Bonus Post for RISK Fans!

If you've ever played RISK (The Game of Global Domination) and you want to globally dominate, then you're going to want to read my post about The Eight Types of RISK Players over at Gheorghe: The Blog.

This Week in Awesome (6/29/13)

I feel some sort of Netflix binge-watching marathon coming on...

Rising UK media entity The Guardian has a very clever blog highlighting the differences between the King's English and American English. (The Hairpin)

Salon responded to the conclusion of Mad Men's season by speculating about possible elements of the show's (presumably) final season, but I'm not sure how seriously you should consider any of these predictions. (TV Tattle)

This week's time-lapse: Hawaiian volcanoes. (Vimeo)

An artist imagines what our night sky would look like if the other planets in our solar system were as close as the moon. (The Atlantic via The Hairpin)

Of interest to only a very small number of people: photos of cars shown during the Bulger trial. (Clunker Nation via Universal Hub)

And finally this week, imaginary children's books based on characters from one of my favorite TV shows, Parks and Recreation. (Flavorwire)

What was the Civil War About?

A real hero of the Civil War that I should have learned about in school was Strong Vincent, a Union colonel who, it is said, turned the tide at the pivotal Battle of Gettysburg. He died during the battle, but was remembered long after death, at least in the North.

Back when I was a boy, textbooks, encyclopedias, teachers, and even my grandmother idealized the wrong man, Robert E. Lee, general of the Confederacy. He was intelligent, but wicked, because he served evil, a similar case as Rommel in WW2. How many Germans now idealize Rommel? Not many, I would think.

The Civil War was about the Southern elite defending their right to enslave other human beings. That was all the war was ever about, and yet people deny it throughout the former Confederacy because they have been indoctrinated to do so. The rich plantation owners of the 1860s were determined at all costs to do harm unto others that they regarded as "inferior" by murdering, raping, torturing, confining, forcing into labor and selling their slaves. Had the landowners ever shown the least resolve to stop committing these atrocities, there would have been no war.

The Southern elite have for hundreds of years set themselves above minorities they regard as inferior, preserving their privileged status and keeping minorities down through legislation and force. This attitude is still in evidence today. Among the Southern elite, there persists a desire to keep others down--anyone regarded as "inferior"--due to a belief that somehow the misery of others makes their own lot seem better, if only by comparison.

You Shouldn't Wish People Dead (Spoilers?)

I'd like to apologize for my sentence the other day about George R.R. Martin -- it's gauche to wish someone dead just because he wrote a boring book, and it's my fault for finishing the thing, but I will say this -- and I don't even think these are spoilers -- there are two big scenes in A Dance with Dragons that take a nearly a thousand pages of exposition to set up, and each one contains a vital character that there is no possible way in hell anyone except the nerdiest of the nerdiest is going to remember . . . the first is when Bloodbeard presents the head of Groleo to King Hizdahr . . . and you are supposed to remember that this is some sort of retaliation for Yurkhaz zo Yunzak, but mainly I was thinking: Groleo? Who the f-- is Groleo? Am I supposed to know this Groleo? I am supposed to feel a certain way about his severed head? and then in the last chapter (but before the Epilogue) Daenerys, starved and stranded in the Dothraki grasslands, but accompanied by her dragon, encounters the khalasar of Khal Jhaqo, who betrayed her old husband -- Khal Drogo -- after his death . . . but again, I was thinking: who the f-- is Khal Jhaqo? Is this an interesting coincidence? A new character? because I think the last time he was in the series was several thousand pages ago . . . but thank the Seven Gods for the internet -- but if I'm going to have to read the internet every time something happens in the series, then there is something seriously wrong with this series, and upon further reflection, I'm taking back my apology and once again wishing George R.R. Martin dead, so that I don't have to suffer through any more climactic anti-climaxes.

Victory through Nonviolence

Gays won on the legal, political, and cultural battleground because they spoke the most reasonable words with the most moderate voice. Their dialogue was one of human rights and dignity. Their opponents varied, but never made a good impression upon me. There was never a time I listened to a homophobe and thought, "Gee, he might have something there." Instead, I always wondered what variety of mental disease these haters suffered from. All too often, homophobes were exposed as closeted homosexuals, which was extremely damaging to the anti-gay lobby, rather like tossing a fragmentation grenade into the officer's tent. The Wiccan law applies: when one points a finger at others, three are pointing back. Too clear was the hypocrisy, meanness and ignorance of homophobes. As for the gay activists, why, they were for the most part non-violent, even in the face of outrageous injustice. There is value in taking blows when others must witness it, because those who watch will wonder when they will be struck next, because violence has a way of spreading, of engulfing communities, turning against minorities first, and then everyone. So when Matthew Shepard was martyred by the brutal murderers, that was one of the turning points in the battle, when people of conscience could no longer accept the injustice, hypocrisy and wickedness. That was the point when many good people said, Enough. Because there are things in life of more value than popularity, material or power. There is a spiritual and moral dimension that transcends the world we live in and life itself. Spiritual force can be overwhelming, as many a cynic has discovered at a late hour.

Dog Park Jazz Recommendations

A middle-aged rather distinguished African-American gentleman that I talk to at the dog park has been giving me some good jazz recommendations . . . and I'm trying not to be stereotypical, but he's exactly the kind of guy that you'd imagine would give good jazz recommendations, so sometimes stereotypes have a silver lining . . . anyway, I've been listening to a lot of Robert Glasper and Christian Scott lately.

Retro Video Unit (6/28/13)

Sometimes a really good song got stuck with a mediocre video, like this one, "Let Me Go" by Heaven 17:

Fixing a Broken Shutdown Shortcut

Kubuntu 13.04 offered some updates today that broke my shutdown shortcut. After a bit of poking around and trying various things, I found that this syntax fixes the problem:
sudo chmod u+s /sbin/shutdown
I don't notice any improvements from the updates. Devs, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. And here's my corollary to that general rule: if you can't help yourself from fixin' what ain't broke, then don't break it.

At least I was able to fix their fix.

Things You Don't See Every Day

While driving down South Fifth Avenue, the steep hill that descends to Donaldson Park, my son Ian and I saw three twenty-somethings rolling large logs up the street . . . there is a pile of these logs at the bottom of the street, near the public works building -- I suppose they are waiting to be chipped, but as for now they are free for the taking, but most people take them in pick-up trucks, but these kids were doing it by hand, and sweating their asses off; I assume they were going to use them for stools or burn them or something, but now that I am home, I'm a bit worried, because the skies have gone dark and a thunderstorm in approaching, and if they lose their grip, those things are going to be giant wooden juggernauts, hurtling down South Fifth, smacking into cars, pedestrians, shrubbery, and front porches . . . but I live more towards Second Avenue, so who cares.

Grooming Garage: Other Blades to Try

I haven't done one of these in a while, but a couple of months ago I became aware of two new companies offering razor products, and I'm always happy to see people willing to fight the hegemony of Gillette, so I ordered both of them for test-shaving purposes.

When I try something new like this I can't offer a legitimate opinion after only one use, so I try to use a new razor for a number of shaves, at least four or five. That gives me an idea of what sort of performance I might expect with regular use, and lets me see how long the blades remain sharp.

I heard about 800Razors from the blog United Style. They offer both 3-blade and 5-blade models, and their products are made in the USA. I preferred the styling and color scheme of their 5-blade razor, but I've found that 4- or 5-blade razors don't give me any benefit beyond a 3-blade, so I ordered their 3-blade model, which came with 5 cartridges for $10. (You get more cartridges for your money with the 3-blade model, too.)

