This is not one of those rants against the evils of Facebook, even though it looks like it starts that way

I was much more relaxed and confident Friday than I’ve been in a while.

I stress out a lot. I fear failure. I compare my life unfavorably to the lives of others.

Yesterday, not so much. Oh, a couple of twinges here and there. But mostly I just did my thing and felt happy and satisfied. Well, as happy and satisfied as a person like me ever gets (to paraphrase a line from the sitcom Mad About You. I have found that line to be so, so true.)

One thing that made yesterday different: I didn’t go on Facebook and Google+ at all, and I only checked Reddit once in the evening. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

I don’t think that social media causes my anxieties. But if I’m feeling down or stressed, social media helps push things along. Social media is great for things that make you sick about humanity. I call it the Outrage of the Day — you know, like that basketball billionaire with his racist thing or some wingnut saying something moronic about slavery or homosexuality.

Facebook in particular is a great place to go to compare your own lives to others and find your own life wanting. Friends post that they’re going to parties, or great restaurants, or traveling the world. What are you doing? You’re sitting around reading Facebook. On the days when you’re going to parties, or great restaurants, or traveling the world, you’re not on Facebook — you’re busy doing those things.

I’m not planning to give up social media. There’s a lot of value in social media. It’s put me in touch with friends I’d lost track of years ago. It keeps me up with headline news. It helps me professionally. But I can certainly stand to do a lot less social media.

That’s one of the main reasons I started this blog. It’s a way for me to continue sharing what I’m thinking about without opening the door and letting anybody and everybody into my brain. Because I love you all but sometimes you can be a bit much, y’know?

P.S. You’re welcome to respond to this on Facebook or Google+. But I probably won’t see your response until Sunday. Or maybe Monday. Because I already did my social pass this morning and after that whole business with the dog this morning I don’t want any more stress today.

Adventures of a dog owner. Warning: Much of this post is about poop. Dog poop seems to be a thing with us now

Minnie had a diarrhea attack in her crate in the night. I think the catfood she got into yesterday gave her diarrhea. Quite a mess and not something I want to wake up to first thing in the morning, particularly on a Saturday. Well, that’s not true — I don’t want to wake up to it any day.

While I was in the process of cleanup, I forgetfully left the gate open from the kitchen to the rest of the house And Minnie got into the catfood again.

I’m going to skip her breakfast and maybe her dinner too. According to reputable Websites (aspca.org mainly) that’s the way to stop a dog’s diarrhea — don’t feed her for a day. Of course I’ll put her back on food tomorrow morning regardless. And possibly this evening if she seems regular during the day.

It’s been tough getting Minnie into her crate all week, ever since I relocated it Monday while rearranging my office. The first two nights after the move, the crate was under a big window, which I left open. I think she heard something through that window that scared her. Now she doesn’t want to get in the crate, even though I’ve moved it to the far wall, away from all the windows. She doesn’t show fear when I try to get her in. But she’s reluctant. Her body language and behavior says nope. No thanks. I’ll just stay in my bed in the corner. I’m fine there.

Minnie being hard to get into her crate is a problem. During the months that we didn’t crate her to sleep, she soiled indoors and occasionally shredded things when left alone for the night.

I suppose we could leave her in the sunroom and I could get up after six hours and let her out for 15 minutes. Or even walk her. But I’m trying to avoid that. We can’t live our lives around the dog. And crating her was not a problem until this week. She was fine. She willingly got into the crate. She stayed there all night. Even this week — once she gets into the crate she settles in. She doesn’t shred or show any other signs of emotional distress. And she comes out cheerfully in the morning.

Cheese lured her into the crate last night, and cheese might also be the cause of her diarrhea. That’s a problem. I gave her a few nubbins pinched from a cheese stick to lure her into the crate, and about a third of a teaspoon of cream cheese as a reward once she was in the cage. I can probably give her less cheese to get her in there. Hopefully, the cheese is not the digestive problem — hopefully the catfood is — because she really loves cheese.

