Saturday, December 28, 2013

Off on the road again

So, after exactly one month in New Hampshire to get settled in the new job and find a house (we've managed both. We've rented a house in Laconia from Jan 15th); we're on the road back to Arizona to pick up our truck, trailer, stuff, and dogs.

Our original plan was to leave Thursday evening, but work had me on standby to work on site at a client in Columbus, OH next week. That was postponed, but we didn't get word til end of day Friday, so we delayed departure to tonight.

We have to get out of the northeast by tomorrow afternoon to avoid another ice storm, and to get the rental back by tuesday (which probably isn't happening because of the delay. It'll most likely be Wednesday).

We're taking the northern route, from New Hampton, NH to Mesa, AZ, via Rochester NY, Macomb IL, Colorado Springs CO, Albuquerque NM, and Flagstaff AZ, and visiting some friends and family along the way.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

When is an addiction not an addiction?

Whenever anyone says so, because no-one can agree on what an addiction actually is...

Recently, it was reported that a sex research study from UCLA has reported that sex addiction isn't really an addiction.

Sweeping aside the normal misreporting, misunderstanding, and misconstrual of scientific methodology and wording endemic to popular science and health reporting, this study has some major fundamental flaws.

As close to a consensus as exists on what constitutes addiction (as opposed to habituation, compulsion, or dependency), comes down to this:

  1. Is it habituating or compulsive
  2. Is there physical or emotional dependency (or both)
  3. Does it require escalating input to reach the desired output
  4. When deprived of it, is there withdrawal and craving
  5. Is pursuing and fulfilling this thing harmful or destructive to the person or those around them

Now... read the study linked above...

This study is entirely flawed, because it is incorrect in it's basic premise.

They're measuring the wrong thing, in the wrong way, because they don't seem to understand what sex addiction really is (a lack which, unfortunately, they seem to share with most people).

The premise of this study, is that sex addicts brains should respond to sexual imagery, in the same way that substance addicts respond to imagery of, or the presence of, the substance they are addicted to.

This premise shows a complete lack of understanding as to what sex addiction (which is an expression of clinical hypersexuality, but not the only expression, as misstated in the article) is... and more importantly WHY it is, how it is expressed, and what expressing it does for the addict.

Physically, no, it isn't an addiction to the actual sex... but emotionally it every much is an addiction. Not only that, but without doubt, the brain chemistry associated with it IS an addiction. It causes physical habituation with an escalating need for stimulus to achieve the same high, it crashes after an initial high, it has a strong compulsion and craving associated with it, and it has withdrawal symptoms (which can be dramatic).

And of course, the final element that separates habituation from addiction; sex addiction can be very destructive to the addict, and those around them (in fact, that can be part of the point of it).

Sex addiction isn't about sex, it's about self medication, self punishment, self harm, and self destruction; through novelty, risk, control, pushing the edge of control; and some times, for some people, losing control.

Sex addicts binge and purge... clean up, and fall off the wagon... just like any substance abuser. The behavior is the same, the emotional landscape that drives it is the same, the feelings it engenders and the psychological responses to it are the same... the only difference is the stimulus.

It's just substituting "sex"... but more importantly those things associated with risky sex... seduction, control, risk, and release... for the needle.

Monday, December 16, 2013

No... really... no... please, just stop saying stupid things like that... it really isn't helping.

So... Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly recently said, live, and without the slightest shadow of a doubt, that Jesus and Santa were white, that it was proven...

Fox News on air personnel.... PLEASE stop saying such incredibly obviously ridiculously laughably stupid stuff while the little red light is on please? Really, it is NOT helping.

Now, that said I'm not going to jump any further down her through, or tear her up any further. Everyone else on the planet has done that well enough already.

I WOULD like to address those who have come out in the last few days saying Jesus was black, or "dark skinned" or even "Palestinian".

... cuz yeah... no... that's all just as stupidly wrong.

First thing... there were no "Palestinians" before 1947. 

There were Syrians, who had historically lived in the Syrian districts of Palestine and Gaza, and Jordanians, who had lived in the west bank district of the kingdom of Jordan.

