Legislative gridlock creates problems because events that logically should be avoided hit the precipice before a deal is worked out to prevent a catastrophe. The media portrays the cause of this state of affairs as due to partisanship or incompetence, which while either may be true, what makes me more nervous are politicians claiming a mandate. Winning an election by less than a majority or even somewhat more than half does not a mandate make. No one opposing you also does not give you a mandate. Win 66% or more? OK, twice as many people like your ideas than all other candidates combined. They have given you a mandate.

Even worse is a whole party assuming control of the House, Senate, and President of the United States. Yes, they can push through legislation that solves the party agenda, but this stuff ends up riddled with problems. Handouts to keep blackmailers in line. Unforeseen consequences. Bills written in secret and only unveiled where few have the needed time to read it much less comprehend every nuance. The opponents may actually have legitimate points which get ignored because they are on the wrong side.

Learning from their opponents is something this country needs more of its politicians. A quote I liked from The Virtues of Political Disagreement:

… It remains true that very different perspectives and ideologies, pursuing their own agendas, have often provided fundamental insights for their rivals. A striking example is the way social democrats supporting a secular welfare state have learned from both free-market economists and from religious organizations how to improve the delivery of social services. Similarly, feminist insights have helped conservatives rethink their views of the family.

Of course, the Affordable Care Act represents something of this. The model for it was a Republican idea as an alternative to Clinton’s health care reform plans. A Republican governor and Democrat legislature implemented that model in Massachusetts. The final bill was riddled with other things on top. Some of them are still being fought out or implemented. The more rabid of the Democrats hate this bill because it is not Single Payer, what Clinton hoped to pass. That creates a weird dynamic where Republicans and Democrats agree.

Born with Teeth: A Memoir
Born with Teeth: A Memoir by Kate Mulgrew
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

OK. I am a total Star Trek nerd. Next Generation definitely is my favorite, but I really enjoyed her as Captain Janeway on ST: Voyager. So I was intrigued to read about Kate’s life off screen. My usual problem causing me to avoid memoirs in favor of biographies is the glossing over the rawness of real life. Every negative encounter turns out to have a silver lining. Some of that is in here, but I did appreciate being allowed into the messiness that is real life.

Orange Is the New Black fans should note she abruptly stops the memoir around 1999. Though, really, this backstory to the actress explains for me how she approached her character “Red” on the show.

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Here is where I am about halfway through the year.

  1. Read 52 books. A half of 52 is 26. I am a few books ahead at 34. My Goodreads user challenge.
    • Read at least 50% by female authors. Of the 34 books read so far, 28 are by female authors, so I am on well above with 82%.
  2. Weightlifting:
    1. Bench 185 pounds (1RM equivalent). My best during the past month or so is 157.5 1RM. That is 50.5 up from the 107 1RM back at the start of the year. Just 27.5 more to go. I was recently happy to manage two 45 lb plates on the bar 5x5s. Guess I get to be a big boy now.
    2. Squat 245 pounds (1RM eq). My best during the past month or so is 262.5 1RM. That is 155.5 up from the 107 1RM back at the start of the year. That completes the goal. Guess I will reset for another 105 pounds for 350.
    3. Deadlift 300 pounds (1RM eq). My best during the past month or so is 273.33 1RM. That is 121.67 up from the 151.66 1RM last quarter. Just 26.67 more to go.
    4. Drop to about 15% body fat. No progress.
    5. Bring HIIT up to about 50-50. No progress.
  3. Take a trip at least 300 miles away from home. Completed first quarter.
  4. Declutter Part II. No progress.


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Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Written by Herself
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Written by Herself by Harriet Jacobs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book accounts for Harriet Jacobs’ life as a slave, hiding for several years in the South, escaping to the North, and finally obtaining her freedom. She presents some letters documenting the tale. Given the current events of recent weeks where a self-taught white supremacist in his manifesto setup before committing terrorism to start a race war that according to the slave narratives he had read people like me were happy under slavery and there was no need to free my ancestors. Other books I have read like Twelve Years A Slave and Up From Slavery seemed not to portray this, but I did read them a while ago.

Harriet really disliked her time as a slave. Her “official” owner was a minor whose father assumed the role. This man who already fathered several children with his slaves seemed to desire the same for this fifteen year old girl. When she had children with another (white) man, he as the owner of them sought to use babies as leverage to compel her to obey his salacious wishes. Oddly enough this guy’s wife forced the sale to distant places the products of her husband’s infidelity. To me, the idea that one’s own children are chattel boggles my mind. But, also Solomon Northrup and Booker T. faced less cruelty under slavery than Harriet as the contempt facing her was that of both an African and a woman. Her master underestimated her intelligence which allowed her to escape.

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Gods and Fighting Men The story of the Tuatha de Danaan and of the Fianna of Ireland, arranged and put into English by Lady Gregory
Gods and Fighting Men The story of the Tuatha de Danaan and of the Fianna of Ireland, arranged and put into English by Lady Gregory by Lady Gregory
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This set of Irish tales reminded me of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Barely organized; mostly miscellaneous. Several seemed to cover the same ground over and over to feel repetitive.

