Tuesday, August 28, 2018

John McCain

I haven't said much about John McCain's death. Heck, before now, I haven't said anything about it. Not even to people privately.

There's not anything I could add to what people have said. I will say that I voted for John McCain for president in 2008 because he was a better choice than the idiot the Democrats nominated. I had some strong online disagreements with some people at that time. They said he was no better than Obama. I thought just about anybody would be better than Obama. I still feel that way.

I don't regret my 2008 vote. McCain wouldn't have been the president I wanted, but he would have been a better president that what we got. I thought that then, and I think that now.

I wasn't a big fan of his throughout his political career, but I did respect his service. I've seen people online trashing his service, and I don't particularly care for that. Don't like his politics? Fine. I'm right there with you. Don't like his service? I'm not gonna join you on that.

One thing in particular that's been going around again relates to the aircraft carrier fire that killed 134 service members. Yes, McCain's plane was the source of the fuel that fed the fire. No, McCain wasn't responsible. The Navy determined that a missile was accidentally launched from elsewhere on the carrier, that the missile hit two planes (including McCain's) and started a spill that was ignited by the missile rocket engines, and that the missile landed in the ocean without exploding.


[The YouTube]

How much of those statements about McCain are from misinformation or people that just don't care about the facts, I don't know. I'm not a fan of either.

What I'd rather focus on are the good things. Like I mentioned, I didn't always agree with McCain on some things, many things, in fact. But let me conclude with this appearance on Saturday Night Live, from back when it was funny.


[DailyMotion]

Monday, August 20, 2018

UPS has PSd me off

I had a Roku suddenly stop working the other day. That's actually unusual -- or has been until recently.

You see, I've had Roku devices since 2010, and I've had great success with them. I'd replace them only because I wanted a newer device for one reason or another. I'd hand the older ones off to family or friends and enjoy the new one.

Well, I've had a couple of different Roku Ultra boxes lately, due to problems I've experienced. And one of them was one I bought from Walmart that suddenly stopped working. So, I took it back to Walmart. Only they said I had to contact the manufacturer. So, I contacted Roku, and after a couple of days, they finally issued an RMA. So, I shipped it off via UPS last week.

Well, it's been a week and I still haven't heard back from Roku. So I pulled out the receipt and put in the tracking number and found out ... UPS is delivering it to Roku today.

The receipt shows I paid $19.66 to ship it last Monday. The tracking information shows they picked it up last Monday. A week ago. Made it down to Jacksonville last Monday night. And finally made it to California yesterday ... six days later. Well, it's out for deliver to Roku in San Jose today.

$19.66 for UPS to take a week to get a package to California. Heck, I coulda put it in one of those big Priority Mail envelopes from the Post Office and had it there last Wednesday for $6.70. And, no I didn't compare before I shipped. There's a place a couple of blocks from the house that is really convenient. What's not convenient is paying almost $20 for something to take a week to deliver.

Yeah, UPS has PSd me off. I shoulda used the Post Office. And you can bet, next time, I will.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Getting thrown out of Disney World

I've only been thrown out of Walt Disney World once in my life.

Now let me pause for a moment and say that I suspect that statement may surprise people, but for different reasons. Some may be surprised that I was thrown out of Walt Disney World at all. The others may be surprised that it has only been once.

When did this happen? Why recently. Quite recently.

You see, I normally wear a hat and coat. The hat keeps my delicate skin from being ravaged by the sun. Actually, it's partly due to a really bad episode of sunburn I received in Kuwait. So, lately, a hat has been a part of my wardrobe. Not a cap. A hat. A grown man hat.

When you wear a hat, you also should wear a coat. Looks better. Plus, a coat is great for concealed carry, as I'm not a fan of open carry.

I've had a shoulder holster for a bit. My first one actually broke. Not sure why, but it broke. So, I replaced it, but my new one didn't come with a place to hold an extra magazine. I've been carrying the extra magazine in my coat pocket.

Well, as I mentioned, I went to Disney World recently. They don't take kindly to carrying weapons inside -- although a Leatherman is okay -- so I left my .380 in the car. But, I forgot I had the magazine in my coat pocket.

