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Topics - daniel1948

#1
Recipes / Easy potato egg scramble
February 20, 2024, 10:41:28 PM
I've made this twice now recently, and it's delicious! Easy and quick to make:

Prep:

1. Chop up half a large onion.
2. Chop a large, previously-baked russet potato into small chunks.
3. Put five egg whites and two yolks in a bowl, and mix in salt (or salt substitute), ground black pepper, paprika, and garlic powder to taste.

Cooking:

In a large skillet, sauté the onions in olive oil until just starting to turn golden-brown. Add the chopped potato and mix vigorously with a spatula, scraping the bottom of the skillet continuously to avoid excessive sticking. When the potatoes are just starting to show signs of browning, add the eggs and continue to mix vigorously.

When the eggs are dry it's done.

This is SOOOOOOOOOOO yummy!

Variations:

1. Use more or less of the egg yolks. You can make this with egg whites only for a low-fat version, or use five whole eggs for more yolk flavor (and fat).

2. Use different spices. Chiles or tabasco sauce if you like spicy-hot. Or leave out everything but a little salt for a more basic flavor. Or whatever spices you fancy.

So simple, so basic, and yet so delicious!
#2
Recipes / banana bread
February 13, 2024, 04:40:34 PM
A few months ago, having some overripe bananas in the house, I got a banana bread recipe off the internet.

QuoteBANANA BREAD RECIPE

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour [I use 100% whole wheat flour, finely milled, not coarse.]
1 teaspoon baking powder [I had to find sodium-free baking powder.]
½ teaspoon salt [I use potassium chloride, which is sodium-free salt.]
4 ripe bananas, mashed
2 large eggs
⅔ cup white sugar [I use brown sugar because I never have white sugar in the house.]

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease an 8x4-inch loaf pan and set aside. [The closest thing I have is an 8" round skillet.]

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.

Mash bananas in another bowl and stir in eggs and sugar.

Stir the flour mixture into the banana mixture just to combine. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean, 55 to 65 minutes.

Remove from the oven and cool on a rack for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool completely. Slice and serve.

I wanted to make just half the recipe, but my dementia set in and I used half the quantity for some of the ingredients, and the full amount for others. The result left much to be desired.

So today I tried again, as I happened to have some over-ripe bananas again. This time I wrote down the half-recipe amounts next to the full-recipe amounts, and the result was very good. The only thing I changed (other than what's noted in brackets) is that I used two eggs rather than one, on the grounds that if one egg is good, two are better.

I don't know why this is called banana bread. It's actually cake.
#3
General Discussion / Happy New Year everybody.
January 01, 2024, 09:22:54 AM
Happy New Year! May 2024 bring good things to all. It may be the last good year many of us ever see. Or maybe it'll just keep getting worse and worse.  :undecided:
#4
Less than an hour ago I received an email from Amazon which begins:

QuoteDear Prime member,

We are writing to you today about an upcoming change to your Prime Video experience. Starting January 29, Prime Video movies and TV shows will include limited advertisements. This will allow us to continue investing in compelling content and keep increasing that investment over a long period of time. We aim to have meaningfully fewer ads than linear TV and other streaming TV providers. No action is required from you, and there is no change to the current price of your Prime membership. We will also offer a new ad-free option for an additional $2.99 per month...

It goes on with a link to a page to subscribe to the ad-free version. I watch Prime Video enough that I suppose I'll pay up. Not via the link in the email, though. Never click on links in emails, no matter how legit they seem.

Oddly, there was no link on Amazon's home page or on the Prime Video page for this. I had to put "prime video ad free" in the search box to find it.
#5
Tech Talk / Artemis
December 19, 2023, 11:26:35 PM
I thought this had been discussed recently but I cannot find it.

The Astronomy Cast podcast episode 702 talked about the Artemis missions. From that episode, according to Fraser:

The whole mission has been delayed because Jeff Bezos filed a lawsuit over NASA's selection of SpaceX to build the rocket for the missions. Also according to Fraser, in order for Artemis to land people on the Moon, the following has to happen:

SpaceX has to actually develop the Starship HLS.

Then they have to launch the planned orbiting fuel depot.

Then it will take at least 15 Starship launches, and maybe 20, to fill the orbiting depot with cryogenic rocket fuel. Transfering cryogenic rocket fuel in space has never been done before, so that will require some testing to figure out. They'll also have to work out refueling the rocket from the orbiting fuel depot.