Some things seemed out of place like mentions of God or the Greeks. Pretty sure these are stories about events prior to Christianity came to Ireland. And the Greek presence seems even less likely.

Apparently the favorite animal to change someone into or hunt are pigs. They show up in several stories. Others like deer or hounds show up, but the pigs were notably everywhere.

I enjoyed Táin Bó Cúalnge much more.

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The Age of Innocence
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A story detailing upper class “society” New York of the 1870s as the backdrop. Wharton details parties and mores. As the story goes along it feels more and more critical of them. A couple oddities: 1) Newland Archer, the protagonist, visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art in its infancy but describing how it will be great one day. 2) Archer also picking up Ellen at a train station ruminating about disliking the theory the Pennsylvania line would go eventually tunnel into proper New York (Penn Station?).

After having watched several seasons of the TV show Archer, I think that title character is an obvious reference to Newland Archer in this novel. TV-Archer drinks heavily, sleeps with a lot of women, and somehow completely improbably buffoons his way through complex problems.

The love triangle did not really excite me. His options are May who represents the right thing (duty, stability, comfort) versus Ellen who represents his rebellion (passion, ostracized, escape). However, the guilt and conflict were vividly described.

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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Part biography of Henrietta Lacks and her family. Part explanation of the contribution the cells taken from her have had on medicine. Part memoir of Rebecca on the challenges brought in even getting to write this story. It jumps around quite a bit as it bounds around each of the three parts.

What the Lackses went through depressed me. The callousness of Johns Hopkins does not really surprise me. The enormity of what science was able to accomplish was amazing. But the scientific misunderstandings the family suffered through, to me, is the worst part. For example, Rebecca helped Henrietta’s daughter understand cloned cells is not the same thing as cloning Dolly the sheep, so she would not see her mother wandering all over London.

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Go read “Science Fiction Is for Slackers.”

As a rule, science fiction may be the laziest of all genres, not because the stories themselves are too facile—they can be just as sophisticated and challenging as those of any other genre—but because they often revel in easy solutions: Why walk when you can warp? Why talk when you’re a telepath? Technology in such stories typically has more to do with workarounds than it does with work.

I do love science fiction. From robots/AI to star travel to virtual reality. I love it all. I may even love it BECAUSE of the laziness. I’d love to have all these things to make my life better. And much of science fiction influences technologists into making decisions to make the fiction a reality.

The How Shatner Changed the World (mock) documentary talks about the technologies of Star Trek and how scientists work towards making these things reality. Faster than light travel and cybernetics are still aspirant. But cell phones and personal computers were influenced by technologists familiar with the show and movies.

At times I worry about automation putting me out of a job, but then I remember my career goal is always to replace myself with a tiny shell script. Why click when I can script? Why script when I can tell an AI to handle it? Sure it takes away some of my responsibilities, but what I am supposed to do has always changed. And I get better challenging work when I free myself from mundane tasks.

Guess this is why I told Puppet Labs my job is an Automation Evangelist. It’s not universal. I have allies, but convincing people of the good in automation is much like changing their religion.

Back in college I was encouraged to become a librarian. More specifically, people thought I should become an automation librarian. I guess the automation part stuck?

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Years ago, maybe 2011 based on the age of files, our Systems group moved our Linux home directories to a central system. My only real complaint about this move was finding anything I needed in my Bash history. See, I am terrible at remembering things and often make typos. It is easier to go back in my history to a prior command and either run it or modify that one and run. The same home directory across all these systems complicated things by co-mingling commands. I was able to find things. Just eventually. That seemed inefficient.

Eventually, this situation annoyed me to the point I decided to fix it. And the fix was so simple it is amazing that I did not immediately address it rather than suffering with it for a couple years. (Well, actually, we picked Desire2Learn before the change so 90% of my server responsibilities were on Windows. Only when I was promoted to a Technology Strategist and returned to majority work in Linux did it get annoying enough to address.)

The fix? Add hostname to the HISTFILE variable in .bash_profile.

export HISTFILE=”${HOME}/.bash_history.`hostname`”

Apparently I made the change back on December 18th. In the six months since, I have not noticed any oddities with the history. This morning I noticed that I have about twenty different host named history files of various sizes and dates.

Given the number of files, while writing this post, I decided to re-organize these into a directory. (An organized home directory is a happy home directory. Heh.)

export HISTFILE=”${HOME}/.bash_history/.bash_history.`hostname`”

Then I ran these.

mv .bash_history .bash_history.org
mkdir .bash_history
mv .bash_history.* .bash_history

Then I exited which dumped that session’s history into a file in the old location. I logged in again and used cat and the output redirect to append those new lines to the correct file in the new location.

Exited again and logged in again. And everything still looks good.

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