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Friendship Through Cyber Stalking

November 25th, 2019

For all the reasons to hate Facebook, there are some times when it is an amazing tool. I am currently in Amsterdam for holiday and the other morning while I was scrolling through Facebook I happened upon a post from an old colleague who lives in Moscow. Coincidentally he was in Amsterdam for a few days of work. So we managed to meet up for drinks and dinner after a decade. This is one of the best reasons to keep Facebook. I suck at keeping in touch with friends who live overseas, but I do stalk a significant number of them on Facebook. It’s a double edged sword because I don’t interact with them but I do feel like I’m still in touch with them. So, as dangerous as Facebook is if you are a bit picky about your friends post significant things and things like travel to your friends it can yield some serendipitous moments.

Facebook isn’t alone. I am writing this while waiting for another ex-colleague who lives in Amsterdam that I have kept up with, off-and-on, via a WhatsApp group. But even my WhatsApp groups are mostly random, far between posting of funny things or rankings and not real contact. Oh well.

The moral of this story should be “I should be a better friend”. But I prefer: post enough of your life to Facebook so others, who you have selectively chosen —never post to the open internet, remember the internet does not forget— can stalk you.

Bounty Hunters and Pirates

November 19th, 2019

Vice has a story about how the fragmentation of the streaming video market is driving people back to piracy to get their fix. It focuses a lot on the cost of having all the streaming services —welcome back to the cable era— but it has less to say about a major issue with streaming services: different launch dates and offerings by country.

As a Star Wars fan in Singapore my only option to watch The Mandalorian before the internet shoves terabytes of spoilers in front of my eyes is to pirate it. There is no official launch date for Disney+ in Singapore yet. What the fuck house house of mouse? I understand the level of technical complexity to rolling out global services on this scale. Netflix only conquered the world a few years ago but it suffered for many years from VPN leakage. And Hulu and other streaming services still don’t have global offerings. Maybe a VPN will work for D+?

A major part of the issue with most streaming services is how content has always been distributed. It complicated but in general studios make a show and its purchased (before or after being made) by a distributor who, well, distributes it. In the old days it was distributed physically, with rolls of film shipped around. Back in high school the older brother of a friend was the manager of a local theater and the amount of money they spent to rent the reels of film for a new movie was crazy. I understand why the popcorn and coke is so expensive, I suspect that even with digital distribution the cost didn’t go down… just more profit.

Under this physical distribution model it took a lot of layers of middlemen to get content around the world. And contracts were put in place. As new distribution technology and new touch points with consumers emerged the same model was used. So someone could own the broadcast rights to a move and someone else the digital distribution and someone else the physical distribution (DVDs). And of course exclusivity of a popular title meant more money. Back when music streaming and download was the big battleground another friend was in charge of the Nokia “comes with music” product where Nokia bundled a year of streaming with your phone. He had a small army of lawyers working for most of a year to get the required rights contracts in place, just for Singapore!

Now Disney is the owner of it’s own content, and the distributor via Disney+. So why can’t I watch The Mandalorian in Singapore?

Server Migration

October 31st, 2019

After 20 years I have finally migrated off of the original confusion.cc server. Since I was in college confusion.cc has been hosted on a server in California. Originally on a physical box in a managed data centre, what is known as a Server Colocation or just “colo”, and later a virtual machine in the same centre. But I’m lazy and have not kept the server up-to-date since I migrated the family email server to a fully managed service ten years ago. And now the confusion.cc server is so out of date that it’s a hopeless task to try and update all the software. Things came to a head a few months ago with the release of WordPress 5.2 which requires PHP 5.6.20. Confusion.cc was limping along on PHP 5.2.5, from 2007!

So, now comes the end of the colo era for confusion.cc. The site is now running on AWS. But one does not move a two decade old website without a few issues…

After setting up a vanilla WordPress installation on an EC2 instance and a MySQL RDS instance I uploaded the confusion WordPress database and viola! What’s with all the funny characters showing up in the posts? Best I can tell the original WordPress version used on confusion (installed sometime around 2004, when WordPress was version 1!) defaulted to latin1 encoding but somewhere along the way I started using Unicode characters in posts. For some reason it all worked. Now however, the default WordPress installation uses UTF8, ergo gobbledygook… there are numerous posts out on the web documenting various ways of fixing the DB. Changing the DB config, the individual table config and even the table row config… and there are grep-sed-awk magic spells to cast on a dump file that you can then load into a new DB instance and after a few prays to the elder gods all your Unicodes are correct!

