September 2015


"Up to ten days"

That's how long commercial emailers say it may take for an unsubscribe order to take effect. Others say 24 hours.

Non-commercial email list-servs, such as often come free with a cheap domain shared-hosting account, can process an unsub order in milliseconds.

My late mother-in-law was on a lot of commercial mailing lists. Hell, I'm on a lot of them, but I also work at controlling the volume. But now that I'm having her mail forwarded to me so that I can make sure important messages — from people who haven't gotten the news, or don't know how to contact next-of-kin — don't sit unnoticed in an unchecked inbox, I'm having to send a lot of unsub orders.

Some outfits use a system that asks why you're unsubscribing. At least one such continued sending well past the advertised waiting period, and I couldn't resist invoking the old "Saturday Night Live" Franco gag. I like to think mom-in-law would have approved.

The volume is subsiding, gradually, but just now I had to tell another persistent shop that if I'm forced to start telling Gmail that their messages are spam, that could have implications beyond just one email address.

As easy as it is to get on these lists, there's no excuse for this slow response time. It's not as if these unsubscribe orders actually need to be processed by a human when a gnu can do it so much more efficiently.

Update: Forgot to mention, some of these businesses make it hard to even submit an unsub order. Those I'm just sending straight to spam from now on.

Tuesday,  September 29, 2015  McGehee

Just call me J. Paul Gotta

  • Gotta get one last load of stuff from the late mother-in-law's former house so it can finally go on the market.
  • Gotta get the county inspector to finally sign off on this damn shed.
  • Gotta get enough of a dry spell to mow the three cubic acres of grass this place produces each month.
  • Gotta get the probate process rolling, which has been delayed three weeks by the red tape surrounding the mother-in-law's death certificate.
  • Gotta get started moving belongings out of rented storage and into this damn shed.
  • Gotta find a tax professional to help tie up the tax side of mother-in-law's estate with a shiny red bow for the IRS.
  • Gotta get the van's recall issue and its tire-pressure light seen to, so that eventually — once the rented storage unit is finally emptied out — we can find it a new home.
  • Gotta get my car's recurrent Check Engine light-up seen to; though if it isn't lit when I have to take it for an emissions check later this fall I suppose it won't be urgent.
  • Gotta buy yet another new lawn mower battery so I won't still have to jump-start the damn thing when I need to use it next spring.

Not all of these are really on my to-do list, but they are at least things I can help with. Mrs. McG has more items on which I can't do more than offer moral support.

And all of this is leaving aside any kind of preparation for this year's holidays. At least we know where our Christmas stuff is, if we can figure out where we'll find the time to put any of it up.

Update, Friday: The checkmarks you see on the items above indicate that they've been done.

Saturday,  September 26, 2015  McGehee

Alaska, the Owner State

As aggressively as Alaska is marketed as a Last Frontier where the rugged individualist reigns supreme, it has collectivist quirks written right into its state constitution.

You can own land, and outside of congested areas you can do with it pretty much as you please; you can drill a well for water and install a septic tank with no more red tape than you'd expect in any other state. There is — or was, things may have changed — an organized borough where you wouldn't even have to pay property tax.

But aside from the water, nothing below the surface is yours. That all belongs to the state government. Because the state's "Founding Fathers" decided that what had gone wrong in the Lower 48 over the previous few decades — we're talking about the mid-1950s here, so their experience extended through the Great Depression — was caused by private property rights extending too far.

This means that those with the resources to extract and market Alaska's mineral wealth have only one vendor to deal with: Juneau. When I was studying economics, that was called a monopoly. And what happens in a monopoly? Things cost more.

Alaskans wonder why they're still paying a dollar more per gallon for gasoline refined in their very own state from oil produced in their very own state. In Fairbanks, they even convinced themselves the answer was to raise taxes on the oil companies — as if that would bring gas prices down.

Maybe if more than one entity owned that oil, things would be different.

Alaska's "last frontier" marketing has been a lie for 60 years.

Saturday,  September 26, 2015  McGehee

Buh-bye, Weepy

Better late than never, I suppose.

