f0’Pauj_ph Temporal radiation.

Language: Thoughts On The Word Public

I am a regular listener of Freethought Radio, which is produced by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. One of their activities is to prevent or stop government endorsement or support of religion.

When they talk about this, they will sometimes use the word “public” to describe the activities in question.

Usually it is something like prayer at city council meetings, or a city or county giving money to a church. They will describe it as “public support” or “public endorsement” of religion. This is the same use of the word “public” that we use when we say that the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is a “public” university.

Many of the opponents of the FFRF will use the word “public” differently when they attack the FFRF. They say that the FFRF wants to eliminate “public expression” of religion, or they want to “take religion out of the public square”. Here, I think the word “public” has a slightly different meaning. Here “public” means being a part of society, and does not refer to government support. Sort of like when parents tell their children to behave in public.

I wonder whether some critics of the FFRF are intentionally misleading people by this use of the word “public”. The FFRF does not have a problem with the “public expression” of religion, or of religion being in the public square. There are a lot of billboards put up by churches and religious organizations, and the FFRF does not try to have them taken down. The FFRF does put up its own billboards as well. They have no problem with religion existing in society. They simply do not think it should be supported by our government. And for the most part the courts agree with the FFRF.

The word “public” can also be a bit confusing in the business world. The “public sector” refers to the government. Many people in this country work for various levels of government, and are said to work in the “public sector”.

However, a “public company” is a company that is not owned by the government. It is owned by people and institutions in the private sector, but it is called a “public company” because shares of ownership in that company are sold on stock exchanges. A “private company” is a company whose ownership is not traded on an exchange. So a company in the private sector can go public, trade for years on an exchange, and then go private, staying in the private sector the entire time.

There are some government entities in the United States that do own shares in public companies. These tend to be the retirement funds for workers in the public sector, usually at the state, county or city level. Many people in the US do not like the idea of governments owning a company, yet public retirement funds is not considered a problem. These funds are generally given some independence from the governments whose workers’ money they are managing. Some of these funds (such as CalPERS) have been activist shareholders, but their goals are no different than other activist shareholders. Some retirement funds invest largely in index funds. But these retirement funds never get a majority stake in companies. At least not in the US.

Image from Wikipedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

Nobody Seems To Care About Apple Owning The World

Back about 10 or fifteen years ago, many people in technology pushed open source because they distrusted Microsoft. There were other reasons, but it seemed to me that was a major motivation. When the world runs on software, the idea of one company having oversized influence on the software industry scared people.

Now, I go to technology meetups, and I am usually the only one using a non-Apple laptop. Yet everyone thinks they are edgy, cool and an independent thinker simply because they use Apple products. Sometimes I am reminded of that scene in Life Of Brian: Yes, we’re all individuals.

As Microsoft got bigger and more powerful, people fear and hated them more, and trusted them less. As Apple gets bigger and bigger, people seem to love them more. Yes, their products look better. But does “shiny object” really change everyone’s opinions on things? Is it really enough to remove objections about market power? It seems to.

I once saw Jim Cramer on Mad Money rave about what a great company Apple is. He mentioned they had changed the music industry through iTunes and the phone industry with the iPhone, in addition to influencing their original lines of business. He pointed out they displaced a lot of companies (and a lot of jobs) in those industries.

Now there is an Apple watch. The co-inventor of the Swatch thinks the Apple watch could displace a lot of people in the Swiss watch industry. Now there are rumors that Apple might make a car (but some people don’t think they can pull it off).

Am I the only one who sees a problem with this? Sure, the free market is great. Yes, things change. Yes, there is creative destruction, and people find new work. But we are talking about one company doing a lot of displacement in multiple industries. If a web site forced you to use IE years ago, people complained. If a service is only available on iPhone, nobody seems to complain. Unless they are mistreating Chinese workers, people seem okay with Apple eating the world.

