Kingdom of the Blind Giant

Jan - 14 2019 | no comments | By

A Parable of Privacy and Security

Once upon a time there was a a country ruled by a blind giant. In the beginning, he seemed to be a kind ruler. His subjects were contented and happy. Neighboring kingdoms readily allied with his.

Since most of the people thought that he had their best interests at heart, few objected when he asked them all to wear bells. It was for their own good, after all. A blind king must have some way to know where people were.

The bells gave the blind giant more freedom to move. He persuaded other kingdoms to merge with his, and their people wore bells too.

There were still some people who didn’t like wearing bells. And, of course, there were many more who would forget to put their bells on when they went out. People without bells were apt to get hurt if they got in the giant’s way. At first, no one paid much attention to their cries of pain. The king said that it was sad that anyone was harmed, but had he not given them bells? Surely it was no his fault if anyone was not using them.

After a while, the people who tended to forget their bells started to wear them all the time. It became a common custom for everyone to have their bells on at all times. Despite the inconvenience, they felt safer with the bells.

Those who disagreed strongly with bell-wearing were alarmed by the nearly universal acceptance. They would ask their friends, “Why do you wear your bells all day, even at home? What are you afraid of?”

The answer was always, “No, no, I’m not afraid! The bells are for my protection. The king is good, bells are good.”

But the anti-bell faction continued speak out against bells, insisting that they were unnecessary. If people accepted personal responsibility and kept out of the blind giant’s way, they would never get stepped on, they said. “Watch out for yourselves,” they repeated. “The king gives you bells so that he can avoid blame. The bells are for his convenience, not yours.” In fact, the constant jangling of bells had begun to negate their supposed purpose. In the cacophonous confusion, people who wore bells suffered injury more than those who kept their eyes open and kept out of harm’s way.

The king denied this, of course. Being blind, he knew only what his advisers told him, and he chose his advisers carefully. All of them had well-tuned bells. They never got stepped on or knocked over, which proved to them — and the giant — that bells were completely effective. If people got hurt, it was their own fault.

Life was getting harder for the anti-bell people. They were often denied access to basic public services because they had no bells. It often took them several times as long to get anything done because of bell discrimination. But there was no where they could go to escape the tyranny of the bell cult, since the giant had taken over nearly all the adjacent kingdoms, and most of the territories that still claimed to be independent had adopted their own system of bells.

The giant’s name was Google.

Free Paper

Sep - 25 2018 | no comments | By

Everybody needs a sheet, right?
lined paper
Click to get the full-size image.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

The Poetry of Origami

Aug - 19 2018 | no comments | By

At first, when I think of Origami, I think of the beautiful logic of its geometry. But in the process of folding, a kinship to poetry emerges.

Poetry is made up of words. Traditional poetic forms have a regularity of pattern that can be compared to Origami. Folds are the language, the words, of Origami. The same folds are used in different models, just as the same words may be found in thousands of poems. It is how the words or folds are ordered, how they follow one another, are repeated or combined, that makes a particular poem or Origami model.

Both poems and Origami models come in varying degrees of complexity. Long, short, serious, comic; regular or free verse; few folds or many; Origami poetry spans the gamut from simple to epic. The easiest to fold are those with few lines and a pleasant rhyme (repetition of folds).

Take the Chrysanthemum Bowl: A short piece with pleasantly regular form, it begins with a square, or Preliminary, base. That is the first line of its poem. The second line is four squash folds–a sort of internal rhyme.

The folding down and folding inside of four corners ends the first stanza.

The next stanza begins with folding eight corners to the center crease. Its second line is folding them inward.

The third line of the second stanza echoes the third line of the first, folding down the points.

Making the crease for the bottom and opening the bowl complete the poem, revealing all of its meaning.

I hope this makes you want to recite some poetry with your fingers. 🙂

 

Testing, one, two, three

Aug - 03 2018 | no comments | By

Everything updates. Several days ago Horse, my summer computer, horked on an update. I rebooted late at night for reasons I can’t recall, and ended up staring at error messages I’d never seen before. A new version of the kernel had been inserted somewhen. It took effect on bootup, but freaked out when it met Horse’s old BIOS. After a night’s sleep and some research, I simply re-installed from a disk I’d burned a couple of days before.

