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Saturday, February 15, 2020: Actually found time for a haircut

Keywords: Seattle, Housing Authority, moving, sea chest, dumping, Costco, spending, SUV
A couple more runs, and I think the storage unit will be empty - then the contents of my room, and I'll be moved. It's been an expensive few months, since this caper started, thank heavens I had saved up for it, though by now I am a couple thou in the hole. But as I said, that was in the planning. I will still have a small reserve, and in the past couple of days I've been able to dig up the things I really need, like linen and cutlery, much of which I hadn't used since Virginia. Today I began to unpack and store the smaller items, tomorrow laundry, some of the older California King-size linen, and one of the sea chests has found a new life as a nightstand. It was only last night that I realized that now I no longer have use of a garage, there really isn't a point in hanging on to my tools and stuff. I mean, maintaining my car myself is not really going to be happening. Not that I mind, life changes, and you change with it, but doing car stuff at the kerb isn't really in the planning. I really don't have room for all this stuff, which, after all, used to live in C's garage. Owell. I've begun to start throwing things out, anyway, things I don't really need and don't have the room for. Looking forward to putting my enormous dining table / desk / worksurface together.... ;)

All in all, though, the two moves in three months, the storage unit, the driving back and forth, and now buying furniture and linen and supplies for the new apartment, have easily set me back a couple thousand, and I am not quite done yet. As it turns out I had the right size linen after all, but I had just simply forgotten what I kept, when I left Virginia, and what I tossed. Not that that matters, things wear out and I only bought one additional set. My duvet, by now, is somewhat ancient, so I'll have to replace that soonish. But the Costco gift card I kept from a previous Xmas will come in good stead to get some chairs I need.

At any rate, driving back and forth between Kenmore, Edmonds and Magnolia - pretty much on a daily basis - is beginning to be a welcome diversion from the routine, I get the SUV loaded up at my storage unit, and thankfully the apartment building has the necessary (un)loading tools and ramps so I don't have to do the stairs and things I had been used to. I suppose I got lucky with the weathere, we've not had any winter to speak of, and I am beginning to get used to the cold and soggy mornings, this beats the gym...

Wednesday, February 6, 2020: On the move again... :)

Keywords: Seattle, Housing Authority, lease, California King, Blackberry Priv, internet, SUV, moving
checking HDTV and 4GLTE Thank you, City of Seattle, for my apartment - suddenly, out of nowhere, my case manager / property manager mailed me on Monday if I could sign a lease on Tuesday. Woohoo! Sure thing! Big stack of paper - City and Fed - and I got the keys and a tour of the building. Brilliant - after the longish wait, I was a bit on shock when it suddenly all happened, then went back to my digs to start ordering furniture, Amazon, true to form, delivered sheets and mattress covers first, bed and base - ah! to sleep on a California King again! Bliss! - will get here in a couple more days.

First thing I did - apart from bringing over suitcases and stuff from my storage unit - was taking over one of the laptops, to test whether or not I have broadcast TV reception on my amplified indoor antenna. Sure enough, that works as well here as it did in Kenmore - and, in both cases, a lot better than in Lynnwood. Go figure. But I can continue to record all of the old Star Trek flavours on the laptop, on the H&I network, brilliant. 38 channels, or thereabouts, who needs cable. And then, of course, I needed internet.

While the city makes information available for seniors, the carriers, like Comcast, that are supposed to provide discounted services make no effort to actually do so. Comcast (Infinity) took my information, then told me they could not qualify my apartment - for the largest cable carrier in the USA not to be able to see, right there, whether or not an apartment building owned by the City is wired for service, is a complete joke. By which I mean they have their service database, and if that does not work they're basically cheating. It would, they said, take two weeks to see if they can provide service, and once that is established I could apply. No reason why a consumer cannot apply right off the bat, but there it is. And no, they won't call to say "you're good to go", they require you to call in uh, a couple of weeks.

Intel Core i7 2620M I figured out, after speaking with Comcast, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile, my existing carrier, that I can get wireless high speed service on one of my existing cellular lines for an additional $20 per month - that may not be the $9.95/mo Comcast advertises with, but I turned it on the same day, and have now got my Linksys router to act as a repeater on the wireless 802.11n Hotspot my spare Blackberry Priv offers, and that seems to run very happily at 300MB/s, quite respectable, with the laptop connected to the router using 1GB Ethernet wiring. I know, the big guys say they give you 1GB/s off the network, but you know, that's the line speed, not the speed at which your service runs. I'll let you know once I test for a bit. Using 4G-LTE, this is quite spiffy, and stable, I've had it running for several days, all day, and no issues.

Much to my surprise, the furniture I ordered got delivered all on the same morning - not as scheduled over several days - and so I've been unpacking and installing away. Is cool... So, as you can see in the pic to the right, here we go again, moving, hopefully, just one more time. My "stuff" has largely been in storage since last October, and I am doing SUV-loads, unpacking, sorting, and the next load. The building has very convenient access, ramps, carts, you name it, and an elevator designed for wide loads - wheelchairs and the like, but with only three floors, there is never a wait, and thankfully the apartment comes with a separate storage unit, which is rapidly filling up with empty suitcases. I even found a lock...

Sunday, January 26, 2020: No, Corona isn't just beer

Keywords: coronavirus, China, Wuhan, notebook, Elitebook, HP, Intel Core, heat management, laptop cooling, thermal paste
Intel Core i7 2620M I was not majorly surprised when the Wuhan coronavirus made its first U.S. appearance in Everett, WA - the areas around Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., just up the road in Canada, are morphing into major Chinese conurbations. When I read that neither Seattle nor Vancouver airports had screening in place, and remembered that my last trip to China ran through Vancouver, and found that, on my way back from China, U.S. immigration and customs are actually at Vancouver airport, I figured that there would be additional screening measures in place for anything and anyone out of the PRC. If you have one single case outside of Wuhan, you know it is spreading, and you start worrying about anyone flying in from China. In Singapore, they can activate screening any time, ever since the SARS "situation", and entrance facilities that can check a traveler's temperature are not expensive to implement, in many ways immigration entrances should have this stuff built in by default, considering past epidemic scares. The first folks who know about these scares are Hong Kong airport medics, and they're not under the secrecy laws the mainland Chinese are. Put some on a permanent retainer, and have 'em (anonymously) report scares, so we can quietly deal with this crap.

I noticed some folks in the press express surprise the Chinese can easily "lock down" entire cities - I am not surprised. If you run a country the size of China, with an increasingly mobile population of some 1.5 billion, and you've been through a couple of scary pandemics already, you do what you have to. The Chinese are well organized, of course, and they're not restricted by this democracy thing. I remember that, from 9/11 onwards, for weeks, I spent almost more time on the phone to our lawyers, checking what I could and couldn't do, than I did organizing and coordinating recovery efforts. Before you get the wrong idea, they rubberstamped practically every decision I took, "we'll deal with the legal stuff later, do your thing". I recall the only time they stepped in was when Gov. Pataki's office tried to cut corners that had no bearing on the recovery work, we fobbed them off with MCI (which we later bought anyway).

I am still quite happy with the performance of my HP Elitebooks - they're getting older, but the construction and architecture seem rock solid, and HP have kept Windows up to date (though there have been few Softpaq updates, these past couple of years). Cleaning and polishing the CPU heat exchanger surfaces, and applying fresh thermal paste, has made a huuuuge difference, in that the CPUs do occasionally run hot, but the (new) fans get that under control very quickly. I replaced the fan with a different brand, all from China, no idea what was what, but these "newer" fans do a much better job, for as long as I clean up the innards of the laptops periodically, compressed air and all that. HP's units, with their easily removable bottom cover, are very easy to maintain. I've checked for possible replacement systems, just in case one of mine packs up, but a newer, faster, system with more memory would set me back somewhere between $800 and $1,000 - an equivalent system $600 to $800. At some point - this is how that usually works - I'll get a new (hopefully refurbished) bigger faster laptop, before I need to, and then I can spend time customizing that the way I usually do. I still have two older systems I no longer use, just because they have valid Windows 10 Pro licenses, at some point I'll no longer be able to use the Windows 8.1 Pro I use with Windows Media Center (which won't run under Windows 10), just as Microsoft has just announced the end of support for Windows 7. But the HP 2570p with Windows 10 Pro continues to be spiffy, especially since I replaced its hard disk with a 2TB SSD, which is faster than any disk I've ever had. I was a little concerned about longterm reliability of the SSD, but as it turns out a new fan and new thermal paste have kept the heat signature under control - something I did not know is that SSD's generate significantly more heat than regular hard disks.

Take that into account if you upgrade your system - make sure your cooling fan is up to par, your system board and casing are dust free, and preferably remount, polish and clean your CPU and heat exchanger, with a dollop of fresh thermal paste. Heat, if you're "pushing" your system, can be an issue - I've read on the HP bulletin boards that upgrading CPUs and installing more or bigger disks and memory can help your system run better, but if, like one respondent, you do this so you can run sophisticated games, or even some simple applications like Windows Media Player or Windows Media Center, your system can begin running very hot, and even shut itself down when it senses that. On the other hand, upgrading my 2560p from an Intel Core I5 @ 2.6GHz to an Intel Core I7 @ 2.7GHz with a larger cache has actually made it run a bit cooler. In the 2570p, where the Core I7 @ 2.9GHz drives two external displays (one HD, the other 4K UHD), the CPU runs at the top of its capacity, considering it incorporates the Intel HD 4000 graphics driver with 1.8MB of RAM as well, at between 55 and 65 degrees C. I am frankly amazed at the amount of power these 11" notebooks put out, especially my 2570p, which sits in a docking station with extra ports on the bus. But it is important to understand that, especially in notebooks and laptops, the CPU normally includes the GPU (graphics processor), and that put a good heat load on that physically small chip - that metallic 31x24 mm surface you see in the picture is all the CPU has to dissipate 35 watts of heat. Pretty amazing stuff. The picture to the right shows the Intel Core i7 2620M 2.7GHz processor that now lives inside my HP 2560p. Even more amazingly, despite all of my technology engineering knowledge, and very long term laptop use, I had no idea how CPUs were really cooled, other than "with a fan", until I did some research, last year, and found that much of the heat signature in a laptop comes from an intricate dedicated cooling system with polished surfaces and specially developed heat dissipation paste, that has a half life, and needs maintenance. Bully me!

Monday, January 20, 2020: New Neighbours to the North

Keywords: Harry and Meghan, violence increase, snow, Iran, Northern Ireland, Vancouver B.C.
Wishful thinking, I didn't retrieve my snow boots when I last went to get something from my storage unit, and now it threatens to snow in the lowlands. Having said that, I don't know how much my new location will be affected by this, as I understand I used to live in what is called the "convergence zone", which is where the valley runs into the mountains, in a kind of trough, and the clouds dump their contents. We'll see - so far, it is all rain, and the temperatures aren't currently getting anywhere near freezing.

Here in Seattle, the number of gun violence incidents seems to be on the rise, from home invasions and road rage incidents to gunpoint robberies. One entrance to the King County Courthouse has had to be closed due to assaults by violent homeless people, mostly living in tents on the street, on Courthouse visitors. Then I see reports from The Netherlands, where two teens set off fireworks in the lobby of an apartment building, killing two members of a family that gets stuck in the building elevator, by smoke inhalation - last week, miscreants spray paint one entire side of a train. Seems to be getting out of hand?

It is rather encouraging, methinks, that Iran's leadership decided to come clean about the shooting down of that Ukrainian airliner - helped, no doubt, by the knowledge that Ukraine is a somewhat toothless country, I don't want to conjecture what would have happened if that had been a German or Chinese airliner. But Iran somehow has proved it is still part of the human race, and that is perhaps encouraging. They seem to still be firing missiles at Iraqi bases, though, so there are likely multiple factions with different aims in the leadership, not all of which play to the same rules. Add the various flavours of Islam, and the kettle is on the boil.

Almost noiselessly, the powersharing agreement in Northern Ireland, so painstakingly brokered by Bill Clinton, seems to have returned some level of sanity to the proceedings, and Stormont is back in session. I imagine they decided that if they didn't do something, Brexit would render the Northern Irish even more powerless than they already were, so that, too, is good news for 2020.

While on the subject of Britain, Harry and Meghan appear to have landed somewhere different from where we thought they might - I am distinctly getting more of a "you're fired" flavour of the proceedings. The mainstream press seems to be getting that message, too, it seems to me the royal family closed ranks, rather tightly. On the one hand I can understand why Harry and Meghan can't be allowed to "carve their own niche", so to speak, on the other hand, this would have been a nice opportunity to drag the Royals into the 21st century. Not going to happen. It may well be Meghan isn't a particularly nice person, and we do remember the last American to turn up - Wallis Simpson - caused a similar rift in the royal family. Shame, really, but I must say the British press, by and large, should have been reined in a long time ago, and that opportunity is now largely lost. No, Harry and Meghan's security, on Vancouver Island, will be fine - let's see: local cops, RCMP, Canadian customs, U.S. customs, Canadian border patrol, U.S. border patrol (Vancouver Island is on the U.S. border), U.S. Department of Agriculture troops, and sundry Canadian and American intelligence agencies that were all here to begin with. This does not count the local Canadians, who don't take kindly to interlopers, and the Americans across the border in Washington State, where you get a concealed carry permit just by having the local constable take your fingerprints (and some FBI stuff). If Piers Morgan wants to come over and do a story, he better learn to swim, and get some extra travel insurance...

Saturday, January 11, 2020: Bump and Grind

Keywords: Travelex, hacking, rhinitis, sinuses, Swedish Medical, drug interaction, SHA, EU banking, Seattle, King County
With reference to this Travelex hack, can anybody explain to me why someone would order 1,000 Euros in paper currency from Travelex, for delivery trough Tesco with their shopping? When I go abroad, I take a wad of dollars for backup, then when I hit my destination I go to the nearest mall and pull some local currency out of the wall - either with a bank card or my trusted Paypal doohickey. I've been doing that for many years, apart from anything else, you then know where the nearest ATM, McDonalds, and pharmacy are, important stuff when you go to places you've not been to before. Carrying a big wallet with stuff only makes you a robbery target, and actually costs a lot more than just getting money from an ATM. Has anybody thought of doing some "vacation 101" training on these folks? Reminds me of the time I ended up in Tokyo, and kinda got my wires crossed, put a zero where it should not have been, and ended up with US$1,000 in yen, rather than the $100 I had been aiming for. Not until we got to Singapore my travel companion wondered out loud how we had not run out of money in a week...

As has happened before, my sinuses are acting up again, somebody probably coughed on me, and I then develop a rhinitis that won't go away. The post nasal drip - likely aggravated by 40+ years of smoking - keep irritating my throat, which aggravates the post nasal drip, etc. I have only just discovered it actually gets worsen when I sit in a recliner, so now it is straight backd chairs or lying down. Blah. Finally got antibiotics over the weekend, the medicos don't like precribing them too often, but after three weeks it was time. At least no throatache today, maybe this stuff is helping. Sorry to whine about it, but I have really been uncomfortable - no fever or high blood pressure though. I've not been to the gym in a week, though, which is annoying.

Of course, checking drug interactions I find that the antibiotic does not play nice with another medication I am taking - all information instantly available to the physician assistant who saw me - and my rheumatologist immediately confirms this is not a healthy cocktail, and discontinue one drug immediately. Did the PA miss it? Did Swedish' prescription system not flag this? I probably should do something about it.

Not until last Tuesday did I manage to get the Housing Authority the financial information they had asked for last month. My American bank was no problem, but the European bank I use to get my (small) European pension - that was something else. No, they couldn't send the Housing folks a banker's reference, as the Housing folks aren't government to them. That much I can understand, but then they decided to apply European standards - when a European housing department requests this type of information, they treat that as a credit request, and send it to the Lending department. As my EU pension isn't large enough to cover Seattle rent, that was never going to fly, and besides, it isn't what we had asked for. After an endless three week back and forth, I somehow talked the bank (with which I've had a great relationship for years) into giving me exactly the information the Housing folks wanted, and I was finally able to run the letter into their downtown office, so, now, fingers and legs crossed. It helps, because the Dutch social services, which pays the pension, insists on sending statements in Dutch - the in the EU, which is officially multi-lingual. Go figure.

There really isn't much else to report - having moved into King County, I am slowly getting familiar with more of the Seattle area - there never was a real need, but as I am getting closer to moving into the city proper, it is useful to get "acquainted". I already had some of the suburbs and downtown - pill hill - "down", so to speak, but there is a lot more to this vast, sprawling area than I know.

Friday, January 3rd, 2020: Trump went Boom! again

Keywords: Qasem Soleimani, Iran, Quds Force, Microsoft, Windows Media Center, EPG123, Schedules Direct, broadcast TV, international banking, housing
Well, no, I can't fault President Trump for taking a shot at Qasem Soleimani. There's two aspects to this that I am not seeing the "experts" on TV talking about: the level of intelligence the US is bringing to bear, and the psychological effect on Iranian leaders.

The USA seems to have inside information on the whereabouts of top Iranian leaders when they aren't in Iran, down to the car they're driving, and the intelligence to pinpoint a location at an airport in the Middle East. That's pretty good going, and doesn't come to Trump's credit, but to the credit of the US Armed Forces and intelligence folks. The intelligence, the gear, and sufficiently finely tuned you don't kill a thousand civilians. That's pretty impressive.

And then the Iranian leaders now know we know where they are, and if they leave Iran to work around a region they think they own, there is a very good possibility a fresh faced kid in Fort Lauderdale can push a button and wipe them out. So all this running around by Iranian backed militias under Iranian military control is going to be curbed a bit, who wants to have a meeting with an ally and get blown to bits? Judging from the pictures, this was pinpoint bombing - they didn't even damage the palm trees along the airport road. A declaration of war it is not - Trump just went "you kill my people, I'll hurt you back". Unlike previous presidents, he didn't do a volley of cruise missiles, but - effectively - a single shot. That's personal. The added advantage is that the Iraqi Shia population, which lost one of its commanders in the strike too, now know they're in the American sights - be sure who your friends are, because they are not able to protect you from your enemies. That sort of thing.

Microsoft, a few months ago, announced that it would discontinue the contract they held to supply their Windows Media Center under Windows up to 8.1 with Guide Data, a lineup of TV and cable programming in the United States. In January 2020, they said. They didn't say "as per January 1st", which effectively meant the guide would stop updating a couple of days ahead of that. WMC did not report any errors, there just wasn't any programming data and thus my preprogrammed recordings couldn't record. This is how I've been watching my favourite TV shows, pre-recorded - I don't need anything live except for the news - and stored on a big 2 terabyte external drive.

As it turns out - Microplod had sent reminders, periodically, which I had blissfully ignored - there is a third party application by the name of EPG123, written by a programmer frustrated with the performance of Microsoft's Guide, that is available as shareware, with an underlying guide from "Schedules Direct", available for a small fee, that does the job of the Guide, so I decided to try that, expecting a cumbersome install. Much to my amazement, this works flawlessly, to the point where the install largely automatically integrates the new downloads and schedules and lineups into the old WMC databases. Muchly impressed, I only made one setting mistake, which I was able to correct after the first failed midnight download, and Media Center has just completed its first recording - interestingly, using the old schedule database, which I don't think EPG123 was supposed to do. This is complete magic, it is really hard to embed things in Windows, and Microsoft usually tries to disable the facilities you, as a programmer, are using, but this seems to be an OK marriage, at least until Microsoft discontinues Windows 8, because WMC does not run under Windows 10. The only reason I have one laptop running Windows 8.1 Pro is the Media Center. So I guess the year starts off OK, I still have my broadcast HD TV, on my now four, if not five, times tweaked HP 2560p - actually, it is probably six, I installed a faster Intel processor a few months ago, something I hadn't even known you can do on the HP Elitebook.

The holidays done, I can get back to a modicum of normal, and not before time. My housemates know from partying... and I am kind of in limbo waiting for the Housing folks, and I don't deal well with limbo. Hopefully the rest of my banking data will arrive from Europe tomorrow, it is a pain "they" don't play well with American authorities. Just convincing them they can't provide a bank guarantee in the United States, especially if they've not been asked for one, took more than a week, and American ways of fraud control are anathema to them. I've never been hacked in any of my bank accounts, knock on wood, over the decades, except in this one overseas account - and then it wasn't my fault, it was a random database attack on the bank that included my account data, and I found myself filling up my tank at gas stations in Brazil. They sorted it out quickly, and professionally, and put the stolen funds back within twenty-four hours, and reimbursed me for expenses incurred, paid for my transatlantic telephone calls, but still, you wonder how that happens.

It is truly frustrating to see my overseas bank completely screw up a simple bank reference, one I need for the Housing Authority. After requesting it in mid-December, I find absolutely nothing has been done two weeks later, they then turn around and tell me they couldn't contact me because my email address has changed (it hasn't, I own the domain and lease the server), and then I am required to spend more hours on transatlantic calls because they'll only tell me what additional information they need over the phone. That does not work either, but a person in the lending department finally emails me, something they insisted they can't do for security reasons, and without any explanation - I am not borrowing money from them, nor do I need a guarantee. I do hope they don't screw me up beyond this - they've now promised they'll DHL me six months worth of statements - which I do not need and haven't asked for - at their expense. Remind me not to do this again. They eventually manage to explain they have multiple forms of reference - but the one they tried to use is a form of bank guarantee based on the expected value of the lease, something I haven't asked for and they can't provide, because most of my income is US-based and that information is not available to them. On top of that, after a customer service agent sent my request to the Lending department, where it did not belong, the Lending agent, amazingly, began emailing me on an email address I used in the past, but that I changed and deleted in July, 2015, when AT&T discontinued their long standing commercial email service. I was of course flabbergasted that staffers with the bank would not use the current email address they have in their database and use for me.

Friday, December 27, 2019: One hurdle after the other discombobulation

Keywords: Christmas, Boxing Day, cultural differences, Mexico, climate change, population increase, Huawei, 5G, IP cameras, Shenzen servers
Christmas, I hope, has been an enjoyable time for you - while I've not really "celebrated" the festive season for a few years - I used to fly back to Europe and family occasionally for it - this year I turn out to be lodging with a Mexican family who really embrace and share, which is quite special to me. They actually "do" Christmas on the 24th - you live and learn - and then the 25th is sort of their Boxing Day. Americans really don't do that "2nd Christmas Day", as it is done in Europe, so this is an interesting learning curve, prezzies are done on Christmas Eve, after too much food and booze... and then more food - you can't really call these leftovers - on Christmas Day. My diet is shot, I was happy I lost three pounds during December, but I think I've found them again. Sheesh.

No, I am not a climate denier, but the noise Ms. Thunberg and cohorts make has nothing to do with reality. I've said it before, but here goes again: climate change, insofar as it is not a natural phenomenon, is caused by the wanton procreation of humans, in combination with the wealth increase. In order to combat this, going to conferences by boat and trains does nothing. For one thing, you'd have to stop going to conferences, we have plenty of technology for folks to talk to each other. And that combines with the heads of state, which go and have meetings all the time - another completely unnecessary exercise, again, that's what Skype is for. For as long as we don't stop the unnecessary travel - and that includes cars, boats, planes, trains - and stop subsidizing babies, and start requiring third world countries to forcibly reduce birth rates, we're not going to make any kind of a dent - yes, you don't reduce your birthrate, we will not give you any more money for any reason. Draconian, politically not manageable, but nothing else will do it. I have no idea what forced the Chinese to drop the one child policy, but as Ms. Thunberg hasn't gone there to convince them to reinstate it, I can't take her seriously. She could even learn Mandarin, stay at home, and give video interviews to the Chinese media. Then India is another good place to talk to, on that score, they try, but they're a democracy. With some regularity we see reports that carbon emissions have increased - with the agreements in place, and the efforts at legislative levels, we should see some result, so understanding why nothing works is vital, and it isn't because we don't buy electric cars (hint: electric cars = more cars). For the most part, cars are things we do not need, and for as long as I see people here in Seattle idle in line at Starbucks, Ms. Thunberg is a distractive expensive effing joke, who should not get attention, and be taken home by her parents to get an education, so she learns to understand what she is talking about. Honestly.

IP WiFi camera server Which reminds me, this entire story about Huawei's 5G is a technological crock. Yes, Huawei got started by technology folks from the PLA, but it was, for the longest time, run by young Chinese technologists who had - and have - no truck with traditional communism and ideologies. They're the same type of men who invented the internet, way back when, on the Left Coast. The authorities, and Trump, would be much better off looking at the technological gadgets the Chinese make and sell. Both of the cheap IP cameras I bought a few years ago shared their data freely, via the internet, to servers in China, and they sold - and sell - millions of them, 99% to people who wouldn't recognize a firewall if you shoved it up their arse. There is an entire web client and internet server in each of these things, which sell for under $30, and worm a route through your router even if you block their ports. Trust me - don't worry about Huawei, and worry about the complete lack of technology security in our Federal oversight organizations. We've got our doorbell video cameras talking to the internet via servers in Shenzen - and then the consumer accesses their pictures by connecting their mobile phone directly to those servers, with the ports wide open. I think that, largely, consumers do not care, and certainly don't make much of an effort to secure their home network. For as long as cyber criminals rake in hundreds of millions of dollars just by cold calling folks with a cockamamie story, rest assured of two things: caller ID isn't used, and people answer phones regardless. Nothing anybody can do, and we can't politically stop assisting folks who have been bamboozled, or - better - fine them.

