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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in scrottie's LiveJournal:

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Thursday, February 4th, 2016
9:28 pm
People's Cafe: Berkeley students are a lot nicer to work around than ASU students, though we had one sorority girl on a date. Mediterranean Plate is still good. They're part way through decorating, or de-decorating, and it's intimidating to look at. I have a strong mental association of grubby de-decorated places just brimming with pesticide.

BART: Got stuck. The machine in the station on the way out refused to let me add money, stating that I had enough for my fare. That's a bizarre and arbitrary rule. On the way back, none of machines in the inner area with the trains took plastic *or* a bill smaller than a five. I had a $20, but they refused it. Talking to the agent in the booth (which I happened to notice was running xdaliclock, which is a pretty good indication that she's got X Windows going there -- in jwz's own hometown, too), I asked her if I should jump the gate and use the credit card, or something else. She said "yeah, go ahead". Sticking my ticket into the machine, it got angry and spat it back out again, admonishing me not to skip out on fares by jumping fences (I had permission! I had a reason!). I bought another ticket, jumped the gate back in, and attempted to exit by feeding it some combination of the old and new tickets. That also resulted in an error. I was imagining that someone who was trying to figure out how all of this would work would have come up for some method for avoiding this, but if so, I don't know what it is. It seems like quite the opposite in that they threw up arbitrary barriers that create the situation. Not as bad as at a conference in Chicago where one of my lunch mates got trapped in a metal cage designed to control access to the L and there was no attendant anywhere around -- we wound up having a pretty short lunch by the time we got her out. So now I'm a BART refuge.

Windows: -47715956 [main] bash 3248 fork: child -1 - forked process 4728 died unexpectedly, retry 0, exit code 0xC0000142, errno 11
bash: fork: retry: Resource temporarily unavailable

OpenBSD: Trying to load videos on the FirefoxOS phone, both FirefoxOS and OpenBSD hard-locked. Thankfully, the SD card works without problems, so I was able to pull the SD card out of the FirefoxOS phone and load stuff directly to external memory. I'm pretty damn sure that that's a reliable crasher though. If I got a crash dump instead of a hard lock, I might be able to fix it.
Wednesday, January 27th, 2016
10:34 pm
Well, my seatmate is a gradeschool aged Hispanic kid who was completely sprawled out asleep at 10pm-ish when we boarded. Something tells me that if I go back to my seat at 3am, he'll be sprawled out, and who can blame him. I do it when I don't have a seatmate and its nice. I think LAX is the last stop for the train at 9am (that'll be an early morning for me) so I should be able to faceplant in the lounge car and not miss my transfer.

The lady working the Amtrak station in Flagstaff was quite busy showing photos of her newest (10th) dog to an Amish lady when I arrived. After I checked the duffle, I walked across the street to Flagstaff Brewing Company and had their porter, which was good. Highly enjoyable. Decor included a hoisted jolly roger, a rowing vessel, and a fantastic Scotch collection. I stole away 30 minutes and already ordered a beer when I noticed the line of excellent scotches in front of me, so I left it at the beer, but maybe if I do this again, I can show up early and laptop camp and sip moderately priced scotch. Beats the heck out of showing up at 4am for a 5am train that shows up at 9am.

It was strange getting on the wrong way. The train came in the wrong way. The coach cars were in the wrong direction. The train left the wrong direction. I've been doing a lot of going east.

I'm tired and should have been napping on Greyhound. Very approximately, my sleep has been split between 5-6 hours from about 6am until noon or so, then an evening nap when B gets home and B&Z are excited. So I missed part of sleep routine. If data fails me, I shall qwertyface and sleep.
Thursday, January 21st, 2016
5:08 pm
Trying to make things work -- even simple things -- is a mental trick I use while trying to summon courage to attempt to deal with hard things. It's a sort of testing of the waters. Often this backfires, leaving my mind reeling. Of course, sometimes these failures go in streaks.

Ordered something from China; it was radically not as described; seller is reluctant to issue a refund (aliexpress.com is kind of a market place) so to settle the matter, I printed postage on usps.com click-n-ship. Taking the parcel to the post office, I was told the label is incorrect and they can't accept it. The USPS line reported has a "longer than one hour" wait (so it wasn't just the holidays). I used the email contact form to inquire if the missing "postage page" wording actually was a problem, then went to desposit the paycheck at the bank (which did make it here) and reset my PIN (which I may or may not have ever set before but didn't make a note of it), then decided to pop in at the other post office and ask them. They took it and said that it is a malfunction, but they've seen a few like that, and it won't be a problem and took it. When I got home, I had an email reply from USPS saying that he had to ask his supervisor, and he was told that no, the post office cannot take that, so they issued a refund on my postage -- after the post office took it. Ooops. So likely I will have more work to deal with here, and likely won't ever be refunded the bogus merch in the first place.

On the other hand, my old helmet Christmas lights, which have been resoldered a number of times now, work, given a new NiMH battery.

But on the other hand, OpenBSD had a font freakout again, but without being aggravated by USB. But restarting X seems to have fixed it for the time being. The intersection between OS disk image corruption, USB, and the font freakout is unclear.

I finally sewed my two "good" pair of pants the other day, including the button I popped.

Stupid stuff is pushing back more important stuff. But I swear, a lot of the stupid stuff I attempt, like fixing the Christmas lights, is just to convince myself that I'm not defeated and I have some power over the domain of things. Hacking on code is my preferred way to do this. That's been way too long. I think I'm far off course with respect to that.
Friday, January 15th, 2016
11:54 am
I'm cursed with technology. Why am I in this field?

OpenBSD crashed again yesterday, right as I was grabbing the computer to sit down with Bill and try to get him started on data analysis, which he wanted to get involved in. Cliff and I had hatched a plan to start migrating analysis code to R from the giant and mutating xlsx document and I wanted to bring Bill into the fold there, especially since I had already started down that path.