These were a mix of ethnic arabs (both christian and muslim), ethnic jews (new settled zionists, as well as syrian jews and those who had been on the land for centuries), armenians and lebanese, and egyptians.

There was a massive "resettlement" (basically a forced "reservation" style resettlement a la native americans in this country) of the muslims, christians, and jews, that the surrounding arab dominated states found "undesirable", into "palestine" from beofore the time Britain took dominion of it as a mandate trust territory in 1922 (with the Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916 actually, even before the Balfour declaration of 1917), until the official partition in 1947.

This was actually predated by an earlier forced resettlement from 1840 on into the Ottoman Mutasarrifates of Mount Lebanon and Jerusalem.

Basically, for a couple hundred years, the arab dominated states in the region viewed palestine as a dumping ground for their troublemakers, criminals, malcontents, and political enemies.

The historical natives of this region by the by were not ethnic arabs as such. They're ethnically... Levantine would be the best way of putting it. They are certainly semitic, and are closest to what we would think of as Lebanese, caucasian syrian, and Armenian today; along with a racial mix of saharan and horn africans, and south and central asians.

Also, this being a crossroads territory of middleman merchant cultures, there was a lot of racial intermixing going on for thousands of years.

In the time of Christ (whether you believe in Christ or not), the area of Judea and Galilee was most definitely NOT arabic. It was a Roman dominated mix of greeks, syrians, egyptians, and the levantine natives.

So, ethnically, Jesus probably looked a lot like a stereotypical "swarthy mediterranean man".

He was most likely fairly hairy, with a tan or olive complexion, brown eyes, and black or dark brown hair, which was most likely curly.

So... Jesus looked a lot more like this (though this reconstruction has been criticized by many scholars as being too arabic looking and not sufficiently "mediterranean"):

Than like this:

... and absolutely NOTHING like this:

Jesus as most western art depicts him is basically a 16th century spaniard; with a smattering of influence from 4th through 6th century romans, and 6th through 8th century "greeks" (Byzantine christians basically, some of whom were greek but mostly they were literally caucasian, as in from the southern caucasian mountains and the countries around them). 

The "Greeks" and Romans, made him look greek and roman. For the Romans had a short beard, as that was the style for priests of their culture. The greeks added a full beard and long hair to his imagery, because that was the style of priests in their culture. 

Post 1600, the vast majority of European artwork depicting Christ (and thus creating the modern western mental imagery of him) was influenced strongly by Bronzino and most especially El Grecos paintings of Christ from about 1565 on. 

Earlier european artists generally just used the earlier Roman and Greek imagery and style. Shorter hair, short beard, still pale and gaunt, but shorter in height; and with byzantine caucasian or roman caucasian features, dark hair, and dark eyes. 

El Greco painted christ as a tall, pale skinned, gaunt man, with long reddish brown hair, blue eyes, and a full reddish brown beard. He had distinctly Castilian... in fact distinctly hidalgo, features in these paintings.

El Greco basically took the greek imagery, and grafted local spanish nobility into it (flattering his patrons). 

This is probably best typified by Christ Carrying the Cross:

El Grecos style and imagery were then widely copied for the next 200 years; firmly setting Jesus in the western mind, as a 16th century spanish nobleman. 

... of course... the history of how the spanish nobility got their looks is another interesting tale of racial mixing...

And returning to the southern caucuses...

Santa claus...


Ok so... 

Santa is a syncretion of several mythological or semi-mythological characters.

Three of those characters are of northern european ethnicity yes...

... but one is an actual historical person. An ethnically mixed greek and turkish man, (a pre-ottoman Christian bishop) of olive complexion.

... and the last three or four are basically unseleighe fae (dark elves, dwarves or "monsters") with black or dark skin.

So yeah no... not "white" there either. Not Coca-cola santa (which, seriously, is where we get the modern image. Coca Cola ad campaigns from the early 20th century, mostly in the Saturday Evening post and similar magazines). 

Friday, December 13, 2013

HGTV... I do not think that means, what you think it means...

