Larry Anderson Trained in history. Terrified by the present. Mon, 15 Jul 2019 16:54:29 +0000 EN Larry Anderson Clean Trained in history. Terrified by the present. hourly 1 Streams (19F260) Farewell to NewsBlur Thu, 23 May 2019 21:44:00 +0000 Larry a3941bf9-112b-3721-7a6e-b61e96c35188 Well, here we are. Tomorrow, unless I cancel before midnight tonight, I'll get charged for Feedly Pro. NewsBlur has not had a fully functional Android app for over two months, and there is still no ETA for a resolution (see the back story here and here).

Frankly, I'm surprised. I signed up for a trial of Feedly Pro in desperation a month ago in order to have a way to read RSS feeds on my phone that didn't make my head hurt. I thought that the NewsBlur team would certainly have a fix by now.

And yet, they don't.

It's disappointing.

The good news, I suppose, is that I found an alternative, one with an API that allows for third-party apps. Even if the Feedly app breaks, there will be alternatives. I just wish it wasn't twice the price.

But frankly, I've been waiting far too long for a resolution considering that this is a service I pay for, and at some point, you need to wish them well and cut your losses.

I guess that time is now.

Goodbye, NewsBlur. It was great while it lasted. I hope you fix your problems someday.

The nightmare scenario Thu, 09 May 2019 21:22:00 +0000 Larry 8ab61577-cc29-fae4-7cfc-d7889ea7445b It's Wednesday, November 4, 2020.

The Democratic candidate has won the Presidential election by a small margin. Trump and the GOP claim massive fraud, without evidence, and refuse to hand over power. The Democrats take it to court, and it quickly goes to the conservative-dominated Supreme Court.

The armed forces, meanwhile, have taken an oath to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic."

What do they do? Who do they obey?

Who will be the legally constituted authority after Jan. 20, 2021?

NewsBlur update Wed, 08 May 2019 22:11:00 +0000 Larry 53da77fc-ae36-5435-e7b7-24f190cba4b6 Since my last post, the new Android developer for NewsBlur has discovered the problem and identified a possible solution:


I tried it, and it and it seems to work. Unfortunately, there are other issues it doesn't fix:


Oh, well. At least the combination of Feedly and the FeedMe app is handling my RSS needs admirably for the time being.

Edit, one week later (2019-05-15): Still no resolution on this issue. I have nine days left to decide, but I think I'm going to stick with Feedly and bid adieu to NewsBlur due to their completely inadequate, hapless, and possibly incompetent response to this issue. Time to move on.

The NewsBlur debacle Fri, 03 May 2019 18:33:00 +0000 Larry a3ab5d90-6aea-af1c-e4e0-507a11a7fbe4 I've been a loyal and generally satisfied user of NewsBlur ever since Google Reader was killed off. While Google didn't think a web-based RSS reader was something worth having, not all of us agreed, and NewsBlur was an early beneficiary of that questionable decision. When you live in the 21st century and move from computer to tablet to phone and back, it's nice having your feeds in the cloud and not tied to a single device.

So for the last several years, I've been recommending NewsBlur to anyone who asked about RSS readers, and was generally happy. Then, two months ago, rendering broke in the Android app; all articles were showing a big, undifferentiated black box, a situation only remedied by switching to the dark mode. Dark mode fans are legion, and anyone who uses it regularly wouldn't notice, but I'm old and prefer black text on a light background to avoid giving myself a headache. I was, therefore, less than thrilled to be forced into using dark mode as a workaround.

Here's an example of what I mean:


Now, I understand that problems happen, and things don't always get fixed overnight, but as the weeks dragged on, I was getting more than a little annoyed. This isn't just an app I use regularly; it's a service for which I pay an annual subscription fee. After a month, I was wondering about alternatives; after almost two, I was sufficiently irritated to post my annoyance on the support website, after the owner1 posted that if it wasn't fixed in a week, he'd look into getting another developer. Really? Seven weeks wasn't long enough already?

Shortly afterward, I said the hell with it, downloaded Feedly, and set up a subscription. It's been an adjustment; I'm used to things working a certain way, and the UI is sufficiently different from what I was used to that it was initially off-putting until I figured out the flow. After a week, I'm starting to like it; it works well, has fewer little glitches than NewsBlur, and just generally looks more polished and modern. NewsBlur still looks like an iOS 7 app, even on Android. It works (well, until recently), but it isn't pretty.

The downside is that Feedly Pro is about twice the price of NewsBlur Premium on an annual basis. And I just renewed NewsBlur for another year shortly before the app broke. Ouch.

So this morning, the NewsBlur owner announced that he'd finally hired another Android dev and was hoping the problem would be fixed within the week. Hey, great. Wish he'd done it about five weeks ago. But now I have another decision to make, and that's whether to stick with NewsBlur, assuming the problem actually gets fixed, or to bite the bullet and migrate permanently to Feedly. I've got until May 24 to decide; on that day, they'll bill my credit card if I don't cancel. NewsBlur will save me money, but their reputation has just taken a huge hit. It's been unusable on my phone for two months, and I can't shake the feeling that if it was the iOS app that broke (i.e., if the owner used the broken app), it would have been fixed a long time ago. I'm very tempted to walk away.

And therein lies a lesson: if you take too long to fix something that's broken, don't be surprised when your customers start looking at the competition, and figuring out if keeping their business with you is worth the hassle. Because at the end of the day, your customers have choices, and they don't have to choose you.

  1. I'm not going to call him the dev in this case; he created the service, but he farms out the app development to others.

Biden jumps in Fri, 26 Apr 2019 03:54:00 +0000 Larry 9f392c48-236c-002d-904d-6a07496afcb0 At long last, Joe Biden has declared his candidacy for the Presidency. On paper, he would seem to be a logical candidate. And yet…

And yet, my gut tells me that he's on a fool's errand. Biden will appeal to a certain segment of the electorate, certainly; he will appeal to the segment that is largely older, and remembers a time when we had a broad consensus in this country about what was right and wrong, and our divisions were mainly on issues of policy. Those days, sadly, are gone forever.

We now find ourselves in a reality where right and left no longer talk to each other. We are in a reality where a significant minority of the population is fine with building walls, imprisoning children, suppressing the votes of people they don't like, and look up admiringly to a brass-plated wannabe strongman. These people didn't get there on their own. They had help from a network dedicated to propaganda. They had help from an economic system that took their homes, and left the people who sold them the bad loans in the first place largely alone and free to carry on. They had help from cynical, power-seeking politicians who pandered to racial prejudice and told lies about a legally elected President, who placed party above country, and who told them that they would make everything wonderful again, and that their problems were not the fault of the massive corporations that rule their lives, but of the poor brown people who were coming here to find a better way of life, using the classic reactionary tactic of setting worker against worker.

With all of that, you can't expect a 76-year-old, white, male, business-friendly neoliberal to present much of a compelling case to the people who voted for Trump. You also can't expect him to be an attractive option to the base of the Democratic Party, which has shifted leftward to embrace far more progressive positions than Biden is comfortable with, such as Medicare For All and the Green New Deal. He's yesterday's man, and although yesterday's world has its attractions, it's not coming back.

Blog wish list Wed, 17 Apr 2019 15:16:00 +0000 Larry 8a0aee5b-c807-157d-a63b-6ccd1136234b Since my blog provider had to do an emergency upgrade to the beta version (v5) of their software, there are numerous things that are still in the process of being restored or recreated. Overall I'm pretty happy with the upgrade, but it's definitely still in beta. This is just a handy list for me (and Jason, if he reads this) to keep track of what I'm hoping for.

  1. Archive/Contents page - This is done.
  2. Restore the "About" and other custom pages from v4.
  3. Ability to delete blog posts. - This is done as of 2019-04-19
  4. Preview function for blog posts.
  5. "Save as draft" functionality.
  6. Ability to click on post title and be taken to that post's page, with correct URL showing. - This is done as of 2019-05-06
  7. WYSIWYG editor for blog posts. Yes, Markdown is nice, but I always get something wrong.
  8. Post a link on Twitter when a new blog post is published. Right now I have IFTTT set up to do that, but it's a bit of a kludge and it would be nice to have something more reliable.

And down the road:Additional themes. I'm happy enough with the default, but choice is always good. Consider this of secondary importance.

To be continued…

Five things I saw before they changed forever Tue, 16 Apr 2019 02:48:00 +0000 Larry a4a1d4fa-3aa0-0ba9-3fa8-8c774e164495
  • The Berlin Wall before it fell
  • Yugoslavia before it split apart
  • The Spruce Goose before it was cut apart and shipped to the PNW
  • The world before the Internet
  • Notre Dame avant l'incendie.
  • ]]>
    "Notre-Dame de Paris en proie aux flammes" Mon, 15 Apr 2019 21:12:00 +0000 Larry 66e31af0-a508-691d-1170-06c7b03787cf Such were the words of French President Emmanuel Macron today. Part of the shared cultural heritage of all mankind has been destroyed. If this does not make you weep, I do not know what to say to you.


    A bit of disruption Fri, 12 Apr 2019 17:49:00 +0000 Larry 4ffba519-65f7-e7d3-5bef-0298bf482fdf If things look a bit different around here, and you find something not working, it's because my hosting provider experienced a technical issue this week that necessitated a sudden and unexpectedly early move to a new version of the platform. It's not quite fully baked yet, but he's working on it. In the meantime, please bear with us while we sort things out.

    Updating the blog Thu, 31 Jan 2019 23:08:00 +0000 Larry 87132aa5-ea6f-0f1e-33d7-cb46549a60a9 As of today, this blog is secured with SSL—see the lock icon up there in the URL bar? After eight-plus years of running my domain's DNS through ZoneEdit, I've moved to Cloudflare, which gives me SSL capability (the main reason I moved it, frankly).

    Anyway, for anyone who wants to send me a message through my contact page, your message is now secure end-to-end. Glory be.

    The last Indian pudding Sun, 13 Jan 2019 18:37:00 +0000 Larry e43eab3d-f04a-e4a4-d89a-b22ee3f31f23 I went out to dinner last night with my family. As a delayed birthday celebration, my mom, my brother, and my wife joined me at a local chain steakhouse to celebrate the conclusion of my latest trip around the sun. The prime rib was delicious, the bread tasty, the baked potato delightful. It was an enjoyable evening.

    While we were dining, another restaurant on the other side of the country was serving its final order of prime rib. Durgin-Park, a Boston institution since 1827, founded when John Quincy Adams was president, closed for the last time. A dozen or so years ago, its longtime family owners sold out to a New York-based corporation, and apparently it was no longer considered to be profitable enough for the new owners to keep in business (and yes, when a place has been around for 192 years, a mere 12 still qualifies them as the new guys).

    If you're not a New Englander, you probably haven't heard of Durgin-Park. They were renowned for their prime rib, their baked Indian pudding—a traditional New England dessert made with cornmeal and molasses, and something they may have been the last to prepare and serve in the traditional way—their communal seating, and their often surly waitstaff. I may be a Californian, but my mother's side of the family are all New Englanders, and she was a Bostonian herself for two years after high school. It was considered mandatory that when you went to Boston, you dined at Durgin-Park. There was simply no question about it.

    Unfortunately, not enough people felt that way in the end. I've seen some Bostonians dismiss it as having been a tourist trap, and there was an aspect of that, but it was something more. It was a connection to a time long past, when workers and politicians and the occasional Beacon Hill blueblood ate together at long tables, perched on benches, eating traditional New England cooking, and were treated all alike by waitresses who brooked no nonsense from anybody. Yes, it was a bit of a put-on, but we were all in on the joke together.

    Because of its location, across from historic Faneuil Hall on the Boston waterfront, I have no doubt that the space it occupied for so long will once again become the site of a restaurant, but it won't be the same. My guess is that it will probably feature healthier options, with locally grown produce (although good luck with that in Boston in February), and possibly be run by a celebrity chef. It will no doubt be embraced by foodies and accompanied by articles talking about a fresh new start for a historic location. It will be more in tune with the tastes of the modern world (fusion cuisine, anyone?)

    But it won't serve Yankee pot roast and Indian pudding. It won't be as egalitarian. It will not be Durgin-Park, for better or for worse. Something was lost yesterday, and it isn't coming back. I grew up in a place where historic means fifty years old, where things are constantly being reinvented. As a native Angeleno, I can't imagine Philippe's or The Original Pantry closing; this is so much more of a loss than either of those would be.

    It appears I have eaten my last Indian pudding, and it makes me sad.

    Watches, computers, and their fans Fri, 11 Jan 2019 22:04:00 +0000 Larry 981ff445-0797-17ec-1cd8-c4582a55a1da bn0151.jpg

    If you know me, you've probably figured out by now that I've gotten into collecting watches. It's a reasonably harmless pastime, cheaper than collecting vintage Ferraris, and gives me something to do on the Internet besides reading about Cheeto Benito and watching my blood pressure skyrocket. I like it.

    Of course, anyplace you go on the Internet is going to eventually have its share of drama, and recently there was a bit of it that erupted on one of the watch forums I frequent. Nothing too bad, however, and to get everyone back on track, one user decided to post a poll just for fun to see which Japanese watch manufacturer people preferred—Seiko, Citizen, Orient, or Casio.1

    Each of them is a bit different. Seiko is the 800-pound gorilla of the business, with possibly the widest variety of products and a hardcore fanbase. Orient is a smaller watchmaker that's part of the Seiko Epson empire, and they specialize in automatic (i.e., self-winding) watches. Citizen, which also owns Bulova, has carved out a niche with their Eco-Drive movements that are powered by light, as well as Bulova's high-frequency quartz models with a sweeping second hand. Casio is most known for digitals, including the G-Shock line, which might as well be the official watch of U.S. combat troops.

    The poll is in progress, and Seiko is ahead by miles, to nobody's surprise. But there's something interesting going on.

    The conversation in the thread is full of people discussing the pros and cons of the various watchmakers. Many good points are being made all around, opinions are being stated, and it's generally a very civilized discussion. People, it's nice.

    If you're so inclined, you can check it out here for yourself:

    Now, just for grins, compare this to what happens in many places online when someone dares to bring up Microsoft, Google, or Apple in the wrong company. Most of the time, it devolves into a religious war, complete with insults implying that if you use the other company's stuff, there must be something wrong with you. And all of that eventually gets old—very old—if you're on the wrong side. Like the old saying—it was funny the first thousand times, but…

    And that, right there, is why I spend a lot more of my online time these days in the places watch geeks (or as they often call themselves, WIS for watch idiot savants) frequent. They're just as passionate, but much less likely to break out the insults, or to be tone-deaf. The tech crowd could learn a lot from them.

    Oh, and in case you were wondering, I own Seikos, Citizens, and an Orient, but I'm mostly a Citizen guy, as the photo above will attest.

    1. Yes, you read that right—to stop some arguing, someone posted a poll asking for people's opinions. Watch folks are a different breed.

    This is the way the American Century ends Fri, 28 Sep 2018 15:48:00 +0000 Larry 9207b679-b9bb-8b9c-b893-283b00ee0cf7 Among historians, there's a school of thought that holds that the 19th Century, in its social, political, and economic aspects, didn't end until World War I. This year is the 100th anniversary of the end of that war, and that makes it doubly heartbreaking that we are now engaged in withdrawing from the world, reversing democratic and social reforms, and abdicating our global leadership position in favor of a narrow, isolationist, xenophobic, and misogynist nationalism that promotes the interests of the wealthy and the corporate, and mirrors the status quo antebellum of the early 20th Century.

    Yesterday's Senate hearings made it abundantly clear that the majority party no longer has any intention of doing so much as paying lip service to the liberal consensus that has prevailed since the end of World War II. 24 hours after testimony that riveted the nation, they are acting as if it never happened. Today, they will vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, despite considerable evidence that he sexually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford, and likely others, and after a highly volatile performance of his own when speaking to the Judiciary Committee that brought into question his suitability for the role of justice by the standards of the legal profession itself.

    The GOP, having backed him, is not backing down. They will vote to confirm him today, despite the damage it's likely to do to the Republican Party in the long term. If that seems curious, consider the following:

    • He will be the necessary fifth vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.
    • He will be the necessary fifth vote to demolish the Voting Rights Act.
    • He will be the necessary fifth vote to weaken the separation of church and state.
    • He will be the necessary fifth vote to overturn Obamacare.
    • He will be the necessary fifth vote to stop reconsideration of Citizens United.
    • He is likely to rule that Trump can pardon himself.
    • He would overturn the Justice Department regulation governing special counsels like Mueller.
    • He is one of them—wealthy, white, male, prep school, Ivy League.

    Opinion polls show that a majority of Americans now oppose Kavanaugh's appointment. The Senate Republican majority will ram it through anyway on a party-line vote, because they don't care what a majority of Americans thinks—a majority of the Senate now represents only 18% of the populace, and this cannot be changed short of a constitutional amendment, which is unlikely to pass muster with a 5-4 conservative majority on the Court—which Kavanaugh will give them. We are no longer a democracy, we are an oligarchy, and we will now have two illegitimate Supreme Court justices (including Gorsuch, whose seat was stolen) to go along with the illegitimate President.

    Read that list of bullet points, and consider the road we're now on. It doesn't lead to enlightenment, or human rights, or women's rights, or freedom. It leads directly back to the 19th Century.

    The century that truly ended in 1914.

    With a world war.

    Unpopular opinion Wed, 04 Jul 2018 15:36:00 +0000 Larry 99dc7008-5889-a074-1a97-3e6ec65d6a68 242 years ago, the American colonies misdirected their anger at George III, who was mostly a figurehead, when it should have been aimed at the prime minister, Lord North, whose poor decision-making in dealing with the colonists was epic, worsening the situation at every turn.

    We then proceeded to create a system of government under the Articles of Confederation that was so unworkable that we replaced it with the current one a few years later. Ironically, what we ended up with was a system that combined the offices of head of state with the head of government, which resulted in a Presidency that has more actual political power than George III ever had.

    Happy 4th of July, everyone!

    With apologies to They Might Be Giants Thu, 03 May 2018 21:31:00 +0000 Larry a9c8d906-78d6-f9f4-3daf-75260d6e700c An admission by Sweden's national Twitter account that Swedish meatballs are actually of Turkish origin caused some chatter on social media, and this was my contribution, preserved here for posterity. Or infamy. Or something.

    Istanbul was ConstantinopleNow it's Istanbul, not ConstantinopleBeen a long time gone, oh ConstantinopleNow a Swedish delight on a moonlit night

    Every chef in ConstantinopleLoves the meatballs here in ConstantinopleAnd if you have fika in ConstantinopleIt'll really be Istanbul

    Even old Stockholm was once just Gamla StanWhy'd they change it? I can't sayPeople just liked it better that way!

    So take me back to ConstantinopleGotta have that taste from ConstantinopleWith the Chinese noodles in ConstantinopleWhy did Constantinople get the works?That's nobody's business but the Turks…

    Thoughts on the Ford announcement Thu, 26 Apr 2018 22:19:00 +0000 Larry fc29833a-49a5-4899-aa52-48f005bd83fa The announcement yesterday by Ford that they will cancel all but two car lines in North America, leaving only the Mustang and a specialty variation of the Focus, may seem extreme, but we are living in a time of transition in the auto industry. Additionally, this has been a long time coming; over the past couple of decades, it has become increasingly difficult to find certain types of vehicles for sale, such as 2-door sedans, utilities (like the Chevrolet El Camino), and station wagons.

    For better or for worse, Americans mostly want trucks, SUVs, and crossovers. This isn't a new phenomenon. Americans have always loved big cars, and the general downsizing that took place in the late 1970s and early 1980s was mostly driven by rising fuel prices and federal fuel economy standards, not a sudden love for small cars. This hasn't changed, and relatively low fuel prices have encouraged Americans to resume their love affair with vehicles that are taller, wider, and just generally bigger. When a business decides it can no longer make money selling a type of product, it's going to stop making and selling that product. By way of example, after air conditioning became pretty much standard on luxury vehicles, demand for the four-door Lincoln Continental convertible went away, and Ford stopped making it.

    In a sense, Ford will just be getting back to the state of affairs that predominated before the late 1940s. Prior to the introduction of the Ford F-100 in 1948, non-commercial trucks were basically just sedans with pickup beds where the back seats would have been. Look back to the 1920s and 1930s, and you'll see what I mean. The only difference here is that society is now going in the other direction. The Mercedes-Maybach Ultimate Luxury Concept is essentially an SUV with a trunk where the rear cargo area would normally be, and what they've ended up with, in all its bulbous, inverted-bathtub glory, is not dissimilar in size and shape to a 1954 Buick sedan.

    On top of all this, you have the general graying of America. The older you get, the less likely you are to be comfortable in something long, low, and sleek. What you really want in your fifties and sixties is something where you can open the door and sit down, not something where you have to twist sideways to get behind the wheel. Crossovers and SUVs fit the bill.

    And this time, Ford might just get away with it. The creeping electrification of the auto fleet means that fuel economy will no longer be the issue that it was in the 1970s; if OPEC jacks up the price to where we're paying $6.00 a gallon or more in the U.S. (unlikely given the current oil market), it matters less when you never have to go to a gas station, and having a small car to keep your fuel costs reasonable may no longer be all that important. And if you're wondering where all the electricity is going to come from, well, Tesla's got you covered. Literally.

    Welcome to the new world.

    Predictions Wed, 11 Apr 2018 18:36:00 +0000 Larry 73dec597-2966-89cd-b544-029e09574c7e
  • Trump will fire Mueller.
  • The Republicans in Congress, led by Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, will do nothing to stop him. McConnell is already blocking a vote on a bill that would protect Mueller.
  • With seven months left until the midterm elections, the GOP will do everything in its power between now and then to suppress the vote in Democratic-leaning areas.
  • The Supreme Court as currently constituted is unlikely to stop them.
  • The Trump administration may even take some kind of legal action to interfere with the electoral process in "blue" states.
  • In short, those currently in power are more interested in perpetuating their own power than in the rule of law, and the people who are supposed to serve as checks and balances to each other are not interested in acting as such. As I've said before, constitutions only matter when people pay attention to them.

    Seven months. Use them wisely.

    The Twitter problem Fri, 06 Apr 2018 17:11:00 +0000 Larry 92025da0-de72-fd70-88b5-4e99bb76b880 I discovered today that Twitter is going to be implementing a change in its API that will kill push notifications for third-party apps, among other lovely changes.

    Now, I don't want to beat a dead horse, but as others have said, Twitter's popularity was built on third-party apps. Those of us who have been there since it began will remember that there was no official Twitter app until they bought Atebits, the developer of the Tweetie app, which then became the official Twitter app. Since then, they've steadily ratcheted up the pressure on third-party apps by rate-limiting them, forcing them to stop displaying the app that was used for a post, and implementing hard user limits. For years now, they've forced all links through their own shortener (which doesn't actually shorten many URLs anymore). They've screwed with the reverse-chronological display default through use of an algorithm that thinks it knows better than you do what you want to see. They've added advertising, because of course everything must be monetized1, and "In case you missed it…", and they've started showing you posts that your friends have liked, whether you want to see them or not. They've filled the timeline with so much crap that I don't want to see that I really have no choice but to use a third-party app, and of course that means that they must do their best to kill third-party apps.

