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August 2018

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Yesterday Don't Matter if It's Gone

And our local Ruby Tuesday is indeed gone, without so much as a goodbye. Nor is it alone. Presumably this latest wave is part of a process that began a couple of years ago.

We had just received a new coupon a couple of days before we went by there, hoping to use it. The parking lot was empty and so was the dining room. A single sheet of paper was taped on the glass of the front door, apologizing for the inconvenience. There are still locations open within an hour's drive, but that's hardly suitable most of the times we go out to eat. And who knows how long those locations will last?

Mrs. McG and I had become occasional customers of the chain soon after arriving in metro Atlanta, when the Newnan location hadn't yet opened; in those days it was fairly convenient to drive to Peachtree City for many of our favorite places, but PTC has grown unmanageably congested since then and their Ruby Tuesday was razed years ago for a Walgreens.

Over time the menu and decor at the Newnan store had gone through the same sort of changes as other casual dining chains, but the salad bar had kept us coming back even during Ruby's "you'll get broccoli with everything and like it" phase. I guess we should have seen the end coming when they stopped offering those tasty complimentary biscuits.

A couple of local former restaurants -- Chili's and T.G.I. Friday's, to be specific -- have become phone stores -- for AT&T and Verizon, respectively, to be specific. T-Mobile's location nearby is a storefront; maybe they'd like a bigger space?

©   Kevin McGehee


I'll See Your Dumpster Fire and Raise You...

...a truck fire on a moving train.

Dramatic footage from the helmet cam of a Uinta County Fire and Ambulance firefighter shows efforts to extinguish a flaming truck, on the back of a train, while the train is still in motion.

The video was posted to social media on during [sic] the morning of August 27th.

[...]

Fire crews were notified by personnel on the Union Pacific Railroad, on August 9th, that they had a train with cargo on fire. The cargo was described as an empty “military-type fuel truck,” however Quinney said he was not sure who owned the vehicle.

Officials were notified that the train would be passing the Carter, Wyoming crossing, and fire crews were dispatched to the area.

“We waited for the train to arrive,” said Quinney “we were able to get some water on it and put it out.”

Unfortunately, it's a Facebook video, and not having a Facebook account I don't seem to have a way to embed it here, so you'll just have to click through. It's a cool video though.

It looks like the locomotive crew was able to bring the train to a stop while the firefighters were hosing down the fire. The railroad's investigating how it started.

©   Kevin McGehee


This One Counts, Though One Team Wishes It Didn't

We've already been watching football, but those were pre-season games that don't count. Last night though...

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — Nico Evans ran for 206 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries to help Wyoming beat New Mexico State 29-7 on Saturday night in the season opener for both teams.

[...]

New Mexico State didn’t cross midfield until the closing minutes during a 10-play, 93-yard drive that was capped by Matt Romero’s 31-yard touchdown pass to Drew Dan with 1:16 to play.

It was a game that surely makes some schools wish college football had a series of pre-season games to work out the kinks, like the NFL.

After Wyoming's first touchdown, the New Mexico State Aggies wound up with the ball very close to their own goal line -- and on first down, they drew a yellow flag and were backed up half the distance to the goal line, still first down. As they tried to go again, another flag, and another half the distance to the goal line. When round three drew yet another flag, Wyoming declined the penalty, as if to say, "Let's just get on with it!"

With the snap on second down, Wyoming defenders broke through the Aggies' offensive line and tackled the ball carrier behind the goal line for two points, and New Mexico State was broken for most of the rest of the game.

The Aggies received the kickoff to open the second half, and the game announcers were talking as if the home team had come out of the locker room ready to turn things around. Then their quarterback got sacked.

Later the announcers talked about what appeared to be a looming shutout, which caused me to remark to Mrs. McG, "Well, now that they've said it..." -- and then came that late Aggies drive that finally put them on the scoreboard.

The Cowboys so thoroughly dominated their opponents that New Mexico State's defense was on the field for at least 45 minutes of play out of 60. For most of the game their offense's rushing yardage was a negative number. The score doesn't do this game justice.