And then there was the one hack to just define the DB_CHARSET variable in the wp-config.php to ‘latin1’ and Cthulhu continues to dream, un-disturbed, in Rayleigh.

Once the posts were loading it was time to tackle all the other assets; scripts and images which on the old server were loaded from sub domains. Originally this was to allow browsers to download the assets in parallel. This is because browsers limit the number of concurrent connections to a sight. However since I don’t have an image heavy design and most scripts are loaded from other sites or CDNs I don’t think it’s a big issue. So I uploaded all the content to an S3 bucket. I had to replace all the links in the theme and posts and then add a mod_rewrite rule to redirect the requests to the S3 bucket.

I also had to drop the “/wp/” from the URL. Long ago when I setup WordPress on the colo I had other things running at the top level so putting the WordPress installation into a directory made sense. Today WordPress is the CMS for the whole site so this setup doesn’t make sense. So off with the “/wp/”, which meant meant updating any post linking back to a confusion post. (This also means that any link to a post from Google or any other random site would be broken. So I added another mod_rewrite rule). I also updated the WordPress settings. And as soon as I did all of this I couldn’t continue to load the pages using the EC2 instance IP. So I had to update the confusion.cc DNS records to point to the AWS site. So, technically it was at that point that confusion.cc moved over to AWS.

Then there was the issue with XML RPC. The WordPress apps were not working. After much investigation I managed to pin it down to lacking PHP support for XML RPC in the default installation. I had to install additional packages for PHP-XML, PHP-XMLRPC and PHP-GD.

The last two bugs turned out to be caused by the same thing. First there was an issue with the icons for the sharing buttons not displaying. The icons are actually a font loaded via CSS from the Jetpack WordPress plugin. Funny thing is they worked on the plugin configuration page but not the site itself. The second issue was with the navigation menu. Clicking on the categories, archives or search option did not display the DIV containing the forms, so there was no way to navigate via categories or archive links and you couldn’t search. On the bright side “Random” still worked. After much tinkering and investigation I found a PHP opening tag was messed up in the header.php file. What should have been “<?php” was just “<?”. No idea how that happened… gremlins.

There may be other things. With nearly two decades of cruft I’m sure I’ve missed something…

Anyway. Next task is to finally consider updating the theme. I’ve been running on this theme since 2013 and it’s only a minor update if an even earlier version and that was my own hack on the original Kubrick theme from WordPress! HTML and CSS have come a long way since then. As well as Javascript – I don’t think in need to use jQuery anymore. So maybe I will get around to fixing it.

Tokyo, Japan, December 2018

September 14th, 2019

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Final stop on our 2018 limited tour of Japan (1, 2 [confusion.cc]): Tokyo. We arrived by train from Nagano [confusion.cc] at Tokyo Station. Our hotel was a ryokan in Asakusa so we loaded into two taxis with our luggage. Once we checked in we roamed around Asakusa and ended up in the Owl Cafe. It’s less of a cafe than what I thought it would be, I’ve seen photos of a cat cafe and a hedgehog cafe in Japan and they are a coffee shop with animals. In fact my daughters wanted to go to the hedgehog cafe but it was a bit far from anything else we were doing, the Owl Cafe was just something we stumbled upon so thought it would be a good substitute. The Owl Cafe was not really a cafe at all, it was an indoor petting zoo. It was odd but the kids really enjoyed petting and holding the animals —there were more then just owls, there were snakes, a sugar glider, even a giant capybara wondering around, you can’t really hold a full grown capybara.