I was reminded of it when I took emptied my pockets at the gate to enter the Magic Kingdom park. They called all kind of security folks, including a bunch of deputies, to look at it.

They wanted to see my ID, my carry permit -- Georgia and Florida reciprocate -- and had a few questions. Then they said I could leave. So, I left.

I put the magazine in my luggage and went back to the park and had a good time. Maybe I'll tell you more about the trip, but you've already heard the best part.

If I get thrown out again, I'll tell you all about it, though.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Independence Day (2018)

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
  • He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
  • He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
  • He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
  • He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
  • He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
  • He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
  • He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
  • He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
  • He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
  • He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
  • He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
  • He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
  • He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
    • For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
    • For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
    • For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
    • For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
    • For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
    • For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
    • For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
    • For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
    • For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
  • He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
  • He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
  • He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
  • He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
  • He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Directors I apparently like

As I was looking over my movie collection, I noticed a few names of directors that, well, surprised me. Mostly, it had to do with how many, or how few, movies of any particular director I had in my movie library.

I had the most Buster Keaton movies, which really didn't surprise me, considering that I have some of his two-reelers. I have, as of this writing, 16 of his movies; that is, movies he actually directed. Of those 16, only two are feature-length films:
  • The General
  • Steamboat Bill, Jr.
The others are shorts:
  • The Balloonatic
  • The Blacksmith
  • The Boat
  • Cops
  • Day Dreams
  • The Electric House
  • The Frozen North
  • The Goat
  • The Love Nest
  • My Wife's Relations
  • One Week
  • The Paleface
  • The Play House
  • The Scarecrow
As for the director whose name is on the most of the movies I have, it really didn't surprise me that it's Alfred Hitchcock. What surprised me was that I only had 11 of his films:
  • The Birds
  • Family Plot
  • Frenzy
  • North By Northwest
  • Psycho
  • Rear Window
  • Rebecca
  • Suspicion
  • To Catch a Thief
  • Topaz
  • Vertigo
I thought I had Lifeboat, but I don't. Same with The Wrong Man, The Trouble With Harry, Strangers On A Train, Notorious, and others. I've seen them, but didn't realize I didn't own them. I don't have as many Hitchcock films as I want.

I have nine movies by William Wyler and Steven Spielberg. I never would have picked those off the top of my head as being directors of who made up that many of my film library. I sort of have nine by Ridley Scott, but that number included two versions of Blade Runner and two version of Alien. So, I actually have seven of his. I also have seven by Martin Scorsese and seven by Billy Wilder. Again, I never would have thought that, until I actually sorted by director and discovered that.

What probably surprised me most was that I only have one film by Akira Kurosawa: The Hidden Fortress. Which means I don't have Seven Samurai. Or Yojimbo. Or Rashomon. Or... well, you get the idea.

I had no idea I liked William Wyler that much. Looking at the actual films, most of them aren't films I'll watch again and again. Same with Spielberg's films.

Of course, that's probably true of most of the movies I own. Which makes me wonder why I even own them.

Probably because I can. Which is as good a reason as any.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Ad blocking

Ads, ads, ads.

Ads.

Pop-ups. Banners. Those darn things that cover your entire page.

Everybody hates ads.

Well, except the people that create them. And they still hate them when it's somebody else's.

We all hate ads. Or, are mildly irritated by them at times.

But, the other side of the coin is -- and you knew this coin had another side -- sometimes, those ads allow us to see content that we'd otherwise have to pay for.

Keep in mind, people aren't entitled to the fruits of your labors. If you create something, others have no right to it. It's yours.

If you're a tailor, people don't have the right to demand you make them a suit.

If you're a carpenter, people don't have the right to demand you build them a house.

If you're a farmer, people don't have the right to demand your crops.

And, if you're a Website owner or developer, or a streaming content provider, people don't have the right to your labors. Yeah, it kinda works that way.

