Review: Blue Collar Conservatives: Recommitting to an America That Works

Blue Collar Conservatives: Recommitting to an America That Works
Blue Collar Conservatives: Recommitting to an America That Works by Rick Santorum
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Santorum believes the family is the core unit of society not the individual. That has interesting implications such as what does that mean where there are so many divorces, single parents, and “failures to launch”? Making policy decisions based on that are also interesting.

I can definitely see evidence that supports Santorum’s story that Trump based his campaign on ideas from this book. Certainly he sought the votes of those in the rust belt, jobs for everyone, gut the government, repeal Obamacare, eliminate regulations, vouchers, and lower taxes. Something about feels hollow though.

The examples have that right homey feel politicians are so good at relaying. I found myself frustrated with the prescriptions, but I agree with the problems.

View all my reviews

Confuzzled Exchange

I check accounts from two different Exchange domains with Outlook. Check might be a bit of an overstatement for one as it is maybe once a month and more like every couple. Both require me to periodically change the passwords. And both send daily email warnings leading up to the deadline.

Because I might miss the week of daily warnings for one, I set up a rule in Outlook to forward the message to myself. Thankfully I set it up to send to more than one email account. I got the warnings in just one place which bothered me.

The missing messages had bounced. The address listed in the error looks nothing like the address in the rule. (I would post it, but I have no idea if that would compromise the account.) My guess is Outlook does not firewall the contacts in rules. So if I enter an address for the cross domain and it recognizes the address, then it shows me in the UI the human friendly but the backend uses the Exchange friendly one.

My solution ironically was to leverage a third party. My web hosting provider allows me to create unlimited email addresses, which I use to set forwarding accounts. I created one for this purpose and replaced the problem one in the rule. It works now.


Review: In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex
In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have not read Moby Dick. My guess is if I had read it first or been a fan of stories about ship life, then I would care more about the sailors, the details, and the narrative. Then again, I found the claim interesting that MD was not successful or acclaimed when it was published. I guess it found fame later? How and why that happened would be easily worth another star.

Philbrick’s writing is concise and direct. Flowery narratives in biographies from some of the acclaimed authors who bully their editors annoy me with feeling bogged down in unnecessary language. Then again, I should have felt the harrowing-ness of this event.

These are people who…
* Have had the unthinkable happen of a whale sinking their ship.
* They are a couple thousand miles away from South America.
* All they have to cross this are short distance vessels.
* They lack the food and water to make the trip.

View all my reviews

Hard Work

The CEO of Basecamp wrote about his definition of “hard work” being the work others do not want to do like construction, farming, cleaning, etc. Manual labor is hard.

Six years ago, Georgia made a law making it easier for law enforcement to catch undocumented residents. People left the state. They experimented with…

… Out of work probationers/parolees, from the state’s prisons and court system, volunteered to pick cucumbers under a program that the Georgia governor dreamed up. But the first day didn’t go too well as 19 probationers started the day and eight quit by noon.

“This is the hardest work I’ve ever done,” Maurice Evans is quoted as telling the TV reporter.

The next year, the state helped out the farmers by using prisoners to provide farm labor.

Where it gets interesting, though, is that people who work hard evangelize this as the ideal. Hard work teaches better ethics, morals, and values. At times it feels like the message is: “All the world’s ills would be cured if everyone had to do hard work.”

We may get to see if that is true soon enough. Artificial Intelligence is coming for my knowledge worker job. It may not exist in 20 years because it is much, much cheaper and accurate to have the computers do it instead. Manufacturing and farming are becoming more and more automated. The question is in 50-100 years what jobs will remain.

Troll Facebook Button

Sometimes I want to leave a comment but not actually enter the Facebook conversation. For that, I want a “Facebook Troll” comment browser extension.

The idea is that it could allow me to post the comment and automatically turn off notifications for that post.

Pretty sure replies would still notify me.

Ironically enough, the same feature would be useful for engagements, death announcements, marriages, and other posts where I just want to leave a comment but not have to deal with notifications about anyone else leaving a comment. So 90% of use cases could be a “Congrats!” button or a “Sorry for your loss.” button.

Pocket Feature Request: Pin

I tend to collect things to read later. Pocket is where they aggregate. (I do use Facebook’s Save Post feature, but only when on my phone to send to Pocket once I am at a browser.)

A feature that would help me is to pin important ones to the top. Ideally, anything I have partially read would stay at the top of the list where I can more easily find it when I return from another device. I estimate probably 10-15% of my saved items are partially read. And that number will stay the same because I add things at such a rate that getting back to them is unlikely.

There is one item, I really do want to finish, and I have spent easily 5 minutes looking for it.

