Larry Hosken: New

Book Report: We, the Navigators

It's a book about navigation techniques of Pacific Islanders. I'd thought this was a lost art, only written about by westerners recently, carefully-hidden mysteries of guild-like navigator clans. But this book is from 1972 and points out its sources from various reports dating back to Captain Cook, so not all of these techniques were that secret. Just kinda secret… and how many researchers are going to travel all the way out to the Gilbert Islands or whatever when Utah is 15 hours closer, right? This book gets into details: folks from this island chain do this; folks from that island chain do that. I didn't really retain those details, but I figured out that some of the things I "knew" were overly-gross generalizations. Marshall Islanders aren't the only folks who use ocean swells for navigation; but they're more enthusiastic about the technique, and maybe the only folks who use refracted-around-bulgy-islands ocean swells to refine things. Anyhow, with all the detail-y bits, I'm glad this wasn't the first book I read on the topic, but it was a good follow-up so I could clear some he-knows-just-enough-to-be-obnoxious half-truths out of my neurons.

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2018-10-20T19:39:47.093455

San Francisco Voter Guides

Sparing you a google web search and rummaging around:

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2018-10-16T17:02:06.645080

Californians, Don't vote for Mark Meuser

I'm researching the California election. There are two candidates for Secretary of State, the incumbent and the challenger. The challenger wants me to know that California elections are in sorry shape. That's surprising to me, but his web site has a link to a study, cool! Except that when I click the link, I just go to a page that sits there failing to load. It shows a cute loading animation forever. When I peek at the programmer-debug view, I can see the problem: this secure https page is trying to load something from an insecure http link. Back in the naive old days when we didn't think we needed to worry about such things, web browsers would totally let a page do that, but nowadays they balk. So I guess that study worked, back in the day, but nowadays it's broken.

Which gets me to look more closely at the debugging info so I notice the real problem with citing that study: It's from 2014, before the incumbent took office. (I mean I guess it's that old based on the "2014" in its URI web address thingy. I can't tell from looking at the study itself because of course the study doesn't load…)

Cool cool cool this is going quicker than I thought. A mere two paragraphs of reading and clicking one link to figure out this guy is a goofus who shouldn't have got anywhere near state office. How did this jerk make it past the primary?

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2018-10-15T20:06:11.425109

I'm researching the California election. There are two candidates for Secretary of State, the incumbent and the challenger. The challenger wants me to know that California elections are in sorry shape. That's surprising to me, but his web site has a link to a study, cool! Except that when I click the link, I just go to a page that sits there failing to load. It shows a cute loading animation forever. When I peek at the programmer-debug view, I can see the problem: this secure https page is trying to load something from an insecure http link. Back in the naive old days when we didn't think we needed to worry about such things, web browsers would totally let a page do that, but nowadays they balk. So I guess that study worked, back in the day, but nowadays it's broken.

Which reveals out the real problem with citing that study: It's from 2014, before the incumbent took office. (I mean I guess it's that old based on the "2014" in its URI web address thingy. I can't tell from looking at the study itself because of course the study doesn't load…)

Cool cool cool this is going quicker than I thought. A mere two paragraphs of reading and clicking one link to figure out this guy is a goofus who shouldn't have got anywhere near state office. How did this jerk make it past the primary?

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2018-10-15T20:03:40.784686

I have health coverage again! I'll stop snarking about automatic-but-not-really payment systems for a while.

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2018-10-08T20:01:01.379704

Book Report: Broad Band

It's a book of capsule biographies/short histories of women who programmed internet stuff (or maybe some other stuff) and/or created some early internet content. Thanks to this book, I know I want to read a not-so-short biography of Grace Hopper, whose capsule biography was maybe not as boring as I expected. (I knew her computer-y contributions were important—compilers! the real bug! I just didn't realize there might be a story behind it that was any more interesting than "tweedy intellectual thought hard while sitting near a teletype".) I've read enough history so that these short bits tended to be about folks where I'd already learned more details or else I wasn't so interested. (Though… Maybe some of that "wasn't so interested" just reflects my ignorance. One story was that of women.com, which I remembered as being a tepid website, but thanks to this history I find out that's because I didn't see it in the good ol' days when it was interesting, but only later when it had bland-ified itself in hopes of appealing to a broader audience. (I would have liked a where-are-they-now for the ChickClick bloggers… but how long did ChickClick last, anyhow? I shouldn't be surprised that women.com was a bigger deal, influence-wise. So it's not surprising that this book covered women.com in detail but just mentioned ChickClick in passing.) I know just enough about that topic to miss the fact that it used to be dangerous…)

I also got to find out some not-so-computer-y accomplishments. Like how Patricia Crowther, then-wife of Will Crowther, had been a big deal in caving, having explored two caves and wriggling through a tight space to show that they were all one cave system. I guess if I were trying to impress you with this book report, I'd talk about how this symbolizes the accomplishments of women computer professionals: under the surface, unknown to most computer geeks… But really when I was reading it, it wasn't so clear why this caving story was in a book that was supposedly be about internet stuff. (Yeah, Colossal Cave Adventure was a computer game, but I don't really think of it as an internet thing, you know?) Anyhow…

There is some history. For folks who consumed conten read newfangled web-sites back in the day when web-sites were newfangled, there's some nostalgia. It's some good reading, yep.

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2018-10-07T19:59:23.731017

OK, USA politics is still pretty bad… But without its inspiration, I couldn't have attained this 50K-long Twitter block list, so that's something.

[screen shot showing a handful of accounts in a much longer list]

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2018-10-06T20:44:11.914812

At first I was upset when I found out that my health provider had terminated my account (since they haven't yet heard that the relevant COBRA provider finally let me give them money last week). But then I spent 1½ hour listening to their soothing on-hold music, and I'm now pretty much the opposite of upset, just breathing. Ssso ssserene…

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2018-10-02T22:12:21.335319

Book Report: The Unseen World

It's a novel about a young lady who grows up amongst researchers at something kinda like MIT's AI Lab, but different. There's learning and forgetting and machine learning and I suppose machine forgetting too. There's also a little spy stuff and codes.

E.g. there's a character named Diana Liston. She does a lot of talking on the phone while someone's eavesdropping, so it seems important that her name dianA LISton contains the sounds of "Alice". Or maybe that's a red herring—we know the name of the eavesdropper and it's not Eve; "Alice" doesn't mostly talk to a "Bob" (although there is a Robert scurrying around, we don't hear from him much).

And there's a kid who uses a secret code that combines a Caesar Shift cipher with with A=1 B=2 numeric. That's not a super-secret code, but it's plausible for a kid. It's not so clear to me how the narrator knew so much about a message encoded in that cipher, but maybe that just means that I'm over-focusing on the wrong things. Like there's a snippet of LISP code and I'd have preferred a longer snippet so I could test a theory about a mysterious message that we never learn the meaning of for sure&hellip Not every novel needs to be a neat puzzle-box. (Or maybe this novel is a neat puzzle-box and I staggered past the solution while looking for LISP code that just would have ruled out a red herring? Anyhow.)

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2018-09-29T16:30:31.697245

I'm a week into calling up my new COBRA provider begging them to let me pay them, occasionally mailing them checks (yes, mailing out physical checks like a caveman). There are some "qualifying life events" which allow folks to sign up for Covered California's Health Care Marketplace without waiting for open enrollment. "COBRA provider can't get their act together" isn't such an event, but now I'm thinking it could be.

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2018-09-26T16:25:50.433248

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