TBPO: “Rights”

I got up this morning and this was the first thing I read in my RSS feed. Kevin Kelly is a "futurist," a "techno-optimist." I don't know much about him other than that. I like the "cool tools" blog thing, though that often stimulates my "I don't need this but I want it" response.

Anyway, I laughed and then I got a little mad about the post I linked to. Duty? To the system?

Bullshit.

How about a "right" not to be born into a system that imposes "duties" to an unsustainable "system" that threatens more than serves humanity?

People have a duty to help one another, to be kind. They have a responsibility to do their best, as best they can see it.

Our "techno-optimist" masters are constructing a "reality" that is little more than a hall of mirrors.

It cannot last. KK's little missive about one's "duties" in this new "reality" is a telling indicator of its fragility and ultimate failure.

"Buckle up, Dorothy. Reality is about to go bye-bye."

We're all Alice now.

Originally posted at Nice Marmot 06:05 Saturday, 17 February 2024

iCloud is Tricky

Setting up a new MacBook Pro with a 2TB internal drive has made me think again about iCloud drive. My 13" M1 MBP only had a 256GB internal SSD, so I used "Optimize storage," which was acceptable given internet access and adequate bandwidth. That doesn't sound like it should be a problem today, but a couple of vacation houses in the Finger Lakes proved to me that indeed, broadband access isn't everywhere.

On the 14" M3 MBP, I'm not using "Optimize storage," except for Photos. I haven't solved my excessive image problem and it seems the best I can do is to keep it from burgeoning ever faster. (High speed electronic shutters have proven a boon for the SSD industry, as has 4K video, I'm sure.) But I can keep all the files in my Documents folder stored locally and in iCloud Drive.

But working with the same document on two different computers can become problematic, at least in my experience.

Because I've been burned by this more than once, I've become very careful about how I work on the marmot between the iMac and the MBP (either one).

In Settings, there's a setting near the bottom in the Windows pane (heh). It says, "Close windows when quitting an application (the little toggle) When enabled, open documents and windows will not be restored when you re-open an application."

It seems to me that this is a very important switch. While it's really convenient to have the files you were working on re-open when you launch the app, I think this is where it gets tricky.

I'd work on the marmot on the iMac, then go somewhere and try and do some blogging from the MBP. Now, typically, Tinderbox is open when I close the MBP. The MBP just goes to sleep. If the battery dies because I haven't used it for a looong time, the state at time of sleep is stored in a snapshot and restored.

But now, that marmot file is out of date with the one in iCloud. I haven't done this in a while, and I'm disinclined to experiment with it again, though I could use some kind of test file, so my memory may be faulty. I think I'd be presented with some kind of alert that the files were out of sync, and I'd try to get the latest one from iCloud. I'd get that, but it'd be missing a post or two. It didn't have the most recent version, perhaps because that file was still open on the iMac, sleeping away at my desk.

I seldom "save" the marmot. In fact, these days, I have no idea how often you should use the "Save" command, since most files are saved automagically anyway. I don't know when iCloud gets the currently open file. I'm pretty confident that the MBP never complained that the file was open on another computer and therefore couldn't be opened locally.

Anyway, in fumbling around with a marmot minus a couple of posts, it would ultimately become the marmot in iCloud, "and hilarity ensues." (Some number of posts would have to be recreated from the exported html files.)

I'm sure this is all very murky. Suffice to say, I no longer rely on the marmot in iCloud. The file is still stored there, but I duplicate it on a 64GB thumb drive. When I'm going to take the marmot on the road, I "Quit" Tinderbox, which presumably automagically saves the latest version and uploads it to iCloud.

I've turned on that switch to "Close windows when quitting an application," so it won't restore the marmot from a locally saved "version" or "snapshot" on launch. I'll have to either double-click the marmot in Finder, or select "Open.." from the file menu, and get the most recent or current version from Documents in iCloud.

If I get a wonky version from iCloud, I'll have the current version on the thumb drive.

It's possible that I'm just becoming cognitively impaired in my incipient dotage, but I don't recall ever reading a clear and straightforward explanation about how all this stuff is supposed to work. If such an explanation doesn't exist, perhaps it's because it's not a "clear and straightforward" process.

It almost makes one pine for the days of floppy disks.

Originally posted at Nice Marmot 05:30 Friday, 16 February 2024

Early Spring

Bluebird perched on a budding limb.