After the Owl Cafe we found a Denny’s because my older daughter saw it an really wanted to go and have chocolate chip pancakes she remembered having at a Denny’s along the interstate on the way to my grandparents house when she was six years old… unfortunately Denny’s in Japan is not Denny’s in the US. No chocolate chip pancakes, not much for all day breakfast at all in fact. But all the kids did find food they liked and, sad to say, we made two or three more visits to Denny’s to fill their stomachs over the next few days.

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Our first real adventure was the next morning, the Studio Ghibli Museum [ghibli-museum.jp]. Getting tickets to the museum is not straight forward, the tickets go on sale in Japan first and at some point you can buy them online via Lawson’s (yes, the convenience store). By the time they went on sale online everything was sold out. But there were lots of tour groups selling “tours” that included tickets to the Ghibli Museum. Tours in quotes because essentially you meet the guide at the nearest train station and walk in a group through the large park to the Ghibli Museum. Not much of a tour. I’m guessing that the tour companies go and buy up all the tickets when they are on sale in Japan and then they are basically scalping them, they cost three or four times the list price. I got the tickets but shame on Ghibli for such shitty customer experience, it’s fucked up. On the bright side, the museum was fun. It’s not real but but it’s got some fun stuff; a mock up of Miyazaki’s studio —complete with pencil nubs stapled end-to-end, which is apparently thing he does or did or whatever— various displays on how animation is made, from the drawing process, to cell painting techniques to multi-layer cameras used to give different layers different movement speed. And, of course, a museum shop where we spend way too much money (note to others we later found another Ghibli shop at the base of the Tokyo Skytree that had more than the shop at the Ghibli Museum, but not the unique things like actual animation cells and limited edition things. So if you are going to buy just the toys, puzzles, cloths and the like, you can skip the crazy crowd.). The other big thing at the Museum is the Saturn Theater which shows original short films. We were really hopping to see Boro the Caterpillar [wikipedia.org], Miyazaki’s first computer animation but, alas, we saw something else, unfortunatly there is no other way to see Boro.

All-in-all the Ghibli Museum was worth it for someone who has watched and liked all of the Studio’s work, not sure a passing fan would be able to justify the cost. My only complaint is the ticketing process and the crowds, considering the issues with getting ahold of the limited tickets there were a lot of people, just barely short of fire hazard crowded in places. Even the walk from the train station was fun, we would have made it with or without the “tour” but the leaves on the Japanese maples were in full fiery red glory in the park and we found a shop my kids really enjoyed: B-Side Label [bside-label.com], makers of vinyl stickers. the girls enjoyed just browsing and each picked out a handful of pretty or silly designs to stick on waterbottles and such.

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Our next adventure was teamLab Borderless [teamlab.art]. Which is an interactive image mapping and lighting exhibit. Projected waterfalls that flow around you. Animals you can color and scan and watch wonder around the rooms —and stomp on, causing them to splat on the floor. Rainbow whales swim along the walls, a gallery of color changing lamps in a mirrored room. We have been to the smaller teamLabs Future World at the Marina Bay Sands ArtScience Museum in Singapore a few times. several of the exhibits at Borderless are larger versions of exhibits there.

Still, teamLab’s art is awesome and beautiful. We spent most of the day wandering around. The only drawback was how hot the building is, between the large crowd and the lighting equipment it was very hot. In one exhibit it’s so hot it’s like being in a sauna. But Borderless is well worth a visit. There are several other teamLab exhibits in And around Tokyo too, but we didn’t visit any of them.

To round out our time in Tokyo we did some research before we left Singapore. We watched shows on NHK and YouTube to find things to do. The the key show was on NHK, the Hands-on Fun in Asakusa [nhk.or.jp] episode of Tokyo Eye 2020. within easy walking distance of our Ryokan we found three great things to do: Asakusa Kingyo, Kawarawari kawarana, and Asakusa Taiyaki Kobo Guraku.

Asakusa Kingyo [crayonsite.net] is located in an arcade just next to Sensōji [wikipedia.org]. Kingyo means goldfish in Japanese and Asakusa Kingyo is filled with paper goldfish, ceramic goldfish, stuffed goldfish and the like. but the main attaction is a large pool in the middle of the shop where you can sit and try to catch actual goldfish with little paper paddles and a wooden box. The kids caught dozens of goldfish over two or three visits. Unfortunately we couldn’t take them home, we got a ceramic goldfish to commemorate the visit.