The handle has nice contours and rubberized grip points, so it's easy to hold and feels comfortable in the hand. I didn't expect the shaves to be as good as the Schick Xtreme3 razor I've been using for several years, but I have found the 800Razors model to give an equivalent shave. I'm very satisfied and probably will continue to use it. I don't know if the 5-blade model is as good, but I would be inclined to think so. (They have also just introduced a women's 5-blade razor.)

Shipping is free, and if for any reason you aren't satisfied they will give you a refund. One other nice thing: the more replacement cartridges you buy at one time, the better the per-cartridge price.

The other company, Harry's, was all over the men's style websites when they launched their products a few months back. (I guess they have a better PR person than 800Razors.) I was immediately drawn to the design of the handle with its smooth, clean lines—just the sort of razor I might design myself, I thought.

The Harry's razor comes with one 5-blade cartridge (the only option) for $10, or for $15 (all orders ship free) you get 3 cartridges and a tube of their shaving cream, so I ordered that combo. The handle is available in a choice of four colors: deep blue, ivory, olive, or orange, which is the one I chose. There's also an aluminum version for $10 more. As with 800Razors, Harry's offers better pricing for buying larger quantities of replacement cartridges.

The set arrived in a dark blue box with the various items set into cutouts inside. It was very impressive looking, and the razor is truly a pleasure to hold. I thought I was really onto something... and then I shaved. It was one of the worst shaves I'd had in years. The shaving cream stung my face, so I decided next time I'd use the razor with my regular shaving cream. It didn't matter; I had to switch razors after a couple of minutes. The blades just wouldn't glide over my skin the way other razor blades do.

I really wanted to like the Harry's products, because it's obvious a great deal of thought has gone into their design and construction, and I feel bad saying somewhat unflattering things about them here, but my experience with them was very disappointing. It's entirely possible that my skin is to blame and that others are perfectly happy using their Harry's shaving cream and razors. As they say, your mileage may vary.

I Hate George R.R. Martin and Hope He Dies Before He Finishes His Next Book

I just finished A Dance with Dragons, George R.R. Martin's fifth book in his epic series A Song of Ice and Fire, and while it's not as tedious and annoying as A Feast for Crows, it is still pretty damn boring . . . overly-descriptive and hyper-detailed in a self-congratulatory style that begs for editing -- reading it was more like homework than pleasure, and there is no comparison to the first three books -- which were fast-paced, grim, realistic, surprising, and genre-breaking . . . I finished this one simply to find out what happens, and when I was mired seven hundred pages in, dealing with chapter after chapter of incomprehensible family relationships, bloody flux, and descriptions of provisions, I realized that perhaps I had read more pages of George R.R. Martin than any other author -- over 5000 pages of his prose (I've read a lot of Neal Stephenson and Elmore Leonard and Kurt Vonnegut, but probably not 5000 pages worth . . . maybe Stephen J. Gould?) and I haven't really liked the last 2000 pages of his narrative, but I'm in too deep to quit now, and so I'm hoping that Martin contracts a fatal case of the "pale mare" before he publishes another pedantic volume, and thus spares me from reading it (although I'm sure even if he dies, some hack will take his notes and finish the saga . . . and I'll probably read it just so I'm ahead of the HBO series and don't end up being humiliated in a "Red Wedding Reactions Compilation" video).

Pastel Puzzlement

I'm constantly fascinated by the things people choose to wear. I don't usually take pictures of them, but I saw this guy while waiting for the T recently, and I was so confused that I surreptitiously snapped this quick shot (I did, however, make the effort to crop his face from the image):
Maybe he just really likes sherbet?

Historic Life-Changing Ruling by Supreme Court

The greatest ruling by the Supreme Court in my lifetime has come to pass today. This means the world for gay folks. Equal protection under the law is closer to becoming a reality in every state. The ruling means peace, it means liberty, it means justice.

I am proud of my country. Little I have read in the media the past few months has made me so proud as this. There used to be a time when gays were denied employment in the State Department, because it was thought they were vulnerable to blackmail. Now the case is just the opposite. In China and Russia, homophobia and discrimination are part of the law. Perhaps China and Russia have this vulnerability, but not the U.S.

I am surprised and pleased, but wish the ruling had been unanimous. States' rights, after all; why did the conservative jurists not defend their cherished ideal, states' rights? They do so in all the other cases, the ones where big money for corporations is at stake. The minute the question is individual liberty, suddenly states' rights doesn't matter to 'em. Not much effort is required to expose the motives of Scalia and company.

I think I'm going to have to cast about for a state where gay marriage is legal and relocate! My red state is going to remain decades behind the times on this issue, just like it did on civil rights for blacks. History repeats itself. I think a court order will be required for my red state to do what's right. Wikipedia has a good article listing the states where gay marriage is legal. I view it as a travel guide for gay couples.

I didn't expect to live to see this day, but I'm glad I did. There's a feeling of unreality, of living in a dream. I always chuckle to remember back when I was thirteen and thought I was the only gay in the world. Goodness, there must be a lot of gays out there besides me. And after all, gay is not threatening. By its very nature, gay is not threatening. The more the issue is discussed, the more truth that is brought out into the light of day, the more people realize that it is not any kind of threat. As my straight brother puts it, "If some guys don't want to do it with women, that just means more for me!"

I don't expect a surge of gay marriages. For one thing, many gays aren't couples. However, I feel that monogamy is a good thing, for many reasons, and I think that whatever serves to encourage monogamy (short of compulsion or force) is a good thing. Therefore gay marriage is a good thing both for gays and for society, of which gays are a part. I think over time, gay marriage will become more common.

However, I hope young and idealistic gays don't rush into marriage just to prove a point. I believe a couple--whether straight or gay or somewhere in between--should live together for at least three years prior to marrying. There are, of course, downsides to marriage, which individuals need to examine at their leisure with objectivity. Marriage has always been a problematic institution. However, for some couples, the happy ones, the long-term partners, marriage solves a great many legal and financial loose ends, such as hospital visitation, medical questions, custody of children, inheritance, immigration, federal and state benefits, insurance, and so on. I would advise gays to observe and learn from the experiences of their heterosexual peers however, because divorce can be unpleasant and unfair. I believe marriage and divorce could stand some reforms to keep pace with the evolving roles of men and women. But that is an issue for another blog post at another time.

My Brain is Sprained

On a consistent basis, I drop a word, usually a preposition, conjunction or noun. I have to read my blog posts over and over again, about five times on average, before I detect the missing word. I used to produce near-perfect copy. I think it is a sign of decay that will only get worse as time goes on. However, I find consolation in mainstream media sites, such as CNN and MSNBC, which display the same human frailty.

Blogger Fails in Firefox

I've been using Blogger since 2009. Starting around 2012, Google made ill-conceived changes to Blogger that have made me dread editing my template's html or css. I have given up on maintaining a custom template. The Template and Layout functions of Blogger are horrible. Blogger has crashed Firefox so many times that I've lost count. How does Blogspot set about crashing a computer? Constant and nonstop hits to web sites like twitter, facebook, and google's own. Continual processing for no apparent reason, endless loops just burning the cpu up until 100% of the processor is in use, accomplishing nothing whatsoever. Blogger crashes Firefox on both Linux and Windows systems, I might add. It doesn't matter what kind of computer I use or how much memory I have or how fast my Internet is or which operating system I choose. Blogger will crash Firefox in a heartbeat. It will also bring a computer system to a crawl and force a reboot.