This delightful event has increased my wariness of updates. Today, I find that WordPress wants me to use a new editor. I cringe, but progress is inevitable. So…here I am using the new editor. Since I am NOT fond of WYSIWYG shite, I don’t ecpect any love at first sight. WP has always had a tendency to second-guess me far too often.

So far I haven’t tried to do anything but type. I need to be able to get my hands on the code, and no way to do that is readily visible. But LO! There is a teensy menu symbol in the upper right corner of the paragraph block when I mouse over its boundaries! YES! It offers the blissful option to “Edit as HTML. I might live through this too. 😉

Now, where the hell are tags and all that happy horseshit? >:-(

SpaceFM plugin

Apr - 10 2018 | no comments | By

A while ago I had nothing better to do than install my operating system on a fresh hard drive. Seemed like the best way to upgrade everything at once. Since then, I’ve been – as usual – pleasantly surprised by small changes in Linux Mint. One day I was looking in the menu for something and saw SpaceFM. WTF is that? I say to myself. I didn’t install that, did I? I click on it. Lo, the coolest file manager I’ve ever known springs forth.

I survived many years of Windows thanks to Free Commander, a tabbed dual-pane file manager that let me handle my file system as if it was my own (unlike Windoze Exploder). After moving to Linux, I tried various candidates for the empty space in my heart left by the absence of FC. Suddenly it was there.

Anyway, now that I was aware of it, I dove in, exploring its features, configurability, and usability. Amazing. I can’t imagine how I had never tried it out before. With a few plugins and tweaks, SpaceFM morphed into my ideal of file managers. After a bit of study, I even got my indispensable “File Memo” inserted into it.

When I download something, or alter/create a file, or otherwise just want to leave some information about it that is independent of any operating system, I like to create a text file with the same name as the file in question. A file name can’t always carry enough information to tell me, a few years later, why it’s there. Nor can it give a link to an author’s website, if that can’t otherwise be found. Long ago, I had a downloaded context menu add-on that did it for me. Times changed and I had to make my own; first a compiled script for Windows, then a Linux version that worked in the default file manager. Now, for SpaceFM, I have created the third incarnation of the file memo.

Here it is, handily exported as a plugin. It only uses one short line of code. I put mine in the “New” context submenu, but as you like it is the only law.

FileMemo.spacefm-plugin.tar

file memo context menu

More-igami, MOAR!

Jul - 08 2017 | no comments | By

Couple of days ago I started to play with a Closed Sink fold in a Waterbomb Base. Things got interesting. As usual, I explored, tweaked, twisted, and inside-outed every possible angle. Sure enough, I found my own way around the thing. Ended up with cube holders all over the place.

Then I took a look around Youtube to see how everybody else made cube stands. I saw ONE guy, out of I didn’t count how many, using a waterbomb base. All the rest are doing some kludgy thing with too many creases, and brute-forcing the poor sink. So I had to make a video.

Here are some still shots showing better detail:

lock fold
Creasing the lock fold before finishing the sink is especially useful with a very small model. It’s a butt-pain to make an accurate fold inside a corner anyway, so why not make it easy.

The side that I mark the center crease on to help get the point positioned is the one that dives inside, so that’s where the lock fold goes.

Starting to close the sink

turn over

creases

folding

coming together

The pre-existing creases allow the closed part of the sink to collapse into place. Then you flip it over to get at the pre-creased locking fold, and voilá! Open it out and park your pet cube.

I will be making more folding vids — stay tuned. Really need to find a way to set up my good camera where it can see my flying folding fingers. The cheap webcam I used for this one…meh.

Farting Out The Lights

Jun - 28 2017 | no comments | By

http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Apophenia
“Apophenia is the experience of seeing meaningful patterns or connections in random or meaningless data. The term was coined by neurologist Klaus Conrad and defined as the ‘unmotivated seeing of connections.'”

