Podcasts

22/4/19 13:25
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I have recently started attempting to listen to podcasts on my morning commute. Oh MAN can I see some big differences. Already I'm categorizing: Big Business (thirty minutes or longer, of which 10% is sponsored verbiage), Short Episodes (ten minutes or less), Good Production Values...

Speaking of which. Open letter to people who make podcasts:

PLEASE try to keep the volume levels roughly the same. PLEASE. My car is not expensive, thus I hear road noise. If I have to max out my volume just to be able to hear the podcaster introducing the guest for this episode, and then as fast as possible have to set it near zero for the fifteen seconds of theme music or else my eardrums will burst, then set it to about half max when the guest is talking... then hey, I'm just not going to be able to listen to your podcast no matter how good it may be.

(See also: volume KNOBS are a USEFUL USER INTERFACE. I do not know why people keep trying to get rid of them. Clicking up/down twenty times simply cannot be done as quickly as a swirl of a knob.)
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Bucket list

21/4/19 11:15
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Someone I value asked about my bucket list. I haven’t really ever written one up, but I know the green flash was on it.

I don’t have very much on there. Not any more, anyway. Id like to see Victoria Falls some day. Bucket list item? Perhaps. Maybe Machu Picchu, too. Maybe the northern lights (I’ve tried). The rest is stuff I can’t control.

What are some things on your bucket list?
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How do I change the voice of Google Maps (not assistant, that’s independent) to male (not just some other accent) on an iPhone (not android)?

I put all those nots in there in case anyone decided to do a web search on the topic.

Looking for a creditable way to do this, and by creditable I mean it actually works. I did the uninstall and set the phone’s language and reinstall thing. That one doesn’t work. Nor do any of the suggestions for google assistant or for android.

Apple Maps can do it. So can Waze. Easy peasy (and no uninstall required). Obviously I’m angry that female is the default for servants and assistants, but those two have joined the 1990s and at least allowed a change.

Green flash

18/4/19 10:23
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Yesterday, for the first time in my life, I saw the green flash at sunset.

Bucket list item.

Sort of scary

16/4/19 06:22
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I am beginning to wonder if I am losing my mind.

1. I’ve always had times when I couldn’t think of the word I wanted. Am I more aware of it now, simply because I’m hanging with folk for whom the right word really is required, or is it actually HAPPENING more?

2. I used to be smart, able to learn new things rapidly and able to come up with solutions to problems. I don’t see that now. Is this a normal situation for a 50-year-old coming back to a profession ditched more than a decade ago, or is there more going on?

My mind has always been pretty much my only ally and my only asset. I don’t know what I’m going to do if it too is abandoning me.

Realization

12/4/19 06:24
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I talk too much.
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 The Library Book, by Susan Orlean, details two interleaved stories. One, the history of the Los Angeles Public Library, with a focus on the Central Library. Two, the story of the fire that ravaged the Central Library in 1986.

Even though I was living not that far away, I don't have any memory of the event. One possible reason is that the Chernobyl Disaster occurred at essentially the same time. (I certainly remember that!).

Arson was suspected, and ultimately the finger of suspicion was pointed at Harry Peak, a wannabe actor and pathological liar who told multiple conflicting stories to friends and authorities about how he spent his day, everything from "I did it" to "I was nowhere near it."

On the one hand, given that the case was largely circumstantial, I think it was probably the right call to drop the criminal case. On the other hand, I think Orlean is far too generous in her treatment of Peak. At one point, she says that Peak was always in search of *positive* attention, and thus the library fire would be uncharacteristic. This ignores the fact that he literally bragged about being the arsonist -- apparently he didn't have that big an issue with attracting negative attention.

And now for the Kindle notes:

Best title ever: "It housed the largest collection of books on food and cooking in the country—twelve thousand volumes, which included three hundred on French cuisine, thirty on cooking with oranges and lemons, and six guides to cooking with insects, including the classic Butterflies in My Stomach."


Some notes from just after the fire, as there was a need to deal with thousands of water-logged smoke-damaged books: 

Los Angeles has a multimillion-dollar fish-processing industry and one of the largest produce depots in the country, so there were huge freezers in town. Someone suggested contacting a few of those fish and produce companies. Though their freezers were full, the companies agreed to clear some space for the books. The volunteers were sent home with instructions to come back at dawn.

