My Thoughts on the Future

It has been difficult to find news or information not related to the recent U.S. election.  I know that life goes on outside that sphere. but so much has been written, speculated, threatened, reported, and protested that it feels as though both traditional and social media have exploded with more politics and political coverage than ever before the election.

While I do have some hope that Trump will be an acceptable president, I do have a few real concerns about his term in office.  Concerns based on more than the size of his hands, his orange skin, bad toupee, and philandering ways.  Instead of quietly obsessing over them, I decided to share and see if anyone else feels the same way.

My Concerns about a Trump Presidency:

1.  Climate Change and the Environment
     I decidedly believe in climate change and that fact that humans have contributed and continue to contribute to this problem.  There is just too much scientific evidence to believe otherwise.  But Trump is a climate change denier, at least his public persona is.  The issue here is a conflict of interest.  Some big businesses need to alter their business practices if we want to counteract the human influence over the climate.  But these alterations are expensive in terms of time and money, so big business has a reason to deny human involvement in climate changes.  

     Does Trump have any businesses that directly impact the environment?  I don't know.  I also don't know if he has businesses that indirectly effect the environment or if he has friends who own businesses that effect the environment.  But I have dire concerns that he is compromised in this political arena.

2. The Supreme Court
     We already have one vacancy to fill on the Supreme Court, because the Senate decided not to do their job.  But there are potentially two more Justices who are old enough to either retire or die, which means that Trump can potentially pick three Justices.  Three out of nine Justices on the court that is the final say on the law in our country.

3.  America's International Relations
     To be fair, no one knows what it feels like to be a president before being elected and sitting in the Oval Office, so we cannot predict with absolute certainty how a person will behave.  With that caveat, I worry about Trump's behavior as president.  During his business dealings and his presidential campaign, Trump showed himself to be a consummate liar lacking in personal restraint who treats others with little to no respect but hypocritically throws diva-like tantrums if he feels slighted.  Trump acts like an old-man-teenage-drama-queen who admittedly believes it is perfectly fine for him to say what people want to hear and not mean a word coming out of his mouth.

     How will this play out on the international stage?  Will Trump threaten to sue other countries if he doesn't get what he wants?  Will he open up the U.S. for lawsuits for our actions?  Does he understand how to compromise to achieve the greater good?

4. Chaos of the Unknown
     During the Republican primaries, Trump admitted in an interview that he says what he thinks people want to hear but that doesn't mean he believes everything he says.  This particular behavior continues.  Trump promised to "drain the swamp" in the first 100 days, implying that he was bringing in people who aren't political insiders to staff his cabinet.  But his first appointment was Reince Priebus, a former leader of a swamp faction (to continue the metaphor).  In fact, the only names we hear for cabinet appointments are Washington insiders.  How is this draining the swamp?

    During his campaign speeches, Trump harped on the danger of Muslims, promising to ban all Muslims and maybe kill the families of terrorists.  That particular promise is now missing from his website and I have not heard of him talking about this issue since the election.  To be honest, I hope he has abandoned this position.

   Currently, Trump is involved in three lawsuits with claims about Trump University.  Trump appears in advertisements for Trump University, talking about how he hand-picked each person who works there and guaranteeing results.  But in depositions, Trump admits he doesn't even know all the professors.

I guess the point here is that we cannot believe a word out of his mouth.  Trump will say whatever, which means we don't know what's going on by his words, other by his actions.  And it might be too late to change directions if we have to wait for Trump to act to know what is going on.  I call this situation the chaos of the unknown, because I fear this situation will cause chaos within the government.

There are my biggest concerns about a Trump presidency.  What do you think?

Freaky Friday News: November 11, 2016

JAVIER SORIANO/AFP/GETTY

Leonard Cohen Died

Poet and songwriter Leonard Cohen died this week at the age of 82. Cohen moved from Canada to the US in the 1960s to start on a music career.  He is well known in certain circle for both his poetry and his music, but most people know him for the song "Hallelujah", popularized in the movie "Shrek" and covered by a variety of artists.

Goodbye, Mr. Cohen.



Super Moon Next Monday

Credit:  Tim McCord

On November 14, the Moon will be at perigee with the Earth.  Perigee means the moon will be at the point in its revolution where it is the closest to the earth.