So, what's this got to do with ad-blockers? Well, some of the content you view on the Web, or on your streaming device, is provided at no monetary cost. Sure, you pay for Netflix, but I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about Web pages that you don't have to subscribe to (or at least, it's optional) or streaming services that you don't have to pay for.

They are in the business to make money. That's the bottom line. They choose to make money by offering content for you to enjoy and then show you advertisements for which they get paid (or sell for inclusion in their content).

Yes, some Web pages have those popups all over the place. Or those videos that automatically start. Or ads that cover the page. Or other such irritants. That's why there are a bunch of ad blocker plugins that are extremely popular. Of course, they block by getting between you and the content, meaning they read all of your content.

All of your content.

All. Of. It.

Didn't think about that, did you?

So, how do I deal with it? Well, I avoid content that I don't like. If the Web page has annoying ads, I'll avoid that Web page. If an app on my phone has too many ads, I'll stop using the app. Or pay to remove ads, if that's an option. If the streaming service has more ads that I care to deal with, I'll not use that service. Or pay to remove ads, if that's an option.

How should you deal with it?

I'm not the boss of you. Deal with it as you see fit. But think how you'd feel if you were the other person. How would you want a consumer to deal with something that you did they didn't like?

That's actually good advise for many things: think how you'd feel if you were the other person.

I'm about to do just that. I think you're probably tired of hearing me go on and on about this.

So I'll stop.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Android TV (Mi Box)

Image: Xiaomi
I've tried different streaming devices over the years: Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV, Chromecast, and TiVo. They all have their good points and bad points. Any of them would be a good choice for streaming. One or another my be better or worse for any particular individual based on the where they want to get their streaming data from. For example, if someone is big into iTunes or has a lot of Apple devices, the Apple TV is probably the best option. If someone is totally immersed in Amazon, the Fire TV might be the best option. There's no one answer that's right for everybody.

Recently, I added another streaming device to my collection: the Android TV player, Mi Box.

It's a cheaper alternative to the Nvidia Shield, which is the Flavor of the Month for many of the Kool Kidz that stream. Personally, as intrigued as I might be by the Nvidia Shield, I'm not going to put out $180 just to test something. The $69 I shelled out for the Mi Box was the upper limit on that kind of silliness.

So, just to be clear, I haven't used the Nvidia Shield. However, it and the Mi Box are both Android TV devices. The Google Play Store apps for one will work on the other. I know there are ways to side load content onto the Nvidia Shield, but I'm not interested in that. If you are, you can find videos on The YouTube. I'm not interested. I'm looking for stuff that anybody can go into a store or purchase online, take the device, and use. No jumping through hoops. Simple. That's my focus.

Anyway, my point there is what I'm writing about the Mi Box is mostly applicable to any Android TV device.

What I like about the device is that it's easy to set up and use. It's very responsive. It supports 4K, though I don't have a 4K TV. It comes with some common popular apps already installed. It even comes with an HDMI cable included. It doesn't take long to get up and running.

But, what do I not like about it? Well, apart from the pre-installed or recommended apps, it's not that easy to get all the apps you might want through the standard interface. If you have the Play Store installed, you can browse the limited selections there. There are more apps available than show on the Google Play Store app on the Android TV device. While they do show many of the biggest, that's not always the case. For instance, Spotify doesn't show when browsing on the device, though Pandora does.

A slightly better option is to use the voice search to search for apps. For example, to install the Boomerang app, I couldn't find it when I searched for "Boomerang," but did when I searched for "Boomerang app."

Another option is to search for apps from the Google Play Store Website. As with the voice search, simply searching for the app name might not be good enough. I had to search for "Boomerang for Android TV" to find that app.

One major omission, at least in my opinion, is that DirecTV Now isn't supported on Android TV. Philo isn't either. Sling TV is, Hulu with Live TV is, and YouTube TV is, so it has most of the major live streaming services.

If you've used Chromecast, it may be useful to know that Android TV devices have Chromecast built in. You can stream from your computer, your Android phone or tablet, or iOS apps that support Chromecast.

If you're looking for a good streaming device, particularly an Android TV device, the Mi Box is a good choice. It's not my top choice, because of the limited number of apps, but it's a good little device.