Why You Should Read Books You Hate

But reading what you hate helps you refine what it is you value, whether it’s a style, a story line or an argument. Because books are long-form, they require more of the writer and the reader than a talk show or Facebook link. You can finish watching a movie in two hours and forget about it; not so a novel. Sticking it out for 300 pages means immersing yourself in another person’s world and discovering how it feels. That’s part of what makes books you despise so hard to dismiss. Rather than toss the book aside, turn to the next page and wrestle with its ideas. What about them makes you so uncomfortable?

A few years ago, things were really in a weird state. Work was not going well. My sleep was atrocious, so every day I was in a foul mood.

I decided to read The Painted Bird. This book is the mental equivalent of self-harm. A sociopath might be able to read it without getting really upset. What I did not put in the review is my headspace. I think now that choosing to read it then was perhaps a good thing.

As bad as I thought things were? Nah. The perspective of this kid revealed my problems were not at all problems.

Reading fiction improves empathy by getting the reader into the perspective of others. Meaning, outside the book, readers are better able to tie another person’s behavior to a character they have followed and come closer to understanding.

I try to stick out books I dislike in hopes of finding something of value. I also try out new genres because who knows. Maybe I will like it? I sometimes like chicklit, horror, and other genres not normally in my usual rotation. I come up with challenges to my reading to pull me out of my comfort zone. The challenges help keep things interesting.

Review: Between the World and Me

Between the World and Me
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is a couple hundred pounds of chains bearing down on the reader. A father who writes about the race in America in the time just before #BlackLivesMatter attempts to put into words what it means. This stands out as a better expression of the weight of it all than anything else I have seen.

View all my reviews

Automatic For the People

This program and I are at odds over what “automatically” means. It says that the dataset is updated automatically, which is fine. Except they produce new data multiple times a day at the most frequent and every couple days at the least. The agent software is supposed to update every day. My dataset was 202 days old, so something was obviously wrong.

I decided to give it a kick in the teeth by doing a manual update. Just annoyed at it informing me that I don’t need to do this because it does it automatically. Obviously I did because it was not actually automatically doing it.

Now it is telling me that I need to reboot and giving me a 20 day countdown until it does.

I know Kung Fu!

(No, not really.)

What If We Could Upload Books to Our Brains?:

At this point [Neil deGrasse] Tyson interjected: Are you saying we could just upload “War and Peace”? Yes, Kurzweil answered: “We will connect to neocortical hierarchies in cloud with pre-loaded knowledge.”

There is a scene in The Matrix where the program for Kung Fu is uploaded into Neo’s brain. He proclaims, “I know Kung Fu!” He and Morpheus spar in the virtual dojo. Basically Kurzweil envisions something similar where we want to learn something, issue a command and poof, we have the knowledge. Currently, we have very easy access to information via the internet, we just need to bridge the gap of entering it into our heads.

As a technologist, I probably would take advantage of this a ton. I would download into my head computer languages, documentation, and implementation strategies for everything I need to know.

As a Luddite, I probably would still read paper books for pleasure. For me, pleasure of reading is not the knowledge imparted by the book. It comes from the process of reading, thinking about the contents, and integrating the information into my knowledge and wisdom.

Knowledge: facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject.

Wisdom: the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment; the quality of being wise.

Kind of like Kindle and paper books, just because a new technology exists and I use it, does not mean that I would not sometimes use the old one.

WIRED and Ad Blockers

I get it,  the site makes its money off the ads. I rarely read their articles anymore. When I see something interesting, it surprises me that I do not read it anymore, so I click the link. Then they interrupt me reading to complain about having the ad blocker enabled. Trying to be a good person, I change the settings to allow the ads like they want.

Here is the kicker, though, they interrupt me again to say “Thank you.” That… That makes me so angry that I revert the settings to block the ads and close the tab. At that point I remember why I no longer read the site. I came to read not get prevented from reading. Just let me read.

Unwritten Rules

A while ago, a baseball player coworker and I had a conversation about the unwritten rules of baseball. These are expected sportsmanship behaviors. When players are perceived to violate these moral guidelines, the other team may result in retaliation. Teams can end up in brawls on the field over the escalations started by someone violating an unwritten rule.

Apparently I left the impression that baseball is the only sport with unwritten rules. He sent me the unwritten rules of the gym.

Soccer has them too. In futbol (soccer),

  1. If a player is injured, then the other team should put the ball out of play or give the ball back to the team with the injured player when it restarts.
  2. Players who score against a former team return to the center circle to restart without celebrating.
  3. Offer a hand to help an opponent stand up.

