Regarding the Harding Street drug raid violence and related matters

During the evening of Monday, 2019 January 28, the execution of a drug-related search warrant by Houston Police Department officers ended with five officers going to the hospital, four for gunfire-related injuries and a fifth with a knee injury ( report). In the aftermath of this, the president of the Houston Police Officers Union, Joe Gamaldi, minced no words in calling those who fired back upon the HPD officers “dirtbags” in addition to stating the following (quote from a later story):

If you’re the ones that are out there spreading the rhetoric that police officers are the enemy, just know we’ve all got your number now, we’re going to be keeping track of all of y’all, and we’re going to make sure that we hold you accountable every time you stir the pot on our police officers. We’ve had enough, folks. We’re out there doing our jobs every day, putting our lives on the line for our families.

I feel the need to address these latter comments as a long-time outspoken critic of some activities of law enforcement and the legal system.

First, I have never advocated violence against law enforcement officers or others who work in the legal system (such as attorneys, judges, etc). I condemn the violence that occurred this Monday with the same vigor that I condemned the murder of Deputy Darren Goforth in 2015. The actions of the suspects are an outrageous affront to decent society and it is my hope that the officers injured in the shootout make the best and speediest recovery possible given current medical technology.

I get that as the president of a police officers union in a large city, a lot of the job is PR and, by extension, playing up the cops as the good guys. I wish I could say for sure exactly what was intended by the words “stir the pot” in this context. I would like to think that First Amendment-protected nonviolent free speech, in the form of criticism of law enforcement officers who betray the trust of those they are supposed to be serving and protecting, is not being targeted as “stir[ring] the pot”.

It is unavoidable that sooner or later, some cops will prove it was a mistake to trust them with the power of the badge. There are bad apples in every field: medicine (doctors, nurses, EMTs), fast food/restaurants, messengers/couriers, information technology (including internet help desks and sysadmins), marketing and PR, entertainment (including youth-focused classes of entertainment such as face painting and balloon twisting), just to name a few. It stands to reason that some who enter law enforcement and the practice of the people’s/state’s side of criminal law will wind up showing their lack of fitness to serve their respective professions.

The difference is that a bad cop or a bad DA can really screw up a life or even multiple lives with a mistake, more so than most other professions. When they do, we, the people, have the right to be heard and speak out about it. We, the people, have just as much of a right to hold law enforcement and DAs accountable as we do to hold anyone else accountable. Sometimes the last-ditch appeal to the press is the only thing that really works.

I get that law enforcement is a risky business. But don’t forget the US Constitution is part of those laws as well.

The public domain is set to expand once again

Smithsonian magazine reports on an unfortunately unusual occurrence set to happen this coming New Year’s Day.  For the first time since 1998, the copyright on many works is expiring, thus adding to the public domain.

My reaction to this: About. Damn. Time.

Disney has led the copyright lobby and could be said to have literally turned copyright into a Mickey Mouse operation (Steamboat Willie, the first appearance of Mickey,  is not set to enter the public domain for another five years). These works should have hit the public domain long ago, and the stroke of midnight signaling the beginning of 2019 can’t come soon enough to actually make this official.

If you want a real eye-opener, start with the Statute of Anne and follow copyright law through to the present day. The original term of copyright was 28 years–the latter 14 of which returned to the author no matter what. Given the rapid obsolescence of modern electronic media, I have to wonder just how much sense the current term of decades after the life of the author makes in the present day. (The public domain becomes moot when the original physical media from a century ago has long since become unreadable and obsolete. Okay, so the copyright restrictions on that VHS tape have finally expired in 2080, now it’s unplayable and the supply of VHS VCRs worldwide is down to maybe a couple of hundred, so what the hell are you going to do with it? We’ve already seen this problem with the nitrate film stock used for early silent movies.)

For quite a few more years we will start seeing works enter the public domain every January 1. Indeed, it will actually be a happy new year every year for some time, though we need to stay vigilant and keep Disney (and the other large media companies that form the copyright lobbby) from ruining it.

Meddle not in the affairs of holiday dragon displays…

I know it’s a bit late for the most popular winter holidays, but I thought I’d weigh in on this one that went viral enough to be featured on at least one national (US) news outlet.

Friendly Atheist (among others) reported on a rather unconventional holiday display involving dragons. Diana Rowland tweeted a photo of the display and a letter from a “holier than thou” type neighbor saying the display would be “only marginally acceptable at Halloween” but “totally inappropriate at Christmas” along with the worn-out line that “[her neighbors wonder if [Diana] is in a demonic cult”. Where this neighbor gets his/her authority to judge acceptable way(s) to celebrate the winter holidays, as well as his/her knowledge on demonic cults, is not mentioned. Diana’s opinion of the neighbor who left the letter is mentioned, though, with the highlight being “judgy-mcjudgyface”.

