Five Things

For the first time in many years, I found myself kneeling in front of a toilet while the body reacted in an inescapable act of self-defence. While the cause is not all that interesting, the consequences — in my mind — are. Situations such as this can often result in some hard lessons being learned, leading to better decisions going forward.

With that said, it’s time for another instalment of Five Things!

Nozomi’s Feeling Energetic Again

This past week has been quite warm, with temperatures consistently hitting 15°C by lunchtime. Thanks to this warm weather, the local vegetation is springing back to life and Nozomi is enjoying her visits to the park a lot more. Interestingly enough, she’s even showing signs of wanting to go for longer walks, which is fine by me.

A Roaring Puppy

The Boy Climbs Stairs

The boy has bee fiercely independent since the day he was born, so it’s no surprise to see him tackle real-world challenges head-on. For the last couple of months he’s needed a stabilizing hand when going up a flight of stairs. This doesn’t appear to be necessary anymore.

Watching how he interacts with the world to overcome challenges has been quite interesting. Unlike Nozomi, he will puzzle out a problem until a solution is found. While he will get frustrated and cry from time to time, he generally approaches the world with the eye of an inquisitive problem solver. Most kids are like this, I understand, but it’s good to see that my child isn’t disinterested in learning. For most of our lives we need to run as fast as we can just to keep up. Being able to work out solutions makes it easier to do so.

R.E.M. On Repeat

For the last couple of days I’ve had R.E.M’s Me In Honey looping endlessly in my head. This song was one of the less-appreciated tracks on the popular Out of Time album, which was also one of the very first CDs I bough to replace a worn-out cassette tape.

Maybe if I listen to the whole album again the looping will stop ….

Changing Tastes

Sometimes I compare my current podcast subscriptions to those of the past and see interesting patterns. When I first started to really listen to shows back in 2010, the majority of podcasts were technology-focussed with a distinct Apple bias. As time went on these shows were replaced with think-pieces that discussed mental well being, long-form stories, and science. By 2015 most of these were replaced again by hour-long music shows put out by some of my favourite artists. Today, looking at the subscriptions, there are very few shows that have been in the rotation for more than five years. The ones that aren’t leaving anytime soon are:

There are a bunch of others I could recommend, such as Spacepod, but I haven’t been subscribed to them for over five years just yet.

Lost In Thought

Over the last couple of months I’ve found myself lost in thought a great deal more. Regardless of where I am or what I’m doing, an idea can capture my attention to such a degree that the rest of the world effectively disappears for a little while. While this is nothing new for anyone who enjoys thinking, what I’ve noticed is that the subjects that capture my attention the most are no longer related to technology or the day job, but topics such as individualism vs. collectivism, the role of education in learning, and digital sovereignty.

The more I think about these things, the less I understand about the current culture around modern technology and its ongoing evolution. We, as a society, are giving up the freedoms our ancestors thought about, valued, fought for, and — in some extreme cases — died for. What does this mean for us long term? I don’t know, and it’s this lack of knowledge that triggers bouts of intense internal debate in an effort to understand the long-term effects of today’s magical conveniences.

A Lack of Honour

It's a faaaaaake!

A typo in a URL resulted in me being brought to a site that looked like the image above; an easily recognisable duplicate of an Apple site with a message warning me of impending doom. Three viruses? Oh no! Unfortunately for the dolts, I've seen stuff like this a thousand times in the past and know how to identify fakes when they're presented to me. Unfortunately for many, this would appear as completely legit and warrant the handing over of hard-earned cash.

This upsets me.

The scam itself isn't what's upsetting, as these things have circulated around the web almost since its inception 30 years ago. Instead it's the the lack of honour the people who made this site have for themselves and the world at large that bothers me. In 2017 I wrote about a fake invoice scam that has undoubtedly resulted in money changing hands. A year later there was the password extortion scam. Both of these were emails. Today's scam attempt required a person to misspell a URL for a popular Linux distribution. The underlying distaste is the same, though. People who have the ability to put together a site that looks like a legitimate commercial product in the hopes of scamming money clearly have a talent for certain things, but choose to use these traits nefariously in the hopes that a steady stream of revenue can be taken from less-observant individuals.

It's genuinely disgusting. Not because this is a scam, but because the people who put this site together could probably build something of value that people would happily pay for. In the world of tech there are still a million problems to solve, with each one being capable of a worthwhile revenue stream. How else can we explain the dearth of applications that are essentially slight variations of what we had decades ago? How many text editors could a person possibly need? Looking at most app stores, the answer appears to be somewhere in the high 20s. How many different Tetris-remixes might a person find of value? Again, looking at most app stores, that number is also in the high 20s. It's unlikely that the creative dolts behind the above scam are incapable of creating something of value that people would genuinely enjoy.