Baen Books editor Toni Weisskopf writes:

Toni WeisskopfSince when did hideous 1950s decor become "mid-century modern." (Confessions of an HGTV addict.)

It isn't and never will be...

The sort of garbage that she is talking about, which HGTV, and bad realtors, will often call "mid century modern", would be... Say, fake wood paneling, geometric green couches, red plastic "organic"chairs etc...

They're the cheap mass produced awful imitations of the style, with no grace, proportion etc...

They're lime green, seafoam, or "pink coral" bathroom (I bet you thought that sort of horrible bad taste came from the 1970s didn't you).

It's... whatever you would call this:

That's not really Mid century modern.

Mid Century Modern is Eames, Nakashima, the Philco Predicta etc...

Mid century modern is an aesthetic that emphasizes the fusion of clean geometric and organic shapes and lines. It's about deriving style from shape, form, and texture (and particular the textures of wood, metal, and leather); with limited, or no, ornamentation.

This is what good mid-century modern decor looks like:

It's an aesthetic I quite like in general, though it can be taken too far, and there are many poor imitations.

Monkeypod (used badly), shag, flocking, fake brass and fake chrome, are NOT mid century modern.

I like GOOD mid century modern, for it's simplicity and functionality.

Unless we're talking serious hand crafted, beautiful wood antiques, I like clean and simple design. Blending of the geometric with the organic, comfortable, functional, and with little ornamentation.

I'm not a huge Eames fan specifically; he could have a tendency to be... overly clever shall we say... but he's the only major American designer of the period most people have ever heard of, so he makes a good exemplar.

I grew up in a New England town that was founded in the 1630s, and boomed as Boston grew; and it shaped my aesthetic and architectural appreciation greatly.

The architecture I grew up with was largely Colonial, Federal, or Georgian on the older side (including two of the oldest standing homes in the united states); with a few queene anne or "victorian" (and very little gingerbread), a lot of craftsman and shingle style, and a smattering of mid century modern, and late century contemporary.

The house I grew up in was an almost prototypical Craftsman house, built in 1913. It had 12 foot plaster ceilings, knee to above head height divided light oak mullion windows, wide oak floors, plaster and lath walls with solid oak (not veneer) wainscoting and chair rails, built in cabinets and closets, baseboards and crown moldings etc...

It didn't use modern mill cut 2x4 pine studs for framing, it had BIG solid oak and california redwood timbers under the plaster and lath (I don't think any of the walls were less than 6" thick, and some were 8" or more).

The foundation of the house wasn't concrete; the back side of it was carved into a granite hillside, and the front side from the hill forward, was mortared granite block.

I LOVE that architecture. It's beautiful, warm, and organic, while still being clean and functional.

What I hate is overly decorated, gingerbready stuff. I hate odd colors or textures just for the sake of being different. Trendy colors and shapes... Style, or impact, prioritized over function.

Too often, that's what American architecture and industrial design WAS, from the late 1930s... and particularly from the late 1950s... through the early 90s.

It IS New England After All

Gotta have your afternoon Dunkies.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Google Malware Detection Being Stupid Again

As it was here:

and here:
"No, this blog is not hosting malware 
Sometimes googles malware detection gets a little stupid; and they flag completely benign sites as hosting or distributing malware. 
In this case google malware detection is reporting that I am hosting or distributing content from "cooking issues" "a known malware distributor". 
Well, first of all I'm not hosting or distributing content from them; they are (or were, I just removed it) a link in my blogroll nothing more. 
Second, they aren't a known malware distributor, they're the blog of a few instructors at a cooking school who like to mess around with unusual and interesting techniques for producing food. Very good site, I just wish they'd update more often. 
It appears they haven't updated since August... and it's entirely possible that in that time someone has snuck some malware onto their site... But much more likely is that they also have a link to a site, which has a link to a site etc... etc... 
This is the weakness of automated malware detection, automated intrusion detection etc... In fact, this can even be used as a deliberate denial of service attack, getting "content protection" services to block a site (it can be VERY difficult and annoying to get unblocked). 
Anyway, I've pulled the link off my blogroll and everything seems to be fine now, with no more false alarms."
The site in question today, is a link to the blog of Linux and security expert Eric Raymond, and it is most certainly NOT hosting malware.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

I am basically Ron Swanson...