Next Monday is also the next full moon.

When a full moon happens around perigee, you get a super moon.  Generally, super moons are approximately 16-18% brighter and 30% larger than micro moons (full moons at apogee).

But next Monday, the timing of the full moon and perigee will bring the largest and brightest super moon since 1948 and won't be seen again until 2034.  That's because the full moon coincides with the peak of perigee.


Be There in a Jiffy?

Ever wonder how long that is?  A jiffy is one-hundredth of a second. (0.01 seconds).  A shake is even shorter - 10 nanoseconds, or 10 millionths of a second.




My Post-Election Thoughts

This morning did not turn out how I expected.  To be totally honest, I am not certain as to what I expected.  I know I expected Hillary Clinton to win, but I also expected a feeling of relief that this election cycle is finally over.  I guess I also expected fallout from Trump losing.  Maybe violence in some places, maybe protests that the election was "rigged".  

So on one hand, I feel relief that there will be no long, drawn out process of confirming votes and calming voters down over the fairness of the election.  On the other hand, we now have four years of soon-to-be President Donald J. Trump to look forward to.

Until I heard his acceptance speech, I despaired about our future.  But the man who accepted the job as President was different than the man who campaigned.  Trump asked people to come together, "as one united people".  He praises Hillary Clinton for all of her hard work, and acted like a sane man.  Maybe, just maybe, he will surprise us all in his role as President.

In the end, I still have hope, hope for the future and hope for the United States.  To quote Franklin D. Roosevelt:
We have always held to the hope, the belief, the conviction that there is a better life, a better world, beyond the horizon. 

"Nerd Like Me" by Mike Rayburn


Wordless Wednesday: Positions of the Sun


Review: Joe Rogan: Triggered

Netflix Original

JOE ROGAN: TRIGGERED

"Scientology. Lying to kids. Butt stars of Instagram. 
Just a few talking points from a master of Zen."


I admit, I used to watch Fear Factor.  I just could not get over people voluntarily eating cockroaches and worms.  Lying in a box with snakes?  No problem.  That doesn't sound too difficult, especially because I'm not afraid of snakes.  Jumping off a really tall object?  Any day of the week.  But the eating contests?  I would never have passed even one of those.

That was my introduction to Joe Rogan.  He ran the show, consoling the contestants who failed and high-fiving the ones who survived.  I liked his sense of humor and good spirit.  So when I saw that he had a Netflix special, I watched it.

And I got blown away.

Joe Rogan is funny.  He has the ability to make jokes about his life and laugh with you.  He relates his experiences to society in general in such a way that you find yourself nodding, agreeing with his observations while also finding the humor in the situation.

I think that might be Joe Rogan's greatest strength: his ability to vocalize the myriad of assumptions and thoughts that go through most people's heads at one time or another but which no one openly talks about.  Or rarely talks about.  And instead of sounding controversial or attacking, he makes it all into a shared joke.

If you have the time and access to Netflix, I highly recommend watching "Joe Rogan: Triggered".  You will come away with a laugh and maybe a new insight into the world.

Why I Love the Blue Man Group


It's About More that the Next President


So I know a LOT of people are feeling tired and worn out after this entirely too long campaigning season.  I also know that very few people are solidly for either of the presidential candidates, and don't want to have to choose between Clinton and Trump.

But tomorrow is about more than just picking the next president of the United States.  California has 17 propositions on the ballot to decide on matters such as the price of prescription drugs and a hidden tax on pornography (it's supposed to be a law requiring condoms for adult performers, but it got blow out of proportion).  Georgia, where I live, has four amendments that appear on the ballot.  I assume other states also have statewide legislation.

Plus there are federal races for the Senate and House of Representatives.  You may also live someplace with state or county level races.  So you need to go out and vote.

If you worry because you have no idea what else is on the ballot where you live, go to Google.com and type in "show me my ballot" and Google will ask you for your street address.  Then it will show you your ballot.  The result looks like this:


Clicking on the "STATE" and "LOCAL" tabs will show you the state and local level elections.

If you have more questions about all the various and asundry elections, you can go to Ballotpedia.org and read more there.

But whatever else you do tomorrow, please vote.  Our democracy only works if we all vote together.

"Pipe Dream"

Fantastical animated machine creates a wonderful, happy tune.