I don't envy their head coach right now.

©   Kevin McGehee


Is It Just Me?

Or does anyone else think it should be possible to set smartphone contacts so that you get a certain notification tone unique to the contact, and that it work whether the message is a text or an email? Or for that matter, a voicemail.

It seems to me that, as a general rule, the source of the message is more important than how the message is sent. Mrs. McG and I use both text messaging and email, and there's not necessarily any logic to which mode we decide to use (though I suspect she's more likely to email when she's at her desk, since unlike me she can't text from her laptop). I'd much rather know from the tone my phone makes when I receive any kind of message from her, that she's the one who sent it. That way if I hear the default tone I've set, I'll know it's not from her and I can probably put off checking it. When I do check, the notification banner on my phone will direct me to whichever app has the message, and failing that there'll be a notification dot on the icon. I don't need to know how the message got to me until I look for it.

I'm not aware of any smartphone email or voicemail client that even allows setting individual tones based on the caller or the sender of a message -- you can identify a saved caller by the ringtone, and assume the voicemail ping means they left the message, but that's as far as it goes, and it ain't foolproof.

Smartphone contact apps have always sucked -- even the souped-up popular ones, which are designed to appeal to people who only use social media anyway. It's like there's a secret law that contact apps can't be even as good as a sucky web-based contact manager (and they all suck too). The apps could be so much more powerful and useful if the world's tech-heads would devote their energies to making tech work better instead of doxxing and shadow-banning people who say things that make them uncomfortable about their place in the universe.

You want to feel comfortable about your place in the universe? Earn it. Make a contact app that does what the people who use them, want.

©   Kevin McGehee


Yes and No

In the wake of his loss in last Tuesday's Wyoming Republican primary election, disappointed gubernatorial hopeful Foster Friess has proposed two changes to the state's election law. One I wouldn't have a problem with, but the other promises to make elections far more expensive than I think Wyoming voters are willing to consider. The first:

Friess suggested two changes to Wyoming election law, which today allows people to change their party registration the day of a primary to vote in either the Republican or Democratic race.

If the candidates were interested in “getting together and putting our constituents together,” Friess wrote, “we could do two things.” His first suggestion was to change the policy of same-day registration to “something like 25 days.”

Same-day registration has always bugged me, since I grew up in a state where, for as long as I lived there, you needed to register at least 30 days prior to an election if you wanted to vote in it. It was the same in Alaska when we moved there in 1994 -- we didn't get a permanent address in time to take part in that year's primary vote. It was fine by me, I knew the law before I moved and had already been voting under an essentially identical law all my adult life. I can see why instant-gratification types would complain, but when don't they?

Anyway, the second proposed change is the one I would oppose:

The second was to have a runoff election. “The conservative vote was split among us, and I think 26 states do have a run off [sic],” he wrote. “So, in this case a conservative would have won if the run off [sic] policy was in place.”

Runoff elections usually consist of a second race in which voters select between the top two vote-getters from the first round, according to the election information website Ballotpedia. They occur in states that require voters to have a majority as opposed to a plurality of the vote to receive the primary nomination.

Georgia has a runoff law; if no candidate receives a majority of the votes cast, the two candidates who received the highest numbers of votes go again. When we moved to Georgia the interval was relatively brief, but the Obama-era DOJ found ways to force the state to prolong it, and to push the primary itself much earlier as well. There is talk lately of repealing or modifying the runoff law to bring under control the amount of time spent on as many as four election campaigns in any given election year.

Even reducing the victory requirement to something more like 40 percent would alleviate the resource cost currently imposed on Georgia elections, but Friess' email clearly states that he wants to require a majority in Wyoming.

And if you think Wyoming wouldn't be subject to the kind of mischief the U.S. Department of Justice is able to work on Georgia, you may not be aware that one Wyoming county was forced to establish districts for its county commissioners so that reservation Indians could be sure of electing a commissioner of their own. Under a future Democrat administration there is no reason to suppose this wouldn't be considered justification for adding Wyoming to the same Voting Rights Act rogues' gallery as Georgia and the other Southern states.

