Rants

Two More Observations

Yeah, I know.. Two posts in one day? Just who the hell does he think he is?

So on the way home tonight I saw a very funny sight. The car in front of me was a hatchback Volkswagen. I don’t know the exact model since all the identifying items had been removed, but not the big VW logo. The car had been lowered, with the usual too wide wheels and tires, and had the standard exhaust work so fond of the “street racer” types. All it really does it make it sound like Wifey’s® battery operated corkscrew. Yes, we have a battery operated corkscrew. But only for Wifey’s® wine, my craft beer has no need of a corkscrew. I do, however, have at least seven bottle openers all throughout the house and porches. Gotta be prepared you know.

So, back to the story.  On the rear window of this silly little vehicle someone (or someones) had written in the dust (I doubt anyone could see out the window it was so dirty) “Sleepy Boyz” and decorated it was four very large penises. The occupants of the vehicle seemed to be totally oblivious to the artwork. I wonder if the dirty deed was done while someone was passed out in the car.

Needless to say, I was laughing at them the whole time they were in front of me.

The second observation is once again, a personalized license plate.  But this one I actually liked. It read “NONUKES 1”. I actually hope there are more of the “No Nukes” folks out and about. That is something I can agree with.

So, in honor of “No Nukes”, here is “Plutonium Is Forever” by John Hall from the 1979 “No Nukes” concert. I have that album somewhere….

Peace,
B

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A Case For Charity

So on the way home from work this afternoon, there were two people on two different corners asking for help.  The first one was your basic down-on-their-luck looking person, with a sign that was basically illegible. The second guy though had a great sign, “I need a beer” was all it said. Now that is a concept I can get behind (although I am currently on day 6 of no beer while I try to get my cholesterol and triglycerides under control, again).

I don’t bring these encounters up lightly. I take the homeless problem seriously. Especially among my fellow veterans. But today, I couldn’t help these folks. I have basically stopped carrying cash.  Not that I’m afraid of getting mugged, but because an ATM card is just too convenient. There really isn’t any reason to carry cash. Or is there?

This reminded me of an encounter Wifey® and I had outside a local store a week or two ago. As we were leaving the store a young man with his family, significant other, and two small children were asking passers-bys for help.  The gentleman was wearing a clean Subway restaurant shirt and hat leaving to believe that he had a job. Of course, Subway, and similar fast food jobs are usually part-time minimum wages deals. And we all know that a single person, let alone a family can’t live off of minimum wage. I guess it’s obvious I support the $15 an hour minimum wage initiative.

As usual, neither of us had any cash and told them we couldn’t help them. But as we were pulling out of the parking lot I realized I did have a credit card for that store. I could have taken them into the store and bought them at least something that would satisfy at least part of their need. I will admit that I was almost in tears because I failed to help another fellow.

And that leads me to another story (yeah I know, shut up already).

Many years ago, when I did call myself a “Christian”, which I no longer do, this happened at the church we attended.

It was while I was setting up for a Wednesday evening Bible study/reflection time (I was on the soundboard as usual) when a down-on-his-luck gentleman approached me asking for money.  Well, this time I did have some cash on me. I gave him all I had, a whopping $5. After the guy left one of the members of the church, a deacon no less, said to me “Why did you give that bum money? You know all he’s going to do is buy beer with it!” My reply and one I still use to this day when I asked the same question was “Well, what the hell did you think I was going to do with the money?” Basically, I gave the guy my beer money, but I knew I had some more beer at home.

And if I had any beer at home today, I would have given the guy with the beer sign a beer or two. Share and share alike!

I’m sure some folks reading this (there is somebody reading this right?) will disagree with my view on helping folks that are not as fortunate as themselves. And while, as I said, do not call myself a Christian, I believe the words attributed to Jesus in the Gospels (and I don’t think they are exact quotes, or if the human Jesus even said anything close to the words) are a good guideline for behavior towards our fellow humanity. Especially in regards to what is usually termed the “least of these”. To me, that means anyone on the fringe or outskirts of society. From what I’ve read of the New Testament, they tend to use the terms widow, orphan, poor, and occasionally refugee. In today’s world that would mean (to me at least) the homeless, the LGBT people who have been rejected, the refugees that have come to live with us (in or from ANY country, of ANY race, creed, color etc.), the indigenous peoples and ALL the other people of color, women, I could go on. But that’s another post.

