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20th May 2017

3:03pm: Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus' last weekend.
The final show will be streamed at 7PM Sunday on YouTube and Facebook. Details are at https://www.ringling.com/

We're driving down for one of Sunday's earlier shows because returning from Nassau Coliseum after the last show means a long drive back home through the night.

There are still tickets available for shows today and tomorrow, if you want to catch them before they close forever.

8th April 2017

1:17am: A-Z Poly Guides for only $3.97!
A-Z Poly Guides, $3.97.

This seems an excellent price for a product I had no idea existed!
Current Mood: amused

6th April 2017

11:29pm: Tech question for everyone leaving LJ.
I'm watching a mass move of my flist from LJ to dw.

Could I ask those of you who have made the move and backed-up/downloaded your data from LJ what you used to do this?

I have been using dw since 2009, crossposting all the while. One thing that has stopped me from making a clean break with LJ is that I haven't downloaded all my old posts and comments.

If you have useful suggestions on how I might do this, I'd really appreciate it if you shared them with me.


4th April 2017

9:30pm: As I drove out of vehicle inspection this afternoon, I thought, "Do something interesting today." A good general affirmation, actually.

Even if it is a little hard to carry out starting at about 5PM on a cold, rainy Boston weekday.

29th March 2017

8:54am: A modest proposal regarding Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and continued EU membership.
I have a very modest proposal which immediately occurred to me on reading this piece in the Belfast Telegraph:
Colum Eastwood has welcomed confirmation from Brexit Secretary David Davis that Northern Ireland would have an "automatic route" back into the EU if it were part of a united Ireland.

Unlike Scotland, which has been told it could be forced to join a queue for membership of the bloc if the country votes for independence, the province would not have to reapply for EU membership, as the Republic is already one of the existing member states, Tory minister said.

In a letter to SDLP MP Mark Durkan, David Davis wrote: “If a majority of the people of Northern Ireland were ever to vote to become part of a united Ireland the UK Government will honour its commitment to enable that to happen.”

He added: “In that event, Northern Ireland would be in a position of becoming part of an existing EU member state, rather than seeking to join the EU as a new independent state.

"It would of course be for the EU Commission to respond to any specific questions about the procedural requirements for that to happen."
It occurs to me immediately that there is a possible route for Scotland here, which probably only works if Ireland unites. Possibly not even then, depending on how Brussels looks on this particular plan.

If it is the case that becoming part of an existing EU member state means a country does not have to reapply for EU membership, clearly that's the preferred route. So after a united Ireland--possibly within hours of unification--Ireland and Scotland can then form the Celtic Union, and the whole Union would remain an EU member state.

Obviously, one would want to know whether the EU would be willing to accept this before embarking on this course of action.

Disclaimer: I am not either an Irish or UK citizen, or a citizen of any EU member state.

I have found two letters to the Irish Times advocating Celtic Union, but neither of them directly addresses the EU membership issue.

I have also found a letter to the Belfast Telegraph which does explicitly address the issue of EU membership.

I'm glad people are thinking along these lines. One hopes they can get organized in the next two years, as the clock is now ticking.

26th March 2017

11:47am: The external storage on my Android phone is more or less working again. Hooray.
If you're following me on Instagram or on Twitter, you'll have noticed that I've started posting again on both sites. (If you're not, and you'd like to, let me know who you are over there and if I know you I'll be glad to give you access.)

If you're following me here you'll know that I've been having frustrating problems with storage on my Android phone. I'm happy to report that my immediate problems have more or less been solved, though my actions didn't have much to do with it. Last time I mentioned that I thought it was a software problem and that one suggested solution was to move apps from external to internal storage and see if one of the apps resident on the SD card was causing the OS to dismount the card.

After a couple of rounds of this annoying tedium I realized one first step I could take was to reboot the phone into safe mode to see if any of the downloaded apps were causing the problem, or if the actual source of the issue lay elsewhere.

I rebooted the phone into safe mode and waited a few minutes. Sure enough, the phone dismounted its SD card, right on schedule.

It didn't seem to matter whether I had any apps on the phone at all. The problem was apparently either preinstalled software or hardware. I was, without any particular evidence, leaning towards hardware. I thought about buying a new SD card, but that seemed like it might be throwing good money after bad.

One evening after I had mostly given up on the problem and was researching new phones, I got a notification of a system update. I was kind of surprised that my phone manufacturer had even gotten around to updating the OS, but happily so. I figured updating the system couldn't make things much worse than they already were.