Saturday, December 21, 2019: I hurt myself twice

Keywords: SHA, apartment hunt, gym, injury, Verizon, Aetna Medicare, income verification, impeachment, D.C. people
Tired tired tired, especially today. The ongoing house hunt is doing a number on me - not that there's anything wrong with the way the housing agency is dealing with this, please don't get me wrong. I had (hopefully) one of the last interviews this morning, this mostly to do with my finances, things are moving right along. It is such a long drawn out process - having said that, you put an application in in a place the size of Seattle, it isn't going to be double quick, so no issues. But I am not dealing with winter as well as I used to - and it isn't really that cold yet, hopefully it won't get "down there" this year, winters in the Puget Sound thankfully don't happen every year. I am saying that because I don't want to move in the ice and snow, and I can't afford a mover.

I injured my shoulder again over the weekend, third time this year, I am beginning to think I am doing something wrong in the gym, but much to my suprise it cleared up in a couple of days - last time it was weeks, and double agony. But no gym this week, or maybe just on Friday, I don't want to jinx it.

And then, of course, I had to get a shingles vaccination - in the past, I could not get those as they contained a live virus,so I got shingles instead, but all that has changed, said my rheumatologist - and the pharmacist warned me this might be painful, and she was damn well right. So now the "cleared up" upper arm hurts, feels bruised. I think I'll take an aspirin or two.

In the interim I yelled so hard at Verizon HR that Aetna suddenly got my address changed overnight ("well, that takes ten days") and gave me my new member number over the phone, I even got my new membership card. If you've got something wrong with you the idea of not having medical insurance as of January 1st is plenty scary. If you're reading this in Europe, think of living in The Netherlands and the insurance suddenly locating your policy in Poland. The only advantage I have is that I can explain all this in English, both places, but otherwise..

By now, the Housing Authority came back and wanted a fax number or email address for my European bank, this for income verification, and of course under European security rules they won't let third parties verify you, and over there, an American local government agency has no status of any kind. Sorted that, hopefully, but you sometimes think you just shouldn't tell these folks everything, because they are used to doing things the way they do them "over here". It is kind of funny, in an immigrant country - credit agencies here don't take overseas accounts into consideration, even though millions of the foreign born have them - in my case. You get the impression that the vast majority of immigrant applicants don't tell the housing folks about their overseas account(s). I just don't like that idea, and have nothing to hide, it is better to sort these things at the beginning of a business relationship.

Watching some of the impeachment proceedings (I give 'em mostly a wide berth) I can't get over a President commenting on Twitter like a rabid dog. Sorry to use those words, but this man lives on a different planet. I wonder whether he has requested the Supreme Court's email address and Instagram handle yet. I don't know if this man should be impeached, but I do think he'd do fine just playing golf. Whatever he is doing, he isn't running the country. There is a bunch of good people in D.C., who I had the privilege of working with for many years, that do that. Of course, many are getting their asses fired now, we'll pay the price for that for years to come.

Saturday, December 7, 2019: Verizon broke its database?

Keywords: Verizon, retiree benefits, United Healthcare, Priv, Medicare Advantage, Aetna, medical insurance, Blackberry, KEYone, T-Mobile
Blackberry KEYone The Verizon benefits plan I mentioned last week turns out to be a true disaster zone - for one thing, I received no open enrollment paperwork because my home address was changed in the HR database. Having lived there for seven or so years, how did Verizon suddenly decide to change it to my Verizon office address in Arlington, VA (the other coast) - apart from anything else, that is hardly a residential address, and I have not used that address since I retired, in January 2007, and certainly not for private use. When speaking with HR, the agent did her level best to dissuade me from speaking to a supervisor, who "would tell me exactly the same thing", which was absolutely zilch. The supervisor did somewhat better, went into the database, and tried to convince me I had always had two addresses in the HR database - nonsensical, because all of Verizon's communications, until this year, have always come to my home address, be that in Fredericksburg, VA, Bellevue, WA, or Lynnwood, WA - sending them to Arlington, VA, then having them returned "undeliverable", then not following up, was never the case.

There are hundreds of thousands of Verizon "regulated" retirees, whose Verizon arranged Medicare health plan is equally regulated, and I realy have to ask myself what went wrong here. The only major change is that the health plan is, as of 2020, administered by Aetna, which "won the bid" from United Healthcare, which had been managing it. As I can't get Verizon to give me some meaningful information, or updated paperwork, I really am wondering if I should not talk to the Federal folks, the Department of Labor, which regulates these plans, especially for a regulated organization.

In the interim, I've got my refurbished Blackberry KEYone working properly, and much to my surprise it fully supports T-Mobile's WiFi Calling and other special TMO features, which I had not expected, as TMO stopped selling Blackberry handsets years ago. But everything is nicely supported, under Blackberry's flavour of Android. Even the fingerprint reader works, this after I had a half day struggle to "imprint" it. Again, there are plenty of features I like, but shelling out $700 to $1000 for them, nah, can't afford to, and I am not really interested in the "all things to all people" syndrome. One thing that really concerns me is the number of "bad apps" that are around, so having financial apps run on different handsets should give me more security. Talking to my overseas bank, the other day, the agent assumed I was using Google Pay with multiple credit cards, but I am not. I've got Paypal on one handset, Google Pay on the other, and ne'er the twain shall meet. Neither of those have identifiable email addresses I use on an everyday basis - one reason to have multiple handsets is that those normally require an email address for the creator of the operating system, which means that if your mobile gets hacked your bank information is toast. One person in The Netherlands recently fell for a phishing email, entered his data at a fake bank website, and was out - I kid you not - a million Euros (some 1.11 million dollars US) within minutes. It then follows that if you ensure emails from your bank come to an email address you keep separately from others you use all the time, the miscreants cannot email you pretending to be your bank.

Making some small efforts to help secure your data makes sense - look at my example of the million Euro scam, and ask yourself whether keeping a million Euros in your current account is smart. It may be one consequence of consumers using smartphones and apps, and stop using laptops. You have everything behind one cellular telephone number and one email address, it is a bit like all the security at your house is one front door lock, I mean, knowing there are miscreants with technical prowess spending all day every day trying to break into your communications, after they "friend" you on Facebook or Instagram. One reason I really like using both multiple handsets and multiple laptops is that this should make it hard for a hacker to find out where to find your data. In my case, I even use a secondary router as a firewall, so the IP address I present to the outside world is not the IP address my internet provider shows for me. You need to know how to do that, but it helps secure you!

November 29, 2019: Hong Kong, and other things broken

Keywords: Hong Kong, Blackberry, fake democracy, Priv, Medicare Advantage, Aetna, medical insurance
Hong Kong harbour I am a bit confuddled about the Western press' continuous referrals to a Hong Kong "democracy movement". Hong Kong has never been a democracy - a British colony since 1898, Chinese (Cantonese) territory before then, and part of the People's Republic of China since 1997, democracy, as we know it, was never the political system. And as it is part of the PRC, there isn't any way it will be, or can aspire to, democracy. This would mean that there can't really be a democratic movement, and Hong Kongers know this. Had there ever been democracy in Hong Kong, millions of Cantonese and Han Chinese would have moved to the UK when Kongers was handed back to the Chinese, but they didn't - couldn't, insofar as they had British passports, they had no "right of abode" in the UK. Hah. How would they even have known what democracy is? I mean, if they had democracy, or any semblance of it, they would not need to destroy their own country, as the "demonstrators" have been doing for a while. Nah, I think the Western press needs to do its homework a bit better.

Whoops - my Blackberry Priv stopped working, just like that, dead as a dodo, won't even charge, little choice but to get a "new" cellphone, let's see, I bought this refurbished May 28, 2018, so it lasted only a year and a half, thankfully I have a spare, so I can access mail and messaging and my database again later today. Hopefully the replacement will last a bit longer... no idea what went wrong, it just won't start any more, likely the (non-replaceable) battery.

Of course, the next morning (after ordering a new handset on Ebay) the "dead" Priv has recovered enough to try and boot - unsuccessfully, because the battery is empty, but it is no longer stone dead, and it starts charging. Weird stuff. I can always return the replacement I just ordered, but I am not sure I want to use the "old" one as my primary, even if I'll be out the better part of $200. Let's see how things go - yesterday I spent much of the day getting my spare handset up, don't tell me I have to go and do that all over again.... decisions, decisions.

Like this, I am spending too much money, what with the recent move, the storage unit, and another move coming up (hopefully soon). I'll just end up pretty much out of pocket, and I just noticed my health insurance is going up next year, as well, which doesn't help. Hard to figure that, some years my corporate copay goes down, other years it goes up, the one time I called HR about it I spent so long on hold I gave up. Par for the course if you call in the middle of open enrollment, but this year I have not, so far, even received the normal catalog from Verizon or Aetna, apparently our "new" insurer. Aetna, you may recall, "merged" with CVS Health, creating a behemoth medical insurance company in the process. Aetna has been the dental provider for my former organization for years, but if the main insurer can do as well as United Healthcare has done, since I turned 65, remains to be seen. At the basis, both insurers mostly administer Medicare claims, but their "Advantage" part, the ancillary part of our insurance, is new to me. At the Verizon benefits website it looks like Aetna has been required to provide exactly the same coverage UHC has done, and they have not taken our prescription coverage to CVS, so that puts my mind at rest - a little..

This would be cool.. I had not put my 2560p laptop back into use, the unit I used to record broadcast TV, until recently, when I found all the bits needed to do that. And today, I checked Windows' Media Center, to see if there were different or additional channels I can get here. Sure enough - I've gone from 11 to 38 channels, which is kind of amazing, but more importantly, I have one channel I couldn't get in Lynnwood that reruns most of the Startrek series ever made. It works here, so I've programmed it into my lineup, and tomorrow I'll be able to check if that worked or not. Ya never know with Microplod..

November 22, 2019: Fake White Stuff, and other medical matters

Keywords: parking, cow's milk, non-milk, parenting, Medicare, AARP
private parking Ah yes, private parking is nice. The town recently repaved and landscaped, so now the customers from the dentist next door, and others, end up in our (off street) lot. Time to put some signs up. At least I can now call parking enforcement - you can't do that if the miscreants can't see signs. First time I came here I wasn't sure I could park here, so I parked at the mini-mall down the block. But others aren't that considerate...

No, this stuff made from almonds, soy, grains, is NOT milk. Milk comes from cows (and other animals, like sheep and goats and hu-mans). Same with meat - comes from animals, not from plants. We (adults) have grown up with animal proteins - and there is plenty of research about the hows, whys and wherefores. What I am saying is that if some of those proteins aren't now deemed to be particularly healthy, we should not consume them, but there isn't a need to produce "fake" animal proteins. It would be much better to find out what exactly it is we need, in our nutrition, and how to satisfy that need, but not to create "pretend" animal proteins, that probably do more harm than good, just look at the labels and see how much unnecessary fat and sugars are in these products.

At which point, of course, you have to start asking yourself what the standard for "unnecessary" is. Who owns the principle? Reading about the anti-vax movement, I can't help but wonder about this ownership thing. Do parents "own" their children? Does the German state have a binding contract on parental rights, as seems to be the case now they have made vaccination as mandatory as German law allows? When all is said and done, there seem to be a lot of parents who claim the right to take these decisions for their children, and who claim they know better than scientists and medical professionals. I dunno - just because you've impregnated someone does not mean you suddenly know everything doctors and scientists go to school for fifteen years to learn. And if parents don't "accept" the science, there's not a lot you can do. But if you look at milk that isn't milk, and meat made of vegetable matter, you have to ask yourself if it is that strange that consumers and parents and politicos make their own realities, according to what they perceive as their needs. The alternative, of course, is that we step away from the old conventions, that we begin naming certain beverages as "milk", whether they're produced by animals or not, and certain proteins as "meat", whether or not they contain animal matter. It is a solution - kids won't know which is which, in ten years, anyway.

As the Medicare enrollment period is here, we've all been inundated with TV ads - and that's when I noticed that for you to become a member of the AARP Medicare Advantage plan, you now do NOT have to be a member of AARP. I guess United Healthcare figured out that that requirement actually stopped them from selling more plans. AARP, increasingly, is an organization that sells its members' information to commercial enterprise, reason why I dumped 'em years ago. Today, you want a cheap deal, ask for it. They have "requiremements", go to the next organization. Verizon have changed their insurance provider from UHC to Aetna - these are folks I called about my existing dental plan, the other day - that led to some 30 unsolicited calls offering their plan information, information I get automatically from my former employer. I blocked their number - Verizon's information has plan comparisons, Aetna's, I am sure, does not....

November 16, 2019: Networking, and The Prince

Keywords: Linksys, Comcast, 5G, Prince Andrew, BBC, bopping
I mentioned having slaved my Linksys router off a Comcast Aris unit - when I finally got around to booting up my second laptop, which I had not used since I moved, I found it automatically connected to my original router's WiFi, which I had only partly reprogrammed. I am not sure how to explain this, I didn't know that was possible - I set the Linksys to make a bridge connection to the Aris, but that apparently leaves the Linksys available for other "normal" clients. It does appear my second HP is running at 5G, which I didn't think the Linksys could do in bridge mode, but maybe I am wrong. I'd have to take it doen and reprogram it to test that, and really don't want to do that, since it works so well in slave mode, and I need all the bandwidth I can get, considering the number of people that use this network. So there. Or some such... ah, OK, I can try with another laptop - thar ya go.. yep, that too connects straight into the Linksys, but shows connection and IP to the Comcast host, but the "old' SSID. I had no idea that would work, right out of the box, but I guess the dual frequency implementation effectively turns one router into two. Amazing.

Watching the BBC's antics with regard to Prince Andrew I can only feel sorry for the guy. He partied with a felon, which is kinda stupid, but for allegations that can't be denied or substantiated then to surface, and the press to hound him, is massively useless. It isn't like Andrew couldn't afford to stay at the Grand Hyatt if he wanted to be in Manhattan. That makes him a dumbass, not a child rapist. The purpose of the press is news reporting - if we must assume Andrew bopped a seventeen year old, way back when, lots of us have, seventeen is well beyond the age of consent, and to start a "case" about it, when we have these morons who have sex with babies and adolescents, you'd wonder if the Beeb and Sky and The Sun have nothing better to do. I am not in any way trying to defend Prince Andrew, his has been a reasonably scandal filled tenure, but for this ex-teen to come forward years later, it is all a bit much and a bit stoopid. 'nuff said.

I am beginning to be less than enamoured with the Beeb anyway - the amount of time BBC news spends reporting live on the Prez and his antics - the BBC spends more time broadcasting hearings live than any American media do. What with Brexit looming, you'd think there is a faction in Britain that thinks the UK is an American colony - which it isn't, and will never be. We love our "Fawlty Towers", and the working classes spend tons of money at Disney, but Britain has little to offer the United States economy - imagine, they only managed to build one aircraft carrier, it breaks, they'll have none. Even something as basic as making sure you've got two of each is a notion that escapes them. If you cannot afford to build two carriers, and put them to sea at the same time, so you can test what you can do with them, you shouldn't build any. It's stupid. A waste. One carrier means that if anybody wants to take it down, they only have to look for the one thing that stands out like a sore thumb. You get my drift?

November 8, 2019: Settled in

Keywords: move, working out, network, WiFi slave, yoga, gym
This move, complete with putting more than half my stuff in a storage unit, took the better part of two weeks, I guess. That includes "finishing off", organizing myself at my new residence, doing masses of paperwork, I just finished the very last adress change, and started back on my daily vitals measurements - those go with workouts, normally, and the amount of work I did while moving, using my SUV, would not really have given meaningful data. I did, much to my pleasure, note I managed to do all the physical work without injuries, so the workouts have had their benefits, you don't really know that "until you try".

All in all I can't complain, and I have to again come to the conclusion change is good, I had pretty much settled in a routine, and this is helpful in more ways than one. I need to not only work up a new routine with new housemates, but make computer network changes in ways I had not used before. I had only recently bought this high speed Linksys router, and now needed to slave it (wirelessly) off the Comcast device my landlord uses. I had tested doing that before moving, and not exactly been successful, so I was not unhappy when the Linksys did as it was told right off the bat. What I didn't know is that these 802.11x devices are actually able to use the 5GHz and 2.4GHz frequencies functionally separately - the 5GHz side slaves directly off the main router, the 2.4GHz side works "as normal" servicing WiFi as I had used it before, with its existing non-published host name. So hackers, technically, can see my landlord's router, but my setup, behind me, is firewalled and invisible, using WiFi, and my main system is hardwired into my router, with WiFi off, and my phones are invisible, off the main router. That's really cool, and safety freak that I am, as secure as I can make it. The facility is new to me, I hadn't seen it used, and didn't know how to set it up, but I got it working - quite possibly, the older Frontier router wasn't quite up to the task, and this newer Comcast device is.

"News" about the injury rate among yoga teachers seems to have taken over the British press, and I'll wager the story will arrive on these shores soon, but what a crock. Yes, if you exercise in a group you may get into a competitive stance, and that means you may end up doing exercises and stretches that take you beyond what your joints / muscles / tendons can handle. That's the case with all exercise, however, not just yoga, and especially if you do these things in middle age and onwards, you can do yourself some real pain. That isn't just the prerogative of yoga teachers - in fact, I'd like to suggest that if you get yoga injuries, you're not much of a teacher, you're supposed to have trained for that, and know the limits of the human physiology in the specilism you teach. To me, the jury is still out on yoga - it is a religion related meditation technique, and as such, is not a novel way of group exercise. Honestly.

I know one person who only did yoga classes because his daughter did - yes, you can socialize in a gym, but I don't know that the Good Lord intended exercise to be combined with other stuff. I studiously stay away from the group stuff I see others do, for the simple reason I need to concentrate on my exercises, to make sure my muscles do what I want them to do - in my case, of course, the risk of injury is relatively high. The older you get, the longer an injury takes to heal - when I hurt my left shoulder joint, the other day, it took weeks for the joint to repair itself. A rheumatologist, years ago, sanctioned my going to the gym, but emphasized I should make sure not to get in the "competitive arena" - when you push yourself alongside others, you may be aiming for goals that aren't good for you, especially if your body has been a bit ravaged, like mine, over the decades. Having just moved myself, all by myself, using my SUV, I can't say I am doing too badly..

November 2, 2019: Settle down, boy..

Keywords: move, Facebook, address changes, King County, upmarket, $pending
view in pub window A mile long list of address changes to do, some more important than others, from the Fed and the State to banks and other institutions - the banks are probably more important because they can really screw up your credit rating, but then the Authorities can come back to bite you, years later. Address changes, because I am about to move to a nearby town, as the house I am in is going to be rented in its entirety. Still waiting for my permanent seniors apartment in Seattle, though that is getting closer, received a shortlist confirmation only the other day. Owell, bedtime, start moving some gear "upon the morn'"...

And several "morns' later, the moving is done, and I find myself back in King County, in a decidedly more upmarket (and more expensive) town - just my vehicle and home insurances went up between 15 and 30%, the supermarket clientele is markedly less blue collar, and the gym (same chain) is much nicer, with staff who remember you by name, and it shuts overnight. I guess you get what you pay for. By which I do not mean to say there's anything wrong with Lynnwood, don't get me wrong. It is just different. No gas firepit outside the pub in Lynnwood..

I've been reconnoitering my new neighbourhood, apart from the various supermarkets I needed to find a new gym, not a huge problem as I am a member of a huge chain, but I can't walk there, so I'll have to change my routine a bit, and start using a treadmill more than I used to.

All in all, this not quite planned move will have set me back an extra $700 or so, this not counting ancillary expenses I'll have when my Seattle apartment comes trough. And as I've had to store my excess stuff in a storage unit, I am spending an extra $128 a month I had not counted on. But those aren't things you can do anything about, and while I can technically store stuff here, I think moving all my gear here, with all of the stairs and steps this place has, then moving it all down to Seattle, eventually, will probably wreck my body. I was surprised I was able to do my move without too much of a problem, certainly skipped the gym for a week or two, but the shoulder injury I did have, earlier this year, did not recur. That would have been devastating, tell ya.

Still using Facebook? A friend's mother sent me a friend request, th'other day, and as I contemplated whether I wanted to add her or not, Facebook added her all by itself. It is pretty much the same as Facebook's translating foreign languages without my ever telling it to, and without providing any way to turn that facility off. Turn off a particular language, it'll do it again a month or so later. The organization makes it money by manipulating users, and doing so without any benefit for the consumer. And what is worse, after all of the noise and lawsuits, it has in no way changed its methods and deceptive behaviour. Every time the authorities somewhere concentrate on points D and Z, Facebook goes back to S and M. Horrendous.

October 20, 2019: Packing again, moving again, ever forward

Keywords: detergent, laundry, storage, Facebook, Libra currency, bitcoin
Decades ago manufacturers began concentrating detergent, so they (and you) did not need to pay for shipping large amounts of water around the country. Doing that means advertising, spending time and money educating the public, and patience - smaller, in the eyes of the shopper, means less "stuff" and relatively more money. The past few months I've noticed they're at it again - look at the detergent shelves in the supermaket, and you may notice smaller bottles with gaudy imprints, that sport the same number of loads as the cousins twice their size. I just bought a 40 fl. oz. bottle of All good for 53 loads, and cheaper too. You just have to be very careful you follow the dosing instructions - the caps are much smaller, and for a "normal" load you seem to need less than half a capful of that smaller cap. If you're one of the gushers, or your kids handle the machine, go easy on the new technology. I wonder why now, though?

storage unitWell, yes, no, I don't know that Facebook needs the likes of Paypal, Mastercard and Visa to get its Libra cryptocurrency on the road. Facebook is massive, has a huge infrastructure, very good business connections, and about 1,000 times the money needed to start Libra up. It is likely, to me, that the prospective partners weren't going to participate in a venture where they will not have a smidgeon of control, because nobody controls nothing in Zuck's House. And I personally can't see the masses queuing to get "Facecrypto", when they can do everything with their bank- and credit card. Remember that Bitcoin started out as this amazing digital facility, that couldn't be tracked by anyone and anything, especially including the Fed. Well, these days the Fed can impound and sell Bitcoin they come across, so I am not seeing the major advantage of paying for shoes with a Facebook currency. Yes, I get it, all things to all people, but I actually do not believe that is a really good (read: safe) idea.

I am close to done moving stuff into a storage unit, not too far from here, having spent time, a couple months ago, sorting out clothes and things, and throwing out what I really am not likely to ever need, and a bunch of office clothes that really don't fit me well any more. Part of the problem was that I put on some (not a lot, pff) weight, and that is partly to blame on my going to the gym several times a week. I've got muscles where I never knew I could have 'em. Rather than dieting like crazy, I've simply gotten rid of clothes I am not likely to ever need again, like "too many" Wall Street outfits, which I should have chucked before I left Virginia, but shlepped across the country. Owell. The guy looked weird when I donated a bunch of clean spic 'n span $1,000 suits...

October 13, 2019: Credit? Debit? E-Stuff?

Keywords: Google Pay, NFC, USPS, system compatibility, chip cards, contactless, Walmart
October dawnTotally inadvertently, I noticed a blazing dawn while brewing my morning coffee, and rushed out with the Blackberry, something I don't do too often, these days. Spectacular, though, don't you think? The weather has been weird - night frost for a week, had a hard time finding my windshield scraper, not normally an October tool, in these parts. But temps appear back to normal, fingers crossed.

Where I signed up for Google Pay last year, I have had little chance to use it - apart from one (new) supermarket in my neighbourhood, Sprouts, no other store chains I frequent had it built into their payment terminals. Sprouts, however, is expensive-ish, and I found some of the fresh vegetables there less than, uh, fresh, and many of my favourite brands are not stocked at all. On top of that, Sprouts does not allow firearms in the store - I very much appreciate that, but it means you have to make sure you're not packin' heat, if you have a CPL (concealed pistol licence). It reminds me a bit of the Christian owned stores, which don't open on Sundays, because their owners think they know what's best for their staff and customers without asking them. I personally don't think it is anybody's business what I do on which day, that time is long gone. No other stores in this area have such a prohibition posted, that I know, with the exception of the United States Postal Service, which does not allow firearms on its property (law enforcement excepted) anywhere in the nation. At least Sprouts has the notice on the door - the Post Office has it only on the notice board, inside.

Anyway, I was primarily interested in being able to pay using an NFC capable smartphone, especially as some cheaper Android phones now have that capability too - I was not going to buy a $900 Samsung so I can use it as a credit card. In my particular case, it meant I can use a smartphone to pay from my overseas savings account, without having to carry the associated bank card. I've got a bunch of cards in my wallet, something that will be familiar to many of you, and I don't want to carry a second wallet.