Then they'll have to test the lunar lander. Fraser didn't say whether it will take all the fuel in the orbiting fuel depot for one mission, or if once filled it will be able to fuel several missions. Maybe testing the whole refueling in space thing can be part of the unmanned test of the lunar lander.

All the above needs to happen before they can land people on the Moon. Fraser and Pamela do not think all this can happen by the target date of 2025 (?). Especially given that the Starship HLS is not yet built.

On top of all this: Every time the rocket takes off from the Moon, it will kick up a huge amount of lunar regolith into Moon orbit, and that will interfere with any mission that wants to happen before the dust has time to settle back down or dissipate into space.

All these obstacles can and no doubt will be surmounted. But NASA's time line is ridiculously optimistic.

China is also planning to put people on the Moon, but their time line is much farther out, and they will use disposable rockets.

If I were young enough to volunteer for this mission, I would not. Even if I didn't get motion-sick I would not.
#6
Recipes / An easy-to-make recipe
December 19, 2023, 07:22:55 PM
Offered without comment:

#7
I don't bake cake-type or muffin-type things much, but once in a blue moon I feel like making cornbread or I pick up a banana bread at the store. My breads are all yeast-rising, but cornbread and banana bread and things like that use baking powder or baking soda.

I just recently discovered that baking soda has a fucking elephant shit-ton of sodium! I knew it has sodium. It is, after all, sodium bicarbonate. But I never realized how much: 1,259 mg in a measly teaspoon. That's practically a death sentence on my low-sodium diet.

So I dove into the bowels of the internet and after much searching, I discovered potassium bicarbonate. It's basically sodium-free baking soda. I finally managed to get some, and soon I will make banana bread, and the next time I get a craving for cornbread I'll make that. I'll report here how it turns out.
#8
A few years back a U.S. Navy torpedo weapons retrieval boat was sold at auction. I'm pretty sure it's the boat pictured in the Wikipedia article:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Navy_torpedo_retrievers#85'_Torpedo_weapons_retriever

"85' Torpedo weapons retriever." The name is right, "Chaparral," though the article says it was sold for $17,300, and the eBay listing said $17,200. Perhaps it was sold again for $100 less.

We think it might have been docked or anchored at Lahaina, because a while after the fire it turned up moored in Ma'alaea Bay, where we paddle our canoes, as did a bunch of other boats, private and commercial. The back end is permanently open (I speculate that's for hauling up unexploded or blank torpedos) and there's been a small skiff and a motorcycle in there. The motorcycle confuses me because it would take a very large tender to get it to land. Maybe at Lahaina they were able to dock the boat where they could get the motorcycle on and off. Until today I had no idea who owned it. Often there's a mannequin standing at the helm.

For a few days I didn't go to the beach because of rain, but yesterday there was a two-masted sailboat stuck in the shallow water just feet from the beach. The boat has beautiful lines, but it's in bad disrepair and the decks are full of what appears to my eye to be trash. One person speculated that it could be fishing gear. But the boat is grimy and in need of some serious cleaning and probably repair. It had apparently come off its mooring and drifted onto the beach.

It was high tide when I saw it yesterday. Somebody was in a small outboard zodiac trying to pull it off the sand, but the boat was obviously way underpowered for the task, and they gave up. The big Navy surplus boat came in, apparently intending to attempt to tow the sailboat out, but could not get close enough. It was a king high tide and the sailboat was rocking back and forth and I speculated that at low tide it would probably lay down flat on its side. (I found out this morning that yesterday at low tide it did nearly lay down flat.)

So this morning I went down to the beach to paddle with HOCVS, and our captain had spoken with the owner of the sailboat, who turned out also to be the owner of the torpedo retriever boat (henceforth "the Navy boat" for simplicity) and several other boats. The owner of these boats is scared of the water and does not know how to tie knots. It baffles me that someone who is afraid of the water (and cannot swim) would own boats. But I don't think that any real sailor would have bought the Navy boat, or would have allowed such a potentially-beautiful sailboat to fall into such disrepair. If you love sailboats you would be disappointed seeing this one.

