Mephistos A medieval, agrarian, libertarian, green-living, alpha-geek's view on the world. Mon, 22 Dec 2014 12:25:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Emotional Correctness Mon, 22 Dec 2014 12:00:00 +0000 TEDOver the weekend I heard a snippet from a TED talk talking about emotional correctness versus the much more accepted and used political correctness.  The basic premise was that I do not have to like your ideas or point of view, but as a human I should respect you and keep that in mind during discourse with you.

I wish I had not been in the truck on the drive home and just having caught a snippet of it, as the topic and general idea was interesting.  As I generally find most TED talks mind you.

However, I am curious about one thing, that was at least not addressed during the brief time that I was listening.  Part of what I think makes most discourse, and especially that of a political nature,  so divisive today is the ability to just cut out entirely the other points of view.

If I don’t like a thought or direction something is going, instead of having to hear it out and hence maybe consider it, I just flip the station.  If I look just a second or two I can easily find a station that gives something out on the same topic that is much more in line with my own point of view.

** – Image is TED Talks logo.

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Amazon Fire Phone Fail Sun, 21 Dec 2014 12:00:00 +0000 Amazon Fire PhoneA few months back, after I was more than past the time to get an upgrade and my old phone was starting to have some issues, I came up on a great deal.  Well, at least I thought it was at the time.  Amazon had their Fire phone on a deal for 99 cents and in addition to that they extended my prime for a year free of charge!
I should have realized the reason they were basically paying me $78 to take the phone was suspect.  I suppose I should state that the phone itself is not that bad of a phone over all.  The problem is what phone I was coming from I think in general.

Basically, I think if you were coming from a non-smart phone you would be exceptionally pleased with it,  However, in my case I was coming from a Samsung Galaxy S2 and I have certainly had plenty of exposure to iPads and iPhones along the way.

There are in general two issues I have with the phone, one of which can sort of be worked around.  The first one, that can kind of be worked around is that it is built on Android, but it truly is a limited Amazon device.

You can not by default in a regular kind of way install software from the Google Play Store, but only from the Amazon Software Store.  This can be gotten around, by turning on to install from other sources.  Even when doing that though, often somethings will not 100% and others will require multiple steps to get it installed and working.

The biggest pain however is the weird way that Amazon does SMS messaging.  By being different, it does not work with any add-on third-party SMS software – like Zip-Whip in particular.

Kind of seems odd that just a few days ago I was talking about how awesome Amazon as a company is and now I am giving their phones down the road.  Really, everyone lays a bad egg on occasion.  And I did get a free year of Amazon Prim out of the deal, but I still feel like I got snookered a bit, considering it is a two-year contract extension – locking me in on changing anytime soon.

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Wrangler – Men’s Rip-Stop Cargo Pants Sat, 20 Dec 2014 12:00:00 +0000 Wranger Rip-Stop Cargo PantsI am extremely disappointed a not so far off purchase.  I am not sure which if us does not understand for sure, but either Wrangler or myself does not understand what rip-stop means.  I bought two pair and both pair, after fairly regular use, have ripped, and continued to rip at the location of the rip, in under three months or less.

It started a bit ago, when I had a couple of pair of my regular cotton canvas duck like cloth pants get stained with ink and another pair got a rip (after a couple of years or more or hard wear I might add).  In looking for something else and thinking I really wanted something a bit lighter (the fabric especially) I picked up something.  That particular pair did not last long at all (I guess to being in IT I am hard on pants).

So I looked around a bit more and found a lighter pant at Wal-Mart, but made by Wrangler.  And the great and exciting thing, despite being a light weight fabric of some nature, they were specially labelled as Rip-Stop Cargo Pants.  And they had the right price, of only $19.95.  Over a couple of weeks, I picked up a couple of pair.

Within about eight weeks I noticed one pair was starting to rip around the area of the “cargo” pocket’s attachment.  It was only a couple of weeks after that it sure enough did rip in a major way at that point.  The rip pretty muck rendered the pants unusable.

The other pair seemed to have lasted a bit longer, but not by much.  The second pair starting with a small rip around the stitch around the zipper.  At the point I noticed the rip, I think I got one more wear before they were done as well.

Oh well, back to the heavy wright canvas like fabric.  And I will be more than happy with that.

** – Image from Wrangler website.

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I Love Amazon Fri, 19 Dec 2014 12:00:00 +0000 AmazonI love  It should be pretty obvious, but what is there that is not to love about this company.  In addition to all the other wonderful benefits that come with using Amazon and especially Amazon Prime, here are two more wonderful examples of this company be ran right.

