November is almost over

Winner-2014-Square-ButtonI did not tout National Novel Writing Month this year because, frankly, I did not think I had the time to participate, and if I did, I was pretty sure I would not have the time to finish successfully. After several years of not making it, I just did not want to get my hopes up. And if I had reported out a week ago, I would be telling you that it was not looking good. I had lost almost a week of writing, which, when you have to crank out more than 1600 words a day to be successful, means a loss of almost 10,000 words. That is a huge margin to make up when you are shooting for 50,000. So I was not hopeful that my story would make the word count. But a couple of lucky breaks and a burst of imagination and I have not only passed the 50K word count to be successful, but I have still some story to write, and should be able to actually complete the story too.

So if you think you cannot write a novel, I am here to assure you that you can. And if you are still struggling to get to the end, keep pushing. It is not over, until it is over!

Enough With The False Anger Over Stores Opening On Thanksgiving

There is a current upset over stores opening on Thanksgiving here in the United States. Being born in Canada, I don’t care either way – Thanksgiving is not a sacred cow. But what I find amazing is the same people that are ranting about the stores being open on Thanksgiving seem to not care that these same stores maintain almost normal hours on Memorial Day, Labor Day, even Independence Day.  Nary a whimper about this.

In an article in the BBC, an article about “Life in a no-vacation nation,” it documents the, well shock, of an American now working in Australia where vacations are essentially mandatory. I have been making it my personal project to get the federal holidays repealed.  Why? Because no one, outside the federal government and a few select individuals get them. So why have a calendar full of them if you are going to have to work them anyway. I used to refer to the little four and the big five.  The big five were those sacred holidays – Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.  The little four were New Years, Columbus, President, and Veterans Day. In most real, non-retail companies, the little four were either forgotten entirely, or were shuffled around to make things easier, like the Friday after Thanksgiving, or the week between Christmas and New Year.

Lately though (since the turn of the 2000), even the big five seem to be pretty much ignored, especially if you work for a global company. The holidays are dates on the calendar and mean about as much as Saturday or Sunday do, or essentially, they are just days of the week that may or may not require you to be working. So why do we bother pretending that these days are “holidays.”

If we were serious, we would close everything on these days, much like what happens on Easter Sunday. Wait, what? Yes, until recently, Easter Sunday was the only day of the year when everything from retail to restaurants was closed. I mean signs on the door, we will not be open closed. And this was as recently as the middle of this century. Now things have changed and it is considerably less stringent than it used to be, but it does beg the question – if we can be closed for a non-holiday, why can we not close for such important days as the birth of the nation or Thanksgiving? Such false complaining really makes the rest of the world laugh at us more than they otherwise do. And by the way, why is the Friday also not a holiday?  Oh, that’s right, because we are all too busy shopping….

Reservations required

Walt Disney World is the childhood milestone of many as the first “happiest day of their life” — or at least half of your day at the park is. During the other half of a trip to Walt Disney World, you’re waiting in line. But a new ride is demoing a system that Walt Disney World wants to try out in the future to evade the obnoxiously long wait times — allowing guests to make a reservation in advance to assure they will land a ride. (Inquisitr)

Now, I will be the first to say that on crowded days, the wait for some rides, especially the Toy Story ride where they are going to try this, can be hideous.  I have waited in that line exactly once and the ride was fun, but as pointed out in the article, not fun enough to wait in an hour (or considerably longer).

That being said, I am not sure I like the idea of making a reservation. DisneyWorld is supposed to be a vacation, and yet as I spend more time there, I feel less like I am resting and more like I am back in the office, only with more deadlines, time constraints, and you have to be here now. Makes the whole idea of a vacation kind of moot.

I am looking at this also from the position of someone that is part of the Disney Vacation Club. I own at Disney, so I do not have all the same issues as those that are coming for what might be that one magical weekend of their life. I can go back anytime, and in fact that is why I bought into the DVC was precisely so I do not have to commando the park from open to close, including magic hours when I am there. If I want to spend an hour, I spend an hour, if I want to spend a day, I spend a day. I have that option.

I learned long ago that you need to make reservations for dinner, especially if you want to eat in the parks or at busy times of the year (like Christmas). But I really don’t want to make reservations for rides. I want to walk up, get on, have fun, get off. And that might explain why I am going on fewer rides. I just do not want to wait an hour for a three-minute ride. Which I guess is the point. If you are only going once, you will make the reservation. But it sure is not much of a vacation.



Apparently I am an Extremist


Linux Journal Reader – Extremest Stamp

Apparently, not only me, but my fellow Linux Journal Readers (and one assumes, article writers, editors, artists, code monkeys, and celery flingers) are viewed by the United States National Security Agency as extremists. The first of many articles (from the Linux Journal’s Kyle Rankin) says:

“While that is troubling in itself, even more troubling to readers on this site is that has been flagged as a selector! has published the relevant XKEYSCORE source code, and if you look closely at the rule definitions, you will see* listed alongside Tails and Tor.” You can read the full article at the Linux Journal site (if you dare).

What bothers me is a number of things. First, what business does the NSA have monitoring traffic to and from a US based web site for a formerly US published magazine (LJ is now a digital only magazine)? The NSA is not supposed to have the authority to monitor the site under US law. But of course, since when do these agencies pay any attention to US law?

