Congress wants your ISP to spy on you
I was just about to write a blog post about CISPA, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, aka the latest terrible idea by a Congress that doesn't understand the Internet but heard the word "cyberterrorism" and freaked the fuck out.
I called Anna Eshoo's office today and found out she was already going to vote against it, so that's good. I was going to write a blog post and urge you to call or write your representative and tell them to vote against CISPA.
But then I found out that they voted on it early, sneaking it through with minimal debate when nobody was paying attention. It passed the House this afternoon. Those bastards!
CISPA overrides all existing privacy laws, encourages ISPs and email providers and websites to report your private information to the NSA and other unaccountable government agencies without a search warrant, and gives them total immunity to liability for any privacy invasions they commit. All of this applies as long as it's done in the name of fighting "cybersecurity" threats which the bill defines so vaguely that it could be used to mean anything. Like the PATRIOT act and the warantless wiretaps, it's another step closer to a total surveillance state where innocent citizens are routinely spied upon by our government. Even if these "cybersecurity" threats are real, is there any reason we couldn't fight them with the laws we already have? I have yet to hear any proponents make the case for why the law needs to be changed - only hand-waving and alarmism.
Read more about the details of CISPA at the EFF, Forbes, or Ars Technica.
The White House has said they'd veto it, but they said they'd veto NDAA too, and they didn't, so I wouldn't take their word for anything.
But it hasn't passed the Senate yet, so that's our best chance to stop it. Call and email your senators and tell them you want your 4th Amendment back.
Finally fixed my back wheel
I've been riding my bike hard for the last few years, and it's gotten pretty dinged up. The back wheel picked up a wobble at some point, and then started breaking spokes. Each time a spoke broke the wheel would go out of alignment and then I'd have to set my brakes really loose to stop the rim from scraping on the pads. I would have to take it in to the shop to get the spoke fixed, since I didn't have the tools to do it myself. Anyway the problem was just getting worse and worse so recently I decided to replace the whole back wheel.
The bike shop near the office (Cognition Cyclery on Castro street) didn't have the right wheel in stock, but they said they'd order it for me. They named a date. A week went by. The date passed. They said they had to cancel the first order and try again. I went to Peru for a week and came back. I started dropping by the shop every day on my way home from work just to check. Still no wheel. It finally came in on Tuesday, nearly three weeks after I first ordered it.
It seems that somehow, there was only like one of these wheels left in the country, and it was in South Carolina. (I had no idea my bike used such rare parts.)
This morning I put an inner tube and tire on it, clamped it into place, and had my first bike ride in three weeks. Felt good.
I'm getting ready to go to Tennessee for Andrew's wedding on Saturday. (That's Andrew Wilson from Humanized, who I haven't seen since 2008!) I'm going to play accordion at the wedding reception so I've been practicing a lot, but I need to practice more! I also need to hem this suit that I bought for the wedding, because apparently they only make suits for tall skinny people? >:-/
This picture uploader will be a real time-saver... eventually
Sorry I still haven't posted Peru pics. I decided that manually cropping/resizing/rotating/renaming each one was too slow, so to save time I started writing an automated picture uploader using Canvas and the HTML5 multi-file API. It's going to save me a lot of time when it's finished, and then I'll be able to do a lot more picture posts, but it's taken ten days so far. Anyway, the auto-uploader is almost done now. I used it to make the cosplay post below this one, as a test.
Do you like to get into fisticuffs john? Scrums and what not?
Easiest. Cosplay. Ever.
Too bad I don't have enough hair to style it into a point. I should at least lose the sideburns though.
A company called "Planetary Resources", started by a bunch of billionaires, yesterday announced their plans for commercial asteroid mining.
Damn it will be cool if this works!
Peru Kicked my Ass
Hi, I'm back.
Peru KICKED my ASS. Altitude sickness, sunstroke, and food poisoning tag-teamed me into submission. For a while I had diarrhea so bad that I couldn't hold any fluids in and I was frighteningly dehydrated.
Guys, listen: The Andes are serious business. If you underestimate them, they will punish you. Don't go up to 10,000 feet assuming that the thin air will be something you can "just get used to". Don't forget sunscreen and a shade hat even if it's cloudy and raining in the morning. When surrounded by foods you've never tried before, you don't have to be in a rush to order one of everything.
If I'm better tomorrow, I'll post pictures; if I'm not better, I'll go to a doctor. For now, you can read about our trip on Sushu's blog.
Email is a gigantic reminder of all my failures
God I hate my email inboxes. Both of them. They're nothing but a gigantic reminder of all my failures. All the things I didn't do, all the people I didn't stay in touch with, all the projects I didn't finish, all the requests for help that I never responded to, and my general failure to stay on top of things. Between @gmail.com and @mozilla.com I have over ten thousand unread emails, not counting spam; the number that I've opened but haven't dealt with is even higher than that.
And the stuff just keeps piling up, faster than I can deal with it. It's pointless to star a conversation: it just scrolls off the bottom of the page within a day and gets lost forever along with everything else.
I have given up trying to tag or folder things and lately I've given up on trying to read or delete everything. These days I treat my inbox like a forum - I peek in once in a while and pick a couple of interesting recent threads to respond to, and ignore the rest. What else can I do? Email is the dumping ground for every person in the world and every automated script on the internet. It's impossible to deal with.
Email is broken. We can keep scaling up our servers and our bandwidth but we can't scale up our brains or the number of hours in the day to keep up with all the people who want a piece of our time.
¡El español es muy fácil! 但是中文很难！
I bought "Spanish Now! Level 1" from Barron's, with the four CDs inside, and I've been cramming Spanish all week trying to get at least a basic asking-directions-and-buying-train-tickets level of comprehension for our upcoming Peru trip.
OMG it is so much easier than Mandarin it's not even funny. The exact same amount of effort applied gets me ten times further with Spanish than it does with Mandarin. (Japanese was somewhere in between.)
With Spanish I already know the alphabet, all the words are spelled phonetically, and most of the vocabulary is Latin cognates. Sure I have to deal with noun genders and irregular verb conjugations, but those are easy compared to Mandarin's tones. And I took Latin back in high school, so a lot of the verb conjugations (e.g. -mos ending for "we") seem vaguely familiar. Spanish really is just modernized Latin. Between that and Sesame Street teaching me numbers and colors, I'm finding that I already knew more words than I realized. I'm not even feeling a need to make flash cards: I see a word a couple of times and I basically just remember it.
I plan to keep studying it after I get back, since there are plenty of countries where I can use it and plenty of Spanish speakers right here in California. It seems like a generally useful skill to put a few points into.
Sushu was really sad last night that I'm progressing so much faster in Spanish (and enjoying it more) than in Mandarin despite her best efforts to teach me her mother tongue. I still want to master Mandarin, it just does not come naturally at all. My biggest problem isn't the writing or even reproducing the tones, it's that most of the words sound the same to me. Which is to say, distinguishing one word from another in Mandarin depends heavily on phonetic features that my brain is in the habit of discarding as irrelevant. I learned at a young age not to distinguish between "qi" and "chi" or between "shi(2)" and "shi(4)". As a result, most words feel mentally slippery, like they lack a distinct shape for my brain to grab onto.
I don't know if there might be a different method of studying possible which would work better for me, or whether I simply have to do what I was doing but try harder and keep it up longer.