Long story short, it works like a banshee, and should I so desire (which I don't) I can have more cards in the app. On top of that, Google USA can't pull data for my foreign bank card, because that account lives somewhere it is illegal for Google to help itself to that kind of data. Paranoid? I don't think so, I just try and control my "big data" where I can, even though that may mean some inconvenience and using multiple devices - the handset that has Google Pay normally has GPS disabled, and when it is enabled, when I shop, WiFi is off. Etc. Other apps I use a lot, like heart rate and localization, are on another mobile. Etc. Having multiple lines isn't that expensive (T-Mobile charges $10/month) and I try to buy either refurbished fancy handsets, or cheap large screen handsets, depending on which app I want them for. Works for me. While tech firms certainly have the data and processing power to gather most of my information worldwide, I am assuming (partly because of my IT expertise) they ignore what they consider anomalous data, information that does not gel with the other 95% of shoppers and buyers in the area. You can tell how important this is from the way Amazon behaves - when they use the Postal Service or UPS to deliver stuff, you're getting emails when your things are on their way. But with Amazon's own delivery service, you have to log in to Amazon to get tracking data - and every time you log in, they try to suck browser data. So - not for me, I have all but moved my online shopping to Ebay, which behaves more "normally", and does not have that much infrastructure and interest in selling your information.

According to recent research published in Britain's Telegraph, half of all debit (store) payments are now made using contactless (NFC) card, and 37% of credit payments. Those are large numbers - the percentages are much lower in the United States, but to some extent this is because those novel payment technologies started in Europe, much before they did here. The "chip card" was introduced in 1986 in Europe, but didn't make it to the United States until 2012. Slowly being superseded by NFc, or "contactless", chip-and-pin offered vastly better payment security. A good example is my European chip-and-pin card, which will automatically block if an attempt is made to swipe with it if the terminal has a chip reader. That is still, today, not the case in the US. Walmart, to the best of my knowledge, was the first to convert its card readers to chip-and-pin - at a time no American financial institutions were even issuing those cards.

October 9, 2019: Glue yourself to a building? Really?

Keywords: climate activists, electric vehicles, Doc Martin, PBS, union, strike, Republic
Watching climate activists all over the Western world "demonstrate by disruption" I continue to wonder how this is going to effect change in climate and polluted environments. The interaction between industrial might and social environments, even our propensity to leave our homelands and live in large cityscapes that are not terribly efficient or frugal, kind of preclude an effective way of dealing with climate and environmental issues. I think that if we do not somehow begin to mandate that couples must prove they are environmentally responsible before starting a family, and tell migrants they can't be accomodated if they have children, or if they plan to start a family, we don't have a chance in hell to make meningful change.

You see, it isn't about "clean" electric vehicles, because all vehicles pollute - it is about no vehicles. It sounds harsh, but there is no reason whatsoever not to mandate that a refugee may come live in your land, but must commit not to have children, and not buy motorized transport of any kind. I mean, if you are a refugee, you shouldn't care about having more rooms than you need, or a career that comes with a Toyota Prius. And we should try and extend that to all those leaving their parental home, and setting out in their own, independent lives. I keep on repeating that climate change might have improved if we'd not come out of WWII to start improving our world and breeding, we have created a society where we can drive to a coffeeshop and get a cup of coffee in the drivethrough, and I can't tell you how unnecessary and wasteful that is, and how that means we've embedded waste in the structure of our society. Why do banks have drivethroughs? I am at my bank branch maybe once a year, and that is only because the Dutch government insists I prove I am alive, but other than that I have been banking electronically for decades. The only reason I still use cash is that it saves me money when I buy gasoline, and I don't think you can blame me for this gas station chain making extra money by not using plastic for payments. If you'd like to get a good pointer as to how wasteful we really are, go to Walmart, and take a walk down the petfood aisle. First of all, few people really need pets, which are a very expensive, wasteful and polluting luxury, but then you have to ask yourself if this huge variety of foods is in any way necessary. Left to their own devices, pets don't need multiple types and flavours of foods, they have a natural instinct for what they need. They especially don't need ground up offal with vegetables, with a markup if somehow "real liver" or "real beef" was driven past the factory twice a week. I mean, do dogs and cats really need human beings to read labels on cans for them? Those same human beings who are being advised not to eat canned food, on account of the unnecessary and unhealthy sugar and sodium used as preservatives? Seriously, a hamster or a fish is nice, but if we didn't have entire stores full of them, our kids would be just as happy. I promise. Most kids that get fish do not become biologists.

I think the new season of Doc Martin has started - at least, I do not recall seeing this episode before. Don't get confused, I watch the UK's ITV via a VPN, so you don't need to chase all over PBS to find it this week. Though I must say PBS broadcasts follow on pretty closely from popular British series - I just wish they would stop broadcasting these nonsensical medical talk programs, you know, the ones that only let the presenter sell more books, and provide little, if any, value to life. And if you're wondering why I rarely post links any more - I think y'all have had Google for long enough so you can do searches, which most browsers facilitate with a simple highlight of a piece of text, anyway. wright - the sun is out (after a September night where the temperature dropped to 32!!), brunch done, time for the gym. See y'all in a bit.

Anyway, funny how much I enjoy watching British TV, and (still, after all these years) am not hugely fond of American TV. Especially today's crime series seem so much over the top to me, it isn't funny. The protagonists are too pretty, they're dressed in haute couture, and do lots of physically impossible things, where CGI, today, lets things break, fall, explode, in ways you could never survive. I am just not seeing the producers attempt to create realism - and, of course, nobody in an American TV series is ever physically realistically shot, because that's not allowed to be shown. I sometimes wonder whether kids have such an easy time with guns and knives because they have had little exposure to what death really looks like. Just a conjecture, I don't really know. It isn't like you can go buy a gun, and then shoot a couple people to find out how that goes, right?

Amazingly, the local garbage collectors are on strike. Over in Massachusetts, on the other coast the last time I looked, a union has a disagreement with Republic Services, and as that has not resolved, the union has sent pickets to other Republic worksites in the nation, where the unionized workforce then does not cross picket lines. They're not technically on strike, just can't work, as per their union contract. So Republic stopped the garbage collection, as of last Thursday. And nobody seems to have any idea how this is getting sorted. I can't say I've ever seen this before, remote control pickets. Is this even legal? How can union workers refuse to cross an out-of-state picket line when there is no way their WA State employer can negotiate with an out-of-state union?

September 29, 2019: Summer's done, here, at least

Keywords: fall, Donald Trump, Brexit, e-cigs, vaping, Heinz 57
Cherry BlossomThe Cherry Blossom in front of the house started showing the approaching fall, this week, it has grown into a beautiful shape, kinda cool. Had to drag the old Nikon out of its hidey hole, and stick a flash on, to get this shot on a rainy day. Clever though our smartphones are, there are some colours and contrasts you don't get unless it is overcast, with some reflection from a rain-slick street. I am writing this during a sudden cold spell, with the first snow (in boatloads) falling to the East, but then you can't predict that stuff much. Rain interspersed with sun, here in the lowlands - yesterday I didn't walk to the gym, in the rain, today the sun came out, so I did. Excuses only go so far...

Is it Ella? Or is it Memorex? I've gotta tell you that I am largely not commenting on the political goings-on because things seem to be getting crazier by the day. President Trump calls the Ukraine president for assistance fighting Joe Biden, Boris Johnson finally makes it to Prime Minister and then begins presiding over a larger debacle than Theresa May did, and this Swedish kid completely ignores that global warming is caused by unchecked population growth, which, by now, has begun to cause folks from impoverished countries to all move to "rich" Western countries. It is a bit like the inmates have truly taken over the asylum - thanks to Donald Trump we now all pay sales tax on online purchases, which, here in Washington State, has made most of my purchases 10% more expensive. This helps who?

Then, e-cigarettes, the tool that would help people quit smoking, has begun killing users outright, and now the CEO of Juul is taking off as his seat heats up. Boeing is fixing failing automation on some of its aircraft - something that's happened a few times since computers were invented - while the British believe Donald Trump - the man with the largest ego on the planet - will help them Brexit. Dream on, peeps. I mean, I buy overpriced English piccalilly now and again, but to help you understand what you've done, that is now largely made by one American company - in one huge factory in The Netherlands. Not an astute way to help the UK economy.

September 21, 2019: "Procrastinatering"

Keywords: saving, shopping, Macy's, shades, accessories, urban Seattle, moving, SHA, Craigslist, meat, Asian stew, processed foods
Macy's accoutrements I am trying to save as much money as I can, in advance of my move, but I somehow don't think I am being massively successsful. I packed most of my clothes, again in advance of the move, three months ago, so last month I bought a couple of pairs of new jeans, when an old pair tore, and I should have looked in the suitcases. My bad. And then, yesterday, I needed new socks, and while at Macy's "found" an RFID wallet and a new pair of shades I absolutely needed. I must say the Italian mirrored shades were both gorgeous and cheap, but they were cheap mostly because most of the others were $250 and up, and the days I could afford those are long gone. So I got this $80 pair, which my dental hygienist, this morning, said are "cool", and then the Levi's wallet replaced my Perry Ellis wallet, which wasn't even slightly worn - but bulky and ungainly - and then I threw out the Fusion wallet from before that, which wasn't really that worn either. YouKnowWhatIMean? But I guess an RFID wallet - standard purses and wallets are routinely RFID now - is safe and sensible, and as you can see in the shot both the shades (Vogue by Luxottica) and the wallet are fashionable. My old Oakleys, once bought at Amsterdam Airport for too much money, had already had their lenses and dayglo rubberoid replaced, and were definitely past the sell-by date sufficiently that I threw them out when I came home with the new shades.

I am quite looking forward to moving to Seattle, anyway - for the first time since Fredericksburg, VA, I will have a steady "base", and be able to discover Seattle properly. Living in the suburbs I really didn't have much of an opportunity to go on proper discovery trips - in many ways a shame, because the Seattle area is gorgeous, but more than the odd trip I've not really managed. Apart from anything else, rummaging around the Puget Sound by car is expensive, I really could not afford to go places and get a motel room for a couple of days, just the odd trip up to Vancouver (the one in Canada) to renew my passport cost several hundred dollars, not helped by my gas guzzler. Thanksfully we Dutch now have ten year passports, so I won't have to worry about that for a while. But hopefully, once in Seattle, I'll be able to make better use of public transport, and be closer to the train (Amtrak) infrastructure.

I do have to figure out where to live if the SHA doesn't come through in October, I need to get on Craigslist, and find somewhere between here-and-there. It is probably time to start that, a month is not a very long time, and I will have to find a storage place in the area to put some of my stuff I've got in the garage here. I've gotten rid of most everything I don't need, first of all back in Virginia, but here, as well, in the past couple of months. One nice side effect of an almost-bankruptcy is that you learn to "unload" - most of my move to Bellevue got financed via Craigslist and the pawn shop. First things first, though - mow the lawn, and see if I can get neighbour D's pressure washer started, he couldn't. Nope - it starts fine on a squirt of ether, but then dies, guess it isn't getting fuel. It has a fancy Subaru engine, no reason why it isn't running, and as it runs on ether, the electronics must be good. Puzzle.

Meat eating has attracted quite a bit of negative publicity, of late - I don't consume a lot of meat, more often than not do a kind of chicken stew, but I came across a huge T-bone steak at the supermarket, on sale, some 4 lbs of meat for under $10. Couldn't help myself, and I must say the Malaisian stew I created in the multi-cooker came out glorious. I cook for the freezer - one of the nice aspects of doing that is that you can leave the stew in plastic containers to cool down, overnight, that floats the fat to the top, and then those go in the freezer. Once defrosted in the fridge, the fat layer remains solid, and you can simply scoop that off. I cook my stews concentrated, so just add some water then, and reheat. At least I am staying away from processed meats, which have attracted, from a health perspective, a lot of negative publicity, of late. As it turns out, it is relatively easy to find minimally processed foods in the supermarket, but you do have to do some research - and there really isn't any such thing as "unprocessed foods" on the shelf. Butter? Butter is highly processed, as is milk. Oil? Most oils are processed, some more than others, I tend to stick with olive oil and sesame oil, both of which can be bought in a variety that is minimally processed, both being oils that have been around, virtually unchanged, for thousands of years. There are indeed lots of other "plant based" oils, but if you do the research you'll find that those often didn't become products until factory based production methods, using modern machinery and chemicals, became available. Highly processed, in other words, enabling mass production of these oils for various purposes, from lubrication and lamp lighting to cooking and deep frying.

September 15, 2019: Lookin' and Cookin'

Keywords: A/C, heating cost, environment, climate activists, moving, tenants, summer, fall, Housmile, induction cooking, appliance programming
I keep, especially out of Western Europe, reading that air conditioning is bad for the environment, as if A/C has no real purpose. While I understand some of the argumentation, I would suggest that those advocating for an abandonment of A/C, stop using heating as well. Heating, other than to prevent homes and people from freezing, is just as useless as A/C, it's just for comfort. We really can do away with refrigeration, to a large extent, as well - we can sterilize, pasteurize, we have plenty of technologies that let us buy fresh food that can be consumed in a couple of days, some cooked to prevent decay, and not go to Costco to buy huge amounts of refrigerated and frozen food that can then be stored for weeks in huge refrigerators and huge freezers - I mean, if you're really concerned about the environment. A four million dollar absolutely useless sailing racer built for the sole purpose of glorifying its owners and designers has to transport a sixteen year old "climate activist" to a conference in New York, so she can avoid a polluting airplane seat? And once there, the six man crew flies back to Europe?

Have we gone crazy? Is it that hard to understand that if we had begun work on carbon reduction twenty years ago we might have had a decent chance of influencing pollution downwards today, provided we reduced population growth, agressively, all over the planet, but we didn't. Even the Chinese abandoned their one child policy in 2015, and the majority of countries have no energy and population control that can make a difference. In 2000, fourty million cars were manufactured worldwide - in 2018, seventy million, almost double. Our efforts are going exactly nowhere. In the past decade, Europe's population increased by "only" 3% - but that is 21.8 million people, a lot more than live in my home country of the Netherlands today. And they're all buying cars. Some even the Eco-variety. That'll help.

As my landlord moved out at the beginning of the year, and this house has been painted and fixed so it can be rented out in its entirety, I had hoped the Seattle Housing Authority would come through with an apartment in the summer. But so far, nothing has transpired, other than that references and credit rating have been verified. This being subsidized seniors housing, there isn't a time frame you get, I am cognizant and good with that, but by November 1st new tenants will move in, so by then I have to find myself somewhere else to live. And that will cost me extra money, one more move than I had bargained for. I can cover that, barely, two moves, just not my happy summer. Owell, fingers crossed. Not complaining, just whining...

Summer is done - this hasn't been one of those hot summers, but now the temerature is down enough for some occasional heating, and as of today the atmospheric humidity went up, from 30/40% to 50/60. Still pleasant enough, don't get me wrong, still happily walking to the gym. I am just hoping I won't have to move in the middle of winter - though winters here in Seattle are mild, most years. Nothing much else to say but "fingers crossed".

What I find most amazing about this Housmile induction multi-cooker is its programming. I hadn't realized how these multi-cookers work, and that some are fully automated, with a completely preprogrammed cooking cycle, complete with an automated depressurization cycle at the end. I would assume the programmers of the firmware have to work very closely with cooking staff and chef, because the results, at least of this unit, are amazing. I've spoken to people with Instant Pots who ended up discontinuing their use, because the receipes are too complicated, and the depressurization of the device is a more or less manual process, and I am just wondering if perhaps at least some of their programmers - well, I guess, can't cook. Admittedly, I know what I wanted to cook in my Housmile - rice, stews, and soups - but I must say each has been absolutely perfect, the unit is very easy to clean (even the pressure plate with ring and mechanical sensors unscrews, and can be rinse in the dishwasher. The absence of conventional heating elements in mine helps to make it fool- and heat-proof. There aren't huge numbers of recipes you can prepare in these things, but for the $100 I paid for it, worth every penny.

September 6, 2019: Maintenance and Security

Keywords: Bahamas, hurricanes, East Coast storms, emergency generator, NAS, network drives, drive failure, heat pump, A/C, surveillance laptop, wifi camera
The Bahamas is one of those places I once thought about retiring to, like some other islands and high risk areas in the tropics I had visited. One look at the place, today, and I am glad I didn't. Same with Jakarta and Hong Kong, about the most polluted places on the planet and subject to Mother Nature too. I do live in an earthquake zone, today, complete with volcanoes, but then I grew up by the sea in The Netherlands, equally subject to weather vagaries. But on an island, in a known hurricane path.. I've been through a few hurricanes, one in Florida, when I lived there, two in Virginia, one of those I actually had the eye come right over my house in Fredericksburg, that was a scary and very unusual experience, no power for a week, and so many trees in the roads you couldn't get out, except on foot. TG for emergency generators - and by the way, if you don't have a bunch of fuel stored, the generator won't work, because you'll run out of gas or propane, because you won't be able to get to a gas station, and even if you can, they will not have power for their pumps. My property was minus 60-odd full size trees, after that storm. Ah, and there was a tornado that went right by (as in, 10 yards) my house in New York's Westchester County, that was pretty horrendous too. So think about it when you decide where to live, you can see the risk you take if you pick a high risk place. Insurance companies have risk charts based on events, if you want to figure that out. They'll make the data available, and usually the local council has that too...

Swapped the erratic 4 terabyte Seagate NAS for a new Buffalo, now all I need to do is re-back up the HP 2570, which will take, in bits and pieces, a few days. The 2560, which by now easily has more than a terabyte of data, I am not backing up to a NAS, but I've put a 3.5" 3TB spare that was sitting in a box in use to do that. After I move, I will likely replace the two 3TB drives in the Zyxel NAS with 10TB drives - running RAID 1, which means I have to buy three identical 10TB drives to have a functional spare. I had originally planned to replace the two bay drive with a four bay drive, but in the interim 10TB drives have come down so much in price I don't need to get all "complicated" - a 10TB WD Red lists for $250, as I write this, and RAID, after all, is supposed to be failure resistant.

I've been able to keep an eye on the energy consumption of my heat pumps over the summer - total home electricity consumption, (at Puget Sound rates) averages just under $50 a month (as the boiler runs on gas, add $10 a month for hot water). So that's kinda cool, and it proves I was right where the efficiency of modern heat pumnps is concerned. Admittedly, it's not been a blisteringly hot summer, but especially being able to effectively cool down the house overnight is a huge boon.

On the security front, I've now been running my surveillance laptop, with two IP cameras, for a couple of months, 24/7, and that works a treat - actually, any issues I had went away when I reinstalled Windows 10, more or less inadvertently. Considering I bought this Toshiba as a refurb, a few years ago, at Best Buy, for under $250, with extra memory, I can't complain. The old 160GB Intel SSD I got from one of the HPs went in there, too, and so, as the Toshiba is fanless, there are no longer any electro-mechanical parts to worry about.

August 26, 2019: Windows 10 "painless" recovery

Keywords: Windows Home, Windows 10 Pro, Toshiba Satellite, Bitlocker, Windows upgrade keys, safe, finances, reserves
Trying to get my old anemic Toshiba Satellite to boot from a USB device that has a Bitlocker ID as well, the encryption simply stops working. Funny, in a way, I've had (for different reasons) something similar happen with my main laptop, I actually managed to break Bitlocker. IOW: there is some stuff you don't want to do to a "Bitlockered" hard disk. I am not suggesting there is something wrong with Bitlocker, but it is best to first decrypt if you're going to mess with the operating system - Windows 10 Pro, in both cases.

2009 Toshiba Satellite Learned something useful, though - departition the entire hard disk using a Windows installer disk, then do a "clean" Windows install, without using a key. Then, boot from the new install, and now grab one of your old Windows Pro Upgrade licenses. I only have the Windows 8.1 upgrade keys I bought years ago, but as it turns out those keys will happily upgrade your "new" Windows 10 Home install, to Windows 10 Pro, with everything. No, that's not in any helpfiles I've found, I just tried it, and it worked. Completely clean unadulterated Toshiba laptop, which I had been using to run IP camera surveillance software, something I was able to re-install. Important to understand, though - once you have installed the latest, greatest version of Bitlocker, don't futz with the operating system. It's a good thing, I suppose - if anybody tries to break into your system, there's a good chance Bitlocker will permanently disable access to your entire disk subsystem. And that, after all, is the idea - security.

I think my safe is dead - yesterday, I wasn't able to open it (scary, that) until I tried a backup key, I am just not sure if I want to use it with just one key. Besides, the thing is ten years old - lessee, 3/10/2007, more like twelve. In daily use - for the statisticians, some 8,800 open-and-close operations - can't complain, I've had to replace the keypad once, I guess it is time to scrap, having to have it forcibly opened isn't on my list of fun things - and like my old NAS drive, the other day, once you encounter one of these "errors", it is better not to take chances.

Between getting ready to move - which involves buying and/or reserving funds for apartment stuff - and replacing stuff that (Murphy's Law) decides to break just as I am spending extra money, my reserves are dwindling just a bit. This was expected, don't get me wrong, but just looking at my financial management software gives me the willies. And as I have no idea when SHA will make an apartment available - that is, after all, dependent on someone in their housing stock dying, or moving, or going into a retirement home - it is kind of a double whammy. That's not something I should worry about, after all, it'll all come to an end, but still, I am one of your more anxious types, always have been. Still, I am pretty much ready, and my budget looks survivable...

August 18, 2019: Hong Kong and network storage

Keywords: Hong Kong, two systems, PRC, Seagate, NAS, network storage, HP Elitebook upgrades, heat management
Hong Kong pollution Years ago, as I was trying to figure out where to retire (all plans eventually scuppered by the 2008 stock market crash, which wiped me out), I spent time with friend and colleague D. in both Tokyo and Hong Kong. Tokyo would have been a problematic choice, considering what the Japanese did to my family in WWII, but Hong Kong, where I once had an office, and where several of my former colleagues from New York live, was a definite maybe. But much though I like the place, beautiful, wonderful people, great for business, I just could not conceive of living somewhere with that much pollution, in the deep tropics. Being able to fly in and out at will, and get some fresh air, yea, but once you retire you can no longer do what the well heeled corporate executive can. What you're seeing in the picture to the left is not "haze" - that is Hong Kong, on a clear sky summer's day, that "haze" is the normal pollution level in Hong Kong, where you can buy compressed clean air in aerosol cans.

So I know the place, and immediately clear, when I look at what goes on, is that the new generation of Hong Kongers have understood the mainland Chinese can't do a thing to them. The minute those Politburo troops cross the border Hong Kong, as one of the leading commerce and trading hubs in the world, will be finished. I've looked at both sides of that border, and the mainland Chinese have well understood that if they run Hong Kong, half the advantages that make trade and finance flock to "HK" will be gone. Trust me on this - if the mainland wanted to quell the protests, that would have happened weeks ago. I guess they've discovered the "two systems" thing is a two way street, and the young Hong Kongers have discovered they can seize the control they want, because the other thing will beat them down and finish the Chinese "Monaco". It would probably be good to remember the French tried to do the same to Monaco, and found the cost did not warrant the trouble. Again, peeps: if the Chinese wanted to exert control, they'd have done so by now. If they still do, they'll kill the Goose. They're pragmatic, most of the time....

HP Elitebook 2570p disassembly Bought my Seagate NAS drive in January 2016, it's been on line 24/7 since then, but this morning it "hiccupped". I was able to bring it back in service (the problem with these things is that you really don't get error messages, you just suddenly can't access your files, and there is a red light on the enclosure) through a simple reset, but I guess I need to get a replacement - turns out Amazon had a Buffalo 4TB NAS drive on sale, so if I can only keep the Seagate going for a week, I'll be able to move my files and ditch the Seagate. You just don't take risks with your files... I would have liked to get a larger (10TB) backup drive, but that will have to wait until after I move, and can consolidate my backups properly. Take my advice on this, though: if you have a disk drive that, for no reason, suddenly "hiccups", replace it immediately. You turn everything down, bring it back up, the drive works fine again, no lost bytes or files, but (this from experience) drives have a built in elaborate error correction, and a modern disk drive just does not "hiccup" (assuming there hasn't been a power failure, but my drives are all on UPS power supplies). The number of people I've seen lose their data, due to drive failure, over the years, I can't count on the fingers of two hands. 90% of those occurrences are completely unnecessary, and in most cases, by the time you get an error, that means your disk is demented, and from there it can only die. Trust me on that. The drive I am replacing cost me $134, for 4TB NAS, the new NAS drive (this time with a replacable disk) is $160. Not a lot to pay for security.