My dear-ol-mother used to try to stop me from helping folks when I was younger.  Her favorite phrase was “Charity starts at home”. But then the question becomes; “define HOME”.  Going back to the Bible, even Jesus was asked a similar question, “Who is my neighbor?”, his response was the parable of the Good Samaritan. If you don’t know that parable click here to read it.  Of note on that parable is the Jesus Seminar released a book several years ago Sayings of Jesus” where they examine the sayings attributed to Jesus in the four Gospels. This parable was one of the few that all the participants agreed was a very probable saying from Jesus. (OK, I promise no more Bible references. I’m not a Bible scholar.)

No matter your belief system, I bet in some “holy” book you will find a varient of the “Take care of the ‘least of these'” command. I know you will find it in the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Qu’ran because I’ve read all three.

So what are your thoughts on helping today’s “least of these”? I’m not just talking money. It could be time spent with people in the hospital or an assisted living facility. Or visiting people in jail. Helping at a homeless shelter, a food bank, the list goes on. I admit, that I fall very short in this area. I try but fail. So for me, it’s usually a monetary donation. But when I was underemployed, it was time.

So do you do anything to help? Even if you don’t (no judgment here), leave a comment on your views on this subject. I welcome any open and thoughtful discourse. However, I do reserve the right to delete any derogatory comments.

Peace,
B

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Tips From Skeeters Driving School

Yes, another traffic rant. Sorry, not sorry. For any newcomers to the blog, feel free to search for the other traffic rants, there are several.

Here is a video that sums up most of my feelings. But it’s not the video I wanted of Gallagher. He has a short routine about that subject, which we’ll discuss after the video. This is from 1988, so some of the references are a bit dated, but the thoughts are still spot on.

What I want to talk about this time, is what to do when you’re in a left turn lane but can’t make the turn yet. Gallagher has a very nice routine about it, but I couldn’t find just a clip of it.

This is the way I was taught, and I know many of my family members were taught this way as well. Hell, even my mother knew this was the way to do it.

When you’re the first one in the left turn lane your supposed to get your ass out into the middle of the intersection. You have a green light, therefore you have a right to be in the intersection. This will accomplish several things, first it allows the car behind you to also get his/her ass out into the intersection, and second, it allows car #3 to get their front wheels up and over the stop bar. This way when the light turns yellow, all three cars can make the left.  You really need to see the routine, as Gallagher’s physical mannerisms make it so funny.

I hope this is a lesson you can take with you. Because if I have one more moron stopped at the stop bar and not even trying to turn left when there’s a break in traffic… Well, let’s just say it won’t be pretty.

Peace,
B

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Not That I’m Counting Or Anything

But on 25 May 2021, I will turn the magic age of 62 1/2 years old. Provided ol’ 45 doesn’t change the retirement age, on Friday 28 May 2021 I am retiring (told the boss I’d finish out the week just to be nice). I’ve already done my 20 years in the Army, and quite frankly, I’m done. Stick a fork in me.

The current countdown (give or take a few seconds since I took the snip)..

time

But like I said, I’m not counting down or anything.

Peace,
B

P.S. Yes I know it’s a long way off, but these “Stupid End Users” I deal with day in and day out required me to put the countdown on my PC so I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

P.P.S. I’m always worried when I click the spell check button on the WP editor and it says “No writing errors found”. I think it’s just fucking with my mind…

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Send Lawyers, Guns, And Money

(With apologies to Warren Zevon)

I have to admit that I don’t agree with Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part 2, Act IV, Scene 2;

“The first thing we do is kill all the lawyers”

I know several lawyers and even accountants that don’t deserve such a fate.  Although many do. I think Dante had a level reserved just for those of that profession.

