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February 2018

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Snowflake Empire

Reading the following, you would be excused for thinking this school must be a literal house of horrors.

Two Riverton High School students, one a senior and one a junior, told the Riverton school board Tuesday night that "We feel unsafe in our school."

"There are too many entrances and exits for one School Resource Office to protect us (10). We feel this is unsafe. The school in Florida (Parkland, where 17 students were killed two weeks ago by a former student) had only one SRO," they said. "We have a long walk, outside, to the Career Center, and in winter its cold and there is no security for us. People are let in the side doors, there’s no one to monitor the walk between the buildings."

"...students here are worried for their lives..."

You'd think there must be armed meth-heads going freely in and out of the school on a daily basis, wouldn't you? Well, you'd be wrong.

What's really going on here, in my opinion, is the media frenzy overhyping school-related violence is costing these kids their sanity. Absurdly false claims -- like how there had already been 18 school shootings in 2018 by the time of the Parkland spree -- still manage to take a toll on people who don't realize how ruthlessly their emotions are being exploited by political psychopaths with a freedom-killing agenda.

Those responsible for creating this unfounded atmosphere of terror -- whether with guns or with propaganda -- need to be locked up.

© Wednesday,  February 28, 2018  Kevin McGehee


What Would We Do Without Astronomers?

Well, in fairness, it was from astronomers I learned enough that the following strikes me as one of the 21st century's quintessential "Duh!" moments.

We know Proxima Centauri has a great deal of flare activity, so this wouldn't be entirely out of character for the star. But it also lowers the chances for finding life on Proxima b, a rocky planet about 1.3 times the mass of Earth.

Because the star is so cool and dim, the planet has to orbit very close to the star in order to be within the habitable zone. This means that it's much more likely to get lashed by stellar flares, which could strip away its atmosphere, if it even had one to start with.

"It's likely that Proxima b was blasted by high energy radiation during this flare," MacGregor said.

"Over the billions of years since Proxima b formed, flares like this one could have evaporated any atmosphere or ocean and sterilised the surface, suggesting that habitability may involve more than just being the right distance from the host star to have liquid water."

Yes. You also need an active molten iron core to support a strong magnetosphere -- though how strong it would need to be to withstand Proxima's flares is beyond my reach, as is whether a magnetosphere that strong might not make the planet uninhabitable all by itself.

This is why I don't consider Fermi's Paradox all that paradoxical. We're here not just because Earth is in the Goldilocks Zone, but also because (according to the prevailing theory) a planet not much smaller than Earth came along and hit our planet, undoing whatever core cooling might already have taken place, and creating a disproportionately large moon that has exerted tidal pressure on Earth for billions of years, slowing the recooling of our molten core and preserving our magnetosphere long enough for life not only to arise, but to evolve to its present abundance and diversity. And in our own case, a semblance of intelligence.

Odds are that in a universe as enormous (and dimly lit) as ours, this serendipitous sequence of events -- or some other having the same effect -- has occurred in some other, relatively stable, sun's Goldilocks Zone, but the Fermi Paradox assumes that Earth is typical.

Obviously, it isn't.

© Wednesday,  February 28, 2018  Kevin McGehee


Pave It Over with Green Concrete

Here in the South, one of winter's many downsides is that it ends.

Another is that before it ends, it's a huge enabler -- offering excuses by the dozen on any given day for why I can't go out and do any off-season preparation for the yard-work season.

Well, today it made the mistake of taking my indolence for granted, and I managed to slip past it and try again to figure out why my mowing tractor can't keep from conking out after just a handful of minutes when I'm mowing.

The last excuse it had handed me was that the battery was dead, which has become such a chestnut that it only took part of an afternoon to fix it. Today I hooked up the battery and cranked the mower up and took it for a test-mow, just to see how far I'd get after all this time. Answer: not very.

Dusting off the air filter helped a little, but not enough. Next up is to get to a yard equipment store for a replacement air filter and a couple of spark plugs -- one to put in now, another for spare. If those don't work, I'm going to have to jack this thing up and have a look underneath. And I'm really not sure what I'm supposed to be looking for.