Odds & Ends: Tombstones on The Internet

Or Why Anything You Delete Might Not Actually Be Gone



Imagine this situation:

You just signed up for Face+, a new social media service.  You find family and friends here, and you are just ecstatic about all the new bells and whistles.  Suddenly, an ex finds you and sends you a message.  OMG, what a stalker!  You write back a nasty reply and post it.  A few hours later you realize that you might have made a mistake, so you delete your reply and compose a more thoughtful one that doesn't include threats of bodily harm.

Here's the big question:  was your original reply really deleted?

To answer this question, first we need to discuss how information is stored on the Internet.  

The vast majority of data on the Internet is stored via a distributed system.  This means your data is physically stored on multiple computers in various locations, so that you have access to your data regardless of where you are and what's going on in the real world.  For example, if Houston has a flood and all local data centers go offline, all of the information needs to be replicated in other data centers so that users aren't impacted by the outage.  All of the major players on the Internet do this, which explains why a random hard drive failing in a data center doesn't lose data for anyone.


This distribution of data means that to truly delete something, you need to delete that piece of information off of all the hard drives in every location, which is somewhat of a logistics nightmare.  To combat the problem, tombstones were created.  A tombstone is a placeholder that states a piece of data has been deleted.  When information flows around the Internet, all the pointers to the data now find a tombstone, so whomever or whatever is looking for the deleted information is told that that data has been deleted.   

The problem comes from how and when tombstones are deleted.  You see, I/O (input/output) is expensive, as is CPU cycles.  But storage mediums, such as hard drives, are relatively cheap.  So leaving tombstones around for a long time is not a problem because they take up a tiny amount of space.  What matters to most users, though, is that the data referenced by the tombstone is only marked for deletion.  There is nothing to say the data has been deleted from the hard drive.  

There are a lot of practices in place for how and when to defragment disks, how to store and retrieve data in a timely fashion, and how to manage data centers.  These practices balance the need to provide fast service with the expense of a data center.  To get faster service, you can:
  • Increase the CPU speed
  • Increase the amount of memory
  • Increase the speed of the hard drives
  • Increase the speed of the network connection
  • Increase the I/O speed by not doing a lot of writes and keeping related data physically close on the media for faster reads
The last bullet point is key to this discussion.  By using tombstones, reads are much faster and with a definite answer if someone asks for a piece of data that has been marked for deletion.  Without a tombstone, a request comes back "not found" with no reason behind the error.  With a tombstone, a request comes back "data has been deleted".  

What does this mean for the average user?  Basically, if you delete something from the Internet, you will probably lose the ability to access that piece of data through regular websites.  But that does not mean that your data has been physically deleted from all of the places where it exists in data centers.


So to answer the original question, your original reply is marked with a tombstone, but there is no guarantee as to when it will be deleted or how long it will remain hidden on the hard drives. 


Freaky Friday News: November 4, 2016

Attributed to Gage Skidmore, 2012

Steven Seagal Becomes A Russian Citizen

This week, Vladimir Putin issued a presidential decree granting Steven Seagal citizenship in Russia.  I know that may sound like a plot to one of Seagal's B grade action movies  But this happened in real life.  Seagal and Putin have been friends for years, with Seagal calling Putin "one of the greatest world leaders alive".

For some reason, this news did not surprise me as much as Tina Turner becoming a Swiss citizen.


Welcome, Alexander Camelton!

Earlier this summer, the Lincoln Park Zoo decided to name its newest camel after one of our founding fathers and a Broadway hit musical.  So I present to you, Alexander Camelton!  

Alexander Camelton and his parent, From Lincoln Park Zoo

Born:  May 18, 2016

Height:  48 inches tall
Weight:  81 pounds
Mom:  Nasan
Dad:  Scooter



;

Centralia, Pennsylvania is Still Burning

Back in 1962, a fire started next to the coal mine in Centralia, Pennsylvania.  Firefighters worked to put the fire out, but it spread to an open seal of coal.  Suddenly, it became a lot harder to fight.  Eventually, money ran out and the firefighters quit.  The fire spread to the entire mine, but no one worried about it until 1981, when a sinkhole from the fire almost swallowed up a 12 year old boy.
The government relocated the vast majority of people in the 1990s, tearing down the buildings and leaving behind a ghost town.