Like most things, Blogger devolves rather than getting better. I suppose Windows doesn't set a good example in that regard. The only thing Google cares about is making money off AdSense, but I can't see running ads on a web site where I cannot even edit the html or css at all without the computer crashing. I certainly can't recommend Blogger to anyone who wants to start a blog, unless they like rebooting their computer every five minutes.

On the plus side, I do like the stock template. It's nice and dark and seems more pleasing to the eye, although I could ask for a bit more color. We have color monitors--shouldn't we use them? Black and white seems, well, a bit of a throwback to the 1970's, when I actually had a black and white television set. It's a sign of age if one can remember watching television in black and white.

I would have preferred the option of selecting and installing a new template rather than being pressured into doing so by a kludgey editor that crashed my computers. Nobody likes being forced to do things.

Steamy Ride

Hands up if you were unaware that the T still has buses without air conditioning.

Classroom Dream

I dreamed that I was in a classroom with many students sitting on those old-fashioned wood and metal contraptions they used to use back in the day, with a hard wood writing surface and chair with steel legs and a steel compartment under the chair bottom to put books and papers inside. Those things could be broken, as some boys discovered after trying the better part of a school-year or multiple school-years, but not easily, and they could be repaired, too.

I was young again, I don't know how young, but at the age when sitting in such an old-fashioned desk would have been right, and reunited with my best friend at the time. We were aware of the passage of the time, so this was not a flashback to the past, but a reunion in Heaven. We realized we hadn't seen each other for--what is it now, twenty years? More, I think. Thirty? Of course we remembered the reasons for going our separate ways. Yet for whatever reason, we were back in the place where we first met all those years ago, doing mindless busy work we used to do in school. The teacher, who had no face, no name, and not a very memorable voice either, had assigned a score of questions to be answered by reading a chapter in our textbook. I don't know what the textbook was about. Something incorrect or inaccurate, no doubt, and not written very well, like most textbooks in school.

I was euphoric at being reunited with my old friend. The magnetism was strong, like magic, and I was curious. I had many questions, but these were left unasked. He was friendly and seemed to understand everything. He was serious about schoolwork as he always was and working on the assigned questions, which he finished before anyone else. I took his notebook--I had that privilege with him that I didn't need to ask--and began copying his answers into my notebook to save myself the effort, smiling all the while.

A few moments later, at the far left of the classroom, another student raised her voice and denounced the fellow sitting in front of her, who had copied her questions just as I had copied my friend's. The teacher reiterated that she expected us to do our own work. I looked at my friend's face and he had one of those expressions I was so familiar with, that look of rebuke. Blushing, I returned his notebook and began working on the questions myself.

Upon waking, the dream seemed less charming. Perhaps it is seldom that young friends part on amicable terms. He was the more popular one, the one that knew how to manipulate others. I was not adept at reading social signals, which is so important in our world. When he decided I was no longer useful and could be replaced by someone else, he played pranks on me that he found amusing, fooling me again and again. Back then, I was what you call stupid. Book-smart but not street-smart, which is often fatal. He was cold and adept at making cold decisions. I don't envy whoever he is with now, if anyone at all. If I had had a choice, I wouldn't have dreamed of him, either. He is not the sort of thing I like to dream about.

I think the dream was just an echo of the past. Memory is a funny thing. Facts are stored in memory, of course, but also feelings without regard to the alterations wrought by time. I used to feel a certain way about him, and that feeling is recorded somewhere, just like a fact would be, even though my current feelings are different. The unconscious mind revisited an old memory covered in dust somewhere in the attic. I wonder what the trigger was? Perhaps last night's watching of the first episode of season six of Mad Men. The accuracy of that retro 1960s show amazes me. Upon reflection, I think the antique fashion and style of that show certainly triggered a memory from my distant past, a past I'd perhaps be better off forgetting.

Mad (Wo)Men 6x13: "Well, aren't you lucky to have decisions?"

Everyone’s disappointed that Mad Men‘s clues and parallels between Megan Draper and Sharon Tate didn’t pan out in the season finale. But my question is: Didn’t it?
There was no physical violence or murder plot carried out, but if we think back to Don’s L.A. hallucination: Megan appeared to him. Surprised to see her, she explained to Don: “But I live here.” She then revealed to Don she was pregnant. So if Don and Megan become a bi-coastal couple, what’s to say Megan won’t move out to L.A., take on a little more of the stereotypical “relaxed” L.A. lifestyle, and get pregnant?

But for the meantime, Megan lets herself get jerked around by Don. First, Don announces he wants to move to L.A. so he can build a desk for SC&P on the West Coast.
“We were happy there,” he tells Megan. “We can be happy again.” He doesn’t want Megan to give up her career, but plans are made after that, and Megan tells the powers that be at work, who agree to write her off the soap. Just when everything is planned, Don gives the L.A. position to Ted, so he can sort out his affair with Peggy.
Of course, when Megan hears Don gave the position to Ted (she doesn’t know the why behind it), she’s pissed. “Fuck the agency,” she tells Don. “I quit my job.” Megan says if he wants to be alone with his liquor and his messed up kids and his ex-wife, that’s fine. Don tries to reason with her, saying they can be a bicoastal couple and telling her he loves her, but she won’t listen and storms out of the apartment.
But since Megan already quit her job and has meetings lined up in L.A., it seems likely she will, in fact, move with or without Don. And just may make Don’s hallucination come true. (And moving to L.A. also seems to extend the parallels between Megan and Sharon Tate even further, although Megan is older than Tate.)
From the beginning of Ted and Peggy’s flirtation, the relationship was set to end poorly, since Ted is a married man. But Ted, who Peggy claimed was a “good man” is almost as bad as Don, running off to California rather than confronting the complexities of being in love with a woman he works with, Peggy, and not being a man who can give up his family.
So after sleeping with Peggy, he tells her he’s going to California. “You can stay here and have your life and career and let this be the past.” Peggy thinks it was Don’s decision to send Ted at first, but Ted explains, saying Don gave up his spot for him. “I wanted this, but I have a family,” Ted tells her. “I have to hold onto them or I’ll get lost in the chaos.”
“Well, aren’t you lucky to have decisions.” Peggy replies. And in that sentence, therein lies the rub for the women on Mad Men.
The men are always running off, creating options where there may not have been options before, and the women are stuck where they were. Megan, although she has control of her own career, had given up some of that power to go along with Don’s decision. She gave up her role on the soap opera for a move to Los Angeles which isn’t happening because Don changed his mind.
Joan tries to make inroads at the firm, but she is stuck in her position as a glorified secretary, because the partners at the firm do not see her as anything otherwise.
Peggy, another who has made advancements in her career, can’t seem to break out of Don’s molding of her. At CGC, she thought she had broken free from him, but then her budding flirtation and relationship with Ted complicated whatever freedom she was feeling. Even if she had been able to make the St. Joseph’s aspirin commercial the way she wanted it, it was because of Ted’s support. She wasn’t rewarded the opportunity purely for her talents, but because of Ted’s infatuation with her.
Peggy tells Ted to get out of her office. Later, we see her working on Thanksgiving in Don’s office, because “that’s where everything is.” When Peggy sits down in his chair and looks out the window, the shot of her profile is the same shot as the profile of the ad man at the end of the show’s credits.