Which means it'd probably be bound for the shop to let the professionals figure it out, which will cost money and considerable time, it being that part of the season when the backlog is starting to pile up.

© Tuesday,  February 27, 2018  Kevin McGehee


New Paradigm

About this time last month, I complained about my format, which kicked all of a previous month's posts to archive as soon as the new month began, with the result that anything posted within a day or two of the end of the month only had a short period of visibility.

No more. I've gone back to using the index page for content, generally about two weeks' worth. The permalinks for each post will still go to that month's archive page.

© Monday,  February 26, 2018  Kevin McGehee


Another Reason Why I Keep My Web Domain

Ever been filling out forms and come to the line for your email address? Notice how little space they usually have?

If you're like some people your email provider's domain name is anywhere from five to twelve letters long, plus .com or whatever. And if you weren't one of the first 500 subscribers to that email provider, your username may be anywhere from twelve to twenty characters long, what with all the additional letters and numbers they make you tack on because so many other people have your exact full name (yes, even mine).

By owning my own domain -- and a short one at that -- I have the only email address on it.

My email address will fit on any line on any form. And if they still somehow manage to give me too short of a line, well, I can give myself a username of just one letter.

© Sunday,  February 25, 2018  Kevin McGehee


Boycotter, Boycott Thyself

But if they won't, I'll be happy to.

A bunch of corporate wusses have broken ties with the National Rifle Association for refusing to confess to mass murder in Florida.

Looking at the list (which isn't entirely complete, leaving off other car-rental brands, for example owned by the ones named), I'm happy to see none with which we currently do business.

Allied Van Lines and North American Van Lines: I honestly don't remember what company moved our belongings from Alaska to Georgia back in 1999, but since it was an employment-related relo our options weren't as wide-open as they will be a few years from now. I expect to seek a moving company that offers a discount to me as an NRA member, and if Allied and North American haven't come crawling back by then, begging forgiveness, I'm sure we'll find someone else.

Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National, Payless, and Thrifty car rental brands have all either announced a break with the NRA or are owned by other brands that have. That could be painful if we need to rent a car anytime soon, but it's been years since Mrs. McG and I flew anywhere rather than driving. And while it's true that Mrs. McG's late mother bought her 2013 Chrysler minivan from Enterprise after having rented one from them because her 1996 Jeep Grand Cherokee went tango-uniform, the buying experience was so unnecessarily grueling that when I went looking for a new car of my own the Carmax experience was like a visit to heaven. Carmax, of course, isn't a rental company.

We have idly considered an Amtrak vacation sometime in the next couple of years, with a driving trip at the other end, so the car rental situation is some cause for concern. I'm confident, though, that some company will take advantage of the opportunity all these other outfits are giving them.

Best Western: The last time Mrs. McG and I stayed at a Best Western was, if I'm not mistaken, in 1999. Since then we've been amassing loyalty points with another chain that's not on this list. I've been disgruntled with BW for decades anyway, since they dropped the Western-themed logo I remember from my childhood.

Delta and United: We don't fly. If we ever do fly it won't be in one of those commercial cattle-cars-with-wings these airlines operate. It's sad Delta is on this list because it's been the one we were amassing points with during our time in Fairbanks when air travel was the only way to visit family in the Lower 48. But as I said, it's been years since we've flown anywhere, and the security theater air travelers are subjected to these days is not something I'll willingly put myself through.

Chubb Insurance (who?) and MetLife: Okay, we didn't choose our insurance company for an NRA discount, and if we learned it gave a discount to some group we disagreed with I might be disgruntled, but we've been with them together for almost 24 years now -- and each of us was with the same company for years before we met -- so how pathetic does an insurer have to be that it could be stampeded out of a relationship with the NRA by a bunch of social-justice snowflakes?

Likewise a bank, of which there's only one on the PJMedia list: First National Bank of Omaha. There was a time when a relo to the Omaha area was a possibility, but I doubt we would have chosen a bank there based on an NRA deal. If we had chosen that bank though, its cowardice in the face of SJW demands would surely have demonstrated the bank couldn't be trusted with our money.

