Thursday, April 27, 2017

Readings and Stuff

I read a couple of interesting articles - one about a concept known as Deep Learning, which is the current Big Thing in artificial intelligence research (not that I am current in the least, but this, I do know); specifically, that people are a little concerned because while on the one hand it seems to have some unsuspected abilities -- such as accurately (though not completely) predicting predilection towards schizophrenia - they don't know how it does it (one of the delights of neural nets is that they teach themselves, and sometimes their pathways are convoluted, if not downright spooky).  This is not a problem per se - hey if it works, it works -- but when you get to the point where Deep Learning is driving, say, an autonomous car, you really want to be sure that the decisions it's making are ones that a reasonable person would have made.  People have written science fiction novels about what happens when that assumption turned out to be wrong, with dire consequences.

The other article was about how a number of online sites are removing their comments sections, because they are finding that using  comments as a way of getting feedback from readers isn't working -- they are being taken over by bots, by ideologues, or by conspiracy theorists.  Then the owner of the site has to spend time weeding out the bogus comments from the valuable ones, and what they're finding is that it just isn't worth the effort.  (Ironically, reading that, I wanted to send the author a comment!)

I baked cookies the other day, and I've been thinking for a week or so that I'd like to make some crêpes.  I had a running joke with one conversation partner who told me that she had gone to a crêperie; it took me three tries before I realized that what she was pronouncing as krep ree is what I pronounce as krep er ee.  You would think that a French person would be able to speak the language better!

The hedgehog seems to be doing okay.  After two enucleations, it's now in permanent night - but since it's a nocturnal animal, that may not be a bad thing.  My daughter is almost giddy with delight.  I am being guarded in my optimism, but I try not to let that be obvious.

Friday, April 14, 2017


I don't dislike people, but I don't like that many, either.  When I do like someone, I feel as if they are clearly smart and capable. I always think that they have the ability to succeed at whatever is important to them, and if they don't, it won't be for lack of effort.   There aren't that many people about whom I think this, but there are a few.  I try to tell them. And they're always surprised. I'm not that smart, they say. You don't really know me.  No, I think.  But I believe in you.


Yeah, about that.

We had/have plans to visit Italy this June.  The primary reason is that my wife's family (part of it) comes from there, a small town about two hours north of Rome.  The rough idea was that we would go to Rome, spend about a week or so there, head north to that small town, go west to the city where my Italian language partner lives, then back to Rome and home.

I, of course, was trying to figure out if I could sneak a side trip into France along the way.  Turns out, as they say, Yeah..... no.  Although France does abut Italy, the 'top of the boot' flares way out.  If you're in northern Italy, you'd have to go fairly far up and over to get to France.  And that's just to Nice, which is, pretty much, as far east as you can get. To get to where my friends live, its a minimum of another three hours (going north to Burgundy) or four hours (going west to Toulouse), or even ten or twelve hours (going north and west to Paris, La Rochelle, Lille, all of that).  In other words - Bill, if you want to go to France, go to France.  Not Italy. (Though even that idea is shaky, as I remember the rolling strikes that France had last summer. Ugh. I was personally never impacted, but there was always the chance...)

So, Rome.

The thing is, my wife is not all that thrilled about going to Rome. (Me, neither, but I'm just not a city person.  Didn't care for Paris, either.  Or San Francisco.  Or even Seattle, mostly.)  She thinks Rome's very congested, with lots of opportunities to have your money stolen. (She told me, for example, that she had read If you're taking a cab from the airport to a hotel, determine the cost before you go, and hold the money in your hand - but don't give it to the driver until all of your stuff is out of the cab. Ouch.  The fact that this might be an exaggeration, or that it could happen in any major city, didn't matter.  Just the idea of having to fight to get your bag back, in a city where you don't even speak the language....)

So right now, probably, that trip is off.  We still want to do something, though.  We're thinking Pittsburgh. And then Toronto. And then New York's wine country.  And then home. We hear they speak English in all of those places.  Still need foreign currency, but....


Thursday, April 06, 2017

Meaty observation

I enjoy reading articles about how to succeed when cooking a steak at home, because I have never successfully done so. 

