Hope Is Not A Strategy

I am resigned to the fact that Chicago Cubs are not going to be a playoff team this year, which makes them sellers for the upcoming trade deadline, and it is this idea of “selling” that makes me mad. We knew that Cody Bellinger was only going to be with the Cubs for a year and if he played to any amount of his capability would be a mid season trade, so his leaving is not a problem. What I don’t want to see is the Cubs trading Marcus Stroman.

Starting pitching is the foundation of a MLB team and the Cubs have no real pitching prospects in their farm system. Every free agent pitcher not on their team that the Cubs sign is an unknown. Jameson Taillon is the most recent case in point, the Cubs didn’t really know what they were getting when they signed Taillon but they hoped he would be as good as he was in previous seasons. When you sign a player not on your team you hope they will perform as you expect, but hope is not a strategy!

Stroman has been the best Cubs pitcher the last two years. You can make the claim he is one of the best pitchers in baseball and the Cubs should know best about his health, his mental make up, and his skills. In other words, Stroman is a known asset, and when you are building a team I think general managers should bias what they know about the players on their team.

If the Cubs trade Stroman, to me that not only means this season (2023) is down the drain, it is also that they are not closer to making the playoffs in 2024. What such a trade tells me is that the Cubs continue to tread mediocrity and have no real plan for returning to the playoffs. Further, if the Cubs trade Stroman and thus are sellers at the deadline ownership must make a change in the front office and the manager. I don’t think Hoyer has any real idea how to build the team, he is just hoping to improve, and hope is not a plan.

The “buyers and sellers” phenomenon is not good for Major League Baseball. The way teams treat free agency is destroying how they build their teams and farm systems for continued success. Now, because most teams in baseball are not very good, most teams are unloading their best players mid season for prospects that might never make it to the majors or at best won’t be on their team until 3 years down the road. Every off season teams buy a bunch of free agents (basically creating new rosters every year), all who are unknowns, and hope they perform well enough to form a competitive team. Most teams find their hopes were ill conceived and they rinse and repeat.

Put it another way, nearly all MLB general managers are doing their job no differently than fantasy baseball managers. Problem is, fantasy baseball is not the real world. MLB does not build rosters based on a draft of the entire pool of available players. Right now the Cubs, and most MLB teams, are building new rosters each year from a small pool of unknowns. I am looking for leadership from the Cubs with a real plan and the funding from ownership to stick to the plan. It is looking more to me that Hoyer does not have a real plan and Ricketts has to find another person to run team who has a plan, otherwise he is no better than all prior owners of the Chicago Cubs.

Smokey Eye Not Good

I watched the Air Quality Index for my home showing on the Nest Hub creeping up all yesterday afternoon to as high as 193, due to the wildfires in Canada. Right now it is 187 and I am planning on not going on my normal walks. It’s troubling to me for it not to be raining or incredibly hot yet avoid being outdoors. Last night I watched the Cubs play in Chicago, somewhat surprised they were even playing the game with the AQI over 200. I would have expected the teams and Major League Baseball to be concerned about the health of players and the fans. As far as I know, there is no change coming soon.

We have an Airthings Wave Mini in the basement to track humidity and temperature, but it also tracks what they call Volatile Organic Compounds, which are airborne chemicals emitted by every day items. The biggest influence I see on VOC in our house is the furnace and air conditioning and the good thing is that the AC was not running as much as it could so the VOC number has stayed in the good range. VOC is not the same as Particulate Matter pollution caused by the wildfires and currently affecting the outdoor air quality, I would need a different sensor for that reading.

Generational Expectations On Time For Change

Lately I have been ruminating on generational differences in relationship to technology. Like all things, technology changes over time. I remember a time before cell phones, when the only way to make a phone call was to by using a handset in our home, but I don’t remember a time when there were no phones. Generations younger than mine do not know of a time when cell phones did not exist. Today Dave Winer writes of a similar technology change, between black and white and color television.

The differences between those who lived during “before and after” periods and “never knew anything else” periods of technology can have significant societal consequences. I think the Internet is one such case, with those who have never lived without the Internet expecting all matters related to time happening much faster than my generation and older who grew up without the Internet. The “Internet” generation will not tolerate society changes needing to take tens or hundreds of years of time (civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights, etc..) to complete, they expect such change to happen in months if not days!

First Impressions Of The Google Pixel 7a

Google announced and began selling the Pixel 7a earlier last month, and I ordered a Sea colored version from Amazon about a week later. The Pixel 7a is replacing the Pixel 4a that has been my everyday carry phone for the last three years. I really like the size and feel of the Pixel 4a and so I was not eager to up-size to the newer phone, but it has come to the end of the road with Android and there are features the 7a has that make the upgrade a “no-brainer.”