Other companies on the list include a discount pharmaceutics chain that I've never heard of, a home security company whose decision on this matter would leave me feeling insecure about their services, a "hearing technologies" business that seems not to have considered that gun enthusiasts ought to be a prime market for what they're selling, a car buying service that, not being Carmax, has no relevance to me, ... and Symantec.

Whenever I encounter a Symantec product on a computer, I tear it out by the roots. If it were malware in its own right, I cannot conceive of how it would affect a computer differently. This is one case of a parting of ways with the NRA that I can only applaud.

Some companies, such as Amazon, YouTube and FedEx, haven't yet responded to pressure to hurt the NRA -- but YouTube has been hurting the gun-enthusiast community in other ways.

© Sunday,  February 25, 2018  Kevin McGehee


"Vash Me If You Vant to Live"

The 21st century isn't turning out the way I was promised.

TTAC's staff has had its share of minor misadventures with semi-autonomous driving aids, be it during encounters with thick fog or heavy snow, but truly self-driving cars have even more sensitive equipment on board -- and all of it needs to function properly.

That makes even the simple task of washing a self-driving car far more complicated than one might expect, as anything other than meticulous hand washing a big no-no. Automated car washes could potentially dislodge expensive sensors, scratch them up, or leave behind soap residue or water spots that would affect a camera's ability to see.

The obvious solution is, as a TTAC commenter pungently observed:

There you go, this will provide jobs for all those laid off due to the self-driving vehicles. Problem solved!

Other commenters made other obvious observations as well, including taking note that plenty of people-driven cars have sensors too, including none other than my own 2012 Ford Escape, which has both a backup camera and an array of sensors that cause noises to be heard from the dashboard if something obstacle-like is detected. I've been running this car through automated car washes for over four years now, and the sensors are just as overprotective as they've always been. One might expect a difference in behavior between just before a wash (especially if it's been a long time) and immediately after. Nope.

And -- even assuming somebody forces me to own one -- there's no more chance I'm going to suddenly take up hand-washing a car now than there ever was in my teens or twenties. Skynet's servants need to make their self-driving cars machine-washable, or it'll be the seventh or eighth deal-breaker on the whole concept, as far as I'm concerned.

And you don't want to see what happens when it gets to ten.

© Saturday,  February 24, 2018  Kevin McGehee


I Got Yer Meme Right Here

The question was, "Why didn't the FBI realize Nikolas Cruz was a potential threat when he was reported for the crazy things he was saying on social media? Why didn't the FBI connect the dots with all the dozens of times local law enforcement were called on him?

The answer is simple: The feds were too busy surveilling the Trump campaign because of a phony dossier cooked up on Hillary's dime, to bother with trying to protect the lives of some Florida schoolchildren.

Make that trend, and watch the fireworks.

© Saturday,  February 24, 2018  Kevin McGehee


And the GOP Says, "Why Didn't WE Think of That?"

There are news reports that places Hillary won in 2016 may be moving GOP-ward ... in the wake of the recent tax cut.

In Homestead, Florida -- a battleground city where Hillary Clinton trounced President Donald Trump by 16 points in 2016 -- incumbent Representative Carlos Curbelo has been called "the most endangered Republican in Congress" by a hometown paper. But interviews with more than a dozen potential voters indicate that some are feeling more positive about the GOP thanks to their revamp of the tax code.

Isabel Valencia, 34, said she's seeing about an extra $50 a month from the tax cuts -- no small sum for a mother of two earning $25,000 a year in a local pediatrician's office. Valencia’s husband lost his job recently, so her family moved in with her brother. She didn't vote in the 2016 elections because she said she doubted that her vote mattered.

"Yes, absolutely, it does encourage me to vote, and, yes, it makes it more likely to vote Republican," Valencia said, referring to the tax cuts.

So, let's see if I understand this. The tax cut bill -- the sort of thing voters have traditionally expected from Republican congressional majorities in the past, and which tended in the past to be rewarded at the ballot box -- is likely to be rewarded at the ballot box.

Why, this could be a whole new paradigm for the GOP in Washington: do what your voters elected you to do, and they'll keep electing you.

Mind. Blown.