A homeless person shares advice

Life is not black and white. It is shades of gray. Lying is not fun to do but sometimes it matters to survive. If lying keeps you from dying homeless, then you need to do it. Not huge lies but lies sometimes are nessesary. An example is if you are homeless you have to have an address and a private mail box is an address and if they ask you for an address for banking, for your drivers license, etc. you just tell them that is your new residence even though you don’t live there. If you are asked why you are parked somewhere for sleeping purposes and are questioned, just tell them you are sleeping there before work for a quick nap and that you will move on so you don’t get arrested. Sometimes lying is important to do. Same on applications. If you are over qualified, don’t let them know that. Just say you moved or lived somewhere else before or were traveling if they question you about your work gap. Lying sucks but it sometimes is imperitive to survival. I hate lying but this is the lesson I am learning now that I have no home. No home sucks. Survival is goal 1. Truth is a thing for people with jobs and the ability to survive without lying. Only lie if you have to but it is nessesary. A terrible lesson to learn this way.

LPT: A hard decade shows some important life tips. This is what I have learned. Please learn from my mistakes.

And a harsh response from a formerly homeless person:

LPT: Cautionary tales are one thing, but taking “pro tips” from a homeless person that he typed out on a borrowed computer, before he eats scraps, probably isn’t the person to take advice from.

Minnie’s big day

At the park, Minnie picked up a dirty sweatsock and a tea bag. I let her carry the sweatsock as long as she wanted. She shook her head with it from side to side rapidly as she trotted along. She really liked that sweatsock.

I made her drop the teabag right away, as soon as I saw the cord and tag hanging out of the side of her mouth. She doesn’t need caffeine. She already has enough energy.

Julie discovered that if you ask Minnie to get the ball, she’ll get the big black rubber ball. It’s her second-favorite toy. I tried it and it works!

We practiced going into the crate a couple of times. She got cream cheese as a reward. That was a hit.

Sounds awful

Soylent, the high-tech food replacement, is “the most joyless new technology [since] MS-DOS”

Soylent, the high-tech food replacement, is nasty stuff, says The New York Times’s Farhad Manjoo. It takes all the pleasure out of eating.

I just spent more than a week experiencing Soylent, the most joyless new technology to hit the world since we first laid eyes on MS-DOS.

Soylent is a drink mix invented by a group of engineers who harbor ambitions of shaking up the global food business. Robert Rhinehart, the 25-year-old co-founder and chief executive of the firm selling the drink, hit upon the idea when he found himself spending too much time and money searching for nutritious meals while he was working on a wireless-tech start-up in San Francisco. Using a process Mr. Rhinehart calls “scientific,” the firm claims to have mixed acornucopia of supplements to form a technologically novel food that offers the complete set of nutrients the human body needs for survival.

Soylent misses the point that most breakthrough consumer technologies don’t just perform a function; they offer pleasure too, Manjoo says. Uber, for example, isn’t just popular because it’s convenient; “it lets you feel like you’re the boss,” because you don’t have to pay when you get out.

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You know what’s awesome about social media?

I get to hear from old friends, acquaintances, and friends-of-friends who want me to buy things, provide free marketing services, or visit their Website! I love that! I love the way social media reduces social contact to commercial transactions!

I love my bright sunny home office but the glare is starting to get to me

It’s only started to be a problem. I rearranged my office the other day, which mitigates the problem but does not solve it.

Fortunately, internet retail offers potential solutions.

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The laptop compubody sock doesn’t look at all ridiculous.. That same page also has a cell phone ski mask and ski mask for eating a sandwich, both of which appear to be eminently practical.

The lapdome: A wee pup tent for your laptop.

Something like the SunShade laptop screen scaled for a 27″ display might not be a bad idea. I could probably make something with a cardboard box as a test, then do something fancier if it works.