My main concern about the Pixel 7a has been its size and glossy back. The Pixel 7a is taller than the Pixel 4a and because of that I find it harder to operate with one hand. The weight, however, is the most noticeable difference. I am finding that due to the weight it is more comfortable holding the phone in my left hand, but in a position where I can’t scroll apps with that same hand and as a result this phone requires more two hand operation than the Pixel 4a. The weight and size difference is also noticeable when I put the Pixel 7a in a front pant pocket. Fortunately, the size do not make these use cases impossible, just different and I suspect the difference will become less noticeable over time.

The back of the Pixel 7a is more “polished” than the Pixel 4a, but it doesn’t feel so slippery that I fear it is going to quickly slip out of my hand. I purchased a really nice Latercase that does not add much weight or bulk and gives a more matte like feel to the back of the phone.

Battery life appears to be better, but I don’t know whether that is simply because the battery is larger or the Google Tensor G2 is that much more efficient. Accubattery is showing that screen of battery consumption is at 2% or less, which is definitely better than the Pixel 4a that is closer to 3%. Battery life is an item that requires a longer duration to evaluate.

I don’t know if it is just me, but I think pictures using the wide angle lens have a bit of a fish eye affect. (See the last picture on this page for an example.) I don’t think the camera app clearly indicates how to switch between cameras.

I really like the under screen fingerprint scanner, although that may be more due to the fact that scanner is on the front of the phone rather than on the back. Now I know exactly where to put my finger and therefore the scanner works more accurately. The face unlock also works ok, but doesn’t seem to trigger fast enough. People complain about the speed of the finger print scanner, but I find it plenty fast.

As I expected, it was a real pain to move the Pixel Watch from the Pixel 4a to the 7a. Google really does not understand what is a technology ecosystem, it’s not just a suite of products that have the same appearance, it’s products that work together with little effort by the user. The fact that one has to factory reset a WearOS watch to move it from one Pixel phone to another is the clearest evidence of Google’s cluelessness when it comes to tech ecosystems. At least the Pixel Buds were automatically recognized and work.

Of the new features I get with the Pixel 7a, I like the wireless charging the best, although I am still working on how often to do the charging. I bought the Pixel Stand and have it on my desk where I could put my phone during the work day, but what is the impact on battery health from keeping the phone on the charger for extended periods of time? Articles on lithium batteries say it’s best to keep the phones between 20% to 80% charged given that each full cycle has an impact on the life time of the battery. Seems to me though that Google intends users to keep the phone on the stand, so you would think they would incorporate programming to help with the battery health.

Over all I am happy with the Pixel 7a. It’s larger than the Pixel 4a but it is the smallest Pixel, and I definitely think it is better to buy it than the cheaper and older Pixel 6a. Rumor is that the 7a may be the last of the “A Series” pixel phones, but it’s not clear exactly what that means. It could mean that Google will stop staggering the release of phones in the spring/summer and fall/winter like they have over the last several years but keep the “small, medium, and large” sizes, or it could be they drop the phone all together. Given that the Pixel 7a has nearly all the same specs as the Pixel 7, it seems the only reason one would buy the “flagship” phone is to get a larger screen. I really hope that Google keeps a phone that is no larger than 6-inches tall.

Detroit Grand Prix

I am watching the IndyCar practice of the Detroit Grand Prix, which is racing around the Renaissance Center where I worked for nearly nine years. At one time or another I’ve driven parts the entire circuit, and I made turns 4, 5, 6, and 7 nearly every week day. I am seeing them going 70 mph on stretches I wouldn’t dare drive more than 30. The pits are in a parking lot where I used to park when we first started working at that location.

As much as I disliked the 40 minute commute (on good days), I really enjoyed working at the Renaissance Center, particularly when there were events like the Super Bowl and this Grand Prix because at those times it is the center of activity.

The IndyCar car race is on Sunday at 3:45 PM, but if you have Peacock you can watch the practice and qualifying right now and Saturday.

With AI, Focus On The People

When I read something about the dangers of AI I can’t help but fear the writers are missing an important point. Saying that AI is bad is like saying the Internet is bad or guns are bad. In truth none of these items are bad. What is bad, and what we need to focus on, is that there are bad people who can and will use these items to amplify what they can do and thus inflict harm on others.

Back before the Internet was known by most of the world those who supported it advocated for all of the good it can do, but we failed to take in to account how it can be used for harm. What is common among AI, the Internet, and guns, particularly automatic guns, is the scale and speed at which harm can be done.

So, my advice is, focus a bit less on the technology and more on the ways in which people want and might use that technology for harm and then craft policies aimed at constraining the the people who may do that harm. It might be making a nuanced argument, but I think it is an important one when encountering those who see themselves as needing to defend/protect the items.

Does screen refresh really matter on smartphones?

One of the unwritten rules of tech is the idea that more is better, the purpose of which is to have us continually buy the latest generation of a product. The rule began with the model year releases of automobiles and became adopted by the tech industry. Unfortunately, we consumers don’t often enough question whether the latest features really do matter. We aren’t helped by tech reviewers who often seem to advocate more for the tech industry than consumers. An example that I am thinking about is the push for faster refresh rates on smartphones.