If you click through and read the entire piece, you can draw your own conclusions about Friess' reasons for offering these proposals, but I see a clear hint as to why he lost: his gubernatorial campaign is essentially his first foray of any kind in Wyoming politics. It's one thing for someone who's lived in the U.S. his entire life to make his political debut by running for president, but parachuting into a state to run for governor? Other states may welcome carpet-baggers from Massachusetts or Arkansas to run for the U.S. Senate, but Wyoming isn't New York, and the Governor's Mansion isn't a Senate seat.

In any case, it'll be up to Wyomingites to decide whether either of these ideas has any merit. I trust they will choose no less wisely than they did last Tuesday.

©   Kevin McGehee


Ends & Odds

Way back in April I criticized the plan for a pair of mini-roundabouts along a two-lane stretch of U.S. highway not far from the home acres. Work was supposed to start in early May and be complete by July, and there was some pavement-marking on the first day -- but red tape and bad weather pushed back the work until... now. The roundabouts themselves actually went into operation very quickly, with construction of the center islands and work around the periphery to take up the bulk of the remaining time. In normal traffic conditions they seem to be working okay, but the peripheral puttering has made ordinary conditions somewhat rare.

I still think even once the crews have decamped, rush-hour traffic will make these intersections just as unusable for drivers coming from the affected side streets, as they were with the conventional stop-sign controls the roundabouts are replacing. And since they were never really a problem during non-rush periods, I'm still not sure these things constitute an improvement.

If you've been reading here a while, it won't surprise you to know that I paid some attention to yesterday's primary election in Wyoming. All in all, I'm satisfied with the result. Except for three of the five statewide officials, and the U.S. House and Senate seats that were on the ballot, the Republican primary is pretty much the election out yonder. As for the gubernatorial nomination, don't read too much into the defeat of President Trump's endorsed favorite. The endorsement came late, and the endorsee ran afoul of an important rule of thumb: Don't try to campaign like Trump unless you are Trump.

I've been using a link attribute that forces browsers to open the linked page in a new tab. Today I stripped that attribute from all of the links on this blog (or at least as many as I could automate for). If you like having new tabs open when you click links, you're almost certainly using a browser that gives you that option either by changing a default setting or with a different mouse-click. I've been in the habit of the latter for years myself, and the way I write posts here, that link attribute isn't automated. I've gotten tired of typing target="_blank" every time I want to post a link. So I'm not going to do it anymore.

In every midterm election there appears a sentiment in some segments of the right that somehow the country would be better off with Democrats controlling Congress. The rationale changes from cycle to cycle, but it always comes down to, "the Republi-weenies don't deserve to win." Whether the country deserves to have a bunch of socialist fascists running things never seems to come up in the discussion.

Lord knows I've been impatient in the past with the Establicans' preferred message of, "At least we're not the Democrats," but since Election Night in 2016 that's become all the reason I need to vote the straight GOP ticket.

Sorry not sorry to anyone who's disappointed in me.

©   Kevin McGehee


There's Supposed to Be an Earth-Shattering Rrrrrumble

Remember this from a week and a half ago? Well...

“The biggest concern we have for Yellowstone is not with the volcano, it’s with earthquakes,” said Michael Poland, scientist-in-charge at the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory, a consortium of eight organizations led by the U.S. Geological Survey. “This is an underappreciated hazard in the Yellowstone area. There can and there will be in the future magnitude-7 earthquakes.”

On average, Yellowstone experiences 1,500 to 2,500 earthquakes a year, most of them so small they can’t be felt. But large quakes can – and have – occurred in the not-too-distant past.

On Aug. 17, 1959, a magnitude-7.3 earthquake rocked the park, killing 28 people when a massive landslide pummeled into a campground. More than 80 million tons of rock fell, blocking a river and forming a lake, aptly named Earthquake Lake, that remains today.