© Thursday,  February 22, 2018  Kevin McGehee


Well, the Winters Will Be Shorter Than in Fairbanks...

As I write this at a quarter after nine a.m., Eastern time, it is eight degrees below zero in Riverton, Wyoming. It's four below in Casper. In Greybull -- in the Big Horn Basin -- it's eighteen below.

Those temperatures are a bit higher, actually, than they were having over the last few days, with temps in the teens and in some places twenties below zero. Now, in Fairbanks we frequently saw 30 below, 40 below, one morning during our time up there it got down to 58 below. Still, at certain low temperatures the difference between any one degree value and another becomes a matter of thermometric curiosity more than anything else. The Settled Science™ boffins assure us cold snaps like these are just a passing fad and by the time Wyoming becomes a coastal state the entire planet will be uninhabitable anyway. In fact I seem to recall being assured at one point that snowfalls are already a thing of the past.

We're certainly unlikely to see another one here in Georgia before next Halloween.

I suppose the biggest difference between a Wyoming winter and a Fairbanks winter is latitude; Fairbanks, just a couple of degrees south of the Arctic Circle, has sunrise and sunset all year round, but in December those events can practically both be observed during the same coffee break. Wyoming's highest latitude is 45° North, putting the entire state closer to the Equator than to the North Pole. As intemperate as the winter weather may be, the days never get mindbendingly short -- nor mania-inducingly long in the summer.

Mrs. McG says she prefers snow that doesn't overstay its welcome. Wyoming's dry, windy climate, along with the typical mid-latitude thaws that do happen there (for now, you may have to take my word for it), will help with that.

© Thursday,  February 22, 2018  Kevin McGehee


Mystical Secrets of Account Security

You may have heard about port-out scamming, where thieves take away a victim's phone number and use the resulting access to their call and text history to access their bank accounts, etc.

While having your number hijacked and cell service terminated sounds like a headache, the implications are much deeper. Think about it: the hijacker just took control of your phone number, so they’re going to get access to all your calls and texts. Everything meant for your eyes or ears is now in the hands of a complete stranger. It makes my skin crawl just thinking about it.

And your private messages are the least of your worries. What if you use your phone number to receive text messages with security codes when you log into your bank account? That person now has access to any code sent to your phone, and can access your email, bank account, credit cards, and other super sensitive info.

Obviously a helpful barrier between you and having your phone number stolen is to have an added security feature such as an additional PIN, which you would set up with your carrier, and which anyone then seeking to make changes to your account -- over the phone or in person at a store -- would be required to provide. If you don't already have one of those, go do that now and come back -- I'll still be here when you're done.

(Personally, I think reps at every carrier should insist on this step whenever setting up any new account, but admittedly the process of setting up new cellular accounts is already pretty involved. I doubt anyone complains about being allowed to put off that one extra detail. Until somebody steals their phone number, anyway.)

Another helpful barrier between you and an identity thief is, good personal security habits -- such as, when you receive a text message that contains a validation code, use that code immediately and delete that text message.

As much as I like having backups of my SMS conversations, texts from my bank don't qualify. And while most texted validation codes expire after a certain period of time, all they would do, left undeleted, is clutter up my SMS history for no good reason.

© Monday,  February 19, 2018  Kevin McGehee


Can We Stop Electing Them Now?

I'm so old, I can remember when the Baby Boomers' most desirable asset was their youth, which supposedly meant they were less set in their ways, more open to newer and allegedly better ideas.

There are Baby Boomers who are now in their 70s.

The thing about youth is, it has a Sell By date. Maybe it wasn't such a great marketing strategy in the first place but that's a topic for another post.

© Saturday,  February 17, 2018  Kevin McGehee


I Wonder When I'll See It?

Allegedly, having dropped Project Fi for T-Mobile, I'm supposed to receive a refund of almost $20 for a combination of the unused billing period and the unused portion of my cellular 1GB data budget. I've been waiting for that before chucking the browser bookmark to Project Fi -- I'm not really obsessive-compulsive, but having had some theater experience in school I guess the method-acting bug is rather persistent.

