Monday, November 30, 2020

Winter



Having made it beyond the election and Thanksgiving, the next big thing for me is the winter solstice. A more optimistic person might have said Christmas but I tend toward pessimism, particularly at this time of year.

I think of winter as The Long Dark (breaking one of my personal rules to not transform adjectives into nouns). I had my first snowboarding run of the year on Saturday. It helps to go outdoors and get some sunshine. Snowboarding is my usual pastime for winter, but getting out for a few turns on the weekend doesn't make up for the cold, short days.

There isn't much to do but endure through the next 4 months. I usually start feeling better around March, when the days get noticeably longer. January and February are the worst.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

The Martial Arts

Hapkido. I love the grimy ceiling. I learned in a studio/dojo not dissimilar in the mid 1980s. I have a wave of nostalgia.

I studied the Korean martial art Hapkido for about a year when I was a kid. This was immediately following the Karate Kid / Revenge of the Ninja movie craze. Every boy in America wanted to do martial arts. It was formative for me, because it exposed me to different ways of thinking and taught me how to start using my body in ways other than the instinctive. It taught me to think about movement, and to fight with intent.

I also needed to be hit and bounced a little. Mom had sheltered me too much and my Dad judged me to be destined to be a push-over. He judged everybody that way though, all but the meanest, whom he seemed to admire.

I would have continued but my parents balked at the expense and time required taking me to and from the dojo. I continued practicing without instruction for a little while, but eventually my interest wained, and I got in trouble for side kicking another kid who didn't know when to quit. I still remember several basic techniques.

I often wish I had continued, at least until I got a black belt. Hapkido is definitely one of the less showy, more practical martial arts, and is now favored by successful Mixed Martial Artists (MMA) at the professional level. The other discipline favored is called Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, a bogus trade name in my opinion. There is nothing Brazilian about it. My sensei was also a 5th degree black belt in the original Japanese Jiu Jitsu, and was a huge advocate of it. Of course, he was trying to build a business so he wanted more students, but it just goes to show that guys were out there doing MMA before the term became mainstream.

I've been watching a lot of MMA lately, despite my misgivings from what we now know about brain injuries, and I'm having to resist the urge to get back into the martial arts. I know I'm too old for it, and I already have too many hobbies, but I also know that guys older than me sometimes get into it for a few years. I miss the discipline and focus on physical fitness.

It would probably be a mistake though.

The Flag



I feel like half of America no longer believes in freedom. Too many people have bought into the lie that equity is possible among a very large, diverse population, and see individual liberty as an obstacle to it. We can try to give everyone an equal chance to succeed, but we can't give everyone all the same stuff. That's tilting at windmills. The impossibility of enforcing equality was one of the most important lessons of the twentieth century.

Many societies tried and failed to use the power of government to level outcomes. It isn't viable, because people are not actually equal in potential, and trying too hard to achieve equality of outcome makes everyone unhappy. Nor did these efforts lead to equity. Instead, it merely shifted around the privilege from one group to a different group (high ranking civil servants). But many of our voters now are too young to remember that era, and as always, dishonest interpretations of history are being purveyed in our media and educational institutions.

The election finally settled out into what I consider the most stable configuration under the circumstances, but it is only delaying the resolution of the problems our country faces. I think I'm going to go ahead and use up my fuel and food stockpiles though. They don't have unlimited shelf lives and I think we will be coasting for a while, at least until the mid-term elections in 2022. The big issues are going to come back in 2024 and God help us then, but for now I'm going to burn the gasoline and figure out what I need to do to prepare for the future.

I haven't given up on the USA, nor am I willing to give up on the idea of individual freedom, and I'm going to keep flying my flag.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Fast Food

 

What is the point of these?

