Profanity and racism: an example of how not to lead

This has to stop somewhere and somehow. I know I haven’t been the most active in writing about this flimsy excuse for an administration, but this simply cannot be ignored. This post will have profanity in it, but only because I’m quoting our supposed “leader” here in the US.

Continue reading Profanity and racism: an example of how not to lead

Fifteen seconds before midnight

Unlike most of the stories I write on this blog, this is not sourced from an existing news story but from personal experience. The story begins back on December 21 or so. I ask mom if she has any plans for New Year’s Eve. She finds the event at Memorial City Mall and proceeds to reserve a hotel room for us for the night with the idea of avoiding both potentially icy roads as well as “amateur hour”, i.e. the potential drunk drivers.

And so it was decided that’s where we would be to celebrate New Year’s Eve. Given what we had expected versus what we actually found awaiting us, “celebrate” could be a bit generous of a term. We arrived somewhat early at around 9:20 pm. I certainly arrived ready, complete with a face paint design I had been practicing for several days prior (I know I don’t have the best of expressions here, but it took me a while to really get in the spirit of things and this was before we even left):

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The weather outside wasn’t too bad at first, but it started feeling colder due to the wind, and eventually, we would spend the majority of our time inside except for key moments of the Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve broadcast (and that was often me outside alone). There were no festivities as such inside, but there was a church group having some sort of gathering, which was unannounced on the website alongside the mall’s NYE celebration. The cash bar was present, but given the chilling temperatures, there weren’t many takers for cold beer and wine. It would have made more sense to sell hot chocolate, hot coffee, and hot tea (the vendor appeared to only have a beer and wine license as that was all that was being served, so hot coffee with liqueur wouldn’t have been legally possible).

I did catch Mariah Carey’s set and the countdown to midnight for New York City and the eastern time zone. I will briefly mention it was nice to see Mariah’s set happen without any technical issues; in a later post, I will go into more details on this.

After that, we spent some time inside planning what exactly to do, with the key decision being stick around or head back to the hotel early. The way I was looking at it, with us being a couple of hours into it, it seemed silly to head out some 20-30 minutes before midnight in our time zone (with the televised celebration showing New Orleans and a fleur-de-lis dropping instead of a ball like the Times Square celebration in NYC). At one point we went out and there was some rap group playing on the TV.

Finally, the moment came. We were outside watching the countdown. I get up and start a live Facebook stream for the final 2-3 minutes or so. We get down to about 15 seconds… and then the big screen TV goes dark.

Obviously, the crowd is unhappy. Finally, someone figures out where in the countdown we should be and we count down the final 7 seconds on our own.

I’m not sure what the management of Memorial City Mall was thinking. The mall’s own Twitter account promoted a no-cover event at 024 Lounge and didn’t even mention the event at the mall itself (which we found out about on the mall’s website). Looking back it is now pretty obvious that the event we attended was an afterthought, even though it was announced at least a good week and a half in advance.

I quipped to my mom that had I know how this was going to turn out, I would have done a full face Mr. Yuk instead of the festive red, white, and blue 2018 design. I probably wouldn’t in reality (if for no other reason that the green paints are a bit harder to wash off than other colors) but all kidding aside, while the rest of the event may have technically been as advertised, I don’t know what can be said for cutting the power to the big screen TV a full 15 seconds before the end of the countdown when the mall’s own calendar showed the event as running until 12:30 am. The fool that either put the TV on a (sloppily set) timer or, worse, intentionally powered it down early should be made to answer to whoever does the PR for Memorial City Mall, and in turn to those who attended. Maybe that seems harsh but said fool is the one responsible for ruining the experience for the crowd that did gather.

It’s been a couple of days, and whoever is in charge of the Twitter account has not responded to my tweet. I will update if I get an answer from anyone representing the mall.

Below is the full live video on Facebook, as originally aired (smartphone video with no tripod, so it is a bit jerky/wobbly in places):

Net neutrality protests today at selected Verizon stores #stopthefcc

I know it’s been quiet over here, and yes, I definitely know it’s 2 in the freaking morning (Houston time). But, this is important and can’t wait for daybreak. For those still tuned in and following the blog, I want to get the word out about this. Today, December 7, is the day for Team Internet’s protests of the planned repeal/rollback of the rules protecting net neutrality.

For those of you new to all of this, net neutrality means the equal treatment of all traffic on the Internet. It means Internet providers aren’t allowed to give preferential treatment to certain websites (particularly sites owned by the same parent company as the one providing your Internet service, such as Yahoo for Verizon, or NBC News for Comcast). Perhaps more importantly, it means Internet providers aren’t allowed to slow down or block blogs like mine here because I criticize their dubious and unethical business practices (like I have criticized Google so many times in the past). Put another way, it means the Internet is not just “cable TV for computers” where one has to pay extra to access certain sites; one is not stuck using Google because it costs extra to access DuckDuckGo.

It disgusts me that we have someone in charge of the FCC (Ajit Pai) who used to be an attorney for Verizon and who is apparently still Verizon’s puppet. Yes, DJT put him there, but this goes beyond the presidency. We still have a week to compel Congress to act.