There are unwritten rules everywhere. And we are expected to abide by these social conventions or we are jerks who deserve to be snubbed or attacked for failing to be a decent person. This like…

  1. Let others out of an elevator or train before you get in.
  2. Leave a one urinal buffer zone.
  3. Texting in the presence of company.

The problem I have with unwritten rules is the passive-aggressive escalation and retaliation aspect. Rules exist to set the expectations of behavior. Writing them down ensures everyone knows what are the expectations of behavior. The authorities (referee, police, HR) can punish people for failing to abide by them. Leaving them unwritten just means one party can take advantage and the aggrieved party breaking written rules in retaliation to feel even more upset they got unjustly punished.

WP Jetpack Publicize Expiration

WordPress.com makes the Jetpack. They strongly push self-hosted sites to use it, especially the Publicize feature. Publicize is how my blog posts show up on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, and Google+.

WP.com also strongly pushes using the composition on their site rather than the one on the self-hosted site. It is cleaner and easier to use.

Part of that cleanliness, though, means features are not as… clear. On my self-hosted site, the Publicize informs me when I need to re-confirm permissions for Facebook and LinkedIn which both expire after x days [1]. The WP.com version, does not show when I need to re-confirm permissions. The “Sharing” options are collapsed and even if expanded do not show the errors. So, basically, posts stop getting shared for a while until I notice and fix it.

One would think that WP.com being the maker of Jetpack would ensure that users choosing to use their composer would ensure they are alerted to a problem ASAP.

[1] I think x is 30 days, but I am not positive.

Patriots’ Day

I watched the movie the other day. It made me realize that I know next to nothing about what the title is referencing. The synopsis I read about the movie made clear it was about the Boston Marathon Bombing, so it made it seem that the movie was about the heroic efforts of the Boston police to track down the bombers. After watching the movie, I still had no idea about the title of the movie.

So, I did some Googling.

Apparently Massachusetts, Maine, Wisconsin, and some other states honor the first battles of the American Revolution with Patriots’ Day. The battles took place on April 19th. For a few decades the third Monday in April is the day used for the state holidays. The Boston Marathon is run on Patriots’ Day. Thus the title of the movie.

Here in Georgia there is some hurt feelings over the governor dishonoring Confederate Memorial Day by changing it to:

Monday, April 24 — State Holiday (originally on April 26)

There was a bill on the agenda seeking to make April called Confederate Memorial Month and to officially re-instate the holiday. It looks like it never received a floor vote.

If the state wants an April holiday, then maybe Patriots’ Day fits the bill? It honors American valor and values. Georgia was one of the original colonies unlike Wisconsin.

Rote Loading

With this specific application, we can import data, but there are limitations due to its 2000-era handling of XML files.

  1. HTML forms uploading files have to…
    1. Have all the packets be received by the server.
    2. Process the file with the browser connection still open.
    3. The server has to tell the browser everything was received and is done.
  2. All this has to happen as one action within a 5 minute window.

A better method would allow just uploading the files to a page. Background processes would monitor that location and process the files independent of the browser. Notifications can be sent to alert the user the processing is done.

Or… recognize the echo XML file because you took too long and prevent it from being loaded or remove the data.

I ended up figuring out that if we split the files at about 5,000 records, then it should take about half the 5 minute window. I am pleased that for most I have seen that is true and about one in ten take so much longer that if I had cheated and gone with closer to the 5 minutes, I would be deleting duplicates. (This last is because some files are 50MB and others 100MB.)

The grumbling of this post is that I am on the 25th of 58 files. This is tedious. I am lamenting not creating a curl script to do this part for me. Automation is perfect for things like this.

 

List AD Group Members

Team lead of a group was curious which of his people have access to a certain system. I know the information is in an Active Directory Group. I knew where to find the group.

So, I pulled up the AD Users and Computer, found the group and was dismayed because I was looking at three screenshots to get the information because the Properties box is not expandable by size. That bothered me quite a bit. See, I would live with one

Enough so, that I decided it would be worth writing a Powershell script to dump the data. I am sure other coworkers have one. But, I did a quick Google and found something that looked way too easy. The last time I tried to do this, I had to script connecting to the AD server, searching through the forest, etc. This was one command. I added a couple options to make it better presentable.

Get-ADGroupMember <group_name> | Select-Object -exp name | Sort-Object