Saturday, November 14, 2020

Trying Google Fi

I decided to try Google Fi, their wireless phone service.   At the same time, I purchased a new phone for Wife since her phone is ancient with horrible battery life, and wasn't fully compatible with Fi.  The new phone was a Moto G Power, a mid-grade phone with excellent battery life.  The phone was advertised as carrier unlocked so if Fi service didn't work, I should be able to use it on Verizon.

Apparently two phone lines require two Gmail accounts and I was supposed to sign up for Fi, then invite Wife.  I tried to set her phone up first, which linked it to my account making it difficult to switch that to her phone.  I also didn't want to completely leave Verizon until at least one phone was working on Fi.  After several hours with support over several days, Support wanted me to abandon my phone numbers and get new ones.  Finally got it mostly working except with Wife's appointments showing up on my phone.  

Unfortunately coverage wasn't very good at work or while commuting.  After giving it a few months, I decided to go back to Verizon.  My computer is Linux.  Verizon's website is virtually unusable with either Chrome or Firefox on Linux.

It turns out that the "unlocked" Fi phone isn't fully unlocked--the Google Fi software  only allows phone calls on Verizon's network but does not allow data.  This caused hours of support with Verizon--got the phone working by switching sim cards from phone to phone, we assumed that data would eventually show up.  It didn't.  The phone could do calling and texting, could not send a picture via text, and anything Internet was wifi only.   I finally did some research and found that this is a known issue with the Google Fi version of this particular phone--Google's software won't let the phone connect data to Verizon's network.  The software can't be changed without voiding the phone's warranty.  Google offered to exchange phones with an identical phone with identical software. I questioned that, since if the software is the issue the problem is likely to remain.  They persisted, I asked if there were other steps to take if the same software caused the same results, they assured me that there was.   The new phone arrived, exact same results and it turns out that the "other steps" was "ask the guy at the next desk". 

I finally unlocked the phone, voiding the warranty and installed Verizon software.  The phone works perfectly--pretty much proving that the problem is neither hardware nor Verizon. 


Sunday, July 05, 2020

Black Rights Matter

I'm a middle-aged white man.
I believe that genetic differences between races are almost entirely visual, obvious and unimportant.  Differences that matter to me are environmental--things like education.  Even if there were no current racism, these types of things are certainly affected by past racism.   My grandfather came to the US as a young adult in the 20's.  According to family lore, while he was a concrete laborer he was able to start a business by getting materials on credit and paying for them once he was paid.  The business grew to employ several dozen people, and my kids are better off as a result.  I believe it very unlikely that a black man would have been allowed the same opportunities at that time--as a result, his great-grandkids will likely have a harder time. 

However, based on the studies I've seen, I don't think blacks are more likely to be murdered by police than whites.   Another data point--June 2020 (the last full month as I write this), Chicago had 469 gunshot injuries, 2 shot by the police, plus an additional 87 gunshot deaths,  none of those by police.  The police aren't the major problem for life and death here.  This is my main disagreement with the phrase "Black Lives Matter"--If the studies I'm basing my opinion on are correct, the death part isn't a racist issue. We need to fix that problem, but if police murders aren't significantly different by race then looking to solve the problem via race is unlikely to work.  On the other hand, Black Rights Matter--and the racial aspect is far more likely to be important.  I do believe that blacks are unjustifiably abused by police at a much higher rate than whites.  This makes logical sense--a racist cop can abuse blacks in smaller ways and be almost guaranteed to get away with it, but a killing will be investigated thoroughly.  I also think that millions of smaller abuses are more important than a handful of deaths. 

What do we do? As individuals, I don't know what we can do, other than don't be racist and support government policies that will help. 

Policies that I think will help:

End the drug war--Not just decriminalizing pot, but legalization of virtually everything.  Whether or not a chemical is available to the general public should be based on its danger to others and not on its potential for recreational use.  Maybe pure fentanyl or LSD is too potent as a poison to allow unrestricted use, (I don't know) but then it should be treated like cyanide or similar, and more than likely dilute forms should be allowed.  The fact that some people might enjoy it should be considered a positive if it is considered at all.  I would probably support a prescription requirement for antibiotics and similar where your misuse can harm me.

