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Trevor Stone's Journal
Those who can, do. The rest hyperlink.
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Trevor Stone Character
After more than fifteen years of loyal LiveJournal use, I have switched to Dreamwidth as my primary blogging site. All of my LiveJournal entries have been migrated to flwyd.dreamwidth.org. They remain public on flwyd.livejournal.com as well, so as not to break any links. I will continue crossposting from Dreamwidth to LiveJournal until LJ blocks it, or until the site owners do something egregious with regards to user content.

Shout out to brad and everyone else who helped make LiveJournal a fantastic social network before "social network" was a thing. The most important asset of a site like this is the users and their willingness to share with each other. Over the last decade, a lot of user attention has drifted to other platforms. The management (now headquartered in Russia) has also focused on writers of the Cyrillic persuasion and Russians in particular, burning the trust of the Anglophone user base.

While all good things will come to an end, this blog has several years to go in its new home. Subscribe to my journal on Dreamwidth or with your favorite RSS reader. You can also find me on my website, Twitter, and Google+. Keep sharing!
23rd-Nov-2018 10:52 pm - Catching Up
Trevor baby stare
I've had this Chrome browser session open for 101 days, ignoring a MacOS security update for a couple months. Why? I had a dozen or so tabs open to /read pages on Dreamwidth and if I restarted anything then i wouldn't be able to read everything that people had posted since, erm, the beginning of August. Appropriately enough, I learned a word from one of those dusty Dreamwidth tabs: tsundoku, “acquiring reading materials but letting them pile up in one's home without reading them.”

So if you got a comment from me that seemed like it was in a time warp, that was me.
Now time to reboot. I'll miss the old Chrome tab UI, though. The *ahem* new one where favicons never disappear looks kinda funny when you accumulate as many open pages as I do.

Hey, don't tab shame me.

This entry was originally posted at https://flwyd.dreamwidth.org/384960.html – comment over there.

6th-Nov-2018 11:39 pm - We Can Act Now, or Act Later
Trevor baby stare
The Daily Camera published my letter to the editor today—election day.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. That's what came to mind as I read the Oct. 20 Editorial Advisory Board opinions and the editorials on Oct. 12 and 15 about climate change. These authors expressed a spectrum from mild concern to deep worry and a diverse suite of solutions. It's important to have these conversations — climate change and our responses to it will be the biggest story of the 21st century and all ideas should be on the table. From wildfires to floods like 2013, we've all got skin in this game.

We can do two things about climate change: reduce net greenhouse gas emissions (prevention) and adapt to a warmer climate (cure). We can accomplish the former by putting a price on carbon dioxide emissions, investing in low-emission power and transportation, planting forests, sequestering carbon through agriculture, and more. Adaptation will involve mass migration, investment in disaster recovery, growing and eating different crops, paying higher insurance premiums, rebuilding or relocating cities due to flooding, combating insect-borne diseases, and resolving geopolitical tensions over water and arable land. We can invest in a combination of both prevention and adaptation, but the longer the wait, the more will have to pay to adapt.

Now is the time to have conversations about climate change and solutions. Share stories of how we've been affected. Explore climate risks and mitigation. Debate the pros and cons of each solution. Talk to your friends and neighbors. Share your thoughts in the newspaper and on the Internet. Call your elected officials and let them know that 2019 can be the year that Congress starts to invest in climate change prevention, or we can do nothing today and scramble to adapt in the 2030s. Trevor Stone Boulder

This entry was originally posted at https://flwyd.dreamwidth.org/384662.html – comment over there.

4th-Nov-2018 12:18 pm - Campaign Oddities
Trevor baby stare
I take a very thorough approach to voting. I spent several hours to find data about things like relative fugitive emissions between states and break-even costs for gas development before deciding how to vote on Colorado's Proposition 112, a measure to increase the required setback for petroleum development.

I also look at the website for every candidate, even minor-party ones, to see what their issues and framing are. This led to a number of interesting findings:

  • The Libertarian candidate for Lieutenant Governor has a website, but their running mate just has a Facebook page. Why they don't share a single site is unclear. (The Republican and Democratic gubernatorial candidates both have an About section for their running mates on their main site.) So much for the early-2000s stereotype that a Libertarian candidate is probably an out-of-work programmer.
  • The 90s-retro website award goes to John Bedrick, Republican candidate for Boulder County Sheriff. According to the hit counter at the bottom of the page, I was the 962nd visitor. And although he prominently lists his experience in cyber/data security and privacy, I'm not sure that hosting your campaign page on your business's domain is a great idea. Props for having a Spanish version of the text prominently displayed in parallel with the English.
  • Incumbent Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams has an interesting Google problem: when I google [wayne williams] with a Colorado IP address, the top two results are an ad for his campaign website, a normal link to his campaign website, a sidebar for Wayne Williams, American serial killer, and about give other articles about "The Atlanta Killer." Hopefully Colorado voters are able to tell who is who.

The weirdest platform goes to Bill Hammons, national leader of the Unity party and candidate for Colorado Governor. His positions:

  1. I Support the Military > If Trump takes the step of firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller, I support the Generals
    In other words, let's have a military coup if Trump gets out of line.
  2. Lincoln, D.C. > Ditch the swamp by moving the nation's capital to east of DIA and naming it after one of our greatest Presidents
    How moving the capital would change the dynamics between government, lobbyists, and contractors (or other swamp concerns) is unclear. Also, eastern Colorado doesn't really have the water resources for the couple million people that would come with moving the Beltway.
  3. Colorado Constitutional Convention > Our system is broken, and Colorado can host an Article V Constitutional Convention
    This is true of every other state?
  4. Eliminate Income Taxes > Replace the Colorado income tax with a revenue measure based on fossil fuel consumption
    Um… the point of a tax on fossil fuels is to get people to use fewer fossil fuels. If Colorado's income tax were replaced with a fossil fuel tax with equal revenue, utilities would quickly switch to renewables (great!) and then the state would face a huge revenue shortfall (crap!) and gasoline taxes would have to rise to match… and slowly erode as people switch to electric cars.
  5. Crossroads Colorado > More can be done to promote the advantages of Colorado's central position in the country
    Maybe add "Not at the edge" to the bottom of the "Welcome to Colorful Colorado" highway signs would promote this?
  6. Defend Colorado at all Costs > We should demand resurrection of the federal "Star Wars" SDI program with Colorado as its focus
    I guess launching satellites to shoot down Soviet ICBMs targeted at NORAD would be one way to generate revenue from a fossil fuel tax…
  7. Colorado Spaceport Development > Since 2010, I've been publicly pushing for more Spaceport development in Colorado
    Is a state with high winds, surprise blizzards, and no ocean a good place to be launching things into space? I guess we're a mile closer to space than those coastal launch sites…
  8. Life and Death > I support the Right to Choose, and I also support the Death Penalty
    In short, pro-death.
  9. Colorado Gun Rights > Like the rest of the Constitution, I support the Second Amendment as it was written 200 years ago
    The U.S. Constitution was written 231 years ago. Colorado's constitution was written 142 years ago.
  10. School Shootings > The FBI needs to be folded into the CIA and domestic surveillance of Social Media increased dramatically
    So… we should treat American teenagers like members of international terrorist organizations?
  11. Law Enforcement > We can protect both our law enforcement officers and the public with mandatory and funded body cameras
    Needed to have a reasonable position in here just to keep you on your toes.
  12. Care for Coloradans > I myself lost my own health insurance due to Obamacare, and support a Colorado Medicare for All system</ins>
    Somehow riding both the talking points from the right and the left.
  13. Colorado Life Insurance > Being a Life Producer, I'm a firm believer in the societal benefits of insurance, and support state funding
    Is "Life Producer" a euphemism for parent?
  14. Lower the Voting Age to 16 > If you're old enough to drive tons of steel, you should be old enough to vote in the State of Colorado
    A wild reasonable opinion appears.
  15. Count Every Vote (CEV) > Counts of all over-votes on ballots encourage desperately-needed competition in our electoral system
    It'll be like Instant Runoff Voting, but less clear.
  16. Colorado Redistricting > We need drawing of all legislative districts along competitive lines, including with my Denver 7 plan
    "I'm not gonna link to my plan, though."