    Then there are the problems with Russian bots and Nazi gaslighting accounts, and while they've done a little bit to rein that in, it's not enough, it's a weak attempt at best, and it's ultimately contrary to their business model, which requires as many people as possible to be using their service. And then, of course, there's the fact that they are giving a megaphone to the current occupant of the White House, who uses it to debase his office and our political system, and who they will not ban no matter what lies he broadcasts or what slander he perpetrates. Mike Monteiro has done tremendous work in bringing this to people's attention2, but sheer volume means he's a voice crying in the wilderness.

    The hell of it is that there are alternatives to Twitter, many of which are excellent, in some ways superior, and which haven't gotten nearly the attention they deserve. There's Mastodon and, and smaller ones such as Pnut and 10Centuries. There is even Plurk.

    None of those have attracted more than a small number of users, however, because the overriding problem of social media is that you gotta go where the people are, and the people are on Twitter and Facebook. And that means that Twitter has a responsibility to society to police itself a lot better than it has done.

    However, what it has a responsibility to do and what it actually will do are two different things. And that's why I may finally call it quits with the bird. It's sad, because I've been around for a long time and I know what it used to be, and what it could be again if its owners gave a damn. But they evidently don't, and it won't.

    And one other thing: for the news accounts that I like (like @VCScanner), I have a system set up that pipes tweets from certain accounts into my personal, private, single-user Slack team, where I get a notification. I never even have to open Twitter. I don't even have to have a Twitter account.

    Take that, @Jack.

    1. This is one of the chief reasons I use third-party apps, incidentially.

    2. And if you're on Twitter and you're not following him there, you should.

    A bit of housekeeping Fri, 06 Apr 2018 07:00:00 +0000 Larry 84878459-55de-088e-774c-779fc2182e87 Now that this blog is no longer hosted on Amazon servers, I've reverted it to the root domain instead of the "blog" subdomain. What that means is that you will need to update your RSS subscription, since the feed address is different. You can find the details here.

    I now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

    Life Sun, 11 Mar 2018 17:27:00 +0000 Larry c779bc45-4f6d-4be5-852c-1686edcf8a13 Life is a journey, and you won't find your way by following someone else's directions.

    The mobile blogging blues Sun, 25 Feb 2018 16:28:00 +0000 Larry f6bfef0c-b616-3cd0-0f41-9e423fa5a002 My friends Jason and Jeremy have both blogged recently about, well, blogging, and the barriers that seem to crop up to doing so.

    It struck me that in my case, part of the reason I don't blog much is that I'm so often on a mobile device and not a computer. If it was easier to blog from my phone, I just might.

    This was part of what I liked about Posterous and Posthaven, both of which specialized in posting via email. We all have email on our phones, so it removed one of the biggest barriers.

    I'm not sure what the ideal solution is here, but blogging from mobile is something that all blogging platforms need to address (hint, hint).

    A Darker State Fri, 02 Feb 2018 17:04:00 +0000 Larry 26045cc7-c442-b3a5-0f26-6abaafee8b2c a darker state.jpg

    I don't do this a lot, but I have a book recommendation for you.

    "A Darker State" is both a thriller and a murder mystery that just happens to take place in East Germany in 1976. Oberleutnant Karin Müller of the East German Kriminalpolizei (Criminal Police) has been promoted to major in order to head up an investigative team with national authority, and is assigned to the case when the body of a teenage boy is found near the East German-Polish border. In the process of investigating, she runs up against the dreaded MfS, the Ministry for State Security, otherwise known as the Stasi, whose interest in the case is mysterious. She must tread carefully when the teenage son of a high-ranking Stasi officer is shown to be involved in unexpected ways, and when the involvement of the Stasi bleeds over into her personal life, it begins to affect her own friends and family, with potential repercussions that can only be described as dire.

    The protagonist is interesting, because she is neither a party loyalist nor a dissident. The daughter of a German mother and a Soviet soldier father, who disappeared shortly after her birth, she is a product of the system and still believes in it, but she is not blind to the contradictions in the system, nor to the fact that she plays a part in some things she'd rather not think too hard about. As the series has progressed, she is starting to develop a more complete view of the world she finds herself in, and as the series progresses towards the inevitable end that the reader knows is coming with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, of which she of course has no inkling, it will be fascinating to see how she adapts as the only world she has known starts to collapse. But that's for future volumes.

    I'll add one other thing—36 years ago this summer, I visited East Berlin and East Germany. The writing in this series (it's the third book of a planned five) has captured the feel of that time in the East beautifully, both in atmosphere and in details. The author has clearly done his homework. I recommend this book wholeheartedly..

    Oh, and if you're in the United States, download this one in e-book form while you can. There is some doubt as to whether this should be sold in the United States yet, as the U.S. publishing rights haven't been sold yet. But somehow, both Amazon and Google will sell it to you—for now.1

    1. This could change at any time—the first two volumes, both of which I purchased from Amazon, are currently unavailable in the United States. Act quickly.

    Situation Report 2018 Thu, 04 Jan 2018 22:06:00 +0000 Larry 3b9ac482-43e8-eccf-45bf-e3cab47bff8b Warning: this is both long and political in parts. —Larry

    It's with a bit of a shock that I've realized I haven't blogged since last February. Yes, the year 2017 turned out to be a shitshow of titanic proportions in the wider world, but that wouldn't ordinarily have stopped me from blathering on. Clearly, there were special circumstances at work, and a review and situation report are both in order. Let's start with the positives—in my own little world, 2017 was pretty good overall. Then we'll move on to the rest of the annus horribilis that was 2017.

    WorkI got a promotion midyear, which has finally put me in a position where I don't feel I have to make excuses for what I do. Work in general has been good to me; I like the people I work with, I seem to have their respect, and my work is varied and interesting. Although I'm finally earning a respectable income, I would of course like more money (who wouldn't?) and a greater feeling of job security (ditto), but that's life in the private sector in America. We're now owned by a private investment group, and if you've worked in the business world, you know what that means. Still, as long as my badge still opens the door to the office, I can't complain.

    FamilyAlthough there have been ups and downs, things are good on the family front at the moment. My marriage is solid, I see my brother and my youngest nephew frequently, and my mom continues to live independently and is in basically good health overall. My mother-in-law continues to astonish everyone by continuing to plug along at the ripe old age of 98. My oldest nephew lives in New York City, but was able to come out for Christmas, and we all enjoyed time together. My brother went through the wringer this year in both his personal and professional lives, but has come out the other side in good shape. He found a new career within a couple of months of the old one ending, before the severance ran out, which is always a good thing. And even better, it's something he's going to enjoy.1 And finally, my wife and I have both of our cars paid for, and we're fortunate to have what is by California standards a very small mortgage. No complaints here either.

    CommunityI'm lucky to live where I do, in a place where other people come for vacation. The weather is great, we were named one of the most livable places in America recently, and like all California beach towns, you can show up in shorts, sandals, and a T-shirt pretty much anywhere, at any time of the year, and nobody cares. Overall, it's been great.

    Except for the month of December, that is. By now you will have heard of the Thomas Fire, which ended up being the largest wildfire in California history, the flames of which were visible at one point from behind my house. We went through weeks of smoke and haze, and for a time, the hottest fashion accessory in Ventura was the N95 mask. Although our house was OK in the end, we have friends who weren't so lucky, and who lost almost everything. Ventura will come back, but it's going to take a while. And in a sense, it was fitting for a year that was, for the most part, a raging dumpster fire to end with a raging wildfire.

    OutlookI recently turned 52, and nobody gets much past the half-century mark without thinking about where they've been and where they're going. It is impossible for me to ignore the fact that I undoubtedly have more road behind me than I do in front of me. That's why it's so satisfying to be able to say that I'm good with where I am, in every sense of the word. My marriage is good. I love my wife. We love our house. Our cars are paid for. When I look back, I've had some fascinating experiences, and I've made some good friends. I've lost a few as well—that's part of the journey. For me, the biggest thing is that I'm not seeking anything any more. I'm not looking for anyone to explain the world to me, or to tell me how to worship a deity. The time for fairy tales is over. I've recognized that anytime you have a hierarchy, you have people whose primary interest is in perpetuating that hierarchy and controlling the people under them. It's just human nature. I'm much more interested in making the most of the time I have left, in such a way as to honor the choices that people make and helping them to live lives that they find fulfilling and true to themselves.2 In summary, if this is my personal plateau, I'm good with that, and I'm at peace with the universe or God or The Force or whatever you want to call it.

    And Now, The Rest Of The StoryIf you know me, or even if you just read my blog, you know how I feel about national and world events of the last 12 months. For people like me, who believe in science, who believe in equality, who believed we were making slow but steady progress towards a more just and equitable society, the last year has been a wake-up call. I did not think that so many of my fellow countrymen were so misinformed, prejudiced, fearful, uneducated, or just plain stupid as to vote for the current occupant of the Oval Office. I was wrong.3 I did not think that 80% of evangelical Protestants would vote for a man who is, by all accounts, a serial sexual predator, who brags about "grabbing (women) by the pussy," who blatantly lies about all things at all times, and who also has a habit of not paying people who work for him. I was wrong. I did not think that the members of the Republican Party, the party of Ronald Reagan, who more than anyone I would expect to be skeptical of Russia, would put party above country and turn a blind eye to collusion with Russia. I was wrong. I did not think that the Republican establishment would roll over and become Trump's lap dog. I was wrong. I was so very, very wrong.

    Just to be absolutely clear, I consider the current occupant of the White House to be illegitimately elected, most likely guilty of treason, almost certainly suffering from dementia, and the Republican Party to be so compromised as to be unsalvageable. It is as if we have taken a wrong turn, and ended up in an alternate timeline. Our liberties are at stake. Our place in the world is at stake. Our constitutional government is at stake. Our founders made provision for the removal of a President from office, but they did not make provision for a legislative branch that put party above country, and refused to take any action. Or that would pass bills in the middle of the night, without giving its members the time to debate and discuss them. Plainly put, our system of government has broken, and it needs to be fixed.4

    So how has that affected me?

    In some senses, it hasn't. I live in California, the bluest of blue states and the beating heart of the Resistance. I'm a middle-aged straight white guy. I'm not in the demographic with the most to fear. Although the current government seems determined to screw up my retirement and my health care and my very future, it isn't trying to take away my right to vote, or my right to get married (theoretical, since I'm already taken). It isn't trying to keep my relatives out of the country, or to deport the ones who are here, or to mess with my right to practice my religion (or lack of same). But if there's one thing I know, it's that one doesn't wait until one is personally threatened to oppose infringements on personal liberty. That's one reason why I stopped attending the local Orthodox church; the priest thinks Trump is just wonderful, and Fox News is political gospel, and never missed an opportunity to take potshots at Obama, and frankly, I'm done with religion that wants to be political.5

    I also know that you have to do more than just scream about it on Twitter and Facebook, which brings me to someplace where I have been affected—social media.6

    I've dialed back on my use of social media. It's not that I don't care, but as I just said, screaming about things on Twitter does no good. Far better to focus your energies where they can do some good, such as writing to Senators and Congressmen, or participating in demostrations, or, ultimately, voting the bastards out. And that's what I'm prepared to do.

    What I'm not prepared to do is subject myself anymore to the endless, breathless crises on the Internet. The past year has beaten it out of me. I once was a news junkie; I now keep abreast of the news, because one must, but I'm not going to wallow in it. I've even given up my subscription to the Economist. I look at Twitter, but I don't post nearly as much on an average day as I once would have. I don't show up as much on my chosen alternative networks either, such as 10Centuries or Pnut or Mastodon, because at the end of the day, it's as much about breaking the habit of always having to be logged on somewhere, talking about nothing in particular, as it is a given network.7

    This is not to say I don't go online; I do, but I'm trying to be more mindful of where I am. In this sense, the last year has perhaps been a blessing in disguise, because I've learned some new things. Some months ago, I decided it would be fun to get a mechanical watch to mark my promotion (possibly a kind of reverse tech geekiness—I love that it isn't connected to anything, and doesn't rely on a battery). That led me to to the wacky and wonderful world of watch collecting, and the forums that serve that community. I've been learning about watch movements, and dials, and hands, and complications, and it's just fabulous.

    And politics never rears its ugly head—it's somewhere I can go to just be with other geeks and geek out about geeky stuff that the wider world doesn't care a fig about. And now I know the difference between a Vostok 2415B movement and a 2416, and why some Shturmanskie chronographs have a flat grey dial instead of a metallic silver one, and what the lug width is on a Bulova UHF Military, and why it's actually more complicated to make a watch with a central seconds hand than one where the seconds are on a subdial. It's marvelous.8 It reminds me a great deal of when I was a kid learning about cars, and threatens to become my next lifelong obsession. I'm good with that.

    SummaryThat's the year and the situation as I see it. I feel like I should end with some grand summation, some pithy words of wisdom, and a rousing sendoff, but I've got nothing. 2018 is likely to be a seminal moment. It will determine whether we right the ship of government in the midterm elections, or let it continue to founder. I hope that it turns out better than 2017, but I'm not confident of it. And even if it turns out to be absolutely delightful in every way, it will take us years to undo the damage that's been done already. Votes matter, and elections have consequences.

    Next time—please—let's all vote correctly.

    1. That's all I'll say about it; it's his life, and it's up to him how much he wants to reveal.

    2. If you're about to tell me that you can only be true to your true self by following INSERT RELIGION HERE, don't. It's presumptuous and it's rude, and I don't have time for that any more.

    3. Before you make any assumptions, I was no fan of Hillary Clinton either. Her campaign made a lot of mistakes, and there was an arrogance I found displeasing. But compared to Trump, she was vastly more qualified, more intelligent, and more caring, and that's enough for me.

    4. This is where I mention once again that I consider the Westminster system, however imperfect, to be superior to our own.

    5. To be fair, he never did that from the pulpit, but hearing it at coffee hour is just as bad, and it brings into question his judgment, and consequently his worthiness to hold the priesthood, in my estimation. Frankly, the crucial role played by Christians of all flavors in the ascendancy of Trump brings the faith itself, as it is practiced by the majority of its adherents, into question, about which more later, but that's outside the scope of today's little essay.

    6. Ladies and gentlemen, a moment of silence for, which went offline for the last time in 2017. If you're reading this, there's a better-than-average chance that we met on that much-missed platform.

    7. Although Twitter has been far too easy on the so-called "alt-right," who are really just neo-Nazis, and Jack Dorsey, who appears to have no moral compass and should be fired, can go to Hell.

    8. It can also be expensive. Did I mention I now own five watches, and have ideas about more? More on that later…

    Review of *Stasi Wolf**stasi-wolf* Thu, 16 Feb 2017 01:44:00 +0000 Larry fe1ab132-37ee-fa49-6828-c0bd44ea90ed cover.jpg

    This is a slightly revised version of a brief review I wrote on Amazon of Stasi Wolf by David Young, which is not yet available in the United States. Fortunately, I was able to secure a copy of the British edition.

    This is the second novel in a series whose protagonist, Karin Müller, is an Oberleutnant (First Lieutenant) in the East German Volkspolizei (People's Police). Specifically, she's a detective assigned to the murder squad in the capital, Berlin.

    Or at least she was. As the book opens, Oberleutnant Müller has been transferred to a dull backwater of Berlin, where she's doing the kind of work that would normally be the province of uniformed officers, and her partner is still in the hospital recovering from wounds suffered in the first novel (Stasi Child). She's visiting him when she gets the offer (if indeed an "offer" from a superior officer in a Communist nation can be called such) to go to the model city of Halle-Neustadt to investigate a kidnapping and murder.

    And thus begins Stasi Wolf. Others have ably summarized the plot; as someone who visited the German Democratic Republic in its heyday, what I'd like to do is comment on how well the author captures the atmosphere of East Germany in the 1970s and 1980s, from the complex and uneasy relationship between the regular police (Volkspolizei) and the Ministry of State Security, known as the Stasi, to the carefully organized group activities of the Freie Deutsche Jugend or Free German Youth ("Be ready! Always ready!"), to the stirrings of change coming from the younger generation who chafed against the ever-present demands of the Party. And he didn't just capture the social and emotional feel of it, either—his description of the haze from the Leuna chemical complex brought back memories of the ever-present oily smoke from thousands of two-stroke Wartburgs and Trabants, of the haze from the brown lignite coal used to heat much of the East in winter, and the soot I remember blowing into non-air-conditioned railroad cars on hot summer days from the grimy locomotives of the East's Deutsche Reichsbahn.

    If you haven't read Stasi Child, don't let that dissuade you from reading this book. It stands on its own, and can be enjoyed on its own, with enough background given that you won't be feeling left in the dark.

    Overall, Young has once again given us a view into a vanished world that grows increasingly distant. If you like a well-crafted detective story, you'll like this book. If you're a history buff, you'll find yourself impressed with the care taken to get the details right. And if you just want something entertaining to read, you'll find it hard to put down. As for me, I'm already looking forward to Book 3.

    Keep track of how your legislators are voting Mon, 23 Jan 2017 23:05:00 +0000 Larry 175ba9f9-30ee-6149-8e9c-a95fa34f6253 Concerned about what's going to be happening in the US government in the coming days, weeks, months, and years? Want to keep tabs on how your Representative or Senator is voting?

    1. Go to
    2. Plug in your address
    3. When your Representative's and Senators' names pop up, click on them
    4. Click the button that says "Get alerts"
    5. A box like this one will pop up:


    You can sign up for email updates if you want, or if you're like me and hate email, you can right-click the RSS feed link and paste it into your favorite RSS reader (mine is NewsBlur):


    It's going to be critical for the next few years to keep track of what the US government is doing. This makes it just a bit easier.

    Staring into the abyss Fri, 20 Jan 2017 02:00:00 +0000 Larry 8f017fc7-ac00-2055-ec0e-6704384b1e8e As I write this, it's the last evening of the Obama Administration. Tomorrow, the new Administration will begin.

    It's hard to know exactly what to say at this moment. Those of us who opposed the incoming President are apprehensive and worried about what's to come. The new Congress has already begun to dismantle the social advances of the last fifty years, and there's more of that on the way.

    Still, for all that, we have to hope that the new President will succeed in improving the economy and creating jobs, because that will benefit all of us. But wishing for his success in limited areas does not mean wishing for his success in all things. I am highly skeptical, and frankly the outlook is not good. I still believe this will be an Administration dedicated mostly to enriching the occupant of the Oval Office and his business empire (of which he hasn't divested himself yet), and he's packing his Cabinet with people who are either incompetent or dedicated to destroying the missions of the departments they will head—or both. His kids are his advisers. It's nepotism run amok.

    Earlier today, I read that the incoming team plans a budget that will abolish the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and privatize the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which has to rate as one of the great ironies of the age. This won't do much for the budget, but it will go a long way towards punishing and silencing the opposition. This is the act of a strongman, not a President.

    In the days and months to come, you will hear from the government and its supporters that they have a mandate. They do not. We must remember that the majority of Americans did not vote for this government. Because of the quirks of our electoral system, not even a majority of those who voted voted for it. If this were any other country on Earth, our own government would make some kind of statement about how the election did not represent the clearly stated will of the people. And you know what? They'd be right.

    On the whole, the best advice I've seen on how to face the coming years is from John Scalzi:

    One suggestion I'd offer people is not to spread yourself too thin — per above I think the Trump administration is going to make pushes into all sorts of areas: Free speech, women's health, public education, minority voting, LGBT+ rights and so on. They want you to be dazed and thinking there's too much to focus on. Pick one as your main focus and drill down on it, hard. Others will take up the other categories. Help them when you can but push hard on the one area you know and care most about. If enough people do that, everything will get covered and energy won't dissipate. It's going to be a long four years. Best to keep focus.

    So find something you care about. Fight for it like a California grizzly bear defending its cubs. Support the people around you fighting for what they care about, and together we'll see each other through this. It's called solidarity, and it's the weapon that's been used successfully by oppressed and marginalized people throughout history. It's what allowed shipyard workers in Gdansk to defeat a Soviet-backed military government in Poland. It's what allowed Cesar Chavez to bring about reforms in the treatment of farm workers. It's what drove the British from India. It works.

    And finally, don't be afraid to be radical. If you leave it up to the current leadership of the Democratic Party, nothing of consequence will happen lest it upset their corporate backers. Raise a fuss. Lead a protest. Write vitriolic letters. Organize, organize, organize, or you may find one day that it's no longer allowed. I'm not joking. At the state level, the GOP is already trying:

    In North Dakota, for instance, Republicans introduced a bill last week that would allow motorists to run over and kill any protester obstructing a highway as long as a driver does so accidentally. In Minnesota, a bill introduced by Republicans last week seeks to dramatically stiffen fines for freeway protests and would allow prosecutors to seek a full year of jail time for protesters blocking a highway. Republicans in Washington state have proposed a plan to reclassify as a felony civil disobedience protests that are deemed "economic terrorism." Republicans in Michigan introduced and then last month shelved an anti-picketing law that would increase penalties against protestors and would make it easier for businesses to sue individual protestors for their actions. And in Iowa a Republican lawmaker has pledged to introduce legislation to crack down on highway protests.

    So there you have it. I'm not saying this is the last night of a free Republic, but I also don't want to look back on this night years from now and remember that it was. Do your part. Support each other. Stop the darkness from descending.

    Now go do it.

    Paul Ryan's logo Fri, 06 Jan 2017 22:45:00 +0000 Larry 3c84ab26-5c78-d8a3-a7db-6013bbe79936 paulryanlogo.jpg

    There was a bit of comment today on social media (Twitter in particular) about Paul Ryan's logo (above). Specifically, that it looks a bit like a Reichsadler.

    It isn't, of course. A friend of mine whom I respect a great deal pointed out that it's basically a simplified version of the official Speaker of the House logo, and it is. As such, it's silly to focus on it, and we should oppose Ryan for valid reasons, of which the logo is not one.

    He is not wrong, and he has a point. My counterpoint to that is that if I were designing a logo, and I were doing it for a public figure, I'd go out of my way to make sure it couldn't be misconstrued as something it isn't. I don't think anyone is opposing Ryan because of his logo, but given his policy positions and image on the other side of the aisle, it shouldn't be surprising that people see something that wasn't intended. It's a "once seen, can't be unseen" kind of thing.

    That being said, I do oppose Ryan for perfectly valid reasons, those reasons being:

    • His stated intention to privatize Medicare
    • His stated intention to repeal the Affordable Care Act, AKA Obamacare
    • His history of pushing privatization of Social Security

    …just to name a few.