Even better, eliminate all victimless crimes--If you aren't harming or seriously endangering someone else without their consent, it should not be a crime. Not just drugs, but prostitution, gambling, sin taxes, etc--you should be free to do really stupid stuff to yourself.  Reduce selective enforcement.  If we can't or won't enforce a law, take it off the books...and if you can prove selective enforcement that should be an affirmative defense.  You should probably be allowed to be peacefully drunk in public, disturbing the peace while sober should be the same as disturbing the peace stoned or drunk.  Note, DUI laws stay, that's endangering others. 

End qualified immunity  If police or a policeman violates your rights in a meaningful way, they should be liable under almost all circumstances.   Police departments should be responsible for most property damage they cause--virtually all damage to an innocent party's property, and even to a criminal's property when the damage isn't reasonable compared to the crime. 

End civil asset forfeiture and other forms of policing for profit.  There should be no permanent forfeiture without a conviction.  Fines and forfeitures go to the general fund, not to the department, and the general fund can't give them back or otherwise incentivize fines. Where state law forbids civil forfeiture, end loopholes where departments can partner with federal agencies for a percentage of the seized assets...or just end federal forfeiture.  While it may be reasonable for some items to be held by police until trial to make sure they aren't hidden, the bias needs to be towards the owner.  Very early in the process there should be a hearing, and the government should have to show the criminal connection with at least the same standards as a civil trial. The police should be responsible for damages to items they hold, and if they are found to hold something without cause they must return the item plus a percentage of the item's value that's similar to the interest rate that the owner would qualify for.   

End investigatory no-knock warrants, or more likely all no knocks except to capture dangerous, violent felons.  In particular, the potential for the destruction of evidence isn't justification for a no-knock.  We also need to verify that no-knock warrants are following proper procedures--that the application isn't just a cut and paste, and that the judge is actually reading and reviewing, that there isn't a less risky method available.  Judges should be random, police should not be able to judge shop.

As much as possible, end "the process is the punishment".  Bail needs to be reasonable and based on how likely that person is to show up for trial, with a basis in statistics for that particular crime.    There need to be incentives against excessive bail or a high bail used as leverage for a plea bargain.  I would probably like to see some process for refunding bail bondsman costs for someone found innocent, or for a substantially lower crime.

Get coercive plea bargains and over-charging under control.  I do want incentive for a guilty person to plead guilty, but we need to make sure we don't have incentives for innocent people to plead guilty.  Plea bargains should never be for a tiny fraction of the potential jail time or fine.  I think I would like something similar to the English system where an early plea to the crime charged gets half your sentence reduced, with less reduced as you get closer to the final verdict.   I'd also like to require that prosecutors prove the crime charged or the suspect goes free--in other words if you charge someone with attempted murder but only prove assault then there's no conviction.

End pretextural stops, where "you crossed the center line, I haven't decided whether to give you a ticket, may I search your car for drugs and weapons?"  The officer should have to record what the justification is in a timestamped form before the stop is made, and there should be a bias towards dashcam or body cam evidence.  The recorded justification doesn't have to be fancy, just a verbal announcement on the cam prior to the stop would be enough.  This goes for stop and frisk as well--if the policeman doesn't have a reason, he doesn't get to stop.  There also needs to be some tracking of how often the suspicion is correct--if a particular officer suspects a gun often but rarely finds one...

None of these are racial, all of them will have a disproportionate benefit to blacks.  None of them depend on having just the right people with power.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Selling fear

I recently heard a presentation by Strategos International on workplace safety and suicide prevention.  The speaker almost immediately set off my BS detector.

Bits and pieces of the speech, paraphrased and filtered through my memory:
We're a big deal with major clients.  I'm Vice President of... (If your company is a big deal, why is a vice president doing a routine speech?)
We love companies like...who hire us before they have an incident.  (Incidents are inevitable without their help?)
I bet the White Settlement Texas church wished they had a security plan before there were 3 dead (The murderer was shot and killed by a member of the security team, while several other parishioners drew guns and advanced on the shooter.  That sounds like they had a plan, even if it didn't turn out perfectly)
The world is a more and more dangerous place  (except statistically it isn't, murder is at or near the lowest level it has been in my lifetime)
We've had XXXX school shootings since... (No definition given, so what counts as a school shooting?  What does it have to do with workplace safety?)