I told you about cleaning the cooling system in my HP laptops, and replacing the thermal compound that helps "bleed" excess heat from the CPU to the heat sink. In both of my laptops, that exercise has worked well - the 2570p does not go "Jumbo Jet" any more at all, and the 2560p rarely (but that's still running Windows 8.1, which may have something to do with it). The pic on the right shows you how you can "clean and inspect" - I have, at the bottom, from the left, removed the fan, the CPU, on top of both of those, the heat sink, and just above, the hard disk. Some compressed air to "defluff" the motherboard and the heat sink radiator, and I cleaned (alcohol) and polished (using a compound) the CPU top and the heat sink plate. Then I put everything back together, with a dab of fresh thermal compound between the CPU and the heat sink. Works well, if you can find the instructions for your computer on Youtube, doing this may give your PC or notebook new life. If your system slows down, this can easily be caused by overheating - CPUs and motherboards "clock down" when they get too hot. If your system slows and the fan runs at speed, you don't have a virus - you've got dust, and that's easily remedied. Fresh thermal compound and some manual scrubbing helps too, if done carefully. Make sure your hard disk is defragged, tools are in Windows, and make sure your hard disk isn't over 70% full, because the combination of a fragmented drive and too much data can really mess your system up, and help make it overheat, and slow down.

August 6, 2019: More Cooking

Keywords: induction cooking, induction heating, Housmile, rice cooker, soto ayam, El Paso, Dayton, gun laws, mental illness
Watching some lunatic assault, apparently without reason, a traffic warden in downtown Seattle, at one point ripping the sunroof off someone else's car (damage, to roof and windshield of a brand new Tesla: $10,000) and using that to beat on the warden... There is a lot of random violence going on. In this case, the saving grace was that a number of bystanders jumped the perp and held him for police. Now that everybody has an HD camera in their phone these "events" are on the TV news about five minutes later.

Speaking of lunatics, as I put this entry together, two mass shootings "occur": El Paso, and Dayton, OH. The mind boggles - how do these shooters get to the point they take large numbers of lives, without achieving anything, and either ending their own lives, or being incarcerated for the rest of theirs? What's the purpose?

If you've partaken of some of the televised discussions about "gun control" in the United States, let me say this: whatever laws you might think can be introduced, there are, as of the end of 2017, some 394 million firearms in civilian hands in the United States. Some are licensed, many are not - licensing of a private firearm isn't required in large parts of the USA. So whatever rules could be applied to gun sales, there are just under 400 million guns that will not be affected by those rules. If you actually think that the 250 million American gun owners are going to go to the local precinct and register their guns, your brain has just sprung a leak. And most of those guns were actually sold legally, either after a background check, or a permitted transfer. I know that, after gun massacres, both Australia and New Zealand have changed their gun laws, made much gun ownership illegal, and enforced registration of existing guns, but you need to understand both of those countries have small populations, with good law enforcement and good civil administration.

It would be possible to do those things in the USA, but the cost would be prohibitive, and large groups in the population would actively resist - "civil liberties" and all that. What I think we must look at, and tackle (and this too is an existing discussion that has not, so far, gone anywhere) mental illness. I think we should come to an agreement that many people think they can legitimately be in control of another person't life, they somehow have that right - all you need to do is look at the number of parents who mandate their children's religion, and you know something is perceptually wrong with the way we treat one another. I think that if someone is sufficiently deranged to feel they have the right to take another person's life to make a point, they are off the rails, and unable to "return to normal". The El Paso shooter gave himself up - being a Texan in Texas, he knows he's going to be fried, why wait for that?

I don't know that the connection has been made, clearly, but if we were to instigate some kind of universal health care, where kids could go and get physical and mental care free of charge (which would need their parents to be involved), we might be able to prevent some of these "derailments".

Housmile soto ayam I bought this induction "multi-cooker" despite the fact that I own a perfectly good pressure cooker, made by NuWave especially for use on induction cooktops. That's done well, although I have largely only used it for cooking rice, after I figured out the right mix, quantities, timing and pressure settings. As I mentioned, I like induction, because it is safe (very low fire and overheating risk), and doesn't involve heating elements, like rings or infra-red, burned pan bottoms, and "local" hot spots. The one defining characteristic is that the induction electronics can measure the amount of energy used by the cooking food, and can sense whether or not a compatible cooking pot is used, which none of the other cooking methods do. Wrong pot, the cooker won't turn on. Kid's hand on the plate, the cooker won't turn on. The temperature setting "knows" how much energy is consumed for a given temperature, and cycles on an off once that's reached.

If you're familiar with the Instant Pot, the "hot new" 2017 kitchen implement, that's largely the same device as my Housmile, with one difference: induction. The Instant Pot uses conventional heating elements, which, like gas hobs, cook food by temporarily overheating it. Put a frying pan on a gas hob, turn on the gas, and use an infra-red thermometer to check the temperature of the bottom of the pan, over the gas flame. Folks think that this high temperature, localized, is necessary to cook food, but nothing is further from the truth. The flame locally heats the metal, which then distributes the heat to those areas not covered by the flame - Hold your hand next to the pan, and you can feel how much heat is radiated away, and convected away as heated air. Wasted, in other words. Interestingly, all this probably came about because ancient humans dried clay pottery over an open fire, and discovered that, once cooled, you could put the pot back on the fire, put water or milk or foodstuffs in it, and heat them. The more often you did that, the "hardier" the clay got. But the open woodfire was much less concentrated than a gas burner is, and like electric heating elements, gas flames produce much more localized high heat than you really need to cook. Hence my love for induction cooking - because there is a feedback loop in this technology, an induction cooker produces only as much heat as you need, depending on the setting, and in the case of my new pressure cooker, the feedback loop is fully automated.

I've now tried and succeeded to create a Soto Ayam, an Indonesian chicken soup meal, in the cooker, and have to say its induction technology, together with its automation, produces an absolutely superb result. I prefried the chicken legs (as luck would have it, Fred Meyer had a "twofer" offer this weekend, I ended up with some 11 lbs of chicken legs for just under $10, much of which ended up in the freezer), then combined the ingredients in the cooker. The pre-frying lets you season the chicken bits, while the fat separates out. Dump the fried chicken with the fat (=flavour) in the soup base (mix of chicken broth and water), and once you finish cooking, let the soup cool down in the refrigerator. The fat, having parted with its flavour, will now float to the top, and (overnight) solidify, and you can simply spoon the fat off the soup. Better for your health.

Luckily, there is a local Asian food market which has authentic Indonesian spice mixes and condiments, and so I don't have to create the spice mix "by hand". On the "soup" setting, the Housmile cooker does a great job - gently pre-heating the soto for maybe half an hour, then bringing the pressure cooker up to high (60 lb), and finishing the cooking process in some 50 minutes. Interestingly, both temperature and pressure have indivisual settings - many pressure cooker have only "low" and "high", but this thing is infinitely variable. Once it is done, it'll gently bleed off the pressure, so there's absolutely nothing to do or watch until it warns you it's done.

July 28, 2019: Induction heating is better

Keywords: induction cooking, induction heating, Housmile, rice cooker, HP Elitebook, Intel Core i7, heat sink, thermal compound
Housmile IH pressure cooker The Housmile induction rice cooker I ordered got here, and greatly surprised me! At just under $100, I thought it was suspiciously cheap, and some reviews I found on Amazon (where it isn't on offer any more) only reinforced the doubt (a "normal" induction cooker starts at $250 or $260, and can cost up to $950). But: lo and behold, it came out of the box weighing a lot more than a conventional rice cooker would have done, has a solid steel/cast iron inner cooking pot (rice cookers generally have aluminium or alloy pots, which do not work with induction, which only works with iron based materials) and seemed to have all the electronic innards induction cookers do.

If you've not looked at induction cookers: they use electromagnetic waves to energize an iron based cooking pot, which then warms up, together with its contents. The amount of energy provided to the cooking pot is controlled electronically, and demand based - only the cooking pot warms, and the electronics measure how much energy is being used, for instance by a liquid being heated up. It is a feedback loop, if you will. Turning it on to try its "rice" setting, I was greeted with the fan noise induction cookers normally emanate - as cooking pots radiate some heat back to the induction device, a fan keeps the electronics cool in an induction heater, all under digital control. Long story short, this cooking pot is completely automatic, cooks the most perfect Basmati rice I have ever tasted (not kidding!) in just 28 minutes, and comprises a fully automatic, computer servo controlled, pressure cooker with digital and programmable settings. Amazing, honestly, and well constructed. I can't afford a $300 single purpose cooker, and at $99, this thing is my dream come true (my late wonderful Indonesian grandmother would kill me if I messed up rice). So happy I ordered another, so I can have an affordable spare, should #1 ever expire. Having said that, induction units usually last forever, as they do not generate heat, which, amongst others, makes them very safe, and the electronic controls make them pretty much child proof. This unit even electronically bleeds off the cooking pressure, and won't let you open it until that's done, and shown on the display. I should probably add that induction cooking is far more energy efficient than any other cooking technology, partly explainable because no air or conductive mediums are heated in the process. I just had not expected the pre-programmed rice cycle to be perfect, I guess the Chinese are very perfectionist, and have technology skills they apply to just about anything. My heat pumps and induction cookers all use native Chinese technology - you really ought to go and visit a Wal-Mart in Beijing, you will be amazed at the technologies the Chinese essentially build for themselves, rather than for export. Trust me, take the trip, as I did, learn.

In my previous blog entry I mentioned the CPU processor upgrade I put into my HP Elitebook 2560p - that is working absolutely beautifully, the combination of a faster processor, larger cache, cleaning and polishing of the heat sink, and new thermal compound have quietened that machine significantly, and the fan control is much more responsive to load. So a couple of days ago I did the same to my 2570p, minus the CPU replacement - a new, slightly faster i7 on this machine would set me back some $500, can't really afford that. But the rest of the maintenance had the same effect - quietened the fan, reduced the CPU temperature, and better, more acute, temperature control. Magic.

While I have always done a lot of maintenance on my computers, I don't recall ever routinely disassembling the CPU mount and heat sink, and cleaning all of that with compressed air. Turns out that's a good idea, that and replacing the thermal compound, which I think I'll start doing annually. Especially in the 2570p, the 2TB SSD I recently installed generates much more heat than the previous conventional hard disks, an SSD characteristic I was unaware of. That was part of the reason I googled the CPU thermals, and realized (gamer sites are a Godsend) you can disassemble the CPU mount, clean off and polish the heat transfer surfaces, and "renew" the thermal compound that helps transfer the heat from the CPU to the cooling mechanism. Having done both laptops, kids, that actually works!! Clean the surfaces with rubbing alcohol, polish them with a very fine polishing compound, use fresh new thermal paste (Youtube tells you how to best apply that), and Bob's your uncle.

July 22, 2019: Computer cooling research

Keywords: HP Elitebook, Intel Core i7, CPU cooling, CPU replacement, thermal compound, Trump, Congresswomen
Intel Core i7 2620M The CPU replacement in the HP Elitebook went swimmingly. Well, one hopes, it'll take a day or two to figure out whether I correctly did the mount and the thermal compound replacement, which is finicky, to say the least. The small size of my Elitebooks makes working in them hard. Especially the thermal compound - most of the help you get on Youtube involves normal size CPUs, but these mobile Core i5 and i7's are beyond small, and as I had never put thermal compound on a CPU, I really didn't know how much to apply. The only way to find out is to simply do it, and then find out after an evening's run, and a quiet night, if all is well. At least nothing is smoking or smelling... The new CPU, an Intel Core i7 @ 2.7/3.4GHz with a 4MB cache, is approved for this HP, so I should be OK, and I am hoping its extra power will help the laptop run a little cooler. Once this is tested, I'll replace the thermal compound in the other HP, my 2570p., now that I know this is actually a good idea, part of necessary maintenance, and not that big a deal in the HP business notebook, which were designed to easily come apart for maintenance and repair.

summer orchidThe pic to the left has the entire CPU - the die is 1.5 inches square, only the silver bit in the center is the actual CPU, you can imagine the heat generated in the unit, which consumes up to 35 watts of power. Not only does that small size contain the CPU, but a good amount of cache memory, and the GPU, the graphics unit, amazing when you think of it, and the heat output is not surprising. I'll want to test a few more days, but I think the additional CPU speed and cache may well reduce the heat signature, at least that's the way it looks after a day. That's combined, of course, with the new thermal compound, I have no idea how much of an effect that has, but the 2560 runs quieter, first impression, than it did before. Because I had to remove the hard disk, fan, heat sink and CPU to do the install, I was able to thoroughly clean the insides of the unit with compressed air, and retighten the entire assembly. Fingers crossed. I'll try and elaborate, in an upcoming blog entry, about what I have learned about PC maintenance - I thought I knew pretty much everything there was to know, but now that I've paid more attnetion to heat management, I've learned more. Once I redo the cooling system in my 2570p (I did the 2560p, just now) I'll take some pictures of its innards, and maybe even do some video, now that I have my Nikon's self-focusing sorted, and put in a faster memory card, which is what the problem was. Sort of pleased being able to do all this "extra" stuff while I wait, marking time, for my "new" apartment. What's next? Ah, this induction rice cooker, which should be delivered tomorrow, replacing the recently deceased conventional rice cooker.

The orchid to the right is one I bought at the supermarket a couple months ago. A previous orchid died, but this one (which lost its original flowers pretty soon) seems to be holding its own, it grew that flower from scratch. I've more or less ignored the instructions that came with it, bathe and spray it once a week, add some plant food to the water I bathe it in, and after an hour drain it and put it back on its high shelf, where it gets some moderate filtered sun in the afternoon. That flower has been there for over a month now, we'll see how it does.

Actually, Mr. Trump, I think this country has done better with people unhappy with the status quo, people who then made changes, worked for improvement. Those Congresswomen who try to effect change were elected to do that, they are where they are to "Make America great again". And they aren't under any obligation to "be happy" with the mess you're creating. I personally could have "gone home" when the terrorists attacked the World Trade Center, flew fully fueled airplanes into the buildings across from my office, but I did my job and fixed what they broke, both in New York and in Virginia. Didn't see you there, and no, those were not happy days, it was personal for me. I think when we get the bill for your presidency we'll be truly, massively, unhappy. And, Mr. Trump, do remember you're an old guy, surrounded by old guys, and these Congresswomen are the new generation. They will be running this country, not you and your blondes, and I kinda like they make their own rules. It is an almost automatic response to "Trumpism" - you break the rules, so can everybody else, and the young ones have tricks you've never even heard of. It is what you created.

July 18, 2019: Waiting it out

Keywords: expenses, slow going, rice cooker, Trump, Rapinoe, ticker tape, long cool summer
summer rose If my lack of frequent blog entries would lead you to think nothing's going on, you'd be right. I am trying to absolutely minimize my outgoings, so that I'll have enough savings by the time SHA allocates an apartment, and can buy everything I need. I was OK by the end of last year, but then my rent went up, so I am somewhat stagnant. Stagnant, but, for now, OK. Expenses did go up, as well, medical bills somehow went up, I have had to switch (permanently) to more expensive contact lenses, all in all spending just a little more so I can't save more. My financial software tells me how I am doing, budget wise, and it looks like I am breaking even, just. That's cool, I have sufficient savings to move and buy some needed furniture, so no need to fret, although I don't know hwat my future rent will be, and what the monthly bills will be like. Worst case, I am going to have to let the SUV go, there is always that option.

Always niggly little bits, too - my rice cooker packed up, so I shopped for a replacement - although I don't really need an "automatic" rice cooker, I can create the most wonderful Basmati in my pressure cooker. And I did worse - I have often longingly looked at the Korean and Japanese induction multi-cookers, mostly based on rice cooker technology that those perfectionists are famous for. Thing is, those cookers cost between $300 and $900, give or take a dime, and I just can't afford that kind of money for a rice cooker. Induction, which doesn't use a "heat" source as such, cooks thing much more gently, uses far less energy, and has a much improved fire risk, being without heat elements, and fitted with a cooling system for the electronics. I've actually been cooking on induction only, since the flatmates moved out, and the builders, with my consent, removed the filthy electric element cooker that was in the kitchen. Anyway, I scoured the internet, and to my delight found a much cheaper induction rice cooker, with multi-cooker capability, so am just waiting for that to be delivered, will tell you all about it once I can start experimenting with it.

No, nothing special, just a budding rose in the back yard. I had been having problems getting my Nikon SLR to focus properly, but as it turns out when I use the rearview LCD it actually micro-focuses using the lens focusing motor (if so equipped) as well as the housing focus. I'd never quite gotten that to work properly, and that probably simply was my impatience. It isn't clear to me why, with some lenses, the camera uses two focus automations, but I understand now why that is better than the manual focus, which isn't as accurate. Now I need to try doing this with my other lens, which doesn't have a built-in focus. I think the focus here, considering this is an aftermarket 70-300 Sigma DG lens I think I bought rather cheaply from a huge bin at a Kaufhof in Munich, all those years ago. Chasing Esther, I was, in Bavaria, before she had enough of Germany and returned to her native South Africa. No tits, but lots of spunk...

That was funny, President Trump behind that rain soaked security screen during his July 4th talk. Like much else in this presidency, it gave a tear streaked impression, not at all the face he wanted to show, I am sure. And yes, you can't have tanks with combat treads on the National Mall. In the olden days, tanks had special "soft" treads if they needed to drive on highways - I remember this from Germany, where there were vast columns of American armour. They had their own speed limits, in mph, on small yellow roadside signs, too, or they'd rip up the Autobahn, their speedometers not having kilothings on them.

Unusual to see women's soccer get such attention, when I lived in soccer land the wimmins' variety was never talked about, or shown much. I mean, it is brilliant that is now happening, I was just a bit taken aback to see the final in Lyons broadcast integrally at (here) 8am. Not in HD though, but I watched it on the BBC. The Dutch team did well (I mean, how can you not say that when they make it to the finals?), but I think they need some of the men's teams coaches and training to get to where the US is today. The other unusual thing is that soccer never was a thing, here, though popular at school and in the Hispanic communities, so the see the women take such a popular position is interesting, and good for them. Ticker tape down Broadway on Wednesday? Superb!! The world did change - a pink haired lesbian the nation's darling, and publicly telling off the realtor in the White House....

July 4, 2019: Happy Fourth, one and all!

Keywords: travel wishes, seafood, healthy food, Windows 10 Pro, Windows update, eSATA ports, USB3 ports, native interfaces
Cheap frozen fish Gosh, I'd love to travel again - the reason I am holding back is that I've got to get my move done before I do (=spend) anything else. I'm doing OK on that score, but I'll be happier once the move is done and I can top up my savings again (I hope, what with a higher rent..) and go see some relatives in Europe. Or Australia. We'll see.

The pic to the left has some seafood - I am pretty much a meat-eater - no problem with fish, but I just can't afford my favourite, sashimi, generally imbibed in restaurants. So once they built this Winco supermarket in driving distance, I discovered affordable frozen tuna (delicious raw!), and I am progressing to frozen shrimp now. Cooking on my own kitchen equipment, now that the housemates have moved, I can experiment a bit. Reason for diet changes is that I've had an unpleasant bout with constipation a couple of time, over the past six months, something I never used to have. With some medication changes, I might as well make some dietary changes, especially since some of the more expensive stuff is actually affordable at Winco. How that will pan out once I move to Seattle I don't know, that's an expensive place to shop, the cheapo supermarkets are in the suburbs, not in the city, and certainly not where the Housing Authority is planning to put me. I may end up coming up here a couple of times a month, to get cheap stocks. And I need to check Amazon's groceries, as where I will be living they deliver everything, including perishables.

The latest update to Windows 10 installs a 8GB virtual disk on your hard disk, or, at least, reserves 8GB of disk space for Microsoft. It is virtually impossible to remove or deactivate, and as it turns out, Microsoft created this "device" because many Windows 10 users had their systems go way South when updating, simply because their hard disks were more or less maxed out, and the update process didn't make sure there was enough available space for the installer code. You may recall, last year, the bad press Microsoft got for crippling tens of thousands (if not more) of Windows systems. Well, I guess this is how they fixed it. In itself not a bad idea, though you would think Microsoft would be able to have the updater check available disk space - I have more than a terabyte available, so don't need this kluge. Having said that, it is a failsafe, just a messy one. It remind me of what we used to do with systems back in the 80's - if they weren't always well behaved we'd piut some code in that rebooted them every day at midnight, done and dusted. Just don't let Microsoft tell you it has "intelligence" in its operating systems, because if it did, these types of kluges would never have had to be thought of. Honest.

I have a large (in capacity) hard disk hanging off the back off my "main" laptop, on which I back up, using a script, my main operational archives, kind off all of the files that I want to retain. That way, I can wipe a lot of drivel I don't think I need any more, without losing it altogether. The only drawback, if that is what it is, is that you need large (2TB, in practice) drives for both primary and backup, until the backup fills up, at which point I hope they make larger 2.5 inch laptop drives. There are some today, but they're thicker than normal, and prohibitively expensive. Anyway, long story short, I have port replicators for both of my laptops, and that meant I could connect the secondary drive to one of the USB3 ports. That's plenty fast, but I would have liked to connect it to the eSATA port, where it would become one of the "local" drives, directly on the computer's bus, and file transfers wouldn't have to go through the shared USB ports, which I otherwise only use for a graphics adapter. Only today did I think to check the port replicator, and sure enough, there is a secondary eSATA port on there! How stupid am I? Anyway, that lets me connect, using a special cable, the hard drive directly to the bus, and power it from a USB port, which makes it pretty fast (3GB/sec), not a "secondary" device, and located out of the way behind the port device.

June 23, 2019: Things can be fixed, it seems

Keywords: HP Elitebook, air conditioning, heat pump, Intel CPU, plastics, recycling
operational heat pump Go back to where plastics took off, coffee filters, plastic foil, plastic bottles, and you should soon come to the conclusion that we might have solved the waste problem then, but certainly can't do so now. The wholesale production of plastic products effectively was triggered by WWII, when the volumes of war machines and utensils caused engineering solutions that enabled mass production. Recent reporting has shown that a large volume of plastic waste in the oceans dates back to the 1950's and 1960's, and does not decay. While I'll admit the problem is only getting larger, none of the "solutions" being bandied about do anything to remove the existing waste, and I personally do not believe efforts to reduce waste production have much effect, as the majority of the earth's population can't afford to switch the cheap materials we've addicted them to. In the tropics, people can now drink healthy water because it has been pasteurized, and remains so in the plastic bottle, and in the tropics, nobody is going to walk in the stifling heat to return empty bottles to the store, when kids on mopeds deliver the bottles to the consumers (and don't get paid, and can't afford the gas, to take back the empties). We're talking about kids who buy their gasoline by the half liter, as they need it.

As I apparently can swap the CPU on both of my HP laptops, I decided, as I need to dismantle the heat sink to replace the thermal paste anyway, to replace the Intel i5 CPU in my 2560p Elitebook with a faster (2.7/3.4GHz) i7 with a larger cache, which HP lists as compatible. Strictly necessary it ain't, but I can learn from it, and as the 2560 sometimes runs very hot when recording HD broadcast video, the combination of a faster processor with fresh thermal compound my have a benefit. It's been a very long time since I last replaced a CPU, so good practice, and I've replaced everything else that is replaceable and may affect performance, such as hard disk memory and cooling fan. The disk in the 2560p is now a Seagate Hybrid, i.e., a combination silicon / platter based drive, which works very well. A "true" SDD might make the 2560 run faster still, but as I discovered with my other laptop, a silicon hard disk can run much hotter than a conventional disk. As the 2560 isn't essential to my daily operations, it is worth running that experiment. If it works OK, I may do the same to the 2570.

I've finally figured out there's nothing wrong with either of my heatpumps. I bought them both reconditioned, but the first one I bought was not always kicking in its heating cycle, or so I thought, especially when the second one I bought did better. Turns out the two (otherwise identical) heat pumps have different firmware, and so function differently. The "original" if you will, needs to run a double cycle to reset from cooling to heating, the newer one does not, but they both work fine. It was, mostly, me being impatient, and not letting it simply complete its cycle. Duh. At least I won't have to get another, as I had been worrying. Amazing units, if a bit noisy, but cheap to run, and powerful.

June 15, 2019: Tools and Utilities

Keywords: Windows 10 Pro, HP Elitebook, Roomba, Pyle USA, robotic vacuum, SSD, air conditioning
So if you take out an auto policy with the Hartford, you won't get dropped if you have an accident, and as you are required to be an AARP member, they will help you enroll. Well, uh, insurers don't normally drop you if you have an accident, unless you did something really bad, they only raise your rate. And I don't hear anything in there that says "We save you money" - because the AARP has a membership fee, and in the few years I had a membership, there wasn't anything the AARP offers that benefits me. It's just an organization that sells your information to other companies, which then try to sell other things to you. So no Hartford for me...