It's now been three and a half weeks since the switch, and still no refund. If I were still on Fi I would certainly have had that period's bill amount charged to my credit card by now. The website does say it may take up to 60 days to complete closing an account, but there's a difference (I would suppose) between "may" and "absolutely will, every time."

So this morning I searched up some information about Google's performance in crediting refunds to people who quit Fi, and all I found were a couple of "haven't received my refund yet" comments.

Maybe I'll go ahead and delete the bookmark.

© Saturday,  February 17, 2018  Kevin McGehee


I Don't Live in Utah, But...

If I did, and if Mitt Romney were the Republican nominee for the Senate on my ballot in November, I would vote for him.

I said the same thing about Alabama and Roy Moore, fruitcake that he is.

The Democrats have gone so far off the deep end since the last election that the differences between Moore and Romney -- let alone those between either of them and me -- pale in comparison.

The objection has been raised that Romney's skill set isn't exactly ideal for the United States Senate, but I don't know that that's true.

I'm sure someone will argue that deep red Utah isn't in serious danger of electing some Antifa nutjob regardless of whom the GOP nominates to run against him, and they're almost certainly right. Nor do I disagree with those who would have liked to see, for example, Mia Love run for that seat and get the party's nod.

But if Utah Republicans do ultimately decide to go with Mitt, I hope he wins.

© Friday,  February 16, 2018  Kevin McGehee


How to Violate 'Truth in Advertising'

Make the Happy Meal less happy.

McDonald's is banishing cheeseburgers and chocolate milk from its Happy Meal menu in an effort to cut down on the calories, sodium, saturated fat and sugar kids consume at its restaurants.

Seriously. If the point of the kids' menu is to deny kids the foods they like best, calling the items "Happy Meals" seems dishonest. But that's always the way for the Nanny State types who always presume to know best.

The worst thing about this isn't that it's infantilizing children -- you can't infantilize what isn't mature. It's infantilizing their parents.

McDonald's will defer to parents determined to give their kids a Happy Meal that will actually make them happy, at least for now:

Diners can still ask specifically for cheeseburgers or chocolate milk with the kid's meal, but the fast-food company says not listing them will reduce how often they're ordered. It says after it removed soda from the Happy Meal menu four years ago orders for it fell 14 percent.

That tells me 14 percent of parents are only too happy to let a corporate behemoth dictate what they feed their children. I, however, cheer the other 86 percent for defending their prerogatives.

Oh, and while you're hyperventilating, let me add that parents who take full responsibility for their kids' nutrition won't be taking them to McDonald's often enough for a cheeseburger or chocolate milk to turn their munchkins into butterballs in the first place.

© Thursday,  February 15, 2018  Kevin McGehee


Taking a Header

Got tired of my old header image that didn't feature enough contrast with the blog's name, and replaced it with the bluer panorama you now see up yonder.

This photograph was taken from Riverton, Wyoming and shows the Wind River Mountains from somebody's backyard, sometime last fall. I didn't take it, in the sense of standing in said backyard with my own camera and tripping the shutter; I've never been in that backyard and probably never will be (though I think if I ever own a similar vantage, I'll want to set up a webcam on it). I found the picture from which that sliver of view derives on a commercial website and "took" it in the sense of appropriating it for my own use.

The whole picture, uncluttered with letters, is even prettier. I'm using it as the wallpaper on my phone.

© Wednesday,  February 14, 2018  Kevin McGehee


Twitter: Not Even Once™

I'd apologize for the language, but I didn't use it. The image is there to illustrate a point about this person and the mindset he represents. Image retrieved from Twitchy.

© Wednesday,  February 14, 2018  Kevin McGehee


Down the Rabbit Hole

At one point I had zero Windows computers to my name; the last laptop I bought, which was supposed to come with Windows 7, had Windows 8 instead. Eventually (at the earliest opportunity, which proved to be a mistake) I ditched 8.1 for 10, which wasn't yet ready for prime time. Ultimately I ditched Windows altogether for Linux.

Then Mrs. McG's mother passed away and I wound up in custody of her two Windows 7 PCs, a desktop and a laptop. The desktop still has Windows 7 on it; its need for a separate monitor makes it far less likely to be booted up in this house of laptops. It and the laptop were slower than molasses in January (especially in Boston), and once I had reclaimed as much of Marie's data from the laptop as possible, I decided to try a ChromeOS experiment.