After waiting for disk checks to finish (OpenBSD doesn't journal its ffs filesystems, so file checks take a long time... maybe I should have put the /home partition at least on ext3), we got derailed a bit when Bill couldn't run the code that made the plots I kicked out late the other night for the report. Apparently R libraries were installed for a future version of R than Rstudio was running even though he swore he did install.packages() in the command prompt in R, and then an attempt to update Rstudio wanted a reboot because files were locked. Could be related to too casually and frequently installing updates. Often the dust needs to settle, with respect to what-depends-on-what and not having files locked (in Windows). So we talked about intersections, which turned out to be more educational for me than for Bill. Oops. Glad he's on the ball there, but still, dammit, but stuff in Basecamp so that people-know-that-you-know. Emailing files around is no way to conduct IT, son.

Then I spent a good part of the evening uncompressing the install tarballs, and inspecting the install tarballs, and then figuring out I needed to do tar -xzvjf, not just -xzvf, to get permissions right on the tarballs (-j tells tar to set the setuid bit on files when its set in the tarball, which is something that Unix operating systems need) after xlock password authentication broke. The previous re-laying of install images fixed fonts but I hoped that by dumping essentially all of the install images down, maybe the crashing would subside. I have to not plug in USB storage to test whether that's to blame. Ultimately, I may wind up trying FreeBSD. Then there was some time staring into the abyss of Cliff's 35 sheet xlsx before tidying up docs for the published bike count data, pulling the 2015 data out of Cliff's sheet (cleaner than what I sent to him to stick in there), adding that to the github project, and publishing it with minimal fanfare. When the report goes out, hopefully the raw data will be mentioned and linked.

What I really wanted to show Bill was exactly what I was plotting (er, planning) with pulling analyses out of that and rewriting them in R, including the plan Cliff wrote up previously.

So, it seems like IT garbage (cell, OpenBSD) and bike count ate this week.
Thursday, January 14th, 2016
1:04 pm
More Boring Crap
I really don't like cell stuff, so I resent all of this. Perhaps other people thoroughly enjoy AT&T and Verizon and T-Mobile, and fall over themselves to throw money at them.

My strategy for dealing with computers and Internet has developed into extreme redundancy. Many conferences, my power adapter has chosen to fail then. Systems get hosed and need to be rescued. Hardware fails in interesting ways. Networks go out.

LycaMobile resells T-Mobile. Trying to use T-Mobile prepaid Internet in Tempe as a backup for Cox's numerous and frequent outages, I found half of the time that T-Mobile was also out. Two connections is not enough. (I really can't say enough bad things about T-Mobile... they're cheap. That's really it.)

I might be better off just paying Verizon a lot of money for something reliable, but I'm avoid them, and I'm cynical. My plan with Sprint was originally to do the $15 1gb plan and upgrade it if I was using and if things were working.

Sprint not really cancelling me means that the device is still activated even though it's on vacation hold with supposedly a disconnected scheduled for the end of the billing cycling, so I was unable to re-active the MiFi like thing elsewhere, on a Sprint reseller. But I'm thinking that I should also get it on a cheap Spring reseller plan. ringplus.net has a 2gb data plan for $20/month. textnow.com has a $19 "unlimited" 2G plan with a published cap of 170 megs per day for 3 days running or 1gb in 5 days (good of them to be honest about this). I theoretically already have an unlimited 2G plan, so maybe a limited 4G plan makes sense.

This is in addition to FreedomPop, which I did use during one implosion on Amtrak, by firing up both computers and booting one into Linux via a USB stick so I could tether from Linux using a USB based tethering hack, creating a mess of hardware on the table. FreedomPop sells tethering, but I screwed up and got a phone that has WiFi tethering disabled. They have a plan where you can buy tethering access, and I bought and cancelled that, thinking that it would change this setting in the phone, but that hadn't occurred to them. I'm paying $0 for it, and the Callcentric VoIP over the 500 megs of free Sprint data works great except for the VoIP programs all not knowing how to use the various speakers in the strange phone. I'd rather have a backup data device than a backup phone-like thing. Because of the Kyocera software on this thing, it's completely impractical to attempt to leave the thing powered on. Between idiocy in Kyocera's software and idiocy in FreedomPop's ugly hacks, I've never seen a device so hellbent on connecting to rouge access points and installing malware.

LycaMobile effectively replaces T-Mobile prepaid, who stopped accepting payment from me on any card for several months, after a long string of other problems. For *years*, it was impossible to connect to their site and buy data because their checkout thing used a bunch of 3rd party CDNs and services that were all blocked unless you already data. It looked like you should be able to buy data, but you'd get half way through and get stranded. If T-Mobile Prepaid is extremely unpopular, I think I can tell T-Mobile why: shit don't work, yo.

LycaMobile apparently (this went on for a day) starts playing modem carrier noise at you part way through trying to activate your SIM. I uploaded a video to youtube of this because that's so damn improbable yet easy to document. Customer support was able to activate the SIM this morning, and then the plan on the SIM (bonus step!). I don't have the needed hardware to actually hook up the cell phone to a modem, but people used to do exactly that in the original commercial cell service, AMPs. It would be interesting to see what their system is trying to say to me. Maybe it's an enormous security hole.

So here's the list of everything:

GoogleVoice: $0/month; hosts my main number and SMS and transcribes voicemails to pages/emails
Callcentric: 1 cent a minute and $5/month for the phone number; it's callerID is set to my main number and my home rotary phone is hooked up to it
FreedomPop: $0/month -- hackish voice over data using SIP to Callcentric VoIP, and mobile Web/Android apps
Pager: $15/month
LycaMobile: $23/month 100megs 4G and unlimited 2G with unlimited calling and texts (but no Skype and WebRTC doesn't work yet and now apparently never will and headsets don't work)

So, currently, $43/month, and I might bump that to $63/month to get redundant/better mobile data.