This entry was originally posted at https://flwyd.dreamwidth.org/384509.html – comment over there.

spam lite
I received the following email today, addressed to the plain text LiveJournal password I've had for over a decade. If you have or had a LiveJournal account, consider changing your password, and the password of any site which shared a password.
Received: from [197.29.14.197] (unknown [197.29.14.197])
by my.smtp.host (Postfix) with ESMTP id 1336F87C71
for <my-livejournal-address@my-host>; Wed, 10 Oct 2018 18:03:34 +0000 (UTC)
Message-ID: <5BBE4D0A.8030000@my-host>
Date: Wed, 10 Oct 2018 19:03:38 +0000
From: <my-livejournal-address@my-host>
User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 6.0; en-US; rv:1.9.2.4) Gecko/20100608 Thunderbird/3.1
MIME-Version: 1.0
To: "my-livejournal-password" <my-livejournal-address@my-host>
Subject: Security Warning
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=CP-850; format=flowed
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 8bit


8Hello!
I'm a member of an international hacker group.

As you could probably have guessed, your account my-livejournal-address@my-host was hacked, because I sent message you from your account.

Now I have access to all your accounts!
For example, your password for my-livejournal-address@my-host: my-livejournal-password

Within a period from July 30, 2018 to October 9, 2018, you were infected by the virus we've created, through an adult website you've visited.
So far, we have access to your messages, social media accounts, and messengers.
Moreover, we've gotten full damps of these data.

We are aware of your little and big secrets...yeah, you do have them. We saw and recorded your doings on porn websites. Your tastes are so weird, you know..

But the key thing is that sometimes we recorded you with your webcam, syncing the recordings with what you watched!
I think you are not interested show this video to your friends, relatives, and your intimate one...

Transfer $800 to our Bitcoin wallet: 1GdegtNpYcvoCPsMmyiSkZARDdAmYuXGXU
If you don't know about Bitcoin please input in Google "buy BTC". It's really easy.

I guarantee that after that, we'll erase all your "data" :)

A timer will start once you read this message. You have 48 hours to pay the above-mentioned amount.

Your data will be erased once the money are transferred.
If they are not, all your messages and videos recorded will be automatically sent to all your contacts found on your devices at the moment of infection.

You should always think about your security.
We hope this case will teach you to keep secrets.
Take care of yourself.


A couple notes:
  • LiveJournal is the only site I've used this password on. Dreamwidth also has a copy of the password, so that it can crosspost.
  • I suspect that this extortion attempt is based on access to a LiveJournal user database or dump (rather than intercepted from a Dreamwidth crosspost request) because it was sent to an email address I only use with LiveJournal, and which I don't think Dreamwidth knows, nor (I think) is it publicly available on the LJ site.
  • The sender didn't change my password on LiveJournal and doesn't appear to have performed any vandalism, so I suspect they didn't log in with the compromised password.
  • A good indication that sending bitcoin would be a bad idea: the email gives no way to tell the recipient whose "data" to delete.
  • Other than the password itself, none of the claims in the email are true. Googling the bitcoin address leads to a report that this scam is going around (it's a variant of one that's about a year old) and a couple dozen reports on bitcoinabuse.com.
  • So far, that address has received two transactions, with a total value of about eight dollars… maybe not as lucrative as the scammer had hoped.

So it sounds like LiveJournal's password database was compromised… at some point in the last decade or so. Probably in the last few months, though. If you've got an LJ account, it would be a good idea to change it (and update your DW crosspost settings). If you used the same password on other sites, change those passwords as well (to something different).

ETA October 20 I got another email with the username and password of a second LiveJournal account that I created years ago and mostly forgot about. This makes me fairly certain that the scammers are either operating with an exfiltrated LJ user password database or they had an implant in the site many years ago but have only made use of it now. Whoever answered the support ticket I filed to alert about the security incident was fairly dismissive, though. Hopefully someone at LJ will take the breach seriously and at least notify affected users.

The new email content is a little different, and its bitcoin address 1AzdzwWHaJXytimxenzi45JVtY4FsXwLZZ has not yet received any payments and it's got several abuse reports. The address on the first email I got has received about 1.12 bitcoin; I guess $7200 is enough of a spam payout to keep a scammer motivated to keep cracking passwords.

ETA October 28 Another address, with two messages on October 22nd: 1JTtwbvmM7ymByxPYCByVYCwasjH49J3Vj has received over 4.7 bitcoin which is over $30,000 at current exchange rates. It's received nearly 300 abuse reports.

On October 22nd, the first address, along with 8 others, transferred 1.656 bitcoin (about $10,000) to an intermediate address which transferred it on to an account which now has exactly 5 bitcoin ($3200) and another which seems to be part of a further web of intermediate accounts. The second address I got a threat from only got 0.376 bitcoin ($2400) with no transactions since the 22nd, and hasn't yet cashed out. Assuming these accounts are all part of the same spam push, over $60k from people who are savvy enough to figure out how to buy and send bitcoin but aren't savvy enough to realize this is a hoax seems like a pretty good return.

This entry was originally posted at https://flwyd.dreamwidth.org/384008.html – comment over there.

9th-Oct-2018 11:34 pm - Furthering the Bechdel Test
inner maiden animated no words
I was recently thinking about the Bechdel test—whether a work of fiction
  1. Has at least two female characters
  2. Who talk to each other
  3. About something other than a man

and ways it might be extended to the next level. I like this formulation: a story
  1. Has a female protagonist
  2. Who completes her objective
  3. And is rewarded with something other than a man

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass pass. As does The Wizard of Oz and Frozen. I suppose Island of the Blue Dolphins passes, though I'm not sure if getting off the island was the main character's goal. So there's decent success at stories targeted at young people, though Disney certainly has a history of missing the mark. In the women-killing-dangerous-enemies genre, the films Alien (and Aliens) and the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy pass.

I then realized that I don't know, off hand, a lot of stories or films with female protagonists. And many of the ones I do know, I've forgotten what the reward is at the end of the story. I'd love to hear more stories in the comments to add to the list.

This entry was originally posted at https://flwyd.dreamwidth.org/383833.html – comment over there.

Trevor baby stare
Thanks to [personal profile] dglenn for posting about the Trump administration's marked increase in passport denials, including this list of articles: Also BoingBoing: Bertherism for everyone: Kansas woman told birth certificate can't be used for passport renewal.

I'm very concerned about this development. It seems like a step beyond the early anti-immigrant efforts like denying entry to U.S. permanent residents from seven majority Muslim countries. This policy is denying rights to native-born American citizens and it could be used as grounds in the future to deny Americans their status as citizens. Demanding that current passport holders produce additional documentation of their birth forty years ago is a new Kafkaesque policy from an administration that's led by a man who gained political fame by questioning the nationality of the previous president.

The Trump administration is questioning the citizenship of people born at home, particularly if they have immigrant-sounding names. Both of my grandmothers (American citizens I assure you) were born at home to first-generation immigrants. Donald Trump's State Department's policies degrade not only the Americans that have to wade through a new morass of government red tape to access their rights. They degrade American heritage as well.

This entry was originally posted at https://flwyd.dreamwidth.org/383492.html – comment over there.

31st-Aug-2018 09:41 am - Bad Cop
Trevor baby stare
(in a Steven Wright monotone)
Two police interrogators decided to play good cop/bad cop. The bad cop showed up late and forgot why I was there.

This entry was originally posted at https://flwyd.dreamwidth.org/383308.html – comment over there.

29th-Jul-2018 09:22 pm - Red White & Blueberry Ale
Trevor baby stare
On July 4th I started brewing a batch of Red White & Blueberry Ale. For several weeks I was trying to decide what I should brew during the holiday break until inspiration finally hit for this patriotic brew. The idea was to brew a red ale with blueberries, using flaked wheat (plus the yeast and head) to play the role of white.

Blueberries floating in a carboyIn the boil I put
5 gal water
4 lbs CBW Golden Light liquid malt extract
2 lbs Red X 12° malt
½ lb flaked wheat
3 lbs blueberry puree
1 oz Liberty pellet hops
1 oz East Kent Golding pellet hops
0.5 tsp Irish moss
1 packet White Labs Irish Ale yeast (WLP004)

Thanks to the blueberry puree, the wort was very brown and cloudy; straining it into the fermenter was a slow and gooey task. With nearly 10 pounds of sugars, vigorous fermentation picked up within hours.