One of the many great things about the Internet is the low barrier to entry, the incredible access to a hungry market, and the untapped potential of human imagination. Sure, we've created a lot of great things over the last few thousand years. There's no denying this. Humanity isn't done yet, though, and this is what drives the disappointment.

We all need to earn money. We all need to pay bills. We all want to have a long-lasting career that is worth doing. Scamming less-observant individuals out of a few dollars here and there may resolve the first two objectives, but it does fuck all for the third — which is arguably the most important of the three for anyone with even a hint of creativity within them. Anyone can try to scam their way through life. It takes a respectable person, however, to identify areas of potential. What's interesting is that we can find potential by looking at the places where responsibility has been abdicated.

So, for anyone who might be thinking of how to scam people out of a few thousand dollars, here are some legitimate problems that might benefit from your creative efforts:

  • a financial planning application that doesn't send any data to a third-party
  • a web browser that has every site in existence black-listed, requiring people to specifically permit traffic to and from a specific domain
  • a better tool that can archive, index, and search our SMS messages
  • a password manager that isn't a cumbersome pile of complexity
  • a self-hosted Evernote competitor that stores data in a LibreOffice format (for rich notes)
  • a better public geolocation API

There are a million other legitimate problems that can be solved, but these are the first six that sprang to my mind. Scams can be found anywhere and everywhere in the world, preying on the unobservant and earning an non-respectable income over time. Using the creative talents to solve actual problems? That's where self-actualisation can take place.

We can all do better. So let's stop with the stupidity.

Do online recipes come with too much backstory? It’s all part of the joy of food

(www.theguardian.com)

By removing the cultural framework from food, we lose the centuries of wisdom it contains. Throughout human civilisation, food has codified every aspect of culture: science, health, geography, economics, relationships, and even politics.

Indeed. Sometimes the backstory to a dish is more interesting than the recipe.

The Art of Silence

Over the last couple of months I've begun to really focus my attention at the day job on things that I can accomplish rather than the things I'm asked to do. This doesn't mean that I wilfully ignore tasks and responsibilities. Instead, it's become crucial for me to expend energy only where it will have a positive impact for colleagues. What this means is that I generally argue points much less when participating in large group conversations where decisions need to be made, as I've pounded the desk long enough on the same issues for years. If people didn't listen back then, why in the world would they listen now? This has not gone unnoticed by some of the people I work most closely with, who have mentioned that they "miss the feisty Jason".

Personally, I like it better this way. The lack of arguments means that I get to spend less time feeling frustrated and more time solving problems. The larger projects that I participate on are generally overrun with corporate politics with a pair of rival fiefdoms duking it out for … dominance of some kind? I don't know nor care, really, as it's a waste of energy.

With this background laid out, I can now get to the reason for this post.

A couple days ago I heard a wonderful little sound-bite that will join the oft-quoted wisdom that it's better to keep silent and thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. This new one works for people who are able to converse in multiple tongues:

The ability to speak several languages is an asset.
The ability to keep your mouth shut is priceless.

People who know me will likely find this comical given my propensity to speak when given a soapbox and a topic. However, as I continue to work towards being a better me it's become clear that sometimes it really is better for me to be silent rather than get involved in forgettable squabbles; particularly those that take place at the day job.

We all have things that we are passionate about. There's a time and a place to express that passion. In my case, I'm going to choose to put my energy into solving real problems in a positive manner.

A Little Bit Earlier

When I sit down to write a new blog post the sun has typically long since disappeared over the horizon. With the day at its end, I've generally had time to formulate some ideas on what I'd like to write about that day and which points I might bring up. This is the theory, anyway. As one would expect, come the end of the day my brain has turned to mush and the vast majority of what gets put onto this site makes no sense. Sentences are put down one at a time with long gaps in between. Exhaustion has set in and the mind wanders. Hearing the attention-grabbing chimes from the work email account doesn't help matters. As this is the general pattern, I wonder if it makes sense to write at the end of the day. Perhaps it would be better to write before starting work or, better still, during lunch. The enforced "break" would be a good way to ensure time is not being "given away" to the day job.

A quarter century ago, when I was an eager and optimistic high school student, I would dedicate an hour to writing almost every morning. Publishing personal missives online was not a very common activity in 1994. Instead I wrote fiction on lined paper with a series of pens. A lot of the work was garbage but, every so often, there was something that would stand out from the rest. This happened in the spring of '94 when Mr. Robinson, my English teacher at the time, read a short story titled "The Box". It was written like a classic Twilight Zone episode, complete with a preamble reminiscent of the legendary Rod Serling.