Pyle USA Robovac Back in my large house in Virginia, I used to have Roombas to help me vacuum, in addition to a regular vacuum cleaner for the more intense work. Now that I am heading for an apartment, I thought something like that might be a good idea, but when I looked at the prices I had second thoughts. Reading reviews, I noticed that even a $1,000(!!) Roomba still has the same problems they always did - the rotating brushes get clogged easily, need endless cleaning, and you really can't run these things unattended, because they will occasionally get stuck, and, AI or not, they're not sufficiently intelligent to figure out how to liberate themselves, so the "unattended" vac job isn't. The more complicated (read: expen$ive) Roombas and like contraptions tend to clog themselves up by sucking dust and hair and particles through their mechanisms and bearings, the end result being you have to spend hours cleaning the self same mechanisms. So: I decided to stick with simple, stupid. I've ended up with a refurbished Pyle robotic vacuum without the horizontal rotating brush - it just rotates two side brushes, and quite powerfully sucks air through a filter bin with a fine maze, that does not clog, and that air then cools the batteries on its way out. Its dust- and small particle uptake is pretty amazing. It runs for an hour, uses various different rotations, and takes four hours to charge. Refurbished, these units looked and behaved brand new, came with spare filters and side brushes, and at $46, I bought two. That gives me a double set of spares, an extra battery, an extra dust receptacle, and a spare unit. If you ever come across something you need, and find it cheap and refurbished (like a vacuum, or an espresso maker), buy two. There is nothing worse than an appliance you bought in the sale, that breaks, and then you find out a replacement is going to set you back four times as much. Same with my two heat pumps - found one refurbished, for some 40% off, tested, quickly bought another. Many of these refurbished things are actually new, and were returned by a buyer who never used them. If they're damaged, you can always (at least with Ebay and Amazon) return them for refund.

Done. All three PCs / laptops updated with Windows 10's latest - because of the number of updates triggered by the update, and the slow speed with which this all happens, my old Vaio took some six hours to do - this after turning off all boot security, passwords, screen savers, what have you, because if you don't do that
a) the update will fail; or
b) you have to sit there to manage the repeated boots
Turn it all off and it takes care of itself, and at the end of the road all you have to do is to put your settings back. As I mentioned earlier, doing this install from disk, which involves burning a DVD using an ISO file Microsoft makes available, using an application, works fine, I am just amazed I have had to do that for at least three years, as, in my case, the online "big" update always fails, without any indication why.

Speaking of updating, I discovered the other day that SSD's, solid state drives, run significantly hotter than do conventional or even hybrid drives. One commenter mentioned a large disk transfer failed due to over-temperature, and while cloning my "old" drive to the SSD I noticed that my SSD was pretty much cooking, like close to 80 degrees centigrade. So while the cloning software says you can use your system during the cloning process, you may be better off not to. My two SSD's (ADATA and Intel) both came with management software, so I was able to keep an eye on things. As you never know where the threshold is, better be safe than sorry.

In the interim, the hot weather has subsided, so I now have an opportunity to test my heat pumps, in that I have turned off the gas central heating, and am heating the entire house with two 14K BTU portable heat pumps. I had really never had a chance to test the heating cycle, as I had been sharing this house until the beginning of the year, but being on my own, until my Seattle apartment becomes available, I have started preparing for apartment life. The builders have finished the indoors stuff they started on when my landlord and his wife moved out, so I have a chance to do more preparing, having packed much of my gear in the past month, ready to roll. There were some household things I needed to buy and/or unpack and test, as my landlord took (by agreement, I needed to buy this stuff anyway) his kitchen things, cutlery, pots, pans, stuff, so I have had some (planned for) expenditures, from a vacuum cleaner to additional vents for the heat pumps, and I managed to get some cheap 20 gallon storage totes at Home Depot, as I was shopping for those an entire pallet of half-off leftovers with lids came in, so I was able to snarf five, rather than the four I had budget for. With two large sea chests with wheels, and a bunch of large boxes, I have (I hope...) more storage than I need, for the move, having packed three quarters of my stuff already. I don't know I've ever been ready this early for a move - did pretty good when I moved from Amsterdam to London, but then I had help.

June 5, 2019: Windows and Blu-Ray

Keywords: Windows 10 Pro, Blu-Ray, HP Elitebook, ISO DVD, heat sink paste, CPU temperature
Windows decided to do its big annual Windows 10 update something like seconds after I finished installing the BD drive I tell you about below, and as has been the case the past three or four years(!), the online update fails. In this case there was no error message, not even an announcement, and when I ran the troubleshooter the error code was not listed at Microsoft, and there wasn't an error found anyway. As I had done the previous times, I had to run the Media Creation Tool, an offline update tool, create an ISO file (which makes a bootable disk able to do a "clean" install), put that on a DVD (so the new BD drive came in handy, I'd had to use an external drive before), and then run it from the Windows desktop. As has been the case before, I needed to tell the installer not to run any online updates before the install, and off it went, for an hour or so. I've just finished reversing the various settings Windows changed, mostly "new" functions that get turned on to help Microsoft collect data, and I just noticed the updates to the update completed too, so now I have to abort my backup and reboot the machine. At least I have the ISO disk, so I can do my other PCs manually. And it is working, I guess, hopefully that will still be the case with the "update updates". Finish the backup tomorrow.

One additional laptop repair I had postponed was a non-working internal CD/DVD writer, which I was not sure was broken. I couldn't boot from it, but there were no errors, and the Windows troubleshooter couldn't figure it out. So I gambled, and ordered a Blu-Ray drive from China, as I had been having a hard time playing Blu-Ray disks with one of my external BD drives - writing went fine. I guess I got lucky, because other than a struggle with transplanting the bezel, which is laptop model specific, the drive went right in, one screw and a bracket and Bob's your uncle. After traipsing through my Videolan install, and reinstalling all Blu-Ray libraries, my test movies (Ender's Game and Wallace & Grommit) ran like the clappers. Brilliant. The drive cost $76, and even though the Chinese said it would take four weeks or so, it only took a week. There were several cheaper offers on Ebay, but this was the only that specifically mentioned compatibility with the Elitebook 2570p, which I thought was the safest way to go. I don't use the BD/DVD/CD drive that much, but to have it to boot from if I have to recover a disk or OS failure is a boon. Windows is, by now copy protected to the point that I've even had a restore fail, because the recovery software didn't recognize all drives...

Having replaced the fans in both laptops, and installed an SSD in my "main machine", all I need to do now is replace the CPU heat sink paste, which helps transfer heat to the cooling system. I came across a mention on Youtube - didn't even know you could do that, kinda makes sense that that would break down over time, especially in a small fast laptop, which, with the new fast SSD, is really clocking up the cycles. Live and learn. As I understand I need to completely remove the old paste, then apply fresh, etc, I think I'll try this on the 2560p first, which is essentially my spare, which I can fix if I screw up.

May 28, 2019: Spring into life

Keywords: stomach trouble, Seattle Housing Authority, Car2Go, Theresa May, Brexit, child abuse
(Unusually) felled by a stomach bug for a week, it looks like I would do well to review my diet, and change my eating habits. It looks like I eliminated so much "bad" stuff from my diet - sugar, fat, processed meats, processed mixed oils, yada - that I ended up with an abundance of other bad stuff. I have no real idea why my tummy acted up, but it's the second time this year, and my bi-annual blood tests were all clean, so it is unlikely it's a "real condition". So I'll try the light stuff, probiotics, white bread, eliminate the meat and beans, white chicken maybe, see how we do. I had originally intended to go back to the gym as of today, not having worked out since May 18, but I think I'll start with a couple of days walking instead, before restarting gym visits. Ease back in, so to speak, lost about six pounds, which doesn't make me unhappy. Maybe I can keep the weight below 190, with the new diet.

House in flux The Housing Authority is truly in motion - after my April intake interview, last week they pulled my credit report, and a few days ago called my landlord for a reference. I don't know why that makes me anxious, I've cleaned up my credit report to perfection, and things are hunky-dory with my landlord and -lady, especially since they recently moved to their other home, and I am more or less living in a construction zone - which I don't mind. At least the place won't get burgled, which happens frequently in empty homes being refurbished. Anyway, wheels in motion - and friends and neighbours all comment that the Seattle neighbourhood I'll be living is a wonderful upscale safe area. When I submitted my choices for residence to SHA I predominantly concentrated on being able to grab Car2Go vehicles in walking distance - this will enable me to eventually let go of my SUV, not replace it, and save money, the car costs me (including the original 2006 purchase) some $300 per month, and using Car2Go there won't be any "base charges", so hopefully it'll be cheaper, and I will have more cost control. The apartment will make my monthly cost go up, so I need to save all I can.

I think Theresa May should have know several cycles ago her Brexit deal was never going to happen - it seems to be generally forgotten May was chosen as PM, she was never elected. And if you're not elected, you don't have that voter support mechanism. When I saw her fly back and forth to Brussels, month after month, it became clear she is not of this era, she doesn't negotiate using her smartphone and Skype, instead wasting millions of pounds on totally unnecessary travel and dinner meetings and endless security. In the business world, we started using new communication technologies twenty-five years ago, to replace meetings and travel - Mrs. May, clearly, is a dinosaur, and thus never stood a chance. She, sadly, can't claim to have "served the country I love" - she brought the place to an almost complete standstill in just a few years. The delay itself will be very very costly, not to speak of the consequences.

By the way, I just noticed folks in New York with billboards that state "It's a parent's right to choose" - it really is not. A parent does not own their child, to do with as they wish. Just because you have some weird idea about vaccines, does not mean you are at liberty to disable or kill your child! Yourself, arguably, but a child is not property, it is not a pet, and if your not a medical scientist you are not qualified to draw medical conclusions, any more than you can approve construction drawings for a house. It is a hot button item, parents generally seem to think they can inflict their religion on their kids too, it is an issue. Perhaps we should make "parental rights" something parents need to earn, as their parenting skills are tested and assessed. Inflicting measles and mumps on innocent children should never have been part of the permissions.

May 20, 2019: Improving vi$ion and $peed

Keywords: contact lenses, daily wear, Bitlocker, SSD, silicon drive, move, packing, eye inflammation, immune system
After months of trying different contact lenses, multiple optometrist visits, comments from my rheumatologist (the condition I have can effect some soft tissue, like heart valves and eyes), and finally a visit to the ophtalmologist, the verdict is in: no more extended wear lenses. I think I've been wearing those since the 1980s, and interestingly, it's been the insides of my eyelids (first one, then the other) that no longer tolerate the continuous wear well - the eyeball itself is not affected. So now I have to get used to daily wear lenses, which is an entirely different "experience" - after some testing, I've stopped for several weeks, and now have my first "full" order of "dailies". I think it may well take a month for my eyes to settle down to different vision correction, not to mention non-continuous wear.Bausch & Lomb My new lenses - a Bausch & Lomb product called "Biotrue" - are thinner and more flexible than my extended wear lenses, so I hardly notice them. I tried Acuvue lenses first, but they were so thin and "floppy" I had difficulty putting them in, which is not good from a hygiene perspecitive, a lens coming back out and having to be re-inserted. So I am glad I tried various different brands, before settling on the Bausch & Lomb variety. Rather than test with a few weeks of my optometrist's samples, I've actually bought a 90 day supply, if after a month or so they don't "work right", I'll head back to the optometrist, and try something different.

I have more or less finished packing for my move, insofar as I can, without having a date, the rest should be done in a day or so, as and when, plenty of empty chests and boxes. When I do get an apartment, I'll need to wait for furniture to arrive - I've got the wish lists all set up, so all I need to do is pull the trigger, order internet, and put in the alarm system.

I've plucked up the courage to Bitlocker encrypt my boot drive on the Elitebook - the 2TB ADATA Solid State Disk (SSD) I put in (see March 5, below) works amazingly well, and while backing up, this morning, using Windows' image backup tool, I found it transferred 400GB or so in under ten minutes - unheard of, that normally takes 30 minutes to an hour from a regular hard disk, but this is something else. And so I thought I might as well set that up for Bitlocker, a Microsoft encryption tool I have been using on my Toshiba with Intel SSD boot drive for a year or so. Never a problem, so why not, I thought, and it is running now. Scary shit, on your main machine... the only problem is that the SSD is running hot, so I've had to stop using the laptop for other things, I was streaming video, and the drive reported a temperature of 68 degrees Celsius, when the specs state 70 is the max. 2TB of silicon is a lot to reformat, and the cooling inside the laptop is primarily controlled by the CPU temperature, I don't know if a hot running disk will crank up the fan. There is, after all, a lot of processing power going on in that small footprint. Stopping the video stream helped, it is down to 60 degrees, better be careful, after all, this is silicon, therefore really fast, and 2TB is a lot of cells.

Not that bad - it took about six hours to encrypt the entire 2TB drive, and - at least on this HP Elitebook with a TPM (Trusted Platform Module) chip, boot and run are completely transparent, the system logs itself in. Is the added security that important? Probably not, although it is nice to know nobody can now ever access my financial and other confidential data, but I wanted to see how well Bitlocker works, on a large solid state disk, and what the effect on processing power is. I guess my next backup will tell me how good or bad Bitlocker is. Important is not to use a third party application, but something Microsoft has built into Windows, and therefore will likely continue to support for a long time. My nightmare is always that a vendor stops doing what they're doing, or goes belly-up, and you terrific tool is no longer supported, or worse, stops working. It's happened.. Microsoft's lawyers know you really can't stop providing a service that has been integrated into your main product. I did not want to add processing load to a traditional hard disk, but with an SSD there's really no "load", in terms of electro-mechanical actions that cause additional wear, even though the read/write heads on a drive float on a cushion of gas - that still causes some friction, none of which applies to SSD electronics - so far, so good, happy.

May 4, 2019: Any day now?

Keywords: Housing Authority, HP Elitebook, computer maintenance, CPU cooling fans,moving
Quicker than I expected, my next Housing interview was called, mostly consisting of Federal questionnaires, and bank statement review, as HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) subsidized housing requires. While that does not in any way give me a timeframe, I received an apartment building assignation during the same interview, something I had not expected yet, especially since the preceding presentation had it that wouuldn't be until later!? Don't look a gift horse in the mouth - it would be wonderful if that means my apartment will be granted soon, though I do understand discrimination rules prevent SHA from making prognoses. At least this is a seniors development, which means I can't get pipped at the post by a family of refugees - no such thing in senior developments. So I probably should relax and count my lucky stars. One bedroom, too, so that's brilliant.

In the meantime, I have largely finished making packing preparations - partly, I've packed the clothes I don't really need, secondly, I'd brought out the suitcases and storage boxes and plastic totes I either already had, or just bought, been lucky with those things. What's been packed has been labeled, and I bought another two travel chests, as the three I have are pretty much full up. Only for one heatpump I have no packing material, so that will have to come "as is", wrapped in blankets. I am still using that as auxiliary heating, anyway.

At the same time, I am doing some computer maintenance - after replacing the hard drive in my fastest laptop, the fan began to make noises during startup, so I ended up ordering a replacement fan from China, as I was not in a rush, and they were cheap - $8.70 for an OEM fan. That works great, and now I am, after moving the load on my big (2TB) disks from the regular drive to a hybrid drive, doing a full wipe on the original laptop drive, and am now cloning the SSD load to that drive, as a backup. Seagate lets you do that, if one of the two drives connected to your PC is a Seagate product, you can install and use their (free!) Discwizard, which contains Acronis cloning software. Once cloned, should anything happen with your installed drive, you can install the clone and boot from it, and it will have the same Windows key your original installation did. I am still fussy about the SSD, as I have had some bad experiences with them - one reason why I replaced the fan, and keep an eye on the internal temperature.

I am just hoping I can keep those two HP notebooks going through my move, because I am spending a fair amount of money to prepare for the apartment, and if I need to replace one of my laptops it'll be more than I can afford. From the look of it, my future rent will be at the top end of what I can handle - though I was told they may take my significant medical expenses into account - and anything I hadn't budgeted for is going to be a problem. All it needs is a small mistake.. I can see my savings shrink already - that's OK, that is what they're for, but it just makes me nervous, if you know what I mean.

April 17, 2019: World in turmoil, kinda sorta

Keywords: Notre Dame, Assange, packing
There are just a couple of things I don't understand about Julian Assange. First of all, a number of his supporters and "friends" signed on for his bail money. When he failed bail, the judge eventually made those folks forfeit a total of Ł93,500. I've never heard a word about this, apparently this is OK for him to do? And secondly, however strongly someone may feel about their principles, isn't it a bit insane to lock yourself in an apartment in Knightsbridge for seven years? Even if he had been summarily extradited to the United States, which wasn't all that likely, he'd probably have spent seven years in jail there. The only difference would have been that he'd not have had a cat in a Federal Penitentiary. To me, this man is an egomaniac on a path to self destruction. Manning served her time, Snowden buried himself in Russia, and this guy now bit the hand that fed him - hard. No, you can't publish stolen documents and think you'll get away with it. Americans, in particular, stay on your ass when you wrong them - forever, if that is what it takes.

Although I've not even had my final housing interview yet, I have - hesitatingly - started packing. And in the process, I realize I brought a lot of clothes up here from Virginia that I don't really need. Apart from anything else, quite a few no longer fit, and additional to that, I am unlikely to get a new position in the corporate world, where, especially in the Seattle area, the clothes I used on Wall Street and in the Government environment aren't en vogue, up here. So, with some trepidation, I have started sorting them out, and will, tomorrow, get the first batch over to a thrift store, thankfully I am not having to get rid of all of my suits. Funny, though, thinking why I hung on to this stuff for so many years, probably a "what if" thing stuck in my craw from the corporate East Coast. Off with it..

Watching my early morning (US time) BBC news, I suddenly saw a flash of the roof of Notre-Dame de Paris on fire. That's bad, I thought, but not until an hour later did I see announcements flashing up here-and-there, and soon realized that the cathedral was well and truly on fire. Calling my sister, who used to live in Paris, we commiserated, and I found it hard to believe the fire got (clearly) out of hand so quickly. Some of that damage is irrepairable, seeing the photography this morning it is pretty amazing the entire thing didn't collapse. I was there many years ago, but am glad I've at least seen it the way it's been, the past couple of centuries. In hindsight, the fire service have done an amazing job, but I think in future just relying on alerter technology is not enough.

April 6, 2019: Weeks? Months? Please?

Keywords: packing, doctor woes, Boeing, privacy
I was looking for some recent pictures to illustrate this post, but I seem to have not been too active on the camera front. Partly, what I do have is too personal to post - by personal, I mean invading other people's privacy, something I have never done. Even the very pretty wake of cousin Ton I really couldn't show you - I've not asked for permission, but part of that is that I don't think that's my place, a death in the family is such a personal matter, especially for those closest to the deceased. Between that, negotiations with my landlord, builders, and financial matters, there isn't a lot I can post about and not breach someone's confidence. That's a bummer, but I think the days that you plastered your entire life all over Facebook are massively over.

From the look of things, my apartment allocation is getting closer, so I began sorting my things for the eventual move, yesterday, getting boxes out of the loft, that sort of thing. Today, re-sorting, consolidating, labeling boxes, not that I have huge amounts of stuff, but getting ready in time is a good thing. This is all interspersed with my landlord moving much of his stuff out (they physically moved a month or so ago), while the contractors have started redecorating, which thankfully isn't going very fast. If I am lucky, I can move directly from here to the city, which would be great, though there is a backup plan. At least my nightmare, having to move in the middle of a snowy winter, has not come to pass. The way it looks now, I won't even have to hire a truck or trailer, and can just move over a period of time (running out my prepaid last month's rent) using my spaceous SUV-with-the-seats-down.

I order (through my mail order pharmacy) a medication refill, which they normally get a script for from the prescribing physician. The clinic (UW Medicine Shoreline) promptly emails me to say they've issued the script, but won't do that again unless I come in for a doctor visit. Did they previously contact me for an appointment? No. Have physicians at Shoreline seen me for other matters? At least twice, in the past year. I come in annually for the wellness physical my health insurance mandates, something they should slowly be aware of, but mailing me they will not issue a future statin (not a vastly critical drug) presciption unless I do so-and-so? Not in my book. I don't know who these people think they are, but, if nothing else, a doctor cannot refuse medical care unless there is a very good reason. Said doctor not politely communicating with the patient is not a reason, especially since said doctor has access to the medical files provided by the specialists I see twice a year, including all of my tests, at other facilities. I've had previous issues with this particular physician, from unnecessary duplicate tests to chargeable procedures carried out without approval or prior notice.

The Boeing 737 MAX story is beginning to get a bit involved - I am curious how the retrofitted MCAS system could override the pilots' input, if that is indeed what happened. Particularly interesting is to find out why a retrofit correction had to be used, rather than incorporating the correcting in the existing Flight Management Systems. Judging from what I read - but I am no expert - MCAS effectively "killed" the FMS, and permanent pilot override was not an option, with MCAS and the FMS continually contradicting each other. Again, I am no expert, but the 737 first flew in 1967, which makes it one of the older airliner models still in production - has the architecture reached the end of its adaptable life? Were these new engines "one step too far"? This kind of "mistake", if that is what is was, is a very rare one for Boeing. Jury still out, I know, and the stock market shows investor trust in Boeing - a trust I certainly have.

March 28, 2019: Google "Play"?

Keywords: stomach, cramp, global warming, Android, OBD II, vehicle monitor, APK creation

Stomach cramps and associated doctor visits waylayed my activities for a couple of days, and I had forgotten that the then prescribed laxatives have unpleasant effects. Especially the first day, at a high dose. But much better now, thank you, and only annoyed by not being able to go to the gym for a few days. I had intended to walk today, get at least some exercise, but then got over-absorbed by my HP Windows 8.1 laptop acting up. Its fan had been running riot for a week or so, intermittently, so today I spent some time figuring out why. Turns out that, for reasons I do not understand, it was synchronizing external disk mounts to the internal disk - which, as it has a 2 terabyte hybrid disk now, actually works. But the CPU load was huge, and besides, I hadn't set it up to sync, and have no idea why it decided to do that. Thus I had to figure how to turn sync off, which you need to do in two places, and I had one off, and one on. Seems to have worked, so hopefully I won't be woken up by a 747 ramping up in the middle of the night any more. Don't get many of those overhead any more, although there still is the occasional new freighter coming out of the Boeing factory up the road. They still sell them, and refurb the occasional passenger 747 being resold, as well, those fly mostly in Africa and Asia.

Global warming is something you are confronted with every day - walk through a supermarket, look at what is available in terms of food, and you will understand that every supermarket stocks more food than it can sell. Researchers have looked at the food waste, and the problem there is that you can't get supermarkets to have less food on the shelves, because the consumer will - largely - go where the choice is greatest. There may be some nice eco-conscious folk who will be frugal, but take a run through the suburbs, and you see the assortment multiply, because the supermarkets have to work even harder, there, to bring in the trade, to places where you have to drive, you can't walk there. Part of my amazement is that they're adding supermarkets, this in an area where commercial development was at a standstill - within ten minutes' drive, I now have a Safeway, a Sprouts, a Trader Joe's, two QFC's, a Wal-Mart market, two Korean supermarkets, an Indian supermarket, a Hispanic supermarket, and a Fred Meyer. And I may have missed a couple I don't buy at.

I've not paid a lot of attention to Android as an operating system, at least, any more than I have to to be able to use my mobile devices, but the other day, when I replaced my older Galaxy (see February 27), I ran into an app that wouldn't transfer to my new handset. CaroO Pro, a clever vehicle monitoring app that makes your mobile act as a dashcam, as well, is no longer sold or supported. So I spent a week or so trying out some other apps from the Play Store, NONE of which worked. I mean, you'd think there might be one, two maybe, but no. After trying five or six, rejecting those you could not try out a full functionality before buying, I looked if there wasn't as way I could transfer CaroO Pro, but that either doesn't work at all, or it only works if you back up your phone to Google's Cloud, which I will not do out of privacy concerns. In the end, I found something called "APK Installer", which I figured wouldn't work, but which is supposed to turn an Android app into an installable app you can transfer to another handset - and back up to your PC archive drive.

Guess what - that did work, hurray!. CaroO Pro wouldn't run right on an Android Blackberry - which the Blackberry said was due to it having been written for an older version of Android - but it runs perfectly on my old Blü, which I bought reconditioned for not a lot of money, so is easy to dedicate to the car. In fact, the app runs better on the Blü than it did on the Galaxy - and the camera has better resolution, too. I had best repeat that using multiple mobile handsets for different purposes is a very good solution, for the price of an additional line and SIM card it isn't worth not doing it. The "all things to all people" principle that both Samsung and Apple seem to want you to adhere to makes little sense - yes, I can use my primary phone to run my fitness app, but using a cheap refurb, with no connection to my primary "mobile identity", is much more secure, and lessens the risk that some miscreant accesses my data through that app, something that's been a problem for many years. My primary - secure - Blackberry has few of the apps I need occasionally, and everything I know mines data is not on any of my handsets, but accessed through a secure browser on a laptop. I've not seen a targeted ad, on a phone or on a PC, in years.

March 22, 2019: Why is there false news?

Keywords: vegetarian, eye doctor, contact lenses, immigrants, fake news, mass murder, deluded activists, massacres

not vegetarian I am not a huge meat eater, but definitely not a vegetarian either - that young vegan vlogger being caught eating fish, then admitting that her doctors had told her she was destroying her health with her strict vegan diet, and she then continued to pretend she was still vegan. Smart that she listened to her doctors (other vegans will not), not so smart she lied to her followers. Especially a strict vegan who has, inadvertently, discovered her vegan ways were damaging her could do many other deluded folks with that eating disorder a power of good. No, we weren't created vegan, we're omnivore, and animal proteins our metabolism can process and use are a necessity. There are almost weekly reports of vegans almost killing their young children with their adopted diet, and going to jail, but as with fake news, their followers and adopters don't seem to believe those reports. Makes ya wonder, dunnit? The slab of meat on the left was discounted at Fred Meyer, a Kroger store I don't frequent, as they are fairly expensive, but this was a happy exception - over 3 lbs of steak for $12. Freezer is happy, and so is my Sharp multifunction oven, which I am now using again, since the housemates have moved.