In an earlier post, I linked to a video talk with actor and professional fine woodworker, cabinetmaker, and finish carpenter, Nick Offerman.

For those who don't know, Nick Offerman, in real life, is basically a more "sane" and slightly less sociopathic version of his character Ron Swanson (who is based on Offermans own personality, interests, hobbies etc... just taken to ridiculous extremes)... only with a cooler job, and still married to "Tammy" (one of his ex-wives in the show, and played by his actual wife, Meghan Mullally).

Swanson (and largely Offerman), is a burly, blunt, confident, sometimes aggressive, plain spoken, mostly unfiltered (though able to filter and moderate when he chooses to, he just generally chooses not to), libertarian, disgruntled catholic, gun owner, meat lover, stupidity and ignorance hater, history lover, bad science debunker and skeptic, lover of fine spirits, wood and metalworker, believer in personal responsibility and self reliance etc...

For those who don't know me personally (or those who do but don't know the character)...

...I am basically Ron Swanson; except that I sport a vandyke and a high and tight (one of Ron's 3 "approved" haircuts), instead of an epic moustache and mane (though my hair does that exact thing when I let it grow), and I'm not technology hater.

...Well... and I'm slightly more sane, and less sociopathic.

... and I like fruit, as well as meat.

We even have the same red-brown wavy hair and red beard...

Hell we even wear the same clothes.

Seriously, I have a bunch of those same long sleeved collared knit shirts, rugby jerseys, golf/polo shirts, jeans, slacks, casual/dress shoes, and boots, that Ron wears. They're basically what I normally wear, every single day of the year (I never wear sneakers unless I'm working out, never sandals unless I'm at the beach; and never shorts or a shirt without a collar in public, unless I'm working out or at the beach).

...And when I say "the same", I mean not just a similar style... I mean the same shirts, in the same colors and patterns, probably from the same stores (Sadly, they most definitely did not cost him just $40 for ten years of his wardrobe... In fact they're actually damn expensive). We even wear the same styles of watch (... maybe even some of the same watches. We both wear divers and pilots chronometers and chronographs).

...And then theres these:

... and then theres this 34 minutes and 15 seconds of concentrated Swanson... the vast majority of which strikes me as entirely reasonable, and full of good ideas:

...Yeah... I'm basically Ron Swanson... ... and I'm entirely OK with that...

Two completely different things...

...only connected by both being talks@google, that if you like my blog, you MUST watch:

The first is a google talk by Joe Hall, chief technologist for the Center for Democracy and Technology, basically about how they work with regulators to stop bad laws (sorry, embedding was disabled):

The second is a talk with man I consider a true genius of common sense and basic wisdom, Nick Offerman:

Trust me on the second... it starts slow, but it's entirely worth it.

Hmm... overkill or under targeting?

A "customer service" person from DirecTV decided to treat me like a deadbeat instead of a customer today...

... and I admit, it got me a mite peeved.

So much so that I sent this EECB email directly to the CEO and SVP of customer service at DirecTV.

... and sent a trimmed (2000 character limit) version of the same thing through the "contact the president" site at DirecTV;

... and put up public facebook posts on both my timeline and theirs;

... and tweeted it (direct message and hashtagged);

... and submitted it to (who love ragging on cable companies and the like)

... and posted it on my personal blog:

So... yeah... I think that might get a reaction... maybe... 


DirecTV EECB mode: Engaged

Subject: Very difficult customer service and customer retention issue
Message body:

Dear Sirs,

I have been a DirecTV customer for almost four years, and have generally been satisfied, excepting several problems I have had over the years with customer service and billing (in fact most of these issues were early in my time with DirecTV, and were the fault of a third party telco bundling your services).

Up until now, all of these issues had eventually been resolved to my satisfaction; and I have always been very happy with the programming, content, and quality of service I received.

I am writing because I have been experiencing a very difficult and frustrating customer service problem with DirecTV, for more than four months now; which has caused me many hours of wasted time, and a great deal of frustration and irritation.