The speech was padded to be half an hour, but could be summed up in a few lines--Most suicides and spree shooters show signs, talk of violence before they strike.  so "see something, say something NOW"

According to Google, their headquarters is a little one-story building next door to a strip mall.  Google Street View shows the strip mall's parking lot to be oddly empty.   It turns out that the strip mall is entirely occupied by the International House of Prayer University.  Strategos main focus appears to be church security, but they got their start with a grant to teach defense against school shooting.  According to their website, the Vice President for Operations is a black belt in Sho-Lum-Tae Karate.  Searching "Sho Lum Tae", the top results are all that the vice president of operations is a black belt.   Basically nothing I found on Google helped to disarm my BS detector, it just got more and more odd.


Thursday, November 14, 2019

Weight maintenance and random thoughts

According to my diet gurus, almost everyone who maintains their goal weight 2 years will maintain it 5.  I'm  past 3 years well below target.  What was my target?  211...(based on my max allowed weight in the USAF)...then 200, then 192 which is what I consider my real goal--that's based on Metlife's maximum longevity.  I got down to a one-day low of 176.  Now I'm around 183, plus or minus a couple.  If I get above 185 for more than a day I get a bit stricter until I'm back down.

Some of this will repeat from my last weight loss post, this is what I've settled on for maintaining.

Oddities:
For a few months my tailbone was sore.  That improved. 
My feet are at least a full size smaller. 
My hat is a lot smaller. 
For a while I would occasionally kick myself in the ankle when I walked.
Most candy is too sweet, when I was very strict most candy was unpleasant.
Either fewer or vastly less severe colds.
Less congestion and sinus trouble.
I can't lift as much, but I've got far greater endurance.
Rarely need an afternoon nap.

I've settled on a relatively limited diet, with days off a few times a month.

I cook main dishes ahead in big batches and freeze in pint deli containers--2 kinds of chili, several spicy bean dishes, split pea soup, hummus, Alton Brown's Winter vegetable soup.  Most of these are about 7 or 8 pints at a time.

Strong black Aeropress coffee early in the morning.  (by strong I mean 3 scoops per mug, Aeropress lets you go this strong without being bitter. The coffee being bitter, I mean)

Breakfast around 9am at work, varies or skipped at home.   A pint of raw vegetables (usually mini sweet peppers), a pint or so of fruit.  I was also drinking a smoothie with a pound of frozen fruit and a half cup of almond milk, I've stopped that.

Lunch is a pint of raw vegetables, a pint of cooked vegetables with Chipotle Mrs Dash,  a pint of main dish and a pint of fruit.  After lunch I often have about half an ounce of 70% dark chocolate. Not too particular about the brand, most 70% tastes pretty good to me, 80% or higher is too bitter.   Milk chocolate is now too sweet.

Another cup of coffee early afternoon.  I was also trying to reduce my caffeine, so I'm limited to 2 cups a day., or sometimes iced tea in the summer.  I don't drink pop anymore, I do have selzer, sometimes plain, sometimes flavored but not sweetened.

Snack is a pint of fruit or raw vegetables.

Dinner is a huge salad, at least a pound and a half, often over 2 pounds.  Kale, spinach, mixed greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, half an avocado (when available) and about 1 1/2 oz nuts and seeds most of the time.   I alternate between a small sweet onion and homemade walnut vinaigrette dressing,  otherwise a chopped Granny Smith apple, grapes and raisins with half an ounce of commercial raspberry dressing and 2 oz lemon juice.   Another pint of main dish, or something from the air fryer--sweet potato fries or crunchy buffalo chickpeas.   I weigh many of my salad ingredients to get proportions right and to avoid too much dressing or nuts.  I may also have an ounce or so of cheese.

At first I thought a food processor was essential.  I was using it to chop salad among other things.  Now I don't use it much, instead I have a family sized salad slicer guide.  Dump salad stuff in whole or in large chunks and cut it all at once.  I also thought a high power blender was needed, but now that I'm not drinking daily smoothies it gets less use as well.  I'm glad I have them and still use them, but I don't consider them essential.  In retrospect, I might not recommend daily smoothies--very little effort for the calories, and leaving them out seems to give a bit more leeway for off diet days without exceeding my max weight. I suspect weight loss might be even faster without.  On the other hand, I lost half a pound a day for months with them, so they are at least a substantial improvement on what I ate before.  Maybe to start, then dropping them when my weight loss slowed?  Even though breakfast is usually 14 hours or more after my last meal, I'm not particularly hungry then.  I'm more hungry about 4 hours after lunch.