Confessions of a Blogger

The reality as I see it is that most blogs have no readers--or few, if any. The lion's share of traffic consists of bots. Bots with bad intentions, mostly--content scrapers and hackers angling for derivative traffic. ?!Buzzword?! What is "derivative traffic," igor? Well, pardon my jargon, but derivative traffic is traffic that derives from somebody else's labor--writing, photos, what-have-you. Capiche? There are sites on the Internet that have stolen my content, such as it is, despite what may be regarded as its uncertain value. There are many sites on the Internet that rate my site, analyze my site, give every manner of statistics, and give previews and archival history of my site. All of that comes from bot traffic, from unattended software programs hammering this site day after day collecting data.

On this blog, my best estimation is that 90% of the hits are non-human bots. Of the humans that do hit the blog, most are searching for answers to narrow technical questions, and most hit about a dozen different posts that are the most popular posts on my blog. That would include the Dungeon Crawl Cheat, although I don't know how many Dungeon Crawlers actually bother installing the batch file nowadays. Not many people know what batch files are anymore, and I reckon those that don't would be worried about a virus. The batch file is useful mainly for my own purposes. I can't imagine playing Dungeon Crawl without it. I like to have control over death. Isn't that a natural human desire?

Why so many bots? I get asked that question often, especially when I explain that ninety out of a hundred hits to any given web site are non-human. Well, hackers figured out a long time ago that they could exploit weaknesses in human nature and in search engine technology to drive traffic to their own web sites, where they make money off advertising, install malware, flog some worthless software, or just increase the value of an url that they plan to sell later.

Gee, igor, that sounds like an easy way to make money! How come you don't do it? Ha-ha, I've thought about that and a lot of other easy ways to make money. I won't say I'm above temptation. But even though our government sets such a poor example, I still find some value in ethics. I don't want my legacy to consist of crap web sites and increased distortion and confusion on the Internet. I've always been on the other side of that war and have invested too much effort in fighting bots to change hats now. I suspect the government is behind some of these bots, using them in an effort to monitor and exert some degree of control over the flow of information.

This Week in Awesome (6/22/13)

We're just about at overflow capacity this week; strange how some weeks I find almost nothing of interest, and other times it's like this...

Jimmy Kimmel wraps up The Baby Bachelor.

The resting place for Manhattan's no-longer-needed pay phones has been located. (BuzzFeed)

Here's another exercise in applying the periodic table framework to completely unrelated material. (Laughing Squid)

This week's time-lapse: construction of a new skyscraper in London. (Vimeo)

Somewhat related: I have a thing for infrastructure—roads, bridges and tunnels, buildings, anything that comprises the built environment. You may have heard that New York's Metropolitan Transit Authority is constructing a new subway line under Manhattan's east side, the first such work to take place in eight decades. Regardless of the location, new subway construction is fairly rare in any city, so the opportunity to see these amazing pictures of the progress is rare and special. (MTA via Jalopnik; if you liked this, the MTA's flickr page has much more.)

NBC's Hannibal turned out to be the best new show of this year (I had previously labeled FX's The Americans as such, but Hannibal hadn't premiered yet), partly by subverting expectations of just what sort of show it was going to be (sorry, Mom). This excellent article by Todd VanDerWerff explores how this was accomplished, and why it matters. (The A.V. Club)

And finally this week, to mark the end of Mad Men's sixth season, a couple of related bits: first, a silly tumblr (HitFix); second, many viewers probably recognized the song used over last week's closing credits as "Porpoise Song" by The Monkees, from their 1968 movie Head. But take a look at the opening of the movie where the song is used, and see if it reminds you of anything. (Thanks to Aaron at Unlikely Words for pointing this out in his weekly MM recap)

I Like

Usually I blog about things I hate. Today, for variety, I blog about things I like.

I like to watch drag, dance, comedy, drama, and documentaries, not necessarily in that order.

I like to fool around with linux, even though I'm the only one I know that does.

I like to play weird, off-the-wall openings in Chess. The weirder, the better, in my book.

I like to cooperate with people and give them good advice. It may be that the only purpose in life is to spread a little bit of wisdom and sunshine here and there.

I like to get paid for doing work that I enjoy, rare enough though that is.

I like to have a lot of that sort of work.

I like to play some of the most difficult races in Dungeon Crawl, such as troll and mummy, just to see if I can win with one of these "impossible" races.

I like to fight crime by working on security for web sites.

I like to discover that strangers are actually good people with good intentions, rather than something else.

I like to avoid complications.

I like reading.

I like cats.

I prefer winter to summer, cold to hot, spicy to plain, and bitter to sweet.

I like zombie movies, and I've finally come around to liking Game of Thrones.

Fingertip Tip

I don't have many helpful tips, but when I do I like to share them...

When I am getting dressed up and I need to tie a tie, I tend to have trouble with the fabric catching on the skin around my cuticles and fingernails, especially in cold weather. This is probably because I have a tendency to gnaw on them, so the edges are typically uneven.

Somehow it occurred to me to put a little moisturizer on my fingers. I only need a small amount, and if you have a pump-top bottle it's more convenient. Also, this works better if it's not super-thick. Just rub it into your fingertips, and around the cuticles if necessary. Wait a minute or so for the moisturizer to be absorbed, so your fingers aren't slick or greasy, then tie the tie.

What Bing Means to Me

I detest Yahoo and Bing. The acronym "Bing" stands for Bastion of Incompetence, Negligence and Gross impairment. Yahoo and Bing are one and the same as far as search results are concerned.

My strong feeling against these two search engines is in reaction to their stubborn insistence to index every last page on a web site, even those pages that the site owner has specifically disallowed in robots.txt. I discovered tonight that #2 in the Yahoo and Bing results for a search term for one of my web sites was the very bot-trap that I had disallowed in my robots.txt. The bot-trap should never, ever, under any circumstances be indexed by any search engine. The reason that Bing and Yahoo index it is because they are stupid, stubborn and ignorant. There is no other conceivable reason. I understand how the rules work in robots.txt. Google understands. Yahoo and Bing do not understand. I do not have time enough in my day to teach those corporations how to code their search engine. They are just going to have to teach themselves.

However, the incompetence of Yahoo and Bing caused a problem for me. I don't want innocent humans clicking on a search result in Bing and getting banned from my site. My first thought was to disallow Bing and Yahoo altogether and get de-indexed from those seach engines, which send so little traffic they are scarcely worth worrying about. However, some people don't know any better and get suckered into installing a toolbar that connects them to Yahoo or Bing.

My solution was simple and elegant. First, I renamed my bot-trap. The new name will not be disclosed anywhere. Yahoo and Bing won't be able to find it unless they stoop to dirty tricks and get banned. They might just do that. If the new bot-trap name shows up, then I may resort to banning Yahoo and Bing altogether, which was my first plan of action.

However, for the time being, the #2 search result that formerly led to my bot-trap now leads to a page that simply informs the user that Yahoo or Bing has caused an error, and they should use Google instead. A link to is thoughtfully provided.

My problem has now become Yahoo and Bing's problem. They lose face, rather than the other way around, and that's the way it should be.

All Kinds of Fans

Nice to see the Museum of Fine Arts has been having some fun with the Stanley Cup finals.

An Open Approach

I've been following Everlane, a small clothing company based in California, since they started up a couple of years ago. They set out to make quality items at fair prices, and to be as transparent about their manufacturing as possible, meaning they disclose information about the factories used by their suppliers, they visit and maintain relationships, monitor working conditions, etc. They also reveal the cost structures of the items they sell, which is pretty much unheard of in the fashion industry.