The boat owner was trying to figure out how to get out to his Navy boat, which was moored perhaps a half a mile away, so our captain offered him a ride. When we were ready to launch our outrigger canoe (a six) the boat owner came over with a humongous buoy, which we set onto it, and then went back and fetched a very long length of very thick, heavy coiled rope, which we also put into the canoe. And then with the boat owner sitting on the iako we paddled him out to the Navy boat. He would not jump into the water and swim ten or twenty feet to his boat, so we had to carefully maneuver, trying not to bump into the metal sides of the boat, and get close enough that the owner could jump onto his boat. (Remember that the back end is at water level and always open.)

After dropping him off, along with his rope and buoy, we went off for our morning paddle.

An hour or so later when we came back in the owner and another man had tied the rope (and, I believe, another, for length) to the sailboat, and they were backing the Navy boat in. We landed our canoe and put stuff away, and when I stepped back to the beach the Navy boat was starting to pull on the rope, and as soon as they had pressure on it, the rope snapped.

I stopped to talk to a local reporter who was watching it all on the beach, and when I started to head back toward home I noticed the small skiff (remember I said there was a small skiff in the back of the Navy boat?) coming away from the boat. I couldn't tell whether it was the owner or somebody else, but he was paddling the skiff with a kayak paddle. Kayak paddles are great for paddling kayaks. They are totally wrong for a skiff. It tells me something about the owner that he apparently didn't even have oars for that skiff. The man in the skiff was clearly having difficulty.

This counts as excitement on Sugar Beach, and there was an unusually large number of people on the beach watching the proceedings. When I left it was clear that nothing more was going to happen today. The tide had gone out enough that any further attempts will have to wait for tomorrow morning's high tide.
#9
Tobacco kills over 480,000 Americans every year. Opioids kill just over 80,000 Americans each year.

So why the fuck is tobacco still legal? A guy I knew who had used heroin said that tobacco is harder to kick. And I've read that it is more addictive than heroin. Heroin will kill you if you take an overdose or if it's adulterated with other drugs. Tobacco kills you when used as intended.

And while we're at it, alcohol kills more than 140,000 Americans every year. And we call being drunk being "intoxicated" because it's a fucking TOXIN!!!
#10
It's nothing new that contact sports cause severe brain damage. An article in the NY Times (NY Times articles are paywalled; you might be able to read a limited number for free each month) details the large number of deaths among children who play tackle football. Warning: This article is very distressing. Many of these children stopped playing after high school but died of their injuries before the age of 30.

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2023/11/16/us/cte-youth-football.html

Hockey, soccer, and wrestling also kill a large number of young athletes, though fewer than (American tackle) football.

These "sports" cause lifelong damage even to the athletes who don't die young or from the direct result of their injuries. Probably everybody who plays these sorts of contact sports (one interviewee called them "collision sports") ends up with some level of brain damage.

All in the belief that they're somehow showing loyalty to or support of their school or team, or just in the competitive mindset that it's important to win, to beat the other guy or the other team. Or worst of all, to provide entertainment for people who enjoy watching the conflict of opposing teams violently smashing into each other, or who enjoy watching two people beating the shit out of each other.

Meanwhile, non-competitive sports (jogging, cycling, swimming, paddling, hiking, etc.) provide fun, healthy exercise without the need to be the "best" at anything.
#11
General Discussion / Air Fryers
November 14, 2023, 10:19:18 AM
Browsing a list of early black Friday deals on Amazon I noticed a Ninja air fryer at a deep discount of $100 (down from the regular price of $170). This sent me down a rabbit hole of research including some video reviews on YouTube.

The thing looked intriguing until I downloaded the manuals and saw that roasted veggies take as long to cook in the air fryer as they would in the oven. Supposedly it can make toast, so would not add to the clutter of my kitchen because it would displace the toaster.

It claims to be able to "fry" without oil "or with much less oil." The manuals still recommend using oil, about the same amount I'd use to roast veggies in the oven.

It can fry, roast, broil, bake, reheat, or dehydrate. But what's the difference between fry, roast, broil, and bake?

Does anybody have experience with one of these things?
#12
Tech Talk / Passkeys?
November 01, 2023, 08:46:02 PM
Zdnet has an article recommending the use of passkeys for websites that support them:

https://www.zdnet.com/article/passkeys-what-are-they-and-how-to-get-started/

What do folks think? Should we be using passkeys everywhere they're offered? Why or why not?

