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Walking Away – A Facebook Group was taking over my life

There is a closed community that I participate in on Facebook that I have been a member of for about 7 months. I was invited to join, and I thought I had found a den of like minded people to share our common goals. It was an amazing and safe place to hang out. Really cool people, sharing really cool things, and very little judgmental attitudes were in the air.

Yes, there were some diversions, and some conflict, heck it is impossible that with > 3,000 members there had to be some differences in opinion.

Yet as the group grew it changed. At about 6,000 members, there was a notable shift in the civility. Some genuine nastiness was creeping in. (for the record, occasionally a true dissenter would get past the selection process, but they usually outed themselves quickly and disappeared)

Now that the membership is well above 9,000, the group has become somewhat toxic. The moderators had to be ever vigilant for banned material being posted. The selfie threads turning into misogyny, and rape references, and a level of nastiness that really appalled me.

All through this process I loved the group. There was an evolving core group of great people, many who have become friends on my profile. We would share amusing pictures, memes and experiences. It was fun. They are great people. I found that about 90% of the time I spent on FB was in that group, and it felt like home.

Almost 100% of my posts and shares were in this group. I am sure my real friends wondered where I had disappeared to.

However, the toxicity of the group (I will admit that the admins were doing an admirable job to try to control the chaos) has made me stop following it, and stop receiving notifications from the group. I just decided to go cold turkey. The straw that broke the camel’s back was a fun meme I posted mocking Justin Bieber generated a shitstorm of hate. If you can’t mock Bieber, then it isn’t worth staying.

Something surprising happened. My news feed became relevant again. I started interacting with my friends, and I feel less like a slave to continue to post to that group.

I am enjoying Facebook more than I had for a while. It is a good thing.

I may not ever go back to that group.

Not even once.

Whatever happened to … Adobe Flash

Remember a few years ago (was it really 2008?) when the iPhone was hot, Android was beginning to take root, and the big argument was … Flash support in internet browsing?

Yep, I was just thinking about how much outrage that Steve Jobs dared to say that Adobe Shockwave Flash was awful. At the time the number one brag that all my friends who were on the Android bandwagon waved in my face was how they could browse to Flash based websites on their phones.

Of course, they could, but then they discovered something. Yes, Flash sucked. Battery power was visibly drained from their phone. A day’s worth of juice gone in 15 minutes. Add to that the fact that Flash wasn’t really useable with fingers (it really liked the resolution of a mouse and pointer.) Quickly Flash was no longer in by default, and then you had to sideload it.

Initial Thoughts – Mac OS X 10 – Yosemite

I have been using the latest OS on my MacBook Air for about a week now, and in general I really like it. Not Earth shaking, but solid, and the improvements really add up to a better experience all around.

The UI – briefly

The first thing that you notice is the flat visuals. Bowing to the contemporary design trends, the windows, the visuals, and all the other decorations are devoid of shading, gradients, or any other visual eye candy. Naturally all the skeuomorphic bits are long gone. Neither good nor bad.

Of course, with it comes a new typeface for the UI, Helvetica Neue replacing the long time OS-X typeface Lucida Grande. Unlike a lot of geeks on Slashdot who wailed like they were having their hands lopped off, I don’t really mind. In fact, with such a large change of the UI, it would seem de rigueur to go all the way.

Of course, these changes alter the look and feel to better mimic the experience on iOS 8. So it is not a surprise that many of the changes are to applications that will help unify the experience.

matarese

Author Appreciation: Robert Ludlum

My first introduction to Robert Ludlum's books was back in the 1990's. I was traveling a lot, and my girlfriend at the time tossed me a book she had finished, Ludlum's "The Bourne Identity)". Not my usual read (science fiction), but it was an absolute page turner.

I went on to read the rest of the Bourne trilogy, and a lot of the other works of Ludlum. Set in the cold war, most of the tales were of espionage, the craft, and the interplay between the east and the west. Gripping tales that didn't rely on gimmickry, or hokey plot twists. Solid tales.

Fabulous tales and entertaining reads in a way that Tom Clancy tries to achieve, but doesn't quite get there.

What prompted this bit o' nostalgia was watching the 2002 version of The Bourne Identity. The movie, starring Matt Damon, and Franka Potente is in every way as gripping and riveting as the original novel.

Naturally, the original novel, written in 1980, long before the internet, cell phones, and many of the accoutrements of modern society existed needed a bit of adjustment. And the producers did a fabulous job of adaptation, like due to the hand of Ludlum in the crafting of the screenplay, shortly before he passed.

Today, I am reading another Ludlum classic, "The Matarese Circle", a story of two top spies, manipulated into cooperating against all instincts by a common enemy. A fairly common theme, but the detail, the "dance" and the capitulation are 100% Ludlum magic.

Fleabag hotels and internet

In this day and age, pretty much every hotel has free wifi. Woo hoo. However, there is a nasty nasty trend. Shitty free wireless that sucks just enough to make you want to pay for the faster service.