Side note for gamers:  The look of Silent Hill is partially derived from Centralia.

Now less that 12 people live there.  They claim that the fire is not a threat anymore.  But it still burns.  According to scientists, it might burn another 250 years before going out.


Friday Funnies: Craigslist Ad for a Koala


Dads Feeding Their Kids


Intermission: National Novel Writing Month


Welcome to the insanity that is my life.  :-)  November is the official National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short.  It is a time when writers everywhere pledge to write 50,000 words in 30 days.  Yes, this is crazy, but it's also fun and challenging.

I started doing NaNoWriMo several years ago.  I even published a book, "Crazy", from my work one year.  This year I'm writing an urban fantasy focused on the protagonist, Eva, trying to solve the murder of her boss, Roberto.  The plot involves vampires, Special Agent werewolves, undercover werewolves, money laundering, betrayal, nosy editors, old lovers, and a chicken-wielding housewife.  Suffice it to say, my creative head space is full, and I don't really have the capacity to work on "Grecian Gambit" until December.

Instead, how about an excerpt from the beginning of my new novel?  Assuming no one complains about this, I will publish small bits of what I'm writing this month.  I hope you enjoy it.



Cell phones - an invention of God? Or an invention of Satan?

I debate this point with myself at least three times a day, depending on who’s calling and why. I love getting phone calls from friends; I hate phone solicitors with a burning passion. After eight hours of covering the third shift news beat, I want to take a nice, hot shower and get some sleep. I might be an immortal, but every woman needs her beauty sleep.

But the ring of my cell interrupts my bedtime routine. I almost ignore the call - almost - until I realize it’s the ring tone for Trixie.

“Speak, mad woman! Or forever lose your tongue,” I command my editor and best friend.

“Isn’t that supposed to be ‘forever hold your tongue’?” Trixie giggles into the phone.

“Well, why have a tongue if you’re not going to use it?”

Trixie giggles more, “Eva! How crude!”

I sigh. “I mean talking. Get your mind out of the gutter and tell me why you called me.”

The giggling stops. “Sorry, hon. I know you just put in a long night, and I love your article about air pollution. But there’s been a murder, and I think you’ll want to cover this.”

“A murder?” I sit down on my bed and close my eyes. Trixie knows my secret, has known for six months, and I wonder if she thinks I’m some sort of death-loving monster. “Why would I want to cover someone’s death?”

Now it’s Trixie’s turn to sigh. “Eva, I know you don’t like covering these types of stories, but a college kid found… well, she thinks it was a man. Someone hung him on a cross, and then…”

“And then?”

“He burst into flames as the sun rose.”

She doesn’t think I’m a monster. I open my eyes as I digest her words. Well, this gives me pause. I understand now why Trixie asks me about this. We still haven’t had many conversations about vampires and all the crap said about us.

“Listen, vampires don’t burst into flames when we come into sunlight. You know this, right? I mean, I do attend the company picnic.” I notice a loose thread on my comforter, and get up to grab scissors from my desk.

Now it’s Trixie’s turn to sound relieved. “Sorry, hon, I forgot about that. I can call”

“No,” I interrupt Trixie as I cut the thread. “You already called me. I don’t mind doing this. Besides, Carly’s been touchy for the past few weeks. I don’t want to hear her complaining around the office tomorrow night.”

Plus, Carly is a few weeks pregnant. I know this because she smells pregnant to me, but I don’t mention it to Trixie because I’m not sure even Carly knows yet.

“Fine,” Trixie’s harumph blows through the digital connection. “But I want a lesson on vampires and sunlight after you turn in your copy.”

I laugh, “No problem, mad woman!”

“I might be mad, but I am still your boss!” An evil laugh pours into my ear as I roll my eyes at my goofy friend. “You need to head to east Cobb. The body’s on the corner of Old Canton Road and Sewell Mill Road. And Eva?”

“Yes?”

“Play nice with the police.”

I roll my eyes. “Yes, mom.”

“Later, Eva.”

“Later, Trixie.”

I put the scissors away and my shoes back on. Looks like I’ll be missing my beauty sleep today.

"Bohemian Rhapsody" Bluegrass Cover by Hayseed Dixie