Well, what do you know? Updating the OS changed my problem from "the phone dismounts its SD card three to five minutes after reboot" to "the phone intermittently dismounts its SD card a few days after reboot". That is more or less acceptable, where five minutes of uptime is not. I'm now reasonably pleased with the current behavior of the phone. I mean, I reboot the thing every couple of days on average because something gets wedged anyway.

Nonetheless I continue to be peeved at the way Android handles external storage. Over lunch last week, as we were both grumbling about our phones, a friend compared the way Android deals with external storage to the bad old days of the 640k RAM limit on the PC. It's not directly analogous--storage, not memory, for one thing--but it does require some irritating workarounds of its own.

For example, I have a fair amount of space remaining on my SD card: about 9GB. This does not help me with my internal storage crunch, however, as I have less than 720MB left there. And that's what matters to the Google App Store: if I don't have sufficient space in internal storage to download and uncompress an app, I can't install it on the SD card. More irritating is that when the App Store discovers this, it throws up a menu helpfully listing the amount of storage you're short of, and then deeply unhelpfully lists apps you might delete from the phone, without regard to where those apps are stored. This is dumb, because you can delete apps off the SD card all day without making the least difference to the App Store, which will unhelpfully continue to suggest more apps to delete.

Since all my large apps are now on the SD card, the apps the App Store will list first are invariably the ones on the SD card, and thus useless in resolving the internal storage space problem.

This design makes access to the SD card subject to the bottleneck of one's internal storage limit. I feel for my friend: his phone has 4GB of internal storage and it's manufactured by Samsung, which I understand to be one of the bigger offenders when it comes to manufacturer-imposed software bloat. At least I have 8GB of internal storage to start with, because Android takes up over 3GB of that. He's left with less than a GB of internal storage after Google and Samsung are done with his phone.

Moreover, the App Store doesn't tell you whether a particular app can be moved to the SD card. You have to install it and then go into settings to see where the OS put it. I've been doing a lot of this: download, check, delete if installed in internal storage. It is tedious.

For most apps, I suspect there's no very compelling reason to require that it be stored internally but it does require an active effort by the developer to allow the app to be moved to external storage. In any case, a vast number of apps have to be installed in internal storage.

There are a couple of fixes, none of which are immediately appealing. First, I could root my existing phone and then shove all the apps onto the SD card. Seeing which ones then broke would be entertaining, if not entirely useful.

Alternately I can buy a phone with lots of internal storage and/or no SD card slot whatsoever. This is the iPhone solution, and there are a number of Android phones with the same philosophy: no external storage equals no problem with a distinction between internal and external storage.

The downside of this, of course, is that no external expansion means you pay over the odds for storage and are stuck with your decision after purchase, because internal storage is fixed and invariably more expensive than that on an SD card. It does eliminate an entire class of issues with regard to storage--for example, if I'd bought a phone with plenty of internal storage this problem would never have happened to me at all--but the web is full of griping about the markups phone manufacturers get away with on internal storage.

One final note is that in copying over the 9000+ images I have taken on my phone I noticed two were corrupt, and caused my phone to dismount the SD card when I tried copying them. So it's possible my actual problem is that SD card has bad sectors and the OS was coping with this problem ungracefully by dismounting the SD card instead of just locking out the bad sectors. In any case I've already copied those particular images on a previous backup so the data is fine. Everything else on the SD card is an app, and so easily replaceable as well.

Really what I need is a new camera because I shot nearly all of those 9000+ images during the time I've been without a camera. I much, much prefer having a standalone camera to shooting with a phone, but that is a rant for another day.

2nd March 2017

5:24pm: Elon Musk has already demonstrated that he's much shrewder about business ownership than D. D. Harriman.

(context: http://www.spacex.com/news/2017/02/27/spacex-send-privately-crewed-dragon-spacecraft-beyond-moon-next-year and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delos_D._Harriman)

29th January 2017

5:44pm: Update to my Android adoptable storage problem.
As I wrote in my earlier post, my Moto E dismounts its SD card after a few minutes. It does so consistently.