I wish Callcentric did SMS and voicemail transcripts so I could ditch Google Voice. I wish tethering on FreedomPop actually worked so I wasn't shopping for a second Sprint powered thing. I wish T-Mobile had coverages in places like the University of Chicago convention center and the downtown Florida Merriot. I wish I could change the callerID of the pager so that it would show my main line so that replies would get copied to email (headphones and music means I don't hear the pager). I wish payphones worked right and were still around. I wish Google wasn't evil. Verizon, too. I wish Android didn't suck and wasn't locked down (locked down to suckage). I wish there was a SIP VoIP app for FirefoxOS (web based JS SIPs don't work).
3:55 am
Log - Boring Crap - Edited
Put rice on in the AI rice cooker this afternoon and was looking forward to eating that instead of Filibertos. Got home 8:30pm and the roommates had some big kitchen production going until 11pm, so I had dinner close to midnight.

I keep getting stood up on meetings by one individual.

Spent too much time this evening fighting with cell service. Why do I keep doing this? First I couldn't activate LycaMobile, and now I cannot get any data (tried in two devices). Edited: A lot of people lost data when LycaMobile moved them to Lyca Plus. At this point, I got discouraged and frustrated and impatient, but it was my fault and I failed to do a second round of activation (reportedly, first activation is for the SIM, second activation is to activate the plan I had previously selected). It seems to work now.

FirefoxOS on the Open C is unlocked and happily tethers but only does 3.5G, not 4G, but this $23/month unlimited plan only has 100megs of 4G data before you're on unlimited 2G data. Since they resell T-Mobile, I'm on 2G 95% of the time anyway.

Cancelling Sprint turned into a nightmare where the agent pretended she was going to cancel me then didn't. Surprise! Another bill shows up in the mail. They were tacking on a bonus $8 in fees and online credit card payment didn't work (kept saying that I already used that card today -- JavaScript error? Persisted for the whole month before I went in to a store to pay in person). That was after the $15/month 1gb plan turned out to actually be $35. I was going to let all of that slide because it worked and it was fast unlike T-Mobile and T-Mobile resellers, but then paychecks that found each other in the mail and eloped created a cash crunch so I panicked and ditched it -- or tried -- and now I'm pretty jilted about the secretly refused request to cancel. Reportedly, the notes this lady left were to the effect that I called to inquire about whether I was under contract. I *know* I wasn't under contract because I brought my own device, read the fine print, and verified when I signed up. Bullshit. I asked her over and over again, politely, to cancel my service until she said she would "get that taken care of for you". I'm still waiting to see if the credit for the bonus month of service goes through, and if it cancels at the end of the month like its set to.

I'm reminded of Qwest, where if a callcenter issued too many credits, all of them got reversed, leading to more angry customers calling back wondering WTF happened to the credit and call centers in a position where they can't re-issue them. Being unable to fix nearly any tech problem, they ran customers through the same tech troubleshooting gauntlet over and over again (update PRL even though that was just done, walk the customer through manually updating the CDMA carrier ID even though that was just done, etc, etc). If you tried this a second time after another agent did it once, it never fixed anything. Never. But it was required. Customers just got angrier and angrier.

So now I feel like I've thoroughly burned that bridge -- or that they've burned it with me. Whatever. Which sucks, because I'd pay the money to have something work, and they're not as evil as some other carriers.

Speaking of, FirefoxOS got cancelled, which is a shame. It's way faster than Android, even on ultra low end hardware. Unlike iOS and Android, it doesn't log your location all of the time even when obstinately the GPS is off, and then upload it to homebase. Despite Firefox's flaws, the company at least takes privacy seriously, unlike Apple and Google. There's no barrage of interrupting dialogues. If you deny an app something it wants, it's stuck without it until you change your mind. None of the constant "the app has stopped responding" crap from Android. Cross build environments were just starting to support it. Making everything HTML+JS so it runs in the browser and on the phone was brilliant. But as usual, the best products tend not to be appreciated. It's hard to argue with Android's existing install base, even though cross build in things like PhoneGap narrow that by making it easy to develop for all mobile platforms at once.

Backups are running over the network. I'm giving up on USB. To fix the machine, I had to reinstall some of the base install sets and reinstall a bunch of packages. Whatever about USB was crashing it and corrupting memory managed to corrupt the right memory to also corrupt stuff on the disk. A reboot didn't fix it. That's some serious Windows level fail there. Fetching photos off of the FirefoxOS device or loading mp3s onto the little pink player seems to work, so maybe small transfers are generally harmless.

So, same old story. Nothing actually works worth a damn. I'm getting yelled at about connectivity problems, failing to fix them, and failing to log hours. I need a batter strategy. At the least, this leaves me having to continue to beat down the list of cell resellers.
Wednesday, January 13th, 2016
9:42 pm
Police Chief Candidates
Sylvia Moir -- claims she was the first person in Sacramento to get a ticket while riding a bike. When asked about the 3 foot rule etc, she didn't shy away from committing to "enforcement, infrastructure, and education", ie, the three E. She's the only one I got to talk to personally before the thing and I singled her out because El Cerrito is a great place to bike. Motorists are as patient and well behaved as Portland. This only happens with education and enforcement. I wanted to know what her involvement with that was. She let out a big sigh and said, "it's been a long road". She came across as very police officer like. Valandra pointed out that after only a four year stint before looking for work elsewhere, there were probably personality problems.

John Rush -- he's the interium Police Chief in Tempe which instantly makes me biased against him. Red light running and cutting off pedestrians in crosswalks has been going through the roof, and I never see anyone pulled over, but the policy of sending five squad cars to deal with someone who appears to be homeless on the rail platform continues. To me, he came across as awkward and nerdy. I have a feeling that he is out of touch on socio-political stuff. He's also the kid of the group, for better or worse. Asked about 3 foot passing etc, he mentioned the ride-alongs he was doing "with the bike community".

Christopher Vicino -- Valandra said he was indicted on misuse of funds, along with the top brass of the department, but he got off easy, but I found it really hard to dislike him. He dialogued with people asking questions, and monologued very little. When he had something to say, it was thoughtful. He's a smart cookie. Asking questions back made his answers stronger than they could have been otherwise. His response on bike enforcement was weak, talking about setting up a dialogue. Bullshit. We've had 40 years of dialogue. We need some enforcement now.
Tuesday, January 12th, 2016
8:57 pm
OpenBSD, USB storage, and compiz
The other night, I full-screened an xterm, and GNU screen crashed, and then compiz crashed. Bizarre. In no way should those be related. I was in middle of trying to run backups by USB. This morning, continuing to try to make backups even though the drive keeps going offline (and not only this one drive either), X crashed, and then immediately, OpenBSD hard-locked.