Yes, the standard wifi is free, but it is so often bandwidth capped, and metered, so that surfing the web is painful. There are long resets and time outs, that will drive you bonkers.

And your corporate VPN? fuggedaboutit. It will fail. Either it will never handshake, or it will stall and you will never get your email.

Of course for a few bucks ($5 – $15) you can upgrade to the pro class of internet.

Sigh. We are camped out at Extended Stay America, and yes indeedy, they have this same ploy.

Apartment Living: Parking hell

Unlike most posts, this isn't about our apartment, but instead the duplexes across the street. Last night was a 3 round doosy of a fight. All the 4 letter words were dragged out.

The situation:

Across the street are duplexes. Two unit "houses", with two garages. One garage for each unit.

All of these garages are converted into illegal apartments. No way would the city code office permit these.

Thus a duplex is really a faux quadplex. Each house has four families living there, with 4 (or 6 or 8) automobiles. And no garage parking. So all these cars cram into the concrete pad.

The start of the fight:

The quadplex across the street, the same one with the parties that happen any day ending in "Y" takes up almost all of the concrete pad. They even have a "classic" car under a cover that is permanently parked there, as well as a boat on the street.

The tenant on one of the far side units of the illegal quadplex often has his car boxed in. He has torn out his undercarriage going over the curb to get in and out. He, rightly in my opinion, believes that he shouldn't be this inconvenienced.

Last night the simmering pot boiled over. Fuck you's, motherfuckers, bitches, whores, and a lot of other colorful language started flying around 7:00 PM. Lasting until almost 8, we thought "Phew, it is done". Not so. Started again at 9:00, and I just gave up.

Yep, life never gets boring.

Getting Back in Shape

This weekend marked a milestone. I went out both days for a mountain bike ride in Santa Teresa park. Two trips up the gnarly Bernal entry road, a couple of loops of the trail, and two personal bests (as tracked by Strava).

Encouraging signs:

  1. The initial climb, while still a ball buster, is tolerable. I can climb all the way without stopping, and my speed is increasing (hence the personal records).
  2. The instincts and skills are coming back. I am rolling up and over obstacles that I was walking over. I still try to stand up to climb, and that almost always ends the momentum.
  3. Today I even took on a couple of additional climbs just to do them. Yep, feeling pretty good.
  4. On the way back, I felt fresh enough to explore some of the neighborhoods. I even found a community garden that I didn’t know about. Cool.

I still have a long way to go, but I have to admit, it feels pretty damn good. One day soon, I will bolt on the GoPro and capture a couple of trails. That should be a blast!

In the mean time, I will not feel guilty enjoying a brewed, malted beverage.

TextingWhileDrivingDanger

Solve California’s Financial Issues Forever

As with most states, there is always a bit of tightness in the budget. California, although our outlook has improved, still is on the precarious edge. I have the guaranteed solution to those fiscal woes.

First step, raise the fine for texting while driving. California’s is the lowest in the nation at $20 for a first offense. Make it a nuisance, say $100 or $150.

Second, have every officer of the law on full alert. They will become virtual ticket writing machines, because I see CONSTANT people texting while driving here in the bay area. Literally I SEE with my own eyes, in my slow slung S2000 no fewer than 50 offenses each direction.

Third…

Fourth PROFIT!

For the record, there are four states that do not ban texting while driving and the maximum first time fine/penalty is Alaska. $10,000 and 1 year in jail if you get caught. Source: MotherJones

Bike Review – 2015 Specialized Crave Expert

Having sold my old mountain bike in the move from Tucson to Chandler, I found that there was something missing in my life. Having caught the mountain biking bug in the late 1980’s, and having thrashed the local trails here in the south bay mercilessly, giving it up left a hole.

To fill that void, I splurged on a Specialized Crave Expert. It is a hardtail 29’er, with pretty decent components. Having ridden it a few times, with some good miles in the saddle, it is time for my first review of this steed.

Riding Impressions

Tesla-Roadster-3

California Dreaming – Automotive Edition

Living in San Jose, you see more than your fair share of Tesla’s on the road. Smug people driving their zero emission vehicles. (although, truth be told, I see probably four Nissan Leafs for each Tesla I see, there are a LOT of Leafs here) Heck, on one message board, someone talked about how they had run a special power line (high current, separate billing from their home) to their garage to charge it for a mere $4,500 and another $1,800 for the charger unit itself.

corvetteDriving next to one of these on the freeway at about 5mph (heavy traffic) I daydreamed about buying a Tesla, stripping out the batteries and all the electronic junk, and mating the chassis to a late 1960’s or early 1970’s Corvette drive train. 454 cubic inches, 4 speed manual transaxle, a 10 second quarter miler.

corvette_drivetrainImagine driving up next to a Tesla snob, blipping the throttle, then leaving them in a cloud of tire smoke. True bliss.

Yes, one day we will all drive electric vehicles, we will also have better intercity train service, and the idea of a fire-breathing muscle car will be a distant memory.