Monthly Archives: February 2017

Review: Philip K. Dick Is Dead, Alas

Philip K. Dick Is Dead, Alas
Philip K. Dick Is Dead, Alas by Michael Bishop
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An excellent Dickian story in the irreverence that he would appreciate. The current fear, uncertainty, and doubt about the current environment made this a compelling read. The parallels between the Richard Nixon character and US politics reminded me of the fears about where we are headed to day.

Also, the inclusion of so many places in Georgia amused me.

View all my reviews

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From Review: Philip K. Dick Is Dead, Alas published February 12, 2017 at 03:57PM.

Tinkering

Another Rands In Repose gem.

Tinkering is a deceptively high-value activity. You don’t usually allocate much time to tinkering because the obvious value of tinkering is low. You don’t start tinkering with a goal in mind; you start with pure curiosity. I’ve heard about this thing, but I’ve never used it. How does this thing work? I’ve always wanted to know about more about X. Downtime is an easy time to tinker. Nothing is pressing, so these acts of mental wandering are acceptable.

This is how things get done. This is my life.

I think Dopamine is related to why I tinker. There is a definite expectation to getting something out of it. And that is all the motivation I need.

The dopamine from the ventral tegmental area… usually sends dopamine into the brain when animals (including people) expect or receive a reward. That reward might be a delicious slice of pizza or a favorite song. This dopamine release tells the brain that whatever it just experienced is worth getting more of. And that helps animals (including people) change their behaviors in ways that will help them attain more of the rewarding item or experience.

My reward is learning something about a gadget. Similar to how reading rewards me with learning about science, history, motivations, or behavior.

 

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From Tinkering published February 09, 2017 at 05:58PM.

If in doubt; then delete

The title is a joke. I hate deleting things. A digital packrat, it takes knowing that deleting something will likely fix an actual problem to delete it. And my delete is to move it out of the way not actually destroy the file.

Anyway, I discovered this blog was hosed. I had noticed Gotcha Jerks Part II was missing from various social media sites. So, I went to post it and found the whole blog hozered. It just displayed a Fatal PHP Error for class.jetpack-tracks.php and so I started to look on the WordPress.Org support page when I decided to move the whole Jetpack plugin directory to jetpack.bad and “see what happens.” Well, that restored the blog. The plugin claimed it needed an upgrade, so I ran that. All is well.

Easier than my initial resignation.

I went to “diff -r jetpack.bad jetpack” to get a comparison of the differences between the bad one and the good one, but the bad no longer exists. Thus the title. I am considering deleting and reinstalling Jetpack to ensure what I have is pristine. I have a nagging feeling that the upgrade moved jetpack.bad to jetpack then updated some files. Delete and rebuild would give me more confidence I purged lingering bad code from the plugin. Additionally, the lingering issue from WordPress and SSL a month ago might be related? In sum, I suspect there are subtle issues lingering and a clean sweep is in order.

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From If in doubt; then delete published February 08, 2017 at 06:57PM.

Gotcha Jerks Part II

If you have not read Gotcha Jerks, then please do first. I recently ran across The “Other Side” Is Not Dumb which goes further. Here is my favorite quote from it.

Sharing links that mock a caricature of the Other Side isn’t signaling that we’re somehow more informed. It signals that we’d rather be smug assholes than consider alternative views. It signals that we’d much rather show our friends that we’re like them, than try to understand those who are not.

It makes a great point that part of what makes discussion politics on social media problematic is the false-consensus bias where we assume people we like should always think the same way we do because they are awesome like we are. Liking the posts of Facebook friends who state things with which we agree or defriending / unfollowing people who disagree, leads to the algorithms creating an environment for ourselves where the information coming to us drives the FCB into overdrive. If we are only seeing the stuff where we agree, then we are blind to other positions out there. Going even a leap further to knocking down Straw Men certainly alienates the Other Side. They will defriend / unfollow us which leads to the same result.

I reluctantly have culled people over their behavior during the election season. I also did not expect things to get better November 9th. In my mind, this animosity has been ever increasing since 1998, so I saw no reason for it to end. Both candidates held unfavorable numbers by majorities of likely voters, so  whoever won would cause butthurt.

Family Feud is a game show where people try to guess the common answers to a poll question. If people had no FCB, then the game would be completely pointless. People would provide fairly accurate responses leading to people only uncommonly getting answers wrong. Instead, from what I have seen of the show, it seems hard for contestants in general.

Advice from The “Other Side” Is Not Dumb to consider:

A dare for the next time you’re in discussion with someone you disagree with: Don’t try to “win.” Don’t try to “convince” anyone of your viewpoint. Don’t score points by mocking them to your peers. Instead try to “lose.” Hear them out. Ask them to convince you and mean it. No one is going to tell your environmentalist friends that you merely asked follow up questions after your brother made his pro-fracking case.