Right now, I'm continuing to try to make backups via USB... and this happened:

That is not what Basecamp usually looks like (though of course Basecamp is also buggy as fuck).

A bit better. The title bars are all also in various and changing mangled fonts.

It'll be interesting to see if this madness stops when I stop trying to use USB storage. It kinda feels like I permanently broke the system. I can't full-screen xterms any more, and I'm completely certain that I had been routinely doing that before.

Maybe the internal HD is going out and corrupting code. Maybe that RAM upgrade I put in when I went 64 bit is bad. Maybe the filesystem corrupted some important things. Maybe its some Intel chipset bugginess that Linux manages to work around. Really hoping the symptoms end, though.
3:37 pm
Extreme Misc
Motorcycle got a new battery. I regret buying yet another Chinese battery for too much money from the place across the street. In the future, I resolve to order Japanese online. These don't hold up, and retail prices make them cost significantly more, and I have no loyalty to this chain auto parts store. It still needs piston rings and likely pistons, or at least one.

OpenBSD crashed this morning after acting really strange with random programs crashing the other night, and a lot of slowness. This has been a few crashes now, and the commonality has been USB drives. Something in the USB storage stack is not working properly. This has prevented backups. I got stubborn about it (another time vampire). It looks like I'm going to need to switch to a non-USB drive strategy PDQ here.

The Tempe Bike Count is starting up again. I spent yesterday (just about all of it) tidying up stuff in Basecamp, unchecking todo items from last year, sorting them by order of execution, editing the comments down into coherent instructions and resources for completing that todo item, then writing code for ggmap attribute data plots, parsing and aggregating all of the yearly count data files (which are still a mess; puuhleeze, just one week with those things), seriously reworking my crash rate plot (which previously had my own personal Postgres database doing the heavy lifting on data munging, which was not exactly up to the Reproducible Research ideals). I'm fumbling with R a lot less than I was. It's now fun to reshape and aggregate data, though I know I'm far from skilled at it and my solutions are likely less than elegant. Plans are afoot to get more people involved in writing stuff in R and posting it on Github. As always, the goal is to make the project largely automated, self-sustaining, self-documented, and open and accessible to everyone. To that end, the signup/admin tech needs to be cleaned up and documented. Writing it to take csv files (which it reads and writes, updating in place, instead of a proper database) was part of the design for making it easy for anyone to come along and use. The Reproducible Research ideas of documenting what each program takes and emits harkens back to old COBOL era ideals of documentation, and I think they're solid. Taking and emitting a couple of CSV files (volunteers.csv, which holds assignments, training date, etc, and count_sites.csv) simplifies this. Worst case, if something needs to be edited that the admin won't let you edit, you can open the csv file with a spreadsheet program and edit it directly.

Still much to do... I'm very eager to get into a better headspace with fewer things hanging over it so it's easier to concentrate on the task at hand.
Friday, January 8th, 2016
6:50 pm
Extreme Misc
The Digi-Key headphones cables showed up, and they're comically beefy compared to the frail little in ear headphones. I'm not exactly sure how I'm going to try to work this.

This week was a mess of R, pre-dot.NET VB/VisualStudio, Perl, SQL, and Java. UoPeople CS1102 is done. Response to my list of problems was good. Some problems I didn't initially manage to communicate (often because the question was confusing), such as in this case:

The easiest way for a brain to reconcile that question is to drop the "not", as my instructor did. Otherwise, it doesn't make sense. But I can see what they did wrong when they made the question. It's just hard to explain.

In some cases, I was mistaken. In some cases, the question was ambiguous but I failed to communicate that (I retried, for better or worse). In other cases, I was agreed with. All in all, not a bad discussion of course materials, though short and to the point. And as I write this, I get an email back with more agreement and a promise to send it along to Student Services.

Coming in and saying "I'm going to help!" is something that can ruffle feathers, so sending this stuff in makes me a bit nervous.

Coursera is phasing out of free classes. They still let you "preview course content", which includes lectures and lecture notes but not quizzes. This coincides with the re-launched site, which is now even slower and more JS heavy in attempt to make it look like a phone app. It's ironic that making things look like a phone app, besides destroying functionality, makes them bloated. I can't wait for this trend to be over. There's no longer a link to download lecture videos, and Firefox (especially on OpenBSD, where it's probably built with bounds checking and things like that) is too slow to play them in the browser.

Accomplishment of the week was installing Visual Studio 6 on Windows 8.1. VS6 is 11 years old now.
Wednesday, January 6th, 2016
12:23 pm
Extreme Misc: Skype Edition
Microsoft really needs to make a Skype appliance for old people, and I need one. Trying to run Skype on my Mac, perhaps because MS is in competition with Apple, I kept finding that Skype had deactivated itself because my 2-3 year old system was too old. If I wanted to buy a new Apple every year so it was 1-2 years old, I'd be plunking down about $700 a year for a Mac Mini, which isn't even portable. Android Skype doesn't do multiperson video, which is a requirement by those setting the requirement that I be on Skype. This is annoying, because Skype was a major justification for obtaining and putting up with this obnoxious Android device that keeps powering on in my bag and draining its battery and connecting to rogue access points and interpreting "shakes" (am I on the only one left on this fucking planet who walks?) as affirmative selections even when I would expect the screen to be locked. Fuck this thing so much. So that leaves Windows, Microsoft's own vomitous creation. I can't run it in a virtual machine on my OpenBSD machine yet because bochs is too slow (emulation instead of virtual machine) though OpenBSD is working on hardware virtualization. That'll require a copy of Windows running inside OpenBSD which has the major problem of having to have Windows running. Virtual machines at least make backup checkpoints easier. Interim/previous to Android fix has been carrying around a Win7 machine in addition to the OpenBSD (formerly Linux) machine but Win7 shat itself, with me partially to blame. But that joins a huge pile of Windows installs that started failing to boot or else suicided when they decided that a license that I paid for is now no longer valid because of WGA. I'm convinced that this happens because I really want to run older versions, and Microsoft really does not want me to. So, in conclusion, I need a dedicated Skype device, and if it meant it actually worked, a Skype branded Skype dedicated device would have saved me an enormous amount of time, bother, and money. I'm wasting my life re-installing Windows over and over again.
9:56 am
Extreme Misc: Desk Edition
I threw some stuff on my desk I wanted to deal with, so of course the shit hits the fan and it piles up. My desk is kind of my beard; it's my personal space, with a strong expectation that no one will go picking through scraps of food or bits of string there, and then I wind up hoarding things in my personal space and it begins to smell bad. It's also where I recharge things, if you know what I mean.