Another option is to like Twitter allows, select an option on the item to pin it. The same as for favoriting or tagging, a button that pins it would help.

Books and FCB

I sent my Recommendations post as a response to something on Facebook.

In the aftermath, it made me realize some things.

  • The false consensus effect which is why we are tempted to think others agree with us about political stances is what also causes us to expect others we like like the same books, TV shows, etc. The post I’d sent was my musing about disliking it that others do this in an effort to justify to myself fighting my own temptations to do it. FCB was not in my vocabulary when I wrote that post.
  • Subjectivity leads to diversity. Coming from the standpoint that my friends like strange things leads to trying things outside my normal self-imposed bounds. I dislike some chicklit and lie some others. I’ve got to try something new to find out whether or not I like it.
  • Subjectivity leads to better friendships. Trying things my friends recommend leads to better understanding my friends and myself. If something leads me to better understand my friends because even though I do not like it but I can see why  my friends do, then I feel the risk worth reading books I hate.

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.


Another Rands In Repose gem.

Tinkering is a deceptively high-value activity. You don’t usually allocate much time to tinkering because the obvious value of tinkering is low. You don’t start tinkering with a goal in mind; you start with pure curiosity. I’ve heard about this thing, but I’ve never used it. How does this thing work? I’ve always wanted to know about more about X. Downtime is an easy time to tinker. Nothing is pressing, so these acts of mental wandering are acceptable.

This is how things get done. This is my life.

I think Dopamine is related to why I tinker. There is a definite expectation to getting something out of it. And that is all the motivation I need.

The dopamine from the ventral tegmental area… usually sends dopamine into the brain when animals (including people) expect or receive a reward. That reward might be a delicious slice of pizza or a favorite song. This dopamine release tells the brain that whatever it just experienced is worth getting more of. And that helps animals (including people) change their behaviors in ways that will help them attain more of the rewarding item or experience.

My reward is learning something about a gadget. Similar to how reading rewards me with learning about science, history, motivations, or behavior.


Fun With Regex

We replaced the old ticketing system with a new one. Naturally there are people who are concerned about losing access to old tickets. So we looked at exporting all the tickets. My coworker had the better method of getting out the data with one issue.

Because the old sytem used an HTML editor for a specific textarea, the content in them was difficult to read without expertise in HTML. Fine for a former Webmaster like myself, but few people who will need this read it like they do English.

My first thought was to look for products that clean up HTML. I even got excited when I notice HTML Tidy comes with our Linux OS, but that just converted the HTML to standardized format of HTML. (And trashed the plain-text portions of the ticket.) I did not find options for removing the HTML with Tidy.

So, my next thought was to try Regular Expressions (Regex). Certainly it ought to be doable. Just Regex is hard. No, difficult. No, turn your hair gray at 22. But, it can do anything if you put your mind to it. And I ran across RegExr which really simplified the process by showing how my pattern worked in sample content.

In the end I mad a simple shell script to clean up the files.

# Convert HTML to plaintext using sed.
# Created by Ezra Freelove, email
# Variables
if [ -d $WORKINGDIR ] ; then echo “… found dir; continuing” ; else echo “… missing dir ; bailing” ; exit; fi
# Make a list of files to convert.
WORKINGLIST=`ls *.txt`
# Fix the files
mkdir -p $DESTDIR
sed -e ‘s|<br[\ \/]*>|\n|g’ -e ‘s/<[^!>]*>//g’ -e ‘s/&nbsp;/ /g’ -e ‘s/&lt;/</g’ -e ‘s/&gt;/>/g’ $WORKINGFILE > ${DESTDIR}/fixed_${WORKINGFILE}

The regexes are:

  • s|<br[\ \/]*>|\n|g which means match HTML <br> tags and replace with a newline character . The <br> tag tells a web browser to go to the next line.
  • s/<[^!>]*>//g which means match a less than (<) out to the next greater than but exclude an exclamation point. Delete everything between. This handle the HTML elements and their attributes. This like <p class=”MsoPlainText”> or </span>. For some reason the date and username of the person who updated the ticket are stored as <! 2017-02-03 username>, so I had to figure out how to keep them.
  • ‘s/&nbsp;/ /g’ which means match the text “&nbsp;” which is a non-breaking space it with a normal space.
  • ‘s/&lt;/</g’ which means replace the text “&lt;” with a “<“. And finally the same thing but for greater than.

An easy way to match all of these latter ones would be pretty cool, but I think dealing with the most common ones is good enough.

Initially I was going to remove all the character codes like &nbsp;. In the end, I decided that the ones I handled should help people. The more rare ones can be determined easily if someone runs across them.