If you have read smartphone reviews over the last year or so you have probably been convinced that phones with 60Hz refresh screens are bad and really should be avoided. We all should be clamoring for 120Hz or at least 90Hz screens so that we get the fastest, smoothest screen scrolling. Do we, really, need smartphone screens faster than 60Hz?

Up until last week I have been using the Pixel 4a, and it’s “limited,” 60Hz screen as my daily driver. When I got the new Pixel 7a I dutifully changed the setting, as prescribed by nearly all tech reviewers, to turn on Smooth Display so that it displays at 90Hz. Every reviewer who directs one to make this change intones something to the affect, “why is Smooth Display not enabled by default?”

While I can say, yes, after turning on Smooth Display scrolling text up/down on the Pixel 7a is faster, what nobody seems to ask is, on a 6-inch display, does one really need that scrolling to be faster? I am skeptical. I am thinking we are being convinced that faster smartphone refresh rates are needed, but they really are not. Increase the size of the screen to perhaps the 11-inch standard tablet, or larger, and I can see how faster refresh can really matter, but on a 6-inch screen?

Another example, at least to me, is the “insistence” that we all need 5G wireless data on our phones. Of course, I ran a speed test using the Pixel 7a as soon as I could and observed the fact that the 86 Mbps download feature is faster than the “plain” LTE transfer speed of my Pixel 4a. Ok, but in what way am I really going to notice or even need that faster transfer speed on a smartphone with a 6-inch screen? For example, I streamed video on the Pixel 7a and it looked no better to me than on the Pixel 4a. Again, if I were on a tablet or certainly a PC then I would likely benefit by the faster transfer rate, but I doubt that 5G is really going to make difference on the Pixel 7a.

To be fair, I do gain some benefits in the upgrade from the Pixel 4a to the 7a. I am finding the front, under-screen finger print scanner is much better than the back scanner of the 4a. The camera is much better and thus I am getting better pictures. Battery life seems to be better, probably thanks to a larger battery and the Tensor G2 chip, and I am happy to finally have the convenience of wireless charging.

Truth is, we likely reached peak smartphone many years ago, therefore there are really fewer needed new features that really matter, and consequently there is a need for more marketing to get people to buy phones. If you are wondering why Google will be selling the Pixel Fold, the reason why is because the smartphone “industry” is convinced such foldables are needed in order to keep selling phones over the next ten years. (The main case for foldables is people want to carry smaller devices, but ironically that could be served by selling phones with smaller screens!) In my opinion, the only change in smartphones that we really need is in battery life, and the technical problem of gaining more battery life from the same size batteries appears to be impossible to overcome. Ironically, one way to improve battery life is to set the screen refresh to 60Hz and use slower file transfer speeds, but then we could get by with last year’s phone.

Google's Tech Ecosystem Failure

I have now replaced two Pixel phones with a newer model and each time I do I am astounded by how little Google understands technology ecosystems. Not only does Google require physically connecting the two phones together with a cable to transfer data, but to transfer a WearOS watch, like the Pixel Watch, from one phone to another you have to factory reset the watch. Seriously! Does anyone at Google ever even try moving from one generation phone to another?

Google seems to think that when one buys a new Pixel phone they are going to buy a new watch too. The factory reset of the watch would not be so bad if one could restore the watch like one can with a Pixel phone, but Google does not provide a backup of WearOS watches to their cloud.

Here is the process for one who owns a Pixel Watch paired with a Pixel 4a to replace the phone with a Pixel 7a. You transfer the SIM from the old phone to the new, then connect a USB-C cable between the 4a and the 7a to transfer your phone settings (ring tones, etc..) and SMS messages. During the transfer the icons for your apps are added to the new phone, but then all of the apps have to be installed. In many cases app settings, particularly logins, do not transfer, so after the apps install you spend a considerable amount of time going through each app to be sure it works as on the “old” phone.

Over the years I have replaced several iPads with newer models and never once have I ever had to physically connect a cable to move settings and apps between the tablets. Apple has been doing this for many years, and honestly, I do not understand why Google, with all of its technical brilliance cannot figure out how to make this process of transfering from one model Pixel phone to another as pain free as possible.

So, once you have the phone set it comes time to pair the Pixel Watch to the new phone. The process requires doing a factory reset of the watch as if you just took it out of the box, and worse, after you pair it with the new phone there is no transfer of app icons, settings, or anything. Oh, and neither the Google Play store nor the Google Watch app keep track of what apps or watch faces you install on the watch, so you have figure out what to install! Anyone at Google who does such a transfer finds this acceptable ought to be embarrased, it might be the most brain dead process of all of technology!