I am sorry to have to resort to direct email to deal with this problem, but at this point I have exhausted my other options.

The problem I'm currently having stands as this:

I moved from my service address at the end of August, to temporary accommodations while waiting to start a new job, and complete my relocation. Knowing that I would be doing this, I called DirecTV in late July (I can't recall the exact date this point), to ask that my service be temporarily suspended from August on, while I was moving.

At that time, they informed me that my service could be suspended for up to six months, that I should just retain my DVRs, and call for installation of mini-dish hardware when I had a new permanent home.

I would like to continue using DirecTV. As I said, I have been very happy with the content, programming, and quality that I have received up 'til now. In particular, as an avid football fan, I really love NFL Sunday ticket.

I moved as planned. Some time in early August (before Sunday Ticket games started) I disconnected my DirecTV receivers and packed them up in boxes with the rest of my household. Unfortunately, for some reason, my service was never suspended.

Since September, I have spoken with your customer service or billing reps numerous times; each time explaining the situation, each time being transferred to multiple people, each time being assured that the issue would be fixed. Each time, a month would go by, and your billing people kept adding another months service charges, and I would get collection calls. In October, they added an unreturned DVR fee, and early cancellation fee of more than $300, bringing the total to over $600.

In October, I finally found out that the reason my account wasn't suspended in August as requested, was because I had an outstanding balance on the date I had requested to suspend my service.

At that time (October 30th), I was told that I could pay the balance due in August (it was appx. $150, about a months worth of services plus a late fee), and my service would be suspended for up to six months; however I couldn't do that yet, as the billing department needed to remove the box fee, early termination fee, NFL Sunday Ticket charges, and additional service and late charges.

I am perfectly happy to pay for the services I received, I just don't want to pay for services I did not receive, nor fees incurred because my account wasn't suspended as requested.

On that call, I spent over 3 hours on the phone with various service, support, billing, and retention personnel, and was transferred multiple times. I eventually lost connection while on hold for over 30 minutes. However, before the call was lost, I was told that they were working on the problem, and that my account would be fixed; that I just needed to pay the outstanding balance due in August, and that if we were disconnected they would call me back, or send me a bill at my temporary residence. I never heard back from them, but I assumed that finally, given all the time and effort, the problem was solved.

Since that time I have started my new job, and changed temporary accommodations, moving all the way across the country for the second time since August (in August I temporarily moved from Idaho to Arizona. Then, in November I moved to temporary accommodations in New Hampshire. We're looking for a house in the area now).

A few minutes ago, December 9th (at 11pm at night by the way) I received another call from DirecTV's collections department, asking me for more than $600, and stating that my account was already in collections.

I explained the situation yet again, and asked the service rep to check the notes. She did so, but said that she couldn't do anything about this problem as it was now December, and the last call was in October. She said that since I couldn't PROVE that I had called to suspend service back in August, that I would have to pay the full amount (less the early termination fee and box fee... about $350 total) to get out of collections and have my service re-instated.

After several minutes of going back and forth with her on this issue she became strident, and I became angry. I said that I wanted to talk with a customer retention representative, as this was a customer retention issue. She refused, saying "this IS the only customer retention for this account". I asked to speak with a supervisor and she told me that none were available.

At this point I was quite frustrated and I told her that unless we could resolve this issue I would be permanently canceling service with DirecTV. I asked her if DirecTV was really willing to lose a customer who wanted to pay them $150, and continue paying them more than $100 a month for the next few years, over less than $200. She said that it didn't matter because my service was already cancelled and that I was already in collections.

I repeatedly told her that I was happy to pay the balance due for services I actually received, I just was not willing to pay several hundred more for services and fees I didn't receive and shouldn't have incurred.

Finally I asked her for some way of resolving this issue short of a law suit. She informed me that I could send a letter to a PO box in Colorado and ask for a dispute investigation. I asked if there were any other way of expediting the process; if there was an electronic form, if I could email them, if I could call them on the phone, if I could fax them, even if I could get a direct address not a PO box so I could overnight a letter. She said that I could only contact the dispute resolution department by postal mail to that post office box, and that I would need to attach documentary evidence of my claims to the letter in order for a dispute to be considered.

