Category Archives: Save.the.world

Week 2202

In the past week, the federal government used some very flimsy excuses to send federal “police” into Portland and take protestors into unmarked vans without identifying themselves. The scary times have gotten even scarier, the authoritarianism even more blatant. There is so much awful stuff going on that I can’t even take in all of it, much less do meaningful work on it. I’m trying to just do small things often. I’m trying to do things like donate to campaigns that will help, sign petitions, elevate small things that are going to turn into big things.

Since we’ve donated some large sums in the past, I sometimes get directly called by candidates. I resolved to take time to ask them specific questions about things that matter here since I often get called by them when I’m changing diapers or doing other family stuff. I spoke with Alex Morse, who is a Justice Democrat who is running for congress – he’s endorsed by Jamaal Bowman (who just beat Eliot Engel). We talked about his work as a mayor in western Massachusetts, dealing with police unions, restorative justice and combating systemic racism when you are the executive – he’s notable I think for actually working on these things. I also took some time to petition Nextdoor, a social network where local racism is really evident, to halt work with Police departments. Features like “send this to my police” really don’t take into account what happens after the police show up, and why this isn’t something to do lightly.

Family

We paid off the ticket from the fourth, met with a guy about solar panels ( we don’t use enough energy to justify the cost even with multiple incentives from the state). We’re also looking for electricians to add some outside outlets and a ceiling fan in the living room.

We sorted out better schedules for me to work and be with the family predictably during the day. It’s easy to both work forever when it’s in the house or to bunk off when something cute is happening. Trying to be balanced, so we solved it with a gCal that Sam can see with times that are marked out of office on my work calendar. That way it’s easier to know when “I’m definitely working, don’t bother me” and when “let’s take a break and play”. Making it visible to work lets folks there plan around when they shouldn’t expect me to be available.

We got Swale and Zebus some bikes! They rode them! It is cute!

The Brooklyn apartments are getting some interest on the market – 25H at least has some people viewing it. 25J is where the bigger mortgage sits, so I hope that it pans out quickly as well.

Nerdery

I added some better color settings to Jumpstart – and made installing ruby gems safe, similar to what I did earlier for node.

Also set up 2 way syncing on the Synology NAS drives in brooklyn and upstate so that everything is backed up everywhere. For the meantime at least, the upstate is the new primary and brooklyn is the secondary. I tried out Ranger as a terminal file manager. Also, I made a dumb little script to make memes easier.

After I told folks about Pingplotter on the cesspool/hobby network reddit, it inspired Toazd to write an even more complete and colorful version of pingplotter.

Work

Highs and lows in the ladder of abstractions, highs and lows success wise.

I worked very high in the ladder of abstractions, transforming a large backlog of tasks into a program of new product features and a big revenue opportunity. At the same time I had a pull request submitted and accepted to fix a client issue. I got a great review ( we use OKRs to have quarterly conversations around progress, so it is sort of like a review), and then my laptop died!

It’s a sweet little lenovo yoga 920 and was running Ubuntu and Windows, I was loving using it. But it’s really disappointing for it to die hard after 2 years. To get it replaced involves shipping it out, going through a 3 day quarantine, up to 9 business days to fix, then 5-7 business days to ship back. I’m lucky to have enough spare laptops in the house that we were able to get Sam’s macbook hooked up. My 2013 macbook air would have been fine, but the thunderbolt port apparently doesn’t work (first time I’ve ever tried it!)

I hope when I get the Yoga back it won’t be wiped and I don’t have to go through a whole setup process again.

Max silhouetted against glorious fireworks

Plague update 2

I didn’t think America was ever going to take black lives seriously in my lifetime. I’m close to thinking we might. There was finally a murder so slow and egregiously awful by police that it seemed fewer people came out to defend it than normal. People protested – which has happened before, but this time the police responded swiftly and brutally all over the nation, which helped more people realize the urgent need to demilitarize and defund or abolish police departments all over the nation.