It’s not like nobody at Google has figured it out. Transferring the Pixel Buds Pro from the Pixel 4a to the 7a works exactly how one expects, and how transferring a watch should work. No reset, no pairing, no manual configuration, just take the buds out of the case, put them in my ear, and they just work on the new phone!

Like the Pixel Buds, the Pixel Watch is an accessory to Pixel Phones, but the WearOS, Android, and Pixel teams seem to think the Pixel Watch is a standalone device. Sure, one can buy a watch with an LTE radio and with it and the built-in GPS the watch can function apart from the phone, but honestly, most users are not buying watches with LTE radios. Even if they do, the process of using the Play Store app on the watch to find and install apps is best described as tedious.

The worst part of the WearOS apps process is that Google actually had it right the first time it released their smartwatch operating system. When Google first released a smartwatch there was no way to install apps directly on the watch, you had to use the phone, and the companion app on the phone made it easy to manage the apps to install. Back then while recovering from a factory reset did not automatically restore the watch, it at least put all the apps you had installed in one spot so that you could manually trigger the installation.

For all the progress Google has made over the years to improve Android, Pixel phones, and develop the Pixel Watch, the lack of emphasis on making the products work together seamlessly is a huge let down. Given there have been now been several iterations of Android, WearOS, and Pixel phones, there is no excuse for why the transfer process so brain dead. What I see is a lack of diligence and a willingness to accept things that are not good enough, and I have to question whether such a company unwilling to do things right ought to be trusted playing with technology such as Artificial Intelligence that could be dangerous.

Straight Jacket Voting

We frequently fall in to the trap of thinking that how things work today is how they have always worked. Take for example voting in the United States. The whole concept of an “independent voter” is driven by the fact that today one can vote for people of different parties rather than all representatives from a single party. For example, you might vote for a Democrat for President and a Republican as your Senator.

What I learned while reading The Age of Acrimony is that in the 19th century there was only straight party ballots. The ballots may have been nothing more than a card of one of two different colors. Voting was not in private, one put their colored ballot in the ballot box while everyone else was watching. Elections could and often did become violent affairs. The invention of the ballot booth, with it’s privacy curtain and the ability vote for people running for different offices rather than a party’s representatives cooled the temperature of politics. It also created the idea of the “independent” voter.

You might have noticed that the temperature of politics has definitely risen to higher temperatures over the years, highlighted by the insurrection on January 6, 2021. My theory is that the idea of voting for one’s party, no matter who is running, has become more in vogue ever since Ronald Reagan, when I think the Republican party learned during Reagan’s second term that what letter was next to the name of the candidate was more important than the actual person. The thinking is that what is most important is the party elected to office and not the person because the party’s ideology is what is most important for leading toward the desired outcome. It doesn’t matter whether the President has dementia if the decisions are really made by his handlers.

I think we will see this played out most vividly during the 2024 election. Neither Biden nor Trump are popular among Democrats or Republicans, but they will vote for either the Democrat or Republican candidate. The question will be how the so-called “independents” will vote, and that becomes more difficult when the campaigns become nothing more than don’t vote for the other crazy old person.

Politics is broken because the system is gamed towards the status quo for the benefit of those people who gain from the status quo. Today this is not only the military industrial complex, but nearly every corporation in the United States. How else can you explain why all the candidate we can seem to elect are always of the same generation? Both parties rig it so that the anointed ones are the only options, hence incumbents never are challenged from within, and the non-incumbent pool of candidates are tightly controlled.

Freedom Versus The Internet

The most dangerous affect of bans on books and teaching by government is its erosion on the culture of free speech. While the United States has the first amendment that prohibits government censorship of nearly all speech, a culture of “this is how we do it here” is more important. One way that culture is expressed is when one says, “I don’t agree with what you are saying, but I will fight for your right to say it.”

This article does a great job of explaining why free speech, and thus the freedom of expression of ideas, is so important to liberty and progress. One thing the article does not address is the consequences of time. The time it took for the national mind to change its views on smoking and gay rights was long, and in today’s Internet time, most will now say too long.

What happens in a society when more citizens lived after the Internet and the compression of time that it creates? I think you see this being played out right now with the issue of trans rights, many will not tolerate change taking as long as gay rights did because the have always lived in a world of instant gratification thanks to the Internet.

I think the current tug of war between nearly all dualism is become so intense due to the Internet’s affect on the expectations of change. Half of society demands fast change, the other half prefers slower change and sees the only way to achieve it is by digging in their heels so they can be comfortable. The extremes demand an all or nothing approach, either all change right now, or no change now or maybe never. Both sides are so obsessed with the outcome they cannot see the consequences of the fight.

R.I.P. Computer Magazine

Ironically, I read about the last print publication of Maximum PC and MacLife via RSS and the web, which long ago for me replaced computer magazines. Harry McCracken writes something like an obituary for the computer magazine.