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Kawarawari Kawarana [kawarana.jp] is for distressing, you get to break Japanese roof tiles like some karate master. The roof tiles are about one centimeter think and the basic package is breaking five tiles. It’s a fun experience, you can dress up in one of the yukata provided and a Karate Kid headband to have the full experience. Totally worth it.

Asakusa Taiyaki Kobo Guraku [guraku.jp] is a do it yourself Taiyaki cafe. Taiyaki are the traditionally japanese fish shapped pancakes filled with adzuku (sweet red bean paste), cheese or custard. At Guraku not only do you get to make the taiyaki yourself, you can bring anything you want to fill them. We were not so adventurous, we took ham and cheese, and made a lot of custard too. In fact we made a ton of taiyaki. We really went for the kids to make but that meant booking for all seven of us. I think we got 24 taiyaki out of it. We had hot fresh taiyaki, and warm taiyaki later and cold taiyaki for breakfast and… and then we tossed a few into the trash.

From YouTube we watched a few videos but the ones that we really used were those about food. We watched a YouTuber named Paolo [tokyozebra.com] and in particular his videos on Asakusa [youtube.com] and snacks in Harajuku [youtube.com]. Of all the foods that were tried there are two worth mentioning.

The first is the giant rainbow cotton candy from Totti Candy Factory (which does not seem to have a website, but funny enough they opened a shop in Yishun Singapore near my house). The size of the cotton candy is way over the top. It’s four flavors like some kind of fat sombrero. My youngest devoured one on her own. But Harajuku is too much for my family, too crowded. We made it halfway down the road, pretty much as far as Totti before they were all “get us out of here”. We took one wrong turn trying to go out a side street that ended up being a dead end (thanks Google Maps). But in the end had to wade back through the sea of humanity down the main road.

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The second food adventure was back in Asakusa: Benizuru (another one with no website). Benizuru makes one thing, this is Japanese “specialization leads to perfection” at its yummiest. Benizuru makes über-fluffy rice flour pancakes. Each pancake is about six centimeters think when they take it off the griddle, before it sinks a little. They are not so much fluffy (though that’s how everyone describes them) as jiggly. In addition to rice flour the chef folds in fresh whipped egg whites just before cooking. Getting a seat is, let’s say, “an adventure” (looking at it any other way will just irritate you.) they don’t take reservations over the phone, and they don’t take reservations for the future only for the same day. They open at eight AM to start taking reservations and are apparently fully booked dry quickly. My sister and I went at six AM the day after all of this was explained to us (we knew about the same day reservations but not what time they started taking them) and we were not the first people in line, there was a couple from Canada in front of us. By the time they started taking reservations the line was 30 people, or more, long. In any case we did get seats for ten AM and the pancakes were totally worth it. I had the basic, just three pancakes with butter and honey. All orders are three pancakes but there are a variety of toppings; in addition to butter and honey they have different (daily) fruits and even eggs and bacon. The whole reservation system makes more sense when you sit inside; there are 12 seats I think, and 6 griddle plates to cook the pancakes. So they can cook two orders at a time. If you’re going to go plan ahead and get up early, the people in front of us and at least those right behind us were, like us, returning after not being able to score a reservation on their first day.

Our last adventure was the Tokyo Sea Life Park [tokyo-zoo.net]. It was our last day and rainy but we took the train and made the most of it. I think though that the biggest hit was the French fries and hotdogs at the food truck in front of the aquarium.

I almost forgot, at some point we took a trip to the Tokyo Skytree [tokyo-skytree.jp], it was a nighttime visit to see the endless sea of lights that is Tokyo. I had a chance to visit the older Tokyo Tower [tokyotower.com] last year and I think it was better designed for the night view, and better positioned, closer to some of the clusters of tall buildings. Maybe the skytree would be better during the day, but the angle of the windows and the reflection on them of the interior lights spoilt the view for me.

And with that our 2018 tour of Japan came to an end.