However, (yes another traffic rant is coming), there would be a special place in Hell, if I believed that such a place existed, for idiots that will never use a turn signal, jerks who think that using a turn signal automagically gives them right of way, and especially the asshats that refuse to drive the speed limit no matter in which lane they are blocking traffic.

‘Nuff said…

Peace,
B

Again….

And yet again another mass shooting at a school. This will of course, once again, ignite the gun control debate. Since I am an Army retiree I am a bit conflicted on the whole gun control issue.

When I first enlisted back in 1976, I took the oath and swore to “Defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, both foreign and domestic.” I believed in that oath in 1976, and I still believe in it today.

So does that mean that I have to support private gun ownership? To me the second amendment reads;

“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Source: Wikipedia

I read that, first as a “Well regulated militia”. If I remember my history correctly when the constitution was written, the “upstart” United States may have had a standing Army, but nothing that could be called up quickly for any local problems, i.e. a sudden raid or offensive by the British Army. Hence the creation of a local militia. In today’s world, we call that militia the National Guard (I know this because my son is in the Guard). We no longer have the need for the local authorities (a mayor of a town, the local council etc..) to call up able-bodied men (and maybe women) to arms themselves and defend their homesteads.

However, the second part of that amendment “…the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” leaves some wiggle room. I have no problem with private, RESPONSIBLE gun ownership. My son has a weapon, as does my brother-in-law, and several friends and neighbors. I, personally do not. In my years as a paramedic in the Army, I have seen all too well the carnage that all kinds of weapons can inflict on the human body. I want no part of that. I am very much a pacifist. If that means, I’m the first to die in some “invasion” or whatever, so be it.

So where does that leave me? Or better yet, what is the definition of “responsible gun ownership”? For me, that means, self-defense for you and your loved ones. Also, for hunting and sustaining lives with the meat from those kills. That leaves out “trophy” hunting. I was so very pleased to read about the poacher that was mauled to death by the lion he was hunting in South Africa. I never find joy in the taking of any human life, but in this case, I feel justice was served.

Does that mean you can use “any weapon”? I don’t believe so. I see absolutely no need for any semi-automatic weapons in the hands of any civilian. Why would you need an AR-15 (or an M-16 – same weapon – for the military folks) to hunt? Knowing the damage that this weapon causes to the human body (and goats, as I had to do a “goat lab” when in training – after knocking a goat out, they shot it with an M-16 in a non-life threatening way, for us to treat the wound). There would be very little meat left to eat if you shot the average deer with an AR-15.

Do you need it for home defense? Not likely. Remember, the Governor would have called up the National Guard before this would be necessary.

And all this returns us to the beginning of this post. More school children have been killed because Congress (and maybe the Office of the President) refuse to do anything other than send “prayers and thoughts”. And as far as I’m concerned “prayers and thoughts” are nothing but bullshit. Pure and empty wishes. Instead, the NRA, which I believe should be labeled a terrorist organization, just gives more money to the congressmen (and women) they have in their pockets, and nothing gets done.

We need legislation, and we need it now. It’s time we vote out everyone who refuses to act on any gun control reform, both Republicans and Democrats. 2018 is the year to get them out of there. Start at the top. I say Impeach him now! But, I don’t think we have anything we can impeach him on (yet). But let’s get the ball rolling even stronger. Maybe we should vote EVERYBODY out and start all over again.

But we need better gun control legislation. I’m not advocating taking guns from people. But maybe, I am. Assault style rifles, semi-automatic weapons, “bump stocks” and other military-style weapons should be removed from the general public. There is no damn need for them in a home. You want to fire one? Go to a firing range. Maybe we could allow them to have them on hand for people to experience shooting them. I know there are ranges that have special licenses for fully automatic weapons. So this would allow people to have the same experiences.

But I doubt any of this will come about until a congressman’s child is killed in a random shooting. Sad to say, but I seriously think that’s what it’s going to take. But even then, if it’s a white person doing the shooting, they will claim its “mental illness” if it’s a “refugee” (especially someone from the middle east), then it’s “terrorism”. It’s never the fact that almost anyone can get a weapon, no matter what their background check says.