Restaurants are very difficult, and usually I don't even try to stay on diet if I have to eat out. Salad bars are usually limited in the greens and the dressings are generally fairly bland for the calories.  Kind of annoying to plan a day trip if I don't want to be off diet, I'll have an early lunch and a late breakfast.

My diet gurus wanted very low salt.  I eat fairly low salt--I don't add it to anything.  I try to get "low sodium" but I don't try all that hard.   I'm old enough that I usually have to get up once during the night to pee...but not the night after I've had a normal diet, or even a moderate serving of chips or similar.  I don't drink as much liquid as I did, although I'm sure I get more in my fruit.

At first normal meals would make me a little queasy, especially if there was lots of bread or starch.  That's not entirely gone if I go overboard, but it isn't usually a problem.

There's a common belief that "almost all diets fail, the few that succeed at first almost all fail within a few years".   I was trying to find the exact statistics for that...and found that it is apparently based on a single very old study where people were given a single set of diet instructions.  My experience with this has not been consistent with "so hard almost nobody succeeds"--this has not been all that difficult, nowhere near at my limit of willpower.  It's annoying, there's more time chewing and more frequent grocery visits, but not really a challenge once you're used to it. 
Worth it.





Thursday, September 19, 2019

why does anyone need an AR-15

Recently I bought my first "real" rifle, a Ruger AR-556.   This is Ruger's version of the Colt AR15, sharing ancestry with the military M16.  (M4 is the current standard rifle, it is mechanically an M16, but with a shorter barrel and telescoping stock)   AR15 is a Colt trademark, AR is used to refer to all rifles of this type.

Isn't that too powerful for civilians?  No, the  .223 (5.56mm) is at the low end of rifle power.  Before WWII, almost all armies used bolt action rifles with a much more powerful cartridge, generally near the limit of what a draftee soldier could handle one shot at a time. During Vietnam we switched from .308 to .223 caliber giving up some range and power for the ability to control full auto fire and carry two or three times more ammo.   Most other armies followed a similar path.  Hunters of medium to large game generally wanted something closer to the old full power rounds.

But it will go through a bulletproof vest!  Bulletproof vests are a compromise, designed to protect against handguns without excess bulk.   Rifles (other than .22 rimfire) are far more powerful than handguns and will penetrate most vests.  A vest to withstand rifle fire would be much bulkier for little real world benefit, since rifles are rarely used against police.

Isn't the AR a military style rifle?  Depends on what you mean by style.  Many if not most rifles have military ties--in some cases a military design was adopted by civilians, in others the opposite.  Most military rifles from the last 100 years are either more powerful or full auto--intermediate caliber semiautos like the AR-15 are uncommon in military use.   Before must service rifles were full auto it was common for leftover military guns to be sold as surplus, generally a really good way to get a quality rifle cheap.

Civilians shouldn't own machine guns!  What crimes are you aware of by legally owned machine guns?  You're almost certainly wrong, we go decades without violent crimes using legal machine guns anywhere in America.  It is possible to legally own a true machine gun, but only if it was registered prior to 1986, if you've had a background check, and you've paid a $200 transfer tax every time ownership changes.

Isn't the AR an assault rifle?  The M16 is, the modern AR15 is not.  Assault rifle has a pretty standard definition of a machine gun using an intermediate power rifle cartridge. 

But it is an assault weapon, and it is a rifle, what's the difference? Assault weapon is a term invented to sound like assault rifle.  For 10 years, assault weapon rifles (there was a definition for pistols as well..that included most of the pistols that police use) were defined federally as a semiautomatic rifle with a removable magazine and 2 or more of the following:
Folding or telescoping stock (so a stock adjustable to fit 2 different people would fall under this)
Pistol grip--a gun is more deadly if the angle of your wrist changes?
Bayonet mount (do we really have bayonet crime?)
Flash hider or threaded barrel to accommodate one.  A flash hider redirects the flash so less shows up to the shooter, it is still visible to others.  They are also used to make a 14" barrel legally 16 inches to duplicate the look of an M4.
Grenade launcher--this one is particularly silly.  An underbarrel grenade launcher is more restricted than an AR15 by itself (same rules as real machine guns), while a 22mm launcher is a flash hider of 22mm diameter, so a rifle grenade slides over it.  Plus each grenade falls under the same rules as a machine gun, including the $200 transfer tax.
If this is the best they could come up with, it indicates to me that there isn't a real functional difference, they are banning things that look scary--or they are banning whatever they can get away with.