Last week my wife told me the amazing news of a new brick and mortar book store opening within a mile of our house. The news brought back memories of spending hours in Borders and Barnes and Noble, both which were within a mile of our house and long since gone. (Sadly the Barnes and Noble building still sits empty more than a decade after it closed.) One of the main things I did in these stores was thumb through, and often buy, computer magazines, sometimes I would just read them while sitting in their cafe.

At one time I payed for subscriptions to several magazines, but over time as the web grew, there was little point in buying them. The web, and more specifically my blogs, even enabled me to live out the fantasy of being a writer like Jerry Pournelle.

And, so the excitement of the news about the new book store near me faded fast. Why would I shop there? Today I only buy ebooks and I get my computing news and do product research online. I know for many the medium is the message, and I truly hope there are enough such people living near me to keep the new book store open. Yes, I spent many hours browsing book stores and reading magazines but I’ve never once missed the glossy print magazines nor the heft of Computer Shopper.

Googe Nest Hub Disappoints

The Google Nest Hub is frustrating to use because I want to use it as an Android display, as I think I should, but instead it only provides a very narrow set of functions. The most obvious use for me is displaying a local weather radar, which is useful during weather events. A simple way Google could provide this is by enabling Radarscope to run on it.

Today there is an ice storm moving through my area. An option I found is a Michigan weather live stream on YouTube, which I figured I could view on the Nest Hub because it has a YouTube app. Problem is, the YouTube app on the Nest Hub only displays a list of Recommended videos and does not provide me away to select a specific video on YouTube that I can watch. How come Google didn’t provide the FULL YouTube app on the Nest Hub.

I can cast the video from my Pixel 4a to the Nest Hub, but it does not make sense to me that I should have to. I couldn’t even get Google Assistant to display the video I want. some reason why I asked it to display a video from YouTube it wants to cast it to my TV rather than on the display itself!

Updating My Now Page

In 2015 Derek Sivers proposed the idea of sharing one’s status by creating a /now page off of one’s web site. The intent of the page is simply sharing what one is doing. The idea caught on and today many sites, some more current than others, have a now page.

I decided to create and maintain my /now page using Dave Winer’s Little Outliner because I felt it was a good editor for this type of writing, and it worked particularly well with another piece of software by Dave called pagePark. PagePark is a HTTP server that renders the OPML files that Little Outliner creates into HTML. Dave hosts an instance of pagePark that is integrated with Little Outliner such that as soon as an outline is saved, the HTML version of that outline is nearly instantly available. Consequently, the process of editing and publishing changes to my /now page was as simple and quick as loading Little Outliner and writing. Low friction increases the possibility of keeping the page current.

Connecting my /now page to my blog was straightforward because the hosting provider makes it easy to create pages that redirect to other pages. Therefore, when you type https://frankmcpherson.blog/now you end up at my /now page. I took the idea of the page redirect off my blog a step further by purchasing a domain, frankm.info, that I configured to forward to the site. If anyone asked me online, what am I doing, I can tell them to simply go to frankm.info to find out.

Over time I expanded beyond the single /now page to add pages that listed the technology that I use and the books that I have read, each with their own alias URL. Using a forwarding URL enables me to move the actual location of the files, update the forwarding destination in DNS, and instances of the alias URL that I have in my writing will point to the current location.

Since the time that I set all this up using Little Outliner, Dave created a new “version” of it called Drummer. I’ve used Drummer since its beginning and always knew that it would some day replace Little Outliner. I didn’t move my informational outlines to Drummer until recently when Twitter made changes to its API that Dave has been using for user identity management and login. Dave announced he would be updating Drummer with a new login process and also move access of it to HTTPS. He stated he did not intend to make changes to Little Outliner, and advised anyone using it to move to Drummer as soon as possible, and at that time I migrated my files over so that I can edit them in Drummer, and I updated the alias URLs accordingly.

Dave had to make the changes quickly because Twitter had not stated a clear deadline by which it would cut off access to its API, and that means prioritizing what he works on first. For example, the blogging capability Drummer provides currently does not work. I am sure that capability will be restored, and Dave will get to it when he gets to it. The “publishing” of OPML files via an instance of pagePark is also lower on the list. Consequently, I started thinking about what I can do to restore my ability to publish updates to my /now page.

One option was to stop using Drummer to edit these pages, but that would create a lot of work moving the content and formattting it. The option that I took was to build my own instance of pagePark. First I tried using an instance of pagePark that I built under a free account at Render. Render only allows HTTPS access and the free account takes the site offline after 30 minutes. When you request the site, it’s brought online but there is a noticable delay. Consequently, I built a new virtual machine using free resources provided by Oracle Cloud Infrastructure.

I’ve updated my projects outline with the details about how I set this up, it was pretty straightforward after I figured out how to get around firewall issues. What I have is not integrated with Drummer, so there is now a publishing step that involves downloading the files to my computer and syncing them to my instance of pagePark. I can edit at any time with any computer, but publishing is restricted to few computers I’ve set up.