One evening, a good many years ago, I was exercising — just a sort of free-form dance — in the living room, with no light except what came through the open door from the kitchen. A street light gave some extra illumination. After a while, I farted. The street light went out.

The light came back on as I continued to enjoy my exercise. But once again, because I was moving around, I farted. The light went out.

At least three times that evening, the street light blinked out at the exact moment of my expulsion of gas.

Of course it was not my pooting that put out the light. It was defective, and was replaced a couple of days later. What is significant is that, on that particular evening, the malfunction of the street light coincided exactly with my farts. What is even more significant is that these coincidental events had no significance. There was no connection, no cause-and-effect.

Yet every day things like this can and do happen. And, if the observer allows an emotional attachment to attribute meaning to the events, it can result in distorted thinking that feeds on itself, building and strengthening a perceptual filter that allows everything to be interpreted as having personal meaning.

We are all the center of our own universe. Giving meaning to things that are not really connected is a natural effect of our search for personal meaning. Being conscious of this tendency may prevent a desperate need for self-importance from running wild. In other words, don’t fart out the lights.

Google Voice UIFAIL

Jun - 10 2017 | no comments | By

I’ve been using Google Voice for years. I use it for business calls because I can’t afford extra features on my land line (or get a cell phone). It has worked well for me. Voicemail and messages have allowed me to return missed calls when people call me about computer problems. It’s been great. And then this “New look” blight struck.

Instead of a straightforward, easily readable and manageable interface in which textual information dominates, I am stuck with ugly little cartoon-ballons, barely readable tiny font with too little contrast, scattered all over the glaring-white page. No way to delete more than one message at a time, and too many clicks to do just that one.

I am visually impaired, with advanced glaucoma. A clean, readable interface is extremely important to me. Nearly every time I open my dedicated gmail/voice browser, I have to scroll down to “Legacy Google Voice” near the bottom of a well-hidden menu in order to do anything.

It may be that some people like orange blobs; after all, many Americans voted for one. For me, the new interface is nothing but an annoyance. I live in fear that the sensible interface I NEED may be completely taken away at any time. WHY, for Heaven’s sake, can’t it be made a PERMANENT option for those who NEED it? What does Google have against usability? Do you hate the disabled? Please don’t suggest using a screen reader! I don’t need that! All I need is the ability to define a readable font size, and a sensibly organized, accessible interface.

Oh, by the way, in case anyone is tempted to slap me in the face with web browser discrimination, forget it — it’s not my choice of browser that creates the problem. My dedicated g-browser is Google Chrome. I only use it for mail/voice because it, too, has usability issues. Not being able to zoom text apart from images is an enormous handicap.

On top of it all, the “Send feedback” dialog of gvoice is SO WELL HIDDEN at the bottom of both the old gvoice sidebar and the new menu when the font size is readable that I needed help to find it. Plus, it says “include a screenshot” but will not accept screnshots that actually illustrate the problem. It insists on MAKING the screenshot itself, which means that, since I have adjusted my settings in order to be able to use the feedback form, the screenshot will be useless.

So, here are the screenshots that actually illustrate the problem, and a shot of the dickheadedly rigid feedback form. Names and numbers have been blurred out. Click to see full-size.

readable

hard to read

feedback form

Note the size of the feedback form. It is unchangeable. Making the font size readable only shoves the buttons over the edge. With a font size that I can read, I can see only three short lines of text in the input box. If I want to do more than tweet, I need to compose my rant in a text editor and paste it in.

Letter to Charter Communications

May - 24 2017 | no comments | By

Dear Minions of the Insane Monopoly;

My check for the current amount due is enclosed. Please also accept my sincere disgust for your cavalier treatment of an honest, reliable paying customer.

For several years I have enjoyed the convenience of paying my bill online. Lately, it has changed from a convenience to a growing annoyance. Finally, the waste of my time became so unbearable that I was forced to waste even more time obtaining a mailing address.