Minnie suddenly decided she didn’t want to get in her crate last night

Dog-people say “crate,” because apparently “cage” is a dirty word. But that’s what it is. It’s a clean, warm cage, with a dog-bed and a towel, both of which have been in it for a nice long time so they smell like her. But it’s still a cage. She sleeps in it in my office every night, locked up tight. We also put her in there on the rare occasions we’re both gone for the day.

I still feel a little funny about it, like it’s cruel. But it’s not. She’s a dog. She doesn’t seem happy to go into the crate. But she doesn’t seem unhappy either. It’s just something she does. Importantly, when she leaves the cage she’s quite cheerful — and not like OMG thank god that terrible ordeal is done. Just hey! its morning! let’s go play!

She goes in the crate rather than having the run of the house unsupervised because she’s still a puppy at heart, and there’s too much likelihood she’ll get into trouble, maybe injure herself, and crap or pee on something if left unsupervised indoors. One day. But not soon.

So: Getting Minnie in the crate is an essential part of my bedtime routine. I walk her up the block and back for about 10 minutes, and then into my office, cuddle cuddle cuddle, treat treat treat, go to bed, close and latch the crate door, give her a couple more treats, and off to bed myself.

Except last night she would not get into the crate. Nope. No thanks. I’ll stay out here. I’ll just stay in the dog-bed instead. How’s that sound? You go to bed though — I’ll be fine in here. Maybe I’ll go on the Internet, do some shopping for dog toys on Amazon while you’re gone.

This got frustrating after a half-hour or so tossing treats into the crate, saying “Go to bed!” and picking up the treats and tossing them again. A couple of times she went near the crate, but did not go in.

This was unprecedented behavior. She never had a problem with the crate before. She took right to it. She didn’t need any training. What the heck was going on? I’d rearranged the furniture in my office. But that was Monday. Yesterday was Wednesday. If she was going to balk at going into the crate, that would have been Monday or Tuesday night. Not Wednesday night. What was different tonight?

The window. The crate is under a big window. And Tuesday night I left the window open. Probably she heard something that freaked her out. So when Wednesday night came around and it was time for her to go back into the crate under the open window, she said nope. No thanks.

I went around and shut all the windows in my office, except the one furthest away from the crate, which I left open a crack for ventilation.

And she got right into the crate. She didn’t look happy about it. But she got in. And this morning she still looked a little dejected in the crate but she came right out and shook it off and started playing.

I lured her into the crate again with treats and shut the door again briefly but did not latch it. Then I let her out. I’ll try that again a few more times during the day just to keep her in practice getting into the crate. Maybe I’ll latch her in for a half hour or an hour or so once or twice. Lots of treats while she’s in the crate.

Also, I’ll probably move the crate to the opposite corner of my office, as far away from windows as it can go.

Cisco Live Pics: The Full Malkovich!

Cisco Live Pics: The Full Malkovich!

The Cisco community hashed out the latest advances in networking technology in San Francisco. We were there with our cameras.

That’s me trying out the Oculus Rift virtual reality googles below. Pretty tame simulation — but I was still impressed.

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From the article:

Cisco set up a demo showing how network operators can go into cyberspace to monitor the network and diagnose problems. In the demo, your avatar walks around a cartoon data center, looking at servers and switches. Information appears on floating (virtual) screens, or on an iPad in the avatar’s hands. At one point, I was looking at a virtual iPad inside a simulated data center, showing data about a simulated network running on a real Cisco UCS server on the real Cisco Live show network, noted David Ward, Cisco Senior Vice President, Chief Architect, and Chief Technology Officer-Development. “You’re full Malkovich now!” he added. When I asked him whether the demo is practical, he immediately replied, “No, but it’s f—ing cool!” Fair enough…

– Me on Light Reading. More at the link.

A clue about a Minnie mini-mystery

Minnie hasn’t eaten much of her last three meals. Only about a quarter as much as usual.