More people have been murdered by police and by right wing activists. More people are seeing that there is significant infiltration of right wing racist groups into military and civilian armed forces like the police and the national guard. Significant effort seems to be put into either pretending the grievances we list are fake or that protesters are the same as rioters or into sparking riots to give a chance for crackdowns or to trigger broader societal conflict and breakdown.

The plague of systemic racism is getting acknowledged and the movement is being recognized enough to be co-opted. Many states have decided to paint a road with “Black Lives Matter” which is nice. None have revoked qualified immunity. Still, this co-option is a good sign – people are uncomfortable enough to start making the most basic gestures. DeBlasio still sucks. He can’t get the road painted in front of Trump Tower because he sucks. He and the City Council failed to defund the NYPD, instead shuffling money and police officers around.

Still the streets fill with people angry that they have to fight for simple recognition that black lives matter and the police are not here to protect or serve them. Even in the tiny village of Saugerties, people are showing up every day to stand vigil with their plague masks on.

I hope that we can skip reforms and channel some of our vast wealth into things that benefit people instead of control them.

In our home, we are much more settled into a routine. I’ve got a space to work. Max has rules around how he can earn precious screentime by doing workbooks or reading a new book. Zelda has similar… She’s learning to count and does M&M math with me because she’s insatiably into chocolate. Sam’s growing an impressive number of things outside, where the filthy dirt is. I’m no farmer, but it’s really nice to eat a sandwich with your own lettuce in it! Today she showed me where beans are coming up near some corn.

It’s been a ton of activity around here for home improvement. I’ve built a pretty large stone patio by leveling one stone at a time. Sam came up with the idea of putting an outdoor rug over it and it looks great – gotta finish the edges somehow though.

Sam’s gardening has been huge – we’ve got plants everywhere and it looks amazing. Together, we built some raised planters and they are full of the three sisters: corn, beans and squash. She tore out our old sink since there was a leak that screwed up the cabinet and we put in the replacement. We also tore out the old vent exhaust light and put in a new one – plus a better light for the entranceway. Sam bought a tiny washer and got it installed near the kitchen so we can continuously wash clothes. Speaking of continuously washing, we have to continuously wash dishes since we don’t have a dishwasher and don’t want to be set upon by insects.

We celebrated July 4th in style with a TON of fireworks. The neighbors applauded.

I’m working too many hours because work bleeds into everything when it is so close. I also think we are all sick of sitting around the house – the newness has worn off and we crave change. I started running with Zombies, Run to explore the neighborhood. I registered for a virtual fitness championship, and tomorrow afternoon I’m going to try to submit my first workout.

We’re still getting out and exploring.

That picture is from earlier on the 4th. To get here you park your car by the side of a road on the path through the Catskills on the way to hunter mountain. You hop a guardrail and navigate the rock fill to get down to this paradise of mountain streams and waterfalls everywhere.

Hike down a bit and we came to little pools dug into the bedrock, natural water slides and everywhere it was gorgeous.

It was amazing. The mostly black and brown families around us had managed to bring music, barbecues, hookahs, kids – it was amazing. We left as it got packed. When I got to the road, of course the police were ticketing and towing cars. We got a $75 ticket.

Worth it.

The federal government is paralyzed from the top down, offering no solutions, only misinformation and confusion. As NY is beginning to be less wildly dangerous, other states are beginning to see their lax policies have the same payoff as Cuomo and DeBlasio’s initial bungling. Here in Saugerties I see some restaurants reopening with “social distancing” but it’s very poorly observed. Here’s an idea: people can’t be trusted to make smart decisions when they are drinking. So no wonder I’m seeing even in big open spaces people hopping from group to group, saying hello and hugging with masks around their necks. Places that haven’t seen ice trucks holding bodies are probably going to have to experience it for themselves.

I told Max we might not be back in Brooklyn for a long time or that we might sell our place so he could have a place with a backyard and more room. He seemed heartbroken by the idea – I think I really messed up. He could articulate that he missed it and it was special to him. But given that we think there’s very little chance the schools can safely reopen by September, what can we do? I think about how I never felt attached to the second place we moved to in Colatown.

As always, our problems pale in comparison to what’s happening around us.

