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gottahavacuppamocha Posts

Metrics

There’s something inherently wrong with rich people. How do they see themselves? How do they judge themselves? Do they care who has the biggest boat or largest plane? Is five houses too many, too few, or just the right number? Do they pat themselves on the back for devising new ways of avoiding taxes? Does it bother them if they’re only a millionaire? Do care if they appear on the Forbes 400, the Sunday Times Rich List, or some equivalent list? How often do they look at their bank account balances? Do they pay a lot of attention to the number of zeroes in their bonuses?

These are the wrong metrics by which they should judge themselves. Instead, they should look at metrics that are more important to society. How many people do they employ? How many employees can afford cars? How many employees struggle to pay rent? How many employees have health insurance? How many employees are paid a living wage? How many employees are living from paycheck to paycheck? How many employees have kids in college? How many employees are going to college themselves? How many employees get bonuses? Is it reasonable to collect a bonus after laying people off? What’s a reasonable bonus after outsourcing jobs? Is it okay to be a billionaire in the same city where children are starving? Have they ever donated to a homeless shelter? Have they ever donated to their local public school district?

I have a feeling change is coming. Probably within the next few years, after the US elections in 2020, but its effect won’t be limited to the rich politicians and lobbyists. The system is rotting and ready to collapse. If the powers-that-be handle it incorrectly, we might face something as calamitous as the Depression and the Dust Bowl. If its handled well, we might be looking at prosperity unseen since the post-World War II boom. Either way, I think we’ll encounter a sea change unlike anything in the past hundred years.

Competitions

For the past few years I’ve been engaged in competitions with myself.

The first competition, and the most important was the competition to stop smoking. I started smoking when I was 20 and as I approached 50 it seemed like a good time to stop. My employer offers smoking cessation help in the form of personal coaching and a month or two of nicotine patches. The coaching was useless for me, since I’m not easily motivated by other people. On the other hand, the nicotine patches helped with the cravings.

For the last few years as a smoker, I made it a point not to smoke at work. This means I was able to control my nicotine urges for around eight hours a day, but I would still smoke a pack a day when I got home. Little by little, I chipped away at my smoking habits. When I bought my house four years ago, I made it a point to not smoke inside the house, no matter the weather outside. This was fine for a couple of years, but it wasn’t really cutting down on my smoking. As I began to realize the age of 50 was right around the corner, I began looking into smoking cessation programs, and a few weeks after my fiftieth birthday, I joined the program offered at work.

When people start using smoking cessation products, such as the patch or nicotine gum, they are told to stop using tobacco and rely on the products to cover all of their nicotine urges. Whoever came up with that advice wasn’t a smoker because there are powerful habits around smoking that smoking cessation products can’t replace. In other words, I kept on smoking while using the patch. What the patch did was make it easier to not smoke. The patch helped control the urges from nicotine, which made it easier to eventually quit. As it helped control the urges, I was able to continue chipping away at the other habits associated with my smoking.

First, I gave up smoking any cigarettes for at least 30 minutes after I woke up. This was difficult because the urge to smoke after waking up was a really powerful one. Next, I stopped smoking any cigarettes on the way to the bus stop. Then I stopped smoking any cigarettes at all before work. This was important because it meant I was able to go without smoking from the time I went to bed until the time I went to got home from work. It was also difficult because work is sometimes stressful and cigarettes are a kind of coping mechanism. The patch helped immensely in controlling my nicotine urges, but a one or two month supply wasn’t going to cut it.

In the United States, all nicotine replacement* products, like the patch and nicotine gum, are available over-the-counter, which means they can be bought in stores. More importantly, they can be bought from Amazon. Amazon offers a few different brands of nicotine patches, and with some careful shopping I found patches for around $25 to $32 for a four week supply. Being able to buy nicotine pacthes from Amazon at a good price was a godsend. I don’t think I would have been successful at quitting smoking if the patches were too expensive. Being able to buy them from Amazon meant I could quit at my own pace. I came to think of quitting smoking as a process, rather than an accomplishment.