I decided it was time to sample the product, and they recently added several new color choices to their T-shirt line, so I ordered three from them. Their Ts are manufactured in Los Angeles, just like American Apparel. The fabric is just as nice, and Everlane's T-shirts sell for $3 less, in part because they only sell direct so they don't have AA's cost burden of a worldwide chain of retail stores.

The fabric is as soft as you could ask for and the construction is first-rate. I have one minor quibble with the Everlane Ts: the neck isn't cut quite as high as I prefer, and since its fabrication is softer it tends to droop a tiny bit. I might try going one size smaller to see if that helps.

So, an Everlane T-shirt that's made in the USA costs $15, and if you buy two or more items the shipping is free. How does that compare to what other stores sell? Target sells solid Ts for $8, Old Navy's are $10 (currently on sale for $6), and Gap's are $17 (currently $12.50 each if you buy two or more). J. Crew's men's Ts are regularly $25, and women's are $25-30 depending on style and fabric (they do go on sale, but typically only "select colors"). None of those are made in the USA. Wouldn't you like to buy a garment that you know supports American workers, and is also a top-quality product?

By the way, Everlane sells more than just T-shirts. They have oxford-cloth button-front shirts; cashmere sweaters for men and women; a collection of bags including weekenders, totes, and backpacks; a woman's sandal; and other accessories like bags and scarves. Some of these items are made in the USA and others are not, but Everlane provides full information about where and how each item is made. This is a company you'll want to keep an eye on.

Mad (Wo)Men 6x12: "My father's never given me anything."

After Sally walked in on Don and Sylvia, this week, unsurprisingly, she has no interest in visiting Don and Megan in the city. When Betty calls Don to tell him, he is expecting her to know everything. He’s waiting for the lashing that is to come, but Sally hasn’t informed Betty of the incident.
Instead Betty tells him Sally is interested in attending boarding school. The girls Sally stays with during her overnight visit are the stereotypical “bad girl” boarding school types. They expect her to provide liquor and smokes. Sally comes through by calling her friend Glen, who attends the boys’ boarding school down the road. He brings along a friend, and when Glen and the blonde girl go into her bedroom, it leaves Sally with Glen’s friend, Rolo.
No doubt Sally is going to have daddy issues after last week, but even despite that, her parents divorced and remarried other people, and it’s unclear what effect this has on Sally’s psyche regarding relationships. She seems less preoccupied with boys and more interested in activities and friendships. Last week, it was clear her friend had more experience with boys and Sally concentrated more on her memorizing for their Model UN event.
This week, Sally politely tries to change the subject when Rolo tries to get her to fool around. When that doesn’t work, she calls in back-up in the form of Glen, who abandons his make out session to physically defend Sally’s honor. “She’s like my sister!” He yells at his friend. Sally is pleased by Glen’s actions, but apologizes to Glen and the blonde for ruining their fun.
Some have claimed Sally was being manipulative in using Glen, but after Don let her down, she needs someone she knows will defend her. In this case, it happened to be Glen.

Peggy and Ted are more giggly at work together than usual and it’s obvious to everyone in the office, including Ginsburg, Ted’s secretary, and Joan.
It’s unclear whether Don had noticed their flirting previously, but when he and Megan run into Ted and Peggy at the movies, Don isn’t tricked by the flimsy excuse that they were simply seeing the movie as inspiration for the St. Joseph’s aspirin commercial pitch.
Once Don realizes the aspirin commercial is severely over budget, he informs the client, and watches the fallout happen. When Peggy confronts him about the situation, she claims he did it because Don can’t stand that Ted is a good man.
“He’s not that virtuous,” Don replies. “He’s just in love with you.”
Peggy is furious Don essentially, if not literally, called out her and Ted’s relationship. Her anger may be valid, considering Don is a cheating cheater who cheats, but if the situation were reversed, Ted would be PISSED that Don was withholding information from a client because of his feelings for a woman.
“You’re a monster,” Peggy tells him before leaving. When Peggy quit in The Other Woman, it was because she knew she had to get away from Don in order to grow in her role as a copywriter and she thought CGC, specifically, Ted, supported this growth. But now she is back at SC&P and she feels she can’t grow because she spends so much effort dealing with Don’s petulant behavior. However, in this scenario, Don might be in the right.
Over the past few episodes, Peggy has shown how she does not support other people’s  rule breaking. She didn’t support Joan trying to land the Avon account because by the rules, it was Pete’s account to have if Ted or Don deemed it so. She wasn’t supportive of her ex-boyfriend, Abe’s choice to move to the developing UWS neighborhood. Peggy wants things the way she wants them and her relationship with Ted is no different. She doesn’t seem to mind breaking the rules, not only at work, but personal ones–Ted’s marriage vows, for one–as long as it’s what she wants.
But if someone points out she’s in the wrong, she is loathe to admit it, especially if Don is the one doing the calling out.

Even though Joan’s appearance this week was brief, she was having none of Ted and Peggy’s flirting during the casting session.
Joan was the one who filled in Don on how overbudget the commercial was. While many think she did not have cruel intentions by doing so, it could also be a backlash against Peggy after the Avon situation.

The Media's Ad Hominem

The right-wing media in this country do not attack Eric Snowden's message, instead attacking the man. That they hate him is obvious. But they haven't much of a hand if they must resort to ad hominem.

I am uninterested in the man. He looks ordinary and unremarkable. The only reason he made the news was his message. The message is what matters. Whether his message is true is the salient point. Snowden's biography is trivia for historians. I have not bothered reading the interviews with Snowden's girlfriend, father or mother. I don't care whether Snowden seems at times grandiose or whether he may have a martyr complex. He did not hire a media consultant, has never been famous before, and is probably making blunders. He should be expected to commit blunders. To do otherwise would be extraordinary. He has never been a politician. Cut to the chase. Is he speaking the truth?

Burrito Sandwich? YES.

The Mrs. and I have been faithful patrons of Anna's Taqueria for as long as they've been open (or at least open on the north side of the Charles). To our taste buds they make the best burritos around.

When we want them, we usually drive to Davis Square, which takes about 15-20 minutes each way from our house, depending on traffic. It wasn't so bad when we lived in Somerville, but after moving to Medford seven years ago it became more of a pain. For years Anna's seemed to be opening new locations all over greater Boston, and I kept hoping they would come to Medford Square.

Last spring we saw signs for a Mexican place opening in the Square, just a couple of doors down from our favorite coffee shop. Not Anna's, but we figured it would be worth a try when it opened. They make a nice burrito, but it's just not the same.

However, I hadn't paid much attention to the rest of the menu, and while having a conversation with the proprietor of the coffee shop, the subject of Tenoch (the neighboring Mexican place) came up. "You've had a torta there, right?" she asked. In fact, I had not tried a torta. I hadn't even noticed that they served it, and I didn't know what a torta was.

Turns out, a torta is like a burrito sandwich, served on a soft, fluffy, oval roll called telera bread. And they're freakin' fantastic. Other ingredients that are torta-specific (at least at Tenoch) are chipotle mayonnaise and Oaxaca cheese. Other fillings include beans, onions, avocado, lettuce, and tomatoes. These are added to various meat choices; I have tried the Campechana, which combines chorizo and carnitas, and the Pollo Empanizado, which features flattened chicken pieces which are breaded and baked. You can also get either the carnitas or the chorizo solo with the other goodies, or roasted vegetables for the non-meat eaters.

Because all that stuff is on a roll instead of rolled snugly inside a tortilla, tortas are somewhat messier to eat, but they are so delicious no one would care about needing a few extra napkins. Tenoch also serves enchiladas, tacos, and other typical Mexican food, but if you go you really have to try the tortas. If you're staying there to eat, you can get beer or wine if you like.