Since my internet connection is crucial to my work these days, I wrote a little utility to graph ping time so I can see if things are going wrong early. I’ll neaten it’s up and share it.

Just looked up and realized it’s tomorrow so I’m gonna schedule this to publish in a few hours and get some sleep. Let this be a reminder to me to never mess with .htaccess rules again.

Another way to give

This week I dropped off 13 phones at the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund. I saw Executive Director Peter Goldberg speak at the NYC Tech Solidarity meeting in February and he went over the story of Kalief Browder.

Peter talked about the amazing effects that bail has on guilt. If you can post bail, you are magically less likely to plead guilty to charges and to go to jail. Heck, if I can help people magically not commit crimes by helping them get bail, that seems like a great way to reduce crime!

Peter said they ( and all non-profits) have surprising needs that nerds with good jobs wouldn’t expect. They need laptops, desktops, phones.

In the BCBF’s case, loaning someone a phone means they have a vastly higher chance of not missing their court date. It allows the bail fund to communicate with their clients and make sure everything works out.

I went to my help desk and CTO, and talked with them about old phones available for donations – we cycle through new equipment and have lots of “loaners” or used phones – more than we reasonably need. Just by asking and working with the help desk team to wipe old phones we managed to get phones that we’d just pay someone to recycle for us into the hands of folks who can fight for a fair trial.

Not bad, and not much work to do a hell of a lot of good. If you want to give them a few bucks to do this good work, you can also donate to the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund online. Let me know if you do!

Taking a break from Orbital

My hack-night project for a long time was Orbital Feed Reader. I’ve been slacking on it a lot recently. Especially after the election, I feel like I need to find things to work on that have a more direct impact on people that I can help.

I worked on a project called Donate the Difference  – it wasn’t as successful as I wanted it to be, though it did raise $25K for some charities. I learned a lot, and I’ll write some of that up here later. But it made it clear to me that I need to work on projects that make a bigger difference than a feed reader plugin.

I’m not certain what that is yet, but if you were hankering for updates to Orbital, that’s why they haven’t been coming. It’s open source, and I’m happy to take pull requests or turn it over if someone wants to do more with it. I just don’t want to lead folks on.

Ten Things I Want My Children To Learn From 9/11

Ten Things I Want My Children To Learn From 9/11 via  Popehat.

The headings are good, but the explanations are better.  Good to read or re-read on this day.

  1. Ordinary People Are Capable Of Extraordinary Things.
  2. Evil Exists.
  3. Good Exists.
  4. It’s Best To Define Yourself By Your Reaction To Events, Not By The Events Themselves.
  5. A Thing Is Not the Same As Our Reaction To A Thing.
  6. Beware of How People Use Great And Terrible Things And Events.
  7. Fear, Anger, and Apathy Are Perilous.
  8. Understanding Is Not The Same As Justifying.
  9. People Are Not Abstractions.“Each person who died on 9/11 represented an entire world ending.”
  10. There is Nothing New Under the Sun.

In Egypt, a small lesson

lasers dazzling a government helicopter during egyptian protests against mosri
I remember when Egypt elected the Muslim Brotherhood to power. Many Americans were very unhappy, they had been hoping for a more liberal government. Some advocated intervention to keep the Muslim Brotherhood out of power.

Right now, Egyptians are tossing Mosri out of power. If Americans had intervened, we would see a reaction against that. You have to respect the autonomy of a democratic process to let people find their own way.

go read

From this Gizmodo’s How a lone coder cloned google reader.

Go Read is a web-based RSS reader.It is designed to be as useful as Google Reader.

When you built your house on sand and then you find your house collapsed, it doesn’t seem so smart to rebuild your house on sand, but taller. So I just wonder about writing your google reader clone in a language designed by google and hosting it on a hosting platform run by google, where the only way to sign in is to use google.

A tale of two championships

In 1995 I was a junior in high school and I thought that competitive policy debate was the most important thing in the world. I was pretty good at this competitive adrenaline rush sport – a new thing for me. It’s a pairs sport – two people per side. That was also new – I’d never worked in a team. My old partner/mentor had burned out on the sport – he was brilliant but he was done with it. I was partnered up with a new kid, this long haired goofus with the largest pants in the world. His name was Mike 1.