First up was a gift that my wife had purchased for me.  For whatever reason, we exchanged a couple of gifts early (the reason was getting the cat that links the ribbons to maybe stop actually, now that I think on it).  Anyway, I got a new reel, one that I have had on my wish list for a while.  Closer inspection, as I was already dreaming of the big cat I would catch on it, revealed that the front cover was on dented and probably would impact the ability to cast properly.

A few minutes and clicks later, and we had the shipping information for the return, shipping cost on Amazon by the way.  In the same process, without making any other request, the replacement was also underway.  Granted, if we do not return the other one, the account will be charged on January 15th, but that is not a problem.

The same evening, the gift I had given my wife, also from Amazon, was somehow a misfire.  It was something I thought she had sent me, but she did not.  A similar small window of time and clicks and the shipping information was had.  As this one was just a mistake, shipping was on us, but still all the labels and such were in a print out packet.

I dropped the package off at UPS the next day, expecting the refund sometime after Christmas (once they received the package and processed the refund).  However, less then hour later, they had received the shipping information from UPS and already processed the refund!

Kudos to a company that is doing it right and doing it well!

** – Image is Amazon Logo.

*** – This page contains affiliate sales links.

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Super Conductor Thu, 18 Dec 2014 12:00:00 +0000 Quantum ComputerLast night I was restless but past the time of wanting to do anything useful.  So after wasting some time on a stupid cart racing game on the Amazon Fire TV (more to come about both at a later date) I stumbled upon an old friend, Nova.  Nova is a science nerd’s buffet, granted on a weekly basis of often in-depth looks at some scientific principal.  Last night was getting super cold, but the part I found so interesting was of course the super conductors that are found at those really cold temperatures.

I suppose we should first talk about just how cold we are talking about.  On the Kelvin scale we are approaching absolute zero.   To give some idea, Kelvin starts with absolute zero and moves up.  The absolute zero on Kelvin is roughly -459.67 degrees Farenheit.  This is when matter stops all movement, even on the molecular level.

When you get certain metals in the mid single digits on the Kelvin scale the molecules start to align and conduct electricity without the typical resistance seen at normal temperatures.  Interesting fact, copper at normal temps is one our best conductors, but yet still horrible inefficient.  It typically looses about 90% of its “power” in the movement though the copper – this loss is what we get has heat coming off of course.  Move the temps down to the single digits and suddenly where you need 120 volts before to overcome the resistance in the conductors, now just 12 volts will do the job due the lack of resistance!

It gets even, excuse the wording, cooler when you go a few degrees colder.  I can’t recall the exact point, but I think it is around 4 degrees Kelvin that a magnetic field is altered, such that the field both pushes and pulls in equal amounts around a magnet.  Yes, we know that magnets have this property – but is based on the polarity and at normal temps they do this in opposite directions.  At this extreme cold, they are in the same direction, leading to a suspension in air of the magnet.  The practical application is already under use with some high-speed rail systems.

A few degrees colder is where quantum computers come into play.  That is whole different world of computing and probably best left for another blog post.  But the simple version is the current world of computing is each memory location is either on or off, 1 or 0.  At this super cold temp, the basic bit spot can be both on and off at the same time, increasing exponentially the storage and hence computation capabilities.  A byte, 8 bits, can store one number between 1 and 256. A quantum based computer’s byte can store all the numbers between 1 and 256 at the same time.

Super cold metals (-7 Kelvin) and you get no resistance, so nearly a factor of 10 in electrical conduction of energy conservation. Also, the really cool warping of magnetic fields so that repulsion and attraction at the same time results in a levitated stasis.

** – Image is from PBS website.

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Tackle Grab Wed, 17 Dec 2014 12:00:00 +0000 Tackle GrabI finally decided to give this concept of a box of stuff delivered on a monthly basis a try.  And of course I picked a fishing tackle one to begin my experiment.  Actually I picked two, but the first one I received is from Tackle Grab.   So a few details about the deal, the way it works, and most importantly what I got in the box.

So, here is the way it works.  $15.00 a month for a base subscription on a month to month basis.  That gets you a box of fishing tackle sent to your door on a monthly basis.  The box contents are assured to be at least greater than $15.00 each month.  And if you sign up for a longer period, the price goes down.  I am working from memory but a one year package ran about $12.00 a month, all paid up front mind you.

At the time you enroll you get select your fishing profile.  Which at current time, was fairly limited.  There was bass, salt water, and maybe one other choice.  This was my concern, but there were options to indicated what they should spread out to in the future.  My concern, because I will occasionally go for bass, but am much more catfish or crappie (or panfish in general), which was not current choices.  I went with bass for the time being but this will really come into play in a month or two when I decide about keeping it or not.

So, what did I get?  First off, I got by my estimate between $22 and $25 in retail value.  There was a nice looking crankbait, a spitting frog type of top water bait, some soft plastic crawls with a lot of color to them, There were two other items that I don’t recall now, but I will check on it this eve and alter this with an update.