Speaker John A. Boehner, under intense pressure from conservatives in his party, will resign one of the most powerful positions in government and give up his House seat at the end of October, throwing Congress into chaos [as] it tries to avert a government shutdown.

Mr. Boehner made the announcement in an emotional meeting with his fellow Republicans Friday morning.

The Republican from Ohio had struggled from almost the moment he took the speaker’s gavel in 2011 to manage the challenges of divided government and the hold together his fractious and increasingly conservative Republican members.

He was never fit for the speakership, and I like many fear his influence has left almost no one fit for the job in line for it.

Curious what's led him to this decision. I know what a lot of his critics will conclude, but I don't like the blackmail explanation here anymore than I do regarding Chief Justice Roberts. It's not that big a stretch to assume that a GOP essentially led by the likes of Karl Rove managed at exactly the wrong time to elevate dim, weak men to what would become its highest offices during the Obama era.

It's happened before. Weak men do like to try to have it both ways, and weak men do crack under the strain of trying to have it both ways when the rest of the world loses patience.

Update: WaPo says:

A major reason for Boehner's historical unpopularity is likely Americans' broad disillusionment with Congress...

No, you have that backwards.

Friday,  September 25, 2015  McGehee

Damn You, Trump

Scott Walker is out. He, Rick Perry (who already dropped out) and Bobby Jindal were the only governors running for president that I didn't despise.

Yes, I just gave Bobby a few bucks, he being the last one standing.

If he falls, I'll have to choose between Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, and Ben Carson. As much as I like Cruz, the last sitting U.S. Senator we put in the White House makes me leery of doing it again so soon.

We need a constitutional amendment prohibiting presidential campaign activities and fundraising more than six months before the November election. When you set out to separate the wheat from the chaff, and end up with only chaff, you're doing something wrong.

Monday,  September 21, 2015  McGehee

Forget Evil, Google — Try Not Being Stupid

A while ago — about the same time this blog became my domain home page — I signed up for Google Apps so I could manage my domain email right in Gmail, rather than just forwarding it to a whole separate address to take advantage of Gmail's features and capabilities.

I'm saving some $75 a year on this deal, but the mail part has proven to be a major headache because if your Gmail address doesn't end in gmail.com, the Gmail mobile app will only manage it if you set it up as an IMAP account — the kind where messages get moved into folders rather than labeled. When folders are used, a message can only be in one at a time; to use more than one folder you have to make multiple copies of the same message.

Gmail's labels are a much more flexible system. Instead of a file-folder analog like IMAP, search giant Google's Gmail operates, naturally enough, on a database principle. You could create 100 labels, put them all on just one message, and find it under all of the labels — while still having only one copy of the message on the server. Other mail systems should adopt it.

But I can only take full advantage of Gmail's features through Gmail's webmail interface.

You'd think Google would design its mail app to treat a Google Apps mail account like any other Gmail account. The webmail interface does it without any trouble, so why can't the app?

From what I've read, Google Apps users with non-Gmail, domain addresses used to have to use Microsoft's Outlook mobile app to manage their email. How stupid is that? It's undoubtedly a big part of why Gmail finally turned their app into an IMAP-capable mail client, but it's hard to understand why they couldn't simply have the apps recognize Google Apps mail accounts as Gmail addresses? It's far more sensible.

Anyway, the last two versions of Gmail's Android app have been failing epically even for users with ordinary Gmail addresses. So I've disabled the Gmail apps on my phone and tablet, and placed web shortcuts on my homescreen. I'll use my mobile browser to manage my email when I'm not at my Windows PC.

Absolutely ridiculous.

Updated, Monday: I just discovered that Microsoft's Outlook mail app can set up my domained Google Apps account as Gmail. Google's own Gmail app can't.

The ridiculousness is even more absolute than I thought.

Reupdated, October 14: Turns out Google "Inbox," which Google claims isn't an attempt to replace Gmail, does sync my email as a Gmail address rather than IMAP — but the multiple labeling capability isn't available in Inbox — which makes it no better than an IMAP app. They released an updated Gmail app in the last few days but it still doesn't accord full Gmail functionality to non-Gmail-domained Google Apps email addresses and it reintroduces an earlier bug of creating spurious IMAP labels for standard mail folders like Sent.