I have bipolar type 2 disorder. This should disqualify me from being able to buy a weapon. I could easily turn it on myself, or others with no warning simply if my meds aren’t doing their job that day. But I know, I could walk into a pawn shop or even a gun shop or two in this area and with my military ID, walk out with a handgun. I may not even have to wait the required 3 days.

So, after all is said and done, I’m still at a loss. The carnage will continue. Nothing will happen in Congress, the NRA will get more powerful, and more people will die.  If Sandy Hook didn’t change anything, if Las Vegas didn’t change anything, and if Stoneman Douglas doesn’t change anything, I doubt the other 18 school shootings this year will change anything either.

For those that read this and say “If you don’t like it leave”, sorry no. I choose reform. You can leave if you’d like.

Comments are welcome, just know any “hate speech” type of comments will be deleted. I have no problem if you disagree with me, but let’s keep it clean and honest. I know there are more than one view on this subject, and this is mine. Feel free to express your view.

Peace,
B

Empty Post

No need to like this post, it’s simply a test post. Seems that every time I post something, I will get at least one “like” within seconds with no views recorded. No way someone could have read my entire post that quick. So I’m checking for who has a script running. I figure it’s a ploy to get views on their (probably virus-laden) site.

So here goes nothing… And I’ll throw in a video to make it interesting.

Peace,
B

A Review Of The Google Pixel 2XL And The Google Mini

My old LG5 was having major issues. It wouldn’t charge most of the time requiring me to keep it plugged in both at home and on my desk at work, texting would suddenly just not respond. The keyboard.. well I won’t go into all the problems I had with that.

So I ordered myself a Pixel 2XL directly from Google. I decided to by-pass by cell carrier, Verizon, for two reasons. First, by buying directly from Google I get the monthly security updates AND any OS updates long before big red will send them out. Second, no app bloat. The phone didn’t come loaded with all the usual Verizon apps that I never use anyway. Seriously, has anyone ever used the NFL Mobile app? So this is a much cleaner phone, and therefore runs much smoother.

I also opted for the 128GB model so I could download my Spotify playlists and not burn up data when I don’t have a Wi-Fi connection and want to play my music.

I have had this phone now for about two months, I do not have any case for it yet, nor does it have any screen protection. I really, really hope to have both of those issues remedied this weekend.

But here’s what I’ve learned in the first two months.

  • This screen is extremely sensitive. Since I don’t have a case, I keep it in my pocket most of the time. I’ll take it out and there will be 3 or 4 apps open, the texting app will have picked a random contact and is sending pure gibberish. I’m hoping a case (one that I can clip to my belt) and the “gorilla glass” type of screen protector will help alleviate these problems.
  • The “Google Assistant” isn’t all it’s hyped to be. I understand that this app is still “under development”,  but it still needs lots of work. I primarily use it while driving to be “hands-free”.  Many times (after I use the “catchphrase” either ‘OK Google’ or ‘Hey Google’) nothing happens. Usually, the second time I call it, it answers. All you get is a musical tone to let you know it’s ready. The most common use, for me, is to text someone (usually Wifey®). So it’s “OK Google” (wait for music), “Send a text” (it will then ask “Who do you want to text?”), “Text <contact>” (You can simplify this by saying “Send a text to <contact>”, but that doesn’t always work. Last time I tried to do it that way, it started reading me the news and weather. I couldn’t figure how to stop that, so I had to wait for it to finish. If the contact has more than one phone number, you will be asked to pick which number to send it to.  This is good for folks that may have more than one cell phone, like myself (one business and one personal), but usually, it’s overkill. Let’s face it you can’t send a text message to a fax machine or a landline (who has a landline anymore anyway?). But more than that, when I’m in the middle of dictating a text and a new text come in, the assistant basically stops and the message will be displayed on top of everything, and it erases whatever I had already dictated. Very frustrating. And forget about asking it read incoming text messages. Most times it doesn’t respond at all, or when you can get it read a message and it asks you if you want to “Reply, Ignore, or go to the Next Message”. No matter how quick I say my answer (usually it’s Reply) or how long I wait, all it does it repeat my choices. I finally just have to wait it out and start all over again with the “Send A Text Message”.
  • I do like the GUI. Instead of the usual swiping right or left for screens (although it does have a Google News feed if you swipe to the left, and a user-configurable screen to the right), all apps are available by swiping up. And even more importantly, for me anyway, they are automagically arranged alphabetically. One thing I have hated from the days of my OG Droid was having to manually configure apps so I could find them. I love this feature.
  • This phone has an excellent camera. And not only that, pictures are automagically backed up to Google Photos (if you have an account). I also mine set to back up to my Amazon Prime Photos and even my Verizon Cloud. We’ve lost lots of photos before, don’t want that happening again.
  • I like the fingerprint option for unlocking (you can also set a 6 digit numeric pin). This also allows me to securely log into most of my banking and credit card apps. Saves me a lot of head scratching trying to remember what my damn passwords are.