We don’t have the bus to ourselves

September 11th, 2019

“I see we have the bus to ourselves,” she said. Julian cringed.

“For a change,” said the woman across the aisle, the owner of the red and white canvas sandals. “I come on one the other day and they were thick as fleas—up front and all through.”

“The world is in a mess everywhere,” his mother said. “I don’t know how we’ve let it get in this fix.”

Flannery O’Conner, in Everything That Rises Must Converge

O’Connor’s story is speaking about racisim in the 50s against blacks in the American south, the line before is “Everybody [on the bus] was white”. But, it would work today for others, Hispanics in America, Polish in England, Africans or Syrians in much of Europe. Bigotry is bad and the world is once again in a mess everywhere; people, even politicians, thinking and saying things like this.

Nagano, Japan, December 2018

August 25th, 2019

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The second stop on our 2018 tour of Japan was Nagano. Since no one in the family skis why did we go to Nagano? Monkeys. Snow monkeys to be precise, at Jigokudani Yaen-Koen [wikipedia.org]. We’ve been to see the Monkeys in the Onsen before [confusion.cc] but my youngest daughter does not remember and my niece had never been.

The trip to Nagano from Nikkō [confusion.cc] is via Tokyo: (almost) all Shinkansen tracks lead to Tokyo. We had a bit of a mishap changing trains in Tokyo we actually got on the wrong train, we were five minutes early at the platform. Such is the efficiency of the Japanese rail network. We figured it out quite quickly as there were people in our seat, but it was not quick enough sine we had to wrangle our luggage, the train had already left the station. The conductor told us that we could just get off at the next stop and take the next train. What he did not tell us is that the train we were on only made one stop between Tokyo and Nagano, and it was almost halfway. Since we were on a fast train it took about 40 minutes before the stop. Then, as our train was a slower one we had to wait on the track for 20 minutes, all because we were 5 minutes early at the platform in Tokyo.

Eventually we did make it to Nagano and our hotel. The first thing we did was to check the weather forecast. We were hopping to see some snow and our best chance would be at Jigokudani since it’s up in the hills. There was only a small chance of snow the first night but there was a 70 to 80 percent chance of a decent snow —3 to 5 cm— the second night. So we decided to spend our first day exploring downtown Nagano.

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We spent the late morning and most of the afternoon wandering around the grounds of Zenkōji

We woke early on our second day in Nagano hopping for snow. Despite the high chance overnight there was not a flake to be seen. Still we hopped to se some at the Jigokudani. We caught an early bus from Nagano station for the hour and a half ride. Unfortunately there was no fresh snow once we go there. There was snow on the hills and old crusty snow on the grass and under the trees. But it had not snowed overnight and what snow there was was melting in the sun.

It was a beautiful walk up from the bus stop to the actual bath used by the monkeys. About two or two and a half kilometers, from the bus stop it’s half a kilometer along a side road to the actual entrance to the park. From the entrance it’s a beautiful walk in the woods, though a bit muddy in the melting snow.

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The monkeys were much the same as the last time we went, but last time it was snowing and that made for an all together more amazing experience. It’s fun to get up close to the monkeys in the bath and take some photos. It’s a bit disappointing if it’s your first time and you realize this is not a natural hot spring pool, it was built for the monkeys. All the travel shows and photos you see hide this but it’s obvious when you are there. Also there are more people crowded around the hot spring than monkeys. It’s a highly artificial photo opportunity. That said you can get some awesome photos.

Back down the hill the kids managed to have a snowball fight with the old snow among the plants around the parking lot while we waited for our return trip.

Other than that we enjoyed some shopping —my kids are obsessed with Japanese stationary so, yea, picked up some markers, pencils, etc. etc.— and my wife and I managed to find a few places to eat local food so she could enjoy something other than convenience store fare, the kids continued lived off of Lawson’s and 7-11, though they did eat soba.

Nikkō, Japan, December 2018

August 11th, 2019

Normally it takes me about six months to cleanup and post photos from vacations. This year it took a bit longer for… reasons. So, yea, eight months this time.