I've been getting the 14" M3 MBP set up, which has taken a bit longer than I expected. Another project today is to collect all the license and registration codes into one repository. Seems like a good job for Tinderbox.

I've been walking 3.25 miles each morning, and adding another walk in the evening. The nice thing about the evening walk is that the sun is on the opposite side. Birds are active in the early morning and early evening. In the morning, they often backlit; not so in the evening. They were relatively scarce yesterday, but I liked how this bluebird turned out.

Originally posted at Nice Marmot 08:57 Thursday, 15 February 2024

Sunrise 13 Feb 24

Red sky illuminated by the rising sun over tht Tolomato River

I was sitting in the office, going over Medicare and Tricare EOBs, as one does, when I noticed my glass was empty. I went back to the kitchen for a refill and saw a red sky through the trees.

I skipped the beverage and threw a battery and memory card in the DJI mini 2. These things only last minutes. Got GPS lock pretty quick and managed to get aloft while the show was still underway.

It was pretty damn red.

"Sailor take warning," and all that.

Originally posted at Nice Marmot 07:24 Tuesday, 13 February 2024

NFL

Was anyone else troubled by the little infomercial about the NFL camp in Ghana, Africa? I kind of get that the brand wants to expand its global audience, but I have to wonder if it's looking for players?

From time to time I hear that moms are keeping their kids out of Pop Warner and middle and high school football programs. As problematic as the dream of professional sports is as a pathway for upward mobility and financial success is, awareness of the health risks has only grown. Transferring that "dream" of a career in professional sports to a part of the world where it may appear even more attractive, and where awareness of the health risks may not be the same, seems cynical and greedy to me. But maybe I'm not looking at it the right way?

The movie ended just in time for the half-time show, which we watched. I was pleased to see SF leading at halftime, but I knew it was the Chiefs so that didn't mean a lot. I watched the first few possessions of the second half and then switched to episode 2 of Mr. & Mrs. Smith on Prime. (Can't say I'm thrilled with the show, and I have to believe the premiere episode telegraphed the end of the series.) I didn't particularly care for episode 2, so I didn't move on to 3, and decided to check in on the game. Watched until the end of regulation play and went to bed. Figured Mahomes would pull it out again. I was hoping for the 'Niners to humble the Chiefs, but c'est la vie. I'm not a fan of KC.

Originally posted at Nice Marmot 12:15 Monday, 12 February 2024

Progress

The recliner is back in my office! (There was much rejoicing.)

Mitzi's sister is steadily improving, and she's able to comfortably get up from the couch on her own. My napping, book reading, game playing, device noodling perch of choice is back where it belongs.

I'm happy Judy is getting better too.

Originally posted at Nice Marmot 12:13 Monday, 12 February 2024

Movies: American Fiction

Watched American Fiction last night, in lieu of the Superb Owl event. Had to buy it as it wasn't available to rent yet. Mitzi's sister wanted to see it and we split the price.

Wonderful movie. I enjoy seeing Jeffrey Wright in pretty much everything. The rest of the cast was great as well. It's a very clever movie in a lot of ways, and a sharp stick in the eye to various groups, although it's delivered with more humor than hostility. And it's more thought-provoking than overtly provocative. I guess I should say that there's a lot of love in this movie, though few illusions.

Originally posted at Nice Marmot 12:04 Monday, 12 February 2024

Fool: New MacBook Pro

I'm going to have to endure another brief period of self-loathing again.

I was browsing through Apple News and read something about 14" M3 MacBook Pros being up at the Apple Refurb store.

So I logged into the Veterans store for an additional discount and did some browsing around.

I bought a 13" M1 MBP back in November 2020. I mainly use it when we're away from home for more than a few days, or when I want to do something at home, but away from my office. Not a lot lately, as I didn't configure it beyond the base 256GB of storage and I often have to dangle an external drive off of it, and it's kind of a hassle. (First world problem of the privileged, I know.)

Well, I looked at a 24GB, 2TB M3 14" MBP and it came in at a hair under $2K. I figured that'd be relatively "future-proof" as a laptop. I'm not sure it could replace my 2019 iMac, but maybe it could. In any event, I closed all the tabs last night and figured I'd sleep on it.

I woke up thinking there are probably better things I could do with $2K. I often think I need to start a "prepper" shopping list. But I'm 66, and I live in a suburban wasteland. Who am I kidding? If things go south in a hurry, probably the best thing for me to do is die and get out of the way, rather than play "run, hide, fight." But who knows? Maybe that day won't come until I'm 86, which will make that a much easier proposition. And I could get hit by a meteor between now and then anyway.