Slowly, but surely I was able to cut down on the number of cigarettes I smoked after work. Over the course of a year, while using the patch, I was able to go from a pack a day, to a pack every two or three days, to two packs a week. Eventually I got that down to a pack a week. By that time, I was only smoking two or three cigarettes a day and I was able to take the plunge and go without smoking for a day or two at a time. It required willpower, but the nicotine patches helped a lot. At this time, whenever I had a fierce nicotine urge, I would distract myself with a book, with Netflix, with a game. Anything to get my mind off smoking. The days of not smoking stacked up. I got to one week without smoking, then two weeks without smoking. How long does a person have to stop smoking in order to be considered a non-smoker? After I went without cigarettes for a month, I decided to stop using the patch. This was tricky because I made this smoking cessation program on my own, and had nobody to tell me when to stop using the patch. It turns out I gave it up a bit prematurely. Around late January of this year I started smoking again. Realizing I was starting a habit I’d almost vanquished, I started on the patch again and worked on quitting, again. This time I was more successful and the last time I had a cigarette was in April of 2019, six months ago. Two months later, in June, I stopped using the patch.

While I’m glad I stopped smoking, there is a downside. In October of 2018 my primary care doctor said I should try to lose weight. He didn’t suggest any particular method, but he mentioned it, so I thought about it and got an app on my phone to track my weight. Every morning, after feeding the cats, but before getting dressed, I weigh myself. This sets up the second competition with myself: the battle of obesity. Since I stopped smoking in April, I’ve gained about 30 pounds. When I saw my primary care doctor again a few weeks ago, he suggested trying Weight Watchers, which is a program my employer recently started offering. They offer two programs, one is digital only, while the other is a combination of digital and in-person meetings. I’m not the kind of guy who would get much out of meetings, so I’m trying the digital-only method to see how that works.

There is a third competition that closely relates to weight loss and that is tracking the steps I take every day. I’ve used pedometers off and on for years. Somewhere over the years I’ve heard that doctors recommend people walk at least 10,000 steps each day in order to be healthy, or something like that. The 10,000 step goal isn’t that difficult for me. I don’t have a car, so I tend to walk a lot anyway. I was using a pedometer app that I forget the name of, but I got annoyed when the developer would make new versions to serve up ads, but would lose my progress. There are a lot of terrible free apps that are only there to serve ads. I tried a bunch of different apps before finally finding one at GitHub. Pedometer is a free pedometer app for Android devices and it has no ads. It does a good job of tracking my steps every day, but I only have a few months worth of data on it, so that’s a bit of a downside.

Over the past few months I’ve been using the bus to get to and from work, even though I only live half a mile from where I work. Consequently, I haven’t been getting 10,000 steps on a regular basis. According to the pedometer app, my average was around 7500 steps a day. In early October, I also bought a smart watch, but that’s even more dismal because it routinely gets around 2000 fewer steps per day than the app on my phone. It sort of makes sense, because it can’t count steps if I’m carrying something in my hands. It needs to sense a particular rhythm to count steps and it can’t do that if my arms are holding onto something. Since getting the watch, I’ve been walking to work in the morning while it’s still cool, and taking the bus back home in the afternoon when I’m tired and it’s too warm to walk. Doing that, It’s much easier to get 10,000 steps a day.

I also noticed one of the things affecting the average number of steps is weekends. Normally, on the weekends, I would only get around 2000 steps a day because I’m much less active. To overcome this inactivity, for the past few weekends, every Saturday and Sunday I’ve walked to a coffeeshop about a mile away from my house. To the coffeeshop and back home is around 8500 steps, which makes it much easier to get in 10,000 steps on Saturdays and Sundays.

Overall, I’m not sure 10,000 steps a day is good enough to help me lose weight, so I may move my goal to be 15,000 steps a day, but I’m still thinking about it. It’s pretty easy to get 11,000 or 12,000 steps a day, but it’s hard to do more without a concerted effort.

I have a feeling that losing weight will be a long, hard slog just as quitting smoking was. My goal is to get down to around 165 pounds by October 1st of next year. That’s a loss of around 70 pounds. I don’t think it will be easy to accomplish, but thanks to technology it will be easy to track my progress. I made a spreadsheet to track my weight and steps, and figured out I need to lose around 1.4 pounds per week to meet that goal. We’ll see how well I do.

Another competition, which has nothing to do with smoking or weight loss, is NaNoWriMo. For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo (a/k/a National Novel Writing Month) is an annual competition that takes place every November. During that month, each participant tries to write 50,000 words, which is about the length of a novel. I’ve done this off and on in past years and it’s very difficult. While some people go into it without any sort of plan or plot, in my experience, that makes it much harder to finish with 50,000 words. At any rate, this year I have a plot and have roughly outlined about 15 chapters, so I feel confident in finishing. Luckily, it’s easier to get concrete results in NaNoWriMo than it is in weight loss or smoking cessation.