    Basically, I oppose everything that Paul Ryan stands for. I find him contemptible. Like most devotees of Ayn Rand, the writer who popularized cruelty and called it "Objectivism," he has a remarkably single-minded focus on his ideology, reality be damned. Simply by taking away health insurance from millions, he's going to destroy countless lives in the name of creating a libertarian fantasy world that has never existed anywhere, and it will take us decades to undo the damage he will unleash. We need not ignore a logo to see him clearly for who and what he is.

    And now, he'll be working with a President who appears to be willing to let him have his way. A President who is, in my opinion, as close to being a fascist as anyone who's ever been elected to the office. A President who has openly associated with white supremacists and has named one, Steve Bannon, as a top advisor. As far as I'm concerned, seeing Nazi iconography where it wasn't intended is, in my view, understandable under the circumstances.

    Welcome to 2017.

    The tenth of July Mon, 19 Dec 2016 17:59:00 +0000 Larry 802e8867-c454-8e72-82b2-9919d23b1fa7 Today, my thoughts keep returning to something that happened in the small French resort town of Vichy on July 10, 1940.

    In that town on that day, the French National Assembly met in the local opera house. By a vote of 569 to 80, with 20 abstentions, they voted all power to Marshal Henri Pétain, then voted themselves out of existence. The name of the town where they met would go on to become shorthand for one of the most hated regimes in French history, a regime which replaced Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité (Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood) with Patrie, Famille, Travail (Country, Family, Work), a regime which collaborated with the Nazis and would ultimately be defeated by the Allies and the Free French under Charles de Gaulle.

    By all indications, today is going to go down in history as our own tenth of July. I wonder who our de Gaulle will be.

    Pre-Thanksgiving reflections Wed, 23 Nov 2016 23:47:00 +0000 Larry 7275e244-3e42-f7d4-d1ac-14284b62fb8a I left the office early today, as is usual on the day before Thanksgiving, and stopped at my mom's house on the way home to help her put the extra leaves in the dining table for the big feast tomorrow. She's getting on in years, and wrangling a heavy cherrywood table is getting to be a bit much for her, as you might expect.

    She still lives in the same house where I grew up, and so stopping at Mom's house is always a small trip down memory lane. There's a stop sign on the corner that didn't used to be there, but apart from that, it's about the same now as it was when we moved into the place when I was six years old in 1972. The old Swanson place is next door, the house across the street that was owned for years by a Malibu lifeguard with an orange Porsche 911 is under new ownership, the big two-story on the cross street lost its oak tree but still has the elaborate brick stairway leading from the street to the front door, and next door to it, Mr. Edwards is still at war every afternoon with the soccer moms who park their minivans in the cul-de-sac where he lives (there's a back entrance to the elementary school there).

    Maybe it's because it's autumn—I always get a bit reflective at this time of year—but I look at the leaves on the tree in front of what I still think of as the Masons' house starting to change color, and I think not of what's the same, but of what has changed. Particularly in the last couple of weeks, with the election being what it was, it's been a slog. I look around the old neighborhood, and I think of neighbors long gone, and my dad and his brothers and sisters, and my grandparents, and I imagine what they—Republicans all—would think about what is going on now. I suspect they'd be appalled, particularly at the rise of the far right. My dad's brother, whom I once heard use the word "spearchucker" in a descriptive way not applying to Olympic javelin throwers, may have held racist views, but even he would be shocked at what's going on. I'm fairly certain he didn't spend World War II in naval aviation so that people could quote Nazi propaganda in the original German and give the Hitler salute at gatherings in Washington, D.C.

    And then I look at the recently announced Cabinet appointments, and the incipient kleptocracy, and the spectacle of a President-elect involving his family members with the transition and blurring the lines between the business of America and the business of his company, and I despair. I wonder what I'm doing even paying attention. The world has changed, and I have clearly not changed with it.

    There's the question of voting irregularities (i.e., fraud) in certain key states (look up Outagamie County, Wisconsin if you want the details), and yet it appears the Clinton campaign, despite amassing a two-million-vote lead in the popular vote, has no intention of requesting an audit or recount. Meanwhile, our current President is focusing on a seamless transition and seemingly keeping quiet as he makes way for someone who is going to attempt to undo every bit not only of his legacy, but the achievements of the past fifty years. If the Democrats are our only hope against the devolution of our republic into a kakistocracy, God help us.

    This is the position I'm starting to arrive at: it's over. There's nothing that can really be done at this point to prevent any of it; the time for prevention has passed. The best thing that can probably be done is to keep our heads down, work hard, and ignore national politics. The only help any of us can be at this point is to our friends and neighbors locally—to help them paint out the graffiti when the local mosque gets vandalized, to support local leaders who refuse to cooperate with the coming police state, and not to get distracted from the fact that the other side is trying to establish the New Normal, which is anything but.

    I have no grand conclusions. The important things in the coming years will be simple ones: love your family, care for your neighbors, do your job, and if you're lucky enough to have a bit of land, work in your garden. Read books. Visit friends. Travel, if you're lucky enough to have the money to do so. Volunteer locally. If you have kids, teach them history. It will at least give them the perspective to understand what's going on around them. Have coffee, and eat pastries, and laugh when you can. Be brave if you can, and if you can't, support the ones who can. The coming years will test all of us in ways we don't yet know or understand.

    May we all pass those tests.

    Random post-election thoughts and advice Fri, 11 Nov 2016 01:56:00 +0000 Larry 064fe305-b0d6-02a3-bb03-b9ce282947ee
  • "Calexit" is idiotic. We settled the question of whether states can secede rather decisively in 1865.
  • The idea of getting the Electoral College to vote for Hillary anyway is also idiotic, and nothing more than a Democratic fantasy. Better idea: deal with reality, prepare for what's coming, organize resistance, and work for victory in 2018 and 2020.
  • If you're a member of a privileged group like I am, be there for your friends who aren't so fortunate. Don't stay quiet when racist, Islamophobic, or anti-LGBTQ things are said. Stand up for what's right. Be an ally.
  • If they come for Muslims, gays, brown people, minorities of any kind—remember the Danes in World War II who wore the yellow star so the Nazis couldn't tell who was a Jew and who wasn't. Be like them. They can't arrest everybody.
  • Be aware that the coming years will demand a lot. Relying on the Constitution to protect you is probably not a good idea. Constitutions only matter when people pay attention to them.
  • Support leaders who are willing to oppose the regime. They need to know that people are behind them.
  • Question your sources. Look for news and information from outside the United States. Compare what you read, hear and see to what your common sense tells you. It's the only way to not be tricked by the technique of the Big Lie endlessly repeated.
  • Think about where your data and email are stored. Move them someplace where they can't be easily accessed by the government, preferably someplace with strong privacy laws and an uncompromised court system. Switzerland is a good choice.
  • If you don't already have one, get a VPN. Use it consistently and at all times, on all your devices, and choose an exit point that is outside the U.S., like Canada or Switzerland.
  • Use secure and encrypted apps like Signal and Threema for sensitive communication.
  • Consider using Tor.
  • Teach your children and grandchildren about history. Let them know that this is not how things always were, and that things need not be this way forever.
  • Remember the ideals this country was founded upon. They will not die as long as they live in our memories.
  • Don't panic. All is not yet lost.
  • ]]>
    Day Two Thu, 10 Nov 2016 14:00:00 +0000 Larry 9703ecd0-b843-d2b6-79e6-74f4648e66e6 As the sun rises on the second day after an election that is starting to be seen as a turning point in American political history, I've had some more time to collect my thoughts, and am beginning to see the outlines of how to move forward in this new America.

    First, we need to acknowledge that the other side won. Whatever you think of the guy, he won according to the rules of the game. You may think that the rules were unfair, seeing as how this was the first election in God-knows-how-long without the protections of the Voting Rights Act (and you might be right about that), but you can blame the Supreme Court for that. Trump isn't responsible.

    Second, there's no guarantee that a GOP Congress is going to be all that excited about working with the Trump Administration. For starters, he's going to hit a brick wall (presumably a big, beautiful wall) when it comes to introducing term limits for Congress. Guess who has to pass that bill? Yep, Congress. They're not about to limit their careers that way. Nor are they necessarily going to see eye-to-eye with him on much else—remember, he didn't get a lot of support from Congressional leaders, and they're still there. Which means his appointees aren't going to sail through confirmation hearings automatically.

    Third, there's been a lot of talk about Gary Johnson and Jill Stein. And yes, maybe they siphoned away some votes that would have gone to Hillary and prevented Trump from winning, although my gut tells me that Johnson was more likely to siphon away voters from Trump.

    But you know what? 46% of the country didn't even vote. When you compare the handful of Johnson and Stein voters to almost half the population, it's pretty clear where the fault lies. And when you consider that the DNC went out of its way to ensure the nomination of the most Establishment candidate possible in a year where the electorate was clearly in an anti-Establishment mood, it puts a different spin on things. If you're angry that some Bernie voters didn't come out to vote, or worse yet voted for Trump, ask yourself how you would have felt had the DNC sabotaged the Hillary campaign to ensure a Sanders candidacy. Loyalty, as they say, is earned.

    Speaking purely for myself, I need a break from politics after this complete shitshow of an election. I suspect you might also. Stephen Colbert got this very, very right, speaking on election night about how it was when he (and I) were kids in the 1970s:

    Politics used to be something we thought about every four years, maybe two years if you didn't have a lot of social life. And that's good that we didn't think about it that much, because it left room in our lives for other things, and for other people.

    There's wisdom in that. And frankly, while I acknowledge that people like me—left-leaning, progressive whites—will be needed in the years to come to help defeat what non-progressive whites inflicted on the nation, there's also wisdom in what Garrison Keillor wrote yesterday:

    We liberal elitists are now completely in the clear. The government is in Republican hands. Let them deal with him. Democrats can spend four years raising heirloom tomatoes, meditating, reading Jane Austen, traveling around the country, tasting artisan beers, and let the Republicans build the wall and carry on the trade war with China and deport the undocumented and deal with opioids and we Democrats can go for a long brisk walk and smell the roses.

    So I don't know about you, but I've got books to read. There are things my wife would like to get done around the house. And meanwhile, there's not a single damn thing I can do about anything that happens in Washington in the next 10 weeks until Inauguration Day. Or the 10 weeks after that, for that matter.

    Don't get me wrong. My politics remain what they are. But the people who voted Trump into office, and the GOP into control of Congress, need to see Trump and the Republicans for what they are—they need to see them fail. They need to experience the logical consequences of the policies the incoming administration will implement. All the Twitter posts in the world won't change their minds.

    No, I'm not abandoning the cause. I'm not going to stand idly by while my neighbors are loaded into trucks and driven to the camps. But perhaps I can be forgiven for needing to recharge my batteries before the fight starts again.

    And in the meantime, Garrison Keillor is right. It's all in the hands of the GOP now. There's no more hiding from responsibility. They can't blame Obama—he'll be out of office. They can't blame Harry Reid—he retired. They can't blame Bill and Hillary—she lost. The midterm elections are in two years' time, and that's exactly how long they have to prove to the American people that they actually have a plan for something, and that it will benefit the American people. Because if they can't, it will be a clear demonstration that they've never had a plan—their entire political position was based on demonizing Obama and the Clintons, and refusing to do any actual governing.

    So enjoy yourself, Republicans. This is your time in the sun. You're going to have a Republican in the White House. Show us you can build up this country. I, and the rest of the country—the rest of the world—will be watching.

    But for now, I need a break. I'm unfollowing anything remotely political on Twitter, and probably dialing back my online time as well. If we're going to recover from this divisive election, maybe we should spend less time staring at screens and fighting with strangers on the Internet, and more time talking to our neighbors. We might even learn something.

    And maybe, just maybe, four years from now, the next Presidential election will be less insane.

    I certainly hope so, for everyone's sake.

    Coming to grips Wed, 09 Nov 2016 18:40:00 +0000 Larry 280a5893-a099-4ec3-a151-c3758baa436c It's the morning after the night before, and there's much that is still unclear in my mind. Nevertheless, I've started to form the haziest of conclusions about the election we just concluded.

    Perhaps the most important one is this: the really painful thing is not the sure knowledge of what is to come in the weeks, months, and years ahead. We're certainly in for the following:

    • Repeal of Obamacare and the end of any meaningful health insurance reform
    • Further emasculation of the Voting Rights Act
    • Multiple Supreme Court nominations that will set the course of the high court for decades to come
    • Overturning Roe v. Wade
    • Rolling back guarantees of LGBT rights and same-sex marriage
    • Further incursions into the Constitutional freedoms of all of us, especially our Muslim and Hispanic neighbors

    Despite all that, those are just symptoms. The really painful thing is this:

    We are not the country that I thought we were. The American people, my neighbors, family, and friends, are not the people I thought they were. The things that I was taught to value as someone who was born in the 1960s, raised in the 1970s, and came of age in the 1980s—things like equal rights, First Amendment protections, the value of truth in journalism, the idea that we are a nation of immigrants, the beauty of diversity, just to name a few—are not important to the majority. In fact, many despise those things. The white nationalists are having their day in the sun.

    The most painful thing, in short, is the recognition that we are no better than anyone else, that it may not be safe to believe those things in this new America, and not knowing how, or if, we're going to get out of the hole my fellow citizens have just dug for us all.

    Final thoughts on Election Day Tue, 08 Nov 2016 14:00:00 +0000 Larry a096f3d9-ca3f-109d-4f0d-d1a1eebaf290 Go-Vote-500x500.pngThe day is upon us. All of the madness and insanity that we've been witness to has led to this day.

    Go vote.

    More to the point, vote for Hillary Clinton. I'm not her biggest fan, but I recognize that when the dust settles tonight, either she or Donald Trump will be the next President. Voting for anyone but Hillary helps only Trump, and we can't afford that.

    "But I'm in a safe blue state," you say. "I supported Bernie and I really don't want to see her in office."

    Or, "I hate both of them, so I'm voting for Johnson (or Stein) instead."

    Too bad. Suck it up. Do your part to keep the Republic free, and we can argue over the details throughout the Clinton Administration. Because no matter what right-wing talk radio and Paul Ryan may have told you, she's not the devil. Come back to reality while there's still a reality to come back to.

    And remember that no matter what happens, the campaign for the mid-term elections begins tomorrow.

    Dear Americans (Updated) Sun, 06 Nov 2016 03:30:00 +0000 Larry fe8e9208-6ad9-a2df-8e96-487c89036db8 50819568-BF7B-41CE-B8A6-B1DB6C3FA29B.jpg


    Images created by Johan Franklin and originally posted on his Twitter feed. Reposted here with his kind permission. Danke schön!

    A word to evangelical voters Thu, 03 Nov 2016 14:47:00 +0000 Larry c2ec2c9f-bb33-9a86-c3c3-4fad0a37515d In the run-up to this election, I've heard more than once from evangelical voters that they will vote for Trump for one reason: the perceived need to seat a conservative Supreme Court justice who will overturn Roe v. Wade.

    I have some very, very bad news for you: that won't happen, regardless of who is elected. You've been played.

    I get that you think abortion is murder. I happen to disagree, but hey, that's democracy. We disagree about stuff, and the majority rules. Yes, I know you'll say the courts imposed Roe v. Wade on the country. Guess what? That's democracy too. We wrote a constitution, gave the courts the ability to decide what is and isn't constitutional, and agreed to abide by what they decide. This is how constitutional government works, whether or not you like a particular decision.

    But that's not why I'm writing today. I'm writing to tell you that the leadership of the Republican Party has no interest in actually outlawing abortion, or introducing prayer in the public schools, or anything else you might happen to care about. I say this because they've had their chance. There was a point at which they controlled both houses of Congress and the White House, during the presidency of George W. Bush, and they did absolutely nothing about such issues. Nothing. They also happened to spend like drunken sailors on leave. So much for their fiscal responsibility, too.

    Folks, you've been the puppets of people whose main interest is in perpetuating the privileges of corporate America, and increasing its wealth. Since the vaunted Reagan Revolution, your bosses have gotten fabulously rich, and your pay has stagnated. The housing market fell through, some of you lost your homes, but the money all went to Wall Street, because a Republican president set it in motion. Yet somehow, by saying all the things you wanted to hear about God and abortion and gun control and Obama, they managed to keep you on board, and voting the way they wanted you to.

    I get that you're angry. But you're angry at the wrong people, and about the wrong things. And even if Trump wins, you're going to be disappointed again, because a secular millionaire from New York City doesn't really give a damn what you think out there in the pews in Middle America. It's just one more con that he's running.

    And meanwhile, you'll be throwing away everything that you say you believe in, voting for a lying, adulterous man who tacitly supports hatred and violence, all for the sake of one issue that they have no intention of actually addressing.

    I have no illusions that this will change any minds, but I had to write it anyway, because it needs to be said and I couldn't look at myself in the mirror if I didn't say it.

    And I'll leave you with one last thought: this country is already becoming more secular, and the rising generations are watching you to see what you do. In years to come, how you voted in this election will be a litmus test of your morality, and you will be judged by the company you kept and the votes you cast.

    Make sure you can live with the choice you make. And hope that you can justify it to your grandchildren when they ask where you stood.

    The home stretch...and a warning Mon, 31 Oct 2016 14:29:00 +0000 Larry 98831c9e-fe3c-c990-0fed-f39ab20bab77 We're in the home stretch now. Eight days until the election.

    It's been a wild ride. Just in the last week, we've seen the following:

    And that's just a small slice.

    Meanwhile, the polls appear to be narrowing, as is usual in the final days of a Presidential campaign. There's a good possibility that FBI Director James Comey may have tipped the balance with his ill-timed and likely illegal letter to Congress.

    And there lies what's currently troubling me. When you take all of this together, it looks very much like the security establishment is actively working to favor one side—which has come to include the white-supremacist far right—over the other.

    The word usually used to describe this situation is "coup."

    Meanwhile, Trump doubles down on the lying, because why not? He says Hillary will let 650 million people into the country in a week (in a country that only has about 319 million to begin with), and people cheer.

    This is troubling. It's becoming crystal-clear that facts no longer matter to a significant portion of the population—perhaps even to a majority. What matters to them is feeling good, hearing what they want to hear, believing what they want to believe, and dismissing anything that doesn't fit into their worldview, a worldview that's been formed by twenty years of lies on right-wing talk radio and a news network that makes no bones about being partisan.

    And thanks to the spinelessness and moral flexibility of the leaders of the religious right, whose Christian witness has been eclipsed by their lust for power in this world, at least 70% of evangelical Christians intend to vote for a man who cheated on his first wife with his second wife, cheated on his second wife with his third wife, faces a trial date in November on racketeering charges, and faces one in December on charges of child rape. A thin-skinned egomaniac who threatens lawsuits at the drop of a hat. This is the man to whom they want to give the nuclear launch codes.

    So much for their Christian morality.

    If, as now seems possible, the people of this country elect Donald Trump as President next week, it will put paid to the myth of American exceptionalism, the lie that "it can't happen here."

    And Americans will also find out, the hard way, what happens when you elect someone to office who does not respect the Constitution, who is quite possibly beholden to a foreign power, who appears to have no moral scruples whatsoever, and who is backed by the men with guns.

    God help us all.

    I've done my part Sun, 30 Oct 2016 22:02:00 +0000 Larry 2a544fc6-d9ef-b0a3-6cd0-2d1cdb148df6 IMG_2446.JPG


    Now please let this disaster of an election be over quickly.

    Larry's Ballot Recommendations for November 2016 Fri, 21 Oct 2016 23:04:00 +0000 Larry 1c30a8ca-b38f-b209-0ffa-98d40ef9c5f6 vote-california-by-www-registertovote-ca-gov.jpg

    The election is less than three weeks away, and it's that time again. Here are my ballot recommendations for the November 2016 general election, California edition.

    Elective officesOrdinarily, this would be more complex. But this is no ordinary election. This year, I will be voting a straight Democratic ticket, and recommend you do so as well. Why? Because we need to ensure a Democratic Senate that will take action on judicial nominees and others. The Republicans have proven themselves to be the party of obstruction above all, and I'm tired of it. Vote the bastards out.

    Ballot propositionsNote: Ballot proposition numbering in California runs in twenty-year cycles, to avoid confusing current propositions with prior ballot propositions. This year's propositions begin with Proposition 51.

    Proposition 51 - School Bonds - NOEverybody loves schools, right? The problem is paying for them. California already has billions of dollars in educational bond debt payments every year, and this adds another half-billion a year to pay back. Governor Jerry Brown opposes this measure, and so do I. I recommend a NO vote.

    Proposition 52 - Medi-Cal Hospital Fee Program - Initiative Constitutional Amendment - YESOrdinarily, I am opposed to state constitutional amendments via initiative. The California state constutition is already an almost-unworkable mess of amendments. However, there are exceptions, and this year there are some worthy ones, including this one. A yes vote will extend a current program that provides $3 billion in federal funding annually with no cost to California taxpayers, and prohibits the Legislature from diverting this funding to other uses. I recommend a YES vote.

    Proposition 53 - Revenue Bonds - Initiative Constitutional Amendment - NOAt a time when California faces the need to upgrade an aging infrastructure, this would require voter approval for state projects that use more than $2 billion in state revenue bonds. Might sound good at first, but in a state prone to earthquakes, there's no exemption for natural disasters or emergencies, and ballot propositions and initiatives are a lousy way to make decisions on this kind of thing, let alone policy. I recommend a NO vote.

    Proposition 54 - Legislature - Legislation and Proceedings - Initiative Constitutional Amendment - NOThis bill adds a host of requirements that must be met before the Legislature can vote on a bill, adding needless delays to an already-slow system. It claims to promote openness, yet all bills can currently be viewed online by anyone. It eliminates the ban on use of legislative proceedings in political campaign ads, and is being entirely bankrolled by a billionaire with a history of contributing to right-wing candidates and opposing things like an increased minimum wage and education funding. By their friends, ye shall know them. I recommend a NO vote.

    Proposition 55 - Tax Extension to Fund Education and Healthcare - Initiative Constitutional Amendment - YESThis is an easy one. Prop. 55 extends for another twelve years a previously-approved temporary increase in income tax on earnings over $250,000 for single filers, and over $500,000 for joint filers. It allocates this revenue to schools, community colleges, and healthcare. It allows a previously-approved temporary sales tax increase to expire. I recommend a YES vote.

    Proposition 56 - Cigarette Tax to Fund Healthcare, Tobacco Use Prevention, Research, and Law Enforcement - Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute - NOAs much as I hate smoking and second-hand smoke, I'm also not a big fan of "tax the minority." If every smoker voted no, they'd still get hit with more tax, and that doesn't sit right with me. It will probably pass, but not with my help. I recommend a NO vote.