One day at a time. Appreciate what I have now.

As something in the back of my mind knew I would, I went back to the store, and it should be here on Tuesday.

Probably not the best use of my money, and I hope I won't regret it, but I'm trying to be kinder to myself.

In other news, I got a nice thank you note yesterday from the Tidewater Wooden Boat School for a $525 donation I made late last year.

It's not all about me.

Mostly. But not all.

OBTW: 80°F in February. I'd be alarmed if it wasn't so nice.

Originally posted at Nice Marmot 13:37 Sunday, 11 February 2024

BWT: Automation

BWT will refer to "blogging with Tinderbox."

I've got a "test article" that I use to try out certain things in Tinderbox before I try and incorporate them in the marmot. That's to make sure I understand what I'm doing, and avoid unintended consequences that might cause problems.

I've learned to do this through hard experience.

Over the past year or so, I've been slowly adding additional automation to the marmot. I try it out in the test article first, and that file is slowly beginning to become something of an example file for one way of maintaining a weblog with Tinderbox. There are innumerable different ways of maintaining a weblog with Tinderbox, the marmot and its test article are just one. By the time we get to the meet-up, I hope to have it pretty complete and able to share.

So what about automation? There are myriad details in publishing html formatted documents within a specific file structure that are organized, in large measure, chronologically. The simpler the structure, the fewer the details; but there will still be many. Getting Tinderbox to attend to those details reduces the chance for errors, reduces the amount of work in actually maintaining the weblog and therefore increases the chances of actually using it.

Automation requires a significant investment of time and effort once, but then repays that investment over time. The marmot's been running for 10 years now, much of that time with minimal automation (and frequent manual intervention when things went awry). Now I'm learning how to let Tinderbox do the things Tinderbox is good at, so I can spend my time figuring out the best ways to waste yours. (Just kidding.)

Blogging services, like Tumblr or Wordpress or others, have done most of that automation for you. If you want to learn javascript and php and SQL stuff, things that run on the server, you can program that automation yourself. The advantage of using Tinderbox is that it doesn't run on the server. It outputs static html files. They load quickly because they're mainly just text. They're more secure, because the server is just serving a file, not rendering it. Some people prefer that server-generated environment, because it offers a great deal of flexibility and features; but it does come with security risks in terms of taking over that collection of automation running on the server and having it do things, often nefarious things, you aren't paying for it to do. Plus, unless you understand all that code, you have no idea what else your service is doing with your data and your readers.

Tinderbox export templates can include things like javascript, or embed code from other web sites or services, but if you want to keep things fast and light, you don't need to do any of that.

So what sorts of automation does Tinderbox do in the marmot? Infrastructure things. It creates the "permalinks" that accompany each blog entry. When I add a post, it places it at the top of month because blogs are read in reverse chronological order. It counts the number of words (to a close approximation) so I know when I'm getting too verbose (I'm at 525). In the background, it's showing me a bunch of related posts I can refer to if I wish. As a "nice-to-have" kind of feature, there's a note that's querying a weather service for the local weather data, which is added to each post.

At a higher level, the marmot knows the date. When February ends, it'll create a new container for March's posts. That container will be created from a "prototype" month container, which has all the attributes and automation necessary for managing a month's posts. It'll give that container its export filename. At the highest level, when 2024 ends, it'll create a container for 2025 and the January 2025 container as well.

The "home" page just contains one day's posts. It's created automatically. If I don't post anything for a few days, it remains the same. But an "agent" collects the posts from "today" and places them in the Main Page (or "Home") container. (Some of the naming conventions in the marmot are over 20 years old.) A separate agent also gathers today's posts to generate the RSS feed. Some people maintain a huge number of posts in their RSS feed. I see that a lot when someone changes something on their blog and NetNewsWire will all of a sudden have thirty or forty posts on the "blogs" category and most of them will be from one blog going back a year or more. ("Mark all as read" is your friend.) The marmot's feed is ephemeral. Just the things I posted, on the last day I posted.

I've got one last piece of automation I need to figure out, and that's the "Archives" page. That's going to be an agent that gathers the $HTMLExporeFilename of every month as a list and renders them as links in the page. Right now, I do that manually, just adding the new month to the top of the list. But sometimes I'll forget for a couple of months. Tinderbox never forgets.