It didn't go well.

The other day, after refenestrating my own laptop and being -- not impressed exactly, but undisappointed -- and then spending months looking at the brain-dead second laptop with its unbootable ChromeOS installation, I bought an additional license for Windows 10 (much cheaper than buying a whole new copy, considering I still have the source media from when I installed 10 on my own laptop) and installed the OS on this second laptop.

The hard drive is disconcertingly small, about 1/3 the capacity of mine, and the processor isn't really up to the load of running much more than what little I, byte miser that I am, demand of Windows. If I were to install even LibreOffice on this machine, much less Microsoft Office, the magic smoke would start leaking out every seam. I did have to download and install a new display driver to get better than SVGA out of the built-in monitor, but that was surprisingly easy.

I can consider using this laptop for travel instead of the newer, more powerful one, the loss of which would be a bigger inconvenience (although I cloud-sync pretty much everything I generate these days). Or I can continue to take the primary, worrying less about the loss if something did happen to it, precisely because I'd still have this backup at home to tide me over until I could bear to pay for another new laptop.

I think I'd still want to wipe the OEM install from a new laptop and rebuild a leaner working environment as I've done with these two. If this older laptop had come with Windows 10 pre-installed, with manufacturer "utilities" and Microsoft marketing crap, I'm pretty sure I would have used it for target practice by now.

© Monday,  February 12, 2018  Kevin McGehee


Now Cut That Out!

We haven't been having thunderstorms or high winds, but for some reason since about 9:30 last night we've had about half a dozen power interruptions.

The first time, I went around resetting digital clocks, but after the second time I decided to wait until we could get through more than a couple of hours without another flash-and-flicker.

It's almost 1:00 a.m. Sunday morning now, and I'm still not resetting clocks.

© Sunday,  February 11, 2018  Kevin McGehee


The Secret to Keeping Your Cool

When someone calls me something I know I’m not, I take that to mean they don’t know any of the things they could have called me that I am.

© Thursday,  February 8, 2018  Kevin McGehee


When You Hear a Freight Train in Your Escape Shaft...

Our house has what's known as a "walkout basement" -- the level of the floor downstairs is even with the level of the ground on one side of the house. However, one of the two "bedrooms" down there is not on that side of the house. It has no windows. As a rule, residential building codes don't allow a room to be used as a bedroom unless it has an egress window, so that in case of a fire the occupants won't be trapped with no escape. As a result, that one "bedroom" isn't really kosher.

I can't remember ever living in a house with a basement that wasn't either walkout or "daylight", the latter being a basement where only the first few feet of the basement's vertical space is below grade, meaning any room next to an exterior wall can have windows. As I've been scanning real estate listings in Wyoming, though, I'm seeing a lot of homes that not only have basements entirely below grade, but which also have bedrooms in those basements.

With windows.

I actually first noticed this over a year ago when Mrs. McG was investigating a possible transfer to Great Falls, Montana. A house close to where she would have been working had such a basement bedroom, complete with window -- and in the realtor photo of that room, through the window, I saw what looked for all the world like the sides of a culvert that had been cut and shaped and stuck in the ground with one end pointing skyward. I called it a light well and thought it a clever solution, but after seeing more of them on listings in Wyoming, I've come to realize they must be a good deal more common than I could have suspected.

On one listing, in fact, the larger-than-usual basement window dominates one photo, and the ladder is clearly visible. I suppose these escape shafts might be covered with a hinged and latched, perhaps spring-loaded, skylight that prevents rain or snow from accumulating in them, since there's no way for them to drain. A translucent skylight would help protect the privacy of the room's occupants.

It would have been nice if the builders of our house, here in Georgia, could have put in one of those shafts where the windowless room is downstairs, so it could be used safely as a bedroom. Somehow I don't think that's an easy retrofit. Then again, that room in its present state is about the only one in the entire house even remotely suitable for sheltering in the event of a particularly nasty Dixie Alley tornado -- something you don't need to worry about so much in Wyoming. The thought of a light shaft in that room during a tornado brings to mind the flashback scene at the beginning of Twister.