Tenoch is at 24 Riverside Avenue in Medford Square (exit 32 off route 93). They're open Monday to Saturday until 9 pm (closed Sundays). They also have a trailer that has been showing up at various food-truck spots around Boston (they're at the SoWa market on Sundays, according to one of the staffers) and I've heard that they are going to open a second location in the North End, which will be an interesting counterpoint to that neighborhood's Italian fare.

This Week in Awesome (6/15/13)

Better late than not at all...

Vulture offers its choices for the 10 best sketches from this past season of Saturday Night Live; I only disagreed with one of them.

This week's time-lapse: Dubai. (Vimeo)

Jimmy Kimmel continues The Baby Bachelor.

A music mashup of the Beatles and the Beastie Boys? Controversial, to say the least, but points for effort. (Laughing Squid)

And finally this week, I've mentioned comedian Patton Oswalt a couple of times. He's posted a long and very thoughtful essay on his personal website that touches on a number of topics that are pertinent to his particular line of work, but reflect back on the rest of us as well. And not surprisingly, he's as adept with the written word as he is onstage. Not everyone will be interested in reading this sort of thing, but I promise it's worth your time. (The A.V. Club)

Situational Ethics

I remember that the conservative Christian fundamentalists in my youth railed against a term I had never heard before: situational ethics, wherein certain deeds are not always wrong or always right. Instead, the verdict of right or wrong depends upon the situation. For instance, murder is wrong, but in war, killing may be right. Killing may be right to defend a loved one from immediate violence, or to punish and dispose of a convicted murderer, or to alleviate the pain of a dying person, or to abort an unwanted embryo. Some religionists reject situational ethics, and maintain that there are absolutes, such as this one, that killing is never right in any situation, which seems an extreme position, yet is one taken by several religious minorities throughout the ages. I'm afraid the roughness of our world prohibits nonviolence from gaining a majority footprint. Yet if every being were endowed with an inability to commit violence, then the world would be a better place, sure.

I believe situational ethics is right, because what is usually a right can also become a wrong, and vice versa. I believe in adaptable absolutes rather than unshakable dogmas. I believe the spirit of an ethical law is more important than the literal word. One would be too lawyerly to interpret rules as unbendable. It seems a failure to have a deeper and more meaningful understanding of ethics. But I think the explanation for absolute ethics is that some believe Scripture to be the literal word of God, infallible in every way, a hypothesis neither I nor any of my family ever accepted. I don't think many Christians believe the Bible is the literal word of God any longer.

However, a valid criticism of situational ethics is that many intelligent people subscribe to it, but use rationalizations to find exceptions for just about any conduct at all, such as spying on Americans. I am sure all those Congressmen and bureaucrats really believe that they are doing right by spying on everybody. They dismiss any concerns as paranoia. They point to various cases where spying helped improve the efficiency of this or that law enforcement agency. Well, you know, the Gestapo was a very efficient organization in its day, too. Sure, if you spy on everybody, you're going to catch some bad people. The trouble is, a lot of information gets uncovered by this spying, and that's a very tempting treasure trove of private and personal data. Sooner or later, it's going to be abused, and I think sooner rather than later.

I think all this spying is contrary to the spirit of our republic, that it is a relic of tyranny, and that a powerful tool has been placed into the hands of--who knows? Really, who knows who's tapping into all that data? Do tens of thousands of people have access? How many are psychopaths? How many are working for another government, for the mafia, or for a drug cartel?

I was in the grocery store yesterday and saw a depressing sight, the books and magazine section. There were hundreds of magazines, but not a single news magazine. Hundreds of magazines had to do with sports, handguns, rifles, machine guns, sex, celebrities, entertainment, or making money. The closest thing to a news magazine I could find was National Geographic. As for the books, they had bestsellers and faith-based inspirational books and that's all. At the check-out line, I did see one news magazine, TIME, as thin as a dime nowadays and consisting of charts, graphics and pictures, a mere shadow of what it used to be.

Visiting the grocery store gave me the impression that no one cares about what's going on in the world. But perhaps there is a feeling, which I think more likely, that ordinary people can do nothing about what's going on, that we are powerless, and so to read about world events is pointless and depressing. That, I think, is a consequence of what Noam Chomsky called the atomization of America, wherein people no longer are affiliated with large organizations that can indeed create political change. I remember that all the right-wingers out at work used to harshly criticize unions, as though unions were the enemy, preventing them from achieving what they wanted. I wonder how they like being without unions? I'm sure they must have a feeling of living in Paradise, that everything is roses and butterflies now.

My grandfather would be considered a right-winger today. He was conservative in every sense of the word save one, that he believed in education for women, which was fortunate for my mother. On the other hand, he was racist and anti-Semitic, which was usual and conforming for his people, place and time. I have no reason to suppose he would have been anything but homophobic as well. However, he was a union man throughout his entire working life. I don't know how it came to be that the right-wingers turned against the unions. There were bad unions, corruption, poor leadership in some cases, but I think the unions lost to free trade, which pitted Americans against low-paid workers overseas. Americans lost, of course, which was inevitable in hindsight.

Retro Video Unit (6/14/13)

I've been looking at old Matthew Sweet videos for a while for this feature, and as good a song as "Girlfriend" is, I've decided to go with a different song, "Sick of Myself" from the 1995 album 100% Fun, because I think it's a near-perfect example of marrying bitter, self-loathing lyrics to a catchy melody. Sweet was by no means the first person to do that in a song, but he sure did it well. (And thanks to the blog Anthony Is Right for providing the idea.)

Also, those of us of a certain age will recognize and remember the "credits" that used to appear at the beginning and end of MTV videos like this one.

Government Spying

CNET posted a very informative article regarding the government's spying on Americans. Really, Google, Microsoft and Facebook are the least of our worries. The government makes use of them, but they are not nearly as important as another intermediary. The easy way, the lazy way to hack every American all at once is to intercept all Internet traffic directly from the Internet Service Provider (ISP), and that's exactly what the government has done in the case of AT&T and Verizon and probably all the others as well. As I've always suspected, an ISP isn't going to blink an eye when asked for info by the government. Indeed it seems AT&T has been particularly cooperative, going above and beyond.

Can the government be trusted in its denials that this information was gathered, but not used except for anti-terrorism? No, because the government does not have a good track record in the honesty department. Our government not only punishes, but tortures those who reveal information, such as Bradley Manning, and it is likely that the rape charges against Wikileaks founder were paid for by the government as well.

Let's take the opposite view, and assume the government is always honest. The information gathered was used only for anti-terrorism. Okay. But it's still there, and it's still being gathered. Maybe one day, the information will be used for other purposes. Personally I think that day has long since arrived and passed us by. With such a goldmine of personal, private data, what man could resist the temptation of mining priceless nuggets of information that could win him reelection, defeat a rival for his woman's affections, allow him to make billions of dollars? It is completely naive, ludicrous to imagine that this goldmine is sitting in a government vault only being tapped to blow up terrorists. Who even knew of its existence? Who's watching the chickens? Where is the public oversight?

Even if the government were honest, simple negligence, incompetence and corruption ensures that at least some if not all of the information gathered will be siphoned off by other law enforcement agencies and other individuals outside of law enforcement. The government has proven itself negligent, incompetent and corrupt in all other instances before this, and there is no reason to believe that government's competence has magically improved in the case of spying on Americans.