I realize fast food isn't haute cuisine but I can't understand how these chains keep messing up French fries. I think companies are always trying to differentiate themselves to the buying public. This causes them to reach too far to create a difference. I'm not a fan of the potato wedge things that come with a Wendy's breakfast combo. They aren't terrible but they would be better if they just had salt or maybe seasoned salt, instead they are obviously processed with a mildly annoying flavor. They aren't the worst though, that would be the curly fries from Arby's, which are atrocious, have a papery outside, and barely taste like potato.

They announced an In-N-Out Burger will be built on the busiest road in town and I won't go anywhere near it for the first 6 months. I'm sure traffic will be backed up onto the highway. I like In-N-Out but it's only about 10% better than McDonald's. People are such dummies.

Yes, I realize this blog post probably wasn't worth writing but sometimes you just need to ramble.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Wochenende

Getting ready for this . . .

It's the weekend (wochenende means weekend in German). Unfortunately I am on call for work, but I can usually still find plenty of time to relax or go adventuring. I can respond to calls with a cell phone and a laptop, so I will simply throw one in my backpack and go for a short hike at one of the places around Flagstaff. Though I can respond anywhere with cell signal, I dislike getting more than a mile from my car when on call.

The snow season is upon us and the ski resort opens this weekend, so I also need to spend some time on maintenance of my snowboard. I want to pick up some ski boots this year so I can start learning to ski this season. Snowboarding involves too much falling. I used to be extremely agile, but these days when I fall I just go over like a felled tree. I've been working on flexibility and upper body strength training to offset the issues.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Cargo Cult Programming

The Gods Must Be Crazy. 1915 Coke Bottle. Source: wikimedia

Many large enterprise software platforms were assembled from acquired components. There was no single architect nor a single architecture. The different pieces of the puzzle were designed by different programmers at different times and in different places. This means that a lot of code gets brought along in each new version that is possibly unnecessary. Nobody who knows how it works is still around in the company, but everybody is afraid to get rid of it, because they are afraid it will break something, so they just keep deploying it with future versions. We call this Cargo Cult Programming. The code contains artifacts that people keep using even though they don't understand how it works or even if it is necessary.

This makes for a nightmare of technical support. The details and design of the application appear idiosyncratic.

I get asked to implement new features and enhancements frequently and it becomes a search for a needle in a very large haystack to find the solution to a particular problem. And the documentation is typically dictionary-like. It explains what things are, but not how they work or how they fit together. There are no step-by-step examples showing how to implement a particular feature. At least that's the way it is in healthcare software.

And now you know how I spend much of my work day. One of the most valuable skills in IT is to be able to navigate the labyrinth of documentation to implement something that should be easy.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Bad Patient


I think this is from somewhere in the Cohutta Mountains in 2010, in Georgia or Tennessee. It has nothing to do with the rest of this post but I wish I was in a beautiful place like this right now, instead of stuck in the house.


I had to go for a COVID test last weekend. It turned out to be self-administered. You park in a designated parking place and they come out to your car. They expect you to swab your own tonsils.

How am I supposed to swab my own tonsils with no more than a small car mirror? No wonder the COVID tests have generally had high rates of false negatives. I understand administering such a test is risky to the healthcare workers because swabbing tonsils causes a gag reflex, but it seems like bad medical science to expect a patient to self-administer correctly. The test came back negative, but I'm not sure I'm 100% confident in that result.

 I hate being sick and I'm not a good patient. I'm grouchy and resentful. I do not take well to being stuck indoors. I'm disappointed to not be able to go running or bicycling. The sooner this is over with, the better.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Mess



I kind of made a mess of things again. I'm not sure I can clean up every bit of it, but hopefully there is some way to recover. I'm looking forward to getting outdoors again this weekend. Hopefully I will find a path through the brush.

Only so many more shopping days until Christmas.



Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Cold


It's been very cold the last few days. At least we got some precipitation. The national forest lifted a burn ban. I have to admit I'm ready to go back to the desert again already. I hate the driving but that depends on the direction. In Arizona, you are never far from the desert. I can be in a warmer climate in about 30 minutes.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Likes

Red Rock State Park, Arizona. So much better than being on social media.