Guess I'll take a pass on that.

© Tuesday,  February 6, 2018  Kevin McGehee


Reason #47,864

Want to know why I'm so looking forward to living in Wyoming?

I've lived in California, Alaska, and Georgia. In each of those states -- yes, even Alaska -- I've had to have my car emission-checked in order to renew the tags. As a result, when I see the words "state air plan" in a news headline (paywall) I reflexively assume it's about air quality.

Bebout: Proposed state air plan still needs much work

Senate President Eli Bebout, R-Riverton, said he supports the Wyoming Department of Transportation's work on a long-term, statewide air service plan.

But, he said, "to give the Aeronautics Commission a $13 million blank check is not the way to do it."

In 2017, WYDOT and legislators proposed forming a new program that would task the state agency, rather than airports themselves, with contracting directly with airlines.

In Wyoming, it's about air service.

© Monday,  February 5, 2018  Kevin McGehee


You've Heard of the 'Kinsley Gaffe'...?

If you haven't, it's an instance where a politician inadvertently tells the truth.

Well, in the warm-up to the kickoff that begins Act II of the Super Bowl (Act I being the production numbers and extensive scene-setting exposition that require the telecast to begin a good 20 minutes before kickoff), Al Michaels was the victim of a Kinsley Typo:

A Kinsley Typo, of course, occurs when a word is inadvertently substituted for what was actually said, that renders the entire statement considerably more accurate.

Addendum: During the game, while Michaels and Collinsworth were awaiting the final ruling on a certain Philadelphia touchdown -- and debating whether a player who has (1) caught the ball, (2) has carried it for several steps while having complete control of the ball in his possession, (3) has tripped over an opposing player and fallen across the goal line while still having complete control of the ball in his possession, and (4) only lost control of the ball after he has hit the ground in the end zone, has actually scored a touchdown -- we began to wonder whether it was the league, or NBC Sports, that was built for parody.

Actually no, we didn't wonder. We already knew the answer to that (both) long before this broadcast.

© Sunday,  February 4, 2018  Kevin McGehee


Sometime This Week

I knew the day had not yet come, but I knew it wasn't far off. Now, it's well nigh.

According to Wikipedia, construction began on the Berlin Wall on August 13, 1961. Demolition began on November 9, 1989. Taking those dates as its beginning and end, respectively, it stood for 28 years and just shy of three months.

I'm not in the mood to calculate the exact number of days it stood; somebody somewhere has surely already worked that out. But this week the Berlin Wall will have been souvenirs for longer than it was a Cold War barrier.

That's a milestone. Covered with graffiti.

© Sunday,  February 4, 2018  Kevin McGehee


Drudge, You Wacky Guy!

Here's what the headline says at The Drudge Report:

Sprawling Mayan Cities Uncovered By Lasers...

Um, no. But I can see why that would occur to you.

Laser technology was used to survey digitally beneath the forest canopy, revealing houses, palaces, elevated highways, and defensive fortifications.

The other way would have been more fun though...

© Friday,  February 2, 2018  Kevin McGehee


One Who Definitely Didn't See Her Shadow Today

For the fourth consecutive year, Staten Island Charlotte -- grandsow of the more famous Staten Island Chuck -- has not seen her shadow, thus implicitly forecasting her hometown an early spring.

The last time Charlotte saw her shadow was in 2014, when she observed it from free-fall before landing on it, headfirst. The human responsible for this sequence of events remains unpunished.

© Friday,  February 2, 2018  Kevin McGehee


Facebook Really Wants to Get to Know My Spam Folder

I actually haven't gotten any mail begging me to go back to Facebook. I think like most spammers, they know better. But apparently other people are getting mailbombed.

It's been about a year since Rishi Gorantala deleted the Facebook app from his phone, and the company has only gotten more aggressive in its emails to win him back. The social network started out by alerting him every few days about friends that had posted photos or made comments -- each time inviting him to click a link and view the activity on Facebook. He rarely did.