Rod Serling

The story starts with a middle-aged teacher who is just going about their life, doing the things they need to do, when one day they are presented with an object. They're told that they can have anything they desire. All they need to do is open the box, state their desire, push the single button inside, and the wish will be granted. As one would expect, there is no such thing as a free lunch. In order for the wish to be granted, someone the teacher does not know will die. This is where the story gets interesting, as it begins the main character's exploration of their own ethics. Could they be so selfish as to request something knowing that another human being — even one they didn't know — died as a result?

All in all, the story worked out to about 12 A4-size pages in length and impressed Mr. Robinson so much that he sent it to some magazines that published short stories. One based in the US responded and a few months later my story was in print and read by … I don't know how many people. I would assume a few thousand people, but there's no way to know for sure. It didn't matter, though. The story was published and I began down the journey of writing a whole lot more, but only during daylight hours1. This was what I believed to be a recipe for success.

I was wrong, of course. Nothing else I've written in the 25 years since has been picked up by a publisher and for good reason; I'm not writing for the purposes of being published by an external entity. I publish my own words on my own terms and on my own timeline. It doesn't bring fame or fortune, but it does offer an opportunity to reach some people.

Could writing during the daylight hours actually be a recipe for "success"? This depends on the definition of success, of course. What I am looking for is better, more consistent writing. Posts on this site can continue to be on whatever topic tickles my fancy at a given moment, but it must be cromulent. It's this lack of cromulence that bothers me when I look at many of the articles on this site. Writing during the day may change this.

There's only one way to find out ….


  1. It was around mid-1994 that I started programming, and the best time for me to do this was in the evenings when my homework and house chores were complete.

Should we be surprised by John Wayne's racist and homophobic views? | Caspar Salmon

(www.theguardian.com)

The online commentary about a Playboy interview unearthed from 1971 shows a lack of education about the western actor, his times and even American history

I wonder when people will get tired of looking for reasons to pretend to be angry. "Oh, someone 40 years ago had views that we generally don't accept today!" Boo hoo. Just wait until people start reading about ideologies from the 19th century … then the 18th century … then the 17th. Hell, let's look at just how much flagrant racism and hatred there is in every religious text ever.

People evolve. Let's learn from the past and vow to be better. Holding someone long dead to the same standard as someone alive today is fucking dumb.

Gigabits

A little over a month ago the day job provided a Lenovo X1 Carbon notebook to replace the personal MacBook Pro that I've used almost exclusively for the better part of three years. All in all it's been a pretty decent machine that, if it had more RAM, would be the ultimate computer for just about anything I might need to do at the day job1 for the next couple of years. Despite this limitation, there have been some pleasant surprises over the course of the last few weeks, such as the gigabit ethernet.

The Thinkpad X1 Carbon

Since moving to the new house, I don't use WiFi with the notebooks very often. The wireless data is fine for phones and tablets, but the heavy-lifting machines are generally moving information that I would rather not leak over the airwaves2. For this reason, the notebooks are connected to the network that runs throughout the house. What's nice about this is that I can move at the full speed of the network adapter when moving information inside the house, and this makes it possible to do crazy things in a pinch. When I used the MacBook Pro, the wired network connection was provided via a USB-to-Ethernet adapter that topped out at 100MBits per second3. The Thinkpad, however, has a gigabit adapter. The server upstairs is also gigabit. The network supports 5Gbit across the wires.

You can probably see where I'm going with this.

Words fail to describe just how crazy it feels to run a virtual machine on a local machine using an image on a server upstairs without observing any noticeable performance issues. Seeing that the daily 5GB backup file was generated, shipped upstairs, and removed from the local machine in under 16 seconds leaves me wondering just how much faster computers need to get … because I sure as heck don't need any more speed. A dual-core i5, like what's found in this notebook, is not the beefiest of processors but a Samsung NVMe device sure hides the fact. I understand that this is an incredible luxury, as not everyone can receive a decent machine from their employer and use it on a speedy wired network that has just one person using it4. This doesn't mean that it can't be appreciated, though. The digital tools in this house pay for the mortgage, put food on the table, and makes it possible to set some extra aside for the boy's future education needs. It's nice that modern tools can continue to surprise and amaze us.


  1. I say this knowing full well that the more powerful and capable a computer is, the more I will find for it to do. I'm gearing up to transform almost 500GB of data from SQL Server, MySQL, FileMaker, and other proprietary database engines into a standard format that can be loaded into Salesforce and/or an Oracle-powered ERP. This will certainly put any computer to the test.