Two weeks later, I racked this to secondary: it was a purple shade of brow and still fairly cloudy. I added 4 pounds of whole blueberries that had gone through four freeze-thaw cycles to break down the cell walls. About a third of these floated right away while the others sunk to the bottom of the carboy, slowly rising in the next couple days as they soaked up the beer.

Clear red/purple ale in a syphonToday was bottling day. The sediment had settled nicely, with all the blueberries on top, creating a fun visual as the two masses slowly approached each other while I siphoned into the bottling bucket. My siphon placement technique worked well; there was hardly any sediment in the bucket (I usually end up with several millimeters). The beer had also cleared: instead of the cloudy brown, it was a beautiful reddish shade of purple, looking more like a light red wine than a beer. The taste is also pretty exquisite: blueberry and grain flavors both come out in roughly equal proportion; neither are overpowering, and the hops are mild, with no detracting bitterness. The alcohol content is somewhere above 3.7%; I don't know for sure because I'm not sure how much sugar in the whole blueberries got digested by the yeast. Regardless, this should be a great refreshing summer brew, befitting its patriotic and independent identity.

This entry was originally posted at https://flwyd.dreamwidth.org/383153.html – comment over there.

28th-Jul-2018 06:49 pm - July is for Entertainment
Trevor baby stare
Somehow July turned into my month for being in the audience.

Dead and Company were at Folsom Field in Boulder for two nights. The first set of the Friday night show was a little underwhelming, but the second set was amazing, with highlights including Terrapin Station, Saint Stephen into The Eleven, All Along the Watchtower, and Throwing Stones: every song was played exceptionally well. The Saturday night show was stellar from beginning to end, including a great The Other One into Drums and Space back into The Other One. It's a lot of fun to be with a football stadium full of people who know every song well and reflect a lot of energy back to the band. I may have spent too much money on tie dye on Shakedown Street.

I saw The Colorado Shakespeare Festival's productions of Love's Labours Lost and Richard III. Somehow I'd never seen or read the former, and it's a really good play (rising above some Shakespearian tropes) and the CSF cast did a great job playing up the comedy. The Richard III production was also well done, with some really neat witchy action from ex-queen Margaret. After watching three or four times productions in the last ten years, I think I finally understand everything that's going on in that play.

As a birthday present for Kelly's inner child we saw Disney's Little Mermaid at BDT Stage neé Boulder Dinner Theater. The costuming was pretty fun, and they had a good fluidity of "imagine that we're underwater." I think I ended up eating some dairy at the show (maybe the bread), so I felt lousy the next day :-/

This week I saw Bombino, a fantastic Tuareg guitar player in the tradition of Tinariwen and Ali Farka Touré, at the Boulder Theater. The performance was fantastic, and they had a fun humble and thankful energy, with the bass player apologizing that they don't know much English (having been colonized by the French). Local Afrobeat band Atomga opened. I saw them a few years ago; they seemed to have upped their game and their set totally rocked; on par with the main act. Lots of good dancing opportunity, particularly since the theater wasn't very crowded. I guess the rest of Boulder didn't realize how fun this show would be.

I also managed to fit in two trips to the Monday evening Bandshell Boogie. And I skipped the Buckethead concert at the beginning of the month because I was too.damn.exhausted.

This entry was originally posted at https://flwyd.dreamwidth.org/382735.html – comment over there.

21st-Jun-2018 11:31 pm - Borrowing a Personal Map
earth eyes south america face
We were instructed to create a personal map as homework for an all-day team alignment meeting at work today. The general expectation was that it would be mind map style: your name in the center and branches leading to ideas which play an important role in your life.

Since I'm a map nerd and we're part of the geo team, I decided to dispense with the node/edge modality and use a geographic map as the base. And since laying out and drawing a map of my own psyche is a more involved project than I wanted to undertake, I started by borrowing from one of my favorite maps: Tolkien's map of Middle-earth. I then carefully positioned some of the key pieces of my life upon the rich geolocated symbolism of Arda, arriving at this interesting work:
1.6MiB imageCollapse )

This entry was originally posted at https://flwyd.dreamwidth.org/382634.html – comment over there.

4th-Jun-2018 11:34 pm - The Plural of Anecdote is not Data
mathnet - to cogitate and to solve
Some days, I feel like my strongest skill is the ability to stare at a bunch of data and go "Hey, here's something interesting…"

This entry was originally posted at https://flwyd.dreamwidth.org/382225.html – comment over there.

2nd-Jun-2018 11:41 pm - Can I Hear You Now?
intense aztec drummer DNC 2008
A couple weeks ago I had a really stick neck, tightness in my jaw, and pain in my ear. I'm certain that all three of these were related, but I'm not sure which was causative. I'd spent a long weekend in a hot spring at the end of April, and my right ear had felt like it had water in it for a while after that, so I figured that might be involved.

After a difficult day at work due to on-and-off headaches due to the ear pain, I put hydrogen peroxide - urea drops in my ears and irrigated with a bulb. This had been the prescription 5ish years ago when I had some persistent ringing in my ears and an overabundance of earwax flushed out by a PA at my doctor's office. It had also worked wonders on my trip to California in February when my ears felt clogged, the pressure changes on the plane were intense, and I had trouble focusing in an all-day meeting because of headaches coming and going and noticeable tightness in my neck muscles.

The drops and irrigation seemed to help for a couple days, then two weeks ago Friday the dull headache quickly shifted into a "You will devote almost all of your attention to the sharp pain in the left side of your head." My task on Friday is reading interview packets and then participating in hiring committee. After struggling through the first packet I realized that there was no way I would be able to make it through another four hours of reading and talking with this level of pain, so I called my doctor's office and asked the meeting coordinator to hand off my other packets.

At the doctor's office, I rated my pain an 8 out of 10. An NP inspected my ears and irrigated with a fancy bottle and warm water, which was more effective than the bulb dropper. A rather large chunk of goo came out of my left ear, and after sitting still for a moment to readjust my balance I felt major relief, right back down to a 2 or so on the pain scale. She recommended using the hydrogen peroxide drops for 3–5 days to get residual wax out and I biked home. I felt so good when I got home that I messaged the coordinator and said "Hey, I can read again, can you give me a packet back?" In my history of injury and illness It's very rare that a treatment takes effect that immediately; even the morphine I got when I broke my arm took longer to kick in, and didn't dial things down that far.

The next day I had another intense ear headache after several hours playing Magic and sadly opted not to go out to see Godspeed You Black Emperor!, since the artful amplified distortion of post-rock didn't seem like a great idea when your ears already hurt. Back home to lie in bed with peroxide making popping sounds as it combats wax.

I didn't have any more sharp pain, but over the next several days my ears felt pretty clogged. At first I figured this was residual ear wax, but fingers and Q-tips weren't pulling much wax out. I have the perk of being married to an NP; Kelly looked in my ears with her otoscope and noted that she couldn't see my ear drums, but everything looked pretty inflamed. I called the doctor's office and got in to see another NP who confirmed that it didn't look like wax, but wasn't sure just what to do. Hypothesizing that it was bacterial, she prescribed ciprofloxacin drops in each ear twice a day (possibly to be combined with Flonaze to combat inflammation), then come back for another irrigation.

Cipro ear drops are apparently an infrequently used medicine. My usual King Soopers pharmacy didn't have any, and sent me to the Louisville location. After a day of taking the drops I realized there were only 14 dropperettes in the package, which only covers half a week for two ears twice a day. I called the pharmacy to get a refill, which led to a multi-hour adventure wherein I learned (a) the insurance company didn't want to authorize it, because the refill date was for after a week and (b) I'd apparently gotten the only box of this medicine at any King Soopers in the Denver area. Oh, and hey, it's Memorial Day weekend, so good luck ordering anything. Fortunately, these are solvable problems. I think the pharmacist was able to convince the insurance company that I'd only received a half-week dose (since apparently people usually only get an infection in one ear). The on-call doctor called in a "Yeah, totally get more of that" prescription, too. (And apparently King Soopers had a coupon that would've made the drug cheaper than going through insurance, if they'd had any in stock.) After a couple calls I found a Wallgreens that had a box in stock and they were able to transfer the prescription from King Soopers.