Basically, all I have to do is hit Enter to start a post. Pour in my deathless prose. Turn off the safety, "HTMLDontExport" boolean, and do File=>Export as HTML. Then I have to slide over to ForkLift and tell it to sync the marmot.

There's some fancy stuff I do to post photos, but that's for another day.

Originally posted at Nice Marmot 07:16 Sunday, 11 February 2024

Sunset 2/9/24

Sunset cloudscape reflected in a retention pond in a suburban landscape.

Looked like sunset was shaping up to be something nice last night. I walked across the street with the OM-5 waited to be amazed.

This is as long as I could wait. The gnats were out in force and drove me back to my house. Should've worn a long-sleeved shirt or sweatshirt. I can kind of tolerate them buzzing around my face, but they were all over my arms.

Still, it was pretty.

Originally posted at Nice Marmot 11:20 Saturday, 10 February 2024

PFM

Okay, did the troubleshooting thing with Hazel. No joy.

Quit Hazel.

Re-launched Hazel.

Works.

🤷‍♂️

Originally posted at Nice Marmot 10:46 Saturday, 10 February 2024

Karma

Photo of my cat from some years back.

Kind of a test post to see what else is working, or not.

I had three rolls of 35mm film laying around here for quite some time. Took it in to be developed when I sold some camera gear to KEH. This is one of the shots. I'm not sure which camera this was. I had two Olympus Stylus point-and-shoots and a Minolta. I'm going to guess this is the Minolta, because I think it had a "close-up" setting.

Anyway, the shots were, for the most part, nothing. But I do like this one. Karma lived a long time. More than 18 years, I think. I think I did what was necessary in 2018, but I'm not sure. Her last few years weren't pleasant for her, and I probably should have been a bit more proactive. But she came into my life when I needed something to think about besides myself, and I loved her.

Originally posted at Nice Marmot 08:10 Saturday, 10 February 2024

One Step Up and Two Steps Back

One of my favorite Springsteen songs back in the days when, well, things weren't going so well. Anyway, I installed MacOS Sonoma 14.3.1 this morning to fix a text entry problem that Apple inflicted on everyone, and now Hazel isn't running.

I'm going to guess it's not an incompatibility introduced by the update, and something to do with a setting somewhere. Noodlesoft offers a troubleshooting guide, but I just wanted to post a pic and write something. Now I have to do troubleshooting. So, I'll put that aside for the moment and write a post without a pic.

How's that!

I'm beginning to notice an awareness of the looming peril creeping into places I wouldn't normally expect to find them. Obliquely, tentatively. It sparks something in me that I decided to think about a little bit during the prolonged period while my iMac did its OS update thing.

When I was a young elementary student, I was very average. Sometime after puberty I became "smart." Often, "the smartest kid in the class." And there are a whole set of behavioral rewards in a classroom environment for demonstrating how smart you are. (There are some decidedly unrewarding aspects as well. But let's not dwell on those.)

"See something, say something." Yeah, well, in the "country of the blind, the one-eyed man is"... not welcome. And it's never certain if that one eye is seeing clearly anyway. But the stimulus-response, conditioned reward reaction remains. But I'm a little wiser now, and it's a feeling and I know feelings pass.

But I do wonder what's going to happen as our situation becomes more apparent over time? I know there will be enormous efforts to forestall catastrophe. I think someone's going to propose building a fleet of Musk's Starships to launch solar power satellites. That'd be cool.

Won't work, but it'd be cool.

It's going to get crazy before it gets really bad.

But I keep coming back to acceptance. It's a terminal prognosis. Nobody gets out of here alive. "Everything that has a beginning has an end." About the best anyone can do is just... be kind.

It's not anyone's fault. It's an emergent outcome of a complex, non-linear dynamic system, of which human behavior, human nature, is an inextricable piece. We aren't that smart. We definitely aren't that wise. We couldn't help it.

We knew.

But we couldn't help it.

Originally posted at Nice Marmot 07:30 Saturday, 10 February 2024

Blogging With Tinderbox

There's going to be a Tinderbox zoom meetup on the 24th to discuss "blogging with Tinderbox."

To reduce the chances of us looking dumb, the responsible parties are going to get together on zoom today to kind of go over the agenda.