I can be trusted when I say a super-eruption at Yellowstone is unlikely any time soon, but when an arm of the Establishment Media says it, I have to wonder if I've misjudged the risk.

©   Kevin McGehee


That's a No-No

The other day I posted about a "neighbor-spoof" trash call I received on my out-of-state Google Voice phone number. Yesterday another number of ours got a scam call from one of these noodniks. Not the agency -- the scammers. The non-agency scammers.

I can let you listen to the voicemail they left (this number is parked so it doesn't ring -- voicemails are emailed to me) because of one of its red flags: the message never identifies its intended recipient -- nor even the phone number they called.

We have just received a notification regarding your tax filings from the headquarters which will get expired in next twenty-four working hours. And once it gets expired, after that you will be taken under custody by the local police as there are (four?) serious allegations (pressed?) on your name at this moment.

We would request you to get back to us so that we can discuss about this case before taking any legal action against you. The number to reach us is (360) 660-1015. I repeat, (360) 660-1015. Thank you.

No legitimate tax agency will robocall about a tax violation. No legitimate tax agency will leave a voicemail without identifying itself and the person with whom the caller wishes to speak. And that's even assuming any legitimate tax agency would make first contact about a tax violation by phone rather than registered letter or some other, more secure means.

This scammer clearly meant for me to call back, whereupon I would have been instructed to buy a gift card and put some sizeable, non-round dollar figure on it (tax fines are never in round figures, after all -- right?), and then read the card number over the phone to the scammer -- because otherwise "the headquarters" wouldn't get the payment in time to stop "the local police" from arriving to take me "under custody."

I really do wonder about the target demographic for these scams. Should anyone who falls for them be allowed to vote?

Update, twenty-four "working" hours later: I still have not been "taken under custody" by "the local police." Bad enough they're scammers, but do they have to lie too?

©   Kevin McGehee


Slow Churn

Yesterday Mrs. McG reported that a Rite Aid store along her commute route was displaying a banner announcing "complete liquidation," and another banner with the Walgreens logo.

This is a consequence of Walgreens' buyout of over 1,900 Rite Aid stores last March, which will result in some of the chain's stores adopting the scripty W logo -- but not this particular one, which is just two gas stations away from Coweta County's second Walgreens store.

The Newnan Rite Aid, located at 211 Temple Avenue, recently changed its pharmacy over to a Walgreens and a store manager told The City Menus that the store will fully transition into a Walgreens toward the end of year.

A second Rite Aid store in Newnan, located at 3055 East Highway 34, will permanently close on August 7. All prescriptions will be moved to the Walgreens across the road at 3116 Highway 34 East beginning on August 8.

So we're trading in two Rite Aids for a third Walgreens. Personally, I'm okay with this; we haven't been using Rite Aid much since first CVS, then Walgreens, moved into our then-neighborhood years ago. Until then, the closing Rite Aid store (which was Eckerd at the time) had been the only pharmacy close by that wasn't in a supermarket. Where we live now, though, the closest Walgreens is a two-lane highway and then a four-lane expressway from home, on a corner that's difficult to reach due to its location at one of Newnan's busiest intersections. The converting westside store will be easier to get in and out of than either of the existing Walgreens, if not any shorter a drive. Then again, I would have to pass one CVS to get there, and snub a second one when I do; the latter chain has four stores in the area.

When we first moved to Alaska in 1994, Fairbanks had two PayLess stores (other, unrelated chains that omit the capital L always seem like they're promising free goods, or perhaps refusing to compensate their employees) in what had previously been Thrifty locations. During our short stay there, both stores became Rite Aids, and eventually those closed. I wasn't thrilled to see the latter chain consume Eckerd after our move down here -- but I have to admit the local Rite Aids had more staying power than their Northernmost counterparts.