I was a little concerned about this, but not a lot. It’s an ongoing pattern with her. She’s an intermittent eater. She’ll eat heartily for a few meals in a row, and then just nibble at a couple, and then go back to eating hearty again. I always (metaphorically) hold my breath during her picky periods, but she always comes through fine.

However, picky eating three meals in a row is unusual for her.

The vet says as long as she otherwise seems fine, we should wait until she hasn’t eaten for two days straight before bringing her in or taking any other steps.

So three meals in a row where she just nibbles? Something to keep an eye on but not anything to worry about — yet. Especially considering she seems fine otherwise. As a matter of fact, this morning she was downright peppy. She ran me ragged.

I was puzzling over her behavior this morning, and then I realized:

She has had unrestricted access to the cat food dishes several minutes per day for the past couple of days.

Oho. A clue.

I shared my insight with Julie and Julie said oho, that explains why the cats have been unusually affectionate.

Tiananmen Square anniversary prompts Chinese crackdown

Tiananmen Square anniversary prompts Chinese crackdown

With the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests coming June 4, the Chinese government is tightening a fist of censorship.

BEIJING — Even by the standards of the clampdowns that routinely mark politically sensitive dates in China, the approach this year to June 4, the anniversary of the day in 1989 when soldiers brutally ended student-led protests in Tiananmen Square, has been particularly severe.

The days preceding June 4 often mean house arrest for vocal government critics and an Internet scrubbed free of even coded references to the crackdown that dare not speak its name.

But this year, the 25th anniversary of the bloodshed that convulsed the nation and nearly sundered the Communist Party, censors and security forces have waged an aggressive “stability maintenance” campaign that has sent a chill through the ranks of Chinese legal advocates, liberal intellectuals and foreign journalists.

In recent weeks, a dozen prominent scholars and activists have been arrested or criminally detained, and even seemingly harmless gestures, like posting a selfie in Tiananmen Square while flashing a V for victory, have led to detentions.

The police have been warning Western journalists to stay away from the square in the coming days or “face grave consequences,” according to several reporters summoned to meetings with stone-faced public security officials.

“‘Lot ninety-seven,’ the auctioneer announced. ‘A boy.'” Re-reading Robert A. Heinlein’s “Citizen of the Galaxy”

Citizen

Citizen of the Galaxy might be my favorite of Heinlein’s novels, which makes it a good candidate for my favorite novel, period. It’s one of Heinlein’s “boy’s books,” or “juveniles,” which would be called a YA book today. It was intended for 12- and 13-year-olds. Not just boys; Heinlein was well aware that girls were a big part of his audience. Like the best YA novels, it makes good reading for adults, too.

Rereading it recently, I was delighted by how quickly I got pulled back into the world Heinlein creates, its story and characters. Science fiction often has a short shelf-life, but Citizen is nearing 60 years old and still going strong.

The novel starts at a slave auction.

“Lot ninety-seven,“ the auctioneer announced. “A boy.“

The boy was dizzy and half sick from the feel of ground underfoot The slave ship had come more than forty light-years; it carried in its holds the stink of all slave ships, a reek of crowded unwashed bodies, of fear and vomit and ancient grief. Yet in it the boy had been someone, a recognized member of a group, entitled to his meal each day, entitled to fight for his right to eat it in peace. He had even had friends.

Now he was again nothing and nobody, again about to be sold.

Robert A Heinlein_Citizen of the Galaxy_DELREY_DKS 2

We know this is the distant future because of the presence of starships. We know the technology is oddly mixed, with starships and slaves coexisting. But we don’t know where we are or any other details. We’re seeing things from the perspective of the slave boy Thorby, half-animal from a life of brutality.

A crippled old beggar named Baslim buys Thorby. We and Thorby soon learn Baslim is not what he appears to be. Baslim adopts Thorby as a son, and teaches Thorby to be a man.