I really don’t get it. People seem to want Apple to get bigger. I went to a meetup with the Austin Internet of Things group, and a few people expressed concern about what Google and Nest are doing with peoples’ information. Yet I rarely hear about this concern with Apple.

Am I the only one who thinks the standards have changed? Am I the only one who thinks it might be a bad thing if one company changes one industry after another?

A gilded cage is still a cage.

Image from the 19th century, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

Thoughts On Synchronicity and Conservative Logic

I know many say the concept of synchronicity is BS, but I did notice an interesting sring of coincidences over the past couple of weeks.

Paul Krugman wrote a piece about Stephen Moore, a right-wing hack. He pointed out that a lot of these conservative hacks keep making predictions that are not true. Yet they never seem to suffer any negative consequences for constantly being wrong. The basic thrust of the piece is questioning why these “pundits” are not forced to find other work.

One of the commenters wrote something that explains it:

Ah but they’re not “predictions.” They’re simply statements about the world works couched in predictive language. You’ve got to remember, these people are deductive not inductive reasoners. They don’t build a model from observations and refine the model to reflect new observations. They know what they know and that’s that. Everything follows from first principles. You don’t *need* to make predictions if you have faith. After all, what’s a better demonstration of “faith” then believing something when all evidence points against it?

I supposed we could see if it’s turtles all the way down, and ask why they think that way. But it does seem to answer the immediate question.

Then there was a post on the Meditation subreddit in which the poster noted that of all the religions, the Buddhists seem to get more things right than everybody else, and asked why that is. Again, there was an interesting comment:

Generally I could say though that one camp is “sky religions”, prophetic.. and the other is “earth religions”, born out of observation and contemplation instead of prophecy. If you make conclusions based on observations you have a good chance of being right..

Then on March 7, CFI Austin had an event with Ryan Bella Seventh-day Adventist preacher who decided to go “a year without god,” and then decided to make it permanent (his website is here). He said becoming an atheist was a long process for him. A big part of it was that he had a hard time believing that people who believed differently than he did would go to hell, even if they were moral people.  He felt that way about people in other denominations, other religions, no religion, gay people. He could not accept that someone who treats others well will go to hell simply because they have the “wrong” belief.

At one point he made an observation about conservative Christians and liberal Christians.  Conservative Christians see the Bible as inviolable, revealed text, and that the world must be shaped around that. Liberal Christians look at how the world is, and try to interpret the Bible to conform to what they see.

If I had to choose one of his categories of Christianity, I would go with the liberal camp. But I think (and he seemed to agree) that eventually you keep interpreting the Bible so much that there is nothing left.

I also read a couple of articles recently that kind of hit upon this with regard to taxes. Minnesota increased taxes on the wealthy and increased the minimum wage, and things are going pretty well there. A column in Bloomberg pointed out that California is also doing pretty well since Jerry Brown raised taxes on the wealthy. I am sure that taxes can go too high, but a lot of conservatives always seem to think that raising taxes is always bad and cutting taxes is always good. Minnesota and California have not reached the breaking point. Cutting taxes has not worked out too well in Kansas (see here, here, here). And Scott Walker has not gotten the job creation he said he would either. Conservatives usually want to move everything to the right. The Laffer Curve is the only thing they want to move to the left.

The article on Minnesota was in HuffPo. The commenters there generally acknowledged reality. There was a bit more conservative distortion on the Bloomberg site. Some of the people there basically espoused the right-wing doctrine: If Plan A does not work, keep trying Plan A.

I would like to live in a world without tax. But I like having roads, being surrounded by educated people, and have some confidence that food at the grocery store has a good chance of not killing me. It would be nice to get all that for free, but just because I want it all for free does not mean I can get it for free. You can try to look at the world as it is and then try to make your way within that, or you can only think about what you want and then spend your life complaining about the price.

Image from source unknown, assumed allowed under Fair Use. I wanted an image of people synchronizing watches, and I found one of George Harrison. How cool is that?