I am now checking if the problem is software and not hardware related. This post gave me the clue:
I was having the same error messages on my Moto E (stock Android 4.4.4). It will slow the phone down during wake-ups and also all of the app icons for apps located on SD card would disappear from the home screen. Very frustrating. In my case I traced it down to a single app that was causing it after being moved to SD card storage. It was the Amazon store app. While the phone is in the sleep mode it tries to perform some extensive file operations at the location it deployed to, which crashes the app itself and causes the OS/driver to lose the mount on the card. While it is obviously a defect in the OS, a workaround would be to move the offending app (in my case the Amazon store app) from SD card back into phone main storage. Hope this helps.
While I don't have the Amazon store app, I can move apps back one at a time and see if that resolves the issue.

More later if I get any consistent results.

28th January 2017

12:49am: Happy New Year!
Google of course has a doodle:

This was the first year I noticed that Google was adding a graphic when I sent a Gchat private message with the following text:


Gif only plays once. Reload to see it again.

Not particularly tailored to the day but cute nonetheless.

Anyway, Happy New Year to all!

18th January 2017

1:04pm: I may be in the market for a new phone.
The adoptable storage in my phone has gotten flaky. I have already become very frustrated at how Android and its app developers handle external storage and this is something of a last straw.

The SD card mounts on boot after an initial warning that it can't, but after a few minutes the volume unmounts and the phone throws a system error complaining that the SD card is missing. There is apparently no fix except to reboot, but then the problem repeats. Removing and reinserting the SD card does not resolve the problem.

I might be able push off the problem for a while by buying a new SD card and seeing if that works any better. It might also be that the phone's card slot is unreliable, though, in which case that would not be a fix.

Because many Android app developers force their apps to reside in actual internal storage rather than adoptable storage--which should both in theory and by specification be just as good for app storage as physical internal storage--I was left with something on the order of 10GB of wasted space on the SD card anyway, even when it was working correctly. (I use my adoptable storage almost exclusively for app storage. At least I do for apps that allow me to, and at least when the adoptable storage is working.)

Now I am looking at new phones. The other major issue that has frustrated me about my phone is that like nearly all Android phones, OS updates are essentially mythical beyond a certain point. My vendor got as far as Marshmallow and that was it. (This is better than my backup Android phone, which never got any OS updates at all, but the phone was free.)

I think my next phone will have plenty of internal storage and no SD card slot at all. Also, it will come from a vendor which diligently pushes out OS updates.

My understanding is that these requirements restrict me to a choice between all of two phone vendors: Google and Apple. A Google Pixel with 128GB of storage is $749. An iPhone 7 with 256GB of storage is $849. Pricey.

Until I figure out what I'm doing about this problem reaching me by phone will be less reliable than usual. I do have my backup phone. If you'd like my number there please contact me. I also have a couple of Google Voice numbers which I should probably propagate as well.

Any suggestions as to how I should proceed and any thoughts on the pluses and minuses of my two options are welcome. Finally, do I have any other options, given my requirements?
Current Mood: cranky

7th October 2016

11:38am: Well, that made for an interesting morning.

Polemic Paine describes the hilarity that ensued:
It’s the small hours of London Friday morning for me and the reasons for GBP's freediving world record attempt haven’t yet been formulated. Now I'm afraid that if you started reading this expecting me to tell you what is going on in GBP, then sorry, I don't know. But having worked in FX for a good chunk of my life I can have a good guess at what is now going on in the banks.

First, every salesperson is struggling to call all their clients who had 'call levels’ at zones never expected to be hit, whilst trying to fill orders in systems at levels that they think they can get away with. Oh, hang on, no they can’t do that anymore as they need audit trails. So, they will all be huddled around spot desks arguing over whose order was hit at what. Said spot dealers will be shouting a lot and staring at an automated blotter that is slowly dripping in a queue of trades that their antiquated order and back office system in some far off distant place on the planet is trying to process. Basically, there will be a lot of ‘WHAT THE FUCK IS MY POSITION.. ARRRGH ‘ going on.

Meanwhile, clients will be calling in demanding to know why their stops were done 7% below current market and why no one called them. Because if they had been called they would have bought it back at 8% below current markets because they are all retrospective geniuses.

Managers will be trying to recite the rules of engagement for filling stops but can’t find them so call compliance. However, compliance is asleep because they are mostly based in Head Office and that isn’t in the Antipodes, apart from the Antipodean banks whose compliance officers will be teaching some course to the catering staff on how not to deal with Yemeni banks.

By now the dealing systems will be catching up with what's going on and the spot traders now fit into two categories:-

Group 1 who look at their position screens and see a vast profit who split into groups 'A' and ‘B'. 'A' stays very quiet knowing that sales will want some of the profit if they see how much it is and ‘B' who stand up and declare themselves as trading Gods.