We follow Thorby to an interstellar trading ship, the Sisu. Then we go with Thorby to a naval vessel of the Hegemonic Guard. And finally, we’re on Earth. Thorby learns who he really is. He learns Baslim’s real identity. And Thorby takes on Baslim’s life work as his own, to fight the interstellar slave trade.

Here we see all of Heinlein’s strengths at their best: Heinlein could build worlds and societies in the reader’s mind with a few words. Even though the world of Jubbul, where Thorby is a slave, has interstellar travel, it’s a highly stratified society. The wealthy travel through the city on sedan chairs borne by slaves. It’s an Asian society, and yet all the characters speak mid-20th-Century colloquial English. And why shouldn’t they? They’d be speaking perfectly colloquially to each other; their language wouldn’t sound exotic to their own ears. Heinlein was a master of that language. Reading him is like being transported into a movie starring Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn.

Heinlein could be a master of economic storytelling. Not in his later career — his later books were sprawling messes. But here Heinlein is lean and muscular; we’re transported through four complete societies and across the galaxy in less than 300 pages.

Citizen strikes the right balance between action and ideas, showing and telling. Heinlein had a tendency to lecture that made his later novels bloated, but it works for the novel here.

The theme of Citizen of the Galaxy is one Heinlein wrote about through much of his career: The conflict between freedom on the one hand and, on the other, the restrictions of duty and of a person’s need to fit in to society. People need somewhere they belong. The society of the trading starship Sisu is highly restricted and regimented, but its people, including Thorby for a while, are free.They have chosen that life. It’s their home, their family, where they belong. Same for the space navy Thorby joins later. As Thorby faces his duty to fight slavery, he loses his freedom to make choices.

The ending of the novel is surprisingly adult. Thorby doesn’t beat the slave trade. He isn’t ever going to beat it. A wiser character tells him that the best they’re ever going to be able to do is stifle it in 200 years, and by that time it will have cropped up elsewhere. Nonetheless, minimizing suffering is a worthy fight, even if you can’t make a lot of difference by yourself. A little difference is enough. The ending is satisfying despite its inconclusiveness — maybe even more satisfying for its realism.

Citizen was first published in 1957, but it holds up surprisingly well, even though a big part of the story involves computer technology. I had a chance to visit the bridge of a nuclear submarine in 2010, and it was easy to imagine Citizen in that environment. The shipboard scenes are particularly vivid; Heinlein was an Annapolis grad; he spent years on ships, and it shows in his writing.

Citizen also holds up surprisingly well in its depiction of gender roles. An important supporting character in the first part of the book is a woman who owns a tavern. A woman anthropologist is an important supporting character on the Sisu. Men and women have different roles in that society. At first, as junior officers, they’re equal. After that, men run the ships, but women run the society within the ships. They are equal but different and in many contexts men take orders from women.

In the third and fourth parts of the novel, women play about the roles you’d expect in a book published in 1950s America. Overall it works.

As for ethnic roles: I mentioned that Jubbul seems Asian. WASP Americans seem to run the Earth, but we actually don’t know that. We only know their names. The ship’s doctor in the navy is named Krishnamurti. The trading ship Sisu is descended from Finns.

The theme of slavery is, regrettably, still current. Slavery just keeps cropping up in the world. Here in the US, its legacy bounces back like a ballpark hotdog. One character tells Thorby that some foolish people think slaves are actually happy with their lot, that some people are natural slaves and thrive when others make decisions for them. That same odious sentiment was in the news even as I was rereading Citizen.

I read Citizen this time around as an audiobook, the Audible edition. Narrator Lloyd James does a fine job with the voices. He gives Baslim a Scottish accent, which is fine, because Sean Connery should have played him in a movie.

Here it is on Amazon: Citizen of the Galaxy.

The illustrations in this blog post are the cover of the edition I read as a teen. It’s one of the better book covers I’ve seen.