Secondly, numerous visitors to this (and other FOSS sites) are administrators and security cleared employees and contractors of the United States Government, including the very NSA that has flagged us. This is Orwellian on a number of levels (and my head explodes just trying to follow the mobius strip of that logic).

Finally, this announcement come a month after the US Secret Service put a Request for Proposal on the street for software to help them detect sarcasm in social media.  Why buy software, there are hundreds of 14 year-olds out there that can help you detect sarcasm and it will cost a lot less that automated software. Perhaps the NSA has been sucked in by the heavy focus the denizens in the LJ chatroom (#linuxjournal on put on celery and lube and do not have enough 14 year-olds to help them differentiate between sarcasm and serious discourse.

Let’s face it. This is a crock. Not that the NSA is watching us, but that there is anything extreme about the readers, contributors, and staff of the Linux Journal.  Are we passionate? Sure. Are we a bit goofy? What gathering of nerds is not?  Are we extreme? Sure, if we are talking vi vs EMACs, or what SHA value should be used. But we are no more hard core extreme than any other member of the NRA, the local Harley-Davidson motorcycle club, or your local PTA.  In fact, I would argue there are social groups out there that make LJ readers look like a knitting circle.

Pass the celery.

When a coup is not a coup?

In Thailand this morning:

(CNN) — It was 3 a.m. in Thailand. Presumably barely anyone was watching. But the country’s military chief chose that hour to appear on army-run Channel 5 television Tuesday to declare martial law across the country.

If there was ever a case of Orwellian doublespeak and Microsoft level spin, this is it. There have been several non-coups coups in the last couple of years, but this one is the most bizarre of all of them. When you listen to the spin, you hear phrases like “The caretaker government…” and “safety and security…” which really makes the small hairs stand up on the back of my neck. But it is not a coup?

From Wikipedia:

A coup d’état also known as a coup, a putsch, or an overthrow, is the sudden and illegal seizure of a government, usually instigated by a small group of the existing state establishment to depose the established government and replace it with a new ruling body, civil or military.

OK, so maybe it is not a coup in the purest sense of the term, but based on some of the groups that the military is securing (read rounding up) sure smells like it is acting as a small group preparing to dispose the existing government. The social structure of Asian countries baffles me, so maybe it is all for the good.  But I am pretty sure it is a coup.




High court voids overall contribution limits

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court struck down limits Wednesday in federal law on the overall campaign contributions the biggest individual donors may make to candidates, political parties and political action committees. (WTOP)

I am not sure how anyone can see this as anything but a bad thing for American politics. It is now an open market for special interests and political action committees buying their seats in the legislature.  The 2012 Presidential process cost more than $1 billion dollars. With a national debt in the trillions, millions of people out of work and the Congress squabbling over who will pay for much needed benefits, people contributed more than a billion dollars to elect the president.

There is no more democracy in the United States. It is now just an issue of price. How much can you afford to pay?


Pod Garbage

This year, the company expects to sell nearly three billion K-Cups, the plastic and tinfoil pods that are made to be thrown away — filter, grounds and all — after one use. (NYTimes)

Perhaps I have a different view of trash, but worrying about the various pods being thrown out, even in the quantity that are being reported, is a tempest in a tea pot. As someone that generally only drinks one cup of coffee a day, I find the convenience of the pods to be useful. I do not end up wasting coffee by throwing out coffee that has gone bad through lack of consumption. Sure, there is some plastic being thrown out, but I throw out more plastic through the various bottles that come with juice, milk and wrapped around meat. But I know that I am not the normal case. If you happen to drink a lot of coffee, or if your office uses them instead of bulk coffee, there is probably a lot more plastic involved.

But while we are worrying about plastic, there seems to be a minimum amount of concern over the heavy metal in compact florescent lights and batteries that are constantly thrown into landfills. There have been several reports about this, so it is not a surprise, but there is no hue and cry over this. In case you did not know this, compact florescent light bulbs are not to be thrown out – they have to be recycled because they are hazmat. Technically, because of the amount of mercury in them, if you break one, you are supposed to call the Hazmat team to deal with it.

But instead, we are worried about plastic cups. And we wonder why the United States is having issues…




The TSA Is Not Happy Unless You Are Not Happy

In case you missed it, the latest TSA/DHI scare has been released:

(CNN) — The U.S. government has warned airlines to pay particular attention to the possibility of terrorists attempting to hide explosives in shoes, a result of new intelligence, according to two people familiar with the situation. (CNN)

Of course, they are saying this is being done in an abundance of caution but honestly, I am not buying it. Call me cynical, but I believe it is more like this….

Because this affects only aircraft coming into the United States from overseas, not Canada or Mexico, I believe that the aviation administrations or the TSA equivalent in these countries were pressuring the United States to get with the program. There was no valid need to have people take off their shoes and subject themselves to what is essentially a strip search, so why was the United States still requiring it?  We have already heard the hue and cry from the so called flight attendants when the TSA tried to reduce the restrictions on knives being brought onto aircraft, so you can imagine the yelling that might occur if they dropped the constant screening of footwear.

But I am much more cynical than that. Despite protestations to the contrary, I fully expect that those of you who have shelled out money to the TSA to probe your background under the so called TSA Pre program and have been promised that you can keep your shoes on will find that you will treated no differently than us poor slaves who refuse to let the government have more access to our personal data than they already have.  So get ready America, you will have to keep taking your shoes off.  And to those of you flying the not so friendly skies, you will as well.