Meanwhile Group 2, on seeing vast losses, immediately write emails to every manager under the sun blaming their staggering losses on system latency and the ridiculous guaranteed stop levels that sales made them undertake. If they are lucky management will swerve the losses into a contingency book, but if they are unlucky and the bank was thinking of replacing them with a 'Raspberry Pi’ algorithm, they will be out of the door by close of Friday.

But back to sales. Those that are still on the phone are quoting the reason for the fall on anything that they feel everyone else is saying because no one has a real clue. They will probably repeat what JPMChase or Goldman say as they reckon that the guys there are cleverer than them and more likely to know. So, clients will currently be being told that it is due to- "Barriers being hit at 1.25, 1.20 , and 1.15" and if they can't even manage that will say "Stop losses”, which is a great generalised term that demands no justification. But some foolish folk will have done a Bloomberg News search for GBP and decided that it is due to the news that fracking had been allowed in North West England. Which is of course rubbish, because we all know that it happened because Diane Abbott was made the shadow Home Secretary.

By now very senior management will have come down to the dealing room. Bearing in mind this is out of London time zone, the senior managers involved will have absolutely no idea whatsoever about Sterling so will ask questions to frantic spot and sales folks along the lines of "Has Brexit been announced?" or "is this is a big move?" The frustrated dealing staff will have to tread a thin line with them, alternating between wanting to tell them to piss off and ingratiating themselves with them as, with the size of the losses they can see, they may well be up before them the following morning.

4th October 2016

7:00pm: Citymapper begins covering Moscow.
My favorite public transport app, Citymapper, added coverage of Moscow today.

After a brief bit of testing and poking at it on my Android device my only complaint so far is that while they have integrated metro, bus, trolleybus, tram, elektrichka, and even bikeshare data, they apparently have not included the Aeroexpress rail services to the three major airports.

Attention digitalemur. :)

28th September 2016

6:17pm: André Spicer on "How organisations enshrine collective stupidity and employees are rewarded for checking their brains at the office door":
We found many ways that all kinds of organisations positively encouraged intelligent people not to fully use their intelligence. There were rules and routines that prompted them to focus energies on complying with bureaucracy instead of doing their jobs.
Now I want to read his book.

28th August 2016

9:02am: Matt Levine, describing banks in a way I think is generalizable to other large organizations:
It strikes me as a mistake to view banks as unitary entities that either internalize or externalize risk. A bank is not a group of managers and shareholders and creditors who get together and decide jointly and sensibly how much risk they each should take (and how much they can offload onto the rest of the economy). A bank is a system of different groups -- managers and employees and shareholders and creditors and regulators -- who sit around separately deciding how much risk they can offload onto each other, without the others noticing. "The rest of the economy" is just another outlet for that risk.

22nd July 2016

11:29am: Donald Trump has just completed his hostile takeover of the Republican party.

We'll see what he does with it now.

11th July 2016

4:40pm: PSA: Pokémon Go's Google Account access.
TechCrunch reports Pokémon Go sometimes silently gains full access to your Google account.

This behavior is mostly being reported on iOS, but has also been found on Android. It does not happen on all phone/OS combinations. No pattern has yet been reported.

It's probably best to sign up using a Pokémon Trainer account. The servers are currently slammed, so this is difficult. Another option is to create a Google Account dedicated to Pokémon and use it for nothing else.

30th June 2016


Now that Boris Johnson has withdrawn from the race for Prime Minister, he's free to become Trump's Vice Presidential pick. #BoJo

It won't happen, of course. Those two egos are much too big for one ticket. It's pretty much the opposite of ticket balancing: two rich brash loudmouths from New York, one from Queens and one from Manhattan. Finally, putting those two hairdos together? Probably cause some tonsorial black hole, if the egos didn't.

(There are many articles about how Johnson's claims he'll renounce his American citizenship, but not one confirming he actually has. See this comment. Until it's a matter of public record I think we can file that with all his other questionable statements.)

29th May 2016

10:40pm: Someone has reported my Facebook account.
I figured this would happen at some point. I suspect someone who isn't one of my friends, but someone who either saw one of my public posts or saw a comment of mine somewhere.

I am irritated, particularly at the person who reported me, whoever they are. This was not, however, unexpected.