Currently featured in my personal space: RadioShack multimeter, cassette tape that's actually an mp3 player/cassette tape adapter combo, Java in a Nutshell 2nd Edition covering Java 1.1, business card f Paul Basha, the Transportation Director for the City of Scottsdale, transit passes, ride flier for the Tuesday Inclusive Pedalling ride, Atari 2600 jr with an Arcadia Supercharger cart in it (supercharger because loading games into RAM meant you could use self-modifying code as an optimization, making it possible to squeeze more out of the 2600), two Panasonic Toughbook CF-C1s (one with a pissed off Windows 7 install -- screw you, Windows), two Atari "keyboard controllers" which are actually numeric keypads, not QWERTY keypads (though some companies did make that! both are made possible by the fact that the 2600's joystick ports are bidirectional, so it can do standard embedded style keypad scanning, where one of four columns is powered, then it reads if any of the four rows have a button pressed, and repeats for each column -- everything the 2600 does requires the CPU to run things), a Clocky robot alarm clock (blind as a bat, but runs around like a goblin in the morning if you tell it to), a Nintendo Entertainment System with a NES PowerPak cart with every game every made for it loaded on CF except more recent homebrews, a ski map, a checkbook for the Internet Archive Credit Union that recently folded (screw you, regulators, giving megabanks a free pass to money launder and gamble with peoples retirements while oppressing small credit unions), Microsoft Office 97 Professional Edition, a pocket knife with the can open extended, a few Pilot Varsity "disposable" fountain pens in various states of repair/wear, scissors, a flaks with I think scotch in it, about five sets of headphones, almost all broken and needing repair, a safety pin, a big pile of papers, Biostaticial Analysis by Jerrold H. Zar, The Definitive Guide to Catalyst by Diment and Trout, an adapter box that gives me VGA from composite, S-video, or RF in, a credit card offer from REI (sick of this, REI), a few notebooks and a three ring binder and manilla envelope, hand thrown ceramic mug on a beer coaster, cheap waterproof mini mp3 player from China, Radio Shack PC speakers, scotch tape, antibiotic ointment, mostly full one pound bag of fakon bits, tiny hex wrench.

So, time to reinstall Windows 7, I guess.
Monday, January 4th, 2016
9:56 am
Extreme Misc
In Tempe. Next door neighbor, older family guy who bought the house as an investment, is still around a lot. He's dedicated to try to turn it into something high class enough that buyers stumble over themselves for it. He's adding an attached garage right now. His best bet probably would have been to landscape the back yard, and the chicken stuff in our yard on his side needs to be cleaned up and kept tidy. He's nice enough, but he's one of these pesticide obsessed people, so seeing him just makes me apprehensive. How long will he keep doting on this project?

Trying to keep headphones working is one of my time vampires. The first gen Skull Candy INKD headphones have okay drivers, with good base response without being too tinny or horkey (technical term). They also do relatively good job of blocking outside noise. There's a cottage industry of Chinese companies that get broken ones, likely through electronics recycling avenues, and put new headphones cables on them, selling them as refurbished. I'm glad that recycling is being upgraded to refurb, but it's a shame that they don't get better headphones cables than they started with. I currently have three pairs of these things with bad cables, and one where the body fell apart and the driver pulled free (that I previously repaired, but came apart again, and this time I don't think there's enough contact left to fix it). The Grado Labs SR40s got epoxied together at one point, and the AKGs got Sugru'd, but that fell apart. They lack much surface area on the tiny bit of plastic that broke. Sugru added more surface but not much adhesive, so I might have to epoxy the Sugru.

Before ordering two of http://www.digikey.com/product-detail/en/CA-2207/CP-2207-ND/701168, I attempted to sacrifice an audio patch cable that I found on the road, working, and then one of a pair of free headphones I somehow wound up with. Both had audio cables with exactly one tiny strand of wire for ground, L, and R. I deemed them not worth trying to use. DigiKey also carries off-brand (there are a few official manufacturers, but things are open source or proprietary and distributable) Raspberry Pis. I did not order one. Still hoping for the "$5" (all of the resellers mark up the official price, often a lot, so the official price winds up just being ad copy) Raspberry Pi Zeros.

On the other hand, "just put in headphones" gets fatiguing after a while. I think I wrote this already, but music is distracting while trying to read things that require concentration, and listening to music for more than 10 hours in a day starts to make me feel like I'm trapped in A Clockwork Orange.
Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015
6:47 pm
Extreme Misc
Currently sitting in San Bernardino. I did not order a 22oz Arrogant Bastard on the 6:15am train. Amtrak "throughways bus service" is about what you'd expect.

Boarding this morning, the train was virtually empty. I pulled up a table of my own and dug in to the Coursera Data Scientist Stats project, which should be pretty quick and straightforward (though requiring a refresh on knitr). Before long, I had a seatmate, and then another, and another. The California commuter routes arrange many of the seats around tables.

Seatmate 1: Older gentleman who spent time in Paris and is now a retired architect working on a book about things that roofs have been used for in different civilizations and cultures, which made for interesting discussion. Now that I think about it, I should have observed that garrets are useful for launching cows from. He's lived in many places and we discussed personalities of cities. He also carries his own spoon, but his is a WWII souvenir from France.