Right now access to these pages is only via HTTP. I’ve looked at the page source for Drummer to see how Dave has changed the includes and I think I should be able to edit the templates pagePark uses with the right form of those includes to eliminate the mixed content errors. I intend to use the instance of pagePark I have on Render to test that work when I have time. If I get access to these files working on Render I will then have to decided how to handle the SSL certificates if I move off Render, which I would probably do by using Caddy.

Look In The Mirror, There Is a Gun In Your Hands

If one is a child, a teenager, a college student in the United States, aware of the realities of the society that they currently live in, how can you possibily conclude anything other than the fact that the generations older, now Millenials through Baby Boomers, don’t care about them at all? It’s seems we have all forgotten the desire for providing our children a better life than our own. Better should be safer. Instead we do absolutely nothing.

I am Gen-X, and to my recollection the last time enough people in power were shocked enough by a shooting was in 1993 when the Brady Bill was passed. Looking back from today, it seems that only the attempted murder of an old white man who happens to be President lead to action. Not murders of elementary, high school, and college students.

I see people of my generation ripping on younger generations as “entitled” and “lazy” and don’t seem to really care why. Might it be that in the United States the probability of a kindergartener experiencing an in-school shooting before graduating high school is greater than zero? I don’t know this is a fact, but I know it’s true, but the fact is that truth does not piss off enough people to take action.

Parents and grandparents need to stop convincing themselves their child will never face a shooting. It’s time to stop numbing ourselves hoping that it will never happen. It’s time to face the reality that it will happen, to your child, someone you love, maybe tomorrow.

Writing Microblog Posts Using Drummer

The three posts below were intended to be part of one post. I wrote them using Drummer, forgetting that the publish script I use treats each node as a separate post.

I suspect if I want everything in one post I need to write them as a child of a parent node in Drummer. This is a quick test. Confirmed.

United States Empire

Dave is pointing out the relationship between the United States paying its bills, the value of the U.S. dollar as the the world’s reserve currency, and how that all translates to life as we know it in the United States. What Dave does not point out is that the the U.S. dollar being the world’s reserve currency is a fundamental part of the United States Empire. It’s how we can punish other nations like Russia and Iran with “economic” sanctions or why cutting Russia off from SWIFT (which is the network that all banks, including national banks use to move money around) is in fact punishing.

While (like the Roman empire) we have built U.S. Armed forces bases all around the world, U.S. citizens, let alone the world, will not accept frequent military intervention, so the bases are mostly for show of power and rapid deployment capability. Consequently, the economic tools, like the reserve currency, are the tools of choice that we use to flex U.S. might.

I think most nations know exactly how the U.S. uses the reserve currency status to imposes its will upon them and that is why some of them are considering using something other than the dollar. The U.S. missing payment on its bills will provide good reason for the nations to pull the trigger and that could start the fall of the U.S. empire. If this happens we will find out quickly just how much our way of life has grown to depend on empire.

P.S. The United States is the only country in the world to have dropped nuclear weapons on another country. The fact that we were willing then to do such a thing and the fact that we use our economic muscle to enforce our empire makes us the bad guys for most of the world. The good life we enjoy keeps us from seeing our shadow self.

It's All By Design

Much that is wrong in the United States can be traced back to Milton Friedman, because he created and taught the doctrine in place in corporate America that everything, absolutely everything, is about making the wealthy class wealthier. Corporations exist to make wealth, and labor is simply the disposable batteries needed to fuel their wealth.

And, of course, the wealthy class fears the labor class, which is why they own those bunkers and houses on islands as far away from civilization as possible. For some, Mars or the moon may not be far enough. (And definitely do not allow labor to organize against us!)

The United States was founded upon and institutionalized class structure. White men ruled and controled Europe in the seventeenth century, how could anyone think that was not how America was structured? Madison, Jefferson, Washington, and Hamilton knew no different, it was and has been the “norm of society.” (By the way, this structure goes back well before the time of Jesus and he was killed by the state and the religious ruling class for preaching an alternative to the structure. Consequently, the U.S. might be called a christian nation by the defintion of institutionalzied christianity, but would not be called so by Jesus.)

Ours in the United States has been a more than 200 year struggle over the question of liberty for whom? Explicity at the founding liberty was only for white male property owners. Over the years laws and Constitutional ammendments have been passed to try and expand liberty to more people, but really, the class structure remains. The people at the top benefit so much from the way things are there is no real incentive to change. How else can the right hand of the U.S. institution, the Supreme Court, think that structural racism is no longer an issue, thus voting rights are not longer needed, or that anti-abortion laws are not a infringment on the liberty of nearly half the country, or that corporations (which is THE insitution of the wealthy class) have the same rights as citizens and should thus be allowed so spend as much money to buy politicians as they wish?