I think it's going to be an interesting meet-up on the 24th, and if you're interested in either blogging or Tinderbox, you should join it. It's open to anyone, you don't have to be a Tinderbox user or a blogger. It can get kind of wonky over 90 minutes, but we'll try to keep it fairly non-technical.

Preparing for today's get-together has made me think more about Tinderbox (and blogging) at a broader level than I have in a long time. I often think about it in immediate, technical terms if something goes awry, or I want to try something new. But this has made me look at all the overall "production process," or, as the cool kids call it, "workflow."

I don't think of myself as a "creator," or a "writer," just as I don't think of myself as a "photographer." To me, those appellations refer to people with perhaps a different intent, or maybe just greater confidence. But we all "make stuff." And there is some reward in the effort.

Part of that reward, I think, is in using the tools. People become passionate about their tools. I use Olympus, now OM Digital Solutions, or OM System (I really don't know what to call the corporate brand) cameras. They offer advantages to me as a "guy who takes pictures," and I wouldn't enjoy taking pictures as much if I had to learn how to use a different camera.

Some people like learning how to use a different camera. The camera is the object, perhaps the process, not the photograph. At least, the photo is secondary, necessary only to evaluate the camera.

I enjoy blogging with Tinderbox. I enjoy the tool. Now, both OM System cameras and Tinderbox can frustrate me at times. Sometimes I don't get the result I anticipated, and I don't know why at first. Then I have to dig in and figure out what went wrong. Typically, I misunderstood something, or forgot a setting. It's seldom the tool. The tool can produce the outcome I envisioned, I just misused it.

I like owning my tools. There are many blogging platforms that offer a writing environment as a service that you pay for. I pay for my hosting, a kind of rent for some server space and domain resolving. But I own my copy of Tinderbox. I don't own the IP. It's not "free software" in any sense. But I don't rent it. Every year I pay for a year of updates, but if I stopped paying, it'd work the same way it does now for as long as I had this computer and OS. (Apple changing the OS is an important reason to pay for application software updates.)

But everything I "create" here is right here in this file, which is backed up to a few different places. I don't have to "download my content." It's right here, where I created it. I do have to upload it though. And if I my host goes out of business, I'll just upload it someplace else.

And I enjoy using Tinderbox. It's not for everyone, to be sure. But it rewards patience and commitment. It's a unique and powerful tool, and it's been around for a long time. I've been using it for more than 20 years.

Jack Baty enjoys using tools too. I think he's more of a "tool is the object" kind of guy with regard to software. (There's nothing wrong with that.) I think he's pretty settled on the kind of camera that produces the images he envisions. Jack and I will be talking about blogging with Tinderbox. Mark Bernstein, the developer of Tinderbox (and blogger) will be there too, along with other experienced users like Mark Anderson, who publishes a whole Tinderbox reference web site using Tinderbox.

It should be fun. I'm looking forward to it.

Originally posted at Nice Marmot 06:28 Friday, 9 February 2024

Dawn 8 Feb 24

Just before sunrise over the Tolomato River, yellow and red clouds on the horizon reflected in the river.

Mitzi spotted the sky while I was in the office. Grabbed the drone and went aloft. This is about 3 min before sunrise.

Originally posted at Nice Marmot 07:38 Thursday, 8 February 2024

Hadestown

Mitzi is a huge fan of musicals. Theater in general, but musicals in particular. She keeps her subscription to Sirius in the RAV4 specifically for the Broadway channel, as I am reminded each time I drive the car.

Me, not so much. She has a friend, my oldest daughter's mother-in-law, who likes to go as well, and they usually go together. They're going to go see Tina! later this year.

But I like to be supportive in the sense that we "do things together." So when she asked me last November, around Cyber Monday, if I'd go to Hadestown with her, I initially hesitated, inclined to go with my default, "No." But I relented and said, "Sure." Tickets for Wednesday's performance were half-off on Cyber Monday. I had no idea what Hadestown was about, but it's a few hours one night, how bad could it be?

It was amazing.

It's a very contemporary re-telling of a very old story, a Greek tragedy.

As with most musicals, I could only make out about half the words, but I got it. (I kept looking down for the subtitles.) I ordered the CD of the Broadway cast recording and hopefully that comes with a set of lyrics.

It's a story for our time.

Originally posted at Nice Marmot 06:45 Thursday, 8 February 2024

Authority

The marmot's tag-line is from The Big Lebowski, which is also the source of the marmot's moniker. It's a disclaimer, and a comment on blogs in general. Maybe life, too.