    Proposition 57 - Criminal Sentences. Parole. Juvenile Criminal Proceedings and Sentencing - Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute - YESThis allows parole consideration for persons convicted of nonviolent felonies, and authorizes the Department of Corrections to award sentence credits for good behavior, educational achievements, or rehabilitation. It will save millions by keeping the violent felons locked up, but not filling up the prisons with nonviolent offenders. We put too many people in prison already. I recommend a YES vote.

    Proposition 58 - English Proficiency - Multilingual Education - Initiative Statute - YESThis proposition removes some outdated requirements that restrict the methods that can be used in bilingual education. I recommend a YES vote.

    Proposition 59 - Corporations - Political Spending - Federal Constitutional Protections - Legislative Advisory Question - YESThis is a non-binding advisory measure that would recommend that California's elected officials should propose and ratify an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that overturns the Citizens United ruling. If you believe that corporations aren't people, you should vote YES, as I intend to.

    Proposition 60 - Adult Films - Condoms - Health Requirements - Initiative Statute - NOYes, we actually have to vote on an initiative that would mandate the use of condoms in porn. It's a badly-written measure that has managed to do the unthinkable—garner the opposition of both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. That's right, it's so badly written it brought Republicans and Democrats together. Whatever you think about porn, condoms, or sex, I recommend a NO vote, and can't believe I really have to vote on this crap.

    Proposition 61 - State Prescription Drug Purchases - Pricing Standards - Initiative Statute - NOThis would prohibit the state from buying any prescription drug at a price higher than the price paid by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, except where required by federal law. The crazy thing is that it exempts a huge portion of the state's Medi-Cal (Medicaid) program, and does nothing for those with private health insurance, or those on Medicare—as much as 88% of the population all told. So why do it? And I can't shake the nagging feeling that this is also economic idiocy. We all want lower drug prices, but this seems like a bad way to do it. I recommend a NO vote.

    Proposition 62 - Death Penalty - Initiative Statute - YESThis would ban the use of capital punishment in California. I'm a firm believer that the death penalty is barbaric and costs a ridiculous amount of money, to the extent that life imprisonment is actually cheaper. Stop the insanity and help us join the rest of the civilized world in abolishing capital punishment. I recommend a YES vote.

    Proposition 63 - Firearms - Ammunition Sales - Initiative Statute - YESProp. 63 would require individuals to pass a background check and obtain Department of Justice authorization to purchase ammunition. It also puts restrictions on possession of large-capacity magazines, regulates their disposal, requires that lost/stolen firearms be reported to law enforcement, prohibits those convicted of stealing firearms from possessing firearms, and places those persons in the national criminal background check system. Screw the NRA, and vote YES.

    Proposition 64 - Marijuana Legalization - Initiative Statute - YESThis is it—the ballot measure that legalizes marijuana. I'm no fan of pot. I hate the smell and I generally don't enjoy the feeling of being high on anything—I don't even drink. But our current drug laws clearly aren't working, or else the drug war would be over by now. All we've managed to do is put a lot of people in prison, mostly young black men. It's stupid. Let's stop doing the same stupid thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Legalize it, regulate it, tax it. Vote YES on Prop. 64.

    Proposition 65 - Carryout Bags - Charges - Initiative Statute - NORead carefully: "Redirects money collected by grocery and certain other retail stores through sale of carryout bags, whenever any state law bans free distribution of a particular kind of carryout bag and mandates the sale of any other kind of carryout bag." This was placed on the ballot by a group of plastic bag companies to make sure that if plastic bags are banned, the grocery stores won't make any money from selling reusable bags. Basically, it's the plastic bag industry having a hissy fit because several localities banned single-use plastic bags, and they're pissed that we might just do it statewide. Screw 'em. Vote NO.

    Proposition 66 - Death Penalty Procedures - Initiative Statute - NOThis is more suited to Texas, or maybe China, than California. It would shorten the time death penalty challenges take, ensuring that the state could execute more people more quickly. It would increase the likelihood of an innocent person being put to death. The death penalty is barbaric, and needs to be ended, not made more efficient. I wholeheartedly recommend a NO vote.

    Proposition 67 - Ban on Single-Use Plastic Bags - Referendum - YESThis would prohibit grocery and certain other retail stores from providing single-use plastic or paper carryout bags to customers at the point of sale. It would permit the sale of recycled paper bags and reusable bags at a minimum price of 10 cents per bag. Plastic bags are a plague that harms wildlife and increases litter. Meanwhile, people in other locations and countries have been happily using reusable bags for years—just ask a European. I recommend a YES vote.

    A change of course Thu, 20 Oct 2016 01:02:00 +0000 Larry 3d1a54a9-14bc-d477-1cd4-3238c1fd993b This is purely a personal statement that is likely of interest to very few. Feel free to click away now, if you like.

    For some time now, I've argued that third parties in the United States served a useful function, and that it was better to vote your conscience than to vote strategically, because the entire point of voting is to vote your beliefs.

    That is still true, somewhat. Somewhat.

    This election has changed my personal view and intentions. As the GOP has descended into a morass of obstreperous, dog-whistling white nationalism, and has nominated a would-be dictator and accused sexual abuser with little to no understanding of how our government functions, the political landscape has changed. I now believe it's more important for progressive Americans to unite to work for the common good and in the interest of common human decency than it is to engage in internecine arguments over ideological purity. That is something we can no longer afford. Nothing less than the fundamentals of democracy and human liberty are at stake. Even if Trump is defeated, his followers will remain, and there is no doubt that they'll continue to be with us for many years to come.

    Therefore, once this election is over, I'll be re-registering as a Democrat. Someday, years from now, when we've decisively eliminated the danger of the far right taking power, I'll reconsider my options.

    But for now, there's work to do. Let's do it.

    Random observations before tonight's debate Thu, 20 Oct 2016 00:46:00 +0000 Larry 874f7ab9-e2b8-6070-f4c5-d67fb0a75cab A few random thoughts:

    • Hillary Clinton is bringing Mark Cuban, and Donald Trump is bringing the President's brother, Malik (formerly Roy) Obama. Maybe next time some thought should be given to making the debates less of a reality show. I suggest having them stand behind podiums in an empty studio, no audience, moderated by a journalist who understands the importance of fact-checking.

    • With respect to the above, Malik Obama is a useful idiot for Donald Trump.

    • With respect to Malik being a useful idiot, the President didn't get to choose his relatives.

    • I'm really looking forward to this entire nauseating election season being over.

    • With respect to the nauseating election season, I'd really like to time-travel forward to November 9.

    • I have no illusions that 2020—or the midterms in 2018—are going to be any better than this. Welcome to the new reality, folks.

    Would you like some cheese with that whine? Wed, 19 Oct 2016 01:11:00 +0000 Larry 3de73f24-dea6-0eb8-c63a-0c868bf4200e pixel-leak-cpw.jpg

    So, this happened:

    The Pixel is an ugly phone. The design is a little fatter than last year's Nexus 6P, and the bezel on the bottom lip of the phone is much bigger. Yuck. There's also a big slab of glass at the top of the phone's back that feels sticky and a little uncomfortable to hold. The design is nowhere near as sleek, clean, and easy to use as the iPhone 7.

    Michael Nunez, Gizmodo

    I honestly don't know what people want. After years of allowing OEMs to slap Android onto their own devices, and allowing the network providers to manage upgrades, Google has finally produced one of its own, emulating the all-in-one Apple model of designing both software and hardware for a more integrated experience. And still, people complain.

    Put it next to an iPhone and the design inspiration is obvious, and Apple sells iPhones as fast as they can make them. Apparently, that isn't enough.

    Look, I get that people want to see innovation. That's normal. But we've reached a point where we've pretty much standardized the look and feel of smartphones, and a lot of that is for very good reasons:

    • It's going to be a rounded rectangle, because it's the most efficient shape. Sharper corners would catch on things (like the threads in your pocket).
    • The front is going to be mostly a slab of glass, with bezels top and bottom to allow for things like the antenna, home button, and so on.
    • There will be volume buttons or a rocker on the side, because that's the most ergnomically correct place for them.
    • There will be some kind of charging port on the bottom, along with speakers, because it's the most logical place.
    • The back will be metal, plastic, or glass, with the first two optimal for durability, and the second two optimal for antenna operation. Lots of people feel plastic is cheap, so a combination of metal and glass makes some sense (and that's what the Pixel has).
    • The operating system UI will be based on a grid of icons, because that's what people expect. Microsoft tried to get away from that with the tiled Metro interface on Windows Phone (which was brilliant, by the way), and look where that got them.

    That last point is an important one. We standardize on things for a reason. If you've ever climbed into an older Porsche and found the ignition switch to the left of the steering wheel, or into a Saab where it was on the floor between the seats, you'll understand. Clutch pedal on the left, accelerator on the right, brake pedal in the middle. It's like that because people expect it. It doesn't have to be that way, and it didn't use to be—try driving a Ford Model T sometime.

    As for that bit about it being "nowhere near as sleek as the iPhone 7," here they are side-by-side:



    If he's referring to the thickness of the phone, that's a tradeoff I'd happily make for improved battery life. As an iPhone 6S user, I often wish Apple would give up on their obsession with thinness and give me a bigger battery.

    There was some silliness about the camera, too:

    Every shot is accurately colored, super sharp compared to other Android phones, and vibrant as hell.

    It still leaves you wanting more compared to the iPhone 7. The Pixel's photos appeared to be washed out and just weren't as vibrant as the ones we took with the new iPhone.

    How can photos be accurately colored, super-sharp, vibrant…and washed out, all at the same time?

    And then there was this:

    The great thing about Google's old reference design phones, like the Nexus 6P, was that you'd get a premium phone for under $500. At $650, the Pixel is as expensive as most flagships for no good reason.

    No good reason, except that it is a flagship phone that most reviewers have agreed is at least in the same league as the iPhone, and can command a similar price.

    Mr. Nunez does make one good point—the Pixel isn't water-resistant, and it probably should be. Fair enough. I lost my Lumia 1520 to an ill-timed drop into water, so I see value in water resistance. But we've been living with smartphones for the last ten years that weren't, and we've mostly managed to muddle through somehow. I don't think that would dissuade me from buying the phone unless I were a lifeguard or a fisherman.

    Of course, I'm not in the market for a phone right now. I have another year before my iPhone is paid off. But as Apple starts removing stuff I like and use (like the headphone jack), I'm keeping my options open—and from what I've seen, the Pixel looks like an option worthy of consideration.

    Maybe the author was having a bad day, or maybe he was just cranky. But overall, this article was basically just a reminder of why I don't normally read Gizmodo

    Moving past Wed, 12 Oct 2016 02:03:00 +0000 Larry 998e704b-48d6-c2a5-20e4-aad5bf33f90d As you can see from my recent post, I've mailed in my resignation from my local Orthodox parish and, in the process, let them know I'm moving on from Orthodoxy as well.

    But I'm not just moving on. I'm moving past.

    What I mean by that is that at the age of fifty, after a lifetime of interest in the subject of religion and two formal affiliations, I'm moving past the point where I feel the need for someone to explain the world to me. I'm not looking for fairy tales any more. I've seen enough, done enough, lived enough to be at the point where I'm skeptical of anyone who tries to tell me how to live my life, what to eat, how to dress, where I have to be on Sunday morning.

    It's liberating.

    Many years ago, when I was still a boy, dissatisfied with the answers I was getting at the Lutheran church my mother sent me to, I found a book in the public library called The Renewal of Civilization by David Hofman. This slim volume in a red-and-white dust jacket would have a profound impact on my life. It was an introduction to the Bahá'í Faith, and while I did not join for many years, the ideas it introduced to me became a part of who I am—equality of men and women, racial equality, harmony of religion and science, the need for an international outlook, etc.

    When, many years later, I finally joined, I was in for about nine years before the cognitive dissonance became too much and I resigned. While the Bahá'í Faith has many progressive elements, it's ultimately an authoritarian organization choking on its own religious bureaucracy1, at the pinnacle of which are nine men in Haifa who are considered to be infallible in the exercise of their duties. You can see how that might be a problem.

    Still feeling a need for some kind of spiritual home, I did some reading and found myself drawn to the Eastern Orthodox tradition in Christianity. After a very brief catechism, I was baptized at the local Greek Orthodox church, which turned out to be a small disaster, the details of which are for another time. Feeling uncomfortable there, I visited the local parish of the Orthodox Church in America, which descended from the Russian Orthodox mission in North America. And that's where I resigned from yesterday.

    Why resign? I guess I've just had enough of hierarchy, old men, and excessively complicated theology that produces arguments about the most astonishing minutiae. As I progress inevitably towards becoming an old man myself, I find that old men don't have any particular insight into matters spiritual. Hierarchy complicates things too. As the former metropolitan of the OCA2 said, "You dress someone up like the Byzantine emperor, tell him to live forever, and you wonder why you have problems?"3 And as for excessively complicated—go look up aerial toll houses, let alone the mental gymnastics involved in understanding all the implications of the Trinity. Oy. And then there's the uncomfortably close relationship between the Orthodox Church (as embodied by the Moscow Patriarchate) and the Russian government, which is giving new life to some of the more regrettable aspects of Orthodox culture. If there's one thing that's been proven time and time again, when church and state get too cozy, bad things happen.

    But more than all that, I'm tired of the culture wars. I honestly don't care who marries whom, and I think there can be justifiable reasons for abortion, and I embrace the fact that we live in a secular republic whose laws aren't necessarily going to coincide with the canon law of any particular religion or denomination. It's something that everybody needs to just get over. Don't agree with same-sex marriage or abortion? Fine, don't have one. Failure to restrict the freedom of others is not an impingement on your religious liberty.

    There are some people who can manage to think as I do and still keep it together as a churchgoer, and God bless them, but I'm not one of those people. And that's why I'm likely done with any organized, structured church membership. This is not to say I'm an atheist—that's a kind of certainty that seems presumptuous—but any direction I might choose to go in is likely to feature a much more direct relationship between me and the divine, call it what you will, without intermediaries or partners.4

    The journey continues…

    1. For example, you are issued a membership card and number. For a religion.

    2. Orthodox Church in America.

    3. This was someone who was elected as metropolitan to succeed a notoriously corrupt predecessor, and who was himself replaced within a few years after much turmoil and, yes, Byzantine intrigue.

    4. And yes, you can parse that in a couple of different ways. No, I won't tell you which one is intended.

    Yes. This. Wed, 12 Oct 2016 00:22:00 +0000 Larry e6bc78dd-a374-2d7f-018f-23fabc5daacc I was writing a follow-up to my last post, to explain it a bit, when I ran across the best piece on Trump and the GOP that I have yet seen.

    Here's an excerpt, which perfectly captures my feelings on the matter (bolding added for emphasis):

    And obviously to me, no one with sense should cast a vote for Trump. He's not just a candidate, he is an active repudiation of what we should expect from the United States and those who lead it. A candidate who can't open his mouth without a lie falling out — a lie that everyone including him knows is a lie — doesn't deserve to be president. A candidate who threatens millions because of their religion does not deserve to be president. A candidate who promises to extralegally throw his political opponent into jail does not deserve to be president. A candidate who fosters white nationalism, racism and anti-semitism does not deserve to be president. A candidate who brags about sexual assault and then tries to dismiss it as mere talk does not deserve to be president.

    These are not merely Democratic or Republican issues. These are American issues, human issues and moral issues. You can't vote for Donald Trump and say you don't know what you're voting for. You're voting for hate, and chaos, and the deluge. Anything else that you think you get from voting for him will be washed away in the flood.

    Go read the whole thing.

    Moving on Mon, 10 Oct 2016 00:13:00 +0000 Larry bd4a0a71-02e1-0c83-95a6-8efd45c2b7b5 IMG_2380.JPG

    A brief thought on iPhone 7 vs. Pixel Thu, 06 Oct 2016 15:41:00 +0000 Larry 8bc8db07-0030-2f93-bc6a-80f6f8627230 Whether or not it took "courage" for Apple to remove the headphone jack, there are two things I know:

    1. Removing the headphone jack on the iPhone 7 does not solve a problem for me.
    2. Unlimited storage for photos from the Pixel in Google Photos does solve a problem for me.

    Still got a year to go before I can get a new phone, but this will be a consideration. YMMV.

    A small automotive pet peeve Tue, 04 Oct 2016 01:16:00 +0000 Larry 93c663fa-fe39-c8e9-b331-9319e7ad87e3 As a self-described car nut, I read a lot of blogs and sites about cars. One of my regular daily visits is to Bring A Trailer.

    Frequently, I'll see a comment about a steering wheel wrap on an older car:


    I suppose that most of this stuff is written by people younger than me, who don't remember anything before the Clinton Administration, so I'd like to clue them in:

    It was common practice in the 1950s and 1960s to install a wrap or cover on the steering wheel, because the materials used back then got extremely hot in the sun in the days before window tint and reflective windshield covers, especially in warmer climates.

    In fact, it was basically a necessity in southern California in the summer. It definitely doesn't mean the buyer is necessarily trying to hide something, although it's a possibility.

    Now you know. And be thankful for modern steering wheel materials.

    An angry mob Fri, 30 Sep 2016 19:40:00 +0000 Larry 6af7c3d1-dd4b-6a15-4790-a7e32bc361d4 I've been thinking some more about this election, and what's really happening in terms of our system and our democracy.

    It's been a common theme on the left to decry the rise of Trump as the rise of fascism, which to some degree it is. Certainly, he's followed the script left by fascist leaders of the past—tacit condoning of violence, oblique calls for the assassination of his opponent, scapegoating of minorities, and the use of the Big Lie technique of repeatedly lying until the lie becomes perceived by his followers as the truth, among others.

    It's an imperfect analogy, though. It's missing legions of uniformed followers in colored shirts (the black shirt of the Italian fascists, the brown shirt of Hitler's SA, the blue shirts of the Spanish Falange, etc.), as well as any coherent ideology. Even fascists usually believe in something, even if it's wrong.

    I'm beginning to think it's something even worse—the first stirrings of a transition from democracy to mob rule.

    Democracy follows rules. Democracy requires people to abide by certain norms, and a written or unwritten constitution. Democracy requires a basic understanding of how government works.

    Mob rule requires none of that.

    Mob rule requires only that a big enough, angry enough mob seize the reins of power and impose its will on everybody else. Mob rule can be easily manipulated by someone authoritarian enough to promise to give the mob whatever they want, whatever the cost, the rules be damned.

    Build a wall, kick out the Mexicans, keep the Muslims out. The enthusiastic support of the far-right, white-supremacist fringe should be a warning.

    That's what we're seeing with the Trump campaign. That's what the Republican Party has allowed itself to be seduced by.

    That's what must never be allowed to happen. Because it's a lot harder to step back from the precipice once you've gone over it.

    Rochester, New York, and the America of today Fri, 30 Sep 2016 17:12:00 +0000 Larry fc401d15-c417-09a8-c588-334d6543a0d8 I recently read the following article, which appeared on the website of public radio's Marketplace, on the decline of manufacturing and how it affected Rochester, New York, and the people who live there.

    Before reading any further, go read it:

    Did you read it? OK.

    As it happens, I have connections with Rochester, and I shared it with someone who spent a couple of decades living there, working for a local company. He had this to say:

    It's a good article. The real message is that manufacturing as it was – manufacturing that made the middle class – is gone. What manufacturing does come back will not provide enough jobs for everyone.

    Too bad they didn't examine my company too. They would have seen that we not only sent manufacturing offshore, but we also outsourced white-collar engineering and I.T. jobs to India and replaced them with minimum wage call-center jobs.

    The lady in the last paragraph of the article hit the nail on the head.

    This is the lady he's referring to:

    "You didn't even have to go to college. You got out of high school and went to Kodak, Delco, Rochester Products, Xerox, Bausch and Lomb and you made $20 an hour. Back in the day, you got out of school, and you could be 18 and move off on your own into an apartment.Today? These kids today? If you don't have college, those top companies are just not here anymore. My youngest daughter did it the hard way. She found out without college here, there's only $13-an-hour jobs. If that. She's still at home, 31, but back to school now to get that degree to get out on her own. There was an article in the paper this past weekend, 'Oh, middle class America, so many jobs are coming back,' $12 to $15 an hour. Like, what are you gonna do with $12 to $15 an hour? You cannot live on your own."

    That's hard to argue with. This is the world we've built over the last few decades. And if you want to understand why so many Americans are frustrated, angry, and losing hope, ready to vote for someone like Bernie Sanders, who promised a revolution, or Donald Trump, the Big Man who promises to make everything better (without specifying how), you need look no further.

    And pray that somehow, we find a way out of this mess.

    How I decide on ballot initiatives Thu, 29 Sep 2016 01:04:00 +0000 Larry 53807c55-4963-3ec7-c501-183174ee6bad One of the constant joys of living in California is that every two years or so, you're presented with a list of ballot propositions on which to vote. As a lifelong Californian, I have opinions about this.

    While the initiative process in California has its origins in the Progressive era (once again: learn your damn history, people) and was intended to give the people a bigger voice against the once-domineering Union Pacific Railroad and Crocker Bank, it's devolved into an excuse in many cases for 1) the legislature to punt controversial issues to the people (because politicians are cowards), 2) crackpots who can't get a hearing any other way to make a big splash, and 3) special interests and big money to do an end run around the legislature.

    The question, therefore, is "How do you make decisions on all these things?" Flip a coin? Spend hours poring over research in a dusty library somewhere? If you're a Californian, you quickly get used to making snap decisions about them. While this is not ideal, and can lead to some idiotic laws getting passed, it's how a lot of people do it.

    For me, I've narrowed it down to a list of questions:

    • Is it something I feel strongly about? If not, I'm not inclined to pass yet another law.
    • If it's something I feel strongly about, how do I feel about the way it's being set up? I see no reason to amend the state constitution to fund day care. Our state constitution has been amended too many times for too many minor things already.1
    • Who is supporting it? Is it bipartisan?
    • Follow the money—who's bankrolling it?
    • Is it a bond measure? Bonds have to be paid back eventually—how is the payback structured? Is it something that is appropriate or inappropriate for a 30-year bond?
    • Who stands to benefit the most if it passes?
    • How are the ballot arguments written? It sounds silly, but I've seen some egregiously badly written statements, and rightly or wrongly, I do judge people by the quality of their writing when it comes to stuff like this. If you can't take the time to properly structure your argument, why should I think you've thought through your ballot measure? This is our state government. It's important. Have someone proofread it, for God's sake.

    And that's about it. Once you reduce it to its essentials, you can get through a fairly big list of propositions pretty quickly. This year, there are seventeen. A little closer to Election Day, I'll be posting my thoughts on this year's crop.

    1. That said, there are times when a constitutional amendment is justified; I'm not completely opposed to doing so.

    No longer at Mon, 26 Sep 2016 02:52:00 +0000 Larry b903c16a-2b8a-4b12-d3b7-ce97c4bcabb4 Now that everyone I want to be in touch with is available somewhere else, there's no reason for me to be on I've deleted my apps and won't be checking in there.