Ordinarily I would take the position "I'll just skip this drug on Memorial Day and get it sorted out on Tuesday and it doesn't seem to be making that big of a difference anyway." But stopping an antibiotic half-way through isn't usually a good idea, and "a colony of drug-resistant bacteria in your ears" is not an attractive idea when you've just spent two weeks having aural discomfort.

Through Memorial Day, I'd generally had one ear or the other clear enough to hear conversations accurately, though I didn't have great spatial localization and I could tell I wasn't getting the full spectrum from music. Starting Tuesday, both ears felt very clogged almost all of the time; I could have a conversation, but only if I positioned myself strategically and the other person spoke up. Assuming that this was just buildup of ear drops and inflammation residue, I eagerly awaited my followup appointment for irrigation.

On Thursday, the NP looked in my ears again and pulled out a black chunk and inspected it. She concluded that it wasn't ear wax and that the antibiotic treatment hadn't solved the problem, so I should go see an ENT. I called around and found that there was an appointment early (for me) on Friday morning, as luck would have it.

I set my alarm the night before, but it didn't go off because I'd set up my clock off by 12 hours when I moved in. Oops. Fortunately, Kelly gets up early for work anyway, so she asked me "When's your appointment again?" early enough that I could do the morning gig and get to the appointment.

I really should've headed to the ENT rather than my primary care office after the first round of treatment didn't solve the whole problem. They've got a whole bunch of fancy ear tools, including long tweezers that go through the otoscope and a device that amounts to an ear vacuum. She quickly concluded that the big black hunks of goo in my ears were fungal, which clearly explains the ineffectiveness of my week of antibiotics. After removing large chunks she sprayed white antifungal powder in my ears and told me to keep them dry. Now that's something I've never had before :-)

I asked if my psoriatic arthritis might have played a role in this ear inflammation and debris buildup. The PA said that psoriasis can lead to ear issues, but that my case didn't look related. That's definitely a relief, because I was really not looking forward to my ears pulling my neck and screaming at my brain as a chronic condition.

So for the last day and a half, my left ear has been refreshingly clear and able to hear while my right ear has been ringing (though not as loudly as it was) and has reduced hearing capacity but gracefully no pain. My neck, shoulders, and jaw have also been refreshingly loose today. I've got a followup on Wednesday before I head to Apogaea where the PA will clean up the antifungal powder and take another look. Hopefully this ringing is just a little more debris stuck to the drum.

This entry was originally posted at https://flwyd.dreamwidth.org/382193.html – comment over there.

1895 Colorado map
Dear Senator (Gardner | Bennet),

Thank you for introducing the bipartisan FARMERS FIRST Act to help ensure that agricultural workers have access to mental health care. Farming is both physically and emotionally taxing and the year-to-year risks that agricultural producers face can bring emotional stress to the breaking point.

As Colorado, and the world, grows warmer, the effects of climate change will further compound the physical and mental stresses on farmers in the state. First, heat waves are correlated with an increase in negative mental health events and acts of aggression and violence. Second, we have already experienced more frequent extreme weather events and greater variation in surface water availability due to increased temperatures, reduced snowpack, and less predictable precipitation. These factors are likely to increase the risk of crop failures, putting farms and farmers at risk. Third, the long-term effects of a warmer climate like earlier seasonal onset, warmer diurnal temperatures, and insect infestations (like the pine beetle unchecked by cold winters) will force many farmers to abandon crops they have grown for generations.

Fortunately, we have an opportunity to put the breaks on climate change and keep temperatures from running away faster than we can adapt. Climate change legislation should be one of Congress’s top priorities this year and next, and Colorado’s interests should be represented as bills are crafted. I urge you to take action in at least the following two ways.

First, please ensure programs to address climate change are part of the 2018 Farm Bill. Agriculture is on the front lines of climate change and agricultural producers have some of the best opportunities to make a meaningful difference in greenhouse gasses. Congress should sponsor research, development, and experimentation of ag practices which can sequester carbon, reduce methane, increase yields, and save money on inputs. Congress should also find ways to incentivize expanding America’s great forests: it’s hard to find a more effective way to remove carbon dioxide from the air than trees.

Second, I urge you to cosponsor a bill enacting a market-based climate change solution like carbon fee and dividend. A national program to price the externalities of greenhouse gas emissions is likely the most effective action that we can take to keep the climate stable and avoid major disruption to daily life that we risk with unchecked global warming. A price on carbon would spur American innovation, create clean energy jobs, and improve our quality of life.

Thank you for your consideration of this matter and your dedicated service to Colorado,
Trevor Stone

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24th-Apr-2018 12:16 am - Close Enough for Government Work
spencer hot springs feet
While poking through papers the previous homeowners left, I noticed the well permit change of address form with a sticky note saying to check the website in a few weeks. So I poked around the Division of Water Resources website and found the document history for our well permit.

Except… the dates looked a little funny, relative to the construction of the house. And then I noticed that the address on the original permit is down the block, where the north-south street bends into my east-west street. "Huh, did that person own two houses on the same block?" I wondered. So I poked around the County Recorder's website (and used Chrome developer tools to make the document viewer useful). The names didn't line up either.

Then I took a closer look at the well permit's legal description. "Lot 5, block 8, Country Club Park." Isn't that my legal description? I checked the assessor's website again. Oh, wait, I'm (part of) "Lot 5, block 8, Country Club Park Partial Replat." Totally different numbering lot sequence! But Block 8 is still contiguous. And someone at the State probably didn't know the finer points of Boulder County subdivision plats, so they saw "Lot 5, block 8, Country Club Park" and matched 'em up. I wonder if our neighbors have a record of their well permit. I'm not sure how much I care about fixing this.

Other fun discoveries from the plat maps:
  • Our subdivision was planned to have two parks (one surrounded by "Meadow Drive," the other by "Parkway Drive," natch). It currently has zero parks, and the Parkway Drive park is an island of six houses.
  • This stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue was to be called Redwood Avenue, but I guess that ran into trouble when they got to "R" in the alphabetical tree-themed street names zone in north Boulder.
  • 55th Street was called "Roxwood Road," which seems an odd choice for a straight north-south thoroughfare in a town with a numbered north-south grid.
  • The original plat had a row of houses with driveways along Baseline. They would not have enjoyed commuting or throwing parties.

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5th-Apr-2018 11:46 pm - Direct Marketing Fail
spam lite
Today I received a glossy mailing from a real estate agent addressed to the folks who sold us their house a month ago. The flyer starts "Selling a home in East Boulder requires extensive local knowledge, a great marketing plan, and superior negotiation skills." It then lists several houses currently for sale or under contract. Finally it lists five recently sold houses… including the one we just bought.

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rose red sky blue
The timing of the whole house buying process has worked out exquisitely.

For awhile we've been talking about buying a house this spring. Last year we let our landlord know that we'd like to go month-to-month when our lease was up. But since the purchase process was really smooth, we didn't need it. We're officially moved out of Lucky Gin, and it's approximately as clean as it was when we moved in.

We smartly gave ourselves a month to move, closing on the house on the first Monday of March. That provided a weekend for moving essentials and compactly stacking boxed media, a weekend for friends and family and several large vehicles, a weekend for professional movers to pick up the heavy and/or bulky, and a week and a Saturday for all the random things that have somehow escaped packing, discarding 3-year-old containers hiding in the fridge, and extensive cleaning.

Smooth timing was a theme in the house search process, too. The first two open house we tried to go to were closed. The first one we successfully visited was super fun and we got a good vibe from the seller's realtors. We met with those two at the beginning of the year and decided to "go out with them" for a while. And although I was prepared to spend months to a year looking for a house that met our needs, timing lucked out such that we bought a house that we saw on the second weekend of outings. Total time between purchasing Buying Your First Home and actually buying our first home: less than three months.

Another timing irony, or manifestation if you prefer: for several years I had a bunch of money in a money market account rather than a higher-interest CD because I was usually in a state of "Maybe next year will be the time to buy a house." In early 2017 I decided that pattern was clearly silly, so I poked around and found that I was eligible for a credit union with a 1% APR 1-year CD and figured one year would be a good time for a house purchase, relative to the lease schedule. Getting the account set up and money moved in took a week or two longer than I expected, so the maturity date was March 8th, a bit later in the year than I was hoping. But as luck would have it, the house cost a couple hundred thousand dollars less than I was expecting to pay, so I didn't have to use any of the money from the CD. The kicker, of course, is that a couple months after I opened the CD, the savings account's interest rate increased such that I would've made more money by keeping it totally liquid.

