Posted by: David | March 1, 2016

Cheating Solitaire

At 85, dad is overripe crotchety squared. Some advice I hope to pass on to myself is don’t become dependent on your children. It’s not in the natural order of things. Or is it?

A devout contrarian,  time’s passage seems only to strengthen the commitment. Having played tens of thousands of games of solitaire on his computer over the years, for some reason he recently began calling it “online solitaire”. It’s not online. It’s the same solitaire on the Windows Vista computer that came from his Windows XP computer. Literally. I copied the files. And what the fuck would be the point of “online solitaire” anyway? The final confabulation on this topic was his claim that the online solitaire was somehow cheating and that Microsoft had no interest in answering this accusation, but was only interested in charging money to open a support ticket.

Contrarianism is a losing game. Eventually thought processes are distorted. In a recent article The Atlantic on math education, the following logic problem was presented.

You have a drawer full of socks, each one of which is red, white, or blue. You start taking socks out without looking at them. How many socks do you need to take out of the drawer to be sure you have taken out at least two socks that are the same color?

Seems simple enough right? The answer, four, appears in the next paragraph. Dad had circled the answer and presented the magazine opened to that page, on his face a look of consternation. He could not agree that the answer was correct. Even when presented with a simplified version (drawer full of black and white socks), he refused to accept that  n+1 selected socks (where n = number of colors) guaranteed a matched pair.

As a well-read college dropout, and aforementioned contrarian, dad had a lifelong mission to debunk basic tenets of mathematics and logic. And yet, his daily thinking was always extremely concrete. Irrational thinking was a primary target of his rants. With this Woody Allen School of Philosophy he dismissed the entire science of psychology. Though maybe his actual participation in the Milgram Experiment (he may have seen this ad in the New Haven Register when he was between jobs) had more to do with that. His story is that he refused to administer the shocks. I wonder if he collected his four dollars.

At any rate, I have dad to thank for my own outlook on life, which is one of anti-contrarianism. Yes, I proclaim this a THING: anti-contrarianism! I aspire to follow the code of improv, which is to say yes. Or yes, and

And as I posted about 8 years back, I choose to ignore a vast amount of shit.

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Posted by: David | November 27, 2015

Black Friday 2015

The weather featured record-setting warmth. The local TV weather dude said that not since 1976 has there been a November 27th this warm. We’re talking over 60° F.

Being otherwise unencumbered, I tore myself away from various screens, and decided to try to capture a record of my own. My blue Fuji touring bike, which the former president of the college gave to me over a decade ago, was just 35 miles shy of 10,000. I didn’t want to hang it up for the winter without achieving that goal. So today I did just that, in a little over 3 hours.

IMG_4811

My legs are a little sore now, as I haven’t ridden in over a month, and I rode the 35 miles without stopping.  Now this is a Black Friday that will be among the more memorable.

Posted by: David | September 6, 2015

Loose Threads …

Please accept my sincere apologies for the lapse. I said I’d never apologize for whatever lengths of time passed between posts here, and I can’t stand to admit it, but I feel guilty anyway. Six months, Father, have streaked by since my last post. As the seasons change, the mind wanders back and forth over over the same well-worn objects. And those, as stated on the rear-view mirror’s very surface, appear smaller.

I’ve been saturating my brain with much more media in the past few years; books, audio books, movies, music and the unceasing torrent of the interwebs … it’s so undisciplined, so uncontrolled and random. No rhyme no reason. But every so often one gets this feeling. A sort of quietude. A sense of a turning point- a very low tide. It’s ineffable, yet palpable. Felt in the bones.

Maybe it’s just an effect of aging. The big Six-Oh is just around the corner. I get tired from clicking “LIKE” on a thousand Facebook posts, but really meaning it. Waiting for the next impulse … and reviewing, occasionally, those lifelong touchstones.

One such touchstone is a movie I’ve seen at least 100 times since its release in 1968: 2001 A Space Odyssey. Twelve-year-old me went with a friend and his dad to see it at a Miami theater.  I was enthralled, but also baffled. My friend’s dad pronounced the movie “incomprehensible”. That’s when I learned that word: incomprehensible. I didn’t know then that the man was just being plain honest- I thought “incomprehensible” was some sort of snarky critique.

It would be many more viewings before I comprehended the film, along with a few readings of the Arthur C. Clarke book of the same title, a precursor work of Clarke’s called Childhood’s End, and a book about the making of the movie, which I loaned to a high school teacher and never got back. Over the years I would take friends to see the movie to see what their impressions would be. It was sort of a secret litmus test. Never met anyone who loved the movie as much as me.