Contact lenses are absolutely amazing, so you can probably imagine I was not hugely happy when my rheumatologist sent me to see an ophthalmologist - "just to be on the safe side" - who came to a swift conclusion that my days of wearing contacts 24/7 ("extended wear") are over. Looks like my skin (specifically, the insides of my eyelids) no longer tolerates those things. He also said I ought to consider glasses (the horror!), but if I had to, I should do daily disposables. So I'll head back to my optometrist and, with his help, sort all that out, it is what it is. My eyes are fine, there's no tissue or other damage, but with an impaired immune system it is better not to take risks. Eyes, please do remember, can't be replaced...

I am amazed, and somewhat perturbed, at the number of immigrants I come across, in this blue collar community, who simply don't bother to learn English. They seem to think that for as long as they can say "How much?" at Costco, and have a friend in their ethnic community who can help translate, they're fine. You know the sort of person - you say something to them, and they stare at you with these glazed eyes, unable to even utter the words "Can you explain what you mean?". It is somewhat unforgiveable, in my book - my hairdresser, who is Vietnamese, takes an "English as a second language" course at the local community college, free, something available in most, if not all, communities in the United States.

I am very sorry to have to say that if the good folks in New Zealand really thought they were safe, they were deluded. Terrorism, in all its forms, has spread across the globe, taking decades, but it gets everywhere. I recall leaving my US Air shuttle from New York to Washington on 9/11, seeing the attack on the WTC on one of the monitors in the terminal, and my first thought was "They got here too", remembering the Palestinian and Japanese terrorist attacks in Europe in the 1970s, when I was living there. The U.S. government had not felt it necessary to introduce the airport security we Europeans had rolled out across Europe after some lethal hijackings. The assassins could just board the aircraft, knives and all.

New Zealand was one of the last places that had not been hit with extremism, and I would begin by finding out who in New Zealand government fell down on the job. There has been plenty of terrorism in their neighbourhood, Australia and Indonesia, and it was only a matter of time until someone attacked New Zealand. I am sorry the prime minister felt it necessary to do this cutesy "having a baby in office" thing, but I am firmly convinced she made a mess of national security. No, it isn't the gun laws, the necessary surveillance of the population was not in place, here was an foreign extremist whose social media profile should have put him under surveillance, and someone in law enforcement must take responsibility for not taking a close look at a foreigner stockpiling guns. He knew he could, filed and got licenses, and a national security apparatus that doesn't even slightly investigate such a person isn't worthy of the name, it isn't like New Zealand could not hire in the necessary experts, from Israel, from the United States, from France, from Britain, the list is endless. To begin with, Prime Minister Ardern should admit her responsibility, and resign. Her replacement should be well versed in matters military, preferably with a good amount of overseas experience. Sure, change the law all you like, but please remember laws do not make you safe, only well trained people can.

March 16, 2019: Jeez, Spring!

Keywords: ADATA, Seagate, SSD, HP Elitebook, methotrexate, immune system, dashcam, refurbished, mobile phone, Android

spring clean Finally sunny and warm, after a lot of cold, so beginning to clear out my landlord's broken bits is next on the list. I could not bring myself to do this during the cold weather - probably because it is not my priority, and the entire house redecorating project is very much on the long run now. Not that I mind, I am waiting for my SHA apartment, and now in my second stage approval. So helping with the clearing up is a good thing, and yesterday I walked, rather than drove, to the gym, I just didn't want to handle the cold.

I've not run comparative statistics on the SSD I installed, simply because this isn't a statistical excercise, I want to know how the SSD improves the system's overall functioning. I know the thing is fast to the point that an inadvertent mouse click moved an 8GB subdirectory into another subdirectory without any kind of a delay - voom, it was gone. Gone, in that I had no idea where it had absconded to - I was halfway into a recovery operation when a backup ran longer than expected, and I could see where it had moved. No data loss, then, but I'd never seen a large directory move that quickly. Amazing. I was working on a restore from the last backup, that morning, when I realized I hadn't lost the directory, it had just moved, quick as a flash.

In the meantime I am just about done with my semi-annual round of doctor visits, cancer checkup, loads of blood tests, and even though my doctors are happy, there are some changes to my circulation and heart rate I am not really happy with. They're hard to diagnose, because my thyroid hormone dosage changed at the same time I switched to an injected immune system suppressant, after 20 or so years of biologics. Three months isn't a really good measure of change, and my rheumatologist made reassuring noises about the workout pulse rate. The general consensus is for me to see my GP (which I am scheduled for anyway), and then a cardiologist, just to make sure. No symptoms, though, nobody seems very worried. We upped the methotrexate slightly, hoping that will help with the occasional arthritis discomfort, which sometimes wakes me up. And then the eye specialist, teeth cleaning, and I should do my annual "Wellness" visit, my health insurance folks actually give me a $50 gift card after, can't look a gift horse in the mouth.

In the process of changing my "car phone" - the cellphone I converted to an engine monitor-cum dashcam from an older Samsung to a less old Blackberry - learned an amazing amount of stuff about Android. One thing is that some phone manufacturer versions of Android work differently from other versions, and that 80% of the stuff Google installs on your Android handset has absolutely no function other than to collect your data. When I could not get the HERE WeGo app (the former Nokia GPS app) to run on one of my handsets, I activated Google Maps instead, as I needed a locator right then. That worked (well, I must add) but the installer activated half a dozen other Google apps, including setting all of the permissions to "on", that had absolutely no bearing on locator services. The net consequence would have been that all sorts of Google apps now reported their location, for no reason, and without any purpose. I eventually got HERE to run on another handset, but then spent a laborious hour de-activating the Google crap that had just been re-activated.

Having said that, I have long since turned away from "all things to all people". It is actually a lot cheaper to dedicate different cellphones to different tasks, not even all of them have to be new, either. You just have to spend time to figure out which phone is better at which task, and which phone needs the higest security. My primary is always with me, on my hip when away from home, on my desk when I am in my office, even better now that I have a wireless charging base for it, and that is, for instance, the only handset that has some of my financial provider apps. The handset I normally use for voice calls, for instance, does not have my contacts database, so the call provider can't mine phone numbers and email addresses. When I am not home - when I don't answer my "home phone" - it lives in the car, running engine, GPS and dashcam, using an app that, again, can't retireve any data from the handset, as there isn't any. Greenify turns off any apps I've stopped using - you can stop an app and log out, but that does not mean it is no longer running. That alone makes Greenify very useful - it tells me exactly what's refusing to turn off, and lets me force it off.. Etc.

March 9, 2019: Tempo Doeloe

Keywords: Indië, Ton Aartsen, RIP, family, ALS, death

Ton Aartsen RIP Cousin Ton, in The Netherlands, somehow contracted ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease, and that killed him, unfortunately, in fairly short order. The family hoped he would hang in there for a while, deteriorating, but busy with a new exhibition. Last week, he took a sudden turn for the worse, and decided, together with partner and daughters, that enough was enough. I am quite sad, especially since I didn't get a chance to say goodbye, thinking I'd go over when I could find an affordable air fare. I should have probably gone during his last exhibition, a few weeks ago, when I would have been able to see much of my family, but didn't. Dumb. I sat with Ton's father, Teddy, after his last hart attack, in Jakarta, Indonesia, where the old colonial Navy pilot had retired to, but this time I didn't get the chance, and the money I had been waiting for wasn't available to me until Friday, literally hours before he died. My sister had warned me he was being sedated in palliative care, so I knew what was coming.

Tempo Doeloe, BTW, the headline for this piece, refers to the old colonial Netherlands East Indies, where so many of my relatives lived before WWII and Indonesian independence. Cousin Ton comes from one of those extended "Indo" families, a heritage he shares with many of my other relatives. Curiously enough, the non-colonial side of the family was naval, and ended up stationed in the colonies too. Judging from my Facebook feed, Ton was, in his final months, comforted and cared for amazingly by his partner Ank, and his daughters Flore and Aagje, who were with him, caring and loving, through the very last moments of his life - as I write, he lies in his artist's workshop, behind his partner's shop in Leeuwarden, where he will repose until they take him to his last resting place. Godspeed, cuz.

March 5, 2019: Finally, a bit of computering

Keywords: ADATA, Seagate, SSD, hard disk, terabyte, computing speed, HP Elitebook

While I have a small SSD (Solid State Drive) in the old laptop I've dedicated to managing my monitoring cameras, that doesn't serve an essential function. I tried one of the highly acclaimed larger SSD's a few years ago, and immediately came acropper, with the entire file system self destructing, and nothing recoverable. Crucial, the manufacturer, was absolutely no help, and I kind of decided SSD's weren't ready for the big time. You have to remember I am an old guy, I've seen hard disks self destruct decades ago, but certainly not in the past 20+ years. Drive failures, data loss, sure, but nothing I couldn't recover with the right tools.

ADATA 2TB SU800 SSD So the little Intel drive, originally in an HP Elitebook, has done good service in my Toshiba, after being used extensively in the HP. That gave me the courage to try and find an affordable "full size" laptop SSD. Some due diligence led me to a 2TB Adata SU800, out there for $238. While what reviews I could find were often in favour of more expensive SSD's made by manufacturers who are mostly well known for the volumes they build, the previewers / testers used load of arguments to do with internal architectural drive constructs, such as the number of NAND gates in the design, but there is very little comparative information out there about the effect of an SSD on an integrated system. An SSD provides faster data transport, this is true, but this is hardly the only factor that matters. Windows 10 Pro, for instance, fully recognizes the SSD as such, even after a clone from a regular Seagate drive (kudos to Seagate's free cloning software!) - which reminds me, I need to check what the HP thinks of this drive. Right back..

Yes, indeed, my HP notebooks recognize SSD's, as they should some were originally fitted with them. This is part of the issue with SSD installs - if the PC or notebook isn't "SSD aware", the latter will revert to standard hard disk emulation, which works well, but slows things down. Secondly, the operating system should be SSD aware, older versions of Windows may not have all the bells and whistles - my carefully updated Windows 10 Pro is fully aware, and actually automatically replaces my automatic defragmentation routine with the new "SSD trim". This clears out unused memory on the SSD once a file has been deleted, which otherwise has to be done before a write, which takes time.

So all this stuff works, and we'll see how she holds up in use. An SSD isn't just a faster memory device, you see, its presence inside a PC or PC-architected computer will help with making operation more efficient. An SSD doesn't have electromechanical heads, which have to be moved from data field to data field, for instance - the PC is capable of reading multiple data points at the same time, but an ordinary hard disk can't do that. It can only move one head to one data point at a time, however many heads and platters it has. The latter reduce seek time, that is true, but it is still a (fast) single tasking device. And if the next data point is on another platter at another location, the whole thing needs to move. This takes energy, and costs time. None of that applies to an SSD, and I am hoping that my HP Elitebook will run cooler, and use fewer CPU cycles, I was not primarily concerned with speed, with the HP has plenty of, but it does, especially when ramping up in the morning, crank up the cooling when the CPU rolls over 50% load. An SSD could help here, but I'll need to see, over a period of time. So far, so good.

February 27, 2019: Tidying up, in all ways

Keywords: housing, SHA, IRS, dashcam, Blackberry, medical expenses

It does look like, ahead of moving, I have my finances under control, always depending on what the Seattle Housing Authority will want for rent, how much of my medical expenses they will take into account. We'll see. But I am able to furnish an apartment and move, glad I gave it extra time to save and control cost. I've even found out that changing doctors saved me money - Swedish, probably due to clever coding of their bills, charges me less copay than The Polyclinic does. The latter does not even respond to letters or billing disputes, so I am well pleased I have moved most of my care away from them.

The year is well under way, so to speak - my application with the housing people is being processed, I managed my tax return truly quickly, as the Fed has increased the standard deduction to the point I no longer need to laboriously calculate my medical deduction. Only a couple of years ago you needed to really come up with the gory detail, breaking out lab cost, pharmacy cost, doctor's charges, transportation, and much more, but that, at least for me, is all gone. So the return went off, and was accepted by IRS Fresno in - believe it or not - 20 minutes.

Of course, there's always something that breaks - this time, my Samsung phone, the one I use as dashcam / vehicle monitor in the car, occasionally won't turn on the camera when I start the Caroo Pro app. As that Samsung has been in dashcam use almost every day since February 2016, living in the vehicle in the dead of winter and they height of summer, there really is nothing wrong with it slowly dying, but that means getting a replacement, and I think the Caroo Pro app has disappeared from the Google store, and I doubt the install of a new handset will pull a copy of the app. Only one way to find out, and that was going to happen at some time or other, I suppose.

I had, for some time, wanted to get another refurbished Blackberry Priv, basically as a spare, I like that handset immensely, it works very well, is fast, super camera, excellent hires screen, so why not make the jump now, while they're still affordable around - found one for $150, hopefully it is as artfully refurbished as the vendor says, and as the last one was. Then, I'll have to find a new dashcam / OBD-II monitor app - that'll be interesting, with the Priv's high resolution camera with Schneider Kreuznach lens.. My cellular carrier kindly sent me a free nano-SIM, I guess they're happy with my 19 year custom - it's actually more, but they don't seem to count the predecessor, Voicestream. No matter.

It's been an expensive couple of months - not so much the Holidays, but the rent went up (partly my own doing) and I needed a number of expensive household items due to my landlord moving out, with all their gear. It isn't a big deal, I had a budget for my eventual move to Seattle proper, and those expenses just came a bit early. It is the time of year I need to get all of my medical checkups done, as well, and that is always an expensive excercise, especially since the deductible sits in the beginning of the year. Add to that my car insurance renewal, and you know what I am talking about. All in all, I've managed to clean up my finances, save a little money, albeit slowly, so I really have nothing to complain about. Even so, when I do my taxes, I see I've spent $7,530 on medical expenses, over the year - that's just over $20 a day. And this is with my super duper corporate insurance, which I guess I am lucky to have..

I especially shouldn't complain as I am, to all intents and purposes, housesitting this place - today, finally, months late, a workcrew arrived. Not that I am not paying rent, but it does not look like I am having to move out anytime soon, and I may be able to move to the landlord's new place, if that becomes necessary and this refurbishment is finished.

February 18, 2019: We do not normally have "winter".....

Keywords: snow, heat pumps, cold, 4 wheel drive, gun license, CPL

massively cold I had not anticipated Old Man Winter arriving late - not only is there a foot or so of snow, but it started freezing in earnest - as I write this, 10:30pm, the temperature is down to 18 Fahrenheit, a.k.a. -8 centigrade. That's cold, peeps. I de-snowed the SUV, but wasn't able to completely de-ice the windshield, something I guess I'd better re-commence with the engine running. Thankfully the big V-8 produces copious heat.... (as you can see from the display, it got even colder - 8 Fahrenheit is really cold, like -14 centigrade, with ice underneath the snow). Never did an update for the blog, as endless pictures of masses of snow would surely bore you to death, suffice it to say that over one Sunday, the amount of snow was more than the normal annual snowfall in the region.

I can't tell you how happy I am I got that Durango, all those years ago. With high clearance, with the skid plates that protect the engine and transmission, all wheel drive with high and low gearing, oversize real snowtires, antilock brakes, self locking differential, I've been able to get around and do the necessary, when local friends have, until yesterday, not been able to get any of their cars out of the driveway. I should compliment myself with the maintenance I've done myself, and the overhaul of the cooling system and the A/C that are both working well. I'll probably sell this thing as soon as I move to the city, using Car2Go is likely to save me money in the long run.

While I had really never tested my Edgestar heat pump in real cold, it has no problem producing heat in the house - gone are the days that heat pumps couldn't use air at or below freezing. This particular unit gets its compressor air from outside, so it really is producing some 67 degrees from that 18 degree outside air. From what I paid for these things that is pretty amazing, and clearly, Asian consumer technology is a ways ahead of what we manage here. It isn't that I didn't know this, but proving it is kinda par for the course, and with heat pumps, you can't really test unless you have "real" weather, the electronics only activate heat or cooling with the right ambient temperature. Well, that works.... (that is, down to 8 Fahrenheit, when the compressor could no longer produce sufficient warm air. Good thing to know).

Not a lot else to report, hence the pause between postings - some family stuff going on (back in Europe) that I really can't report on, not without breaching people's privacy, I'd love to be able to go over and visit some of the affected members, fingers crossed. You deal with deaths, the expected and the unexpected, but euthanasia - legal in The Netherlands - isn't something I've ever given a great deal of thought, yet there it is - preplanned, announced, demise.

Now I need to find myself a shooting range, locally, can't really carry a gun and not be proficient with it, haven't shot at a range for quite a while. Especially with monovision contacts, you need to practice, practice, practice. I don't mean I am planning to run around shooting miscreants, but if you do "pack heat" and you end up in a situation you need to draw, you need to be secure. Besides, I meant to adjust the rear sight, and haven't yet done even that. For those who think it is exciting to carry a gun, a couple comments. First of all, there are places that don't allow guns, so you need to check when you go somewhere. I was checking out the new "Sprouts" farmer's market next to my gym, and they have a "no guns" sign on the door. The WA State AG has it there isn't a law that makes that sign valid. While you can stop folks from "Open Carry" - carrying a firearm visibly, legal in many states including Washington, the Concealed Pistol License has been made legal in this state by making it an exception on regular gun laws. Which leads to it being lawful to carry a licensed concealed gun in an airport, but not beyond security, which is under Federal Statute. Same in the Post Office, which is Federal. All I am saying is that there are a thousand rules, and you're expected to know them by heart, and follow them. And then - I'll expand on that at some point in the future - there is the issue of drawing a gun, and using it for self defence. Many of those situations will land you in court, and then it is not up to you whether you could or couldn't.

The whole thing made it clear to me that West Coast states, different from the East Coast, still have some "frontier" elements to them. Many places in the USA you have to go take a gun proficiency course (I actually did when I was an NRA member back in Virginia, and used their HQ range), jump through hoops, have a triple digit security check done and take an oath in court to get a license, which, in some places, can take months, especially if you're not a U.S. citizen. Here - no tests or classes, just fingerprints, FBI check, two weeks (but then I have a clean record in the Nation's Capital, for professional reasons, which not everybody can say). So yes, it's a bit of a Frontier State, and it does feel a bit weird to strap a holster on and go shopping.

February 5, 2019: We were watching other people's winter, but then..

Keywords: thyroid hormone, endocrinology, snow, carry permit, White House, SHA, housing application, HUD, heat pumps

late winter snow 2019 Puget Sound All in all it has been a mild winter, though the weather forecast warns for some "lowland snow" in the next couple of days - I am just a bit cold because of my thyroid medication, of which my endocrinologist increased the dosage. They like to have you take a slight "overdose" of thyroid hormone, this to lower the changes of a wayward leftover cancer cell activating, and starting the thyroid cancer cell growth again. I just follow orders, but the higher dose has effects on circulation and heart rate, and they're not really enjoyable. Then, you just wait until your next blood test, when hopefully the medics will be happier with the numbers, and my circulation can return to some semblance of normalcy. Having your body go through cycles you have no control over, and that as a "normal" state of being, isn't something you ever get used to. It is all well and good to work on fine tuning your medication dosage, but the number of months it takes to arrive at a "stable" reading is never easy, especially since you have to keep doing it.

Ah, there it is. The snow I mean. Amazing - weather forecasters said a couple of days ago there'd be snow Sunday evening, and they were spot on. Surprising especially since we're in a sort of trough, up against the mountains, and sometimes that means we get completely different weather from Seattle proper, which is only 20 miles or so away. The snow you see in the picture fell in about four hours, and then it started freezing, thankfully I don't have to go anywhere tomorrow, did what shopping I needed this morning, and threw in an hour at the gym, hope it melts, we'll see. Should have some time to manage my long delayed gun cleaning, tomorrow, now that I found the gun oil that kind of got lost in the tool kit. And then I need to find a convenient firing range, really the primary reason to get a carry permit in the first place. While Washington State really doesn't require a permit to go to the range, it is easier not to have to worry about carrying a loaded firearm and such - in Virginia, carrying a loaded firearm is legal when you're going to the range, here, it is not, meaning you have to unload and then reload when you're there. Not a big deal, but it is just easier if you don't have to worry about it. So no, I am not one of those packing heat wherever he goes - besides, it is not clear to me, from the Washington State law books, whether you can leave a firearm in an locked, parked car. That is, you can't if you don't have a permit, but I am not clear that you even can if you do.

I've pretty much gotten to the point where I completely ignore any news coming from the White House, or the Fed in general. This is unusual, if you consider how important the gummint was in my work, not to mention having an office in easy reach of said government. But what comes out of the White House today seems have less to do with running the country, than with endless megalomania. I don't recall every seeing such an allergy to negotiating in our leadership.

Not knowing what will happen when is not my favourite state of being, but my number came up with the Housing Authority, so an apartment may be in sight, I rushed the paperwork off to them. I am reeling off the rest of the bucket list, buying some of the stuff I have avoided getting for as long as I didn't need it, and getting my kitchen tools out of hock, now that the housemates have taken theirs to their "new, old" house. Started cooking in earnest, again, too, now that I am in nobody's way in the kitchen, and I should swap out the heat pumps next week, so I know the stored unit heats fine, too. In the interim, I will give the dishwasher a thorough clean - there was black mould in the unit (not caused by yours truly), and repeated cleaning cycles with an antibacterial compound have not completely killed this stuff, which is nothing if not persistent. What I had not done - stupid me - is use the hottest longest cleaning cycle, which, now that I have increased the temperature of the hot water tank, may help. Just did not think of it. Add some bleach....

January 29, 2019: Still catching up

Keywords: Medicare, medication changes, SHA, pistol license, clearing up, back ailments, orthopedic surgery, Andy Murray

No snow in the Puget Sound lowlands, well, as of yet, though there is plenty in the mountains that surround us, and we have persistent night frost, but sunny warm-ish days. I am cold, but I think that is mostly due to medication changes. At a point where I've not walked to the gym, which I normally do, since well before Christmas, but I am compensating by maintaining a two day schedule, and hitting the treadmill instead. Since my workout partner now hardly goes to the gym, and no longer takes walks at all, my schedule is really my own, though I'll be pleased when the weather improves and I can work on my vitamin D again. I don't believe that supplements have the same effect as sunshine - having said that, my skin is no longer as sun-resistant as it once was.

I can only apologize for my tardiness with the blog update - simply too many things to write about, too many things I don't want to publicize, and I am not pushing myself enough to fulfill my promises. Probably procrastinating a bit, or a bit much, but the mail shook me awake this week, with (finally) a Carry Permit, and an application renewal for the Seattle Housing Authority - and that is important, my number is up. So now I have more stuff to do, but a different priority lineup. Then I needed to find an eye doctor, ophtalmologist, and that was not as easy as just calling someone. One ophtalmologist, recommended by my optometrist, didn't answer the phone - on a second attempt, they didn't return the message I left. The receptionist at another office didn't think I was talking to the right specialist, and the fourth I called was just in the process of moving to a different practice. I then managed to talk the practice assistant into checking which of their other M.D.'s had the specialism I was looking for (my rheumatologist had asked me to see and ophtalmologist), and that is how I eventually got an appointment. This is all pretty amazing, considering how overstocked the region is with medical practices, this isn't the first time I am not able to register with a specialist - I think lots of doctors don't like Medicare, and many aren't fully aware there are corporate types like myself who have enhanced insurance plans.

My landlord and his wife have returned from their family affairs, having laid his Father to rest. There is always a higher incidence of deaths in December, though this was unexpected, this soon after their move.

With me alone in the house, I am busy doing stuff I didn't get a chance to do, for one reason or another, and I should get on with clearing some of the broken and no longer needed stuff away to recycling, it's been sitting in the garage for weeks, I just didn't want to load up the SUV in the rain and iffy weather, but the sun is back, so I don't have a real excuse. I am just not very good at waiting and taking things slow.

Reading the reporting about poor tennis pro Andy Murray having to likely can his tennis career due to his hip malfunction, I can say I am sorry for him, but he's had a good innings, stellar career, and he shouldn't stay narrow focused on Wimbledon, or anything that could increase his level of injury. I had decided not to comment on this, but if there is anything I have experience of, it is the skeleton, joints, bone damage, though I am not, and have never been, an athlete. But I've had to look at this on a number of occasions, what medicine to take, whether or not to have reconstructive surgery, which I've done once and declined once, and then when I saw Andy decided to have hip surgery in Australia, I couldn't help but wonder why. As you can read in the linked Guardian article, that type of surgery doesn't normally get an athlete back in the game. I recall my ballerina wife, having surgery on both feet by a world renowned surgeon in Amsterdam - while she recovered sufficiently to get back on "toes", and the stage, she was forever in pain. Lots of people have the lower back surgery I almost did, but never get back to 100% functioning - whatever that is, as none of us get younger. My back is functioning well, but the lumbar region pain slowly gets worse, and it isn't really likely that locking more discs (my ankylosing already did a number on the joints between pelvis and vertebrae) will make the pain go away, I can work out at the gym every other day, lift weights, stuff, so there likely is not a lot that can be achieved surgically. It isn't broken, if you like, and so there isn't a lot to really fix.