IBM gave its employees time off to volunteer. The next morning, close to two thousand people showed up at the library. Overnight, the city managed to procure thousands of cardboard boxes, fifteen hundred hard hats, a few thousand rolls of packing tape, and the services of Eric Lundquist, a mechanical engineer and former popcorn distributor who had reinvented himself as an expert in drying out wet things

The wet and smoke-damaged books were taken in refrigerated trucks to the food warehouses, where they were stored on racks between frozen shrimp and broccoli florets at an average temperature of 70 below 0. No one really knew when the wrecked books would be thawed out or how many of them could be saved. Nothing on this scale had ever been attempted.


A look into Harry Peak's life, as the author interviews his sister: "[mother] Annabell Peak worked as a cashier at a supermarket in what would be considered the wrong direction—the store was on the edge of Los Angeles. I told [sister] Debra that I lived in Los Angeles, and she thought I might be familiar with the supermarket. “It’s the one near L.A., you know, that’s owned by the Jew,” she said. “You know that one, don’t you?”"

Librarians as heroes: 

A battery recycling plant in the neighborhood had contaminated soil with toxic levels of lead, necessitating the largest lead cleanup in California history. Exide Technologies, which operated the plant, had just agreed to fund blood tests for the twenty-one thousand households in the neighborhood. The tests would be conducted at the Boyle Heights Branch Library. In times of trouble, libraries are sanctuaries. They become town squares and community centers—even blood-draw locations. In Los Angeles, there have been plenty of disasters requiring libraries to fill that role. In 2016, for instance, a gas storage facility in the Porter Ranch neighborhood sprang a leak, and methane whooshed out, giving residents headaches, nosebleeds, stomachaches, and breathing problems. Eventually, the entire area had to be evacuated. With the help of industrial-strength air purifiers, the library managed to stay open. It became a clearinghouse for information about the crisis, as well as a place where residents could gather while exiled from home. The head of the branch noticed how anxious patrons seemed, so she set up yoga and meditation classes to help people relieve stress. Staff librarians learned how to fill out the expense forms from Southern California Gas so they could assist people applying to get reimbursed for housing and medical costs. American Libraries Magazine applauded the library’s response, noting, “Amid a devastating gas leak, Porter Ranch library remains a constant.”

Speaking of other fires I hadn't heard of, she mentions the Proud Bird Fire.
 

"When he finished writing the book, Bradbury tried to come up with a better title than “The Fireman.” He couldn’t think of a title he liked, so one day, on an impulse, he called the chief of the Los Angeles Fire Department and asked him the temperature at which paper burned. The chief’s answer became Bradbury’s title: Fahrenheit 451. When Central Library burned in 1986, everything in the Fiction section from A through L was destroyed, including all of the books by Ray Bradbury."

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The Night Ocean by Paul La Farge, makes for a strange read. I guess ultimately, it's a story about a monster. La Farge certainly soaked in Lovecraftiana and one of the major counterfactual elements of the story is the idea that Lovecraft was gay and left behind a sexual diary of his exploits that was uncovered in the 1950s, causing a furore in fandom (and HUAC). The bits of its text reproduced in the novel are (while completely unbelievable) strangely believable. La Farge has some of the feel of Lovecraft's letters down quite well. The diary is soon exposed as a hoax, and then the actual story of the novel is a modern investigation of the hoaxer and who he really was or is. Could he be Robert Barlow, Lovecraft's friend and literary executor, reputed to have committed suicide in Mexico?

Sadly, this is one of those books where, when you get close to the end, you can tell that there aren't enough pages left for a GREAT ending. So while I didn't ultimately love the book, I appreciate the way it embodies a counterfactual world like that of Lovecraft - a world like our own apart from the existence of a particular book or other particular facts. Another topic it subtly bumps up against is Lovecraft's legacy... how would things be different if he was a 'pervert' instead of a racist? Or both a pervert and a racist.

Although it's a broad wink at the initiated, I also adore the name of the protagonist, Dr. Marina Willett.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where I work

10/4/19 17:49
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Drones in the health care sector:

The Trick to Achieving Universal Health Care? Drones

I am ridiculously proud of having passed their interview process and am now quite intimidated about contributing. These people do some AMAZING STUFF. Everyone I’ve met so far here is simply phenomenal.
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Busy

10/4/19 06:49
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Well I sure haven’t been around here as much since starting the new job!

So far it looks really nifty. People there are good folk and the work is fascinating.

I’m slowly coming up to speed. Slowly. I’m always antsy to become a useful contributor faster, and yeah that gives me some drive to make the effort, but god I’m tired and I judge myself for not being THERE already.

The commute isn’t as bad as I feared. Yet, anyway. Ask again in a few months. :)

I do read here, just in larger batches at a time. I apologize for commenting less.
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