Charles Hill has often observed that, in his neck of the woods, Walgreens and CVS seem determined to compete corner against corner; wherever one chain opens a store, the other follows. Here, that's been less apparent -- though both chains did open stores very close to an existing Rite Aid. Now that they've taken out their shared rival, there will finally be a corner-vs.-corner competition between CVS and Walgreens in Newnan.

©   Kevin McGehee


First World Problems

You know, it's bad enough that I have to expect to replace a car battery every three years. I could've sworn they used to last longer than that -- but I suppose that was back when your battery stopped draining the moment you switched off the motor. Nowadays, what with keyless entry and all, some systems have to be powered on all the time. Even user-set radio presets are stored in volatile memory now, so that disconnecting the big battery wipes them clean. Automakers, if you're going to make computers out of the cars you build, learn from the computer-makers, can't ya?

What bugs me more than that, though, is that this three-year obsolescence cycle is making its way into much, much more expensive items -- and they're getting much, much more expensive every year.

Phones.

My current handbrain is only a bit under two-and-a-half years old or so, but it was released almost three years ago, which means one of the reasons I bought it, prompt operating system upgrades, has run out. Android 9 "Pie," the new version of my phone's operating system, has been released, but my phone won't be getting it. I'm looking to pay 20 to 30 percent more for my next phone than I paid for this one, if I want the full three years of updates. A few years ago I swore never to buy another phone from a carrier, but that was when a Google Nexus phone could be had for well under $500. Now that Apple has blazed the trail to prices with commas in them, and since Big Tech can't bear not to play follow the leader, I'm starting to reconsider.

Carrier phones, and even unlocked phones branded by their makers -- such as LG or Samsung -- may take longer to update to new Android versions, and may be pre-loaded with a bunch of OEM and carrier bullshit I don't want, but if they're slower to get updates, maybe they won't obsolesce quite so quickly?

I don't know. Maybe I'm just getting antsy, and maybe the recent news about the Pixel 3 XL's battery is hashtagable. The battery on my Nexus 6P doesn't really seem to be any worse off now than it was at the start of last year. And just how badly do I really need Pie?

Update, two weeks later: Decided on a non-Google phone for 1/3 to 1/4 the likely price of the upcoming Pixel phones. It won't get Pie right away, and it's been out almost as long as last year's Pixel phones, but even after I've bought the next phone to replace this one, I'll still be hundreds of dollars better off than after buying just one Pixel 3 XL.

Take that, Google.

©   Kevin McGehee


Breach of Content

We've been Tivo users for a long, long, damn long time -- but the prospect of moving to Wyoming, to a home out of reach of cable TV, has been getting less and less disturbing of late even though Tivo DVRs don't work with satellite TV services such as Dish or DirecTV.

Part of the reason for this is, Tivo's program guide updates often... don't. When we first signed up with our first DVR and subscription, it was normal to have at least two weeks' worth of programming scheduled in the DVR, as a result of the daily updates that require internet service. As I type this, we only have eight days of programming guide information in our DVR, and attempts to force an update get nowhere.

Going satellite will mean using a DVR provided by whichever satellite service we choose. We'd have to get our internet service via DSL (assuming we're not so far from town that we have to go with wireless internet) but we should be able to deal with that. It's hard to imagine the program guide updates would be as unreliable as Tivo's have become.

The devil on my left shoulder whispers in my ear that we're de-prioritized for updates because our DVR is several years old. Well, it's going to get several years older; this performance isn't encouraging us to shell out big bucks for a new one.

©   Kevin McGehee


Is There Supposed to Be an Earth-Shattering Kaboom?

Maybe not.

Every so often people get to clucking about the Yellowstone supervolcano. In fact, while I was re-reading some past entries recently in C.J. Box's "Joe Pickett" series of Wyoming-set thrillers, one story I read -- taking place in Yellowstone -- featured a character nicknamed Doomsayer, who enjoyed scaring people half to death with predictions of imminent global catastrophe from the giant ticking magma bomb underlying the world's first national park.