The marmot's ancestor was called Groundhog Day, and I believe it went through a few tag-lines. One I recall was from The Princess Bride, "Let me explain... No, there is too much. Let me sum up."

And one of the recurring themes in GHD was about the illusion of power.

In our sloppy, lazy idiomatic way of communicating we often ascribe certain outcomes or results to the "power" of leaders or parties or corporations. We speak of "asymmetric power dynamics" in relationships. We encourage and facilitate the illusion in our culture and society, largely because it helps maintain hierarchy and order.

But it's still an illusion.

The only power that exists, in a human relationship context, is the power to choose. Yeah, there's work per unit time power of my fist hitting your nose, but that's physics. A course of action involving an individual is the result of two things: habit or choice. Most of our behavior, our daily course of action, is habituated. This is, in the main, a good thing. Nobody has the cognitive capacity to consider, moment to moment, all the possible courses of action and potential outcomes of any particular choice.

And one of the artifacts of that habit is the illusion of power.

This post isn't intended to recapitulate all that. It provides a little context. When we say a police officer has "power," what we really mean is that he has "authority." Authority is an element of a social contract. We agree to consider the statements or commands of people whom society has granted "authority," as being compelling, having the effect of "force" (power again). But participating in that social contract, recognizing that authority, is always a choice.

Society recognizes the dangers of authority, so it erects guardrails to prevent its misuse. Authority is granted commensurate with responsibility or duty. Society says certain people are responsible for various elements of conduct or behavior, guiding or compelling people's choices, to maintain some beneficial feature of society, or military order.

That authority is bounded by responsibility. Its exercise is accompanied by accountability. That is, the organization that grants the authority can also withdraw it, and impose penalties for its abuse or misuse or failure to exercise it in meeting the responsibility for which it was granted.

So there's a three-legged stool that kind of supports this idea of "power" in the social contract.

It also exists in the professions. We grant titles to people who possess expert knowledge in particular fields that convey to us that we can rely on their opinions. Doctors, lawyers, architects and so on. Someone tells you that they want to cut you open and take out your gall bladder, you want to have some confidence they know what they're talking about!

Again, there are three legs, or pillars, pick an analogy Rogers. Responsibility, authority, accountability. We don't like our buildings falling down, so we make people responsible for ensuring they don't. We grant them the authority to state that a set of plans will result in a safe structure that won't fall down and their signature has a certain force to it. You can rely on it, and you must comply with it. And professionals are held accountable for misuse, or incompetent use, of their authority by legal and professional structures. People can seek damages, attempt to be "made whole." (Good luck getting that gall bladder back.)

Basically, everything else is bullshit and you're on your own. Now, people can acquire reputations for being sources of reliable information. But the only thing they have to lose is their reputation if they give you a bum steer. And there are certain requirements of law in contracts or testimony under oath that can impose penalties if you bullshit someone. But basically, most of life is just bullshit.

Which brings me to AI.

We are suckers for our own infernal cleverness. I remember when we got these fancy color computers in the combat information centers of navy ships. They purported to give an "all source," "fused" picture of the space around the ship. Because it was in a fancy box, and especially because it was in color graphics, we all bought it. It didn't take long to learn that it was bullshit. The data was time-late. The data was wrong. It was just a fancy picture. A toy. But we sure did love it for a while.

It did get better. We learned what its limitations were. We understood what it could tell us. We got better at vetting the data, and faster at inputting it. Today, that sort of thing works pretty well and it's used every day. But occasionally a drone will fly through and blow up a bunch of your shipmates.

AI is a toy. It's bullshit. Some fancy-boy, tech bro nerds might take exception to that characterization, but they're emotionally invested in their toys so that's understandable.

We can begin to take AI seriously when it's supported by the three pillars of responsibility, authority and accountability. And since it's hard to figure out how to make a machine learning model accountable, we'll have to be satisfied with holding its corporate masters accountable. When we start putting people in prison, I'll know we're taking it seriously.

In the meantime, I expect we're going to have a lot of fun with AI as a toy. And it's going to do quite a bit of damage too, because it's kind of like treating an AR-15 like a toy. Some folks will do some useful things with it, but a lot more folks will cause chaos and mayhem just for shits and giggles, or because they genuinely want to sow chaos and mayhem, or because they had good intentions, but just didn't know any better.

But, hey, this is all just my opinion. I could be wrong. I don't have any intention of deceiving anyone. I probably just don't know what I'm talking about.