Seatmate 2: College girl ballerina trying to get in to law school with a goal of fighting things like the TPP who dropped out of studying computer science "because it was too hard" (or on reconsideration, didn't come naturally enough to her, after a discussion of the work that lawyers have to go through). Also good discussion, talking about the EFF and history of technology laws in the US, portrayal and persecution of hackers. She's currently taking a stats class. I shared bits of why I'm enjoying Zar but didn't comment on stats or my flopulations. Seatmate #1 had a lot to say about things to see in France.

Seatmates 3 and 4: Less chatty. One is taking the train down from Portland to pick up his mother and drive back with her.

On train #2 now and again quickly got a seatmate, an older dude (when it is ever polite to call someone old instead of older?) with a gnarly beard, walking stick, and a hobo persona who readily introduced himself and began to discuss the purpose of the trip -- delivering a mentally and emotionally unstable friend back to his family. Then there were some brags which seemed less than credible, and conflicting reports of income and egress of money, prompting me to slack off in engagement in conversation before heading to the lounge car. Money issues easily become mental health issues.

The fragmented trip, an early morning, and social seatmates haven't made for ideal working conditions, but I've continued to poke at Zar.

The cacophony of instant message alert tones is wearing on me. Why do they have to be extra loud when you're sitting there holding your phone and staring at it?

The second attempt on Coursera Data Scientist Stats class is going much better. Caffo wasn't joking when he said that the viewer would need other learning sources. If they were honest, they wouldn't claim that this course is for everyone but requires prior stats, just as Princeton's Algorithms class on Coursera does.

Christmas shopping was a bit abbreviated between moving, being in a strange place, El Cerrito not having a Lego store, and peculiarities in mail forwarding. My first attempt at prickly pair jam and prickly pair mead were both unsuitable for gifts. Mead sometimes improves with age, so maybe next year. Thankfully, R made a bunch of lemon curd. I enjoy Christmas shopping provided that there isn't actually Christmas music being played. It's an excuse to linger far too long in places like the Pirate Supply Store, Axeman Surplus, and the Lego Store, and buy things for other people instead of having to buy them for myself. Most of the fun is sharing the amusement. Successfully rehoming the blizzard globe (like a snowglobe on crack) was a major success. White elephant gift exchanges are clearly the best place for the sorts of gifts I like to buy for people.

Berkeley-burb has much to offer: surprisingly well tamed motorists, proximity to the train, proximity to a running/bike commuting path, proximity to swimming, fun hills, reasonably close Goodwill and Bevmo, chickens, bountiful gardens, inexpensive Tillamook extra charp cheddar, glorious yard kitties, lovely patio. I find that I run and swim a lot more regularly when it's convenient to do so. Long distances and poor hours prevent solid routines.

From everything (meeting lots of new people, visiting new places, busy schedule, ongoing coursework and consulting), I'm feeling pretty fragmented and in need of a regroup. I can probably handle life, but I have to step back and regain some perspective to go about it intelligently.

Some time after adding $10 to my prepaid T-Mobile Hotspot and using about half a gig of data, I got this text message:

Literally none of those things are true. I didn't have an unlimited plan or any plan at all; I pre-paid for 1 gig. It's not a smartphone; it's a WiFi access point thingie. I didn't use more than 7 gigs, I didn't even use one gig. The prepaid data I bought was for mobile Internet hotspots. What the heck, T-Mobile? Did your automated systems start going through the alphabet, accusing all of your customers of fraud, getting at least to 'W' before you stopped it?

[Time passes...]

Brock unidled on the MUD about the time I got back, so hit up Endgame in downtown Tempe, which I hadn't hit yet. They don't have real NES (first gen Nintendo system) so, as documented, my RetroZone NES PowerPak didn't work, but we played some Quix and other things on a stand-up machine (MAME?) with a bunch of games from that era loaded on it, jumped in to middle tier on SNES MarioKart and retreated back to the first course with smaller engines and our tails between our legs, and failed to get Super Mario Marker loaded on the WiiU. We literally could not figure it out. Talk to the barkeep, he said we probably were in something something something something and needed to something something. Time to join AARP. They do have it, and he was willing to help us navigate there, except some kids got it again before we did. Yay Brock!

OpenBSD was partly because I wanted to switch to a 1tb drive I had purchased but failed to get Linux properly aligned on (4k sectors instead of 512 byte sectors). Having that running means that I could unload bits of video I wanted to keep from the SJ4000 camera's flash. It had degenerated into me removing video files I didn't want to keep so that the stuff on it I did want to keep didn't get overwritten. I still need to be somewhat mindful of space.

Last night: soaked in the tub; Brock; laundry (tripped on the way out of the chicken coop and got mud on one of my two pair of pants-like-things that fit); dined on my last tin of Indian food and some bread and cheese I still have; unpacking.

Today: opened a bank account to replace IAFCU (God rest your soul); grapefruit; milk; PO box run; paid bills; new GT tire (rubber wore through in some patches) and rear blinkie (DiNotti is attached to the Bianchi in Berkeley); ran; paperwork; tidied up messes; work check-in; cell phone plan shopping.

I can't seem to hang on to a bank, or a cell phone company, or a bike tire...

Crap. It was last week I did UoPeople early, not this week. Everything is due today.
Sunday, December 20th, 2015
10:10 pm
Extreme misc
Last notebook I got in Lincoln, at their version of the Lucky (Russ'), was a non-standard 8"x10". This continues to bother me.

I mentioned that my UoPeople CS1102 instructor doesn't seem to understand the open source development model, based on discussions with him -- UoPeople has weekly reports to the instructor which they call "journals", but if it is a journal, it's like your mother reading your diary and then discussing it with you at the dinner table. (The plot thickens a bit here too.) The level of individual attention is amazing. By comparison, I spent thousands at UMNC on a Bio course and not me nor anyone else in the class could get basic answers critical things like when things were due (course materials hadn't been updated in three years in some places). Ugh.

I did not previously mention that the instructor I had for CS1101, Curtis Vance, was a badass. Journal posts routinely got feedback with insights from fields diverse as industrial control, high performance computing, and vintage computing. That was a pleasure.

Porch kitty is a love bug.