I have a number of options at this point, but I may not be back on Facebook for a while.
5:48pm: Allahpundit:
Speaking of Trump and Senate Republicans, here’s Mitch McConnell reassuring CBS News that American institutions are too solid to let President Trump get away with doing anything he wants in office. Why he thinks that, I haven’t the slightest idea. Public faith in government institutions, including and especially Congress, lies in ruins. There’s clearly a hearty appetite on both sides of the aisle for a “strong” executive who’ll impose his will even when the legislature won’t go along. Congress has been reduced to filing lawsuits to check Obama even though they’re supposed to be an equal branch. Given how quick Republican pols have been the past few weeks to roll over for Trump on the theory that Hillary Clinton and her party are worse, there’s no reason to think a Republican House or Senate would put up much of a fight once President Trump started indulging his inner caudillo. Meanwhile, Trump would have an open seat on the Supreme Court and many lower-court vacancies which he could fill with judges who take a, shall we say, forgiving view of executive power. America’s constitutional firewall against power-hungry presidents is weaker than ever, and if you listen to Trump for five minutes there’s every reason to think he’d be more eager than most pols to see how much power he could carry through the firewall in the name of Making America Great Again. And if he tries, rest assured that Mitch McConnell will be back on the Sunday shows, spinning for him all the way.

28th May 2016

9:13pm: "I've still got sand in my shoes..."

Not sure how so much sand gets in to them considering I never took my shoes or socks off. But there it is.

27th May 2016

11:25pm: The Sanders-Trump debate, which is never going to happen.
Charles Pierce wasn't too optimistic, but it turns out the first paragraph of his piece yesterday on the proposed Sanders-Trump debate turned out to be right on the money:
I am going to be a cockeyed optimist and believe, for the moment anyway, that Bernie Sanders "accepted" He, Trump's invitation to a debate prior to the California presidential primaries on June 7 purely as a shrewd political maneuver. I will believe, for the moment anyway, that Sanders "accepted" knowing full well that He, Trump has the roar of a lion and the heart of a chicken, and that He, Trump will find some convoluted reason to back out of the confrontation. Perhaps it might even be right before the debate goes on the air, thereby making He, Trump look evermore the fool, and giving Sanders a couple of hours of free airtime to state his case. Great move there, Spassky!
Today, Trump backed out:
Donald Trump will not participate in a debate with Sen. Bernie Sanders, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee said Friday.

In a statement, Trump slammed Sanders, Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton and the Democratic nominating process, and said that debating the Vermont senator would be "inappropriate." Sanders' camp, in turn, accused Trump of flip-flopping on a "clash of ideas."
To me it looks like a success for Sanders. Trump's bluff called. People should do that more often.

David Graham of the Atlantic was broadly disapproving of Sanders (which I disagree with), but ended with this (which I think is spot on):
Both Trump and Sanders are unpredictable, inconsistent debaters. It could have been a snooze, or it could have been a fracas. It would have been loud, and the Queens-Brooklyn accent showdown would have been tremendous.
What it would have sounded like is a debate in an old-time New York City mayoral race. Like the one they had when this song came out:
1:35pm: Shocked, shocked I am that there could be violations of the Fair Housing Act by Airbnb hosts.

Renting while black. It's a thing.

(Obviously, be careful of the comments.)
1:48am: Public Service Announcement: If you're one of the unfortunates driving this long weekend along the Northeast Corridor of North America between Boston and Washington, be aware that the Connecticut State Police appear to have gotten approval for their officers to work some serious overtime.

There was as usual a "Welcome to Pennsylvania" cruiser trap sitting in the center divider of I-83 at the border with Maryland, but for sheer number and activity, the Connecticut State Police were unmatched today.

I saw many speed traps, a number of motorists pulled over and interacting with officers, and at least one police cruiser in hot pursuit, nearly all of them on I-84. And I was in Connecticut for less than two hours.

In other exciting news, I saw a rollover in the median on I-78 in Western New Jersey as well as a tractor-trailer that apparently hit the car that had rolled over. Fortunately for me they were in the other direction, so I also got to see the miles-long tailback that resulted from the emergency response.

Stay safe out there.

23rd May 2016

11:13am: Previously unnoticed problem with my cheap Chinese phone: The GPS in it sucks. I heard "GPS signal lost" from Google Maps every couple of minutes on the drive up last night.

The location finding is good enough for a transit app, but clearly not good enough for auto navigation.
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