  2. Yes, I understand the basics of how data is encrypted before being transmitted, and yes I am using some pretty strong encryption, but I am still working with sensitive information for much of the day. I'd much rather just use a wired network.

  3. I used to have a Thunderbolt adapter that could push out a gigabit per second, but it would add a lot of load to the system for some reason. I opted to replace it with the lighter (and less power-hungry) USB version.

  4. Reiko's notebook and phone both use the WiFi. She's not interested in using a network cable. As for the TV and DVR, those things will never be connected to the network as I refuse to let the hardware manufacturers collect data about family usage patterns.

The Last Archive

In November of 2013 a podcast that was adored by many came to an end. The Enough podcast was hosted by Myke Hurley and Patrick Rhone and was a show that I looked forward to each and every week. When they went off the air, so to speak, Myke made it clear that the show's audio files would not be hosted forever. When the CDN contract came up for renewal, the 225 episodes would no longer be available. However, both Myke and Patrick made it clear that anyone who wanted to host the files for others to listen to and download were free to do so. With the permission given, I went ahead and made a site hosting most of the audio files. Thanks to the Wayback Machine, it was even possible to recreate most of the show notes and links.

The Enough Podcast

For a while there were a couple of people who were sharing the files with the world. One person put all the files in a .zip and shared the data with a torrent. Another created a basic website with the audio files set up for downloading. It was just my site that made it possible for people to subscribe via RSS and see the notes if they wanted to. As time went on, the torrent ran out of seeds. The downloadable file via the web went offline a couple of years later. Now it's just my site that is sharing these files with the world … and the world is still interested.

Earlier today I noticed that there was a much higher number of audio downloads than usual. On an average day I can expect to see a hundred or so podcast episode downloads from 10C sites that I manage. By noon the number was quite a bit higher than this. Turns out a couple of people had found the Enough Archive and started downloading every episode, which I am always happy to accommodate1.

What I wonder is how many podcasts reach their natural conclusion and disappear from the Internet, and how many people go looking for those podcasts afterwards. Is there a market for a service that could take these old shows, their notes and audio files, and share them indefinitely with the world? Would podcasters who lose interest in making a show be interested in paying for such a service? When I talk to some smaller podcasters, there doesn't seem to be much interest. The larger podcasters tend to belong to networks so don't need to think about such things. But how about the shows with several thousand or tens of thousands of listeners? Would a one-time payment with a contract to provide the audio files for a minimum period of time be a decent business proposition? I wonder.

Given the number of people who continue to download The Enough Podcast, five years after the last episode was released, this does seem to be something that the Internet would benefit from.


  1. Why have an archive if people can't use it, after all?

Licence a snowblower? City nails one operator, lays 100 other charges

(nationalpost.com)

The owner of a snow-clearing company was given a $260 ticket because the company snowblower did not display a numbered licence plate issued by the city.

Too many regulations in Canadian cities …

Looking Forward to Spring

Halfway through the month of February the weather begins to inch ever closer to something that doesn't require someone to wear a scarf. More people venture out to the parks and more people bring their dogs out. All in all, it's a wonderful time for anyone who has been hibernating for much of the winter … like Nozomi.

Blue Skies Above

The "high" temperatures for much of January were consistently hovering around 5˚C in the afternoons. Nozomi may be covered in fur, but she has found this winter to be particularly uncomfortable. We go out to the park two to three times per day so that she can stretch her legs and enjoy fresh air. However, because of the low temperatures, she generally didn't want to travel farther than a hundred meters in the park. The warmer weather this week was a welcome change for her.

Two days ago we went out for a nice jaunt before lunch and she was in her element, jogging from tree to tree in search of a new scent. As it was just her and I in the park at the time, I took off her vest so that she could enjoy the sun for a few minutes while I snapped pictures. It was a lovely afternoon out. She didn't want to come home too quickly.

Nozomi Enjoying Freedom

But now the temperatures are about to dip and Nozomi is curling up on her heated blanket, refusing to come out from her little room under my desk for more than a couple of minutes at a time. She's looking forward to spring, as are we all.

In a couple of weeks we'll be getting some grass laid in the yard, which will be a welcome change from the exposed soil that we've had since the initial landscaping work was completed last autumn. Once this is done it'll be easier for Nozomi to enjoy some time outside in the afternoon anytime she'd like. The fence around the property is closed enough to prevent her from escaping (without human help), so this will make it easier for her to go out on her own occasionally … despite her insistence that someone always be with her.