Fortunately, we now never* need to move again.
Well, except moving all the stuff in the garage (there's a single-human-width path down the middle) into the house, unboxing it, and moving the items destined for a garage sale back into the garage.

Some people think it's a great idea to have a yard sale before you move. I disagree: when there's a deadline on the move, it takes much less time to pack items without evaluating them, and you save on the time and stress of having all the unwanted items identified by a Saturday that you could use schlepping boxes instead. It seems much less stressful to carefully consider an item fetched from the garage, figure out how it might fit into a new space, and not announce a sale until all of the unnecessary items have accumulated.

* Well, until it's time to retire to Moloka'i or move into an ALF.

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28th-Feb-2018 10:56 pm - Getting Wired for a Transfer
currency symbols
On Monday we're signing a bunch of documents and an escrow company will move a whole bunch of money around between accounts and we're going to move some essentials into a house and change the locks.

I would feel significantly less nervous about this if I'd received final amounts and money wiring instructions by now. I usually assume that data networks between banks are made of molasses, so moving a few bytes from one bank to another takes two days and COBOL code doesn't run on weekends. So I've had over a quarter million dollars sitting around in a couple accounts for a month and I'm getting nervous, because moving $250,000 from place to place is a lot harder than moving $25.

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7th-Feb-2018 10:20 pm - FAQ Tells it Like it Is
bad decision dinosaur
From Answers to Questions About the National Flood Insurance Program
Q. Does my Homeowner Policy cover flood damage?
A. Your Homeowners Insurance does not cover floods. Floods can happen anytime, anywhere. They cause physical, emotional, and financial anguish especially when victims realize the damage is not covered by their homeowner’s insurance policy.

Insurance documents aren’t normally the place to turn for zingers.

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4th-Feb-2018 08:46 pm - Coconut Porter
Vigelandsparken circle man
When we were in Maui last October, Maui Brewing Company had a limited-edition Imperial Coconut Porter on tap that was blissfully delicious and at least twice as wonderful as their usual coconut porter. The ICP was so good that it tasted like coffee and I liked that about it. It also tasted like chocolate and coconut and several other things if you held it on your tongue long enough.

I'd been wanting to try brewing a dark beer this winter and after that heavenly taste I determined to make a coconut porter. I had no illusions that it would be as wonderful as the one from Maui, but anywhere in that ballpark should be tasty.

I poked around the Internet to get a sense of the ingredients that other folks used in coconut porters and then went to the friendly local homebrew store. I didn't have a planned recipe, so I spent probably ten minutes smelling tubs of dry malt and imagining their combined flavor. I ended up with a pound of chocolate malt (600–700°L), half a pound of 80°L crystal malt, half a pound of flaked oats, and four pounds of "golden light" liquid malt extract. (°L is a measure of color. I described the wort as "dark chocolate" and the final brew as "light black.") I stopped by Whole Foods for two pounds of flaked coconut and twelve ounces of honey which I managed to spill on the bulk food scale and then improperly label with a PLU code.

I'd been planning to add a pound of blackstrap molasses as well to add some more dark sugar to the mix. And when I was gathering ingredients for the wort I noticed that I'd had a jar of carob molasses sitting around that I bought over a year ago, figuring I'd use it in some kind of beer. It's dark and sweet, so in it goes!

After primary fermentation I racked the beer into a glass carboy and then dumped in roasted coconut flakes through a funnel. It turned out that 5 gallons of beer plus two pounds of flakes doesn't leave much headroom in a 5-gal carboy. In the first hour I watched the wet coconut push dangerously far up the neck of the glass. Remembering stories of exploding carboys when a brew gets up to the seal, I used the thief to draw out some liquid on the inside and coconut stuck to the outside. The next morning I woke to find chocolate-covered beer pushing up through the airlock and spilling onto the table. I was actually relieved by that state, since it didn't involve explosive glass shards. The mouth of a carboy is, unfortunately, narrower than a spoon, so the best tool I could find was a metal kebab skewer which I used to move some coconut mass around and open up air pathways.

Fortunately the secondary fermentation wasn't very active, so I didn't have to reengage with battle with the coconut monster until bottling. With about two gallons left in the carboy, we were suspicious that the syphon would get surrounded by coconut gunk and leave stranded beer. We poured from the carboy through a strainer into a pot, which was remarkably effective. We got a nice bowl of alcoholic coconut to much on, a fairly sediment-free final syphoning, and a carboy plastered with coconut:
[Dark beer and a messy carboy full of coconut flakes]
The rest of bottling was mostly uneventful until small coconut flakes clogged up the bottling wand with about three bottles worth of beer left. I tried switching to the pinch-the-hose technique which is harder than it sounds and ended up with a decent amount of beer on the floor. (I don't think I've had a bottling evening that didn't end up with alcohol on the floor. Our dining room is blessed.) I did have the presence of mind to use the hose's position relative to the syphon point to stop and start flow, which was sufficient to fill a bottle or so.

Also, the plastic bottle tree I got from a coworker makes the bottle drying and at-hand-for-filling really slick:
[Drying tree full of bottles]

Ingredient list:
5 gal Water
4 lbs CBW Golden Light liquid malt extract
1 lbs Crisp Malting chocolate malt 600-700L
8 oz flaked oats
8.5 oz Briess Malting caramel/crystal malt 80L
12 oz Colorado honey
1.3 lbs Plantation blackstrap unsulphured molasses
1.5 lbs Al Wadi Al Akhdar carob molasses
1 oz northern brewer hops
1 oz santiam hops
0.25 tsp Irish moss
2 lbs roasted flaked coconut
White Labs WLP80 cream ale yeast blend

The friend who helped me bottle declared that it tasted like "tart coconut." I'm very pleased with the coconut presence (though a pound would've made for less mess and still plenty of taste). There's a good dark malt flavor, though I don't taste a lot of chocolate, coffee, or other notes. It's not bitter yet also not very sweet.

Anon, anon! I pray you, remember the porter.

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31st-Jan-2018 11:43 pm - Weeks of Adulting Responsibly
Vigelandsparken face to face
I started a more narrative version of this post, but got pulled into adulting matters instead, so here's the bullet points of what I've been up to for the last month and a half.
  • Writing a document with what we requirements, preferences, and perks we'd want in a house
  • Reading about the process of buying a house
  • Looking at houses on real estate websites
  • Pre-applying for a loan up to a million dollars
  • Going to open houses
  • Remembering that my passport was about to expire; renewing it
  • Not buying literally the first house we looked at, even though it was really fun and in a great spot
  • Getting a code volunteer oriented to the Ranger software system
  • Celebrating holidays with family and friends
  • Sorting out a new PHP framework because the original new fancy framework we were going to use for the Ranger system is deprecated
  • Moving back to my old office building, unsubscribing from old team mailing lists, stumbling my way through Android codelabs
  • Meeting with potential buyers' realtors
  • Meeting with an elder law attorney to help my parents develop an estate plan
  • Receiving my passport in just two weeks, before the government could shut down
  • Looking at houses with realtors
  • Looking at more houses on the internet; not being able to sleep due to imagining living in a particular interesting house
  • Making spreadsheets of house price, down payment, and monthly cost scenarios
  • Looking at more houses with realtors
  • Studying the Boulder County floodplain maps
  • Reading a real estate contract
  • Making an offer on a house that meets almost all of our desires except "not in a floodplain"
  • Buying a pie to celebrate offer acceptance
  • Writing a $20,000 check for escrow
  • Awkwardly knocking on future neighbors' doors and saying hello
  • Reading legal documents
  • Reading loan documents
  • Signing loan documents
  • Getting quotes for hazard and flood insurance
  • Having a kickoff meeting for further adventures in climate outreach
  • Observing a home inspector poke and prod at a house, crawling around in two fairly comfortable crawl spaces
  • Reading inspection findings
  • Leafing through a homeowner's well-organized invoices
  • Reminding my mom to send life insurance details to the attorney
The next two months look pretty adulty, too.