Not long ago, it gave me a warm fuzzy feeling for a very conservative coworker to call me the only liberal he knows that he can discuss things. We disagree, but we respect each other enough to discuss things. I am not hurt by our disagreements. And as much as he tries to act radical, I suspect a lot of it is poker bluff acting.

Further reading:

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From Gotcha Jerks Part II published February 07, 2017 at 06:51PM.

Go Sports!

Last night and this morning there was lots of online chatter from people expressing their proud claim to be the only one or a handful who do not watch (American) football. [Sorry, I watch the real football.)

The official estimates for the 2016 Super Bowl were 111.86 million viewers. There are probably around 249 million adults. Assuming all the viewers were adults, then 45% watched. It sl

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From Go Sports! published February 06, 2017 at 06:06PM.

Buffer Feature Requests

Dual Window

LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+ have significantly different character number restrictions than Twitter. Naturally, Twitter limits posts to their notorious 140 characters. LinkedIn allows 700, and Google+ / Facebook allow about five thousand.

I like to post things with a quote from the articles I share that captures what I found most interesting about it. Generally, they fall between 200 to 200 characters. Too long for Twitter, which means I editorialize it to make it fit.

Something amazing about the Pocket tool to share to Buffer is it provides two different textareas. One for Twitter and one for everything else. Brilliant! So much so, that I am tempted to completely change my workflow to push anything I want to share to Pocket just so I can share it with Buffer in a way that makes sense. On Facebook the preview URL appears to Pocket rather than the actual destination which slightly bothers me because I’d prefer the source to get attribution.

Tumblr

It would be nice to be able to share to Tumblr through Buffer. It seems odd that Buffer would support App.net who has been dying for years and will finally be gone in 6 weeks yet not one of the larger social networks?

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From Buffer Feature Requests published February 04, 2017 at 10:15AM.

Fun With Regex

We replaced the old ticketing system with a new one. Naturally there are people who are concerned about losing access to old tickets. So we looked at exporting all the tickets. My coworker had the better method of getting out the data with one issue.

Because the old sytem used an HTML editor for a specific textarea, the content in them was difficult to read without expertise in HTML. Fine for a former Webmaster like myself, but few people who will need this read it like they do English.

My first thought was to look for products that clean up HTML. I even got excited when I notice HTML Tidy comes with our Linux OS, but that just converted the HTML to standardized format of HTML. (And trashed the plain-text portions of the ticket.) I did not find options for removing the HTML with Tidy.

So, my next thought was to try Regular Expressions (Regex). Certainly it ought to be doable. Just Regex is hard. No, difficult. No, turn your hair gray at 22. But, it can do anything if you put your mind to it. And I ran across RegExr which really simplified the process by showing how my pattern worked in sample content.

In the end I mad a simple shell script to clean up the files.

#!/bin/bash
#############################################################
# Convert HTML to plaintext using sed.
# Created by Ezra Freelove, email
#############################################################
# Variables
WORKINGDIR=/stage/$1
if [ -d $WORKINGDIR ] ; then echo “… found dir; continuing” ; else echo “… missing dir ; bailing” ; exit; fi
DESTDIR=${WORKINGDIR}/fixed
# Make a list of files to convert.
cd $WORKINGDIR
WORKINGLIST=`ls *.txt`
# Fix the files
mkdir -p $DESTDIR
for WORKINGFILE in $WORKINGLIST
do
sed -e ‘s|<br[\ \/]*>|\n|g’ -e ‘s/<[^!>]*>//g’ -e ‘s/&nbsp;/ /g’ -e ‘s/&lt;/</g’ -e ‘s/&gt;/>/g’ $WORKINGFILE > ${DESTDIR}/fixed_${WORKINGFILE}
done

The regexes are:

  • s|<br[\ \/]*>|\n|g which means match HTML <br> tags and replace with a newline character . The <br> tag tells a web browser to go to the next line.
  • s/<[^!>]*>//g which means match a less than (<) out to the next greater than but exclude an exclamation point. Delete everything between. This handle the HTML elements and their attributes. This like <p class=”MsoPlainText”> or </span>. For some reason the date and username of the person who updated the ticket are stored as <! 2017-02-03 username>, so I had to figure out how to keep them.
  • ‘s/&nbsp;/ /g’ which means match the text “&nbsp;” which is a non-breaking space it with a normal space.
  • ‘s/&lt;/</g’ which means replace the text “&lt;” with a “<“. And finally the same thing but for greater than.

An easy way to match all of these latter ones would be pretty cool, but I think dealing with the most common ones is good enough.

Initially I was going to remove all the character codes like &nbsp;. In the end, I decided that the ones I handled should help people. The more rare ones can be determined easily if someone runs across them.

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From Fun With Regex published February 03, 2017 at 04:45PM.