On to the Google Mini.  I received my mini free.  Google sent it to me as a “gift” for buying the Pixel from them. I can understand why they gave it away, it’s pretty much useless to me.

One of the big things that Google touts for any of its home systems (the mini or Google Home) is the ability to control a “smart home”. Well, my house is more along the lines of a “Flintstone House”. We have absolutely nothing that can be voice controlled. And in all honesty, as an IT professional, I’m not sure I want a house like that. Hacking an IoT (Internet of Things) is pretty easy.

  • So, the main use of this mini is to play my Spotify playlist. Good thing I didn’t pay for it. This is something I can do (and much better) with either my phone or tablet. here’s the problem; As usual, you wake it up with the “Ok Google” or “Hey Google”. No problem there. To play my “combo” playlist (a test list I made on Spotify), you tell it “Play combo playlist”, it responds “playing Spotify playlist combo”. It will always start with the first song that was added to the playlist.  This playlist has just over 1500 songs, from about 30 artists. I would guess an average of 30 songs per artist. So it starts at the top of the list, in the order that the songs/artists were added. According to the instructions on Google to make the mini shuffle the songs, you will next tell the mini (after the required “OK Google”), “Shuffle the playlist”. It will respond, “OK, will shuffle the playlist after this track has finished”. Fair enough. You can next tell it (again after the required “OK Google”) “Skip this song”. This is supposed to make the mini pick a random song from there on out. But it doesn’t appear to work that way.
    • Let me explain it like this. Let’s say I had 5 artists, and each artist has 5 tracks on the playlist. We will call the artists, A, B, C, D, and E. The tracks we’ll call 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. Simple enough. So when you start the playlist, it will always start on artist A, track 1. When you get it to skip command it will always go to artist B (which is the next artist added when the list was created) and track 1. Then it goes back to artist A and track 2, followed by artist B, track 2. And so on until it finishes artist A track 5, then it will go to artist C track 1 and so on.
    • So with a playlist of over 1500 songs, I’ve never gotten through the first 3 or 4 artists before I get frustrated and turn it off.
  • And that’s where the mini sits.  On my nightstand, with the mic turned off. Every now and then I hit it and it tells me the mic is turned off and how to turn it back off. I just look at it with contempt and tell it “Shut the hell up!”

Anyone else having issues with a Google Mini?  Leave me some suggestions as to what I’m doing wrong, please!

Peace,
B

PC Security… Again

<rant>

So once again here I am at the hands of Stupid End Users.  I have to keep reminding myself that these fools pay the bills.

I want to make one thing perfectly clear. INSTALL ALL THE SECURITY UPDATES FOR WHICHEVER OS YOU HAVE (Windows, Apple or Linux). Nothing and I mean NOTHING is more critical to the smooth operation of your computer (and even your smartphone – this applies to Android and Apple phones as well) than keeping these up-to-date.

Case in point. I am working on a laptop for one of my co-worker’s son. He claims the screen went blank “while doing school work”. Neither dad nor I buy it. Right now, his screen doesn’t work, the mouse and keyboard are not functioning properly (even with USB versions). I could not do anything (since the screen was black) without plugging in an external monitor and resetting the BIOS (the Basic In and Out System – what controls almost everything on the motherboard) to recognize the second monitor.