January 7, 2019: Shopping, moving, changing

Keywords: cleaning, chemotherapy, Medicare, heat pump, bamboo, recyclables, Brita filter

Brita basic water pitcher Running around cleaning and clearing up, I have fallen a bit behind in blogging, especially since there is so much else going on. I didn't go to the gym for almost a week, while I took my heat pumps out of storage and tested them, this because I had never had a chance to test their heating capability in the middle of winter, which involves turning off the gas central heating. I've now got one of them running on one side of the house, boosting the gas system, just to see what that does to the energy bill on the whole. It will take a few weeks to get a good average, but with a bit of January frost I'll get an idea of their performance.

I mentioned coffeemakers and pod coffee, of the espresso variety, so I went and got a Brita filter - to some extent, because I found a box of unused filters in my storage. The housemates used well water, but as the containers that lived in were never cleaned or sterilized, I decided to go back to Brita - filters and jugs I've actually been using since I lived in London, that would have been the late 'seventies, mostly to get rid of the faint whiff of chlorine big city water has. Mind you, I visited a ladyfriend in London, a few years ago, whose Brita filter jug had a greenish rim, so it isn't necessarily the be-all-end-all if you don't have a spare so you can stick one in the dishwasher. The "new" Brita jug disassembles, so it is easier to clean. The filter jug I got at Wal-Mart wasn't as expensive as the one you see in the picture here, taken at Wincofoods. Tasteless clear water, what more can one ask for. There is a cheaper version, but this slimline jug has an electronic filter usage indicator, so I'll know when the filter is due for a change.

In the interim, I am cleaning, especially some floors and work surfaces that haven't had a proper (bleach) cleaning in years. And I am settling into my "new" medication - it has only been two weeks, at this point, but I was on biologics for some eighteen years, without ever a real break to see what that would do. This may sound ill advised to you, but how do you find out what effect the biologic has if you don't, at some point, stop that treatment? Thankfully, my new rheumatologist finds that an acceptable argument, and was actually quite pleased when I suggested to switch to an injectable disease modifyer for immune system conditions, when previously I'd been on an oral form of this medication, together with NSAIDS. The only "problem" is that I've been dispensed a higly concentrated solution (methotrexate is otherwise a potent chemotheraphy agent), which I get to self-inject in small weekly doses, and getting 0.6 ml out of a tiny vial without aspirating lots of air is a bit of a skill, must say. Previous medications I self-injected came in much large vials, with much larger syringes, this is just a completely new experience, and it is a bit of a job to get the dose right, not to put too much air in the vial (you get a small fountain when you retrieve the syringe), and keep the stopper sterile for the next aspiration. Methotrexate seems to be hard to get - it took a couple of weeks, unusual for Express Scripts, and turns out to only be available (in this dosage) from.. Australia! Interestingly, after Express Scripts hiccupped a bit, they were able to supply the medication, but not the syringes, which I ended up (thanks to Safeway) getting directly from a Medicare supplier. Shows you how popular self administered chemo is, in this country..

bambo disposable plates Other than that, not a huge amount of "news" - what with the moves on hold, and so far no word from the Seattle Housing Authority, I am more or less "marking time", as my ballerina used to say. Nothing wrong with that, I have plenty of chores, and as the housemates have taken much of their stuff, I am buying some new household items I had on the list for my "big" move anyway, and had saved up for. I had, for instance, not been able to properly test the heat cycle of my heat pumps, in sustained winter operation, in the house, rather than a room, so that is now ongoing. That'll give me a chance to calculate the cost of heating using these units, my previous heat pumps, in Virginia, were whole-house 50,000 BTU units, but an older technology. These Edgestar units have much more capacity per kilowatt, although the issue with heat pumps, should you feel tempted, is always that they don't produce high heat, but medium heat at a larger air volume, so they are relatively noisy. As I go through the stuff I have in storage, as I am going to have to move that sooner or later, I come across all sorts of things I didn't know I had - mostly household items, from cooking pots to water filters - that I am putting to use replacing the housemates' stuff. I've switched from the electricsl stove top to my induction cooker, faster, more efficient, but that means having to dig up my own cooking pots, which are compatible with induction cooking. There is my cast iron enameled Dutch oven, which I really like to cook in (no chemicals as there is no non-stick surface), my electric rice cooker, which I have to figure out quantities of (I am really fussy with my rice), my pressure cooker, bought especially for induction, and there is cleaning all of the kitchen implements and cutlery, which haven't been out of their boxes in years. What with the rent going up and the dinner stuff I need, I am spending extra money, but then this is why I had saved some, so...

One thing I didn't "keep" were plates and cups and saucers, don't recall why, so it is time to get some. I occurred to me that many, if not most, of these things are available made of bamboo, admittedly factory made, but mostly process, shaped and formed using steam and hydraulic pressure, not chemicals. Add to this that bamboo grows at incredible rates, and you'll appreciate bamboo kitchen implements can be eco-friendly as well as pretty - and recyclable! Bamboo actually has a tensile strength that can exceed that of iron compounds, and vastly exceeds the strength of aluminium, so you're not losing capability there. Add to this something I recently realized, namely that woods can be maintained, cleaned and kept flexible using vegetable oils, put two and two together, and you can use those oilive oil cooking spreay cans to maintain wooden furniture and wooden cooking implements, which can dry out. Olive oil, after all, is perfectly safe and healthy and edible, so a bamboo plate, rinsed in the dishwasher, and cleaned with olive oil, should be terrific. I've found sets of "disposable" bambo plates (10 for 13.99, inclusive of shipping, no tax) that should fit the bill, so I am trying those out, see how long they'll last. One thing they can't do is break...

December 24, 2018: Global warming isn't about the tailpipe

Keywords: pod coffee, TRU, Senseo, espresso, global warming, Poland, climate conference, Amazon, fertility, procreation

TRU Senseo pod coffee maker The housemates having moved, I've got my kitchen paraphernalia out of storage, which led to my being able to try this TRU pod coffee maker I found cheap on Ebay some time ago. The Philips / Douwe Egberts Senseo pods and pod machines never made it in the United States, even though other systems, like the K-cup and Nespresso pods did. For reasonably priced Senseo pods in bulk I ended up buying from a UK supplier, but I knew there are refillable plastic pods, which I ended up ordering from Amazon Germany. With the Espresso roast fine grind La Llave coffee I recently found in a supermarket, I am much surprised at the quality and strength of the coffee - and this TRU unit has a setting combination that lets me brew a very strong dark foamy mug of coffee. Magic. I think in general coffee systems you have to clean and maintain after each use just don't cut it with Americans, with the exception of the affluent type that buys a real espresso machine, but I am not someone willing to spend $300 to $500 on a coffeemaker, which then spends much of its time keeping hot water under pressure while not being used. This TRU does need a couple of minutes to heat its single shot of water, so is frugal, for as long as you remember to turn it off after your two morning cuppas.

What with Christmas a few days away, I've had to get prezzies and things ready early, as friends, in the middle of moving, have been haring back and forth between their parents' new home, where someone has been taken ill, and their parents' old home they are moving into. A lot of upheaval for them in the already busy month of December - while I had some legal things going on, and with all that it isn't clear which house I'll be in, come February, all that's clear is that things are all moving out a bit, time wise. Not an issue, just upheavelish.

The more I think about global warming, the more I am absolutely convinced none of the formal efforts to control and improve the environment will have much of an effect. You just can't reduce energy consumption - which is the only way to control what goes into the environment - while continuing to breed. I think about the environment every time I walk to the gym, and at the Starbucks on the corner see eight or ten cars idling while they wait their turn on the coffee line. Why would I concern myself with the environment when people think it is OK to idle a 5 litre V-8 while waiting for a coffee to brew in one of the most inefficient machines ever invented, operated by two scantily dressed women in a shoebox, and the State Government thinks it is OK for this pollution to happen, while spending a billion tax dollars to improve the Orca habitat and remove the dams that reduce the salmon's ability to procreate in their ancient spawning grounds?

You cannot seriously suggest that a United Nations organized climate conference causes representatives from some 200 countries, including support staff, to fly into Poland from all over the globe? Take into consideration that the optimal number of decision makers in a meeting is six to eight, beyond that number most time is wasted on logistics and negotiations, and the statistical chance of agreement goes inverse to the number of participants. We have the tools to enable all of these people to communicate with one another, and use vote lists and mathematical software to arrive at decisions, and those tools cannot be used if you stick all of these people in a conference room - if only because there is not enough talk time. The conference ended with a Polish representative, Poland was the host, dancing on a table. Surely, that is a waste of energy, and completely adverse to the fact that no climate conference has ever led to any climate improvement. I will say that for as long as most of us sit in some kind of transportation in traffic jams on our way to and from work, every day, pollution is not a resolvable concern. It isn't just cars - subways, trains, buses, and airplanes all have traffic jams. Your rush hour flight from A to B is going to sit on the tarmac with engines running, waiting for its takeoff slot, because there are too many people taking, ultimately, unnecessary tips.

We must stop making babies, and Amazon must stop moving thousands of workers to the most congested areas in Virginia and New York, without a reason for them to be there. We must curtail growth, at least in the overbuilt areas, and migrants, in particular, must stop making babies - as I write this, a Nigerian woman on board one of those "rescue" ships is being taken off, with the baby she had on the Libya beach while boarding. That is completely totally moronic - I guess the idea was to time it to have this baby on EU soil, so the authorities could not deport the mother. You can't make babies if you cannot afford to feed them, and no, it is not a religious duty, you do not need children. I know we cannot, PC correct, tie women's tubes, or men's vas deferens, to untie them once they have proven they can sustain a family, and get a permit from the authorities, so you think of something, but we have to do stop this craziness. If the Chinese had not implemented the one child policy, all those years ago, they'd be spilling over the edges of their country by now. It is possible - but hard to prove - that China's one child policy, and India's lack thereof, is the cause of India now surpassing China in polluting the environment - see here.

December 16, 2018: Freefloating through Christmas, hopefully

Keywords: rheumatology, methotrexate, ALS, family, Medco, pen injectors, biosimilar

injectable methotrexate kit After replacing a couple of bulbs at the back of my SUV twice, I have finally (...) figured out it wasn't the bulbs, or the mount, but the insert fitting, which has two copper slider contacts that, over time, bent a bit. Sometimes they connected, sometimes they did not. A screwdriver and a gentle push was all it took... That means I don't have to install the LEDs-with-resistors I bought to fix the problem - a godsend, because I haven't figured out how to identify the wires I need to put the resistor across - those bulbs are dual-filament, and there is a single cable tree that serves all of the lamps in the taillight assembly. What remains is the license plate lamp, which I noticed is flickering - but while it quit freezing, it has been raining most days, good for agriculture, but I am not lying on my back behind the car removing the assembly in the rain.

My sister is thankfully keeping in touch with our dying cousin, struck down only a few years into his retirement by ALS, a.k.a. Lou Gehrig's disease, for which no cure exists. Deterioration is slow but sure, a grim reaper story if ever there was one. As I am having to move any day now I can't afford to fly to Europe to visit him, which I had intended to do, but then my landlord announced his move, and that means I have to move. I have money set aside for the SHA apartment move, but an additional move, with the possibility of the moves being close to each other, kinda cleans me out. Nothing you can do..

My medication changeover is an ongoing story - just now, I saw my injectable methotrexate is being shipped. Curious, as a few years and two rheumatologists ago, my doctor wanted to put me on injectable methotrexate, and we subsequently found out there was a drug shortage, and (then) Medco could not supply. I moved on to a different medication, but now find it is available, and so I am taking that plunge. Methotrexate, both an arthritis treatment and (in different strengths) a chemotherapy agent - that was why, when there was a shortage, what was available would be reserved for cancer treatment. But as it now seems my stomach is really not happy with the oral version, I've managed to get approved for methotrexate. Curious - Humira, at around $15,000 per 90 days, doesn't need insurance approval, while injectable methotrexate, at around $31.68 for a 117 day supply, does (in Europe, Humira has lost its patent protection, and that led to an 80% price reduction - in the UK, the National Health Service is replacing Humira with a "biosimilar", which is expected to lead to a UK-wide savings of between 300 and 400 million dollars). Go figure. One thing I do notice is that self-injecting is not hugely popular, in the United States (and, to be fair, elsewhere, I assume), and what with the advent of the pen injectors - for those not familiar, most injectables now come in an injector like the ones you've seen on TV for Epipen - the number of people using syringes will only have decreased. When I first began taking biologics, some twenty years ago, they came with an ordinary syringe, which a nurse taught me to use - all I can say is that I don't at all mind going back to syringes, the spring loaded pen injectors "explode" a short needle into your tummy or thigh, and they always hurt more than a needle prick does.

Come to think of it, I once helped a girlfriend over her needle phobia by having her inject me with my medication. It hurt - she bent the first needle going in my leg, and we had to do it again, but the second attempt was fine, and the next day she could go to the hospital lab and get her dreaded blood test...

December 10, 2018: Is "getting used to" a form of addiction?

Keywords: tapering off, medication reduction, habit forming, changing doctors, rheumatology, supersonic vehicle, vitamins, supplements, metabolism, working out

Changes to long term medication, as it turns out, are more traumatic than you'd think. I've done it before, but kind of forgot how substantial it is - tapering, after several years, off the PTSD antidepressant treatment I was on needed push and concentration, and I guess this time is no different. Although, I have been on biologics for some eighteen years, at this point, and I really didn't have a truly medical reason to want to stop Humira. But medication becomes a crutch, over time, and you no longer know what the benefit is - know, as in experiencing the curative value. I had spent several months off Humira, leading up to and after surgery, and not feeling any different off the medication, I kept wondering if I should not make that a more long term effort. Then, my rheumatologist didn't want to let me quit, without even giving me a rational argument I could live with. So then, you're forced to change specialists, which is traumatic, if you've been seeing someone for years.

So you have to figure out if you're doing the right thing, then find a rheumatologist you can talk to and build a relationship with, then find out if the new doctor is willing to contemplate a different treatment method, and then, finally, do it, and see if she "tunes in" to where you are. None of this is easy, not if you've been seeing doctors and being treated for over fourty years, in six or seven countries on three continents.

The development of a 1,000 mph vehicle, Bloodhound SSC, has finally been shelved. An additional 25 million Pounds Sterling couldn't be raised, and so the project was shut down. I thought the entire idea was cockamamie, the technology development involved (which included building a track in South Africa) horrendous, and I could never understand what benefits this vehicle would have - if you consider even Concorde had to be shelved, supersonic cars aren't going to be driving folks to the shops in Shanghai anytime soon. I always thought that even if they'd managed to build this thing, chances of the lone driver getting killed in the eventual attempt were pretty good. But then I didn't think this noisy realtor would make it to the White House, either, so you can take that any way you want to. I just didn't think that a fighter pilot developing a useless car at enormous cost is really what we need...

There is an increasing understanding that vitamins, supplements, probiotics, and what-have-you, actually don't play a part in improving our health. The Guardian article linked here does a good job of explaining it, but for completeness' sake, the body, when nourished properly, will make all of the various components our organism needs quite successfully on its own. And if something is lacking, like calcium, or vitamin D, or thyroid hormone, that should be established by running tests, and having a doctor figure out why something is missing. I have no thyroid hormone production, because they had to take out my cancerous thyroid, some years back. So I take thyroid hormone tablets, and my endocrinologist frequently orders blood tests and then adjusts my medication "as needed" - there isn't an interactive self regulating thyroid hormone pump, as yet, even in the land of diabetes the pump is a new thing, for those who can use it. We manufacture and take huge amounts of osteoporosis medication, but as medicine stands, today, stuff like Fosamax actually barely works, and calcium supplements, as it turns out, mostly leave us as quickly as we ingest them. I know from my own experience, having taken a bisphosphonate for over ten years to combat my steroid induced osteoporosis, that the medication did not add a huge amount of bone mass to my skeleton (although, truthfully, I have no way of knowing what would have happened if I had not taken the bisphosphonate). I do know that the bone density scans taken since I stopped the medication, eight years ago, do not show an appreciable difference - likely, my regular workouts in the gym (mostly lifting weights and walking) keep my skeleton "in calcium".

So the supplements and medications that are supposed to improve your health actually do not. In a nutshell, your health takes care of itself, provided you "eat right", get exercise, get a modicum of sunlight, and sufficient rest. There's no "heart health" - there is no "unhealthy heart" - there are heart defects and illnesses, but those you need to take to a doctor, not the vitamin counter. It is a good idea to monitor yourself - blood pressure, temperature, heart rate, at regular times, and maintain a database or spreadsheet you can use to compare values. That is the value of Fitbits and other health monitoring tools - monitor your metabolism over time, doing workouts that bring your heartrate up to a particular point may be benefical for athletes, but for the ordinary person, they have no value. They don't make you healthier, nor do they make you live longer. In fact, if you're one of those fanatical workout types, you may end up with a sculpted well formed body, but you'll pay the price, later in life, when you slow down and confuse your metabolism.

December 2, 2018: Lot of upheaval for December..

Keywords: SHA, apartment hunt, retirement communities, Brexit, U.K., Theresa May, Sleep Number Bed, Sleep Number Corporation, asylum seekers

Car2Go Mercedes in Ballard The limbo kind of continues - waiting to see when my landlord decides the "new" house is ready for occupation, and waiting to hear from the Seattle Housing Authority.. There actually isn't an issue with either of those "futures", I just wish I had a little more of a schedule - I especially don't like the propect of moving in the middle of winter, and there is always the possibility SHA will come through a week after the initial move. Actually, maybe once I have my move date, I can call them and see if they "know anything". I've not done that so far, as I don't have dates, and thus can't give anyone meaningful information. But I would like to finish the whole thing off and move into an apartment of my own.

Just whining, I really shouldn't complain. It is just that there is a bunch of stuff I can't (or don't feel comfortable to) do, in shared accomodation, and I would like to get on with my life. This has always felt like an intermediary episode, in a suburbia that has little to offer me, while recovering from the almost-bankruptcy that overwhelmed me after 2008, and the cancer recovery after 2010. Looking over my finances, I've fully "recovered" there - in quotes, because I've only got emergency money stashed away, but at least that will now let me buy what I need so I can move. Most importantly, my credit is now all clean, debts paid or removed, no (more) derogatories, so I can move on. I had always intended to move to a city when I got older - I have seen older folks move into newly built retirement communities in the middle of nowhere, or sit in a house in suburbia, where there isn't a support infrastructure, making themselves fully independent on their children for help and support, which isn't a good way to endear yourself. Nor is getting to the point where you have to get the bi-weekly shuttle to Safeway with the other old folk really that good or enjoyable. Better to live in a larger city with an elder support infrastructure, a building with staff, and shops you can walk to. Seriously. The pic to the left is a street scene in Ballard - an abundance of available Car2Go vehicles, like the Mercedes pictured, within easy walking distance of an SHA apartment building, should even make it possible for me to let my SUV go, and not worry about insurance, gas, registration and what have you.

So my UK Brexit prognosis is that Mrs May's compromise will hold, the Brits will grudgingly and noisily agree with what's been decided behind their backs, and discover that if you are not in an agreed cooperative with your massive neighbour life will become harder, more expensive, and very messy indeed. The impact on the Brits that have moved to the EU will be significant - mind you, many, if not most, of the Brits that live in Europe have swapped their British citizenship for citizenship of the countries they live in. My own Brit expat acquaintances and friends, in the Netherlands and France, have all taken local citizenship. The British government is not really aware that, for Brits to forsake their citizenship, there had to be some major soul searching and disappointment going on. You can't be British without Brits, and for the English establishment not to understand they've swapped hundreds of thousands of staunch Brits for the ability to stop "refugees" - something no nation has been able to do - is pretty stupid. I am putting refugees in quotation marks because I find it hard to believe that the hordes of asylum seekers that come to Europe, the United States and Australia are truly persecuted people. What they know about these regions is that once you somehow force or slither your way in, you are given a place to live, and money to live on - something that happens nowhere else on the planet. Why do they not go to that other rich nation, Japan? Because they have a language nobody speaks or can read, and if you somehow get there, as an asylum seeker, you are locked up, and very few asylum claims are honoured there (the link goes to the Japan Times). Clearly, this "migrant" was put on the road by a human smuggler, nothing less, the rest may just be an excuse the migrant cobbled together. That mother-of-five who was teargassed with three of her daughters at the Mexican border (where were the other two?) has to have been sold a false bill of goods by someone to leave her home - did she have a job? - and trek 4,000 miles, apparently without husband, to go live in the United States. She thought, apparently, that she could just walk across the border and put in an asylum claim. This is a joke, people, and I just can't fathom that all these folks are persecuted peoples. Same in Europe - rivers of mostly Muslim people, many from countries were there is no war, all claiming persecution. The latest is Iranians, renting boats on the French coast, to smuggle themselves into the UK. Things must be pretty bad out there, but if you've got thousands of dollars to pay to people smugglers, maybe you ought to pool your money and overthrow your government. And why does not the government at the point of origin arrest those people smugglers? And jail them? There must be a big, fat, money trail...

Apparently, the folks that sell the Sleep Number Bed have a clause in their policies that allows them to record biometric data from their customers, a clause you agree to when you buy one of their beds, which is controlled by a mobile app, itself likely allowing data collection. Sleep number have full control, as you can only buy their product from them, so buying one of their beds ties you into a contract that lets them do anything they like with you, and in your home. Important to understand is that their terms and conditions allow them full surveillance of anywhere you have installed one of their products - their bed, after all, connects to their computer networks and servers via their app you install. And their terms let them add surveillance technologies that may not be installed today - why would you mention recording in your terms if you cannot do so, and have no intention to? A quick search in shows that predecessor Select Comfort Corporation filed or was assigned some 94 patents, 59 of which were assigned to Sleep Number Corporation. U.S. Patent US20160100696A1 stipulates the Sleep Number Bed's controller can retrieve recorded sleeper data from the cloud, and compare that with the current sleep pattern - data that obviously could onlyh be retrieved from the cloud if the Sleep Number controller sent it there in the first place. Proof enough, and "data" can be anything, including video the bed takes of you.

November 25, 2018: Technologically, we are moving backwards

Keywords: Microsoft, Windows 10, October update, A/C, natural gas, heat pumps, heating efficiency, missionaries, technophobe, technology failure, political division

The revamped Windows 10 October update does install, but I went through a series of failures whose cause I don't know. What worked for me - but I must emphasize I have an installation that dates back to Windows Vista, with legitimately obtained updates and upgrades - is to tell the ISO installer (from DVD) to not download and install "updates and new features", making sure to run a full update immediately before doing the install. So if your installation fails and uninstalls by itself, as mine did three times, that's something you might try. Everything seems fine, and I have now done the install on another laptop - curiously, there, it decided to offer to install "new features", even though I had told it not to. Go figure. Most of those new "features" share your data with Microsoft's server network, so if you have the time, try to turn all of this crap off, so you don't tell Microsoft where your laptop is 24/7. The "where" taken literally - Windows is able to locate in several different ways, and even if you have the GPS turned off, there is now a setting that lets "apps share location data", which is on by default. You can only turn it off in the Group Policy Editor, an editor you have to wade through each update, to see what Microsoft have added to defeat the settings you did last time.

portable 14,000 BTU heat pump I thought the central heating boiler had died again, but thankfully a quick blow-and-suck with my new wet/dry workshop vacuum seems to have fixed things. I keep thinking these gas elements for what are, effectively, A/C units, are inefficient and expensive to run, I would have expected folks in the State of Washington, where there is an abundance of hydropower, to use heat pumps, rather than gas, which is largely imported from Canada. The State itself calculates heat pumps are cheaper to run than gas central heating - of course, once you have a heat pump, and you didn't have A/C before, you'll probably end up using both, and spending more overall. I could go on for hours, but, most importantly, if we want to get away from fossil fuel we must switch to electric powered technologies, then make sure we generate the electricity in a "clean" manner. This is not easy - wind power and solar power have a devastating long term effect on the environment - not in terms of creating pollution and poisons, but they change temperature management of the earth, without our having done any research on the long term effect.

If, indeed, American missionary John Allen Chau was carrying diseases to which the Sentinelese have no immunity, we should urgently begin making it clear to these misguided religious folk that bringing lethal diseases to uncontacted tribes is a prosecutable offense, especially if it involves paying local citizens to break the law. There is, especially, a need to officially determine his body must not be retrieved, this to make sure his relatives, organization, and friends, understand there is no support for what could be termed a form of genocide. Do please remember what the Spanish and Portuguese conquistadores from 1491 did to the American Indian, in what can only be termed an unintended massacre - of some eight million indigenous peoples, largely by bringing diseases they had no resistance to. In my view, people like Chau are religious fanatics and mentally ill, and should be treated as such.