    If you follow me there and want to keep in touch, I suggest you contact me on Twitter, on 10Centuries, or use my contact form.

    New home for the blog Sat, 24 Sep 2016 18:02:00 +0000 Larry c984547f-784f-265b-2497-2c066d7b650d I've completed migrating my blog from Posthaven to 10Centuries. This means two things:

    • Different address formats means old URLs and bookmarks are broken. Sorry.
    • You'll need to update your bookmarks/RSS feeds accordingly.

    The DNS has been updated, so the redirection of the root domain is in full effect. The new address for the RSS feed is

    The Star Trek metaphor for this election Thu, 22 Sep 2016 15:30:00 +0000 Larry dbc50364-d3e6-cf28-f053-3ff622d784fe It just occurred to me that the two scenarios below are the perfect illustration of the difference between the Clinton and Trump campaigns, as well as their supporters' attitudes.

    First, Clinton:

    Now, Trump:

    Personally, I'd rather live in the United Federation of Planets than the Terran Empire in the mirror universe, so…

    The last summer night Thu, 22 Sep 2016 02:39:00 +0000 Larry 28e8a728-5fc7-5d57-6746-0008207f0b02 On the last night of summer, I just walked out my back door and heard the voice of Vin Scully broadcasting a Dodger game.

    You probably have to be an Angeleno to truly understand, but it makes me sad that I won't hear that sound for much longer. I'm not even a baseball fan, but his voice has been the soundtrack of summer my whole life.

    Somehow, that makes it feel not just like the last night of summer, but the last night of an era.

    A special message for the community Fri, 09 Sep 2016 22:35:00 +0000 Larry 5f626ba8-8587-a447-a3f5-7bff48fedea1 Hi, everyone. I wanted to put up a special post just for the ADN community. This is not visible from my blog, only from the link on ADN.1 This one's for you.

    Do you remember what was like when it first began? Do you remember the excitement, the sense of community, the friendliness, the respect 2 on all sides?

    Do you remember when the founders used to post and interact with us? When they were actively developing the place?

    Yeah, I do, too. There hasn't been much of that on ADN lately. There hasn't been much of anything there lately.

    I've missed it. It just hasn't been as much fun. And ever since the State of the Union post, the membership has been quietly slipping away. It's now common for an hour or three to slip by without anything new in my stream. It's weird.

    And then there's the slowdown in the entire service. Cracks are starting to appear, things are slowing down, and while Berg is fixing stuff when it breaks, there's a difference between proactive maintenance and fixing stuff after the fact. This place is still alive, but it's anything but healthy.

    Seems like we've all been looking for the new A few people have declared their intention to build it.

    One of them has succeeded.

    Right now, there's a small and growing community of ADNers (current and former) at, built by our very own @matigo. It's based on the same principles that ADN was—no advertising, paid membership available, mutual respect, and owning your own data. This time, there are no VCs involved to pressure the owner into compromising the service. If you check it out, I think you'll find it impressive. And you can blog and do podcasts there, too.

    I like it so much I'm spending most of my social media time there, which brings me to the reason for this post.

    There's not much keeping me on these days, and while I'm not deleting my account, I won't be around as much. I'll be checking in periodically, but irregularly. I've already turned off notifications and PMs. At some point, I'll probably delete Riposte and Chimp.

    ADN will always be special to me, because it's where I met so many of you wonderful and fascinating people. There comes a time, though, when you have to acknowledge that once was is no more. And that's OK—that's how life works. And this is a part of my life—a bigger one than I ever thought a social network could be.

    I hope you'll join me over at the new place. I think you'll like it. If you'd like an invite code, just ask—you can reach me at

    Thanks for listening.

    All the best,



    1. This was true of the original post on Posthaven, but the copy here is visible globally.

    2. For the most part, certain individuals who shall remain nameless notwithstanding.

    Communicating securely with me Fri, 09 Sep 2016 14:28:00 +0000 Larry 57a95704-02a7-e3e9-bc23-10e348928e5e This is not something that comes up a lot, but it does come up occasionally, and it seems time to clarify how you can communicate with me securely, if that's something you're concerned about.

    First off, I'm of the opinion that Internet privacy is a fiction. That's why I don't normally use PGP encryption—that, and because normals don't know what to do with it. And frankly, it's a pain in the butt that I'd rather not deal with, as well.

    That said, if you have a need to communicate with me securely, the following options are available:


    I do have an account on Keybase, which I use primarily on the desktop. I deal with almost all my email on mobile, so this makes it a pain if you send me encrypted email. It's your job to make it easy for me to read what you send, so don't be surprised if I don't respond in a timely fashion. Or at all.

    For ProtonMail, it's easiest if you have a ProtonMail account yourself—then the encryption/decryption happens behind the scenes and takes no effort on my part. And it's readable on mobile that way, too.

    For WhatsApp and Telegram, you'll need to know my phone number or my username.

    To find those out, or for anything else, you can send me an email via my contact form at

    My view on the Apple jackectomy Thu, 08 Sep 2016 20:09:00 +0000 Larry 1890a047-6564-bdd5-ecac-14b7da6d919b (Originally posted as a social post on 10Centuries)

    Removing the headphone jack is the right thing to do for a certain subset of people. That subset happens to make one hell of an overlapping Venn diagram with the most loyal and biggest-spending Apple customers. If you're big into tech, and have lots of disposable income, and always buy whatever comes out, chances are you're already happily using Bluetooth headsets and CarPlay, and removing the jack isn't a problem for you. And that's fine.

    Removing the headphone jack is also the wrong thing to do for another subset of people. These folks have older cars without Bluetooth, or have spouses/kids/etc. who use Android phones, or do a lot of charging while using headphones, or have budgetary concerns. I happen to fit into this group.

    Belkin has already announced an adapter that will allow you to both charge and listen on your shiny new iPhone, but that's both 1) one more goddamn expense and 2) something to lose. Just like the AirPods. But people who don't rely on using it will see it as just fine.

    At the end of the day, Apple's gonna do what Apple's gonna do, and they won't go back, and their customers will adapt. But there is a point at which I have to ask myself whether I'm going to continue to be an Apple customer, and that question is not one that I'm prepared to answer just yet. I still have a year to go before I have to.

    The problem with store payment apps Tue, 06 Sep 2016 14:21:00 +0000 Larry feadec35-1fb6-483b-ce18-71fc9b819928 When I was a young man, back before the dawn of time when dinosaurs roamed the Earth and Americans weren't afraid of Muslims, I had a wallet full of gasoline credit cards. Union 76, Shell, Texaco, Exxon, Chevron, Mobil…all in the name of being able to buy gas at whatever gas station happened to be convenient.

    Then the oil companies got with the program and joined the 20th century, and started to accept Visa, Mastercard, and others. Now I've replaced the stack of proprietary credit cards in my wallet with a single card that I can use anywhere. It's better.

    Unfortunately, as we enter the era of contactless payments and smartphone apps, not everyone wants to accept Apple Pay or Android Pay/Google Wallet. So now, when I want to buy aspirin at CVS (or shirts at Walmart), I have to download and install their proprietary app and register my credit card, or else pull out my physical wallet and pay cash (or use a plastic card).

    That's not particularly difficult, but it does negate the biggest advantage of using Apple Pay or the equivalent: security.

    You see, it's not just a convenience thing. When you pay with Apple Pay (or equivalent), the merchant never sees your actual card number. Apple generates a special number that only works with your phone. Anyone who was a victim of the Target hack will appreciate the importance of this.

    Meanwhile, if you're using the CVS app or the Walmart Pay app, you don't have that advantage. The merchant gets your actual card number and keeps it on file. If they're hacked, you're screwed.

    So no, Walmart and CVS, I won't be using your special proprietary payment apps. Maybe they make it easier for you to track purchases, or maybe you've negotiated a special lower per-transaction fee with the banks. I could certainly understand how it might work to your advantage. But neither of those is a compelling reason for me to downgrade my own security.

    And one last thing to keep in mind: The consumer still has choices. You both have competitors who will accept Apple Pay, and they'll be the ones getting my business.

    And if/when you reconsider your policy, so will I.

    It's dead, Jim Mon, 05 Sep 2016 02:04:00 +0000 Larry 645a9027-7119-e502-d152-e5bccfc5d4bd image.png

    An update Thu, 01 Sep 2016 02:37:00 +0000 Larry 11e45aa7-b648-7368-3da1-9cd06e97a65a I'll keep this brief. After logging into this blog for the first time in a long time, I realized I posted a bunch of stuff relating to Orthodox Christianity in times past.

    Therefore, it's only fair to let you know that I no longer identify as an Orthodox Christian. I'll leave the old stuff up for historical reasons (well, most of it, anyway), but it doesn't reflect my current thinking. The journey continues…

    Pocket, you're doing it wrong;re-doing-it-wrong Wed, 24 Aug 2016 16:53:00 +0000 Larry 27a5d7e2-ddb9-fce7-28ec-5cbf4fc8d699 Update: Since I originally posted this, Pocket has responded and pushed out a fix for this issue.

    I have a friend who is an American Islamic scholar. He's very well-educated, and has impeccable credentials when it comes to the study of Islamic law, including study with the former Grand Mufti of Egypt, Dr. Ali Gomaa, which resulted in his being licensed to issue Islamic legal opinions, known as fatwas. Technically, he's entitled to be called "Sheikh" due to his accomplishments. He lives in Abu Dhabi, and does a lot of work translating Islamic legal texts into English. He also maintains a blog.Today, I saw in my newsreader that he had a new post. Clicking through, I decided to save it to Pocket for later. These are the tags that Pocket suggested:

    Pocket image

    There is absolutely nothing in Musa's post that could remotely be associated with terrorism, except for the fact it deals with the serious study of Islamic law, which SHOULD NOT BE AUTOMATICALLY ASSOCIATED WITH TERRORISM any more than a discussion of Roman Catholic canon law should be associated with IRA terrorism. It's stupid, and it's offensive, and it needs to stop.

    Pocket, you are doing it so, so wrong.

    Using Slack as an information center: Mailclark Wed, 03 Aug 2016 14:52:00 +0000 Larry 8b19069a-0b6e-ee01-332a-aafec3195dbb I've been using Slack as a personal information hub, and if you haven't tried this, you're missing out. I plan to share some tips based on things I'm doing, and today's topic is email.

    If you're on a paid plan, Slack has some limited email integration built in, but if you really want to supercharge your personal Slack's email capability (or you're on the free tier), you need Mailclark.

    Mailclark is an integration that allows you to both receive and send email directly from your Slack team, and it gives you a separate email address for each channel. For example, mail for your #general channel would go to You determine which channels have Mailclark built in by inviting user @mailclark to each channel.

    You can use this in some interesting ways. Create a bookmarks channel, and email the URL to Have your travel itineraries sent to Save recipes to

    Use Gmail or another service that allows plus addressing? Change your login email for Amazon to, and set up a filter that directs all mail sent to that address to and auto-archives the original. That way, you have the original safely tucked away, and you get a notification in Slack when your order ships or is delivered—and it keeps your email inbox uncluttered.

    Another neat use is with Nixle, which is the service many U.S. public safety agencies use to disseminate information. Sign up with a channel-specific Mailclark address, and get alerts sent to your Slack:


    So there you have it. Mailclark and Slack. Try it and let me know what you think!

    My election valediction Wed, 27 Jul 2016 16:54:00 +0000 Larry 99562ad4-5528-9c07-ee0c-347971cb7bfc I've been pretty outspoken this election season. Apart from having always been interested in politics, I've felt a special need to be involved this year because of how it's developed. As someone trained in history, I've been seeing historical parallels that couldn't be ignored.

    In a little more than ten weeks, it will be Election Day in the United States, and when day breaks on November 9, the most unusual election season in American history will finally be over.

    I'm declaring it over now.

    Unless you've been living in a cave in the remotest jungles of Borneo and attempting to avoid all contact with the outside world, you know who the candidates are. You know what they stand for. You know who their followers are (and, as the saying goes, by their friends ye shall know them).

    Nothing I can say or do is going to change anyone's mind at this point, and I'm frankly tired of trying. And if you haven't made up your mind by now, I don't know what else I can say.

    If you honestly believe there's some kind of equivalency between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, you haven't been paying attention. Trump has condoned violence by his supporters, regularly suggests violating the Constitution, and blatantly panders to white supremacists. The GOP convention had all of this on display, and more. Someone on Reddit, of all places, compiled a list of things said by Trump, and it's chilling. You can find it here.

    Meanwhile, people are opposed to Hillary because she made some speeches to Goldman Sachs, supported the war in Iraq, and is tight with the Establishment.

    Sorry, but if Hillary Clinton is the lesser of two evils, it's like comparing dandruff to terminal syphilis. I'll take the dandruff.

    If Hillary doesn't meet your progressive purity test, too bad. Look at the GOP and see how well their conservative litmus tests have worked out for them.

    And, despite all your Stein fantasies and Johnson daydreams, the next President will either be Trump or Clinton. Pick one. There is no way, mathematically or electorally, that the Greens or Libertarians will elect a President, except in the sense of helping one of the two major candidates as spoilers. In an ordinary election, between Clinton and a non-insane Republican (e.g., Dole in '96), I'd say fine, vote for the third party. But this is not that kind of election.

    If Trump wins, do not count on the Constitution to save you. Strongmen are not noted for their respect for constitutional niceties, whether you're talking about Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Stalin, Idi Amin, Hafez Assad, or Robert Mugabe. By 1938, there probably weren't many people in Germany glad that they voted for Ernst Thälmann or Ludwig Kaas in 1932 because Otto Wels of the Social Democrats just didn't meet their litmus tests. Votes matter.

    And no, I'm not saying Trump is Hitler. Trump is Trump, and Trump is a fascist by any reasonable definition of the word. He ignores facts, lies continuously, condones violence, blames all our problems on minorities like Mexicans and Muslims, calls for the jailing of his political opponents, and says only he can rescue this country from its dire situation.

    Just this morning, he said he hoped that the Russians had Clinton's emails. When pressed on that, he told reporter Katy Tur to "be quiet." (Original link dead; alternate link here:

    Can you imagine the kind of Supreme Court justices Trump would nominate? And how easily they'd slide through nomination with a Republican Congress?

    So don't talk to me about overcoming fear. There are damn good reasons to fear a Trump presidency.

    No, Hillary isn't my dream candidate, but she's qualified and experienced. Same goes for Tim Kaine. Each one is a better choice than their Republican counterparts.

    And with that final word, I'm ending my political posts and tweets for this election season. I won't be engaging further on the subject for the sake of my own mental health. You have the information you need; I can do no more. The people will make up their minds, and the people will speak.

    Meanwhile, I'll be preparing for the worst-case scenario, because sometimes that's what life gives you. But one last time, I beg of you:

    Please, don't let it come to that.

    Of Brexit and the fate of the kingdom Thu, 14 Jul 2016 01:52:00 +0000 Larry 616ebe7a-ba6c-cb55-b177-c64f893b748d I've been thinking about the situation in the United Kingdom. Specifically, I've been thinking about the Brexit vote, the new government, and what it all means.I saw a tweet today from an Englishman I follow in which he lamented that if things keep going the way they have been, nobody will take Britain seriously anymore. I can understand his frustration, but when I look at the last 70 years or so, this looks an awful lot like a continuation of an ongoing process.

    The British Empire died in 1947 with Indian independence, followed by a long string of colonies allowed to go their own way. This was inevitable and good, as self-determination is the desire of all peoples, and all empires must eventually fall. Despite this, Britain continued to punch above its weight for half a century, playing off its relationship with the Commonwealth and the strength of its military, including its nuclear arsenal—and its membership in a larger European community. Those days are ending.

    What we've seen in the last few weeks is the most remarkable act of national seppuku I can remember. The only historical parallel that I can think of is the voluntary dissolution of the Empire, but the difference is that this time, it didn't need to happen. Britain has voluntarily voted to break away from the European Union, and from the outside it looks a lot like a turning inward. Desperate to stay in the EU, Scotland is likely to hold another independence referendum, which this time will likely pass, and that will put paid to the Act of Union.

    A shrunken Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland (assuming that Ulster doesn't decide some kind of federation with Eire is preferable in order to keep EU citizenship) isn't going to pack the same punch that the UK did, and Englishmen shouldn't assume that it will. The rest of the world will look to the EU, and specifically Germany, its economic powerhouse—and if that isn't the nightmare of the average Leave voter, it should be.

    Meanwhile, the main players in the Leave campaign have buggered off, leaving a new government to sort the mess out. Given all of the foregoing, the naming of the Clown Prince of the Tories as foreign secretary by the new PM isn't likely to have that much impact on foreign opinion of England, the fact that he's gone well out of his way to offend numerous foreign leaders, including the U.S. President, aside. There will be a Brexit minister and a foreign trade minister to handle the heavy lifting, and Boris will be free to go to diplomatic functions and dinners and, as someone said, hand out the Ferrero Rocher.

    So, if you're thinking that the rest of the world won't take Britain seriously because of the new government, I've got some very bad news for you. That ship has largely sailed, and the people of Britain are the ones who untied the moorings. There will always be an England, and probably a royal family, and tourists from Iowa will still come to see the soldiers in red jackets and tall furry hats guarding the Queen.

    But if you're a Briton who wants the rest of the world to look to London for leadership in times of crisis, you'll have to earn that anew. Because as of today, you've squandered your inheritance, and what you have to show for it isn't worth a farthing.

    My thoughts, in their entirety, on the Dallas Police using a robot with a bomb to take out a suspect who killed five people Fri, 08 Jul 2016 16:01:00 +0000 Larry 5c426eee-3bd7-7c9d-d994-3dce4dca9bbe Don't care.

    Something that's been driving me nuts;s-been-driving-me-nuts Sat, 11 Jun 2016 18:10:00 +0000 Larry 88bf40fb-8f8c-63b0-659b-a5a3f78cbe94 I keep seeing people say that Hitler was elected. He was not. He lost the German presidential election to Paul von Hindenburg in 1932, and in 1933 was asked to form a government (i.e., become Chancellor) by President von Hindenburg. At the time, the National Socialists were the largest party in the Reichstag, but did not command a majority of seats. Hitler's first cabinet had a majority of non-Nazi members. Former Chancellor Franz von Papen famously said that they had "hired" Hitler, in the belief he could be controlled.

    Learn your damn history, people.

    The November decision Fri, 13 May 2016 20:26:00 +0000 Larry a16f5b68-70e4-8f82-2b29-a296229f0480 Even before voting in the California primary next month, I've been thinking a lot about the November election. We now know that Donald Trump will be theRepublican nominee, and it appears likely that Hillary Clinton will be theDemocratic candidate.

    (I'm still voting for Bernie Sanders next month, by the way.)

    Anyway, if things break the way I expect them to, there's going to be huge pressure on progressive voters to vote for HRC to keep Trump out of the White House. This, by the way, is what I've been planning to do, because I am a one-issue voter, and that one issue is keeping power-hungry fascist demagogues out of power.

    Which is why I've been troubled to see the behavior of the Democratic National Committee and many Clinton supporters. The DNC, whose chair openly supports Clinton. is doing its level best to keep the Sanders campaign out of convention committees, as well as any position of influence. And a lot of Hillary supporters are calling for Bernie to suspend his campaign in the name of party unity, fearing he's damaging their chances in November.

    There's just one problem with that.

    He's still winning primary elections, and the big prize of California is yet to come. That's one he could theoretically win, too. And as the current count of pledged delegates is something like 1716 for Clinton to 1433 for Sanders, California and the other states that vote on June 7 could be pivotal.

    So yeah, he could still win in terms of pledged delegates. Looks like I was wrong about item #7 in my last post.

    But what about superdelegates, you ask? Yeah, about that: they're mostly all for Clinton. But it's kind of hard to call yourself the Democratic party and have your elite, free-agent superdelegates voting against the obvious will of the rank-and-file. Not very democratic, that. There's an excellent article here that discusses this in some detail.

    But I digress. Many Sanders supporters are understandably somewhat miffed that their candidate might win the popular vote and still get shoved aside because the superdelegates are engaging in voter nullification. A tweet I saw this morning stated their point rather nicely:

    It isn't our job tosave the Dem party. If their super-delegates insist on supporting a candidatewith a 62% negative approval, vote Green.

    Yeah. There's that. In a year when the electorate is obviously and demonstrably sick of politics as usual, the Democratic establishment appears poised to ram through a candidate who is clearly part of the Washington and business establishments (former Walmart board member, former First Lady, former Senator, former Secretary of State) and who has massive negative approval ratings. They'll vote that way no doubt in part because of favors owed to both Clintons, as well as being afraid ofwhat might happen to the corporate contributions that flow into their own campaigns if the national party gives the finger to Wall Street by electing a self-described democratic socialist. That's understandable in its own way—why break up what is a very comfortable arrangement? Apart from all the cronyism and corruption, of course. And then there are the polls showing her losing to Trump, where Sanders would win comfortably.

    Anyway, so what should a progressive voter do?

    One answer is to vote for a third-party candidate like Jill Stein of the Greens. But then you risk a Trump presidency.

    Another answer is to hold your nose and vote for Hillary. You'll help keep Trump out, but then the Democratic Party will have no incentive to change its ways.

    A third option, which I refuse to contemplate, is voting for Trump. No doubt some will.

    And finally, you can stay home and sit this one out. Some will do this, too.

    What will I do?

    I won't sit it out. At this point, I'm likely to vote for Hillary in November. But it's not certain. Much will depend on what transpires betweennow and then in the Democratic campaign. Because when it's all over, I have to be able to look at myself in the mirror and know that I voted according to my conscience. I don't want Trump in the White House. Then again, I don't want the Democratic Party to merely be a business-dominated,mildly right-of-center alternative to a Trump-dominated, batshit crazy neofascist Republican party, either. The Green Party is closer to my personal beliefs, and very, very tempting.

    There is, however, one thing I do know.

    If I end up voting for Hillary merely to keep out Trump—which may very well happen—after she and the Democratic National Committee have done everything in their power to keep Sanders-supporting progressives out of any position of influence, they will have earned an abandonment, and it will likely be the last vote I ever cast for a Democrat.