** – Image is from Tackle Grab website.

*** – Links on this page contain affiliate reference links.

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Hero: Glen Campbell Tue, 16 Dec 2014 13:21:14 +0000 Glen CampbellThis one comes up because of my wife and I exchanging a couple of smaller Christmas gift last evening.  My gift from her, a Glen Campbell Greatest Hits CD, which has been on Amazon wish list for a couple of years.  I have been listening to it last evening and again this morning.  A wonderful gift indeed.

Aside from the obvious of being a very talented musician, both as a singer and guitar player with his numerous hits that would take a while to list, there is also his well documented and heroic struggle the last few years with Alzheimer’s.

While it has certainly taken its toll on mental abilities, it was interested to note that it never (seemingly at least) impacted his ability to both sing and especially play the guitar.  Apparently it did impact his ability to recall the words to songs that he had performed for countless times and he relied on a teleprompter in the last tour he did.  Even so though, he still go the melodies and tune right.

My only regret, well I would have liked to have seen him in concert myself.  He has completely retired from that with this last tour complete now.  Another great one, though still here, lost.

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Linux – Old Times Mon, 15 Dec 2014 17:30:00 +0000 LinuxOne of the odder things about my new job is the use of a Windows machine, especially after hardly touching Windows outside a server or troubleshooting someone else’s computer for the last seven years or so.  So, I am allowed to put Linux on my work laptop, but for some reason it is giving me some trouble.  I was determined last night and so stayed up very late and eventually went to bed without success…

Basically it boils down to this…  I am very fond of Xubuntu, especially in the 14.04 attire, though I have been fond of XFCE for some time.   Regardless, I like the sleeker look of the theme and polish that comes in the Xubuntu theme and setup for XFCE.

So my first inclination was to just install the obvious Xubuntu.  But as soon as try to do my first reboot after the install, things go crazy and I get nothing on my screen on the reboot.  Well,  I do get the wallpaper, but nothing else.  I do not get the icons, the whisker menu, nor anything else.  And despite all my efforts and I can get nothing to launch or come up.  I found a couple of hints that recent and went into other desktops doing all that was suggested without any luck either.

Next up I decided to be adventurous and try to run Mint with XFCE on and find a theme that looked close.  After much effort, I could never get a theme to come up in XFCE over in Mint.  I am sure I was doing something wrong, but I can not put my finger on what it was.  So…

I decided to go with just straight Ubuntu and add XFCE and an appropriate them over top.  Finally something was working.  I got that installed, got XFCE installed, and I have done themes there before… but I could not find a them that was similar enough.  Really there was nothing similar at all.  And now it was approaching 1:00 am.

The choice was mine but knowing how I would drag at the office today, I chose to stick with Windows one more day.  After all, there is still a couple of apps that I am not sure how or if they are going run in nix system…

I guess I have something look forward to this evening.

** – Image is open source, I am sure of it.

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Secret Santa Cops Sun, 14 Dec 2014 15:30:00 +0000 Secret SantaJust saw a segment and CBS Sunday Morning that was just perfect and very much in line with exactly how I think the system should work. So, recently in Kansas City, a wealthy anonymous business man who has done Secret Santa cash giveaways for several years enlisted the help of law enforcement officers there in Kansas City.

This wealthy anonymous benefactor has for the last several years gave out cash to people he thought would appreciate it.  This year, he enlisted a few deputies to help by recruiting law enforcement to assist him.  The officers targeted (yes, they did) older cars that were beat up with a few dents or even full of obvious unpainted bondo repairs.  And upon a stop, instead of citation they were handing out crisp $100 bills.

It was a good thing all the way around.  The folks receiving the gifts were very appreciative.  I think the positive images and general good will that helped the officers have been a very big plus as well.  Beyond that, I think that kind of impact could go a long way with the problems that have reared their head between police and groups of people – and dare I say especially in Missouri.

Beyond that, it hits close the mark that I have said for some time.  Sure, go ahead and write citations for various traffic offenses.  And sure, I understand there is an administrative overhead cost, which is the bulk of most traffic tickets.  But I think the actual amount for the ticket itself should go into a pool.  And the next week, wither by pulling over and giving it out, or by police noting license plates, randomly drawing and mailing, the people who were driving at the speed limits should get that money back as a reward.  After all, we always suggest that positive reinforcement is a good thing and goes a long way toward getting the behavior we really want.

** – Image from

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Tough Day? Cute Cat! Sat, 13 Dec 2014 12:00:00 +0000 As I mentioned earlier this week, the first attempt at our dryer repair met with epic failure. A second attempt and the repair company actually remembered to bring the parts this time.  So, we can dry our clothing once again without having to leave the house.

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