As I understand it, passkeys use public-key cryptography, wherein information is encrypted using a public key which is only useful for encrypting. Decryption requires a private key that is never transmitted and can be kept private.

The good: Without my device (which contains the private key) you can never decrypt information intended for me.

The bad: If you get hold of my device you have access to all my private keys and my accounts. (Or is there something to prevent that?)
#13
Games / Connections
September 02, 2023, 05:41:56 PM
I recently noticed this game. I think it's relatively new. I don't think you need a subscription to play. I hate this game.

https://www.nytimes.com/games/connections

You are shown 16 words, and you have to group them in 4 groups of 4. You click on a word to select it, click again to unselect it. With 4 words selected you click on "Submit" and it tells you if you have found a group of 4 or not. After 4 (or 5?) unsuccessful tries you lose.

But the fuckers are tricky. For example, there may be five words that are games, or colors, or musical instruments, but one of them actually belongs in a different set because all the words in that set are often associated with another word, or all the words in that set have a double letter in them, or share some other trait. IOW, a word can fit in more than one set, but there's only one "correct" set for it.

I've won a couple of times but lost more because of those tricks.

Like Wordle, Connections offers a new puzzle each day.
#14
Tech Talk / DuckDuckGo - Opinions?
August 19, 2023, 10:02:06 PM
Sometimes I get emails from trusted sources with links to something I'd like to view, but the link goes through rs6-dot-net and my browser blocks it. Since I trust my browser more than I would trust rs6, I do not visit those sites. Today I decided to google it and came across a reference to DuckDuckGo, which blocks trackers. I downloaded the DuckDuckGo browser, plugged the link into it, and it appeared to strip the tracking info and show me the YouTube video which the original email was linking to.

Of course, I cannot really tell. It says it's stripping out the tracker and going directly to the target site. And I've heard of DuckDuckGo before, so I think it's legit.

I'd be interested if anybody knows more than I do. Or, rather, if you know anything about it at all, you know more than I do, so I'd be interested to hear.
#15
TV & Movies / Barbenheimer
July 20, 2023, 05:34:40 PM

#16
The Science VS podcast recently did a show about gluten. Some take-aways:

Studies have shown that non-celiac gluten sensitivity is a real thing. 1% of the population has celiac. I think they said that 14% of the population (not sure if this was limited to a specific country) believe they have non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Of those who believe they have non-celiac gluten sensitivity, one in six actually do experience bloating and/or other actual negative effects from eating gluten. The other five out of six are actually sensitive to other components of food, and not to gluten. One common culprit are long-chain fermentable sugars, which can, in some people, cause excessive gas and bloating. This was determined by randomized double-blind studies where some subjects were given gluten capsules and others were given a placebo; and some people were given muffins with gluten, and others were given gluten-free muffins.

If you are not sensitive to gluten, gluten-containing foods are excellent sources of fiber and nutrients. It is possible to eat a healthy gluten-free diet, but many people who mistakenly think they are sensitive to gluten do not adequately make up for those nutrients and fiber from other sources.
#17
Podcasts / Freakonomics on ESG investing
June 15, 2023, 07:27:06 PM
Episode 546 of the Freakonomics podcast takes a very negative look at ESG investing. Freakonomics, while nearly always thought-provoking, in my opinion sometimes hits the nail on the head, and sometimes misses entirely, pulverizing the thumb of the hand holding the nail. I don't know what to think of this episode.

They start by saying that most of the emphasis of ESG investing is on the E, and the rest of the episode ignores the S and the G. They define a "brown" firm as a company in the top 20% of carbon emissions per unit of sales volume. They define a "green" firm as one in the bottom 20% of carbon emissions per unit of sales volume.

Oil and gas firms, and coal companies, are the brownest of the brown, since their entire business is producing carbon-based fuels. Service and financial companies (e.g. banks) are the greenest because their business isn't about things that produce carbon.

According to their guest, the purpose of ESG investing is, by divesting from brown firms, to make borrowing money more expensive for those firms. But the guest asserts that if brown firms have a harder time borrowing money, they will become more brown because they will start focusing solely on short-term profits. The opposite, investing in brown firms, can provide them with capital they can use to become more green. Of course, this requires investors to engage with those firms to push them to use that capital for that purpose.