Then, about once a week in September, he started to get prompts from a Facebook security customer-service address. "It looks like you're having trouble logging into Facebook," the emails would say. "Just click the button below and we'll log you in. If you weren't trying to log in, let us know." He wasn't trying. But he doesn't think anybody else was, either.

"The content of mail they send is essentially trying to trick you," said Gorantala, 35, who lives in Chile. "Like someone tried to access my account so I should go and log in."

That doesn't sound phishy at all.

The article offers an alternative explanation for why I haven't been getting any of these underhanded, passive-aggressive pleas:

Facebook, which has more than 2 billion people logging in monthly, has never failed to grow its user base. To beat investors' expectations consistently on user numbers, it's just as important for the company to retain people like Gorantala as it is to recruit new members. People who are logging into Facebook less often -- but aren't fully disconnected -- are noticing more and more frequent prompts to come back, sometimes multiple times a day, via emails or text messages reminding them what they're missing out on, according to screenshots and reports from users around the world. Gorantala, who eased off his Facebook usage because of privacy concerns, said his security prompt comes "whenever I don't log in for a few days."

It sounds plausible, but with Facebook's usage rates on the decline in the U.S. and Canada, "a few days" could just as easily be in the triple or quadruple digits as their desperation mounts.

And when that time comes, I'll be ready.

© Thursday,  February 1, 2018  Kevin McGehee


Triggered by an Elevator Button?

Members of the Norwegian ski team, and some vendors, are being shamed into dumping a uniform sweater because it includes a rune that has been given unsavory associations without its consent.

Designed at a time when public interest in Viking culture is experiencing a renaissance, the theme for Norway's Alpine ski team uniforms this season is "the Attacking Viking," a homage to the team's nickname. But the sweater features a symbol known as the Tyr rune, which neo-Nazis want to claim as their own.

There is little evidence that the rune originally had any symbolic significance beyond its sound value, but the letter shares the name of a Norse deity popularly understood as the god of war, Tyr. Nowadays, most runologists consider it a letter no more mysterious than the letter T.

Even so, the presence of the Tyr rune on the team's sweater design was enough to raise alarms.

The Tyr rune looks like an "up" arrow. Literally. If you've ever stood waiting for an elevator to arrive so you could ascend to your office or hotel room, you've probably seen it over the elevator door, lighting up just before the doors opened.

Yeah. That. European neo-Nazis think that carries some kind of symbolic power that links them with the Norse god of war. Euro-weenies (and probably their American counterparts) are therefore triggered by it.

So, how long ya reckon before the shafted up-arrow is forcibly removed from everything, everywhere, because the neo-Snowflakes can't handle seeing it?

© Thursday,  February 1, 2018  Kevin McGehee


Tiv -- OH-H-H-H!

Concerned about the continued longevity of our single remaining Tivo DVR, I logged on to Tivo's website and discovered they've jacked up the lifetime subscription and renamed it "all in." For $550, that seems an apt description. Given that the DVRs themselves are in the $450-to-$550 range and the subscription is an additional charge, it seems Tivo has been inspired by the Apple iPhone X.

Of course, Apple has scaled back production of their $1,000 phone, lest demand fail to support the price...

The new Tivo is called the Vox -- oops, sorry: Vox, and includes voice-recognition, as if figuring out how to work a remote control is soon to be beyond most American TV watchers. Maybe it is, but we're not there yet.

At least Apple has competition. Tivo is kind of all by itself in the DVR market these days. Our cable company has a couple of DVRs they'll issue, but they don't sound very impressive. We often have more than one program recording, meaning we need at least three tuners if we hope to watch anything else while they're recording -- and these don't appear to have more than two.

I've got a Roku with an app for our cable company, so I can watchlist almost everything we currently "OnePass" with the Tivo, but it's a learning curve and I don't relish Mrs. McG's reaction to having a whole new TV-watching paradigm to pick up on. The Blu-Ray player was rough enough.

Huh. Maybe I should shop for a Roku with voice-recognition...

© Thursday,  February 1, 2018  Kevin McGehee



 
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Original content and design © 2018 Kevin McGehee. Images and excerpts are © their respective owners.