And this is the marmot. It's a blog. I'm an authority on nothing. I make all this shit up. Do your own thinking. Or ask Chat GPT.

Originally posted at Nice Marmot 06:06 Wednesday, 7 February 2024

Death and Taxes

There's an effort underway by Florida's generation-long ruling political party to consider eliminating property taxes. Property taxes are relatively "progressive." That is, people with greater wealth generally own more property, or more expensive, highly-valued property, and therefore the tax represents less of an overall burden. Sales taxes are regressive in the sense that everyone pays the same amount, regardless of ability or proportion of overall net worth.

I have to wonder to what degree that climate impacts, including sea level rise, are placing pressure on future property values and motivating this effort. While much of Florida's population may migrate from the coast, the truly high-value properties are mostly located there. If retreat isn't properly planned and managed, it is likely to leave a landscape of derelict properties and a significantly diminished tax base.

I don't think there's a sales tax rate that could make up that lost revenue. While "no property tax" probably sounds as appealing as "no state income tax," it would have consequences. I would expect a serious degradation in government services, public education, public health (already a joke), regulation and oversight and so on. The goal with Republicans is never to improve government services, but to eliminate them. Eliminating their funding source goes a long way toward achieving that goal. Public safety, mainly law enforcement, would probably be spared from significant cuts, except in regions where Democrats may hold local sway. I'd expect those regions to be cut significantly. There will be all kinds of games played with how sales tax revenue is distributed.

A progressive state income tax would address many of these concerns, while simultaneously eliminating what can only be described as an "attractive nuisance," which helps draw 1,000 people a day to Florida, placing greater strain on its environment and infrastructure.

I'd say the idea of moving to a higher sales tax rate is a non-starter, but we're talking about a ruling party that hasn't been accountable to the electorate for a generation. Anything is possible.

Anyone considering moving to Florida would be very wise to reconsider their plans. We are a few short years away from chaos here.

Originally posted at Nice Marmot 13:16 Monday, 5 February 2024

All The Feels

A post from Dave Winer enters the timeline:

Everyone's watching and listening to Fast Car this morning. It's a time capsule for so many of us. 1988. A window back to good times.

Scripting.com

So I google (duckduckgo, I guess), and get the NPR story. I watch the embedded X-post video and I'm bawling my eyes out. I don't know why.

I wouldn't say 1988 was such a great time, but that's subjective. Better, in some ways, than today I suppose. In an "ignorance is bliss" context.

Originally posted at Nice Marmot 09:39 Monday, 5 February 2024

Orion Nebula

Photo of the Orion Nebula, a small purple-ish fuzzball amid a background of stars

I went over to visit with a friend last night and we looked at Jupiter through his large Meade Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope. Some clouds, mostly clear. The seeing wasn't ideal, but got better as the night went on. I could make out two bands and four moons, but no red spot.

I'd brought over a couple of cameras and a tripod and I tried to get a shot of the Orion Nebula. I got a few, but nothing was I really pleased with. I was trying to use the OM-1 with handheld high-resolution shooting from the tripod. I kept getting failures.

So before I turned in tonight, I looked outside and the sky was clear so I set up on our back patio.

I'm still not thrilled with this result, but I had a little better luck getting successful HHHR shots. This is a crop of a 50MP RAW. PhotoPills said my slowest shutter speed for 300mm effective focal length was .7s, and this is nearly double that at 1.3s. Rule of 500 suggests I might have gotten away with 2s, but I don't think so.

I think the longer exposure (1.3s) stretches the stars a bit and gives the processor more data to align, though it doesn't seem to be doing it exceptionally well. I think folks have more success at shorter focal lengths, but some have done well with longer ones.

I had trouble with Starry Sky AF last night, so I did a little homework on that today. I enlarged the AF target and had much more success in the sense that the camera reported it had achieved focus. I don't know if these blobs are artifacts of the stacking, or if focus was actually off. I need to play around with it some more, and I was just trying to see what I could do quickly tonight.

All in all, I'm happy that I seem to be making progress. I've got a little bit of sky I can see out back. (My friend has a much better view, and darker I think.) I'll keep trying.

Originally posted at Nice Marmot 22:19 Sunday, 4 February 2024

Disturbing the Peace

Crime in progress. (Recycling. Fraud.)