There must be a serious fundamental code failure in the app if they can't find and fix these flaws.

Anyway, I'm using Gmail's web interface on all devices — the non-mobile version which, on my phone, is extremely small, but at least displays messages correctly unlike the mobile version. One of my complaints about the newer phone is it won't display the desktop version of Gmail no matter what.

Sunday,  September 20, 2015  McGehee

Now in Living Color

Where I grew up, fall color wasn't a thing.

The house was surrounded mainly by camellia bushes, with an orange tree and a grapefruit tree in the back yard, and a gardenia bush under the grapefruit tree — neither they nor the loquat tree were deciduous. We also had peach, plum, nectarine, apricot, cherry and cherry-plum trees, but I don't recall noticing them turning color in the fall. Nor our fig trees, though they were behind the detached garage, or our neighbor's avocado tree.

We had as dizzying an array of California-type arbory as one suburban lot could hold, and we enjoyed the fruits (ahem) for 14 years. The most telling sign of fall for me was the faint smoky smell and slight golden sun haze resulting from the burning of rice fields outside town (a practice long since outlawed). Even the sycamore and fruitless mulberry trees I knew elsewhere didn't put on much of a show.

It wasn't until I moved to Fairbanks, Alaska that fall color was abundant and abrupt. Varying a little each year, there was always about a week in September that the hillsides north and west of the city were uniformly golden. When we bought a house in what I called "greater North Pole," we were in the midst of the Interior's boreal forest and the season of color couldn't be missed.

Of course that meant that for a few weeks between the dropping of the leaves — and they fell as abruptly as they had turned — and the first layer of the coming winter's snowpack, came the Interior's darkest season; the summer's continuous daylight was gone, the trees no longer held the last golden glow of twilight nor reflected house or yard lights, and the ground, though carpeted with leaves, was downright gloomy compared to the gleaming white it would be by the end of October.

Here in metro Atlanta, we do get a definite color season, much longer than that enjoyed in the far North, and more gradual. Different species of tree have their different schedules. Some stands of Bradford pear, for example, turn abruptly red before the casual eye notices any other changes — other stands wait longer. Meanwhile though, individual leaves on dogwoods may be showing red, or there may be yellow leaves here and there on the poplars and sweetgums.

We're in the earliest phases now, with the sparsest hints of color to come seen on scattered trees in the woods of McGehee's Freehold. If any Bradford pear trees have begun to turn I haven't seen it yet, but I'm keeping an eye out. Fairbanks has had its golden hillsides for several days now, but they may have snow before our trees down here are fully involved.

Sunday,  September 20, 2015  McGehee

More Than Four Hours, Updated

We have a shed.

It's missing a rollup door.

We were out of town during construction — filling two vehicles with items intended to go into the shed. I imagine the crew will be back tomorrow to finish up.

Today's loads are mostly shelving and bins, so we should be safe putting them in the shed even before the missing door is installed.

Reupdated, Thursday: Tomorrow afternoon. Oh well. If they don't mind delaying final payment...

Rereupdated, Friday afternoon: Finished!

Wednesday,  September 16, 2015  McGehee


All I'm going to say right now is that I'm glad both hosts whose nameservers are currently fighting over which gets to tell you where my domain is hosted, have the same MX entries for my email.

One of the hosts is right, and once it wins the argument I'll have some more to do — but for now I just have to wait.

Tuesday,  September 15, 2015  McGehee


Some — a very few — of the trees are starting to turn hereabouts, and even though it's after ten in the morning Mrs. McG's weather station is reporting that the outside temperature is in the mid-50s.

In subtropical west Georgia, with the equinox still more than a week away.

Living here, fall is unchallenged as my favorite time of year — if only because winter is so often disappointing, and when we do get winter weather around here I'm as trapped at home as anyone because if I were to venture out it wouldn't matter how well I can drive in the snow if the next guy coming the other way can't.

Where fall brings mixed feelings, it's because the subsequent winter will certainly be harsh — but that also makes it a known quantity to almost everyone who lives there, and they'll at least know how to drive in it.