    The Presidential election: Facts, opinions, and two unhappy thoughts Wed, 04 May 2016 21:29:00 +0000 Larry 48914d90-7482-091d-03ea-ae2ab6065ae3 This is a good time to remember a few basic facts about the November election:

    1. It hasn't happened yet. Anything could happen.
    2. The Republican nominee will be Donald Trump.
    3. If the GOP leadership thinks it can stop #2 from becoming reality, they're delusional.
    4. Any attempt to stop #2 from happening will likely split the party.
    5. Anyone who doesn't think the GOP can split is delusional. See #1.
    6. TheDemocratic nominee will be Hillary Clinton.
    7. If Bernie Sanders thinks he can stop #6 from happening, he's delusional.
    8. If Hillary Clinton thinks she's going to have her own way at the convention, she's delusional.
    9. The Sanders campaign has amassed a lot of delegates and will be in a position to influence the convention.
    10. If the Democratic leadership thinks it can stop #9 from happening, it's delusional.
    11. Donald Trump can win in November.
    12. Anyone who denies #11 is delusional. See #1.
    13. HillaryClinton can win in November.
    14. Anyone who denies #13 is delusional. See #1.
    15. NeitherTrump nor Clinton is going to glide into the Oval Office easily. See #1.
    16. Nomatter who is elected, there is going to be a large and angry segment of the population that refuses to accept it. Our nation's politics will not become sweetness and light just because the GOP loses control of the Senate. Or gains the White House.
    17. There will likely be violence. It's happened already and is unlikely to stop.

    And finally, two unhappy thoughts:

    1. Constitutions only matter as long as attention is paid to them. The Soviet Union had a constitution. East Germany had a constitution.Nazi Germany had a constitution. North Korea has a constitution.
    2. If you elect a demagogue who is backed by arms, the Constitution will not protect you.
    Decision day Tue, 15 Mar 2016 15:43:00 +0000 Larry 8cbd2ef7-c6da-5594-b230-b4a9ba8e32b9 This message is an open letter to Republican voters in Ohio and Florida.

    Dear Florida and Ohio Republicans,

    We probably don't agree on much, but I have to say this or I'll regret it forever: You have a choice today. You can vote for Cruz, Kasich, or Rubio, and deny the nomination to Donald Trump, which will probably result in a brokered convention and quite possibly the most violent convention since the Democratic convention in Chicago in 1968. It may also result in the destruction of the GOP, at least in the near term, possibly in the long term.

    Or, you can vote for Trump, and virtually hand him the Republican nomination on a platter. This will probably avoid a chaotic convention, but will probably also sound the death knell for American democracy if he's elected in November and is able to consolidate his power. That may sound overly dramatic. It isn't. I have no love for his GOP opponents, but they aren't demagogues. He is.

    You can destroy the GOP, or you can destroy our country and what it has always stood for.

    Your choice.

    Choose wisely.

    And may God have mercy on all of us.

    Historical parallels Wed, 02 Mar 2016 15:09:00 +0000 Larry 9271013d-2bf6-1522-94c3-594132baedc1 Identify the time(s) and place(s) associated with the following:

    • A relentless drumbeat of outright lies and propaganda
    • Increasing division of the populace to extremes of left and right
    • Unwillingness of either extreme to compromise
    • The candidate who says, "It's not your fault—you've been screwed/stabbed in the back"
    • Demonization of a religious minority
    • Casual acceptance and tacit encouragement of violence
    • Advocacy of war crimes
    • Gradual acquiescence of Establishment figures to the demagogue because "he doesn't really mean it" or "he'll drop all that nonsense once he's in office."

    There are two that come to mind, separated by about 80 years.

    It's not too late to stop it from ending the way it did the first time.

    The day the American political system broke Wed, 24 Feb 2016 04:29:00 +0000 Larry 563249ed-d9b0-e8a5-472e-67420ad9c25c I've never really been a fan of the way our government is structured. It has always seemed to me that the Founding Fathers, fearful of tyranny, deliberately designed a system that guarantees gridlock. In order to overcome that possibility, you have to have people in government who are willing to reach across the aisle and work with the other side for the good of the nation.

    In a Westminster-style parliamentary system, on the other hand, there is no such requirement. When the majority legislative party forms the executive, they can (theoretically, anyway) pass whatever legislation is necessary and nominate and confirm judges as they see fit. While this is not always the case, particularly in times of coalition government, it has been so often enough, particularly in Britain and in many nations of the Commonwealth.

    Today, it's beginning to look like we should have kept the Westminster system, and like the GOP majority thinks that we did. With eleven months left in office for President Obama, the GOP members of the Senate Judiciary Committee issued a statement that there would be no consideration of nominees for the vacant Supreme Court seat left by the death of Antonin Scalia until after Inauguration Day. This is despite the clear constitutional requirement that the President shall nominate a candidate to fill the vacancy, and the Senate shall consider the nominee and hold a confirmation vote.

    To put it another way, the legislative branch has overstepped its bounds and is refusing to carry out its constitutional duty, apparently for no other reason than they do not like the current President. The effect of this is to refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of a democratically elected President of the United States. It also places the political agenda of the Senate majority ahead of the Constitution of the United States, which they claim to honor—a claim that is now clearly a lie.

    In retrospect, we should have seen this coming. The increasing political division in the United States since the 2000 election, which had to be decided by a Supreme Court decision, has been pointing towards this for some time. And let us be clear—the blame for this is not shared equally by both parties. Ever since the election of Barack Obama, the Republican Party has been very clear that it would attempt to obstruct and thwart this President at every turn, regardless of what he proposed. Time and time again, they have subtly encouraged those who would question this President's patriotism, his religion, and even his citizenship. While there is a time-honored tradition of each party attempting to thwart the political agenda of the other, it has never before taken such a clear step towards constitutional crisis. The last time that conflict between two branches of government resulted in a crisis of this magnitude was likely the Roosevelt administration's threat to pack the Supreme Court in order to carry forward the New Deal agenda. But even then, it was resolved without causing serious damage to our constitutional system.

    Today, however, the damage is serious indeed. The Senate majority has abandoned all pretense of constitutional procedure and legal precedent, for there is no precedent for simply refusing to hold a confirmation hearing for the duration of an incumbent president's term. To the best of my knowledge, there is no clear path forward from this point. The President will nominate; the Senate will ignore the nomination, and most likely the President will make a recess appointment which the congressional GOP will then claim (incorrectly) is an abuse of his constitutional authority.

    If this were any other issue, the Supreme Court would eventually be called on to rule on the constitutionality of both the Senate's refusal to act and the President's recess appointment of a justice. But this is a Supreme Court which is now evenly tied between the conservative and liberal wings. It seems unlikely that they would be able to issue a ruling with a 4-4 split. And unless I miss my guess, the Democrats in the Senate will do everything in their power to stop the GOP from doing so much as passing a resolution to refill the toilet paper in the restrooms until they're able to move forward with confirmation hearings, which means that no business whatsoever will be transacted for the duration of this Congress.

    And there you have it—absolute and unbreakable gridlock. Our political system has finally broken. And it gets worse. As I write this, the Nevada Republican caucuses are underway, and there are multiple reports of multiple voting, voting without ID, and caucus staffers openly wearing campaign T-shirts and hats for Donald Trump, a man who has called for a ban on Muslim immigration, who has openly condoned violence, and who at best is America's Silvio Berlusconi, at worst our Mussolini. It is difficult to look at the overall situation right now and say that this is our finest hour. It is, if anything, our worst.

    Some may say I'm being unreasonably pessimistic. Am I? Democracy really only works when you have an educated and informed electorate. Today, much of the right wing espouses beliefs that are largely divorced from reality, which is not surprising when you get most of your news from talk radio (as Scalia himself said he did). It seems that increasingly, we have an undereducated and misinformed electorate. In circumstances like these, it's not surprising that people gravitate towards candidates and politicians who tell them what they want to hear.

    Unfortunately, the historical precedents for this are uniformly bad. Nationalistic, xenophobic, reactionary, violence-condoning movements do not tend to lead to an increase in democracy and human rights. Rather the opposite.

    To close out this cheery little post-mortem, I'd like to leave you with a thought. In 1940, with German troops overrunning France, the members of the National Assembly met for the last time in the resort town of Vichy. There, they ratified the surrender of French forces, voted dictatorial powers to Marshal Henri Petain, and then, as their last act, voted themselves out of existence. It was all done very officially and with perfect parliamentary form.

    That didn't make it legitimate. And someday, historians may well look back at the United States in 2016, and say exactly the same thing.

    Apple, the FBI, and the iPhone Mon, 22 Feb 2016 14:54:00 +0000 Larry bb841b1c-167b-df4f-e93d-e3f58f1e5fc2 From everything I've seen, here's a brief synopsis of what we know:

    • The iPhone belonged to the County of San Bernardino.
    • The county purchased, but did not install, the $4/month software that would have enabled them to access/wipe/unlock the iPhone.
    • The passcode on the phone was changed while in law enforcement's possession.
    • Had they not changed the passcode, it could have been backed up to iCloud and the information accessed on the back end by Apple without engineering a back door.
    • Because the County of San Bernardino and law enforcement both screwed up massively, they're now asking Apple to engineer a back door into the system that could render all iPhone users vulnerable.

    Given all of the above, I can only say one thing.

    Screw 'em.

    My current favorite TV shows Mon, 15 Feb 2016 19:26:00 +0000 Larry a729ddc7-0b6e-30c0-b423-b97e76be1524 Apropos of nothing, here are my top five favorite television shows that are currently being produced:

    1. Better Call Saul

    2. The Americans

    3. Longmire

    4. The Man In The High Castle

    5. ???

    The fifth spot is currently open. Maybe 11.22.63 will show up there. I'll let you know after I've seen it.

    Edit: I forgot to mention Deutschland 83, which is on Hulu and which I've heard good things about. Looking forward to seeing it also.

    Life with iPhone and Android Tue, 09 Feb 2016 13:00:00 +0000 Larry 0601c1ce-c867-0a10-9e1b-85c28a6b4031 I've been using both an iPhone and an Android phone - a Samsung Galaxy S6, to be precise - for the last several days. This is because my employer has provided me with both an iPhone 6S and the Galaxy S6 for testing at work, and I've chosen to make the Galaxy my work phone, in large part because I already have a 64 GB iPhone 6S, and the 16 GB model that work gave me isn't going to enhance my experience.

    Also, I've used Android in the past, and liked it (mostly) well enough; it seemed like a good opportunity to revisit what a premium Android phone is like these days, and keep myself up to date. I've had a few surprises.

    The first surprise is that battery life isn't better. With the deserved reputation that the iPhone 6S has for being a bit short in the battery life department, I would have thought the Samsung would show it up. It doesn't. It's worse than the iPhone (score one for the iPhone, sort of). It's not terrible, but without topping it up throughout the day, it would die by dinnertime. Fortunately, the Samsung has Qi wireless charging built in, so I can use the Qi charger I got for my old HTC Windows Phone. Score one for the Samsung: I wish the iPhone supported wireless charging.

    The second surprise is that battery woes aside, I find myself preferring the Samsung in daily use. Not out of the box, mind you—I can't stand TouchWiz and the crapware it comes with—but the beauty of Android is that you can fix all that. After disabling the crapware, installing a new theme (Material Design), an alternate launcher (Action 3) and a custom icon pack (Rondo), I've got it looking and acting the way I want. In fact, it's mine in a way that my iPhone will never—can never—be. And the larger screen (compared to my iPhone) is great.

    What else? I like the Google bar on the home screen. I like Google Now. I like that I can remove an app from the home screen without deleting it entirely. The NewsBlur app for Android works much better than the iOS version. I love that I can designate my own default apps—Signal for SMS, for example. And LastPass form filling is much better on Android.

    That's not to say everything's perfect. Have I mentioned battery life? Well, that. The iPhone still is the king of apps. I miss Siri, which is a bit better than Google Now when I'm driving. There's no CARROT Weather for Android, and the Peach app is nowhere to be found. I wish Cloak existed for Android. The fingerprint reader isn't quite as good as that on the iPhone. As for updates, I'll get Marshmallow if and when Samsung and AT&T deign to release it (this, more than anything else, is why I recommend Nexus phones to those who want to go Android). And—¦well, that's about it. Everything else I use is either on Android, or there's something equivalent or better.

    This is where you're going to say, "Yeah, well, what about privacy? Huh? HUH? Answer me that, smart man." OK, I will. If that's your biggest concern, then you should probably go get an Ubuntu phone and really stick it to the Man. As for me, I'm just not that worried. I use cloud services, which means I need to trust Dropbox and Google and Microsoft and even Apple. I'm not aware of any cases where any of those companies have horribly misused anyone's data. If it's the government you're worried about (coughNSAcough), well, good luck with that. Also, and just for the record, I regard Google, Apple, and Microsoft as being approximately equal in terms of their claims to the moral high ground. They're all multinational, billion-dollar companies. I consider this a draw.

    And that's really the lesson here. From what I've seen in the last several days, the iPhone and Android have pulled even. Some things are better on the iPhone, some things are better on Android, and which way you fall is going to depend on your own personal preferences, biases, and needs.And that's as it should be. If you believe competition makes everything better, you want to have truly competitive mobile phone platforms. I think we're at that point now.

    That doesn't mean I'm switching completely. I still have a lovely new iPhone 6S that I'll be paying off over the next year and a half, so I'm still an iPhone user.

    But I'm also an Android user. And frankly, I wouldn't have it any other way.

    Thoughts on the iPad Pro Wed, 11 Nov 2015 20:12:00 +0000 Larry c229e627-b5f9-b8bb-e57c-c3a2b04e9578 A few observations about Apple's newest magical iThing:

    • I don't feel a need for one, but if it fills aneed for you, God bless you. Enjoy your new device.
    • There might be space in the market for somethingbetween the standard iPad and a laptop, but I haven't found it yet.
    • Whether or not you think the iPad Pro makessense, I have no doubt that Apple will sell a metric buttload of them.Investors, rejoice.
    • Yes, it makes me think of the Surface. TheSurface RT. Which everyone hated on, which failed miserably, and which isn't there anymore. Make of that what you will.
    • A screen that big and still only four icons perrow on the home screen in portrait orientation? Really? Really?
    The "Foundation" of my beliefs Mon, 09 Nov 2015 22:41:00 +0000 Larry 5ba1a7c8-9853-f81a-cb5e-3743c57206bd Today the App.net1 social network, of which I'm one of the remaining members, held a "Theme Monday" in which everyone was invited to change their avatar to a novel. For me, there could be only one choice.

    Foundation, by Isaac Asimov, came immediately to mind. I first read it when I was eleven years old, and it taught me a worldview that has stayed with me until the present day. It's probably the most formative book I ever read.

    For those who aren't familiar with it, Foundation takes place tens of thousands of years in the future, at a time when humanity has expanded to fill the galaxy. The Galactic Empire that they founded (not to be confused with the evil Galactic Empire of the Star Wars universe) is in its last throes, in a period of decay and disintegration. The hero of the book, Hari Seldon, is what is called a "psychohistorian" — a mathematician who has worked out that the actions of individuals may be unpredictable, but the actions of large groups of people are very predictable indeed. Given the vast population of an inhabited galaxy, considerable accuracy of prediction is possible.

    His calculations indicate that the Empire will soon fall, and that there will be an interregnum of 30,000 years until the conditions are right for the formation of a second empire. However, he works out that by isolating a small group of people out on the far edges of the galaxy, safely tucked away and dedicated to keeping the light of knowledge alive, the period of the dark ages may be reduced to a single millennium. He uses the pretext of establishing a foundation dedicated to creating an "Encyclopedia Galactica" to preserve the collected knowledge of humanity to convince the government of the Empire to give him a remote world on which to settle a chosen nucleus of people. The books that follow tell their story, as the rest of the galaxy falls into ignorance and superstition.

    Foundation taught me to believe in the power of knowledge and science to make the world a better place. That's something that I still believe in, and something that is all too often forgotten as the world lately seems to be devolving into a smaller, more insular, more superstitious place. While I still think that religion can be a positive force, all too often it's used as a pretext for hate, violence, and fear, or as a tool for controlling others. Indeed, in Foundation itself, there is a point at which an invented religion, which cloaks scientific technology in religious terminology, is used quite effectively by the people of the small, under-defended Foundation as a means of defense, and as a tool to maintain control of those on the worlds around them.

    Foundation also taught me that there are better ways of resolving issues than through violence. Possibly my favorite literary quote of all time comes from a character named Salvor Hardin, the mayor of Terminus (the world on which the Foundation is established): "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent." Time and again, the biggest and most important victories in the book are won not by those who merely have the guns, but by those whose knowledge and wisdom allows them to prevail. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Foundation taught me that when religion and science disagree—when the world isn't the way that you'd like it to be, when the thing you've always believed in says one thing and the evidence says another—that you have to be clear-eyed and acknowledge what really is. There's a point in the book at which a character emerges who was not predicted—who by his very nature could not have been predicted—in Seldon's plan, and by this point belief in the Plan has become a form of secular religion for the people of the Foundation. In order to effectively deal with him, the Foundation must deviate from the previously-sacred Plan. This, too, is an important lesson to learn. Maybe the most important.

    That's why, when I look around me today, and I see people retreating into religious certainties when the evidence says something quite different—whether that be about same-sex attraction, economic principles, or (ahem) what the Pyramids were used for in ancient Egypt, I am sad. And angry. And determined that I will not be part of it. Religion can be a valuable tool for good works, but when it's used to hurt people, or to promote a blind ignorance, its value has been lost, and we're better off without it.

    Asimov eventually tied in the Foundation trilogy (Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation) with his robot novels, creating a vast future history of the galaxy, writing further books in the series and in the process bringing his famous Three Laws of Robotics to Seldon's psychohistory. Above all, it was a hopeful and positive view of what humanity could become.

    I'm proud to say I believe in his vision. Hope for the future is not yet lost. But its realization will depend on the things we say, do, and act upon today and every day going forward, and on who we choose to stand with.

    I stand with Isaac.

    1. My blog software used to generate a link here, but as of this writing (April 2019) the site to which I referred no longer exists, and the owners have sold the domain to another company, which is using it for something completely different. Sic transit gloria mundi, I suppose.

    HalfDrive Fri, 06 Nov 2015 02:55:00 +0000 Larry a1b29afa-b25e-708e-0a3c-12af0d116ee6 By now, everyone's heard that Microsoft has reduced OneDrive storage allowances, eliminating unlimited storage in favor of a 1 TB limit for Office 365 subscribers, reducing the basic quota to 5 GB from 15 GB, and wiping out the 100 GB and 200 GB paid options. Apparently, they were surprised when people assumed that unlimited meant unlimited, calling it "abuse." Um, no. People using what they were told they could have is not abuse.That being said, they're mostly shooting themselves in the foot with this one, as most ordinary people probably don't use more than 1 TB anyway. Having that terabyte does, however, require that they be subscribers to Office 365. Most probably aren't; they do, however, need someplace to store the photos, music files, etc. that won't fit on the limited storage space on their Lumias, Surfaces, etc. You know, the kind of thing that Microsoft has been saying, "Don't worry, you've got 15 GB of free space on OneDrive for all that." Right. It's not clear how this latest move will help those customers, or how it enhances Microsoft's ability to be a "devices and services company," but I guess that's their business.

    What's my business is what I use. Coincident with this self-inflicted wound, I've been looking around for ways to save a few bucks. High at the top of my list of things to take a second look at is the $99 a year I spend on Office 365. Of course, that is also where my 1 TB on OneDrive comes from.

    Nevertheless, it's hard to ignore the following:

    • I'm an Amazon Prime member, so my 10 GB of photos gets stored for free on Amazon Cloud Drive
    • Amazon's been doing a great job hosting my music collection, for what it's worth
    • Dropbox charges the same $99 annually for 1 TB, and that doesn't give me Office, but storage is their freaking business, it works more smoothly, and they're unlikely to reduce quotas
    • Microsoft keeps f@#$%ing up what was a pretty compelling experience

    About that last item, here's what I mean:

    • Whatever its faults, Windows 8/8.1 was a fresh take on a touch interface, and on touch equipment it worked well. Windows 10 drags those same devices back to a desktop-oriented paradigm if they have a screen size of 8 inches or larger. WTF?
    • Windows Phone was a unique and new UI with some neat features like the People Hub, but they killed off the hub paradigm for Windows 10 phones, taking away a unique selling point.
    • Microsoft purchase of Nokia's phone business resulted in more than a year's worth of mediocre, low-end hardware when what they needed was a flagship.
    • Windows 10 brings with it the death of the placeholder functionality that was the single best thing about SkyDrive/OneDrive.

    The point here is that I've pretty much lost faith that Microsoft is actually going to get their s**t together and carry through with their promises.

    Another, equally important point is that I feel like a damn fool. I've been preaching the virtues of the reformed Microsoft to anyone who will listen for the last few years, and they've been systematically proving that my optimism was misplaced. Like most people, I don't appreciate that.

    So, this leaves me with a quandary. Do I keep throwing money at Microsoft for a service that is less than stellar, or do I bite the bullet and start migrating elsewhere?

    The first thing to consider is whether I'm getting value for money by paying Microsoft that $99 a year. I'm getting the latest Office, but I'm not sure that's such a great deal when I can get a fully licensed copy of Office 2016 Professional through my employer's Home Use Program for a measly ten bucks. True, that's a one-time deal, but how often do you upgrade your office suite? At work (a major multinational corporation whose name you would recognize), we're still using Office 2010 and it works just fine.

    So if we take Office out of the equation, we're looking at paying Dropbox the same amount of money for the same amount of storage space. You might say that it's a wash, but my experience is that Dropbox works more smoothly with fewer errors than OneDrive. Therefore, that's a win for Dropbox (Note: I'm not even going to consider Google Drive, because I don't trust Google with my stuff, and that's non-negotiable. I'm not considering iCloud because I'm a PC user at home, and Apple software on PCs is usually a bucket of hurt that I don't need).

    I also have Amazon Prime, so I can back up my photos to Amazon Cloud Drive for the low, low price of free. And, of course, I can also back them up to Dropbox for good measure. Do I trust Amazon? Mostly. They've been doing a good job with my music collection, and I've had backup files on Amazon S3 for years now, so I am confident they won't lose my stuff. That being said, I'm going to keep my e-books backed up to Dropbox, because I want those stored somewhere out of their reach for what should be obvious reasons.

    All of the foregoing is why I've spent the last couple of days upgrading to Dropbox Pro and moving my files from OneDrive (and moving my photos to Amazon). I will admit that I didn't see this coming. I really thought that I'd settled on a long-term storage solution. But, as Paul Thurrott said yesterday:

    It's time to start comparing cloud storage services again, to start considering backup strategies yet again—and seriously, thanks a lot, Microsoft, what I really want to do is constantly reevaluate stuff that should just sit there and f@#king work_.

    Yep.Also, as a side note, this marks the official end of my previous philosophy of picking a platform and using the native services. That was obviously the incorrect strategy. From now on, I'm choosing services carefully, opting for the single-focus alternatives where they exist. No more jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none services for me.

    I do occasionally learn, sometimes—as is the case now—the hard way.