She points out that if a large and very brown company cuts its carbon production by 1%, that does far more good than if a very green firm cuts its carbon to zero, because the numbers are so radically different. She also claimed that brown firms have filed some humongous number of patents for green technologies. But of course if every brown firm cut its carbon by 1% the result would hardly be even measurable. We need to cut emissions by 99%, not by 1%.

I think I've accurately summarized the thrust of what was said on the show.

Freakonomics claims to investigate "the hidden side of everything." I think a better descriptor would be "the contrarian side of everything." Sometimes that's good, sometimes not. As I said at the start, I'm not sure which it is in this case. There seems to be some logic to their arguments. But I'm not convinced that the major brown firms are open to investing in carbon reduction.
#18
I would like to humbly suggest that a special global "Insults" thread be established. Anything that does not violate the law would be permitted, though you might want to prohibit profanity and threats. Anybody could insult anybody else to their heart's content. But this would be the ONLY thread where insults would be permitted, and the mods would be free to move any post that contained a personal insult against a member, to the "Insults" thread.

And of course, those of us who don't care for insults could refrain from opening that thread. Perhaps it should be placed in "Members Only" so as not to be visible to guests viewing the forum.

Just a thought.
#19
Here's a trip to space I would happily get on, if it didn't cost so much and wasn't so far away. At $132,000 I won't be doing this, but it avoids all the other inconveniences: The hard acceleration, the weightlessness with its attendant vomit-inducing nausea, and that whole thing about sitting on top of a gazillion gallons of highly-explosive rocket fuel. Just gently ascend to 25 kilometers over the course of an hour and a half, all the while experiencing a normal one-G of gravity, spend three hours above 98% of the atmosphere, experiencing the blackness of space and seeing the round Earth below, and then descend slowly over the course of another hour and a half.

I would love to do this. If it didn't cost $132,000. Available in 2025.

https://www.zephalto.com/
#20
If there is still anybody here who thinks there should be restrictions on gender-affirming medical care for minors, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE listen to the May 2, 2023 episode of the Sawbones podcast, available wherever you get podcasts. This is this week's episode as I write this.

TL;DR:

Doctors care for people. Doctors take an oath to provide the best care they can for their patients. Politicians, who know fuck-all about medicine, are passing laws prohibiting doctors from providing the standard of care. Because gender-affirming care IS the standard of care, based on all the studies and all the science and all the evidence.

I started trying to write a more thorough summary, but I cannot explain it as well as Sydnee does. So PLEASE listen to the show. The episode is about 45 minutes long.
#21
I'm bored. So here's a poll. They've built and tested a new rocket design. After a few failed tests where the rocket blew up (happens to everybody) they've ironed out all the bugs and have made half a dozen perfect launches and re-entries of the crew capsule. The consensus among the scientific community is that the rocket is ready for its first crewed mission, and NASA has given the go-ahead. In the wake of previous debacles, several respected investigative journalists have done in-depth reporting and everybody agrees that all the engineers truly believe the rocket is ready.

You are offered a free trip on the maiden voyage of the new rocket. The other two passengers will be an experienced astronaut and a famous person that happens to be the person you most admire among famous people.

It will be a three-day mission in LEO during which you will get to participate with the others in some useful experiments, but also have some free time to admire the views of Earth and space.

Do you accept the offer?

Post why you answered as you did. The poll runs forever and you can change your vote. Optional: Who would be your famous person in this scenario?

I'll answer first: No way, Jose! I'm not getting on that thing! I get motion sick and from what I've read, space-sickness is the worst kind of motion sickness by a factor of a thousand. Plus, I'm a total chickenshit.
#22
Tech Talk / Big step forward in nuclear fusion.
April 20, 2023, 10:38:19 AM
In a great step forward towards sustainable fusion power, Tokamak has created a very pretty picture of what they imagine their power plant will look like. If they can ever get it to work, that is.  :huh:

https://www.tokamakenergy.co.uk/2023/04/12/first-look-at-tokamak-energy-fusion-power-plant/
#23
Tech Talk / New Phone Setup
March 30, 2023, 07:37:31 PM
Seemed justified to start a new thread.

My new iPhone SE Gen 3 arrived today by FedEx at about 9:40. I had gotten home about 9:25 from paddling and was just out of the shower when the FedEx truck arrived. Since the package supposedly required a signature I was glad I beat the driver home. In fact, he didn't ask for a signature. 