*Nicotine replacement products have nicotine in them, but don’t have the cancer causing chemicals that come from using tobacco. Smoking cessation products are intended to help people stop smoking, but don’t always have nicotine as an ingredient. While all nicotine replacement products are smoking cessation products, not all smoking cessation products are nicotine replacement products. Some smoking cessation products require a doctor’s prescription.

Installing Linux Mint 19.2 on a Dell Inspiron 13 7375 2-in-1

Over the past few years I’ve noticed that my personal laptop has been showing its age. It is a Dell XPS 13 L321X, one of the original Project Sputnik laptops from Dell. It came with pre-loaded Ubuntu 12.4 and has a Core i7 CPU, 8 GB of RAM and a 256 GB SSD. One of the first things I did was switch Ubuntu for Linux Mint, which I find more user-friendly. I’ve had the laptop since 2012 and it’s been pretty reliable. The XPS is in no danger of dying anytime soon, but the hinges on the display are getting a bit floppy, so I’m constantly reminded of the laptop’s age. Aside from that, it’s durable, takes a fair amount of abuse, and keeps on working, so it’s not much of a surprise that I considered Dell laptops for possible replacements.

Filing

I’m a bit behind in doing filing at home, but I made a good start of it last night. There’s still more to do tonight.

Goals

Gazing in my crystal ball and reading some tea leaves, it looks like the Fediverse is going to grow substantially over the next few years as people realize Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter act are acting against their interests. There are a growing number of websites that are federated and interconnected, on top of the thousands that already do so, so leaving the Big Tech companies behind becomes less of an issue.

At the moment, the Fediverse is a bit like the World Wide Web was during the early 1990s. It’s a place of people-in-the-know, the early-adopters, the technically-savvy, and social-media-weary-looking-for-safe-havens. It’s the Wild West frontier of social media, where there are lots of apps, lots of websites, and lots of opportunities to gain users.

Project goals

Work on Amore has always been a bit of fun, playing with code. It’s been a personal side project, nothing more. That was until people started to get interested in it. This encouraged me to do more work on it, and make more of an effort at making a finished product. While working on Amore 0.3, I became aware of other projects that were supposed to make it easy for PHP projects to connect to the Fediverse. As I looked through their code and read their (sparse) documentation, it was apparent those projects wouldn’t work for me. What I needed to do was create my own Fediverse friendly PHP framework, then use that to build Amore. Thus Federama was born.

Federama is meant to provide a bare minimum of ActivityPub functionality. It will be able to stand on it’s own as a Fediverse platform, but can also be hacked to create something new. In my mind, if Federama is properly built, it can be used to create dating software, forum software, help desk software, microblogging software, media library software, translation software, wiki software, knowledgebase software, dictionary software, password lockers, and so much more. If there is a type of software that requires a user to sign in, it’s would be a good candidate for using Federama. That’s the goal anyway.

Put another way, the short-term goal (for the rest of 2019) is to make Federama a viable project that connects to the Fediverse. User should be able to sign in and send and receive messages with users on platforms like Mastodon, Pleroma, and Misskey. The slightly longer term goal is to build Amore as a dating application for the Fediverse. If Federama works by the end of 2019, Amore should work in early 2020.

Fundraising goals

Along with the project goals for Amore and Federama, I have some vague fundraising goals. In the sidebar are links to my profiles on some fundraising websites. Other than earning my gratitude and a thank you, there are no tiers or perks for donating at the moment. I’ll create goals and perks and levels after I can get Federama to connect to my accounts on Mastodon and Pleroma. That’s my incentive to work on coding.

For now, the main goal of fundraising is to earn money to help pay for hosting, domain registration, and occasional computer issues, like the monitor I had to replace last week.

Starting the 2019 garden

Today I just started a bunch of seeds for the 2019 garden. I put them in a plastic Jiffypot tray that has 72 small pots. I filled them with potting soil, added some water, then planted the seeds. These are:

  • 6 regular marigolds
  • 6 Eskimo marigolds
  • 6 petite yellow marigolds
  • 6 asters
  • 6 Chinese forget-me-nots
  • 6 Canterbury bells
  • 6 sweet peppers, Carnival mix
  • 6 Italian pepperoncini
  • 6 jalapeño
  • 6 red tomato
  • 6 yellow tomato
  • 6 green tomatillo

I’m planning on using this blog as a gardening diary, for this year at least.