Needless to say, I memorized the film and most of its spare Kubrickian dialog. I knew the film shot by shot, and thought that I even knew the complete list of the film’s errors. After all, it was made and released before the US space program completed its lunar goal in July 1969, and long before we became as familiar with space exploration and zero-G as we are nowadays.

So I usually re-watch the movie at least once a year. It came up in the Netflix queue, and I watched it last weekend. In two parts, since the movie is over two and a half hours long, including the pretentious prelude, intermission, and post-credits final curtain music. And I noted two errors I had managed to miss for 40 years! The first was in dialog referencing the EVA (Extra Vehicular Activity) pods. Pretty minor, but Dave Bowman mistakenly calls the pod in the central “B” position, “the C pod”. The really major error I’d missed startled me when I saw it.

2001error
Dave’s red spacesuit, with green helmet and gloves …

2001error2
sort of invites scrutiny, but I’d missed this potentially fatal glove error for 40 years!

If you don’t know the movie, HAL 9000, the ship computer, killed all the crew except for Dave, who was stuck outside the ship in an EVA pod, attempting to recover the body of HAL’s first victim. HAL refused to let Dave back in, so Dave, having forgot his helmet in emergent drama, had to enter via the ship’s emergency hatch and risk a brief exposure to vacuum. Dave is then determined to disconnect HAL’s higher functioning AI resources. Being a murderously deluded AI, you can be pretty sure that HAL would have done whatever he could to stop Dave disconnecting him, e.g. depressurizing the ship. But Dave has a full spacesuit on now, complete with mismatched (and xmas themed) helmet and gloves.

HOWEVER, in the shot where Dave accesses HAL’s brain vault we see twice that Dave’s left spacesuit glove is completely disconnected from the suit.

The first shock was how I’d managed to miss this after so many viewings. The second was in trying to figure how or why this serious goof was not corrected. It was just one 40 second scene where Dave unlocks and opens the Logic Memory Center door and climbs in.

So the movie went on to its same old ending, but here I was with a new discovery. What could I do with it, other than Google to find out more. And there were several listings of many more goofs than I’d ever known about.  Am I disillusioned? Hell no! Themes from the movie’s score are still wafting through my mental music box a few days later, as they’ve always done. I’ll watch it again sometime in 2016 I expect.

For now, I’m re-watching Back to the Future.

Posted by: David | April 4, 2015

Operating System

Since I’ve been around for well over half a century, I’ve had time to learn a little. A vanishingly tiny quantity. In spite of this woeful ignorance, my friends sometimes (rarely) say they think I’m smart. Yikes! Working with computers makes people think you must be a genius, but no. Alas. Like I said, a vanishingly tiny quantity. Below is a mathematical expression to help perpetuate the illusion of my intelligence and simultaneously illustrate my keen sense of irony.

dformula

QED. So anyway, I do work with computers and their so-called end-users. Not sure why they’re called end-users but I spend just as much time working with the computers as with the end users. On the job I like to call myself Desktop Dave since the “desktop” is my realm. The Windows desktop mostly (but also Mac OS). So what’s a “desktop” anyway, besides really really BORING?

The Desktop is an analogy. It was constructed to familiarize computer operation to common office tasks. Everyone please yawn now. All at once. Get it out of your system.

A nice retired fellow once emailed me with some questions about his computer’s “table top”. Isn’t that cute? His consistent use of this term told me that he understood the desktop analogy. Sure, I know he meant “desktop”, but a table top is also a work surface. It’s a place where you open your folders and spread files out to work with them (physically or electronically). That’s what an operating system provides- a work space. It should be just as trivial as tables and chair. The good news is that today’s major operating systems have practically achieved this transparency! Users barely even know they’re there. Like air.

Humans have operating systems too. Our OS (Operating System) is more complex than any computer OS, but shares some basic features. For example, when you wake up from sleep, as when you turn on a computer, your operating system loads up. You don’t really notice it, but as you surface from slumber, your OS loads the time, date, your location and identity. Next comes the task list pursuant to waking up this fine day, and the magnificent machine which is your body registers its needs for the morning. Have a pee, cuppa tea, etc.

Do we really need to know what an operating system is? Maybe not. Maybe no more than we need to know what air is. Which we don’t. But we’d be dead without air, right? So I’ve felt compelled to blather on about operating systems for a while now. Years. So if you didn’t get in your yawn before …

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