On Facebook and Instagram, I enjoy getting likes. I don't experience narcissism, but there is something affirming about it, as if it confirms that what I'm posting is meaningful in some way. It fights imposter syndrome.

On Twitter, I worry when I start getting too many likes, and I mostly get them for replies containing cynicism or cutting humor. I'm not staging a "performance" like many users, but sometimes reply off the cuff, and the next thing you know it goes viral. I don't have that many followers, and I'm not trying to build a following.

After you observe the community and the company a while, it becomes clear that this is their business model. They manipulate their user base to promote controversy by hiding or promoting particular topics and particular accounts. They capriciously ban some average accounts on the basis of political or business opinions, yet allow other accounts that have extensive histories of promoting violence, social division, or other types of extremism. These are often popular and I assume Twitter makes more advertising revenue from them. Twitter has shown they can't be trusted.

I opened a Parler account a few months ago and hope for it to develop into a better community. Right at the moment, it is more free, but still somewhat toxic. One of these days I'm going to give up social media entirely and go back to spending more time reading books.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Is it over?

 

Sedona

I feel like everyone in the country was waiting for the Associated Press to declare a winner. The outcome appears to be divided government, which will probably lead to inaction. Under the circumstances, I'll take it.

I'm not sure this is over though. I think we can still expect armed demonstrations, street violence over every police shooting of a black man, and probably acts of right wing terrorism.

I still feel relief though.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Silicone for Baking

I know it's a bit lumpy but I was forcing it to fit the baking mat. Also, there is a first time for everything.


I bought ready-to-roll pizza dough at the local Safeway and made a pizza. It was ok, but the anchovies were a mistake, or at least I didn't handle them correctly. I tested out my new silicone rolling pin and baking mat. I recommend silicone for baking. Easy to use. Easy to clean.

I guess my next step is to make my own dough from scratch. I'll get around to it someday.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Book Review: Divided We Fall, by David French

 


I just finished David French's Divided We Fall, a summary of the current divisions within the political culture of the United States. French is a Harvard educated lawyer who is one of the "Never Trump" Republicans. A conservative, he dislikes the current trend of both parties. Key topics include the Great Sort (citizens relocating to areas with similar politics to their own), and the echo chambers that are created in social media.

French argues for greater pluralism at a time when politically minded people are seeking to dominate opposing groups. Things may moderate with time but there are scenarios where increasingly, tribal groups are concentrated in the same geographical regions, and that could lead to the breakup of the country.

In the end, the author calls for a return to local and state government, which he terms stronger Federalism. He thinks the tribes inhabiting a particular state should be allowed to govern with public policy that suits them, rather than policy imposed by a central government. I think that would work, but I don't think it will happen. Democrats want abortion to be legal everywhere, not just in Democratic states. Republicans want it illegal everywhere, not just in majority Republican states. Both seek to dominate the issue with the power of the Federal government. This pursuit of sweeping central authority is trending completely the opposite of French's proposed Federalism.

Finally he makes a plea to return to religion, as he believes that tribal association has come to replace religion in American life, and that our system can't function without religious morality. French sees everything through the lens of his christian faith.

The book is successful in presenting an alternative to the path the country is going down right now. I recommend it, though it's a very contemporary book, and may not read as well in a few months.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Anticipation

Brace yourselves, winter is coming. But there are worse things than winter.


The country is in a frenzy of anticipation. It's the election, of course. The tone was positive online for a couple of days but seems to be turning negative already. I finished my last minute stockpiling and prepping yesterday. I hope to need none of these things but it's better to have them than not.

Whatever the outcome, I hope we know it on election night, but I'm prepared for not knowing for a few weeks. Both sides are obviously primed for litigation in the event of a close vote.

I'm determined to not dread it too much but also be prepared for the worst.