Last December the family went to Japan again —our favorite destination. We met my mom, sister and niece there and went to Nikko, Nagano and Tokyo. This trip to Japan was delayed a full year, plans were made for this trip in 2017 but unforeseen events caused it to be canceled a few weeks before we were to leave. So we were determined to enjoy it to its fullest.

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Our adventure began before we arrived in Narita, and not on a positive note —feverish and vomiting kids. By the time we arrived in our hotel in Nikko, after three hours and two transfers by train from Narita, both the girls were sick. My mom and I spent most of the first day looking for medicine as the limited stock we brought quickly ran out. We walked around Nikko for several hours, looking for an open doctors office with the help of Google maps. We never found the first place Google directed us to but the second place we finally did find, after walking around in circles for a while, was very helpful… but it was an experience. The office was full of older men and women and, of course, the staff didn’t really speak English and I don’t speak Japanese so we spent some time conversing in single words and hand gestures enhanced with Google translate. “Child”. “Fever”. “Six years old”. “Ten years old”.

The staff was extremely helpful three or four of them gathered around trying to understand me. Eventually one of the staff was able to explain that we should go down the road to a Welcia to find what we needed. After another ten minutes or so of walking we found the Welcia, a very large drug store. Our second adventure in Google translate was trying to translate the labels of the medicines in the kids section —which was not very big, there really are no kids in rural Japan— one-by-one we translated until we found an ibuprofen and a paracetamol for kids. We never did find anything for vomiting and the staff was not so helpful. The guy at the counter was polite but it was obvious he didn’t want to take the time to try and understand, the contrast with the ladies at the doctors office was day and night. Maybe it was small business vs. big corporate employee but it reminded me of something I was told the first time I went to Japan: even though most younger Japanese speak English, the men won’t talk to you, you’re better off talking to the women. This was explained as a cultural stigma; while it is cute for a woman to struggle and speak broken “Engrish”, it’s not acceptable for a man to speak it so they just pretend they can’t understand.

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So, anyway after two days stuck in the ryokan sick everyone recovered and we got to enjoy Nikko a bit. The hotel we stayed at was right on the edge of town and just next to a place called Kanmangafuchi Abyss (憾満ヶ淵) [atlasobscura.com]. A gorge the Daiya river flows though which is overlooked by a line of statues called “Jizō”, a bodhisattva who “cares for the deceased”. The statues are about a meter high sitting on a stone base that is another half meter or so, and dressed with a red knitted hat —like a skull cap— and red bib. It’s quite atmospheric, about 70 of these statues covered in moss, sitting along the trail in the woods with the river rushing through the gorge. We would never have found this place except that our hotel was literally the last building on the street and woods and gorge were right next to us, a five minute walk to where the statues began.

Of course the main reason we were in Nikko was to visit the shrines and temples of Nikkō [wikipedia.org] UNESCO world heritage site. The main attraction was the Tōshōgū Shrine (東照宮); [wikipedia.org], the mausoleum where Tokugawa Ieyasu is buried. Ieyasu was the first Shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate, the guy who conquered all of Japan and founded the Shogunate which would last until the Meji restoration, some two hundred years later. They sparred no expense when they buried him.

The Tōshōgū shrine is the most lavishly decorated place I’ve ever been in Japan. It’s the most lavishly decorated place in Japan I’ve ever seen a picture of. When you think of Japanese design you probably think of clean, simple almost minimalist design. Toshogu is the Baroque of Japanese, every inch is covered in carvings and there is no lack of color. Or gold, there is gold everywhere.

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The Tōshōgū is far from the only shrine or temple, there is a large cluster of them. Taiyūinbyō (大猷院廟), Rinnōji (輪王寺), Shinkyō (神橋). We wondered around a few of them.

The other major thing we did was to take a train to Kinugawa Onsen to visit Tobu World Square [japan-guide.com]. We wondered around the 1/25 scale buildings from around the world: pyramids, the Acropolis, New York City —including the Twin Towers. There was Tower Bridge and The Eiffel Tower. A Bowing 747 and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. It was a blast.