As for the politicians who approved the program, I doubt they understand it. I do not have a high opinion of the technical competence of the old alcoholic millionaires in Congress. Many of them are good politicians, but how much do they know about computers? Technical knowledge is no kind of prerequisite for elected office. I doubt those millionaires can type more than ten words a minute. I don't think they know what Linux is. They probably have no idea how email gets from one computer to another or what a network is. How can they oversee a program they can't possibly understand? The answer is they can't. They are going to nod their heads at the explanation, calculate the political costs and make a decision based upon ignorance, just like they do everywhere else. Obama is no computer wiz, either, by the way. Those people pay people like me to do things for them. They don't know what's going on, don't suspect how easy it is for data to leak out.

Thus, by the year 2013, the Internet has become a tool of tyranny, a tool for monitoring the words, thoughts and actions of citizens. All of our doings online are recorded in a database somewhere. Any time a politician gets curious about someone, they need only ask for a record of all that person's online activity, which they and their henchmen can browse at their leisure, to learn all about that person's friends, family, personal problems, personal habits, career history, financial dealings, aspirations, fears and individual quirks. All of that is there on Facebook and other sites for a lot of people these days. If a politician is displeased by someone, all they have to do is pick up the phone and call the DEA and see whether that person will succumb to an undercover sting involving drugs, or perhaps some other type of sting involving a different law enforcement agency. That's power. That's using information and the legal system to get rid of people who say inconvenient truths.

It Ain't So

So the New York Times reporter doing an overview of the Bulger trial decided that South Boston is now referred to as SoBo. Not only is this absolutely not true, but if I hear someone refer to it that way, I may not be responsible for my actions. (Hat tip to Universal Hub)

Follow-up: Boston magazine decided to have some fun with this and tagged all of Boston's neighborhoods with trendy namelets. These are for entertainment purposes only, got it? (Also via UH)

Social Skills and Those That Lack Them

I admire those that have the knack for smooth social interaction, who can express themselves without resorting to crude and ugly phrases. I am rather less impressed by technical skills, perhaps because I have 'em. When I think about the people I like the most and the one I chose to spend my life with, it is clear that social skills are their foremost quality. Etiquette, sensitivity, insight, thoughtfulness--these qualities sometimes seem scarce in online discourse. Reading some people's messages, I wonder how they could possibly have good relations with anyone at all. My guess is that they probably don't.

I have been both moderator and admin and know what goes on and who goes into a forum. I do not envy moderators. Unless there is pay--adequate compensation--the better choice is to pass. The power, the glory? Eh, there's no glory, and power is only resented, whether used or not.

Nevertheless, online discourse has improved over the years. Back in the day, things were worse. Nowadays everybody has a computer of some kind. Computer use has become more democratized. Technical skills are not the filter, the prerequisite for participation in a forum. Thus, some forums, particularly those with wider appeal, are more representative of the human population, rather than being the exclusive province of geeks.

Copying Large Numbers of Files Over a Network in Linux

Linux and Window desktops are ill-suited to copying thousands or millions of files over a network. I don't know why. It's a weak spot in all desktop GUI's. I know that KDE's file manager, Dolphin, does nothing but spin its wheels when I try to copy much over a thousand files. I think KDE goes crazy just at the thought of so many files. You expect me to do all that work? For what you're paying me? Hmph! I have found that the easiest way to copy files over a network is to archive them into a single file and then copy that single file across.

A Customer Service Dialogue

A couple of days after my home try-on frames arrived from Steven Alan Optical, I got an email from one of their customer service people asking me for my opinions and feedback. I wasn't expecting any sort of communication from them, so I took advantage of the opportunity and responded, sharing my thoughts on the frames and the try-on process.

I also mentioned my futile attempt to get sunglasses from Warby Parker a couple of months back, and subsequently learned that Steven Alan Optical would be able to make lenses for my prescription. I wasn't really planning to buy new glasses just yet, but since not all of their frames are available as sunglasses, I decided to ask if they could accommodate a special order.

Unfortunately that wasn't possible, at least not yet, and I also learned that, while they can make me sunglasses, they would not be able to make them with polarized lenses, which is another disappointment. But things change, and they will likely be coming out with additional styles in the fall, which might include offering more frame styles as sunglasses.

The opportunity to have a direct conversation with a rep was extremely helpful in my situation. I'm sure that I would have gotten satisfactory answers to my questions had I initiated a conversation via email, but the fact that they made the effort to contact me and say, "hey, how's it going?" elevated them in my estimation.

Why Game of Thrones Repels

I watched the first two episodes of the first season of "Game of Thrones" again to understand why I hate it. The problem is the ugly spectacle of outrageous injustice, and good people that do wicked things merely to obey. When the good King's Hand murders, in cold blood, his son's loyal and beloved pet dog, which was innocent of all wrongdoing, that's when I turned against the show forever. Whoever wrote "Game of Thrones" did so while sitting on the throne and found inspiration from what he had dropped below. It is repulsive, cheap, gory drama for the sake of drama with no redeeming literary or cultural value whatsoever. The villains are pasty, weak cowards without a scrap of redeeming value, which is unrealistic, because how on earth could such specimens retain their position of power? They could not. Villains should be portrayed in a realistic light, not as the bucket into which all human evil and frailty are poured. I suppose I must now view Game of Thrones in the proper light, as well-done, big-budget soft-core porn and nothing else, because it is nothing else.

I will tell you a good show: Vikings. It is ten times better by any measure one would care to apply, and it is realistic and historically accurate--extremely so by film standards, regardless of the quibbles of academics. Another great show is Tudors, which I have watched twice and intend to watch again one day.

Working Dreams

I dreamed I was in a classroom, sitting at a desk, which was true for about twenty years of my life. Behind me sat my new boss, an older man, although this didn't make sense because there's no boss in a classroom setting, but there he was, a superior officer in our organization. He asked for the cards that I had brought from home. These, he said, must be kept for safekeeping. I was set against that, but he insisted. I gave them to him only with the greatest reluctance. I felt sadness, then anger. Then I reflected that the cards I brought from home could not possibly matter to him at all. He was only doing this to press my buttons. He was trying to provoke me, to see what I would do, to test me. Someone had spoken against me, someone had put him up to this. This revelation, this insight into the truth of the matter, filled me with calmness. I could not be angry or sad, because negative emotions were what the enemy wanted me to feel. I must be strong, superior to them. I said, "You think that I'm arrogant. If I were arrogant, I'd be suffering. But I'm not." And it was true. He studied me for a moment, nodded and said, "You may have the cards back." They were in a safe by his desk, which I opened to retrieve my cards. What was on the cards? I don't know. All of this is abstract. I don't know who the boss was--didn't recognize him. Don't know what company I was working for or why I was in a classroom. The dream seemed to revolve around arrogance and whether it will defeat me, whether it has defeated me before.

My second dream, I was invited back to my old company to work on something. I can't remember whether I have done that before. I will have to ask my partner. I have had many dreams where my old company invites me back to work on something just for a week or two as a temporary employee. I do my work, earn about a grand or two and then leave again. I had this scrap of paper in my hand with scrawled handwriting telling me what I needed to get done. I thought I understood it--simple enough, same stuff I used to work on back in the day. When I walked in, some people were surprised to see me, and I spent the morning in introductions and hellos and chit-chat of no very great consequence, such as I had observed many a time. My old working buddy came up to have me work on something she needed. I miss her. She was pleased, amazed to find that I remembered so much and could do some of the things that I used to do before. But then a qualm upset me. I felt that I may not have read the note in its entirety. I decided to review its contents once more. My suspicion was confirmed. On the back, which I had neglected to read, it said to call this number immediately and talk with so-and-so.