What I personally would take exception to here, is the assumption that it is Christmas that is being celebrated with this display and not one of the dozens of other winter holidays. (And you know what they say about assumptions. Hint: look at the first three letters of the word.) I mean, I’m pretty sure I can rule out Boxing Day, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa, but this could easily be a display for Yule or Saturnalia. Or, Diana could be starting a new trend and observing a day in December (could be the 25th, could be some other day) as Day of the Dragons. That’s how these things start, right? Doesn’t someone have to be first? Does one necessarily have to be in a “demonic cult” just to be a bit different? Isn’t that the reason some of the colonists came over to begin with (persecution, specifically for religious reasons)?

Diana, of course, did the responsible thing: she added halos to the dragons. And added more dragons, too. She also cited a Bible passage about mystical creatures which seems to fit the description of the dragons rather well. I think Diana did rather well given she has no obligation to alter her holiday display to fit some random neighbor’s idea of what a holiday display should be.

The alternative tack is, of course, “Of course this display is not appropriate for Christmas. Neither is, say, a giant menorah and dreidel, or [insert other non-Christmas holiday symbols as desired]. Why do I have to observe all the same holidays you do?” Personally, that’s my style, calling out the assumption out for what it is, and making the person writing an anonymous letter look like the fool (s)he is.  It’s unfortunate that this is the only way some can learn that some people observe different beliefs and different holidays than they do.

On my recent experience with dating apps: Tinder, Bumble, POF, etc

(Most of this article was written in 2017 April but never published. I am making slight edits to reflect this is past reality as opposed to present, and adding commentary at the end.)

So over the past couple of years or so, I was active to varying degrees on the dating apps Tinder, Bumble, and POF (Plenty of Fish), more or less in that order.

I’ve had a few quality conversations. In between, though, there were periods where match after match would wind up being a bot. They ranged from the type that would immediately spam the URL, to the type that would just spit out plausible replies to line after line of text. I know these are bots because I would keep repeating a question such as “What part of town are you in?” and get back a complete non sequitur reply that no decent human being would type in. (I guess there is an outside chance that these are just really, really dumb human women, but I’d still bet that they are bots if I had to put money on it.)

I’ve seen a lot. I know what I swipe right on (like) and what I swipe left on (dislike/skip). It’s actually pretty simple. The following things, for example, usually got an immediate left swipe:

  1. Duckface. I’m surprised I even have to say this. Just Say No To Duckface, please.
  2. Lack of a picture that shows your face without sunglasses or other distractions, or large enough where I can see it. Okay, so you’re not proud of your face for whatever reason. If you’re that ashamed of it that you can only show neck-down body shots, your legs/feet, or pictures of your dog/cat/kids (I’m not dating your dog, cat, or kids), I have almost nothing to really judge by and honestly I have doubts you’re a real person. Same with sunglasses: dating apps are not a Texas Hold’em poker game! Bluffing me into folding (swiping left) isn’t the objective here. Or, maybe it is, in which case, why are you on Tinder to begin with?
  3. Snapchat or similar filters, similar to the previous item. They are cheap. They are cliché. I’m sure you think you look cute as a dog, with worse-than-dollar-store fake flowers on your head, etc. Sorry, I don’t. If you are lucky I might look at your other pictures to see if I can see one that actually shows you as you are. (Even though I never will use Snapchat, I still know what the filters are from seeing them so many times. They really are that cliché. The last thing a woman who is desiring a date from me wants to look like is a dog, yet I see way too many dog-woman-face pictures on Tinder every time I get on it.)
  4. In the same vein as the two previous items, face paint pictures if they are all that is there. (I mean carnival/party/theme park face paint here, not just ordinary makeup.) I don’t mind these as much, some of these face paint designs are just too good not to show off, I totally get that. But if that’s all that’s there and I can’t tell or reasonably guess what you might look like without it, it’s really not any different than Snapchat dog-face.
  5. Invites to be part of a threesome or a polyamorous relationship. No offense to those who practice such things, but they just aren’t for me.

There are a few other things I will swipe left for but those cover the vast majority of cases; I have my own personal preferences in addition to those that I’m not going to detail here.

I’d like to think these are reasonable criteria. Though I wonder sometimes, am I really being too picky? The number of conversations I’ve wanted to take to the next step, I can count on one hand. One of them just up and quit responding one day. Another I thought I was doing well with, and then I wake up the next morning to find myself unmatched. Many other times, I start the conversation, only to get crickets.

I’m sure a lot of happy relationships have begun on Tinder and POF, possibly with Bumble too but it seems to be one of the minor players. (Also, due to Bumble’s “women go first” and 24-hour expiration rules, I have yet to get anything resembling a conversation going.) I have to wonder if maybe these apps are not for me.