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31st-Dec-2017 12:32 pm - New Year, New Team
raven temple of moon
November 30th was my 8th Googleversary. 8 years is longer than my direct involvement with any other institution, beating my 7½ years at CU and 6 years at Uni Hill. In that time, the Boulder office has grown from around 150 people to more than 700 and my team has grown from a couple rows of cubicles of folks working on the "Google Docs document list" to more than 150 people working on Google Drive in Boulder, plus folks in Los Angeles and New York, and taking a whole floor of the new Pearl Place office. In that time I've worked on adding video support, a server for file viewing, a pipeline to make corpus stats queryable, the new web UI and server, adoption of a new Google framework that standardizes server development and production, migrating and turning down a legacy server, and a not-yet-announced feature to help certain enterprise business processes. "Ask Trevor, he knows everything" has been said by at least one colleague. This isn't the first time I've had wide breadth of impact: I got a "Many hats (literal and figurative)" award when I was an RA in college and I had a hand in almost all pieces of our software products at Tyler-Eagle.

This also marks close to 14 years working on, broadly, enterprise file and content management. While I enjoy helping organizations be more efficient and like wrangling and organizing lots of data (see also: my family's bookshelves), there are other software domains that I'd like to focus on. When I joined Google I figured I'd work on my project for a couple years and then switch to something else and learn something new, ideally working with maps or natural language. The Boulder office has had a geo team since Google first acquired SketchUp yet the team hasn't grown much until now. As of the beginning of 2018 I'll be working with the Street View team to help organize knowledge of the physical world.

When I was sick in 2016, one of the goals I set for my healthy self was to spend more time reading books and making maps. My dissatisfaction with the American political process meant that I ended up shifting my hobby focus from cartography to conversations about climate change and systemic risk. Moving to a geo team at work helps me keep that make-maps promise to myself. And the Street View team is a nice fit given my years spent carefully geotagging all the photos I take while exploring the world. I'm excited about the opportunity to learn geographic data models, image processing, mobile development, and user experience thinking for people navigating the world.

There's an amusing wrinkle in the timing of this team switch. The new Pearl Place campus opened at the beginning of December, so I packed up and moved to the 3rd floor with the rest of the Drive team. The geo team will be on the 2nd floor of the building, which isn't finished yet (as is often the case, Google's growth outpaced expectations when we were planning the building project). So this week I moved back to the old building again with the other left behinds and will move once more in February. Four desks in the span of three months: now that's agile.

The new building is a great place for googling. The desk areas are very open, which I like since it allows for quick collaboration and "hallway conversations." The building also has a lot of areas where folks can retreat for more quiet and focus, including a library with a great view, a nook behind a Hobbit door, and a "hanging lounge." There are also a lot of good social spaces out of earshot of folks' desks and spaces to switch mental gears including a rock climbing cave, a bike workshop, a music room, a giant Google Earth display, and a couple pinball and video game machines. The café on the fourth floor faces the mountains with floor-to-ceiling windows, meaning the kitchen staff get the best view in the place. This is pretty unique: in most buildings, the kitchen has no view whatsoever or maybe has a small window to an alley.

Have a happy new year and may you find your own opportunities for personal growth in 2018!

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19th-Nov-2017 09:35 pm - Adventures in Climate Lobbying
1895 USA map
Last week I joined over 600 other Citizens Climate Lobby volunteers for the annual Congressional Education Day. CCL's main lobby day occurs in June, when we meet with over 500 offices of Representatives, Senators, and Delegates to discuss our proposal for a revenue-neutral carbon fee and dividend with border adjustments. The organization's Legislative Director, Danny Richter, then analyzes all of the meeting notes and identifies topics brought up by members and their staffs. For both Democrats and Republicans this year, the top topic was the Climate Solutions Caucus while the second and third topics for Republican offices were jobs and the border adjustment while Democratic offices talked about the Paris accord, jobs, and the dividend. In November, CCL volunteers pay their way to Washington again to share those results, letting congressional offices know how other offices have been responding to our proposal. CCL leaders say they're not aware of any other group that meets with approximately every office in one day nor of one which can then share aggregate results of Hill-wide behind-closed-door meetings.

One of the most promising findings in this year's analysis is the degree to which GOP offices are engaged in our conversations. For the past four years, Dr. Richter has recorded the staff or member engagement level with CCL volunteers. Tier 1 covers meetings where staff showed genuine interest; Tier 2 meetings had quiet but not uninterested staff, and Tier 3 represents meetings where staff were either combative or totally uninterested. In 2014, the ratio of Tier 1 to Tier 3 meetings with Republicans was 3:1. Each year the number of interested offices has increased and the number of cold offices has decreased; this June we had 21 active and engaged meetings for every combative or disinterested meeting. While popular perception may hold that Republicans don't care about climate change, Citizens' Climate Lobby has found that many GOP lawmakers acknowledge, at least in private, that climate change is a significant concern for America and many of them think the federal government should take some kind of action. This is not to say that they're all ready to turn our proposal into law&emdash;many of them have significant concerns or they prefer a different approach. There was a sense at the CCL conference and among staffers on The Hill that opinions had shifted significantly in the last several years and that bipartisan legislation tackling climate change could come soon. I find this really exciting, and I plan to continue helping build political will for a federal climate solution.

Some personal notes:
Conference organizers said that the dress code on The Hill is formal: offices aren't likely to take you seriously unless you're wearing a suit and tie or socially-approved female- or military-equivalent. I got a suit and dress clothes when I was a senior in college (prior to a national honor society meeting), figuring that as an adult I'd need to wear a suit on occasion. Based on the CU Buffs lapel pin, I don't think I've worn the suit since I left college, so maybe this outing means I'm finally a grown up at age 38.

I heard from other CCLers to expect a lot of walking, since Senate office buildings are on the northeast side of the U.S. Capitol while House offices are on the southeast side, with under-street tunnels connecting the office buildings on each side. I lucked out with three straight meetings on one side. Some folks with short times between meetings told me that some kind staffers had helped them get access to the underground trolley below the Capitol building, which sounded pretty cool.

Speaking of walking and subways, both of them were effective modes of transport in DC. The town is designed with the assumption that a lot of people won't be driving a car, so sidewalks are wide and trains are frequent. The subway system also seemed significantly more cheerful and less grimy than New York's. A friend who used to work in DC told me about the bike path along Rock Creek, so I had a lovely walk from the National Zoo (home of photogenic pandas) to Georgetown, the C&O Canal (now a national park that's 185 miles long and about 30 yards wide), the Potomac River (where I found a Chartres labyrinth overlooked by a bird of prey), the Lincoln Memorial, Korean War Memorial, and Vietnam War Memorial. After five hours of walking, my thighs were sore for two days.

I met with four offices in and around my state. Although I'm not at liberty to discuss the details of those meetings, I'll say that I felt all of them were positive. Republican staffers I met with were interested in our proposal and expressed very specific concerns about policy details and how it might affect their constituents. This is exactly the sort of meeting we want to be having. And offices, even ones who disagree with us, are generally happy to meet with us, in part because they know we're not going to come in and yell at them.

Part of the CCL approach to congressional meetings is to start with an appreciation. It doesn't have to be about climate, but it needs to be something you truly appreciate about something the person has done or said. In one meeting that we were a little trepidatious about, the meeting quickly dove into the policy discussion before I had a chance to share the appreciation. After a spirited discussion about climate and energy policy that lasted twice as long as we expected, I wrapped up the meeting with my appreciation. This led to another five minute discussion on a different topic on which our group and the staffer shared a lot of common concerns.

Maybe we lucked out with the location of the conference hotel, but there's a lot of really good food in Washington from around the country and globe. I had fantastic Afghan curry, Lebanese lamb stew, a crawfish-prawn-sausage boil, and some good bagels.

The National Mall is bigger on foot than it appeared in my minds eye after looking at maps. I arrived in time to get a Burner welcome, do some dancing, and watch the temple burn at Catharsis on the Mall next to the Washington Monument, which is right in the middle of the mall. The Lincoln Memorial at one end and Capitol building on the other seemed quite distant while the White House, which looks as if it's just a few small parks away on a map, seemed rather small. One could probably explore all of the monuments on the National Mall in a day, but it would be a long one.