In a recurring theme in all my family travels food was a challenge. We end up eating a lot of foods purchased from Lawson’s and 7-11. They have an impressive selection but you might thing we are crazy to be eating convenience store food in Japan. The problem is I’m vegetarian, my kids are just picky, my sister doesn’t eat gluten and my mom is not a fan of seafood. All in all it drives my wife, who is a foodie, mad. The best thing we got in Nikkō was great soba from a place near the hotel.

Two thoughts on climate change

July 21st, 2019

First an analogy: I’m sure it’s been used before but I was talking about climate chang ether other day with a coworker and used this one; climate change is like lifestyle diseases. Like diabetes or high blood pressure or cholesterol, climate change is something we were warned about, that it would be a consequence of our continued bad behavior and, like lifestyle diseases, too many people have ignored the warnings. This is a particularly good analogy for my peers, we are in our forties and all that past bad behavior has started catching up with many of us. Too many of my coworkers are dealing with diabetes, high blood pressure or cholesterol.

So, climate change is like lifestyle diseases: it’s a problem created by the success of the first world, and you have been warned about it for years. Doctors have been telling you that present you needs to eat better to protect future you for most of your life. The doctors told you that you eat too much sugar and salt, that you get too little exercise. But present you figures “I can have one donut, I’m gonna start going to the gym” or “some salty fries won’t kill me, I’ll eat better tomorrow.” But future you never gets a chance to eat better and exercise because when the time comes present you is always making other plans and giving excuses. Then one day present you is pricking your finger every few hours to measure your blood sugar, or taking pills for high blood pressure or cholesterol. Present you has got to live with the consequences of all the bad behavior of past you and there is nothing future you can do about it anymore. Preventing the disease is always better than treating the disease, but past you always assumed future you would be better than present you ever was. Psychology knows this, that future you is always going to be better behaved until present you is future you and then you behave the same as past you always has; present you likes donuts and fries just like past you did.

Like first world lifestyle diseases, climate change was avoidable but past, and indeed, present humanity has failed to curb the bad behavior. The scientist have been warning us for years that we need to take better care of the environment to stop climate change. Now we have passed the point of preventative maintenance, where future humanity could have done better and everything would have been alright. But present humanity continued to be as bad as past humanity and now future humanity will need to manage the chronic disease we have infected the planet with.

Even if you don’t believe that climate change is man made we are to the point where we need to do something to stop the changes if we want to keep living. Just like changing your diet when you get diabetes or high blood pressure we need to change our consumption; less meat, less plastic, less fossil fuels. But once the disease has set in you can’t use change your diet and hope it will all be better, you need some medicine, you have to take pills or insulin shots.

Which brings us to thought two: we can’t rely on stopping our bad habits alone. We need to reduce our use of fossils fuels, stop using plastics, limit meat, and many other things too. But we need some medicine too. And just as science continues to look for a cure to diabetes and high blood pressure, to reverse the disease we need to invest in finding a cure for climate change that we have already caused. Here I want to see America take the lead, to get America out of this funk of “all we have is capitalism, all we have is making money.” I think America needs a collective challenge one a global level to invest itself in.

America needs a nation commitment to tackling a global level challenge to grow, we don’t seem to work well without a grand shared goal: ending the depression, saving the world from Nazis and Kamikaze, or beating the Russians to the moon. Since the fall of communism we have not had any real global challenges to rise to. So, since yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, I propose to tackle climate change in a similar way as we tackled the race to the moon. Let’s challenge America to return the atmosphere to the carbon dioxide level of 1900, by the year 2030, and keep it there.

“And keep it there” is an important part of that challenge. It means that we don’t get off the hook for changing our ways. We have to stop adding to the problem; stop adding to the carbon dioxide problem. Even if NASA and NOAA can develop a plan and succeed in sucking the excess carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere we need to find alternatives to putting it back. Even if they can return the atmosphere to 1900 we also need to see how we tackle plastics in the environment, industrial chemicals in the environment and massive distraction of the environment through logging and farming. And how do we help the people who are disaffected by fixing those problems. But “return the atmosphere to to the carbon dioxide level of 1900, by the year 2030, and keep it there” is a mission statement we can remember and America can take up a challenge for the good of all mankind.