    The Santa Ana winds are back Thu, 29 Oct 2015 17:15:00 +0000 Larry 710fe253-c4e8-5b3b-0c81-9f9fbcb52517 And perhaps unsurprisingly, Raymond Chandler, the undisputed dean of L.A. noir, wrote the best description ever:

    "There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Ana's that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge."—Raymond Chandler, Red Wind (opening paragraph)

    66 Years of the German Democratic Republic Tue, 06 Oct 2015 23:25:00 +0000 Larry 51c34bfe-ae23-36e3-f217-cc7d6aa6e24a October 3 is celebrated in reunified Germany as the Day of German Unity. Four days later, October 7 was once observed as the national day of the German Democratic Republic. Every once in a while, it's good to remind ourselves that history is neither predetermined nor inevitable, and that things could have gone very, very differently…

    ]]> Yes From San Ysidro to Roseburg Fri, 02 Oct 2015 02:56:00 +0000 Larry 81d86c7e-a3e1-8391-17d6-c227a843925d Today's news from Roseburg, Oregon was depressingly familiar. That community has joined an unenviable list of places like Columbine and Sandy Hook whose names are now synonyms for mass murder. I'm not going to write about that. I'm here to say a few words about how we've changed, and how we haven't.Back in 1984, in the San Diego suburb of San Ysidro, a gunman walked into the local McDonald's and killed 21 people in cold blood.At the time, I was an hourly manager at a McDonald's franchise about three hours north of there. You probably have no idea how hard the news hit the McDonald's corporate family. At the time, there had never been a killing in a McDonald's. We thought of ourselves as being islands of safety, a place for families to enjoy their Big Macs and French fries. That ended that July.

    What you probably also don't know is how McDonald's responded. After an initial, dazed attempt to reopen, people realized that what had happened was such a shock to the system that it was inconceivable to continue on as before. That store was closed, the building razed, and the land given to the community for a park. A replacement was built down the road.

    Here we are thirty-one years later, and in some ways not a thing has changed. There's been no significant gun legislation to curb the violence. We're told that we can't ban guns, that changing the law won't do any good, that people will find a way to get a gun no matter what. Funny how these same people usually make exactly the opposite argument about abortion and same-sex marriage.

    What has changed is our response as regards the places where these things happen. Nobody would dream of closing Umpqua Community College, or even the individual building. Nobody would dream of closing Columbine High School. Instead, we'll clean up the blood, scrub the sidewalks, replace the carpeting, and move on. Perhaps McDonald's overreacted in 1984, but it was heartfelt and clearly seemed at the time the right thing to do.

    But not now. Now, we've normalized the experience and come to think of it as commonplace. And we know it will happen again, soon, and the President will once again go on television and ask us to let our legislators know how we feel. Then, after a few hours or days, the media will move on to the latest Republican attempt to shut down the government or that day's quasi-fascist rabble-rousing from Donald Trump. And we will once again lament that sadly, in what was once the richest and freest country in the world, there is nothing that can be done.


    Random observations on returning to iPhone Mon, 28 Sep 2015 18:15:00 +0000 Larry f0c14d69-7cd2-8ab9-599e-f73ac7fea377 Random observations on returning to an iPhone after a few years with Windows Phone:

    • You don't realize how many apps you use until you set up a phone as a new device. So. Much. Downloading.
    • Cortana sounds more natural than Siri.
    • The iPhone 6/6S is a reasonable size that I can live with. I'd still rather have a Plus, but supply issues are what they are and I needed a phone.
    • Touch ID is pretty damn great.
    • Folders in iOS are a lot less elegant than in Windows Phone.
    • Launch Center Pro is a lot less intuitive than it should be, but I'm learning.
    • Thank the gods that I can finally use Swype on an iPhone, because the stock keyboard still sucks out loud.
    • Rearranging icons is a major pain in the ass. They need to fire the obsessive-compulsive icehole who's responsible for keeping it the same (i.e., not fixing it).
    • Battery life is probably better than my iPhone 4, but nowhere near as good as my Lumia 1520. Hard to beat a 3400 mAh battery. Good thing I have an iPad charger at my desk at work.
    • The App Store seems to be more of a mess than I remember it being.
    • The Lightning connector may be an expensive proprietary piece of kit, but at least you can't try to jam it in the wrong way, like one always does with micro USB connectors.
    • For the crowd: It's surprising to me which apps are still available, and which are broken by iOS 9 or otherwise no longer available. RIP Rivr and Felix.
    • I'm tempted to keep using the official Twitter app. At least it doesn't get rate-limited.

    More observations to come. And if you're an iPhone user who wants to recommend an app, please feel free to contact me on Twitter or

    Best birthday gift ever Mon, 28 Sep 2015 17:27:00 +0000 Larry 69ad4105-17c5-b720-a46a-372af54c43e5 My dad was an interesting guy. Trained as a tool and die maker in Chicago, by the time I came along in the mid-1960s he'd relocated to California, gotten married and was working in the southern California aerospace industry for what was then called North American Rockwell. He managed to get hired as a cost estimator, despite not having a college degree in anything related—he was just good at math and had astonishing attention to detail. This being the height of both the Cold War and the Space Race, much of his job was either defense- or space-related. If you could shoot it at the Soviets or aim it at the Moon, chances were that he or his department had touched it in some way, shape or form. Space in particular was a big deal back then—we were racing to be the first to the Moon, and the Apollo landings were events that nobody missed. Gathered around the television, listening to Walter Cronkite narrate the grainy black-and-white images on the screen, America was transfixed. My family was no different. I remember my dad being very pleased when he acquired a wristwatch that featured a command module and landing module as hour and minute hands, all orbiting a Moon at the center.

    So today, on what would have been his 88th birthday, when NASA announced the discovery of liquid water on Mars, I can't help but think that Dad would be thrilled. This is a major discovery on our path to the stars, and it all started over fifty years ago with our first halting steps in space, plotted by men in short-sleeved white shirts and narrow ties using mechanical calculators and slide rules.

    Happy birthday, Dad.

    Capitulation Fri, 25 Sep 2015 15:24:00 +0000 Larry 008a3355-1d12-305b-8385-3109b6deac2d This is what capitulation looks like.

    Yesterday, I pulled out the American Express card and paid off AT&T for what I owed on my Lumia 1520. Soon, I'll be buying an iPhone, probably a 6S Plus.

    Those who know me and who read my stuff know that I've been a proponent of Windows Phone for the last couple of years. I switched to Windows Phone from an iPhone 4 a few years back, in part because I wanted a bigger screen and in part because I was impressed with what Microsoft was trying to do in mobile with Windows Phone 8, and I liked the user interface. It was different and fresh, and combined some of the advantages of Android (live tiles, similar to widgets) and some of the advantages of iPhone (tight control of the UI and not allowing carriers to screw with it).

    Also, I was not a fan of the Apple way of doing things, which until recently has amounted to, We know better than you what you need. You'll do it our way, or you won't do it at all. There's still some of that around.

    So why am I going back?

    Basically, massive disappointment with a flagship phone that turned out to be of only middling quality, a shrinking app base on Windows Phone, increasing conviction that Microsoft is not in mobile for the long haul and is not serious about competing at the top end, and the frank recognition that Apple is better than just about anyone else at putting out quality hardware coupled with excellent customer service at the retail level. Having experienced the pain of dealing with a third-party extended warranty through AT&T, I'm never doing that again.

    I could go Android, but seriously? Android? With the fragmented OS, uncertain updates, and crappy OEM UI overlays? No, thanks.

    Also, Apple has loosened up a bit. I still hate the stock iPhone keyboard, but now third-party keyboards are allowed, which fixes a big problem for me. And they finally started offering phones with a decent-sized screen, which was a biggie (no pun intended).

    So, as soon as the crowds die down and stock levels recover, I'll be going down to the Apple Store to buy an iPhone on the iPhone Upgrade Program. An unlocked phone with AppleCare+? Yes, please!

    This is what capitulation looks like. And I, for one, welcome our new Cupertino overlords.

    Restating the obvious Thu, 03 Sep 2015 17:52:00 +0000 Larry 63e7fb62-f832-149e-f307-521da2406b20 The question was put to me today on Twitter: "Why can't we just get the gov't out of the marriage business altogether?"It's a valid question. There's no particular reason why the government should insert itself into what some see as a religious institution or sacrament, except for one thing: It's also a legal status. Marriage makes a difference in terms of tax liability, rights to inheritance, etc.

    Since we have a government which theoretically guarantees equal rights to all, this makes it a legal issue, and not just a religious or spiritual one.

    Some states may wish to explore calling everything a civil union and not a marriage, for both gay and straight couples. I suppose that's an option, though it's kind of silly. It's really just playing semantic games and slapping another label on marriage. It also seems a bit mean-spirited and, frankly, bigoted as hell.

    In another post, I said the following:

    If you want to know why some people hate Christians, it's because some Christians expect people who do not share their beliefs to abide by the teachings of their religion anyway, which is unreasonable. And often, they're kind of nasty and unfeeling about it, which is then reciprocated, which generates more antipathy, etc.

    I've said for some time now that religious groups opposed to same-sex marriage are doing it wrong. If they really care about religious liberty, that should have been their focus. They should have been working on legislation that guaranteed freedom of religion would not be impacted by any potential legalization of same-sex marriage. Instead, they've been focused on things like California's Proposition 8 and other things that amount to "You people stop that right now," and they've squandered an opportunity.

    And now that they've squandered that opportunity, they're playing the victim.

    Oh, please.

    I stand by these words. It's now the law of the land. Deal with it.

    Walls, refugees, and political perspectives Fri, 28 Aug 2015 17:21:00 +0000 Larry 70b7b301-ee74-cc9c-839e-0a7c51871103 There's an outstanding article by N. Richardson-Little on his blog discussing comparisons between refugees from East Germany and the refugees flooding into Europe and elsewhere today. Here's a sample (bolding is mine):

    The other main objection to the comparison between victims at the Berlin Wall and the mass death of migrants at the edges of Europe is that the East Germany deployed lethal force to prevent it's own people from escaping. According to this logic, however, the moral flaw with the Berlin Wall was that its guards were simply wearing the wrong uniforms.If the positions were reversed and the same Berlin Wall was manned by West German soldiers gunning down fleeing refugees from the East, would that have made it all okay? If they had simply arranged it so that hundreds drowned in the Spree and the Havel as they tried to cross the border, would that have been alright? When decrying the crimes of communism, the cold and brutal economic logic of the Berlin Wall is condemned as inhuman and freedom of movement and family reunification held up as the highest of human rights. In contemporary discussions of borders and refugees, the argument seems to rapidly flip on its head with the defense of borders for the sake of national interests held up to be the highest duty. How much difference is there between the freedom that Peter Fechter died seeking, and the freedom sought by thousands from Syria, Eritrea, and elsewhere in the Europe of today, and dying in the Mediterranean trying to reach it?

    Perspective, as always, is everything. Go read the whole thing.

    Still here Mon, 24 Aug 2015 08:42:00 +0000 Larry fe1e14e3-5865-c399-0520-9fd71f7771c9 Because Jason doesn't remind me when I owe him money, I didn't realize my account was in unpaid status. I've now fixed that.

    Yes, I am mostly posting at these days, but I'm keeping this blog alive too.1

    1. This was originally published at

    Peeking behind the curtain Mon, 17 Aug 2015 20:31:00 +0000 Larry d00eb5f0-391f-5ed1-c4c5-fb882b41bb09 I've been aware for some time now that my RSS reader/NewsBlur client appeared to reveal not only the text of blog posts, but also additions, corrections, and strikethroughs.

    I'm not sure how this happens. It doesn't show for all feeds, so I can only assume that it depends on which software was used to write the post. It's pretty egalitarian, affecting well-known journalists like Andy Ihnatko as well as ordinary folk.

    I have no grand conclusions to draw from this, but it's interesting to get a peek behind the curtain and see how the sausage is made.

    Image 1

    Image 2

    Random thoughts on the Greek crisis Mon, 06 Jul 2015 21:41:00 +0000 Larry 0176dd2b-f052-6545-8b78-b4c17acd85fb Some random thoughts on the story so far:

    • As far as I can tell, whatever the failures of the Greek government are, the euro itself is at the root of this crisis. The notion of a single supranational currency among nations with no common economic policy is destined to end in tears, I'm afraid.

    • That being said, it looks to me like the best long-term hope for Greece is to reintroduce the drachma and tell the ECB to go to hell.

    • The price of that may be exit from the EU as well. If that's the case, they're probably better off swallowing that bitter pill now instead of later.

    • If the Germans are so damned set on the Greeks repaying everything, they're welcome to come to Washington so we can discuss resumption of German payments on their outstanding World War I and World War II debt, which runs into the billions, which we so generously forgave. Maybe they could apply it to the outstanding Greek debt. We won't ask them to repay the Marshall Plan aid—yet.

    • It does look a great deal like the powers-that-be are trying to force a regime change to something friendlier to the global banks. May they not get their wish. Ever.

    • Let's hope the Greek coalition holds together so that internal divisions can't be exploited by outsiders.

    • After making comments over the weekend that could be viewed as encouraging a No vote in the referendum, the IMF has now told Greece, "Sorry, no more money for you!" May they rot in a very warm place.

    • It would be interesting (in the sense of "May you live in interesting times") if the Greek government were to come to an understanding with their fellow nominally Orthodox brethren, the Russians, on some kind of economic assistance. Putin would love access to a warm-water port west of the Bosporus, and would also love the opportunity to give the West a black eye.

    More thoughts to come as the situation develops.

    Viva il papa! Fri, 19 Jun 2015 01:51:00 +0000 Larry 0eb6df25-0536-224e-66b1-11021f9d8d3f I heard a piece on All Things Considered this afternoon as I was driving home, talking about the Pope's latest encyclical, and how some people are upset that the Holy Father is inserting himself into "the political debate over climate change." Oh, dear.

    First of all, it isn't a political debate. A political debate is whether to increase tuition at state universities. A political debate is whether to approve an omnibus spending bill that will conveniently build a dam in the House Majority Leader's home district. A political debate is whether we should station troops in Ukraine.

    Climate change is a scientific debate, and it's over. There are no reputable scientists who dispute it.

    Besides, the Pope isn't just a religious leader. He's also a political leader, the absolute monarch of the State of Vatican City. Outside the Vatican walls, European Union and Italian law may rule, but within, he could throw you in jail for the rest of your life without so much as a trial. And I'm sure he's sometimes tempted.

    All of which gives him just as much right to weigh in on political affairs as, say, Angela Merkel. But as I said, this isn't political.

    What's interesting to me is that the Pope, as the leader of the world's biggest church, frames it in moral terms. It's rather obvious, when you think about it; if this is God's creation, we should care for it, and ensure that those less fortunate than ourselves, as well as our own descendants, will have clean water to drink, clean air to breathe, and food to eat that has been grown in uncontaminated soil. Such things should not be the exclusive province of the wealthy and powerful.

    And that, more than anything, is probably at the root of the opposition to His Holiness. This is a Pope who decries the excesses of laissez-faire capitalism and who declined to occupy the papal apartments, preferring a simple room in a dormitory. He shames the rich, as is appropriate; Jesus Himself said it's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven. This is a man who probably deserves to wear those white vestments more than any of his recent predecessors.

    I'm not a Catholic, but I like this Pope. Viva il papa!

    Uncomfortable things that need to be said Fri, 19 Jun 2015 01:16:00 +0000 Larry 634c1b83-2b78-3108-3e5e-d9a4c9b7befc Random thoughts precipitated by last night's events:

    First off, the obvious: the murder of nine people in the AME church in Charleston, S.C. was an act of terrorism, committed by someone presumably Christian, who espoused extreme right-wing ideology. He is a terrorist.

    If you believe that a guy who was photographed wearing a jacket with the flags of apartheid-era South Africa and Rhodesia, and who had a car with a front plate that said "Confederate States of America," shot and killed nine people because they were Christians and not because they were black, as South Carolina's Senator Lindsey Graham does, you're either completely delusional, an utter moron, or a disingenuous jerk.Just in case that wasn't clear enough: This was a hate crime, a terrorist act, committed against African-Americans because they were African-American, and it took place in a state that still flies the Confederate battle flag over the state capitol.Speaking of which, if your "heritage" requires that you continue to honor the flag of a nation that illegally attempted to secede from the United States in order to preserve human slavery (and that's what it was—"states' rights" was a convenient fiction dreamed up to defend the indefensible), you should probably dig deeper into your ancestry to find something less completely offensive to common decency and simple human compassion. Sometimes, our ancestors were assholes.

    That flag, by the way, should be torn down wherever it flies and relegated to the museums where it belongs.

    If you think that this could have been prevented by even looser gun laws, you're batshit insane.

    The leadership of the National Rifle Association is morally culpable in every act of gun violence that is perpetrated on American soil.

    While we're at it, the United States is way overdue to take a second look at the Second Amendment. No other major industrialized first-world nation has anything like the level of gun violence that takes place here in the Land of the Allegedly Free.

    And most of that violence is carried out by right-wing American extremists, not by Muslims.

    None of those attacks by right-wing extremists were prevented by government surveillance of our phone calls and emails, either. Odd, that.

    And until we come to grips with all of the above, the president will continue to make sorrowful statements about the grievous loss of innocent lives, the pundits will bluster and bloviate, the politicans will dither and make pious statements about the sanctity of life and how unfortunate it is that nothing can really be done, and the list of victims will continue to grow until it is a stain on our nation that can no longer be ignored. And the rest of the world will know us for the incompetent and complacent fools that we are.

    Circling the wagons Thu, 11 Jun 2015 15:19:00 +0000 Larry 44878d0e-4930-4868-7d2d-96cde2503304 Someone I follow on Twitter pointed me towards an article by Rod Dreher. In it, he basically argues that the war against same-sex marriage has been lost, and that it's a waste of time fighting it. He also suggests something he calls the "Benedict option," which is essentially forming intentional communities separate from the world in which his preferred form of traditional Christianity can be practiced.

    There's a lot to deal with there, but I'll say this: I agree with him on the first two points, but he's lost me with the Benedict option.

    Yes, society is changing, and the ultimate acceptance of SSM is inevitable. You can see it happening now, and you can see it in the increasing "don't care" attitude of the upcoming generation. Give it fifty years, and people who oppose it are going to look a lot like people who oppose interracial marriage today. There's no going back. Sorry, but there isn't.

    Rod's solution is to retreat from the world into isolated communities—essentially circling the wagons, writ large. He undoubtedly sees it as a form of lay monasticism (hence the Benedict reference), but as someone who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, it makes me think of slightly less benevolent experiments in community life. Think Jonestown. Think Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh.

    I'm not suggesting that he's planning to lead people to their deaths, or that vast fleets of Rolls-Royces will be amassed, but I am suggesting that communities which operate in isolation (or apart from) from the outside world introduce a dangerous and unhealthy dynamic, one of thinking in terms of us vs. them. For monasticism to work, you have to have an abbot or abbess who holds unquestioned authority over every aspect of the lives of the monastics they supervise. That's been proven time and time again throughout the history, and even then, problems have arisen. It's hard to imagine laypeople ceding that kind of authority to a central leader—nor should they.

    Of course, someone is going to try it anyway—religious fanatics always do—and it will play out in a yet-to-be-determined fashion. That's their right.

    There's a larger problem here, though, and it's one that's way overdue for an honest discussion.

    That problem is the traditional teachings of the Church.

    Nobody is arguing that Christianity has never taught that homosexuality is wrong. Nobody is arguing that same-sex marriage has ever been accepted. Nobody is arguing the fact that the Bible says some fairly categorical things about homosexuality and homosexual behavior.

    What I'm going to argue, though, is that even for those of us who belong to traditional churches, it's time to take the blinders off. The best scholarship tells us that while it's fairly certain that Jesus existed, the four gospels were not written by the men whose names they bear, and they were written well after the events they claim to portray. In order to believe otherwise, you're required to "take it on faith," which is really just another way of saying "turn off your brain and accept this because we've believed it for centuries." And even then, assuming you accept that, you have to contend with the fact that the Bible we have today was compiled centuries after the life of Christ.

    So if you're going to claim that the Bible is the inerrant word of God, well, Lucy, you've got some esplaining to do.

    Prohibitions on homosexuality, of course, come from the Old Testament, and Christians are fairly selective when it comes to which parts of Old Testament law they want to uphold. I won't bore you with details, but suffice it to say that most Evangelicals, Catholics, and Orthodox don't worry too much about keeping kosher and mixing linen and cotton and wool.

    But even if you want to discount all that, you've got another problem, and that's science.

    I don't know about you, but I believe in science. It's provable. It's given us immunization and modern dentistry and space travel and the Xbox. It's a good thing.

    And what science tells us lately is that people are born homosexual. It's not a disease, it's not a sickness, it's not a choice. It's brain chemistry and more. It's an innate part of people, and it can't be changed. So, right there, you have a problem.

    If your God is a God who creates people a certain way and then condemns them for it, you can keep Him/Her/It. As a fairly wise Persian man once said, science without religion leads to materialism, but religion without science leads to superstition, and that kind of religion is something we're better off without.

    Airlines and competition Thu, 11 Jun 2015 14:08:00 +0000 Larry a999ae87-bb0c-def1-85cd-bc1e113b95d5 The Economist says that what the airline industry needs is more competition.In the last thirty years after airline deregulation in the United States, we've seen the demise, acquisition or merger of TWA, Braniff, PSA, Western Airlines, Continental, Eastern, Northwest, Pan Am, Piedmont, and more, and by the end of this year, we'll lose US Airways as well. If there's any more competition, we'll end up with one airline, which will be the end of all competition.

    Airline deregulation was a mistake.

    My mobile device State of the Union Wed, 10 Jun 2015 16:13:00 +0000 Larry eccf4ea4-517f-d333-2177-0606da292f0e Windows Phone 7 > Windows Phone 8 > Windows 10 Mobile). I'm not sure I trust that Microsoft is really committed in this segment, for obvious reasons. Android? Maybe. I like Android. My first smartphone was Android. I understand Android. I just hate the broken upgrade process and the stupid, annoying OEM crapware that almost all Android phones have. But when the time comes, if my budget dictates that price is an overwhelming consideration, I'll reluctantly make my peace with that. iPhone? Probably. It's not my favorite operating system, and it's not my favorite price tag. But when you get down to it, Apple has won the mobile race. I look at it this way: I'm a fan of sports cars, but I drive a four-door sedan with an automatic because it makes the most sense for my daily driving. I used to use a radar detector, but I gave up when I realized the war was over and the other side won. I spent most of my college years using OpenOffice, but Microsoft Office is the gold standard for business and it's what most everyone uses, so I use it now too, because I'm tired of the effort it takes to use something else. You gotta know when you're beaten, and you gotta know when to move on. I've liked Windows Phone, but the rest of the world doesn't care, and apparently neither does Microsoft. I've liked Android in the past, but every time I pick up the Samsung tablet at work, the garish UI overlay drives me nuts, and I still don't trust Google. That leaves Apple, who arguably invented the modern smartphone as we know it today, and who have consistently dominated the market. They deserve kudos for that. I'm still not buying an Apple Watch, though.]]> Monday was day 1 of Apple's WWDC, and I find myself thinking about mobile devices again.Ladies and gentlemen, the State of the Union for mobile is a veritable minefield of less-than-optimal choices. Let's look at the major players.