I recently stumbled on a three-year-old bucket of cold water on all that doomsday talk:

We can't help but notice the comments in social media, and even the ticklers and headlines in the newspapers and blogs. Sometimes, people spread misinformation even when they think they know the facts.

This comes straight from the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory, the boffins right there in the middle of the giant ticking magma bomb of doom, whose job it is to know what's really going on. And apparently supervolcano doom is a lot like Y2K doom, or climate-change doom. Get a load of these:

Misconception #1: When Yellowstone erupts…. it'll be Armageddon.

[E]ven previous Yellowstone supereruptions did not cause extinctions, and ash fallout on the other side of the continent was minimal.

Turns out, Yellowstone erupts a lot -- even leaving aside geysers spouting hot water. Actual non-explosive lava flows are a known event in the caldera. What explosions are seen there usually involve geysers spouting mud and rocks along with the usual squirtage.

Misconception #3: Yellowstone is overdue for a supereruption.

If it does erupt, it need not be a large eruption. Moreover, there's no necessity that there will be another supereruption. Most volcanic systems do not have multiple such events. When they do, the supereruptions are not evenly spaced in time. Finally, it is not valid to calculate a recurrence period solely on two values (the two intervals between supereruptions).

The part where I added emphasis is something that jumped out at me the first time I heard fearmongering about Yellowstone -- because I took a college course once about statistics, and like a lot of that college crap it's stuck with me.

There are five points in all, if you still need convincing.

©   Kevin McGehee


So, That Happened

Shortly after quitting Google's Project Fi, which had precluded the use of Google Voice, I claimed a new telephone number on the latter service. The idea being that as the day looms -- as it eventually will -- that Mrs. McG and I decamp for less humid climes, I wanted to already have a number that was local to said climes, that I could switch, with minimal muss/fuss, to our conventional carrier while moving my current number (temporarily) to Voice. That way I'd have already long since committed the new number to memory, and anyone overlooked in notifying about the new number would still be able to reach me without my having to pay for a second line.

In recent years Mrs. McG has noticed, I confess more than I have, that spam robocallers have been spoofing particular sets of numbers that share area code and prefix with their targets. Others online have remarked on this tactic as well. (I just don't seem to have this problem, just as I don't get as much spam email as others seem to.)

Well anyway, yesterday I got one of these calls, sharing the area code and prefix of my out-of-state Google Voice number.

How's that for a milestone? And no, it's extremely unlikely that the call was legit; the location has several number prefixes, so even if someone there had a legitimate reason to try to call me (no one would) it's extremely unlikely the source number for the first-ever call I received from there would have the exact same one.

These types of calls are problematical, because the spammers have no reason to reuse a number -- blocking it really won't help. Worse, if someone already owns that number, or does in the future, and just happens to have a legitimate reason to call me, they would find they've been blocked for a crime they didn't commit. There's a protocol in the works that, if implemented, might make headway by warning you when someone isn't entitled to use the number they're sending to your caller ID, but that's going to take a while.

Eventually, of course, it would evolve into a system where you can preemptively block callers that don't own their claimed source numbers, and spam callers will have to figure out some other way to intrude on your peace and quiet with their commercial spiels. I shudder to imagine how they'll do it.

©   Kevin McGehee


The Russians Never Deployed It on the Battlefield

...but they sold it to CNN.

Okay, Popular Mechanics doesn't actually say that...

In 2012 lurid headlines warned that Putin was developing a "zombie gun" which could take over people’s minds and turn them into mindless slaves.

In fact the timeline suggests that, if anything, Putin would have had to license it from CNN, which clearly had already used it in November of 2008.

©   Kevin McGehee


The Sog Days

It isn't enough it has to be hot. It isn't enough it has to be humid. It has to be literally dripping wet.

In other news, I suddenly have a craving for some Cap'n Crunch cereal.

Update: Some appropriate musical accompaniment...

Sometimes my musical ear syndrome's suggestions aren't so hard to identify.

©   Kevin McGehee



 
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August 2018

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