Monday, December 14th, 2015
11:10 am
Extreme Misc
Sitting in a lab at Berkeley, loading packages into R from a mirror at Berkeley:

This amuses me greatly. R has many packages to re-install since the OpenBSD load wiped my R package slate clean. (I also failed to properly autobundle my Perl modules, so installing Perl modules has been a frequent diversion, then there was a foray into Clojure modules, and the Java module situation seems to be at approximately the state of VB modules.)

Thanks to the unnamed dude who sounds like (Dr.?) Neil deGrasse Tyson (and may be him?) who made videos for Khan Academy, I know what the fuck Dr. Brian Caffo is talking about. A quick Google indicates that there is at least some Neil deGrasse Tyson content on Khan Academy. Hmm!

Data Scientist Stats Exam ends today (oops, snucked up on me; failing to adequately often regroup on stuff; haven't even done the homework yet; was just figuring I'd work on the homework this evening).

In addition to Data Scientist Stats homework, the interactive swirl() tutorial is now non-optional.

Code in slides is more involved. I've been treating the order to pull up the slide sources on Github as a suggestion, and disregarding it, but now that's another tab open, an I'm pasting R code into my gi-normous R notes file (one of many gi-normal and inadequately organized notes files).

Still need to do discussion responses on UPeople, and my "journal entry" (aka letter to the instructor, who is a predictably unworthy audience).

Common area dining and Legos with R (T-Rex is holding a flask, magnifying glass, and looking through a microscope, while the women scientists party) and the scheduley bits of this post were recited.

Post fact: Ploughed through the homework and the exam and didn't completely bomb unlike in the UPeople exams. It's a four week course that covers a lot of the same material, but accelerated and in less depth. This is evidence that UPeople's version of the course has something rotten going on in it. Coursera's is also wonky but in a more straight forward way. Having gone through Khan Academy's material in attempt to deal with UPeople's class and then coming back to Coursera's class (oh, what a mess), it's clear now that the Coursera lectures didn't cover most of what was on the homework, and there's also a loose association between the homework and exam. Lectures, homework, and exam were pulled from real-life class, but not in any coherent fashion. Brian Caffo is somewhat honest about this in a few second moment of clarity, where he encourages viewers to refer to other learning sources, such as Khan academy, for anything they don't understanding, stopping short of explaining that stuff they don't understand will likely appear for the first time on the test. This was after warnings about "a lot of people have trouble with this course and find it the most difficult in the series". It's not hard, it's just not effective in teaching or even outlining the material that should be known, including failing to outline any prerequisites. That was my suspicion before and I consider it confirmed. Fuck you, Caffo.

It seems like statisticians have a blind spot whereby they're unable to evaluate the question of whether learning materials are effective in communicating information. Caffo calls himself a statistician unlike Pang and Leek who call themselves Data Scientists.

Data Scientists are able to communicate effectively.

In the case of UPoepele and the Stats Coursera course, taught by statisticians, they're unable or uninterested in gauging the sensitivity and specificity of their own exams. They just assume that they work -- a cardinal sin in CS. They don't notice when things are ambiguous or outright wrong because they don't test them or if they do test them, they test them with one of the methods they've recommended even when multiple are commended. They don't give adequate information to determine what they're talking about, and they trip themselves up and don't see their errors.

CS takes great pains to work against all of those things. Data Scientists have learned from CS. They avoid non-falsifyable things -- when designing or discussing algorithms, it's critical that you be able to readily accept test cases that demonstrate flaws in your algorithm. They gain experience in explaining their code and why they think it should work (or why it's generally accepted that it does work) -- where as Caffo said "divided by this denominator right here" without further explanation. CS types spend the vast majority of their time without things working, and learn to think openly about why things aren't working, which can lead them to question their course materials instead of just saying "well, $subject is hard".

Edit: Just realized that my use of "R" in here could refer to the statisticial programming language, or to the human reseacher who often coincidentally does stats. Have fun not being confused.
Saturday, December 12th, 2015
7:13 pm
Extreme Misc
People's Cafe doesn't have for-here mugs. Todo: find out if they'll fill my mug with goodies. Barista was not unpleasant but only smiled and nodded without saying a word. They hide behind their partition, and we hide in the back room.

Berkeley students are good at studying. This is a main criteria by which I judge a school (with R's caveats about undergrad programs being distinct from graduate programs).

UoPeople CS1102 instructor has no idea how the open source model works, as evidenced by the "journal" discussion ensuing where I reported "filing bug reports with fixes" as one of my activities. His response, "stop bugging people for support". First graded exam is this week. No comment on the long list of quiz errors I reported from the practise quizzes. I am increasing using Scrabble as an escape from reality.

Favorite thing I just learned: Watch makers call bonus "features" beyond time/hours "complications": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Complication_%28horology%29. I'm so using that.

I sat on hold with USPS for over an hour before a customer service representative hung up on me.

Before leaving for CA, I spent two afternoons trying to track down Sprint data service. That proved a nice tour of Lincoln.
Friday, December 4th, 2015
5:11 am
Backyard chickens and trophic levels
Re: http://www.yourdailyvegan.com/2013/01/ecology-101-trophic-levels-what-level-are-you/

I agree with the central tenants; if 10% of energy moves from vegetables to chickens and 10% of the energy in eggs moves up to you, that's 1% efficient.

I still think backyard chickens can be great, though.

I know they're humanely treated. I can see Luke doting on them right now. If I am going to eat eggs, it's important to me to know the hens are well treated, so even if it's not the vegan ideal, it's an improvement over something.

People who I know who keep hens (this household and the Tempe household) have retirement programs for hens. They're still fed, watered, and loved even after they stop producing. No one is paying any attention to who is producing eggs. Likewise, they have winters off to moult and recover weight and energy.

That doesn't address the article, though. A significant amount of the hen's food comes from scraps which would otherwise be compost. Compost isn't entirely waste, but feeding it to the hens is an improvement, and then a large amount of what they do eat again becomes soil in the form of manure. I made some "chicken biscuits" out of abandoned flour that went stale and insects took over, plus water. Most of our diets, by far, are vegetable based, so there are always plenty of scraps for ladies. They can also eat the grass, insects they find around, weeds we pull and throw to them, and smashed up bits of egg shell. Manure and uneaten compost gets composted and goes back in to the garden. The ideal permaculture loop isn't closed, but it's strong enough that benefits to the hens and the garden are strikingly obvious.