Speaking of the Lincoln Memorial, despite having seen countless pictures of it, I was unaware what's in the wings. The left side has the Gettysburg Address, which begins with one of the most famous sentences in English but which I don't think I had previously read in its entirety. It's really good and remains relevant today, the 154th anniversary of the speech. The other wing features Lincoln's second inaugural address, which I found quite powerful. Also notable to contemporary debates, when some folks claim that the Civil War was "not about slavery," Lincoln's contemporary remarks make it pretty clear that he (one of the two primary belligerents) thought it was. Above the speeches are two murals with perhaps the most White Savior imagery I've ever seen.

The Korean War Veterans Memorial, newer and much less famous than the Vietnam Veterans Memorial has a set of white soldier statues in a triangular field. Their features are much less distinct than most statues, creating a really beautiful ghostly sense of almost-presence. I was there a day after Veteran's Day so there were a lot of floral wreaths sent by various veteran and civic groups along the also-ghostly black granite mural.

I was familiar with the design and context for the Vietnam Veterans wall. But what was much more emotionally salient, and also familiar from Burning Man's temples, was all the offerings and remembrances left at the foot of the wall. These ranged from candles and flowers to photographs to poems to boots and hats. Much more than a name, these give a sense of the character and humanity of the Americans who lost their lives in that unwinnable war.

Before planning this trip, I had not previously realized that "The Smithsonian" is not one museum but half a dozen under an organizational umbrella. They line the eastern arm of the National Mall with striking architecture. Following a tip from my friend, who worked for The Smithsonian, on my last day I headed for the 4th floor of The National Museum of the American Indian. The shape and color of the building's exterior clues you in that it's got a bit of a different flavor and the tone of the exhibits made clear that Indian people were involved in telling their own story: it wasn't simply a monument to the collected artifacts of colonialism, which is how the British Museum feels. The 4th floor features a long curving exhibit structured around the cycle of the year, the moon, and the stars. Several alcoves introduced the world view of a different indigenous American people and how it plays into their culture, from dress to tools to housing. The other half of the floor is an exhibit dedicated to treaties between Indian tribes and the United States. I had learned from A People's History of the United States that every US–Indian treaty had been broken by the United States, but I didn't know a lot about the particulars. This exhibit does an excellent job of presenting the context, negotiating perspectives, and treaty technologies (from wompum belts to written documents signed with an X to modern legal documents) of over 300 years of treaties between White and Indian groups. The exhibit shows how treaties were broken or subverted, whittling away at tribal land through paperwork and occasional extreme force. It's a remarkably fair and informative exhibit, well worth a (free!) visit for anyone visiting the nation's capital.

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19th-Nov-2017 12:54 am - The Righteous Bookshelf
escher drawing hands
I just noticed that I've had a copy of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt sitting on my shelf for a few years. I was unaware of that fact, so I bought it this February as a potential recover-from-surgery book. Between my purchase and it rising to the top of my queue around June, I'd had three independent sources recommend it. And now apparently my mom thought I'd be interested in it as of a couple years ago on Christmas.

So… does anyone want to borrow a copy? It's the kind of book that shifts a lot of folks' thinking. I should probably write a review soon.

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2nd-Oct-2017 11:16 pm - Well-Armed Futility
rose silhouette
Trigger warning: guns, violence, murder, game theory.

Last night, a 64-year-old Nevadan killed at least 59 people and wounded more than 500 by shooting several (semi-?) automatic rifles into a large crowd at an outdoor country music festival across the Las Vegas strip. This terrible act was the deadliest mass shooting so far in modern America.

When I hear gun rights advocates talk about how guns can make us safer and that a well-armed populace is the best defense against tyranny, it often sounds like they have specific scenarios in mind. Maybe it's an attacker in a dark alley, or a home intruder, or someone opens fire in a crowded restaurant. And I often get the sense that they've mentally played through this scenario, and have a plan for how they would use a firearm in response. (The use might not involve shooting: the mere presence of a firearm can change the dynamics of a situation and get an attacker to change their course of action.)

I'm having trouble imagining how citizens bearing arms would have made this situation any safer or less deadly.

The shooter was 300 feet above ground and more than 1000 feet away from the victims. Response from someone in the concert area would be difficult under the best of circumstances. A handgun would be a completely ineffective. A high-powered rifle could return fire, but it would require a very good marksman, who would also need to locate the attacker's position. The shooter didn't seem to care who he hit, but a defender would need to make sure they got the right room; otherwise they're just shooting already scared people in the Mandalay Bay hotel. Plus, bringing an assault rifle to a concert (even if it were allowed) doesn't seem like a recipe for enjoying the show, not to mention putting the crowd at grater risk of accidental discharge.

Armed citizens inside the hotel perhaps could have taken action. But that would have required a lot of bravery and/or recklessness: if someone busts through a guy's door who's been shooting rapid-fire across the street, it seems just as likely that he'll whirl and unload into the would-be hero as the hero is to stop the shooter. For anyone concerned primarily with their own safety, getting away from the hallway that a shooter might emerge into seems the only rational move.

In the end, it sounds like the police responded within minutes and confronted the gunman… who then committed suicide. This highlights another incongruity between the scenario I hear from gun rights advocates and the experience America has had with mass shooters. In the scenario, the shooter is often concerned with his own life and will back down when confronted by an armed opponent. Yet game theory assumes a rational and self-interested actor. When the attacker intends to kill himself, or if his mind is willing to die, bodily harm is little deterrent and all bets on rationality are off. Shooting the attacker may disable his body, preventing the number of dead from rising further. But "I might get shot" is kind of the point for someone who wants to go out in a blaze of glory, so the presence of more firearms nearby isn't likely to stop him from starting the scene.

The situation was, of course, resolved by trained people with guns. It sounds like the police responded to the shooter's room in remarkable time—I think it would take me more than two minutes to get from the lobby to a particular room on the 32nd floor of a building even if I knew exactly where I was going. The police have some significant advantages that an armed citizen response would lack. First, they've received extensive crisis response training for situations like this. In theory, militia members would have similar training; in practice, when someone in plain clothes pulls out a gun in an active situation, it's hard to judge how well trained he his, whereas a certain level can be assumed of an officer in uniform. Second, the police are acting as a team, both with folks on scene and folks on the other end of the radio who can coordinate more resources. Third, the police have a social dispensation to use force in an emergent situation. The social contract entrusts official emergency responders to make decisions that the society doesn't trust ordinary citizens to make.

When someone's goal is to kill a lot of people and they're willing to become the final tally in the body count, it's very difficult to prevent a mass shooting on the scene; the most we one can usually accomplish is to shorten it. Preventing a gunman massacre requires intervening before the killer is ready to take action. I don't have a novel solution to offer, and I suspect that there are dozens of different things (none of them easy) that need to be done to reach the dozens of potential shooters. I am reminded of President Obama's comment after the Sandy Hook shooting:
We are going to need to work on making access to mental health care at least as easy as access to guns.


This entry was originally posted at https://flwyd.dreamwidth.org/379042.html – comment over there.

mail.app
Senator Bennet,

Thank you for introducing the Energy Storage Tax Incentive and Deployment Act. Distributed electricity storage helps make our power system more robust and can help lessen the impact when our normally-reliable electrical grid suffers an outage.
Senator Gardner,

Thank you for your letter last week in support of assistance to Puerto Rico to reestablish electric power in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. As someone affected by the 2013 Colorado floods, I know how challenging it is to deal with a disruption to infrastructure that we take for granted. I hope the people of Puerto Rico can soon experience the same ecstatic relief I felt when power was restored after the flood.

I am writing you today about another sort of infrastructure that Americans rarely think about until there’s a problem. As you know, the credit bureau Equifax’s computer systems were compromised in May, allowing the intruders to exfiltrate data about tens of millions of Americans for more than two months. The response to the incident from Equifax has been, frankly, awful. They waited to inform the American people about the breach for five weeks. And once the incident was announced, Equifax was unable to handle the public taking action to secure their data: among other problems, the company did not properly deploy the web encryption standard SSL and the site allowing users to freeze their credit file was unable to handle the demand, leaving many Americans frustrated and frightened about what might done with their data. The cybercriminals who have purloined this data are now able to commit identity and financial fraud in the name of these people, none of whom personally entrusted their data to Equifax.