I ended up deleting the Miami Herald RSS feed from my subscriptions in NetNewsWire. Too much "news" I can't use, and it was just depressing. Murders, grotesque accidental deaths, lottery nonsense, celebrity sightings.

I was watching YouTube videos about photography and composition, how to "see." I'm challenged by my suburban surroundings. What is the story they tell?

And I've also been thinking about blogging and working on the marmot, getting ready for this meet-up later this month about blogging with Tinderbox. Why should anyone blog? Why should anyone read blogs?

Well, because we're social creatures and it's another way to experience that.

I struggle a little with that too, sometimes. If you look around, things are not going so well. But I guess that's subjective, right? Steven Pinker would say these are the best of times, right? I wanted to call the image above, "Crime in progress," but that wasn't what I wanted to call this blog post so I made it the caption.

But does it look like a crime?

I think most people would say it looks like a nice neighborhood where everybody recycles. What's wrong with that?

Except recycling is mostly a fraud perpetrated on the public by the plastics industry. Most of that stuff winds up in a landfill anyway, but folks think they're doing the responsible thing.

It goes deeper than that, though. All those neatly manicured lawns. That long strip of asphalt. Near the bottom left of the image, beneath the street sign and to the left of the yellow fire hydrant, there's a dark strip in the curb. That's a storm drain. We cover that grass with chemicals. Fertilizers to make it grow. Weed killers, pesticides, herbicides to make sure only "grass" grows. And we water the hell out of it, and that water runs off into the street, over to that storm drain and into the retention ponds. Which we then have to treat to make sure the fertilizers don't cause an algae bloom.

And let's not mention the cars.

"I'd like to report a crime in progress."

But there's no one to report it to. And if you try to suggest there should be, you just sound like a malcontent.

Blogging about the collapse of civilization has to be a downer. I mean, you're only going to attract a certain kind of reader, and they're probably not a lot of fun to hang around with.

On a recent walk, thinking about blogging and "what to blog about," I figured I'd just stop with the doom stuff. It's too late to really stop it; but does it help anyone to know that? And it'll make itself known eventually anyway. But here I am, blogging about it! Obliquely, maybe.

Which is the titular crime. "Disturbing the peace." Who needs it? On a Sunday, no less!

I wanted a line from Joe Versus the Volcano, and I found this page. Here's the line:

“Joe, nobody knows anything. We'll take this leap and we'll see. We'll jump and we'll see. That's life!”

(There are some other great lines there too. I should watch that movie again.)

All we ever have are moments to live. "Yesterday is history. Tomorrow's a mystery. Today is a gift, that's why it's called 'the present'." (Different movie. Kung Fu Panda)

Every moment is a leap of faith.

Thanks for dropping by.

Originally posted at Nice Marmot 06:46 Sunday, 4 February 2024

Praetorian Guard

I should probably dust off Notes From the Underground for this, but until then I have to wonder what morale and retention is going to be like in DeSantis' Praetorian Guard after being deployed to Texas?

I wonder how much they appreciate being used as political props for a failed presidential candidate still seeking a national media spotlight? Is that what they signed up for?

Where are they staying? Motels? Tents? I assume Florida tax dollars are being used for this stunt. In a state where we supposedly "can't afford" to expand Medicaid to help provide healthcare for uninsured Florida citizens.

Anyone who thought DeSantis would become less extreme after his public humiliation was dreaming.

Originally posted at Nice Marmot 11:19 Friday, 2 February 2024

Surise at the River

Path leading to the sun rising over the Tolomato river.

One of the shots I got this morning. There weren't many. I went down to the river at the launch point first. It was low tide, and I think the birds are more numerous after the rising tide has brought in a bunch of fish. When I was there last week, it was slack water, just before the ebb tide.

This is also a test to make sure everything is functioning properly.

Originally posted at Nice Marmot 12:55 Thursday, 1 February 2024

Fixed… I think.

Went for a walk. Very few birds. Suspect low tide may have had something to do with it. Nice walk though.

Came home, ate breakfast and sat down to figure out what went awry.

Several things, as it turns out. Some of which I can think of no reason why the went all wonky. I'm still wrestling with a couple of them.

I'm hoping this posts okay, and then I'm going to look at the pics I shot.

Originally posted at Nice Marmot 11:09 Thursday, 1 February 2024

Okay, I broke something

It'll have to wait. I'm going for a walk.

Sigh.

Originally posted at Nice Marmot 11:07 Thursday, 1 February 2024