I have nothing against Craigslist, but the personals section there is, if anything, much worse. Then again, the last time I tried it, I used it completely differently than I would something like POF or Tinder. I did not post my picture to my profile and used an alias email (not the one I normally use).

Update, 2018 November: As of some months ago I did, in fact, finally decide Tinder was not for me and deleted my profile there. I still technically have an active POF profile but I have not logged in for quite some time. I probably still technically have an active Bumble profile, but again, the app has not been on my phone for months if not over a year. The only dating app I use now is The League, which for the moment hasn’t yielded any decent results.

When I first wrote this in 2017 April, I had not yet fully committed to becoming a professional face painter. That changed in 2018, but my rule regarding face paint pictures still stands (I currently make sure I have at least half of my pictures showing “the real me”, though I may pare this down to two good face paint designs, or perhaps just one favorite, later.)

The WordPress “new Coke” moment is right around the corner, for real

Around this time last year (specifically, 2017 November 24),  I published a post comparing the Gutenberg editor due to be a part of WordPress to “new Coke”. It’s about time for a retrospective on this, since in a couple of weeks, WordPress 5.0 is due out and will have the Gutenberg editor be the new default, and so the true “taste test” is about to become a reality.

First, the serious stuff to my fellow WordPress users out there: If you have tried the Gutenberg editor already and you know it won’t be a good fit, or if you don’t want to be screaming in horror when you upgrade your site to WordPress 5.0 and wonder what the hell happened to your editor,  then you will want to install the Classic Editor plugin. If you have access to the WordPress CLI, you can simply run wp plugin install classic-editorand call it a day. Alternatively, you can install from the plugins menu as normal.

Alternatively, if you’re daring, you can install the Gutenberg editor as a plugin today: wp install gutenberg from the CLI, or you can install from the plugins menu. As I mentioned in my previous post, Gutenberg is a radical departure from the classic editor, and for some, it has already failed the “taste test”. Take, for example, this recent post on WP Tavern (quoted in part):

Testing Scenario: A user has written three paragraphs and decides to add an image to the second paragraph. This user wants the image to be aligned to the right.

[…] [describing the task in the classic editor] Adding media to a paragraph is as quick as placing the mouse cursor at the beginning of a paragraph, clicking the add new media button, selecting or uploading an image, and choosing its alignment.

[…] [describing the task in Gutenberg] In Gutenberg, each paragraph is a block and each block has its own toolbar. This is important because after writing three paragraphs, you can’t click on an add media button. Instead, you need to create an image block.

[…] select[] an image [and] move the image block above the paragraph block where you want to insert it. […] [T]ry[ing] to drag and drop the image into the paragraph […] doesn’t work. […] [U]se the up and down arrows or drag the block into position.

Once the image block is in the correct location, click the align right icon. […]

[For now] the Classic editor wins this use case.

Translation: for some simple tasks like this one, the “new Coke” tastes terrible. I can see new users getting frustrated at this, until and unless they figure out how to go back to the classic editor. Or, they may well give up WordPress completely and move on to something like Drupal (hopefully not), Joomla, etc.

Perhaps even worse is the WordPress Accessibility Team’s assessment of Gutenberg (as detailed in another WP Tavern post):

The [WordPress accessibility] team, largely a group of unpaid volunteers, collaborated on a detailed assessment that publicly challenges Gutenberg’s readiness for core in a way that no other WordPress team has done through official channels to date. After a week of testing the most recent version of the plugin, the team concluded that they cannot recommend Gutenberg to be used by anyone who relies on assistive technology.


The mistake of not having consulted accessibility experts in the design phase cannot be easily rectified at this point, but the Classic Editor is still available for those who need to preserve their same workflow. […]

Either the accessibility and usability issues the team identified are not as bad as they purport or this document is a last-minute clarion call that could prevent WordPress from shipping an editor that excludes users who rely on assistive technology. Due to the gravity of their claims, the accessibility team’s statement on Gutenberg demands an official response.

It is my hope that the accessibility issues in Gutenberg can be fixed sooner rather than later. I find it quite difficult to believe, as a website platform intended for the masses, that the developers of WordPress would not have thought out accessibility issues in Gutenberg earlier in the development process.

As for me, I do plan to use the Gutenberg on one of my sites (a business site, not one set up as a blog, though I may use the blog feature as a “news wire” at some point down the road). For straight-up blogs like this one and SKQ Record Quest (my pinball/videogaming blog) I see myself sticking with the classic editor for the foreseeable future. My biggest concern is what the move towards Gutenberg will do to the time-honored method of editing blog posts using an external editor (such as I did for many months using GVim and Vimrepress, though I should note as of last time I tried, it was too broken to be usable.)