Credit bureaus like Equifax are not subject to the same market pressures as other companies who collect data from consumers. I am a software engineer working in the cloud storage industry. I am proud that our customers trust us with some of their most private data, and it is crucial for efficient market function that they can delete their data and cancel their account when they choose, whether due to distrust of our security practices or because the data are no longer needed. Likewise, a bank which does not prioritize cybersecurity can expect to lose customers. Unfortunately, credit bureaus which collect and data on nearly every American are not subject to significant financial repercussions when they mishandle that data. The people whose data was stolen did not choose to give that data to the credit bureau, nor are they permitted to remove their data from the company which cannot protect it. The bureaus’ main paying customers—companies seeking data about Americans—are likewise not incentivized to prefer companies with the best security practices, since these paying customers do not suffer the consequences when an American’s identity is stolen.

I urge you to work with the Senate to bring clarity to the American people on what data credit bureaus collect on Americans, how it is stored, and how we can better protect it. I further urge you to work to refine the laws under which credit bureaus operate and ensure that Americans can opt out of having their data collected, and require companies to delete non-public data about Americans upon request. Individual Americans stand to lose the most when their identity is stolen, so they must have the tools to safeguard that identity data, including the ability to revoke it from a company whose security process they do not trust.

Thank you for your service and for your consideration on this matter,
Trevor Stone

Ironically, I had to try several times to submit this through Senator Cory Gardner's website, sine senate.gov kept returning an error that said

Request not Accepted - Security Risk Detected

Request not Accepted

Your submitted request contained a potential security risk.

Please try your submission again using natively composed plain text (not copied and pasted from another document), with few or no hyperlinks, or other syntax that may be interpreted as computer code (examples: '--', '&').

*As stated in the privacy policy, unauthorized attempts to upload or change information are strictly prohibited.

So yeah, Equifax aren't the only ones who are bad at cybersecurity. My first guess was that the site was choking on smart quotes. Then on the em-dash above. Nope: you're not allowed to email a colon (:) to your Republican Senator. Senator Michael Bennet's submission form accepted the text without finding any threatening punctuation.

This entry was originally posted at https://flwyd.dreamwidth.org/378839.html – comment over there.

30th-Sep-2017 11:22 pm - September of Recovery
playa surface
It takes me a long time to recover from Burning Man.

By the first day I'm all clean and my clothes are in the wash. So far so good.

Then I've gotta catch up on sleep. This year, I'd pretty much gotten reestablished on sleep and then went to see Buckethead at the Fox. This started at 9pm on a Wednesday night for some reason. And I decided to order a sandwich after the show, so by the time I was done eating that it was like 1:45. Buckethead was totally worth the late night; the cheap middle eastern food wasn't. Then the next night I hung out playing pinball at Press Play after a great Ignite Boulder and went to bed around 1, so I was back in sleep jail. And yet when I'd go to bed on time this week I had trouble falling asleep or I'd wake up in the middle of the night for no good reason, so I'm back to a five hour or so deficit. October better be a good sleep month.

In parallel with sleep is "Clean all the dust off my crap." I hosed down a bunch of stuff in the back yard on the 17th. I also set up our big canvas tent and beat it with a broom. Hosing the tent down last year required a lot of water-removal from the floor, so I figured I'd let it air out and whack some dust off for a while. Due to my week of late night fun events, the tent was still up a week later. And then it got cloudy for a week straight and started raining for several days. If I hadn't taken advantage of a quick dry spell on Tuesday morning the tent would still be in the back yard, two weeks later. It made it as far as a pile in the sunroom, hopefully not folded in a mildew-inducing way. Hopefully it'll be sunny tomorrow so I can shake it out and fold it properly. I also realized I forgot a to add a couple items to the initial hose-off, so I need to do something about my sleeping bag. I've never had tent and bedding care get pushed all the way out until October.

Then there's the "Pack up all the Burning Man stuff, and while you're at it, pack up the summer-only stuff" stage. Last year I didn't really finish this step, so Playa packing this August involved finding some stuff in the pile on my office floor that I didn't have enough calories to organize in the fall or winter of 2016. I haven't really started on this effort yet, but I need to do a better job than last year and add a general office organization step, since even I'm noticing it's a mess.

And of course there's the "Send a bunch of emails and document what worked and what needs improvement" season that just wrapped up for the Rangers. And September also had two "Help my wife shop for a car rather than dealing with Burning Man crap" days. And today was "The house is clean enough, have folks over for games" day. And tomorrow's tent work will be followed by climate tour organizing and a visit to eTown. We've also had a lot of bountiful but neglected plants in our garden, so I should probably do something about those, too.

This is how a two week vacation turns into two months of work. Good thing Burners embrace absurdity.

This entry was originally posted at https://flwyd.dreamwidth.org/378502.html – comment over there.

24th-Sep-2017 11:25 pm - First Games of Fall
black titan
It's been an eventful summer. It felt like I had something scheduled (even if it was nominally restful) every day from the middle of July through the middle of September. Phew.

Now that the sun has slid past the equinox and the sky has filled with rain, it's time to turn our attention indoors. I'm therefore declaring this Saturday, September 30th, my first game day of fall. And hey, it's just a couple days after my birthday, so that's fitting.

As usual, bring games, friends, food, kids, drinks, and other things that might be fun. I've accumulated a few games over the last year or so that haven't gotten much play, so I'd love to give them another whirl. I've got a bunch of recently-brewed maple ginger spruce ale, so if you're not a fan of hops, you might enjoy this beer. I'll also have some kind of food going. RSVPs help me know how to plan accordingly.

My house is in the usual place. If you don't know where that is, send me an email (and join my games mailing list, where I include more details).

A very merry unbirthday to you!

This entry was originally posted at http://flwyd.dreamwidth.org/378276.html – comment over there.

22nd-Sep-2017 11:32 pm - Colorado Energy Freedom Tour
1895 Colorado map
Last November I was really disappointed with the election. Not so much the results, but the way the whole year and a half had gone. People weren't listening to each other. They were shouting to their friends and painting folks they didn't know as terrible people. I managed to mostly avoid the commercial media, but the ads I did see were almost universally against an opponent rather than in support of a good idea.

So I decided that after I got healthy, I was going to be the change in political discourse I wanted to see in the world. As a left-leaning Boulderite who rides in technolibertarian cirlces, I wanted to come to a better understanding of conservative points of view and then find some conservatives to have some non-confrontational conversations with.

Since I was still moving slow from my year of illness, I realized that I shouldn't put the bulk of my energy in an imminent fight like health care or immigration. So I turned my attention to climate change, a systemic problem that doesn't require action tomorrow, but definitely requires action soon. It's also a problem that's not rooted in liberal or conservative values: every human has a stake in the outcome.

I connected with Citizens' Climate Lobby a non-partisan group focused on both national climate change legislation and cooperation across party lines. I realized that waiting for Democrats to take all three houses of power wasn't an effective strategy for addressing climate change. Not only would it delay action until the 2020s, it would be an easy target for repeal when the winds of change shift in Washington. CCL's carbon fee and dividend proposal is structured to be attractive to members of both major parties and therefore stands a chance of remaining on the books as people come and go from Capitol Hill. Plus, with the revenue generated from pricing carbon going to households, it could become a widely popular program, meaning constituents will speak up to keep it in place.

For the last few months I've been working with several other CCL volunteers to organize the Colorado Energy Freedom Tour. Following an outreach model that CCL has used from the Gulf Coast to Kentucky to Alaska, we're visiting a handful of towns in eastern Colorado. We'll be giving presentations in Erie, Fort Morgan, Greeley, Parker, and Sterling (and hopefully more to come). But more important than the information we're sharing, we'll be having conversations with folks about climate change, energy policy, and engaging with our elected representatives to ensure that Coloradans voices, whether urban or rural, are heard.

If you know anyone who lives near these towns and is interested in energy, climate, or market solutions, we'd love to see them at one of the presentations. We're also hoping to meet with organizations like city councils, newspaper editorial boards, chambers of commerce, and growers associations. Tell folks to check out Colorado Energy Freedom Tour on Facebook or on our website.

This entry was originally posted at http://flwyd.dreamwidth.org/378014.html – comment over there.

20th-Aug-2017 11:59 am - Directions of Manhood
Vigelandsparken circle man
Discussing coming of age rites, I noted that they should be tailored to the kids involved. “Some boys need to learn how to man up. Other boys need to learn how to man down.”

This entry was originally posted at http://flwyd.dreamwidth.org/377819.html – comment over there.

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