I am tired of being treated like a criminal when I try to log in to pay my bill. Not once, but over and over IN ONE SESSION I am presented with a time-wasting game to “prove” that I am not a bot. When I have completed the test, the website sits grinding its gears until it times out, and then demands that I do it again. Rinse and repeat.

And there is no way out of this automated Hell! Why should I have to “prove that I’m not a robot” only to chat with your robots? Seriously? I tried a phone call, and never got past a brainless recording! The very next day, I had a problem with eBay, which was pleasantly resolved with a phone call, during which I spoke to two human beings. EBay has real customer support!

I am a human being, and as such I have a right to be treated with a minimum of respect; in return I will give whatever respect is due. I can not respect any entity that wants to punish me for honestly trying to pay a bill! Nor do I appreciate the assumption that I am just another inept, ignorant user “having trouble logging in” when the fact is that the website’s automated rudeness and seemingly purposeful slowness are preventing my login. Moments earlier I had logged into my bank to check my account balance. It was all over in a minute.

My apparent location should have no bearing on my ability to pay my bills online. What if someone is out of town on business or visiting a relative? Should their actual, physical change of location, and therefore change of IP address, make it impossible to pay a bill? Isn’t that one of the things the Internet is for, to make distance irrelevant? AT&T makes no fuss about it when I pay my phone bill; my ID, password, and zip code are good enough. I can get the whole process over with in less time than it takes to suffer ONE bout of your obstructive game-playing.

My use of a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is not a sign of criminal activity. I maintain several websites, and log into other non-https sites; the VPN makes this much more secure. It is not illegal for an ordinary citizen to take precautions against being hacked. I can see no reason why I should take time to stop the VPN simply because I want to pay a bill in an idle moment between other activities. My time is just as valuable as that of anyone my money goes toward paying (that’s you, Bunky, and you’re not that special). If your system can’t understand who I am unless my identity is tied to an apparent location, there is something wrong with your system.

An IP address is not a personal identifier; it is nothing but a temporary identifier for a device or group of devices that allows communication with other devices. A hacker could, theoretically, use my wifi. Does that make us the same person, one that you would trust because you “know” the location? Even judges have ruled that an IP address is NOT an infallible means of identification of a person. To wit:

“An IP address provides only the location at which one of any number of computer devices may be deployed, much like a telephone number can be used for any number of telephones.”
— Judge Gary Brown, United States District Court of the Eastern District of New York.

If you are truly concerned about security, there are much better ways to ascertain the correct identity of an individual logging in than their IP address. There are also better ways to ensure my legitimacy than to use a CAPTCHA that works so poorly that it never really works! There are certainly better ways to handle regional data — AT&T seems to manage this quite well. Perhaps you should ask them how they manage their database.

No amount of advertising and promotional hype (which I also have to pay for) can cover the fact that Spectrum has become an inhuman monster with no respect or consideration whatsoever for the faceless, dehumanized masses it feeds on.

Your Great New Business Opportunity

May - 02 2017 | no comments | By

Around ten years ago, a friend got involved in multi-level marketing (MLM) — in other words, a pyramid scheme. I could see straight through the hype, but he was a beLIEver. My attempts to open his eyes were futile. In 2013, the FTC kicked the scam off the map — and its founder, a narcissistic bullshitter, died. Of cancer. I greatly enjoy the irony of that; the creep pushed bullshit products that supposedly prevented cancer.

As I wasn’t at all happy with what was going on, I went on somewhat of a vendetta. One of my weapons was a PowerPoint presentation, which I made available on my old website. I’ve made some slight revisions to it, and you can download “ygnbizop” here.

It is easier now to turn presentations into videos, so I thought I’d fool around with it. PowerPoint exported a passable version on the first try. After hours of dealing with cranky video editors, I managed to stick it with a soundtrack and throw it at Youtube.

You can find out more about the realities of MLM at hese sites:

www.mlm-thetruth.com
www.falseprofits.com
www.pyramidschemealert.org
www.merchantsofdeception.com

Anti-cult site with articles about MLMs:
www.freedomofmind.com

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