    Windows Phone/Mobile

    I've been a reasonably satisfied user of the mostly ignored Windows Phone operating system for a couple of years now, but I've been thinking that I'll probably switch to either iPhone or Android when my current phone (a Nokia Lumia 1520) is paid off, based on Microsoft's apparent total disinterest in serving the high end of the market, and the diminishing number of apps available for Windows Phone. Let me be clear—I like the OS, but I'm starting to feel the pinch of apps that either don't get updated or are pulled from the Marketplace. Microsoft's answer is to make it possible to run Android and iOS apps on Windows Phone, which unfortunately eliminates any incentive that might exist for building native Windows Phone apps.

    Then there's the decidedly iffy build quality of my Lumia 1520, a device which was supposed to be the flagship of the line. I expected more. I don't expect miracles, but when I'm getting bright spots on my screen just a few months after purchase, there's a problem.

    Then there's the fact that Windows Phone as we know it is on the way out. Come this fall, the unification of the phone OS with Windows 10 means that we're looking at a somewhat uncertain future. It could be great. It could be a disaster. Either way, it'll be different. And as for tablets, Microsoft's insistence that 8-inch tablets will receive the full, desktop-oriented version of Windows 10 makes NO F*****G SENSE AT ALL. Dear Satya: That ain't what I want on my 8-inch Asus tablet.

    The main argument for staying with Windows Phone is that I like and use Microsoft services, and they're well-integrated into the Windows Phone OS. But Microsoft, in its infinite wisdom, has made those services also available through well-designed apps on iOS and Android, so that pretty much wipes out that advantage.

    So I'm looking at Android and iPhone, and the jury is still out on which way I'll go.


    Android is famously "open," but that doesn't mean much to the average user. If you want stock Android, there's exactly one choice: the Nexus 6\. Take it or leave it.Every other Android phone on the market will have additional OEM cruft added to the OS: UI overlays, non-removable apps, etc. Sure, you can root the device and flash a new Cyanogen ROM, but that's way more geekiness than I want to get involved with on a device I rely on every day. Plus, why should I have to do that, anyway? Then there's the matter of updates being controlled by the OEM and the wireless provider. I've been bitten by that before, with my first smartphone, the Droid X; I don't want to be in that situation again.

    The upside to Android, as with Windows Phone, is choice and price. There are a lot of devices out there, many of them quite affordable. You can get an unlocked device for less than $200 in many cases, which is a fantastic deal. And if you're willing to take a shot at a new OEM with uncertain support, you can get the OnePlus One, which is a flagship device, runs the Cyanogen variant and is available for only $299 unlocked for the 64 GB version. Sadly, the Nexus 6 is not the screaming deal that the Nexus 5 was (or the OnePlus One is), and it will set you back about as much as a comparable iPhone.


    As for the iPhone, it's still the gold standard for many people, for obvious reasons. The build quality tends to be superb, and iOS has the most apps available. If you have a problem, the solution is as close as the Genius Bar of your nearest Apple Store. Updates come straight from Apple with no carrier interference, and the customer service experience for your device is as good as it gets, especially if you pop for AppleCare. There's also a wide variety of cases and accessories available for whichever iPhone you buy. Bottom line: It's the Toyota Camry of smartphones (or, given the price tag, maybe the Lexus ES300).

    The trade-off for these advantages is threefold:

    1. First, you'll do things Apple's way, or you won't do them at all (and I don't particularly _like_ doing things Apple's way). While the iPhone is a bit more open than previously—you can finally replace the godawful iPhone keyboard with a third-party option—it's still very locked down compared to the competition.
    2. Second, most all of the Apple apps will lock you into their walled garden—iMessages, Pages, etc. It's like a pitcher plant—easy to get into, but hard to get out of. And from comments I'm seeing online from dedicated Apple fans, Apple's software quality ain't what it used to be, plus their UI design is stagnant—the upcoming iOS 9 isn't all that different from the first iPhone OS (which they claimed was OS X—remember?), except for being flatter. And don't even get me started on the mess that is iCloud. Or Apple Maps. Fortunately, as stated previously, you can use Microsoft apps (or Google apps) instead.
    3. Third, you'll pay the famous Apple Tax. Want a 64 GB iPhone 6 Plus with a case and Apple Care? That'll be about $1000, please. You can get three OnePlus Ones for that.

    (Before anyone gets started, yes, that's the price of the unlocked SIM-free version. Yes, if you're American or Canadian, they have payment plans and contract prices with carriers. Do the math, and once you factor in the hidden costs, you eventually end up paying about the same either way over a 2-year period.)


    So there you have it. Windows Phone was a breath of fresh air, but it's gone nowhere fast and faces an uncertain future. Android has many things to like, but Google has never been able to prevent the OEMs from screwing it up. And Apple makes great devices, but they seem to be a bit sloppier with their software quality than they used to be, and it's not like they're innovating with their UI any more, either. And God knows their web services are a mess.

    So where will I end up?

    Good question. Not Windows Phone, probably—the cost/benefit ratio doesn't make sense to me anymore. Sad, but that's reality. Windows 10 will also mark the third time in the past ten years that Microsoft has introduced a completely new and incompatible operating system (Windows Mobile > Windows Phone 7 > Windows Phone 8 > Windows 10 Mobile). I'm not sure I trust that Microsoft is really committed in this segment, for obvious reasons.

    Android? Maybe. I like Android. My first smartphone was Android. I understand Android. I just hate the broken upgrade process and the stupid, annoying OEM crapware that almost all Android phones have. But when the time comes, if my budget dictates that price is an overwhelming consideration, I'll reluctantly make my peace with that.

    iPhone? Probably. It's not my favorite operating system, and it's not my favorite price tag. But when you get down to it, Apple has won the mobile race.

    I look at it this way: I'm a fan of sports cars, but I drive a four-door sedan with an automatic because it makes the most sense for my daily driving. I used to use a radar detector, but I gave up when I realized the war was over and the other side won. I spent most of my college years using OpenOffice, but Microsoft Office is the gold standard for business and it's what most everyone uses, so I use it now too, because I'm tired of the effort it takes to use something else.

    You gotta know when you're beaten, and you gotta know when to move on. I've liked Windows Phone, but the rest of the world doesn't care, and apparently neither does Microsoft. I've liked Android in the past, but every time I pick up the Samsung tablet at work, the garish UI overlay drives me nuts, and I still don't trust Google. That leaves Apple, who arguably invented the modern smartphone as we know it today, and who have consistently dominated the market. They deserve kudos for that.

    I'm still not buying an Apple Watch, though.

    Truth Thu, 28 May 2015 18:42:00 +0000 Larry 59d42c50-4c10-b1f7-1478-f52bf06c86da I was reminded today of something I once wrote in another place, no longer online, several years ago on the subject of using, or trying to use, Linux. To this day, I believe it may be the truest thing I ever wrote.

    It's kind of like driving an Alfa Romeo with twin carburetors: you can tinker with it to your heart's content, it makes you feel good and look cool, and you have the satisfaction of knowing you've gone your own way, but you better know how to get under the hood and fix it, because it's likely to give you the opportunity to do so at the most inopportune moments. Sometimes, you just want to get to work, and at those times you'll be a whole lot happier in a Nissan 350Z, particularly if it's 34 degrees F and it's raining and you're running late. God bless the man who invented fuel injection.

    Fantasy garage Thu, 28 May 2015 15:37:00 +0000 Larry 28821d41-7b43-41ee-1b7d-9bb78a47b58e For some time now, I've been compiling a list of the cars I'd want to own if I ever became wealthy—really, really wealthy, Bill Gates-style wealthy. The result looks a lot like something Jay Leno would come up with. Yes, it's ridiculously long, but what is a fantasy garage for if not to be ridiculous?

    There's no common thread, really, except that they're all cars that evoke a memory, represent a time and place, or that I just plain like. There's everything here from capitalist Rolls-Royces to the fruits of the Soviet auto industry.

    Anyway, here's the list as of today:

    • Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint Speciale
    • Alpine A110
    • Amphicar
    • Auto Union 1000S
    • AZLK Moskvich 408
    • Barkas B1000
    • BMW Isetta 600
    • BMW 700 Coupe
    • Citroën CX
    • Citroën DS21 sedan
    • Citroën DS21 Decapotable (Henri Chapron)
    • Citroën Dyane
    • Citroën GS Berline
    • Citroën 2CV
    • Citroën Ami 6 Break
    • Citroën SM
    • DAF Daffodil
    • Datsun SPL311
    • DKW 3=6
    • Facel Vega Facellia
    • Fiat 600 Jolly
    • Fiat 850 Spider
    • Ford Falcon Sprint convertible (North America, 1963 1/2)
    • Ford Frontenac
    • Ford Galaxie 500 Spring Special (1966)
    • Ford Thunderbird Sports Roadster (1962)
    • GAZ M21 Volga
    • GAZ-24 Volga
    • GAZ-13 Chaika
    • Glas GT
    • Hillman Imp
    • Hindustan Ambassador
    • Holden 48-215
    • Honda S600 Convertible
    • Hongqi CA770
    • IFA F9
    • IKA Torino
    • Jaguar Mark II
    • Lamborghini 350GT
    • Lancia Fulvia Zagato
    • Lincoln Continental Mark II
    • Maserati Mistral coupé
    • Matra-Simca Bagheera
    • Mazda Cosmo (1st generation)
    • Mazda RX-7 (Series 1)
    • Messerschmitt KR200
    • MG 1100
    • Morgan 3-wheeler
    • Morgan 4/4
    • Nissan PAO
    • NSU Ro80
    • NSU Spider
    • Oldsmobile Toronado (1966)
    • Panhard 24
    • Peugeot 504 wagon
    • Plymouth Fury III wagon (1967)
    • Renault 4CV
    • Renault 4
    • Renault 5
    • Renault 12
    • Renault 16
    • Renault Avantime
    • Renault Fuego
    • Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud III
    • Rover P5 "Coupe"
    • Saab 96 V-4
    • Saab 99EMS
    • Saab 900 Turbo
    • Saab Sonett
    • Saab Sonett III
    • Sachsenring P240
    • Skoda 1000MBX coupe
    • Skoda 110R
    • Skoda 120GLS
    • Steyr-Puch 500
    • Studebaker Avanti
    • Studebaker Starliner coupe
    • Tatra 603
    • Toyota 2000GT
    • Toyota Century (1st generation)
    • Toyota FJ40
    • Trabant 601
    • Volkswagen 1200 "Beetle"
    • Volkswagen Type 3 Karmann-Ghia
    • Volvo PV544
    • Wartburg 311
    • Wartburg 353
    • Willys Interlagos
    • ZAZ 965A "Zaporozhets"
    • ZIL-114
    • ZIS-110

    Last edited 2015-08-21

    Grava anonco Sun, 24 May 2015 02:56:00 +0000 Larry 5ca603b1-df3a-6e3a-69fb-c3bfc57ddea5 Mi studas Esperanton denove. Vi estis avertita. :-)

    The Lumia 1520, Windows Phone, and me Fri, 01 May 2015 20:44:00 +0000 Larry aa254d69-0f45-4802-4fd3-c9ce36d37f98 Sit down, folks—this one is long.

    This is a tough blog post to write. I've been thinking about writing it for some time now; the impetus for finally getting started on it was a question I was asked on Twitter about how I like my phone. The quick, easy, flip answer is that I like it; a more complete and considered evaluation must be significantly more nuanced.Let's start with the basics. I've been a Windows Phone user since January of 2013, when I replaced an ailing iPhone 4 with the HTC 8X, intrigued by the operating system and attracted to its Mondrianesque UI. I've been very happy with the operating system, and it does what I want it to in a way that I find pleasing. The 8X was a nice phone, which unfortunately didn't age well, eventually having severe connectivity issues. Based on my experience with the low-end Lumia 520 that I picked up to test the AT&T network in my area, I decided my next phone would be a Lumia, as there are certain Lumia-specific apps which aren't available on other phones, and which enhance the experience significantly. When the time came to replace the 8X last October, I decided to switch from Verizon to AT&T specifically so I could get the Lumia 1520\.

    So last October, I found myself in an AT&T store, selecting a bright green 1520\. It's a big phone, bigger by a fraction than the iPhone 6 Plus. It's big, but not too big, at least for me. It fits comfortably in my back pocket (just have to remember not to sit on it) and in the cargo pockets of my cargo shorts. The display is fantastic, very readable even in direct sunlight, and the rear camera is a 20-megapixel delight. Like all Windows Phones, it syncs up nicely with my Microsoft account, backs up to OneDrive (love that), and even syncs text messages between phones, if you happen to have more than one Windows Phone. I've never been bothered by the supposed "app gap" on Windows Phone, and have had no problem finding apps for what I want to do.

    However, it hasn't been all roses.

    Hardware quality has been disappointing. One of the things that annoyed me about my HTC 8X was that it developed bright spots on the display over time. Nothing that rendered it unusable, but annoying nevertheless. Much to my chagrin, my 1520 has begun developing these same bright spots. With a year left to go on payments for the phone (I opted for an AT&T Next plan), I'm going to be looking at them for quite a while, and this does not make me happy. I suppose I could see about a warranty return, but as AT&T no longer stocks or sells the 1520, I wouldn't be able to get an exact replacement. God only knows what they'd stick me with.

    Also, a couple of months ago, I had an issue where the 3G/4G/LTE connectivity stopped working, along with the Wi-Fi connectivity. Figuring it had to be the phone, I initiated a warranty replacement request. The issue was resolved after about a week, with AT&T claiming the problem was on their end and therefore denying me a warranty replacement. I find that difficult to believe, since Wi-Fi connectivity was also affected, but at least it's working again.

    Finally, in the last few days, I've been seeing some decreased battery life—battery drain has been particularly heavy for some unknown reason. I'm deleting unused apps and recently installed ones in an effort to find the culprit, but efforts are ongoing. Update 2015-05-04: I've solved the battery drain issue by unpinning Cortana from the Start screen, turning Cortana off and then on again, and not repinning it.

    Despite all that, on balance, I do like the phone. I've had smartphones from Apple, Motorola, HTC, and now Nokia, and each one of them had things that were sub-optimal. It's no worse than any of the others, and markedly better in some ways, at least for how I use my phone.

    And then there's Windows Phone itself.

    I'm a fan. I've been a fan from Day One. But Microsoft can't seem to make up its mind what to do with phones.

    Think about it: There was a clean break from Windows Mobile to Windows Phone 7.

    And then there was another clean break from Windows Phone 7 to Windows Phone 8 (sorry, Lumia 900 owners, no Windows Phone 8 for you).

    They did manage an upgrade from 8 to 8.1, but when Windows 10 is released, it will theoretically be the end of Windows Phone per se, as Windows phones (note the lower-case "p") will be running garden-variety Windows 10\.

    And then there's this.

    Here's the TL;DR on that article: Microsoft is positively _hemorrhaging_ money on Windows Phone. They've been losing money on every single phone they sell. The only real increases in their market penetration have been with low-end smartphones. This isn't speculation; it's in their SEC filing. Please remember that while Microsoft has a stake in remaining in the mobile segment, it's also a public company, and shareholders don't sit still for losses forever—and the coming write-off is likely to be in the billions.

    Meanwhile, Microsoft continues to develop apps for iOS and Android, and they appear to be making a particular effort in the Android sphere with a deal to include Microsoft apps on the Cyanogen variant. And they've just announced that they'll enable Android and iOS apps to run on Windows 10, which calls into question exactly why anyone should bother writing a Windows-specific phone app given the single-digit market share of the platform. It seems fairly apparent to me that Microsoft itself has a Plan B in mobile, and it's called Android.

    So, given all that, the question for me at this point is not whether I like my Lumia 1520. The question is what kind of phone I'll replace it with next summer, and right now, I'm formulating my own Plan B, because I'm not at all optimistic there will be a Windows phone flagship worth the name by then. They appear to be concentrating on the low end of the market, and ignoring the higher end, which is the end most of us geeks are interested in.

    Don't get me wrong. I like Windows Phone a lot, and it's still my preferred phone OS. But I'd be a damn fool if I wasn't looking at the big picture, and right now, the big picture isn't bright.

    So, a mixed review. A great operating system, which has been singularly unsuccessful in achieving significant market penetration, and which its own maker may not be committed to in the long run. A great phone, which is let down by some niggling quality issues.

    And my recommendation? Well, it's no longer for sale here, so it's a bit of a moot point. To the larger question of whether you should buy a Windows Phone, I'd say if you're interested in the platform you should look hard at the better-quality mid-range phones, like the upcoming Lumia 640 XL and the currently-available BLU WinHD LTE (which, at $199 unlocked, is a hell of a deal). I'd be looking particularly hard at that BLU, since it'll run just fine on Cricket or AT&T GoPhone, and thereby save you a bucket of money.

    Sadly, if you want a flagship phone, your money is probably better spent elsewhere, unless Microsoft pulls the damnedest rabbit out of its hat that you ever saw. My own Plan B has me looking at the Nexus 6 and the OnePlus One, with the iPhone 6 Plus as a distant runner-up.

    I'd like to say I won't resort to Plan B. I'd like to say I'll stick with Windows Phone no matter what, but that would be false bravado. Sometimes you have to swallow hard, look at the world the way it really is, and deal with what you see.

    And that, dear friends, is the Truth.

    Hyperbolic silliness Wed, 29 Apr 2015 15:37:00 +0000 Larry 0132949a-fc0b-089b-8292-e110d2c77de2 I recently saw a link posted on to an article entitled, "Dear Churches in America: Prepare to Be Treated Like 1st Century Christians in Rome."

    Sorry, you've lost me with the title.

    Also, whoever wrote that title is an ignorant fool.

    The impetus for this article appears to be yesterday's arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court regarding same-sex marriage. Apparently, in the eyes of the author—or the eyes of the person who wrote the title—permitting same-sex marriage is equivalent to throwing Christians to the lions.

    They're wrong.

    Permitting people who don't share your beliefs to marry is not the equivalent of being persecuted, torn limb from limb, or devoured by wild beasts.

    In fairness, the article doesn't go on to claim that it is, which means that the title is just clickbait, which is despicable all by itself. But it does go on to portray Christians as victims here, which is silly.

    Here's the thing: We live in a secular republic. Its laws will not, should not, always fall in line with what any particular church or religion teaches.

    That's important, so I'll say it again: We live in a secular republic. Its laws will not, should not, always fall in line with what any particular church or religion teaches.

    Got that?

    Anyone who truly cares about religious liberty should welcome that.

    We're not a Christian nation, no matter how much some people would like to think we are. We're a nation of Christians, and Jews, and Muslims, and Sikhs, and Buddhists, and atheists, and Wiccans, and every other possible form of religion or non-religion.

    Also: Assuming that the Supreme Court acts to legalize SSM in all fifty states, this does not constitute oppression of Christians. The Catholic Church will not be forced to conduct same-sex marriages. The Baptists won't have to invite the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence to the church picnic. The LDS Church won't have to let the San Francisco Gay Men's Choir perform at the Tabernacle in Temple Square.

    It just means that people who love each other will be able to enjoy the benefits of marriage, regardless of whom they love.

    It's been said that never in human history has it been accepted, and that's probably true. But then again, slavery was accepted for most of human history, as well as subjugation of women, and now they're not. In South Africa, the Reformed Church supported apartheid, and now they don't. Things change.

    (So, yes: I support the legalization in the U.S. of same-sex marriage. And I'm an Orthodox Christian. And if my bishop wants to excommunicate me for that, so be it.)

    If you want to know why some people hate Christians, it's because some Christians expect people who do not share their beliefs to abide by the teachings of their religion anyway, which is unreasonable. And often, they're kind of nasty and unfeeling about it, which is then reciprocated, which generates more antipathy, etc.

    I've said for some time now that religious groups opposed to same-sex marriage are doing it wrong. If they really care about religious liberty, that should have been their focus. They should have been working on legislation that guaranteed freedom of religion would not be impacted by any potential legalization of same-sex marriage. Instead, they've been focused on things like California's Proposition 8 and other things that amount to "You people stop that right now," and they've squandered an opportunity.

    And now that they've squandered that opportunity, they're playing the victim.

    Oh, please.

    Soylent update Wed, 29 Apr 2015 14:42:00 +0000 Larry f19833b0-c7dc-1a96-ee9d-221801147d4f Since I said I'd keep you posted, I suppose I should post something. After three days, I abandoned my Soylent experiment. Probably as a consequence of the odd texture and the taste, I was having my Soylent lunch at the office when I had a sudden epiphany that "I just can't do this." I haven't had any since.I also had, um, bowel issues with it. My body is a lot happier with "normal" food in that department.

    Anyway, I may yet try it again when they release version 1.5, and I still have four packets of Soylent 1.4 at home for emergencies (e.g., earthquakes). But for now, I'm done.

    The inevitable Hillary Thu, 16 Apr 2015 02:53:00 +0000 Larry cd62269a-3ca7-ff96-e923-dccc4d76d9dd As Hillary Clinton begins her campaign, I find myself wondering if anyone really thinks she's not going to be the eventual Democratic nominee.

    And as the Republican field begins to fill with Tea Party favorites like Rand Paul and Marco Rubio, I find myself wondering if anyone really thinks the GOP will have a snowball's chance in hell of winning the general election.

    And inasmuch as Hillary is unlikely to do anything that will upset Wall Street or the defense establishment in any meaningful way, I find myself wondering why I should give a damn about this election.

    It's not people;s-not-people Tue, 31 Mar 2015 21:35:00 +0000 Larry ef272a5c-0c29-1803-7bbf-727f63ce4f77 Pitcher of Soylent

    After thinking about it for a couple of weeks, I've ordered a one-time, one-week supply of Soylent, the scientifically-designed food replacement that has been all the rage among a certain subset of geeks. Yes, the name is unfortunate to some (although I like the inherent humor of it), but the science behind it seems to be sound, and I even know of a former chef who is using it as 70-80% of his daily food intake. Being of the generation that grew up with Tang and Space Food Sticks, I'm pro-technology and intrigued by the idea of a nutritionally complete meal replacement.

    Yes, nutritionally complete. Even if it wasn't 100% complete, it would be an improvement over the usual crap I eat every day. I'm quite aware that my eating habits aren't ideal, and my doctor would be thrilled if I lost a bunch of weight. With my hours, it's difficult for me to find the time to prepare a healthy breakfast and a lunch to take to work, and meal preparation is a chore in general. Soylent looks like an attractive alternative. Might even help me drop a few pounds.

    In any case, I'm only committed to one week. We'll see how it goes. They say it could take four weeks for delivery to new customers, but posts on the Soylent forums seem to indicate that people are receiving their orders within days.

    I'll keep you posted.