Category Archives: Life

The National Jamboree is NOT Your Personal Political Rally

I’m an Eagle Scout, and I find myself once again infuriated with the Boy Scouts of America.

There is a long history of Presidents speaking at the National Jamboree, going back to Franklin D. Roosevelt. They came to inspire leaders of the future. They didn’t come to self-promote, or take cheap shots at political rivals, or encourage the Scouts to boo a former President and First Lady. And they certainly didn’t brag about how they were going to take away many of those kids’ access to healthcare. (Better brush up on that First Aid merit badge!)

Trustworthy? Loyal? Helpful? Friendly? Courteous? Kind? Obedient? Cheerful? Thrifty? Brave? Clean? Reverent? (Well, 1 out of 12…)

If you’re going to speak at an organization that’s supposedly about building character, you ought to show some.

I shouldn’t be surprised that Trump made it all about himself and treated it like a campaign rally. That’s what he does. I’m angry, but I shouldn’t be surprised.

I’m disappointed by the BSA, and I’m especially disappointed by those scouts in the audience who jeered and cheered along with the partisan BS. They should be better than this. The whole point of the organization, in theory, is to be better than this.

But maybe I shouldn’t be surprised by the BSA, either. While it depends on the individual troop, at the county and national levels the organization has been fighting for the “right” to discriminate on the basis of religion and sexual orientation for years. They finally realized maybe it wasn’t a good idea to kick out gay scouts, but they’re still digging in their heels on religion.

So much for helping other people at all times.

Rediscover THIS Day, But Maybe Not THAT One!

Google Photos has been sending me its usual “Rediscover this day!” collages from Comic-Con 2013. On Tuesday it sent me a collage built from July 18, and on Thursday it sent me a collage built from July 20, marking Thursday and Saturday of the event.

Wait, what about Friday?

Well, here’s the interesting thing: Friday was the day I spent the afternoon in the emergency room.

I’d like to think someone programmed the algorithm to skip photos tagged for hospitals. Imagine if it was my wife’s photo collection, and I hadn’t made it — “Rediscover this day” would have been rather cruel in that case.

The more likely explanation is that I don’t have very many photos from that day for it to pick from, at least not on the account. On my computer I have 19 photos from my phone, 19 from my camera, and 5 from Katie’s phone. Of those, I picked 21 for my Flickr album. In Google Photos, I only have six from that day, all from my phone — and they don’t include the ER wristband shot.

My best guess is that I cleared most of them from my phone sometime before I started using the cloud backup feature… but I can’t figure out why I would have kept the photos that are there, and not some of the photos that aren’t.

Here are the photos that are on there (though I linked to them on Flickr for convenience):

Game of Thrones Religious Protesters Duplo Enterprise View from the Floor Flash at the Grocery Store

It’s an odd collection, isn’t it? The three individual frames from the GoT protester collage are in there, so maybe the collage app saved extra copies of the sources, and Photos found the folder. I can see deliberately keeping the view of the blimp from the convention floor (literally the floor), but if I’d done that, I don’t know why I wouldn’t have saved the wristband shot as well. And why save the Duplo Enterprise, but not the photos of my son playing at the LEGO booth?

Phone cameras and cloud storage are supposed to augment our memory. But sometimes the context is just missing.

Battle for the Net: Help Keep the Internet Open!

The FCC wants to eliminate net neutrality, the principle that ISPs should treat all traffic the same, and not block, throttle, or promote data based on what service you’re using or who you’re connecting to. But we can stop them.

What’s Net Neutrality? Simple: your cable company shouldn’t decide where you get your news, what businesses you buy from, which video chat services and streaming services you use, or who you talk to.

Why do we need it? It used to be an unofficial rule, underlying the way the Internet was built over the years, until ISPs started to break it. For example:

  • Multiple ISPs intercepted search queries and sent them to their own portals.
  • AT&T blocked Skype on the iPhone.
  • Verizon blocked tethering apps.
  • Multiple carriers blocked Google Wallet in favor of their own payment services.

In 2015, after a public advocacy campaign, the FCC made it official: ISPs in the United States are now required to treat all traffic equally.

So what’s the problem? There’s a new chairman in charge, and he wants to remove the rule.

No doubt cable and phone companies will go back to their old tricks. Plus they could slow down access to news sites that disagree with them, or charge websites extra for the privilege of reaching their audience (when they already pay for their upload connection), or slow down services owned by competitors (consider: Verizon owns Tumblr and Flickr now, and Comcast owns NBC) in favor of their own.

That’s right: free speech, fair competition, and the price you pay for your internet service are all protected by net neutrality.

Rolling back net neutrality doesn’t help you, doesn’t help business, doesn’t help anyone but the existing carriers.

That’s why I’m joining the Battle for the Net — and you can, too. The FCC’s public comment period is still open. Contact the FCC and Congress (here’s a form), and tell them why Net Neutrality matters to you. Then spread the word.

Keeping the internet open is critical. Let’s work to keep it!

(Ir)replaceable?

I have a bunch of old coffee mugs from TV shows, art museums, even an apartment complex I used to live. In once sense these aren’t replaceable. If I ever break my Mozilla Coffee mug or the “I’m in the middle of fifteen things, all of them annoying” quote from Cmdr. Ivanova, or if I lose the “Venti Schmenti” travel mug from Diedrich’s (a coffee chain that has since been absorbed by Starbucks), that’s it — I can’t get another one.

But I have plenty of other coffee mugs, and there’s no shortage of mugs I could buy to replace them if I had to.

As memorabilia, they’re irreplaceable. Functionally, they’re almost expendable.

It’s interesting to think that they’re both, depending on how you’re looking at them.

Fireworks All Over LA

We went out to a hill to view last night’s Independence Day fireworks after an afternoon at a family barbecue. Some years we go down to the beach for a closer view. This year the process of getting there, finding a parking space (usually very far away), walking all the way down (and all the way back up) with a small child, finding a viewing spot, and afterward spending over an hour to get out through clogged streets just wasn’t appealing.

So we went to a hill a mile or so away, joining a standing throng of people waiting for the local show to start. To the east and southeast we could see distant fireworks lighting up the horizon from San Pedro to Norwalk. Around the corner we could see a similar view of fireworks to the northeast, including Los Angeles proper.

It’s one thing to see one fireworks show at a time. It’s another to look out and see them all along the horizon. It’s unifying, appropriately enough.

We’d only been there a few minutes when the seaside display started. The next ridge of hills blocked the lower fireworks, but we could see most of them above the hill — without the deafening booms and smoke. The wind was blowing inland off the ocean, a smoke plume trailing sideways. As the finale hit, someone nearby set off their own unsanctioned display, to considerable applause.

After it was all over, we stayed for a few minutes, looking out at the more distant displays still going, then walked down the hill to the car and drove home.

The faint boom-boom-boom continued for hours, punctuated every 15-20 minutes by some closer pop! or shriek as someone set something off nearby. Sometime around midnight, it finally tapered off enough that I drifted off to sleep.