Oct 192020

Since when is listening to the scientists a bad thing?

Now as to the claim that if he listened to the scientists, he’d have tanked the economy… here is what Mr. Trump’s pandemic response accomplished with respect to the US economy:

Compare this against China, where the totalitarian government, to their credit, actually listened to the scientists:

Even Canada, with a much less spectacular pre-pandemic economic performance than the United States, fared much better than our southern neighbor on which much of our economy depends:

So I suppose, Mr. Trump, you just gave millions of thinking Americans another reason to vote for Mr. Biden. I’d laugh but… neither the state of the US economy nor the number of dead, rapidly approaching a quarter million, qualify as laughing matter. Not to mention the seemingly inevitable march towards an increasingly illiberal, increasingly authoritarian America, driven by structural causes that go back decades and which a Biden Administration is just as unlikely to address as preceding administrations.

 Posted by at 1:21 pm
Oct 182020

I rarely remember my dreams. It was therefore striking when this morning I woke up from a vivid dream. In my dream, I visited my long dead grandmother’s old apartment, except that she was very much alive, sitting in front of a desk facing the window of her room. I stood at her doorway, not wanting to get any closer, COVID-19 and all. I said to her that we should keep our distance, and at first she nodded but then, bah, she approached me anyway with the intent to hug and kiss me. Not having any better ideas, I quickly held up the sheet of paper or book or whatever it was that I had in my hands, so that instead of kissing each other on the cheek, we ended up kissing through that paper object. I truly was worried that if we are careless, we risk her frail health.

In actuality, my grandmother, who was born in 1901, passed away 26 years ago. I was wondering what prompted this dream. Then I realized: last night, I saw an image on Twitter, a 1908 Canadian painting titled Mrs. Davies at the Sewing Machine, by Albert Henry Robinson.

Not quite the same as my grandmother’s room, but it has the same vibe, same atmosphere.

What an unusual dream.

Yes, I loved my grandmother very much. But I don’t think I ever saw her using a sewing machine.

 Posted by at 12:46 pm
Oct 112020

I learned the other day that Jeff Lynne was made an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.

Lynne is one of the founders of the supergroup Electric Light Orchestra. Though there were inevitable changes and periods of inactivity, ELO has been in business for a remarkable 50 years.

I first “met” ELO in the mid-1970s when my uncle returned to Hungary from a trip to Canada. He brought a few records, including ELO’s On The Third Day, and he let me make a cassette copy.

This was my first encounter with ELO’s brand of progressive rock, a mix of pop rock and classical instrumentation. It was instant love on my part. Their interpretation of Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King from Peer Gynt, in particular, left a lasting impression. Incidentally, it also increased my appreciation for classical music.

These days, I often listen to ELO when I am working. It works better than almost any other piece of music, helping me focus on my work. Especially useful when I am working on a difficult problem, whether it is physics or a tough code debugging exercise. As a matter of fact, I was actually listening to ELO when I first heard the news.

I suppose I cannot call Mr. Lynne Sir because for that, he’d have had to be made a Knight of the OBE, not a mere Officer. Even so, all I can say is that it’s an award well-deserved. Thank you for the music, Mr. Lynne, OBE.

 Posted by at 6:27 pm
Oct 092020

So I try to start a piece of software that accesses a classic serial port.

The software locks up. The process becomes unkillable. Because, you know… because. Microsoft has not yet discovered kill -9 I guess.

(Yes, I know that unkillable zombie processes exist under Linux/UNIX, too. But in the past 25 years, I remember exactly one (1) occasion when a Linux process was truly unkillable, hung in a privileged kernel call, and actually required a reboot with no workaround. On Linux, this is considered a bug, not a feature. In contrast, on Windows this is a regular occurrence. Then again, on Linux I have fine-grained control and I can update pretty much everything other than the kernel binary, without ever having to reboot.)

Ok-kay… this means Windows has to be restarted. Fine. At least let me check if there are any Windows updates. Oops… error, because an “update service is shutting down” or whatever.

Oh well, let’s restart. The browser (Edge) will remember my previously opened tabs, right?

After restart, another program tells me that it has an update. Clicking on the update button opens the browser with the download link. Fine. Just checking, in the browser history all my previously opened tabs (lots of them) are still there. Good.

Meanwhile, Windows Update does come to life and tells me that I need to restart my system. Couldn’t you freaking tell me this BEFORE I restarted?

Oh well, might as well… restart #2.

After restart, let’s open the browser. History… and all my previously opened tabs are gone. The only thing the bloody browser remembers is the single tab that contained the download link for that application.

@!##%@#!@. And @#$$!@#$@!$. And all their relatives, too. Live or deceased. And any related deities.

Oh well, let’s restore the bleeping tabs manually; fortunately, I also had most of them opened in Chrome, so I could reopen them, one by one, in Edge. (Maybe there’s a more efficient way of doing this, but I wasn’t going to research that.)

Meanwhile, I also restarted Visual Studio 2019. It told me that it had an update. Having learned from previous experience, I shut down a specific service that was known to interfere with the update. It proved insufficient. When Visual Studio was done updating, it told me that “only one thing” remains: a teeny weeny inconsequential thing, ANOTHER BLOODY RESTART.

Because, ladies and gentlemen, in the fine year of 2020, the great software company Microsoft has not yet found a way to UPDATE A BLEEPING APPLICATION without restarting the WHOLE BLEEPING WORLD. Or at the very least do me a bleeping failure and warn IN ADVANCE that the update may require a restart.

My favorite coffee mug survived, but only just barely. I almost smashed it against the wall.

So here we go… restart #3.

It was nearly two hours ago that I innocently tried to turn on that program that required access to the serial port. Since then, I probably aged a few years, increased my chances of a stroke and other illnesses related to high pressure, barked at my beautiful wife and my cats, almost smashed my favorite mug, lost several browser tabs but also my history in some xterm windows, and other than that, accomplished ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

Thanks for nothing, Microsoft.

And I actually like Microsoft. Imagine what I’d be saying if I hated them.

 Posted by at 1:18 pm
Oct 082020

I’ve not blogged in a while as I’ve been insane busy.

But tonight… tonight I feel more strongly than ever that we are all extras in some galactic entertainment show.

Remember the Breaking Bad episode that was about a fly landing in Walter White’s meth lab?

Well, here we are, with the US vice presidential debate, and the Internet is abuzz… about a bleeping fly that landed in Mike Pence’s head. Not the substance of the debate. Not its (reasonably pleasant) tone. But the bleeping fly.

I wonder if they saw the fly in China. One thing they didn’t see was certain comments about China. The censors of the Middle Kingdom were swift to protect their great nation from undesirable thoughts:

What a world we live in.

What November will bring, I don’t know. The worst possible outcome: A disputed election. Even a Trump landslide is preferable. And of course a Biden victory will do nothing to resolve the systemic issues that led to Trump’s presidency four years ago in the first place.

What fresh madness does 2020 still have for us? I hope none. But in light of the fly tonight, I just don’t know anymore. Perhaps we are indeed extras in a scripted show that is created by a deranged group of writers.

 Posted by at 1:18 am