Aren't they easily converted to machine guns?  AR15's are not easily converted except by replacing the sear with an auto sear...which is legally a machine gun all by itself, subject to all the laws of machine guns. The receivers of AR15's have enough differences from M16s that the "machine gun" parts of the M16 either will not fit or will not function as machine guns.  There was a time when some semiautomatic machine gun lookalike guns (mostly pistol caliber) were easily converted, this loophole closed decades ago--current law says that if it is easily converted, it is a machine gun.

What about capacity? Isn't that a problem?  
There is at least some sense to that in the particular, unusual situation of spree murders, but it isn't inherent in the AR-rather almost ANY gun with a box magazine (which is almost all semiautomatics) can take a larger magazine.   You probably won't see many extremely high capacities in larger calibers just because the magazine length and weight would be unwieldy.  Capacity works both ways though--a good guy is likely to have only the capacity he's legally allowed.

You don't need an AR for hunting, do you?  Did Rosa Parks need to sit on the front of the bus?  Although I don't hunt,  .223 ARs are used for hunting when the game is small enough, with deer being somewhere around the upper limit.   The Second Amendment isn't about hunting--it was written by literal revolutionaries.  It was meant  for a situation like a president who refuses to leave office, for police turning a blind eye when racists firebomb churches, to protect against rioting, looting or foreign invaders.

A couple of guys with AR15's can't stand up to the US Army.   A couple of guys shouldn't be able to.  A majority on the other hand should be able to withstand their own government if the government won't obey or allow an honest election.  I see this as deterrence rather than something that will ever happen--As long as we CAN revolt, we won't need to.  To be clear, I don't think we are anywhere near needing to revolt, but I don't want to move in that direction.

The second amendment only applies to guns available when it was written, and it's a collective right  Does freedom of the press only apply to literal manual, mechanical presses?  Does freedom of speech cover telephone conversations?  What would be an unconstitutional infringement of a collective right?

That's different, speech doesn't kill people.  How many kids has anti-vax idiocy killed?  And yet giving the government the ability to censor this sort of speech would be worse.  We've had bans on sex worker ads under the pretext of protecting exploited women and girls, that in fact makes sex work more dangerous.

OK, I don't know the details, but isn't it obvious we need to do something to stop these mass shootings?  How much should we base laws and loss of rights on sensationalism? We're talking about 0.24% of gun murders, according to Mother Jones magazine.   What about the Red Menace and McCarthy?  There were a few communist agents in the government and Hollywood back then, there are almost certainly a few now--does that justify purges and blacklists?  Another possibility for "do something" is to violate the first amendment instead of the second--these shootings are more likely in the days after a previous one.  If we restricted reporting on the first one, if we didn't keep reporting the name of these losers, refused to let them become famous we would have fewer of them.
...and while I would love it if news organizations would adopt that policy voluntarily, or even via threads of boycott, I'm firmly against a law demanding it.  A free press is just as important as gun rights.  I don't want the Trump administration or any other in charge of deciding what's "fake news"--especially since there is no way to limit this to what was originally intended.

So why an AR for me?  In the 70's and 80's, there were many, many different architectures of personal computers.  Eventually IBM released their version.  This used many third party parts including the operating system, making the clone industry possible.  It wasn't the best or cheapest at first, but the backing of IBM got it past the initial teething pains until it became the dominant type of computer.  The AR-15 took a somewhat similar path--Invented by Armalite, sold to Colt, years of improvements resulting in a lightweight and reliable gun. At some point the patents expired and the clone market opened up (this took a lot longer than with computers), now it is the most common centerfire rifle type, possibly the most common overall. (Centerfire effectively means anything more powerful than a .22 rimfire, including most handguns)  If you gol look at the rifle section of a typical gun shop, you'll probably find something like roughly a third .22 rimfire, a third ARs and a third everything else--and a lot of that last third are guns too powerful to be practical in an AR platform.  There is no worry about the manufacturer dropping support or going out of business.  it's the most common for many reasons, and many of those reasons apply to me.