Mass layoffs are the dopamine of the wealthy class. No CEO is ever going to be fired for announcing such a layoff because it is exactly what the wealthy class demands. Any CEO and board of a U.S. corporation knows that the quickest way to boost their stock price is by announcing a round of layoffs or buy announcing stock buy backs. Few CEOs know how to build anything, they only know the financial engineering they were taught in business school and what they see done all around them.

P.S. If you are invested in a 401k, you are being told that your interests align with the wealthy class. Assimilation is a very powerful tool of those in power.

Building Versus Buying

I’ve finished reading a fantastic three part series about the history of ARM written by Jeremy Reimer for Ars Technica. Here is a quote from the end of the series:

But the key to Saxby’s management approach was simple yet uncommon in the business world: ARM grew because it helped others grow. It treated its employees more like people and less like human resources, giving them chances to learn and succeed along with the company. “I’m a great believer that in any team,” he told me, “any member is better at something than somebody else, so to get the team to perform you want everyone to perform on their best axis. Teams that work well together work better.” He emphasized the importance of being honest with employees and not overpromising what the company had to offer.

The above resonates with me because the company I hired in to out of college, Electronic Data Systems, had the same business model, treat employees in a similar manner, and had success. Unlike ARM, EDS went through several different owners (GM, HP, HPE, CSC/DXC) and CEOs and each change moved further from the founding vision to the point at which it no-longer really exists.

The story also calls to mind The Infinite Game by Steve Sinek. Using Reimer’s comparison of ARM and Commodore, ARM was playing the infinite game, Commodore the finite game. In the book Sinek describes the reletively few businesses playing the “infinite game” versus the vast majority playing the “finite” game. He writes:

Infinite games have infinite time horizons. And because there is no finish line, no practical end to the game, there is no such thing as “winning” an infinite game. In an infinite game, the primary objective is to keep playing, to perpetuate the game.

Having been hired by EDS and surviving through the multitude of transitions that has occurred, I have seen first hand the differences a building a company, which usually has a founder, and buying a company, which usually has a manager. In most cases bought companies are separated from their founding, has no leadership and thus no culture.

It amazes me that given all the evidence of how to achieve long term success, such as ARM’s, that so few U.S. companies are interested in the infinite game. The finite game rules business, thus it rules capitalism, and given relationship of capitalism to the United States, the finite game rules the U.S. I don’t think prospects will change in the United States until we find leaders who are builders, right now our political, economic, and religions cultures appear to all be playing the finite game.

Profits Above All

Nobody should be surprised that big oil has long known the impact of carbon on the the climate, just as big tobacco long knew about the relationship of nicotine on cancer. Likewise, I am certain Facebook, Twitter, and Google all know the impact of social networks on mental health.

In my opinion the root cause to this behavior is the acceptance in the United States that it’s ok for one to profit from the misery of another. Any means toward the ends of more and more profits to the oligarchs is accepted by everyone, even for whom are the most affected.

If you truly read the history of the United States you will learn that from the discovery of the content through to present time the United States has existed to make one class of people rich at the expense of anyone and anything that would be in the way of that class becoming more rich. This fact has made the United States, and many other countries in the Western Hempisphere very different from other countries in the world.

The history of the United States is very much a fight, back and forth, between the oligarchs and everyone else. Everyone else won over the oligarchs in the U.S. Civil War, but the oligarchs clawed their way back up until FDR and the New Deal. Ever since the end of WW II the oligarchs have been fighting back and gained great ground during the Reagan years, and their accendancy has continued ever since no matter which poliitcal party has been in power.

Today it appears that everything is in place for the oligarchs to completely assume control over nearly everything in the United States. Trump pretty much sealed the deal by placing the oligarch’s choice of justices to the Supreme Court, under the disguise of overturning Roe v. Wade. More consequential rulings are coming to remove the New Deal, Civil Rights, and election laws that were put in place as guardrails against the oligarchs.

On the eve of the Civl War everyone else rose up against the oligarchs by forming a new political party (Republicans), and electing Abraham Lincoln, which lead to the Civl War and the oligarch’s defeat. Unfortunately, the oligarchs appear to have closed that risk to them by changing election laws and the amont of money it takes to be elected President to insure no party that they don’t control can possibly be a threat. At the moment it seems to me the only real possible equally dramatic act would be for enough states to open a Constitutional Convention that would fundamentally re-form the United States for good or ill.

Will The 2023 Chicago Cubs Be Trade Deadline Buyers?

BleedCubbieBlue.com puts the Dansby Swanson contract in context:

“This is the largest deal that Jed Hoyer’s front office has inked during his time in charge, and it’s just really not that big of a contract relative to the rest of the league or the Cubs monetary might. It doesn’t crack the top ten in MLB in years or AAV. It is the second largest deal in the history of the Cubs franchise, and it is nowhere near the top 20 contracts as of 2021, let alone ever.”

What I see in Hoyer is a baseball executive afraid to make a mistake. Under the rubric of sustaining success one may never have the chance to win championships. What we appear to have here is a plan of waiting to see how the season goes, and if half way through they have a real chance, then make trades to sign players you need, which is what happened in 2016.