Wordpress Security Vs. Wordpress Search Ranking

Wordpress security is sometimes at loggerheads with a site's search ranking. There are many tricks and tips recommended by security wonks that will actually decrease a site search ranking, such as banning all hits to xmlrpc.php, or disallowing various paths in robots.txt. I've experimented over the last several days and learned what works and what is counter-productive. I do not believe it is wise to ban hits to xmlrpc.php, and I do not think web admins should second-guess Google when it comes to directing robots. Google knows what it is doing, for the most part, and additional rules make Google angry, in a manner of speaking. I watched my site plummet from #2 in search rankings for a particular term to #5 after adding a lot of rules to robots.txt. Needless to say, I yanked those rules right out!

There is such a thing as having enough or even too much security. With regular backups of the database and the files, I am not inclined to follow all of the recommendations set forth by Perishable Press, one of the few sites I regularly follow. I view Perishable's advice in the way of guidelines and educational material. The author has a knack for explaining technical issues without resorting to jargon, with a humorous style reminiscent of Stephen King--the American vernacular, gotta love it--and he offers excellent examples on .htaccess. He is my "go-to" site when I am confused about arcane .htaccess syntax, which is often, because .htaccess syntax is unintuitive. I use some of his security tips, but not all, because some cause problems. I am also concerned that perhaps other problems may be created that I cannot detect, problems that may become evident in the future after I add a new plug-in or there's a new update to Wordpress.

Perishable's .htaccess code is sometimes compressed in a way that makes it difficult to debug or understand what is being done. Perhaps that is a form of showing off or maybe the intention is for the code to execute faster, but I'd prefer to sacrifice efficiency for readability and ease of maintenance.

I am no stranger to compressing code. I won a little contest back in the '80s, getting my name and program published in a national magazine. The challenge was to code a BASIC program that did something cool in only one line. Each BASIC statement could be separated by a colon (:), and GOTO 0 was allowed. But was this a useful or helpful skill? Maybe. This sort of experience may have helped me become a better maintainer of other people's spaghetti-code programs, which comprised a large portion of my career. I rarely had difficulty finding and fixing bugs.

I think Apache wrote the language for .htaccess back when every byte mattered, and in order to save a couple bytes, they made the language cryptic and anti-human. I much prefer languages such as COBOL, batch/script, or BASIC for their sheer readability. I never was a fan of C++, even if it is twice as fast. In my opinion, buy a faster computer, if you need speed. When programming languages are easier to understand and to code, then greater deeds may be wrought by human minds and with far fewer bugs. That's my philosophy about programming. I have indeed worked with extremely cryptic computer programming languages--assembler, no less. I am merely stating my own preference as a programmer and user. It's nice to be able to look at source code and figure out what is going on in just a few moments. Maybe my opinion does not dovetail with job security for those programmers already entrenched in cryptic languages, but it seems rather obvious to me.

Mad (Wo)Men 6x11: "Maybe I'll make it worth your while."

Peggy Olson

Despite Peggy’s quick progress up the corporate ladder as a copywriter, this season seems to be demonstrating how traditional Peggy’s values really are.
Last week, when Joan went against the grain to bring in a new client, Peggy chastised her for being in the wrong, which is the same argument Pete Campbell presented to Joan when he found out about the incident.
Both sticklers for the rules, this week, Pete and Peggy crossed paths once again, something that hasn’t happened all season. When Pete’s mom drops by the office, Peggy speaks with her while waiting for Pete. His mom apparently thinks Peggy is Trudy and mentions the child they have together. The comment hits a little close to home for Peggy, since in fact, Pete and Peggy do have a child together. Pete’s mom goes on to speak about her new (sexual) relationship with her male nurse.
Later, Pete, Peggy, and Ted are out to dinner after presenting to Ocean Spray and while Ted is settling the bill, Pete comments on the obvious tension between Ted and Peggy. Peggy is surprised Pete can read her so well, but says nothing can happen. “He’s in love with you, too,” Pete insists.
Peggy tells Pete about the conversation with his mother and they’re both laughing when Ted returns to the table. Ted must notice the chemistry between Pete and Peggy because he looks a tad jealous.
Back at her apartment, Peggy’s dealing with a rat problem. When she gets woken up in the middle of the night from sounds of its scrabbling, she attempts to rely on a guy to fix the problem for her. She calls Stan. When he won’t come over, she flirts with him, “Maybe I’ll make it worth your while.”
Stan says she won’t, but Peggy comes back with, “Then why are you using your sexy voice?” Stan tries to brush her off again, because he has a girl in his bed. Peggy gets that his brush off is code, though. “Oh. Why didn’t you say something?”

Speaking of traditional values, when Betty finds out only one other girl is going on the Model UN trip to the city, she tells Sally she’s not allowed to go. She doesn’t want her staying in a midtown hotel with all those boys. Sally points out there will be chaperones, but Betty is not budging. Sally says she’ll stay with Don. “You hate that he supports my dreams,” she tells Betty, before flouncing off.
For their Model UN trip, Sally and her friend Julie stay with Don and Megan in the city. They meet the Rosens’ son Mitchell in the lobby. That night, they’re writing a list of “Why I Like Mitchell” when Megan warns them it’s past time for lights out.
In a cab on the way to their Model UN event, Sally is quizzing Julie about the country of Manila. “All the boys are going to think you’re dumb,” she chides.
“Don’t tell me how to get boys,” Julie replies. She informs Sally that she slipped the “Why I Like Mitchell” list under the Rosens’ door. Sally is horrified and comes back to the apartment building to find the letter. She gets the keys from the doorman and goes up to the Rosens’ apartment, sneaking in the back door.
She finds the letter there, waiting for Mitchell, but she also sees through a cracked door her father and Sylvia having sex. Sally drops the huge keyring in shock and they both look up to see her.
Don chases after Sally, but can’t find her. When he comes home later that evening, he finds Megan and the girls already having dinner. Sally won’t even look at him. When the Dr. Rosen and Mitchell come to the apartment to thank Don for fixing Mitchell’s 1A situation, Sally can’t contain her outburst. “You make me sick!”
Megan is about to go after her, but Don goes instead. Julie explains to Megan that Sally has a crush on Mitchell and unknowingly keeping Megan oblivious to Don’s cheating ways.
Sally won’t open the door to let Don in, but listens to him on the other said. “I was comforting Ms. Rosen. It’s complicated.” Clearly Don has no concept of how mature Sally is. Even if she isn’t experienced with boys, she’s probably smart enough to know Don wasn’t simply ‘comforting’ her.
It reminds me of back in season three, when Don was involved with Bobbie Barrett. The next morning, when he was home, Sally came in to watch him shave. “I just like watching you,” she said happily. Don gave the mirror a requisite thousand yard stare, presumably thinking of how one day, his little girl might one day be someone else’s sex object.
While that hasn’t happened yet, Sally is now a part of her father’s web of lies to protect not only his idenity, but his marriage to Megan.

Dads and Non-Dads

This is an excellent week to shop for clothes. Because of Father's Day, stores have lots of sales going on men's stuff. If you are a father who expects to be receiving gifts come Sunday, and you want something specific, if may be in your interest to give some detailed hints. Or you could suggest going shopping with your loved ones so you can pick out some things.

The dog does not get me presents (ungrateful creature), but I can still benefit by going shopping and picking up a few things on my own.