Just Kids

Just KidsJust Kids by Patti Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A few months ago I heard an interview with Patti Smith talking about this book and her time with Robert Mapplethorpe. I was aware of both of them, but didn’t know they had a history together, which intrigued me enough to buy the book.

The book covers a period of time from the mid 60s, when Smith is still living in New Jersey with her parents, to the late 80s when she is raising a family of her own in Detroit. The bulk of the story however, takes place in New York City in the late 60s and early 70s, as both Smith and Mapplethorpe are new to the city. Throughout the book, Smith writes of the tragedies of the era, such as the deaths of Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Jim Morrison. This leads to a darkly comic account where a friend of Smith’s with a J in his name is convinced he’s the next to die because the letter J is like a curse, bringing an early death to those affected.

Having read some poorly written autobiographies of other musicians, I found Patti Smith’s writing to be both wonderful and evocative. She makes the reader feel as if they are with her, as she describes places as varied as the Père Lachaise Cemetery, Max’s Kansas City, the Hotel Chelsea, and countless apartments and studios that she and Robert shared in New York City. As well as the places, she offers such rich details of moments, that the reader feels they are there with her. For example, she shares an anecdote about Alan Ginsburg paying for her lunch at an Automat, but mainly because he mistook her for a cute boy. Writing about these moments, she describes the scenes and recalls the conversations, immersing the reader in a version of New York that no longer exists.

Most of the book is about Smith’s relationship with Mapplethorpe. Shortly after moving to New York, Smith is basically homeless, when Robert sees her and takes pity on her, offering her some food and a place to stay. They bond over an appreciation of art, as both of them aspire to become famous artists. However, being “just kids”, they had a lot to learn as they tried expressing themselves through different artistic mediums. For Robert, collages led their way to photography. For Smith, her drawings led her to poetry, which further led her to music. Each served as muse for the other, but they both found other sources of inspiration along the way.

While the obvious audience for this book is people who like to read autobiographies of musicians, people who are interested in Robert Mapplethorpe and his art will also enjoy it. The arts scene in New York City plays an important part in the book, most notably Andy Warhol and The Factory. The book will also appeal to those who are interested in love, poetry, and NYC history.

View all my reviews

Working on Amore v0.2

Version 0.2 of Amore is shaping up but still needs a bit of work. It’s still alpha quality software, so it’s very unpolished, but it’s much better than version 0.1.

To start, the software borrows heavily from uses w3.css to make it responsive to a variety of devices. It looks good on computer screens, tablets, and smartphones.

Users are required to login to post. There is some admin functionality for adding, editing, and deleting places, times zones, etc.

Still to do for v0.2:

  • Finish edit-profile.php.
  • logout function.
  • Admins can suspend or ban users.
  • Users can delete their own posts.
  • Users can edit their own posts (up to ten minutes after posting).
  • Remove OpenGraph stuff.

Amore 0.1

If you’re so inclined, you can get version 0.1 of Amore here.

The only thing that’s missing from what I hoped to include in this version is the ability of users to delete or edit their own posts. It requires some restructuring of the code dealing with headers and cookies, so I opted to kick it down the road to version 0.2.

Amore 0.1 is very rudimentary and doesn’t federate yet, but it’s a start and it works at a very basic level. For v0.1, I’ll call that a success.

The road to Amore v0.1

Despite some fits and starts with coding Amore, I’m making progress towards version 0.1. I already see a bunch of things I want to change in future versions, but alpha software is a bit like a rough draft. It isn’t meant to be pretty or bug free, but should have the primary functions and mostly work.

Right now, site admins can set it up for open or closed registrations, users can create posts, and their posts will be listed on their profile page. Amore can create files for Nodeinfo, though I think it may need some work, since I’m not sure it’s being sent out as application/json which is required by the Nodeinfo protocol. Each post has it’s own page viewable by anyone, but I still have to create user pages that also can be viewed by anyone. I’m toying with the idea of having a list of users, similar to Explore on Mastodon, but I’m not sure that will make version 0.1.

Still to be done is showing the most recent posts on the front page, users being able to create and edit their profiles, having the profiles viewable by anyone, and giving users the ability to delete or edit their own posts. When those features are done, I think I’ll call it version 0.1 and start refactoring and working on version 0.2 features and improvements.