“President Bush isn’t a fascist, and I can prove it.

“We’ve seen what American bookstores and publications and universities do when confronted with real fascists: they knuckle under. You might not be able to find those Danish cartoons anyplace respectable, but you’ll sure find lots of anti-Bush stuff.

“Ipso facto, America is doing just fine, thankyouverymuch.”

— Stephen Green draws a line in the sand

Is there any franchise they’ve missed?


Seriously, Funko: McDuck, Balrog, Blossom, Chibi Sailor Moon, Bulma, Faye, Jack, Joey Ramone, Bob Ross, Ted, Jaws, Kevin, and coming soon, Queen Elizabeth and Kurt Cobain.

I think the Bond Golden Girl figure is in poor taste, but I confess I’m a bit tempted by the Dark Willow.

Local food deserts


With all the talk about “food deserts” (no large groceries within a mile) and the newly-invented “food swamps” (too much nearby fast-food), I thought I’d take a look at my town, which has its share of poverty (driven in large part by waves of low-skill immigration).

The official USDA definition of a “food desert” is a census tract where either 500 people or 33% of the residents are more than 1 mile from a supermarket or large grocery store (10 miles for rural). Basically the entire US circa 1940.

The Atlas shows two in Salinas. The first is a well-populated residential area bounded by Market, Capitol, Central, and Clark. The second one consists almost entirely of a golf course, a college campus, a bit of farmland, and an airport, and has two large groceries within half a mile.

Looking at the area around the first, the North edge is mixed commercial/industrial, with more residential past that. South is residential with scattered commercial, ending in farmland. West is more farmland, East is our tiny downtown, including the Steinbeck Center, a massive cinema complex, and lots of good restaurants.

A quick look on Google Earth confirms that the area contains mostly well-maintained single-family homes, with at least one car each, which means they can easily reach the Star Market, the Nob Hill, the Smart and Final, and the giant Costco that are all about 1.5 miles away (at least two of these have delivery options…). So, no, this mostly-middle-class neighborhood is not deprived of healthy food options. By the way, I drive by it on my way to the Nob Hill; it’s pretty nice. Zillow lists homes in this area selling from around $350,000 to over $650,000, and the appraised values are all in that range as well.

West of Salinas is a much larger food desert. It consists of an airport and a former military residential area, the latter of which is gradually being absorbed by Cal State Monterey Bay.

There are some giant “deserts” when you zoom out, but they’re mostly mountains, scrubland, and farms. Yes, Big Sur and Shasta are “food deserts”, gigglesnort.

Decompression


Good: family, good food, prezzies, white Christmas.

Bad: high temperatures in Chicago less than half the low temperatures at home. Update: how could I forget my sister playing Christmas music all day long. And, yes, it included this. All of it. I hadn’t heard any of it in forty years, and wish it had stayed that way. Sorry, Nellie.

Also, there’s a perfectly good reason that one of my presents was a 5-pound bag of rice. And it’s completely unrelated to the four cookbooks I got.

Christmas Cheer


(via 大盛りあがりグラビア館)

Converts to the Church of J’s Lasagna


Dinner with the family tonight. My variation of James A. Thorson’s lasagna was a big, big hit; somehow I’d never shared it with them in any of their visits to my place in the nearly 30 years I’ve been making it. It didn’t hurt that my sister had a stash of amazingly good parmesan cheese.

Surprisingly, the giant box that arrived labeled Cassano’s Pizza was in fact filled with dry ice and Dayton-style pizza. Not tomorrow’s dinner, but soon we shall feast.

Dodging bullets


Once upon a time, there was a grad student, pretty, bright, and lively. Let’s call her Fae, because that wasn’t her name, and I’m telling tales out of school. And I won’t swear to it that I ever got the whole story straight, or that I remember all the details today, over 25 years later.

Fae arrived in our department like a breath of fresh air, accompanied by her husband, a good-looking, likable chap, quietly competent in his field. Let’s call him Nick, because it’s kinda sorta like his real name if you play word-association games.

Everybody in our group liked them, and we were always happy to help with their computing needs. Nick was teaching, and Fae was working for us for a while, so she spent a lot of time hanging out in our area. Being both intelligent and decorative, she was always welcome.

They seemed like a great couple, so I found it a bit odd when she started sitting on my lap during her daily visits to my cube. She was warm and curvy and looked and smelled nice, so I certainly didn’t mind, but I never tested the waters, and the most I ever pursued our friendship was inviting her to go shooting with me. Admittedly, that was about the time I got the impression things were on the rocks with Nick, but while I was attracted, there was a little warning light flashing somewhere off in the distance.

The local shooting range was up near my apartment, so she was going to meet me at my place. To my surprise, she showed up with another of my co-workers. Let’s call him Carlton, because it lets me make an obscure reference to both Rhoda and “Dave’s Comic” (which I really should scan in someday; I’m probably the only one who still has a copy).

Carlton was a cool guy, and a bit of an oddball in our group of sysadmins, since he actually had a Master’s degree in computer science. He was also older, married, and had several kids. He was a gun-nut and liberty-oriented kind of guy, the sort whose guns had no paper trail, all having been acquired through family. (and, speaking of bullet-dodging, he at one point asked me to buy one for him…)

Anyway, we had a good time, they hung out at my place for a while after, and Carlton even borrowed my paperback copy of the Kama Sutra.

Not long after, the shit hit the fan. Not only was Nick heading back to his old school, alone (and a quick Google suggests he’s doing quite well there today), Carlton was leaving his wife, his kids, his church, and his job, and moving to another state. With Fae.

She was, it seems, trading up. Nick, it turned out, was husband #2, and when Carlton settled into his new life and showed no signs of further advancement, she left him, too. I recall hearing that she stayed with #4, but I only know one person in that circle any more, and I’ve never asked.