It is somewhat amazing to see how many people - from missionaries to refugees - usurp rights they feel they have, for no reason that I can see. When all is said and done, once some Christians and some Muslims (and seemingly, some Buddhists, viz. Myanmar) invoke their deity or religious leader, they no longer consider themselves bound by law - law, to all intents and purposes, is an agreement between people, not religions. Yes, law is fine, democracy is fine, but when religion is invoked, all this stuff is null and void. And as entire countries are controlled by religions, you can't always negotiate that. I find it highly confusing, and the level of polarization seems to be increasing - or maybe it always was, and I just did not pay attention, in my younger years. It is disappointing, the number of people in communities that look after themselves, not after the greater good. I am not sure where the dividing line is - I think it is an excellent idea to stop the migrants, if they're coming by the thousands (as they've been doing in Europe for years) they need to be discouraged. If their home country is unliveable they need to fix that, and coming over and using our resources without asking or approval is not really on the cards. We have plenty of indigent folks of our own, and our social support system isn't geared to adding more mouths to feed. We must understand that, for each pair of "migrants", there will be children, something a lot of people seem to think they have a right to create. We must understand many of those migrants believe in religions that prohibit birth control, a system put in place in the Middle Ages so religious communities could grow larger and stronger. You can see how backward we really are when the European heads of state manage physical meeting several times a week, for quite a long time, when we have spent so much time and money creating infrastructure and tools to make physical travel to meet to discuss completely unnecessary. You may think this a strange diversion, but a missionary invading another country, and a prime minister using an airplane to conduct negotiations, are both vestiges of an era long gone, and in this day and age, very counterproductive.

November 18, 2018: More Windows :( and more shopping

Keywords: Microsoft, Windows 10, October update, apartment, SHA, shampoo, fragrance free, allergens

If you are running Windows 10, you'll know the October update really did a number on people, removing file structures and deleting files, to the point Microsoft actually withdrew it altogether. So the October update is now available once more - in November... I've downloaded the disc based installer, in ISO format, so I can do the install while watching what happens - otherwise, Windows does it "in the background", leading to your being unable to use your system in the middle of something important. That's supposed to be seamless, but as we know from experience, that is not something Microsoft has been able to do for quite a few years. Yes, there are a gazillion different installs of PCs and laptops and tablets, but if you want to produce an operating system for-the-masses, you have to make it perfect. So when you listen to Microsoft's plans and prognostications and high tech endeavours, know this - from someone with 20+ years of developer expertise - : Microsoft does not have the ability, probably does not allocate sufficient resources, to fully debug its products. This is especially important for business and government officials needing to decide about Cloud based services, as the upshot must be that if Microsoft is unable to properly support its operating system, it can't support a world wide network, either.

Especially in the day and age of security breaches, you have to be able to rely on your vendors. Windows is so bad I've now fully disabled all anti-virus activity, as the amount of computing power that is "absorbed" by the hooks Microsoft Defender has built into the system can slow you down - for instance when backing up or doing a network file transfer - by 40 or 50 %.

I know Microsoft, in years past, has been walking a tightrope between parsing files to facilitate the Federal Government's security requirements, and parsing files to support using your data for its own commercial purposes, and providing a reasonable performce of its operating systems. When I see the new update, after its introduction, removed entire file strutures, there aren't many causes I can think of except for Microsoft's data gathering attempts - after all, Microsoft deperately tries to get you to use your Microsoft mail address as a login, and that means everything you have on, and connected to, that computer is accessible to Microsoft - using their mail address implicitly means you allow them access to every file and network operation you have. Microsoft's Cloud is now an integral part of their operating system, and that means the operating system can move files to the cloud all by itself, and if you want to know what Microsoft can do with files in its cloud, just read the terms and conditions. That is, you see, when Microsoft decided reading files on your computers wasn't legally sustainable, and led to massive amounts of negative publicity, the legal solution was to "provide" you with a means to store or temporarily store your stuff in their cloud - in Microsoft's server world, it can do anything it wants with your data.

While I am looking forward to living in my own apartment again - haven't lived in one since Manhattan - life was getting a bit complicated when my landlord, whose house I share, decided to move into his parent's house. But as it now turns out, a lodger there unexpectedly upped sticks, so I think by the end of the year, barring a pleasant surprise from the Seattle Housing Authority, I'll head over there too. That way, they can fix this place up, redo kitchens and bathrooms, make ready for a new rental. I have no clue how long it is going to take SHA, it's been over a year, so fingers and legs crossed a few more months will do it.

In my quest to reduce chemicals on my skin as much as possible (doctor's advice), I had been looking for fragrance free hair gel for a while. You'd think, in this day and gluten free age, that would be a readily available product, but no - 98% of the hair products "out there" have lots of chemicals. Noticed that last year, when looking for fragrance (and other additives) free shampoo and body wash. There, too, most "sensitive skin" products contain everything they're not supposed to. Even most of the types of the "Burt's Bees Baby" product I eventually found aren't fragrance and additive free, except for one. And those products that that do omit the nasty chemicals are, for the most part, expensive - the Burt's Bees stuff is in stores, but costs a lot more than it does online, and even there it is hardly cheap. Same for the gel I found, "Free & Clear", a lot more expensive than "ordinary" products (like, a factor five), and I can't yet tell you how well it works, I only just started using it (I think I used too much this morning, my hair feels like cemented). It occurred to me we should start selling these things, at reasonable prices, to young people, so they get in the habit of looking after their bodies better, and learn what to look for - now, you go to low allergen products when the damage is done, which makes little sense. Most of these "free" products, after all, are horrendously expensive, and mostly aim at "fad" buyers with too much money, who would likely do best to listen to a doctor rather than a "practitioner".

November 12, 2018: Xmas on the way

Keywords: contacts, Acuvue, monovision, extended wear, FDA, Christmas shopping

Hmm. Something I never really did was compare contact lens brands, kind of figuring that much of the "technology" is more or less hype, there clearly are only a few compounds able to be worn in the eye for long periods of time, while retaining shape, which is where much of the correction comes from.

Acuvue Vita 30 day Having tried several types of Air Optix, and then Biofinity monthlies - actually, the "monthly" lenses that used to exist have more or less been done away with by the FDA, which decreed that contact lenses can only be recommended for 24 hour wear for a maximum of a week, and not for the 30 days and nights that used to be permitted. I had switched from the 30 day type (Air Optix Night & Day) to the 7 day type (Air Optix Aqua) anyway, realizing that, over time, giving your eyes one day a week to breathe is better than one day a month - once you go to 24 hour monovision contacts, which I did maybe 23 years ago, you really no longer have optimal vision with glasses, which become a necessary evil for use when you are doing your "rest day", or have an eye ailment. It was actually my optometrist who pointed out to me I could wear the "regular" Air Optix, much cheaper than the Air Optics Night & Day, 24/7 as well. But now, after my unexpected prescription change and some eye sensitivities, he has switched me to Acuvue Vita's, which are a bit thinner, and are hardly noticeable in the eye. They're harder to take out, but I guess that is par for the course, and I think they may not last as long as the Air Optix, but my reading (that is, book reading, reflected light) has improved greatly, and so has the acuity of my Blackberry Priv, which has a more-than-HD 1440x2560 AMOLED screen that makes the character set very small indeed.

I've only just started wearing a completely new set of Vita's - the previous were testers - so the jury is still out, but they're doing very well, better than any other type of lens. Monovision is finicky, and needs "settling in" - at some distance, one eye takes over from the other, and the trick is to bring that transition as closely together as possible - I just hope that after the allergy that seems to have befallen my eyes, I am stabilizing out. Come to think of it, I may have become allergic to the material Air Optix uses - not their fault, but that does happen, after all, I have two conditions that affect both my skin and soft tissues. So we'll see - my new rheumatologist has OK'd my coming off Humira, but she does want me to go see an eye doctor - as opposed to optometrist - just to make sure. But I will give the new lenses a chance to settle in first, make sure I experience no more tearing and itching.

Time kinda creeps up on you - I need to get my skates on and start on the Christmas prezzies, something I often do throughout the year, but as I didn't, certainly don't want to leave 'till the last minute. Wondering if I can find some stuff on Ebay - I hadn't previously bothered much about the sales tax, but as there is so much you can mail order without the 10% State hit... Maybe not the most social thing to do, but 10% is not nothing, something that became very noticeable when Amazon started charging sales tax on everything.

November 6, 2018: Data and Server Security

Keywords: flu shot, health insurance, open enrollment, data security, server security, Apache, backup, encryption, AIS Backup, Trump rhetoric

Finally got to the point I could get my flu shot - between the immuno-suppressant medication and a bout with bronchitis, I did not want to chance it, but at this point, my lungs have returned to normal, I am working out as normal, I've stopped most immuno-suppressants, so I might as well. Now I need to figure out what the heck Verizon Benefits is up to, I got a letter stating the annual enrollment is no longer necessary, as if I knew all about it, but I did not. So I guess I need to call HR, especially as when I model the plan, it seems to cost less than what I currently pay, which is what I'd be paying next year. It does mention that there can be "life events", and that those can update by the month, and I guess I can change plans, too, whenever I want, I really need to sit down and spend some time figuring out what it all means.

I seem to have ended up setting myself so many writing restrictions I am left with hardly anything to write about. And most of what's left is medical related - next up, a different brand contact lenses - and makes my blog look like I am close to death, just spending my days popping pills, which I am not.. I see hundreds of hack attempts float by at my new webserver, where I have root access to my Apache load, and so can see every attempt at access, something Godaddy didn't fully allow. Must check they have actually closed my account, as I have asked them to. Anyway, I see many floaters coming in from Russian and Ukrainian websites, mostly fake commercial sites, I am assuming these are hacker sites where they distribute links. As I have disabled most of the coding and scripting languages I have access to at server level, there really isn't much a hacker can do to gain access to my server load, I am not even running mail scripts from there, and I am not running Imap anywhere, so there isn't stored mail anybody can get their hands on. For that same reason, I run a script that removes all mail immediately from Google when I read it, so there isn't any Cloud storage I use. Cloud, with the number of skilled hackers that are out there, is a really bad thing to use - if you can, keep your active data storage local. Remember, on 9/11, nobody could quickly restore their systems in Manhattan, or even easily cut over to backup systems, as the backup networks were taken out together with the primary networks, due to the sheer scale of the destruction. That is unlikely to ever happen to you, granted, but it happened to me, once in my life, in both Manhattan and Arlington, VA.

Which reminds me, I was going to test the ftp-based AIS backup with encryption. Be right back... *harum*. And yes, that works like a dream, including double encryption. I will need to do one more test, to build more stealth into the backup process, but it sits on the server outside of the published directory, I'll just need to do an additional test to see if I can get some access security going, making the directory effectively invisible. The way it is now set up, the backup can't be decrypted unless it is back on the originating CPU. One more test with different directory structures, better security, and perhaps a test with encryption. No, I really don't need that much security, but at the same time I'd like to figure out how the "remote, layered" security works, and how much that slows down the backup process. My new overseas hoster doesn't have restrictions on data volumes and throughput, so technically, over time, I could put most of my must-retain data on that server.

Hmm. The link encryption does not work - hoster probably does not support SSL over FTP. This isn't an issue, since the session is encrypted, and I can't quite see anybody hack into the link when it goes halfway around the globe - that's more of a local thing. Must say I am impressed at the multiple levels of security AIS builds into its application. More importantly, I should run a backup through my fiber connection, then try and restore using a 4G-LTE wireless connection. Interesting in two respects: the time it'll take, but the process is different as well, you have to retrieve the settings archive manually from the server, and then the software is supposed to get its command set from there, and start the restore. Let's see.

Well, yes, it is entirely possible Mr. Trump's rhetoric is complicit in the upsurge in rightist violence. But it is equally possible a change in the way Americans think and act is at the root of both Mr. Trump's election, and the racist violence we see. More anti-semitism? Reading European news sources, that's the case there, too - and nothing to do with America or Americans. I gather Jews are leaving France, moving to Israel, in droves - this even though they were somewhat of a "protected species" in France, after what the Germans and some French did to them. In many big cities in Europe, Jews are loath to wear the yarmulka in the street, they've been attacked for it, even killed. I don't know. Perhaps it is a kind of "zeitgeist", a "spirit of the age". With that, while Donald Trump probably could do better, he isn't what causes this excessive "acting out". And we need to do a lot more research on what makes people's brains go completely out of control, reject, effectively, all societal controls. I've never felt the need to kill somebody, even when in a conflict situation - I recall corporate security telling me someone had lost their lawsuit, and now really didn't like me any more - as I went to the store and bought a .38 to put under my pillow, I wondered if I would use it, should the need arise. It never did, but I am, after reading and watching all that, at the crossroads again, thinking I should get a carry permit. In my immediate area, in the space of three months, three different legally armed citizens intervened when confronted with would-be assassins, all in public areas, two at random Wal-Mart stores, one in the street in downtown Seattle. In one case, the armed assailant tried to carjack a vehicle, only to be shot and killed by the driver..

October 28, 2018: From Small World to Defence

Keywords: rheumatology, arthritis, biologics, databases, search engines, DoD, Pentagon, security services

So not only did I find a new specialist, highly competent, but as I sit in her surgery getting acquainted, I find out that not only did she intern at the (now defunct) Manhattan hospital that treated me after I moved there from London, she lived in the same little downstate New York town I did! Of all the.. it truly, at times, is a really small world.

A relatively new type of medication, I've had great results from taking biologics, I began taking Enbrel not long after I moved to Virginia, back in 2000, switching to Humira around 2012. But after several breaks in treatment, in the past couple of years, due to my undergoing medical procedures for which I had to stop Humira temporarily, I began to wonder if it was still effective. I had no pain increase when off the medication, and it did not help with some of my arthritic symptoms, which I don't know it ever did. As my rheumatologist weaned me off the rest of the anti-inflammatory cocktail I had been on for years, I began to experience more discomfort, then found that my rheumatologist wasn't discussing this with me intelligently - meaning he was ordering me around like I was a twelve year old, and not justifying the treatment decisions he was taking for me, behaviour that gradually got worse.

If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, as a patient, try and analyze your treatment, and take your time doing it. Make sure you have the skills to do database searches - I see, on a regular basis, people who think they are able to do information searches without any kind of training or education, not understanding that a "search engine" is essentially a large database, and that you need to be trained to do adequate searches. I am, most people are not, and if you did not grow up with the internet you likely are ineffective in finding information. Anyway, back to the medics, doctors still aren't always trained appropriately in negotiating with patients, and patients don't always provide doctors with all of the information they should. I eventually, in this particular case, decided this doctor was ending up in hobby horse territory, this by comparison with the previous rheumatologists who had treated me - this since 1973, when my particular ailment had first been diagnosed, I have been treated, probably, by fourteen or so rheumatologists in four countries on three continents. So when this doctor began to treat me entirely differently from all of the others, I began to wonder if I'd lost the plot, or he.

There has to be a trust relationship between doctor and patient, if you have a serious ailment that requires very specialized care. At the same time, you have to follow doctor's orders, because that is the only way you can establish if the treatment has the effect the doctor is aiming for. But as my pain levels and discomfort increased, and I was not able to "reach him", so to speak, any more, I eventually started looking for another doctor, if only because that is the only way that lets me figure out if I am wrong, or the previous physician.

Having only just had my treatment plan changed, I do not yet know what's what, I expect that may take weeks to even months. Apart from anything else, it is always hard, if you have multiple long term conditions, to figure out what is causing which symptom - taking an artificial hormone, but without a functioning thyroid, is by itself confusing enough, as the thyroid is an "on demand" organ, and a pill is not. Keep y'all posted.

Mathematician Dr. Hannah Fry, who has been presenting and making BBC science programmes I've found riveting, recently picked up the story about scientific responsibility towards the population we serve, no doubt on the back of the Google engineers who somehow got their management to opt out of bidding on a DoD development program.

I've never worried about that. Yes, the military and the security services, at times, do unsavoury things. They're certainly rocking all over our privacy - something, unfortunately, their opponents do, as well. All this talk about facial recognition makes me laugh - back in 2008, when I last visited Beijing, every police vehicle there had a camera mounted on the roof, and I am sure the associated software could recognize faces. They don't have to worry about democracy, you see. So if they "have it", we can't afford to "not have it". Both the military and defense contractors were important customers of my division, and my servers were both on Wall Street and in the DoD. Like it or not, those establishments form an important part of the American economy, and they perform an important function - however you may dislike the way they go about things. I knew, from when I was assigned to run those networks, that I could either decide to go do something else, or accept the responsibility as part of my job. In my case, not being a U.S. citizen, it got more complicated, and I ended up asking personal advice from the Department of Defence about my suitability for the position. I ended up getting moved into a hush-hush department overlooking Arlington National Cemetery nobody in the corporation knew about, full of bona fide spooks and retired cops. And being investigated every year. Never had a problem with it, you have a job to do, do it, or leave. Of course, after you reach a certain level in that game, walking out is no longer an option, and being under surveillance is something you get used to, they're not invasive, they just always let you know they're there. I particularly liked Professor O'Mara's piece about the "issue" - which, believe you me, in the United States is not an issue at all. And it helped, too - whenever I went to buy a new gun, I put my Alien number on the FBI form, at which point the salesperson just knew it was going to be a week or more before he could charge my credit card, then calling the State Police for a request number, and to his immense surprise, coming back with an immediate approval.

October 20, 2018: Boring medical, mostly

Keywords: Pill Hill, referral, doctor's appointments, medical condition, health tracking app, internet scams

90 day Humira supply I don't know if I've gone crazy, but calling a medical establishment on August 27, providing a referral by the 29th, even though my insurance does not require it, and being told "we'll process it and call you", should have elicited some kind of response before October 14, when I decided to call and check progress. Then, I was told that the processing was still in the works, at which point I began asking what kind of processing takes two months, which the support person responded to by saying that was not her department, and she was just trying to help, at which point I explained I am an insured patient and a paying customer, and she should begin treating me as such, and provide solutions instead of blaming others. After hanging up, she was back on the phone within five minutes, suddenly expecting me to come in that afternoon. Slightly related, the picture here shows a 90 day supply of arthritis medication, courier delivered in a refrigerated container, to the tune of $13,500. I don't know what I'd do in this country without my fancy medical insurance....

Because of liability issues, I am not, at this time, telling you which institution and doctor's office this is, once I've been seen and have a better understanding of the issues, I can make some educated comments, this is a situation where I am unahppy with one of my specialist physicians, so am looking for another. I've seen situations like this, in the Seattle area, occurring more frequently, to the point I have an extant complaint with the Washington State Department of Health going, and have simply walked out of places for not providing adequate service. What do people do if they need to see a doctor urgently? Emergency room? I understand a new intake needs to be scheduled, but not doing anything about a valid referral for two months, and then offering a same day appointment? Are these folks crazy? I'll tell you more, names and places, once I've been seen, but considering this is an institute that has access to my medical files, the mind truly boggles. Leaving me in pain for over two months (though I could have had that seen to elsewhere) is really unacceptable. And taking some of the NSAIDs I have in stock would not help my new doctor to do a proper assessment. Not a happy camper, and I must say that if the clinic wanted to give me the feeling they really don't want new patients, they succeeded.

When you have some long term medical conditions - in this case, a form of arthritis that won't go away and was first diagnosed in 1971 - you are quite dependent on your medical team, and especially on the specialists that monitor and treat you. Changing specialists is traumatic - you develop a working relationship with the specialist, and as you get more experience, generally know what's going on with your body. But if a specialist starts doing things you don't expect, and doesn't seem to treat some of your complaints, you eventually need to do something about it. On the one hand, you don't want to switch doctors too often - they look at your medical record and wonder why - but at the same time, you can only go so long with treatments you don't really understand. That's when you try and change, and around here, once you get into Medicare age, that appears not always to be easy.

So after getting the Provčn Bluetooth digital medical equipment to work (see below, October 6) - not with its own app, because that does not talk to the thermometer - I now have new, reasonably accurate, and remotely readable diagnostic devices. Quite reasonable, too - the Bluetooth thermometer $14.95, the Bluetooth blood pressure meter $29.99, while the MedM Health Android app talks not only to both of those, but my Bluetooth heart rate monitor (XOSS, $19.99) as well. I had a separate app for that before, so am well pleased these MedM folks built an app with a huge database of compatible devices (kudos to the Amazon customer / commenter who figured that out). I had, in the interim, occasion to go to the doctor's office, so was able to verify the accuracy of all of this gear. Reasonable accuracy, of course, but at the same time you need to take into account that, since all of this gear is electronic, readings will vary, even with the professional stuff. The readings, then have more of a comparative value, and you can see trends over time, which is what I was using these devices for in the first place. The reason I maintain a record of my vital signs is my long term GP in Arlington, VA, who insisted I should do daily measurements from when I hit 50. The reason wasn't so much that there was something wrong - apart from the long term conditions we knew I had - but that my medication load was relatively high, and the measurements, when off, would provide an early indication of any "developments". The spreadsheet certainly helps me track my comparative health, and manage, to an extent, weight / food and alcohol intake. The monitoring did absolutely nothing when I subsequently developed thyroid cancer, but hey, you can't win them all.

I keep being amazed at the efforts, worldwide, to "help" consumers taken in by all manner of telecommunications and internet scams, which clearly are lucrative and easy enough to perpetrate that tens of thousands of miscreants can afford to spend 14 hours a day, seven days a week, carrying them out. The changes they're caught are small enough they keep going. I noticed that other day the Dutch government is outlawing all unrequested solicitation calls, Britain is on the way there, but what with cross-border and internet technology, for as long as consumers answer anonymous or unknown-number calls, there isn't any way to solve the problem. You'd wish you could fine people for answering unknown numbers - I stopped doing that when caller ID became available, although even before, as soon as I had an answering machine, I often used that for call screening. And yes, you can buy internet calling apps that provide your home number as caller ID, even though your call does not come from there. And you can screen your Facebook or Instagram profile so only your friends can see it, if the miscreants can't, they can't mail you. Etc.

October 11, 2018: Sicker!!

Keywords: sinusitis, bronchitis, steroids, supplements, antibiotics, medical, illness

steroids etc. I can't recall being this sick for this long - well, perhaps "sick" isn't the right word, no fever, but this prolonged bout of sinusitis is sapping my strength (by the time I am writing this, some ten days later, it has morphed into a full bronchitis, says the urgent care physician). My breathing is laboured to the point I've actually stopped going to the gym, as all that does is bring on more coughing attacks, and being on antibiotics (since augmented with a crash dosage of steroids, so now when I am not coughing I live in my bathroom) I can only assume I could spread a virus infection. From what I can glean from searches it isn't unusual to have this for several weeks, and what with both my housemates working at colleges they could easily bring back all kinds of weird stuff. Or I could have picked something up at the gym, where I now have, unusually, not been for a couple of weeks. Blah.

Increasingly, it has become clear that most vitamin and other supplements don't actually have much, or even any, beneficial effect. Recent research referenced in The Guardian seems to show vitamin D, has little or no effect on bone health, as previously Calcium supplements don't appear to have been proven to add calcium to one's bone structure. Other vitamins (check the Guardian article) are equally useless. I am particularly interested in calcium and vitamin D because I have had osteoporosis - no, not because of the Mennopause, but because I was treated with a mix of immunosuppressants and steroids for a number of years, going all the way back to England, this all before biologics were invented. When that happens, the doctors do regular bone density scans - you can see changes in bone density on regular X-rays, as well - and I can't say I've ever seen much effect of the various treatments on my bone density. Sure, I did not lose any more bone, but then I don't know if that would have happened if I hadn't taken all that stuff. I never worked out in Europe, or my first years in Florida and NYC, but after that I became a gym aficionado, and that may well have helped with the bone strengthening.

All I am saying is that it is becoming increasingly clear that vitamins, bone, stuff, are created by the body from the foods we eat, and only that way. Something similar seems to apply to the vaunted "probiotics". That process seems to not work with concentrates created in a lab. Nobody has, as of yet, completely rewritten their narratives, but short sentences like "Currently, researchers are undecided if probiotic supplements are effective." (Cleveland Clinic) are being inserted... Not a sermon, just a thought. It is interesting how we humans tend to hang on to "better safe than sorry" ideas - let's take probiotics, leading to massive unnecessary fat and sugar intake in flavoured yoghurt - and let's take calcium, even though half a brain can read up and understand the calcium in the supplements goes right through you, and we will probably discover fortified milk doesn't do anything "ordinary" milk can't.

While I am sitting here wishing my brain was functioning normally, so I could think along more easily with UCL mathematician Dr. Hannah Fry on the BBC - that's gotta be the most delicious brainiac readhead on public television - her "lecture" is, for unclear reasons, auto-followed on the iPlayer by an episode of Dad's Army. Owell. I can doze off again, until the next coughing fit.

The time machine through October 6, 2018, with linkbacks to October, 2008, is here

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