I still cannot get any of the usual tools I would use to scan the system for viruses (virui?), check the hard drive for errors, or even check the display properties. All of those options are missing from the system.  Normally I would do a “System restore”. This is a very nice feature that Microsoft added some time ago (in Windows ME – probably the only good thing to come out of that version of Windows). Since this machine belongs to a college student, there is a real good chance he was doing something “he shouldn’t have been doing”.

No matter how good your anti-virus/malware is if you visit “questionable” sites (and I’m not talking strictly porn – many download, or ‘warez’ sites are riddled with viruses) you run an elevated risk of getting an infection. There is an increasing problem of sponsored ads on respectable websites that are pushing viruses without you doing anything. We refer to these as “drive-byes”.

Normally you can access System Restore through the Control Panel and “Advanced Features”. Naturally, that’s missing on this machine as well. The other way to get to System Restore is by booting into “Safe Mode” and running it from a command prompt (the old DOS black & white screen where you have to type everything. Oh how I miss those days.) But for whatever goddamn reason Micro$oft took the “F8” feature out of the boot cycle in Windows 10. In previous versions, you could hit “F8” while the system was booting to be presented with a menu of boot options or just use “F5” to go straight into Safe Mode. Micro$oft, you made a stupid, stupid, stupid decision to remove that.

So now, 3 hours of working on this machine and I tell it to reboot, hoping (beyond hope) that at least the mouse and keyboard will work. What happens? My options are “Apply Updates and Restart or Shutdown”. So now I’ll have to wait for it to apply who knows how many updates before I can go back to troubleshooting. (edit: so far 90 minutes on the “Getting Windows Ready” screen).

There is a very good chance that if these updates had been applied when first available (the last update from Micro$oft was 2 weeks ago), what has crept into this machine may have been prevented. Even though this machine has a reliable Anti-virus installed (I cannot tell if it’s up-to-date though), without these security patches something can get through.

Wifey’s® office will not install any updates for fear it will “break” a program or something. Now, yes, it’s true. M$ updates have been known to cause havoc. But when that happens it’s (usually) easily reversible. A simple “roll back” (sometimes you need to go to safe mode) is all it takes. And M$ is pretty good about fixing those bad patches, either by sending a remote uninstall or an updated patch within 72 hours.

Second example.

Working on another laptop (this one city owned). The user claims the screen “scrolls on its own”. Looking at the machine when he brings it in (interrupting lunch as usual), I see it is doing just that.

Looking a bit deeper I see that there have been no updates applied to this machine since it was issued to the user almost one year ago. Now this machine could be considered “mission critical”. But instead of being out in the field, where it’s needed, and up-to-date, it’s sitting here on my desk slowing applying a years worth of updates. One update at a time. Because that’s how fucked up this machine is.

It not only needs updating to the latest version of Windows 10, it needs every security update since the beginning of time.

Also, keep any Anti-Virus and/or Anti-Malware product you use up-to-date (you do have an Anti-Virus/Malware program installed, Right?? RIGHT???), and scan your machine on a regular basis. There are many excellent free choices out there, pick one, any one. My favorite is Malwarebytes (I do not get any money from them, but I’ve been using their product for over 10 years without a single infection). They have both a free and a paid version, I HIGHLY recommend the paid version. Last I looked, if you download the free version you get a 2 week trial of the paid version, so it’s worth a look. The extra benefits of the paid version make it a good investment for your PC.

Malwarebytes has blocked very many of the “drive-by” ads I mentioned above. I will get either a little notice that says “access to <website name> blocked”, or just a blank spot on the webpage where the ad would have been.  You can also look into an “ad-blocker” for your web browser that can plug into either Chrome or Firefox (I’m not sure about Safari as I don’t have a Mac). IE and Edge users are out luck. Drop those and go with either Chrome or Firefox (I like and use both of those).

</rant>

I apologize for the rant, but it has been Monday all month here at work. My frustration level is quite high for many reasons, just not here at work. (Don’t ask me about yesterday’s useless dentist appointment)….

Peace,
B