Fish Fetish: The Bretharian

July 7th, 2019

Oh my god. Flashback! I just cam across this article on I Fucking Love Science:

WTF is “breatharianism”? If you are not familiar:

Breatharianism, in the traditional meaning, is a belief that it’s possible for humans to survive without eating food. Breatharians claim that food, and sometimes even water, is not necessary for humans to live, and instead people can keep themselves alive with breathing and sunlight.

James Felton in Please Do Not Attempt The Breatharian Diet, You Need Food To Live [iflscience.com]

I know this delusional bullshit from a IRL encounter with a practitioner before Instagram, before social media, in the age of dialup. I can’t believe this story is not already posted here, but back when I sold fish for s living I met a “breatharian” so here is a factionalized account of that encounter…

It was a slow weekday at the shop, the dry stock delivery was tagged and shelved and it was only two PM. By some coincidence the shop still had a full house: J—- was working. I wasn’t working but O— and I were just hanging out with J—- after lunch till it was time for him to head to work. J— and D– were waiting for J—‘s Girlfriend S—- to come by the shop and they were going off somewhere or other to play tennis or mountain bike or something.

S—- is important here so some backstory: S—- was an ex-marine, single mom who was becoming ever more obsessed with new age natural healing. S—- was cool but even among a group of liberal vegetarians we all agreed she had jumped right off the deep end into crystals and raw food diets to try and fix her hypochondriac illnesses. At this point she had been on raw food for a few weeks or a month.

When she showed up at the shop that afternoon she had a friend none of us knew with her. I don’t remember how the conversation went up until S—-‘s friend said something to the effect of “I’m a breatharian.”

J—: “What is a breatharian.”

S—-‘s friend: “It’s a movement to free us from our fear of starving and remind us that all we need is to be open to the Universes energy.”

I think D– finally said something like “what?”

S—-‘s friend: “Yea. You see everything your body, and your mind, needs for nourishment it can get from just breathing in the energy of the universe.”

Beggs: “But you have to eat. Or you’ll starve to death.”

S—-‘s friend: “No, no, no. That’s just fear. The companies and the government they teach everyone this and we all develop this fear of starving if we don’t eat. But it’s just fear. You don’t need to eat or drink.

Beggs: “That’s just not how biology works…”

S—-‘s friend: “That’s just fear and lies. See the founder of Breatharianism, he’s been living without food and water for decades. And he’s not even aging.”

O—: “That’s because he’s fucking dead.”

J—-: “So, like, how long have you been starving yourself?”

S—-‘s friend: “I’ve been training for a year now. I still can’t break the fear. Sometimes I go a week without eating, I just drink juices.”

O—: “So you cheat. You should commit to it, one less crazy in the world in a few weeks.”

J—-: “You really believe you can live off sunlight?”

Beggs: “Photosynthesis!”

S—-‘s friend: “It’s not photosynthesis, it’s not sunlight it’s more than that. The universe is filled…”

This exchange went on for some time, round and round the loony bin as we all stood around the counter. Eventually it got a bit hostile, S—-‘s friend and Owen raising their voices. As S—- was extracting her friend and heading towards the door O— had the last line, “if there was a way to live without food and water, it wouldn’t have been discovered by some nut in Australia, the Ethiopians would have figured it the fuck out in the eighties!”

D–: “You know, the more I meet S—-‘s friends the more I understand how the Branch Davidians could exist. And the more I realize there is nothing wrong with S—- a cheeseburger wouldn’t fix.”

Shit on fire, yo.

June 29th, 2019

Authorities with the regional conservation office suspect the fire started on a farm when a pile of animal manure that wasn’t being properly stored spontaneously self-combusted.

Maddie Stone, in Wildfire Explodes in Spain as Europe Reels From Record Heat [gizmodo.com], on Gizmodo

It’s so hot literal piles of shit are bursting into flames. And while Trump screams “perfectly normal” in the background, the Sahara has come for Europe: It was 45.9 Celsius (that’s 114.6 in ‘Merican) somewhere in France [washingtonpost.com].