There’s not really a moral to this story, but it came to mind now because of all the people vigorously pretending to be shocked, shocked that everyone kept their mouths shut for decades about the boors and villains in entertainment, media, and politics. There are some clear victims (and not just the kids), but also a whole lot of gray areas suddenly being repainted black and white now that it’s to their advantage.

Y’know, when a Major Celebrity invites two young starlets that he just met out for dinner, a little red flag goes up. When the first thing he does at the restaurant is offer pills and wine to wash them down with, there’s another little red flag. When you get in a cab with him and he takes you, not to your home, not to his home, but to a friend’s apartment, two or three more little red flags go up. By the time he starts stripping your unconscious friend on the bed, I’m pretty sure you’ve had the chance to figure out that he was just hunting for pussy all along.

Yes, he’s a creepy predator sexually assaulting a woman who can’t consent. No, she’s not asking for it, it’s not her fault, and she doesn’t deserve it. But she wouldn’t be his victim that night if she hadn’t chosen to ignore the warning signs. There’s a lot of talk about “denying women agency”, but that’s precisely what the black-and-white paint job does; it’s as dishonest as “I was just cleaning my gun when it suddenly went off” or “honest, officer, I was just standing on the corner minding my own business”.

Visualizing Pi…


So, I bought a Raspberry Pi 3 recently, and since I had no immediate plans to dabble in hardware-hacking, went with the official starter kit, so that I’d get a known tested international power supply, a decent case, and a cute little compact keyboard. (also a three-button mouse and an HDMI cable)

Everything worked perfectly out of the box, including auto-detecting the 1920x1200 resolution of my little Eyoyo 10″ monitor. Then I ran the software updates, rebooted, and *poof*, no more display. After confirming that the Pi still booted, grabbing the latest image, and booting in safe mode, I discovered that the only way to get a fully-updated Raspbian Jessie or Stretch install to show video on the Eyoyo was to add something like this to /boot/config.txt:

hdmi_force_hotplug=1 #insist there's a monitor there
hdmi_ignore_edid=0xa5000080 # don't query the monitor
hdmi_group=2 # use monitor-style resolutions
hdmi_mode=69 # use 1920x1200, 60Hz
hdmi_drive=2 # turn on HDMI audio

But then I can’t plug it into anything else without either blindly booting to safe mode or ssh-ing in, changing the config, and rebooting. After a fruitless (heh) search of forums and FAQs, I went through the download archives and found the first Jessie release after the Pi 3 came out (2016-02-26). It worked perfectly. A quick binary search between that and the last Jessie release revealed that the last release that correctly auto-detected my monitor was 2017-01-11. None of the Stretch releases work, and the release notes for Jessie 2017-02-16 don’t have anything that screams “hey we broke the EDID parsing”.

But that appears to be what they did. Adding one line to my config re-enabled auto-detection on the Eyoyo:

avoid_edid_fuzzy_match=1

It came up as 720p, but that’s better than “blank”. Adding this commonly-FAQd line brought it to a more reasonable 1680x1050, while still allowing it to work with other monitors:

hdmi_group=2

So, a quite pleasant out-of-the-box experience, a disaster of an update, and the recovery process boils down to “mount the SD card on your PC/Mac, Google for help, then blindly tinker with /boot/config.txt until you get it working again.”

I suppose this is one way to find all the future sysadmins in your fifth-grade classroom…

I do have one specific project in mind for work. Now that we’re in a new building with lots and lots of windows, I should be able to get a decent view of the sky and build Pi-based stratum 1 ntp servers.

Oh, and I named it Mone. Because inside every Pi is delicious cake.

Update

I just installed FreeBSD 12-CURRENT, which doesn’t support wireless, but gave me a completely different OS to test against. It bootstraps itself using the same sort of config.txt, and sure enough, it also requires setting avoid_edid_fuzzy_match=1 to work with my monitor.

Update 2

Just to round things out, I installed Ubuntu MATE as well, and since it’s not as up-to-date as Raspbian, it auto-detects fine. It’s subtly broken in the typical Ubuntu way (can’t run the GUI software updater, and updating from CLI broke several things, including Firefox), so I won’t use it for anything. I expect that it’ll pick up the EDID bug in the next release.

By the way, I’m booting all this stuff off of a 5-pack of 16GB MicroSD cards, stored in this cute little holder. This little Anker USB3 card reader is the fastest and most useful I’ve found for imaging MicroSD cards and mounting the /boot partition to fix the config file.

Update 3

So, OpenSUSE has a 64-bit build. It installed cleanly, so I let it run a whole bunch of updates, and then I decided to see if the performance was better for things like watching video. So I opened up Firefox and went to Youtube. Or, more precisely, I tried to go to Youtube, because Firefox absolutely refused to open the page, claiming that it used outdated encryption that was evil and fattening and probably voted for Trump. There appears to be no way to say, “just fucking open the site, okay?“.

Holiday Music…


I hate Christmas songs, which means I haven’t gone into a store without earplugs since October. Usually I counter with A Very Scary Solstice, carols by the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society.

But sometimes I accidentally hear “the real thing”, and am forced to invent replacement lyrics to guard my soul.

Ruby the red-haired schoolgirl
liked to put on live cam shows.
Men all over the planet
paid to watch her strip and pose.

All of the other schoolgirls,
jealous of her pricy clothes,
bought webcams and lace undies,
to put on their own smut shows.

Then their web sites got shut down,
by the new DA.
Ruby’s stayed online because
she let him go all the way.

Now she’s working for Hustler,
making thirty vids a year.
She’ll be retired by 20,
married to a financier!

“Need a clue, take a clue,
 got a clue, leave a clue”