I've cooked steak, but it always, always comes out drier and less tasty than when I get a good one at a steak place.  I know, part of that is because I prefer well-done steaks (I am aghast when I see people ordering or even advertisng a dark-red slab of meat), but even given that, well-done steaks in restaurants are frequently good.  Well-done steaks in my home, nope.  Never.

But I am disgusted whenever those articles go into its this muscle that runs from this joint to.... Ugh.  I know it's meat.  I know where meat comes from.  I just don't like thinking about it.

Thursday, March 30, 2017


This is an article about one librarian, and the effect that she had.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

I do the shopping...

...for our house, but somehow I have never managed this.

Monday, March 27, 2017


I like finding new authors whose work I enjoy, and its lagniappe when I find them by accident. 

Like Jay Posey, and Outriders.  The book can be classified as hard-sci fi / military.  Not all of his work is like that -- some seems to be Then the governor of the remote settlement found the hidden door into the spirit world -- but THIS one is, and it is pretty damned good.  Creative and plausible.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Friday, March 10, 2017

Monday, March 06, 2017

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Sunday, February 26, 2017


Soda Stream bottles -- empty bottles -- have an expiration date?

Friday, February 24, 2017

Friday, February 17, 2017

Mistakes Were Made

Just started reading Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me), by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson.  Only in the first chapter, but absolutely loving it.  A terrific view of why we believe things that are objectively wrong.  (Hint:  Cognitive Dissonance.)

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Friday, February 10, 2017

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Wednesday, February 08, 2017


I didn't need proof that things are very strange and more than a little scary, but I got it anyway.

A friend living in Iran - home of the Revolutionary Guard and institutionalized intolerance - asked me yesterday evening if my family is okay.

A friend living in northern France asked me last night if there was going to be a civil war in the United States.

To the first, the answer is yes.  We're comfortably well off, we're not in physical danger.  Emotionally, it's another story. To the second, I said that I didn't think so.

I found myself thinking about the Jews (and others) in the 1930s, who converted their assets into easily portable jewelry, just in case. And wondering if we should contemplate that.  This is not something that you want to find yourself thinking about, at any time, and even more so at two o'clock in the morning. Which is when I woke up, thinking about it.

It's fine and very Gandhi-ish to say that love trumps hate, and that we should fight intolerance with understanding and acceptance.  But what do you do when the person who should be leading that effort is in fact the primany supporter and instigator of the intolerance?

In a better world, the leaders of the society would politely ask that leader to step down, and in recognition of their moral force, he would do so.

In this one, that would not only not happen, but could not be conceived of happening.  Each of the leaders would instead be jockeying for power and influence.  Each sure -- or at least proclaiming - that they were doing it for the people.

Without much evidence of it.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Friday, February 03, 2017

Grab Your....

As much as I am delighted by pretty much anything that causes a problem for Trump, I can't bring myself to support the Grab Your Wallet organization, which seeks to instigate boycotts of companies who either do business with or actively endorse Trump and his brand.  I don't think less of LL Bean because one of their directors donated more than the legal maximum to Trump -- I wish they had not, but that doesn't mean to me that LL Bean should now be forgotten.  I don't think that Nordstrom's should be praised for no longer carrying the clothing line of Trump's daughter, whether they dropped it because sales were poor or because they didn't want to be boycotted.  These are all secondary targets, useful only to the extext that they distract Trump -- and given that he has plenty of grimy little worker bees who are busily snipping words out of the Constitution, or adding sections, or just ignoring it entirely means to me that what happens or doesn't happen to a company won't affect the generally offensive thrust of his actions.

I read today a warning to the effect that liberals are starting to get into a hothouse atmosphere where anything that Trump does is deeply offensive.  Certainly, much of it is.  He is catering to the deep right, the Bible-belters, the mouth breathers.  But that does not mean that everything he does is wrong.  I know, people like his supporters are black-or-white; you are either for him completely, without reservation, or you're a dammed Commie who should be ridden out of town on a rail.  That doesn't mean that we can't be nuanced, ourself.  I look at a Facebook page for Anti-Trumpists, and I've noticed that as more men get involve, the tenor of conversations there is getting more heated, more lets just blast Air Force One out of the sky.  (No one has said that, literally, but I did see comments today of Where is Lee Harvey when we need him, followed by a comment of We don't need an assassin yet. That's crazy talk.  Literally, crazy.)