Life can only stop for snow in a place where it happens rarely.

Sunday,  September 13, 2015  McGehee

Bureaucrats in the Palace

Forget barbarians at the gates. These predictions by Glenn Reynolds have been spot-on, sad to say.

One observation of his — "Airport security is a joke because it's spread so thin that it can't possibly stop people who are really serious." — was true enough, but at least before and immediately after 9/11 it was still tolerable to fly commercial. The "professionalization" of airport security checkpoint personnel changed all that; I dealt with TSA in 2008 on a one-way flight to SFO, my last commercial flight so far.

The bureaucrats won pretty much every domestic political argument during the Bush years, first with the creation of the Office of Homeland Security, which seemed to me unnecessary (though mostly harmless) since the elements for a domestic counterpart to the National Security Council were already in place and could be assembled through low-impact executive action. Then the Office became the Department, and then somebody zeroed in on airport security contractors and now vast swathes of airport space are set up like a West Texas feedlot, complete with invasive veterinary examinations of the livestock before they're loaded up for transport.

I'd had only three "enhanced" encounters with airport security in all my air travels. A contract checkpoint officer confiscated a fake-bullet keychain ornament in the '90s; a TSA agent made me have a keychain-sized Leatherman tool mailed home from the airport; and Mrs. McG and I had our carry-ons wiped down for further testing because supposedly they had traces of something "potentially" explosive on them.

I will admit that being able to keep the Leatherman was a relief after what had happened to my bullet, but since 2008 I have gone nowhere that I couldn't drive to. Trading in airports for interstate highways hasn't been perfect; the long and scenic stretches of rural road are all too frequently punctuated with chaotic, crowded urban freeways — and even the country miles can become congested with inattentive, rude, or just stupid drivers.

But at least I don't have to pretend to tolerate pointless security kabuki that may only leave me even more vulnerable than the "joke" airport security Reynolds complained about 14 years ago today.

The first time I flew after 9/11, about a month after, passengers were scanning the cabin as they settled into their seats, perhaps looking for possible terrorists but mostly making eye contact with other passengers doing the same thing. It was the safest I'd ever felt on a commercial jet. Of course the bureaucrats couldn't let that continue. Now the flying public seems to be back in the September 10 world.

If even that. The passengers on Flight 93 had been in that world when they boarded, but lived just long enough in post-9/10 to inspire their fellow Americans. I'm not sure the selfie generation would have it in them to do the same.

And when you look at the current crop of presidential frontrunners, how confident can you be that Reynolds's second bit of advice — "Overreaction is the terrorist's friend." — would be heeded in 2017?

Friday,  September 11, 2015  McGehee


I don't really want to spend today writing, as it's the first day in some months I've really been free to get other things done without artificially short deadlines — but I do have some thoughts about the past 14 years that I'll post probably later today.

Friday,  September 11, 2015  McGehee

Winding Down or Augering In?

It looks like the shed will be ready in time for the last remaining items from mother-in-law's former home in Chattanooga to go directly into it rather than by way of the rented storage space.

The items in question are almost exclusively things that will be useful in organizing stuff that's already in rented storage, which is even more fortuitous. We'll be hauling shelving from Chattanooga, and once it's put up in the shed, we'll have places to put the stuff we've been paying to store all these months.

The real benefit will be getting stuff into the shed that's been cluttering up space in the house proper, but that will be a secondary project; triaging what's been in rented storage will come first, to make room for the rest.

I don't think I could qualify as an obsessive declutterer, but it's not for lack of ambition.

Wednesday,  September 9, 2015  McGehee


Very early this morning, after battling pancreatic cancer for nearly a year, my mother-in-law passed away here at home. She was 70.

Things will be busy around here for a little while as final arrangements are carried out.

Update, Saturday: Funeral was yesterday in Chattanooga. Now we have legal matters to deal with and a house to get on the market two years after she moved out of it. Her sister and brother-in-law have been extremely helpful with the house. Budget Truck Rental, not so much.

Glancing at Twitter it appears there's still politics going on. Stop it.

Tuesday,  September 1, 2015  McGehee



September 2015


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