At this point I apologized for becoming angry, and ended the call. I then immediately looked up the executive customer service contact information.

Again, I am sorry to have to contact you directly... This isn't a matter of not being able to afford it, or not having the money (though after two moves in four months, with an 8 month old baby, money isn't exactly flowing freely), it's simply a matter of not wanting to pay for services I didn't receive, and fees I shouldn't have incurred.

I sincerely hope that we can resolve this dispute to our mutual satisfaction and benefit. I really would love to continue receiving service from DirecTV.

Thank you for your time and consideration, and any assistance you can render,

Chris Byrne

Monday, December 09, 2013


Holy CRAP Moving is EXPENSIVE!

So I just totalled up the costs of the move to date...

Reimbursable expenses alone; only covering the actual trip up here, rental truck, fuel and mileage, meals, and hotels...


... damn...

That's not including any of the expenses for temporary housing, restaurants, food etc... for the 26 day house hunting trip.

... and we've still got to drive back to AZ, then back from AZ to NH again (revised est. cost $4,300).

Surprisingly, the biggest expense isn't the fuel, its the hotels and the food. Fuel is actually smaller than either.

Our original estimate of total moving costs was $8,000, so we're looking at about $1000 over budget, or about 12%.

... of course, as I said, that doesn't include the increased costs for this month, restaurants, fuel etc...

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Mad Rush - Finishing the Story

To finish the story...

We got back on 81 out of Johnson city about 4pm tuesday, and headed north. We decided to make it a relatively short night, and stopped in Waynesboro VA at about 9, to actually get some rest.

We ended up sleeping in, an didn't leave Waynesboro 'til lunch, for the 10-ish hour trip remaining.

Originally we were going to stop in southwest New Jersey to visit my aunt, but she had to cancel on us, so we went direct from Waynesboro to

We wanted to avoid the 95 corridor through the DC and Baltimore areas, particularly because of bad weather. There was nasty freezing rain south of the I-78, and snow north of it.

Thankfully, there was a relatively clear corridor along the 78, and the trip through Harrisburg and Allentown was decent. For some reason though, I always forget how insane the lehigh valley gap down from Bethlehem into New Jersey can be. Especially in the dark, in the rain.

I swear to you, we saw more concentrated potentially fatal stupidity in the first 25 miles in New Jersey, than in the previous 2500 miles combined.

We decided to go straight through NYC and the surrounding areas, on the 95, thinking that doing so relatively late at night would be enough easier, that it would be better than the extra 40 miles to go around.

We were wrong.

Oh it was fast enough, just overwhelmingly painfully stupid. Not worth the aggravation.

So, we pulled into our hotel near my dads place at about 2am thanksgiving morning. Had a great holiday with my dad and family. They insisted we stay the night, and we spent much of the next day with my dad, heading up to my Aunts place in New Hampshire Friday afternoon.

I've pretty much been asleep as much as possible since then. I get on an airplane to Chicago in less than 8 hours, and I haven't really finished recovering from the trip.

All told, including detours and re-rerouting, it was 3151.5 miles, from Kearny, AZ, to New Hampton New Hampshire. Google maps says its only 2624 miles by shortest routing, and 2,864 by our chosen routing. The rest was detours etc...

I drove all but 150 of those miles; the last 150, from somewhere in CT, to our hotel near my dads place. I was too exhausted to drive any more that day and Mel took over.

We had 60 hours of "key on" time, for an average speed of 52.5 miles per hour, but about 10 hours of that was just sitting, in traffic, eating in parking lots etc... so our actual rolling average was about 63mph.

All told it took us exactly 7 days; but that included a day lost to the storm in texas, more than a full day with my dad, and a half day in tennessee with Mels family. Straight through, and without the weather and the detours, we could have done it in four long days, or five reasonable days.

Now we get to do it all again, two more times (once back to arizona, then once back from arizona with the trailer and the dogs).