The question then is whether the Cubs have enough talent going in to the season to have a good first half and be buyers at the trade deadline. With the players they have signed and the young talent they have, the 2023 Chicago Cubs on paper are better than the 2022 Chicago Cubs, the problem though is that the Cardinals have also gotten better, and they added Wilson Contreras to a team with the reigning MVP.

Chicago Cubs Already Five Games Behind in NL Central

No matter how frustrated and angry I am with the Chicago Cubs front office for not signing any free agents of consequence, it doesn’t matter. The only real thing that matters is how Ricketts (the owner) feels about the result. If I am the owner of a team and I give the people running the team the greenlight to spend money to improve the team and they don’t do it, I am not happy with their results and I will come to the conclusion that changes are needed.

Hoyer has been a big part of the decision making since after the Cubs won the World Series. Since 2017 the Cubs have regressed in their effort to return to the World Series. Looking for changes from the same people making decisions is insane, you need to change the decision makers to get a different result.

The bottom line is that the Chicago Cub’s division competitors have become much better this off season than the Cubs, and so they are losing the offseason. It might be that the Cubs surprise with their own talent, but I think that Ricketts has to start losing patience with Hoyer. If the Cubs are at the bottom of the division and out of the running by June, I think Hoyer must go. If Hoyer continues to stay then I can only conclude that he is performing to the level Ricketts expects and therefore all the talent decisions are on him.

Using IFTTT To Send Blog Posts To Day One

I am testing sending what I write in my blogs to Day One via an IFTTT applet that is monitoring their RSS feeds. There are two problems. First, the IFTTT applet doesn’t do a good job of handling titleless posts, second, hyperlinks in the posts are stripped, seemingly even if I create the links using markdown.

The applet simply creates new entries to Day One in an order and it appears that if the title is blank then the next entry in the item content is used for the title, which by default that is the item link. I moved the item link to below the item content, but my temporary work around is to configure the applet to create a “default” title for every post, with the actual title, it it exists, on the following line. but this is not optimal.

It looks like I could add some Javascript logic to the applet so I am wondering if I could simply write some code to inspect the feed title and skip it, but that may take some time to figure it out. I wonder whether anyone else has already done this?

User Hostile Apps

I play in two fantasy football leagues, one that uses the ESPN app and the other that uses Yahoo. I find it interesting how opinionated both apps are in terms of how they are used on tablets and phones. On iPads the apps only work in landscape orientation no matter which way one is holding the iPad, which I find frustrating because they are literally the only apps on my iPad that does this. On my smartphones the apps only work in portrait, again no matter how you actually hold the phone.

The smartphone behavior is even more interesting on the Microsoft Surface Duo. I have the two apps in a group so they both launched, one on each screen, and they look fine when I am holding the Duo in “book” or landscape orientation, but when I rotate the Duo into portrait orientation the apps rotate to maintain portrait while the individual screens are landscape.

Regardless of the platform, I find it very hostile to me as a user that the app only works in one way as this is completely unlike any other app. It’s as if the developers don’t actually use the platforms for which they are developing.

How I Use RSS

We tend to think about RSS in terms of web sites and web applications and what gets over looked is how you can use it personally. For example, I send items from FeedLand to Radio3 to add to my linkblog. I have an IFTTT applet monitoring the linkblog RSS file that takes new items and adds them to Pocket, which retrieves and stores the full article content that I read later.

As I read articles in Pocket I might highlight parts that I want to remember. The highlights in Pocket are grabbed by Readwise, where I can read through them and have them presented to me daily. Finally, Readwise exports the article highlights to Roam and Evernote.

In this example RSS is the backbone to my personal knowledge collection and refinement. It glues together for me hundreds of web sites and six applications.


Daytona is effectively a personal search engine that indexes the OPML files stored with my Drummer account. I am able to use it to search through a good chunk of my writing that I have published to the web over the last decade.

What I would like is to get what I add to my linkblog feed, which is RSS/XML, in to Daytona. What I need is a way to copy new entries of an RSS file to an OPML file that could be stored in Drummer and indexed by Daytona. I don’t need this to happen in real time, I could live with producing the file once a month. Note that you can see my linkblog feed in the Links tab of my daynotes site.

I imagine a nodejs script that takes as input a RSS xml file, reads each item and creates a new OPML node with the content and link to the article. The output would be a corresponding OPML file written in the same directory that I could import in to Drummer. The OPML structure could be based on the date. For example, the top level node is the month, and the child nodes would be date. Pretty much the Drummer blog structure. The RSS items on a date would be children of the date nodes.

If I had such a RSS to OPML script I would use it to make OPML versions of my Radio3 linkblog feed, my FeedLand Feed, and maybe even my micro.blog RSS file. The result would index all the content I publish to the web in Daytona that I could then search for when desired.