I oppose Trump and just about everything he stands for - but when people start advocating boycotting a company because they sell his daughter's clothing line, or assassinating Trump himself -- that's going too far.  Way too far.

Get a grip, people -- or you will turn into the same foaming-at-the-mouth types who've populated Trump rallies.  In other words, idiots.

Thursday, February 02, 2017


After dreaming about Trump (whom I detest with the fury of a thousand suns) last night, I spent today studiously skipping any mention of him.  I can't continue -- the fight against him, his stupidity, and his bigotry must continue in each of us -- but I do feel better.

The chocolate egg cream I just made, helped.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Thursday, January 26, 2017


I had really thought that life would settle down.  I had really thought this.  Even that idiot apparently thought that last weekend - lo scorso fine settimanna, to work in a little of my Italian study -- in the Big White House would be pleasant.  It did not turn out that way.

Part of it was the enormous number of people who turned out to express hate and discontent regarding his -- I hesitate to call them policies; more like legislative temper tantrums.  I doubt that the people in his inner circle discuss this, but I would bet that they quickly agreed Don't tell him, denigrate the marchers, tell him its just a passing thing, they'll get over it. Which may actually be the case, but I don't think so.

I believe that the flurry of spiteful, hateful actions this week are in response to that.  Telling the EPA that they could not publish their findings until a politician says they are acceptable -- doesn't that sound like East Germany when there was an East Germany? Saying that organizations could not use Twitter (his preferred method for getting to the people.  And of course, telling people who want to communicate with the White House that they must use a specific venue in Facebook - one that, as it happens, does not exist.

I really hate this.  I am proud and amazed by the hundreds of thousands of people who came to the march on Saturday in DC, as well as at other locations -- I did not go, but I picked up my wife and two friends afterward, and just the sensation of being surrounded by people who were happy, laughing, glad to be there -- it was delightful.  It was invigorating.

I don't know what happens now.   But never have I feared so much for the integrity of my country.  Which is in a way ironic, because those are the kinds of words that right wing zealots -- the kinds who put up web sites with names like Patriots, Assemble! and Liberty's Guardians and the like -- like to use to describe the country. Its not going the way we of the fierce right think it should go, and so we are all doomed!  I used to laugh at them.  I still do, a little.

But mostly, I just want this nightmare to end.

Friday, January 20, 2017

It's pretty creative.  (I'm taking a break from saying omg omg omg omg omg.... as I await the horrors to come.)

Sunday, January 15, 2017


I picked up a biography of Guy Grissom which was well written but seriously in need of a decent author, and ended up returning it quickly.  While there, I happened to notice Spaceman, a partial autobiography by Mike Massimino. He's got a really nice writing style that is both informative and self-deprecating.  Much more to my liking, not the least because it reminded me of when I was a kid, and NASA was still exciting, and we really did think we'd be building spaceships by now.

Why didn't I think of that?

"One of my theatre-geek friends had a Les Miserables wedding – you had to steal the bread and silverware at the reception, and a bunch of people piled up all the chairs and started singing.”

Wednesday, January 11, 2017


At least, those who comment on Facebook pages for conservative news sources -- seem to be an angry, bitter bunch.  And frankly, they make me less likely to want to understand them and their grievances.


This is bizarre.  I am avidly awaiting the next edition of a comic strip.  A comic strip.

Saturday, January 07, 2017


I know that this is (probably) a Fabergé egg, but to me it looks like the model of a Jules Verne spacecraft.  Complete with comfy couches inside and small chandeliers.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Stray Thought

Driving one of the Google mapping cars must be the most boring job in the world.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

What An Interesting Idea...

Siro Ortiz is an 11 year old kid from New York and every Sunday he brings his folding table out to the streets and offers emotional advice for only two dollars. Siro says he's been bullied in school and that has hardened his emotions, and he just wants to share his wisdom with people in need.

 Original Site

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Staring Contest

I'd say that they are evenly matched.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

New Year

I hope that we have a year of peace and prosperity.

I won't hold my breath, but that's what I hope. 

And I'm changing my party affiliation to Republican, just to be able to do a little bit against the ton of slime and stupidity that's headed our way.