Jnco175

We did pretty damn well as a team and ended up getting to the final round of the state championships, paired off against another team from our same high school. We argued our hearts out, but by the end of the debate it was apparent to both teams that our buddies Nick and Hunter had beaten us.

Debate is a funny sport, because judges can do whatever they want. This time the judges voted for us — and they were wrong, but we ended up with embarrassed smiles, accepting the trophy. It was an awkward bus ride home. Our friends were pissed.

The next year, Mike and I are working really well together – we trusted each other more and respected each other more. He and I are winning lots of tournaments, and we head into the state championships with a great record. We make it to finals and see our friends Nick and Hunter again in that final round.

Mike and I wanted to be good people. It had always bothered us that our championship wasn’t real, that we’d gotten the trophy out of luck, that we didn’t deserve it. We talked each other into the idea of throwing the round. We’d compete hard until the end and then I’d drop something in my final speech so that they could win.

And that’s what we did. We threw the match.

We felt really good about it – we’d done the right thing, a selfless thing. Then one of us made the incredibly stupid move of telling Nick and Hunter that we had done this right thing, this selfless thing – for them. Because, y’know, it’s what was right and we were on their side and y’know, fair’s fair.

I’ll never forget the look on Nick’s face. The disgust and revulsion.

I learned a big lesson.

If you are doing something for people, they should generally have a say in it. They know what’s right for them. Nick and Hunter would never have wanted us to throw the match. They wanted to beat us. So we should have given them that chance.

I just threw out all my old trophies. Just took pictures and tossed out all this useless crap that had been sitting in a box. I’d thrown out the tops long ago and just kept the bases, but now who needs even those. I can’t remember what most of those tournaments were about, can’t remember the stories we told so enthusiastically on the bus rides home. But when I saw those two I remembered one important lesson.

  1. He now wears tighter pants and shirts and went on to be an ER doctor  (back)

Darrick’s Geothermal Adventure

Darrick is a buddy from up in Rochester. He’s doing something which is the heart and soul of blogging. He’s taking a minor adventure from his life, and chronicling it for the people who care:

I’d like to take a week or two to blog about our experience with researching, and deciding to go with geothermal, and show the process of installing the system. I’ll be posting the numbers that I came up with which showed why geothermal made sense in our case.

There’s two kinds of folks who care – there’s me and the rest of his friends. We want to know what’s happening in Darrick’s life. We care what Darrick is doing because he is our buddy and we bond with people by knowing and talking about our lives. That’s the ambient communication that bonds people over time, and something the internet is good at enabling for folks who don’t live in close proximity anymore.

The other audience is people who are looking for info on geothermal. Darrick talks about how he chose a contractor for his project and how he calculated the payback on geothermal. Darrick’s way of breaking down the numbers is very useful.

According to all of the estimates our calculated payback time was about 5-7 years, with an annual savings of about 60-70% our existing heating cost. This was assuming that heating oil prices continued to rise, the heat load calculations were accurate, electricity prices continued to increase at the historical rate, and the historical weather patterns continued. These calculations assumed that I was replacing an existing heating system, which I wasn’t. None of the calculations used the cost of borrowing the money, and the cost of repairing the lawn after the job was completed. After adding in these additional factors, and removing the replacement cost of existing heater I came up with a more accurate payback time of about 9-10 years. This was still a worthwhile payback as we were planning on living in this house for at least 20 years. After 25 years it was estimated we will have saved about $100k (assuming oil prices continue to rise). Considering these savings, and the addition of air conditioning to our house, geothermal seemed like a great investment!

Here is giving other people the factors he considered and the way he justified the decision. That’s useful and it’s good for people who he might never even meet. This is the great sort of thing that delicious revealed back when it first started. Lots of people aggregating things just for themselves produces a resource that is greater than the sum of its tiny little parts. Like a nation, or a blogosphere, or a person, or a mind…