1% trophic output isn't as good as 10%, but it has some unique value.

I certainly agree that backyard animals don't automatically save energy compared to industrial farming. I'd encourage anyone thinking of doing to investigate permaculture and integrate it into gardening and composting. Unless you have acres of property for grazing, hens make a lot more sense than other things. They're nutty little creatures with loads of personality.
Monday, November 30th, 2015
12:09 pm
Short-term todo tasks
I'm developing some resentment towards counter productive todo lists that don't get done (and you likely are too with me). Even before I do the stuff I'm supposed to be doing and need to be doing, I need to:

Assemble the wire shelf. Lincoln has turned into Berkeley-burbs. Berkeley-burbs is okay except that it's the burbs which means the coffee shop is Starbucks, a space (and coffee) that no one except shareholders give a flying fuck about. At some point, someone had the brilliant idea that the shop should be full of merch displays instead of people. We're converging on all space being occupied by merch, cars, or housing, and CA is ahead of the curve there. But I digress. I need to assemble the wire shelf and get my crap off of the floor. Perhaps I'll write more later about the actual space in CA, which is a carefully, intentionally crafted urban oasis (CA was once an oasis, but now you have to create an oasis despite CA). Right now, I'm setting on the bed with the computer, which the cat is more than okay with. A large two bedroom apartment got compressed into one room of a house -- a lot of Thanksgiving weekend and week got taken up by logistics associated with that. In short, fuck CA.

Email backlog. When busy, I tag and try and fail to get back to it. Curses. I meant to be a short post.

I got OpenBSD going on the "spare" Toughbook CF-C1 which normally runs Windows 7 and is the Skype/Steam machine then failed to swap the HD back because of touchpad support, of all things. The spare machine's video cable to the build in screen is loose or damaged and video keeps flaking out. So I need to fix touchpad support (disable probing for Synaptics stuff, which it correctly detects, forcing backward compat usage of it, perhaps?) so I can swap it back until I have time to take the machine apart and fix that. That puts the Wins brains back in the right body and the stickers back on the nixy machine.

Get cash. The Regional Brevet Administration needs some cash (couldn't I just send a BTC wallet? why are we still in the dark ages?) and lots of things here don't take cash.

Get mail forwarded -- done.

Still need a better IRC client -- or at least one that does specific things. I need desktop alerts when I get msg'd despite not having a task bar, timestamps, and multi-server/multi-channel support.

My eyelid has started switching a bit thinking about this.

Get on the SF.pm mailing list and say hello -- done.

Contribute in some useful fashion to the new household, such as by playing a practical joke on a new roommate who hasn't yet returned from travels.

Paid-project meetings.

Re-assemble the bicycle (for sport and transportation) and replace the busted shifter, oil the chain, and fix the pedal cone nuts that came lose -- done. Needs the chain cleaned now (dirt always sticks to freshly applied oil, and if I were in less of a hurry, I'd have wiped that off after 10 miles instead of after 130 miles).

Pay my Sprint bill. Tracking down an open Sprint store (Sprint wants you to go come in in person to active devices unless you buy a new one from their site) took an afternoon, but T-Mobile imploded. Their site has always had technical problems and fails to work more often than it does work. It also fails to work for a year a time. This has taken up huge amounts of time as I've used workarounds like typing in prepaid gift card numbers I purchased in person using touch tone codes, but the software phone can't do DTMF worth a damn now (things don't recognize the short bursts (short DTMF bursts should be fucking illegal -- who the fuck ever thought that was a good idea) and it keeps locking when I pull it away from the face then unlocking (causing spurious tones) when I put it by my face). At home (Tempe home), I play DTMF tones on PC speakers from the computer at the rotary phone, and that's less hassle.

Eat something.
Thursday, November 5th, 2015
4:36 pm
Brainstorming on Hacking while Hoboing (fucking pesticide)
Perfect coffee shop... I want to find you.

There is no place in Tempe that has power outlets, is chill with people hanging out, is pesticide free, has reasonable hours, and has food. Not even half of those things.

Royal in Tempe got very quiet. Everyone left. The barista was sitting down chatting with one patron. I was engrossed in my work, head down, trying to get done as much as I could as quickly as I could because I had to pee and there was no bathroom. Having to pee would be the limiting factor on my stay I thought until I looked up, went oh shit, checked Yelp, and discovered that they were in fact closed.

Four Peaks, quite predictably, has a pesticide habit, I'm pretty sure, from sitting in there a couple of hours after finishing my stats final. I need access to food for multiple reasons. I can't only drink coffee/beer, and I get hungry. But places with food are a bajillion times more likely to use pesticide. At Mad Hatter right now, next door to Royal. It doesn't work to evaluate new places for pesticide use when I already have a pesticide hangover and of course I didn't get out of the house on time. I didn't want to go do this thing again, where I hobo all over. I wanted to find out if it was actually going to be a problem. A lot of times, I can't really tell until I step out and get some air, so I intentionally planned a visit to the post office to figure that out.

Boulders is right out. It still smells like cockroach in there from thei battle with the beasts, but maybe there's an outlet hidden around the patio somewhere. I'll try D'lish later. Outlets and chill-friendly are in question in addition to pesticide use. They're not really playing up the organic thing (I don't think), just veg.

Maybe I should get a hotel. Maybe I'll motocycle up to the McDowell mountain park and see if they have T-Mobile coverage, if T-Mobile's billing gateway starts working again. Maybe I should do the $20/month plan even though virtually no where has T-Mobile coverage, just so that the stupid billing gateway going down doesn't leave me stranded. I hate throwing more good money after bad in situations like this. Since FreedomPop no longer works for tethering for me, maybe I should buy a Sprint WiFi AP thingie.

It's down to 80 degrees. Jackets and long sleeve shirts have been busted out.
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