For those of you in the Houston area, there are two main protests. I signed up when only the protest at the downtown Verizon store was available. That store is at 930 Main Street #103, right next to the northbound Main Street Square station on METRORail’s Red Line, across the street from a Metro bus stop for (inbound) routes 40 and 41 (also 212, 228, and 262 but those are more expensive commuter routes), and about a block and a half from the southbound Main Street Square station. (If you’ve been downtown a lot, you’ll remember at one time it was an AT&T store, and before that, a Krispy Kreme donut shop.) The protest at this store is at 5:00 pm, but I will try to be there no later than 4:45 pm to help get things started and/or meet and greet. There is apparently a second protest scheduled at the downtown store for Friday at 6:00 pm; this may be an alternate date due to the weather forecast (the hourly forecast I am seeing has no chance of rain during the 5:00 pm hour, but a 40% chance during the 4:00 pm hour and 30% during the 6:00 pm hour).

The other Verizon store protests listed in the area (current as of very shortly before the time of this post) are at the Galleria area store, 6 BLVD Place (1800 Post Oak Boulevard) at 11:30 am (on Metro bus route 33, also a relatively short walk from the Post Oak stop on route 82); Pearland store, 10904 Memorial Hermann Drive at 2:00 pm; and Pasadena store, 3830 Spencer Highway at 1:00 pm.

If you are outside the Houston area, please consult the event map. If you can’t attend a protest, you can still help out by spreading the word.

Is WordPress’s new Gutenberg editor going to be its “new Coke”?

Valiant Chicken recently reported on the impending change of WordPress’s editor to an entirely new one code-named Gutenberg. VC refers to the Gutenberg editor as “the end of the world” in the sense that it “changes the very fundamental assumptions about how you use WordPress.”

I took a quick look at the Gutenberg editor as it currently exists (a beta-quality plugin not intended for use on production sites). I get where the somewhat melodramatic hype is coming from. For the record, the vast majority of my posts are not even created using the current built-in editor in WordPress; I prefer a plugin for my text editor of choice, Vim. (Until a few months ago, the plugin was one called Blogit; the one I use now is VimRepress which is itself a fork of an earlier plugin called VimPress.)

Now, if I need to go back in and add images or other media, such as those on most posts on SKQ Record Quest or some posts on the now-retired Quinn’s Big City, those do get added in using the WordPress built-in editor, as there is simply no other way (yet) to add non-text content. (Well, I shouldn’t say outright no other way, as it is possible in theory to upload and link the images by hand. But that doesn’t allow the use of the gallery options made possible by the Jetpack plugin, something I make heavy use of on SKQ Record Quest.)

As a point of reference, the current built-in editor looks like this:

while the Gutenberg editor looks more like this:

The difference is pretty striking. What I really can’t show you easily with static screenshots is that the Gutenberg editor has a way to add “blocks” when mousing over parts of the editing area. None of the details on the right expand by default in Gutenberg; by contrast, the existing editor shows you at least minimal information about when the post is scheduled for, visibility, etc without having to expand each section individually.

For comparison, this is a screenshot of GVim (graphical Vim) having loaded a blank Gutenberg post:

So, while it is still possible to edit Gutenberg-created posts, there is a lot of other weird stuff in HTML comment tags that Gutenberg adds to keep track of everything.

What this means for how I currently edit the majority of my posts is unclear. I have found it easier to switch back to an editor window as opposed to a different browser window. Maybe I’m a bit old-fashioned and, despite it being closer to Tim Berners-Lee’s original vision for the World Wide Web, just find it a bit clumsier to edit in a browser. (In a pinch, that is how I put together a few posts on this blog, particularly from the era in which I did not have regular Internet access without going down to the local library.)

I may have more to add once I’ve actually tried Gutenberg for a while. Having barely tried it out, I can’t say for sure that I already hate it, but I do know I’m going to have a huge adjustment period ahead if it becomes the “new normal.” (And for the curious, I was a Pepsi drinker during the time Coke tried its “new Coke” experiment, but having read first-hand accounts, I can see why Coke is considered to have made one of the biggest screwups in marketing history.)

How did Apple manage to screw up the iOS calculator app?

This is a strange one.

Not too long ago, Quartz reported on an unfortunate gaffe by Apple in the calculator app in the latest version of iOS. If you typed in “1+2+3=” fast enough, you would get a wrong answer (i.e. not 6). In some cases, you would get a very wrong answer.

Apple did finally get around to fixing this bug about a week after the article. What’s disturbing is just how the botched calculator came to be to begin with. Per the article:

According to a group of eagle-eyed iPhone users on Reddit who spotted the issue, it seems to be because of a new animation in the calculator app, where a button briefly fades to white when you press it. The result is that if you press an operator button (i.e., the plus sign) before the short animation finishes, the app ignores it. So, 1 + 2 + 3 accidentally gets read as 1 + 23.

Translation: Apple cares more about the flashy and purely cosmetic animation than the calculator actually performing its intended function. This is wholly unacceptable for any company involved in devices intended to be used for functional computing. A calculator app is not a laser light show with numbers on it. It is a tool, much like the dedicated devices it is modeled after, which is relied upon to give accurate results when used. Screw up something like the calculator, and you (quite justly) lose the trust of a good number of your users, something which is not very easy to regain.

The good news is that Apple is fixing it. The bad news is that it apparently took Apple two minor iOS revisions to recognize the issue and get a fix out there. Quite disturbing to me. Yes, there are third-party calculator apps, but one should not have to resort to a third-party app for something like this.

I can only imagine what’s next: a phone app that dials the wrong number if you enter it too quickly?