Two things had to be done: Transfer files from the old phone, and activate the phone with Verizon. The first was much easier than the second.

When I powered up the phone, both it and my old phone came on and one of them (I forget which) told me to scan a weird circular pixillated image on one phone with the other phone. I did that, and the new phone told me to call a number "on another phone" to activate. But I didn't have access to a third phone, and when I tried on the old phone it asked if I wanted to cancel the install. I said Yes, and called the number, and got a voice menu, no item of which applied. So I somehow got back to the transfer process, and simply by having the two phones near each other, and giving authorization, all my apps and data from the old phone transferred to the new one. That part was easy-peasy and didn't take too terribly long.

But I could not get to any kind of activation for the new phone.

So I called Verizon from the old phone, and after telling the automated "assistant" about three thousand times that I wanted to speak to an agent, I finally got one. (Crap like this is how "AI" is ruining our lives!) After giving the agent my info, and with his help finding some serial numbers he needed from the new phone, he assured me that he would make the activation, but when he pressed the button, our call would be cut off. "Don't call me. I'll call you back."

The phone call cut off and the old phone said "No Service" but the new phone said "SOS Only." Okay, so wait for the agent to activate the phone and call me back.

And wait.

And wait.

And wait.

And wait.

And wait.

I had no working phone. He'd said not to call him back. I considered driving to the local Verizon store. (I probably should have bought the phone there and had them set up and activate it in the first place.) Then I thought of using CHAT on their web site to ask how long this should take. And THEN I thought of rebooting the phone, whereupon I had service, and several text messages from Verizon, and a voicemail from that agent.

Apple made it ridiculously easy to transfer everything over from the old phone to the new one, and gave me the option of deleting everything on the old one before turning it in or selling it, but I'm keeping it as a backup, so I didn't do that.

Verizon made it moderately frustrating to activate the new one. If the agent had told me to reboot the phone before cutting off the call it would have been a little better, but still wasn't anywhere near as smooth as it could have been.

The new iPhone SE is a little bigger than the old one, but not an awful lot bigger. I prefer small. But this one will be okay, and given my heart disease, may outlast me.

#24
Tech Talk / Verizon: Pre-paid vs regular plan
March 27, 2023, 10:08:41 PM
Thinking about upgrading my phone but also assessing my plan I phoned Verizon. I'm paying $71.17/month. I get unlimited calling and text messaging, free long-distance in the U.S., and half a gigabyte of data per month. I use almost no data. Once in a while I use cellular to get on an app while away from home. Google Maps while driving, banking app at the ATM, finding out where an item is located at Target, stuff like that.

What I found out is that with my current plan I can get an iPhone SE 3rd Gen for free with a three-year extension of my plan. OR I can pay full price for the phone ($480 for 128 gig) and switch to a pre-paid plan for $35/month, or $30/month with auto-pay. The savings on the plan pays for the phone in one year.

Okay, the $30/month plan does not include data. Trying to find out what I'd be charged for data. But the $45/month plan includes 15 GB of data, 30 times what I have now, and is still much cheaper than my current plan. But I have no need for that much data. I never even come close to using my half gig.

The Verizon website is screwy today. It lets me ask my question but then hangs on "How should an agent contact you?" I'm going to try calling them tomorrow.
#25
Not sure whether this should be in Health or in Science & Skepticism.

In this video Rebecca talks about yet another guy "Doc Adam" being sued by yet another medical quack for "defamation" for spreading the word that she's a quack. This time in Australia, which it turns out has very weak anti-SLAPP laws, and in fact puts the burden of proof on the defendant. Well, as always, Rebecca explains it better than I could:

https://youtu.be/2KT8IRQliyk

In case you want to donate to Doc Adam:

https://www.gofundme.com/f/docadam
#26
I'm kind of unsure what's going on here, but from what I can learn online from Treasury Direct and other websites, short-term treasury bills (one month and up) are paying over 4% APY, while banks are paying effectively zero interest. A year ago, apparently they were paying around 0.2%.

The difference between t-bills and bonds is the time to maturity. T-bills have a maturity of one year or less. Like other bonds, they can be traded on the open market before maturity, but cannot be redeemed until maturity. They are zero-coupon bonds: You pay less than face value for them, and redeem them at face value, with the difference being the interest. Long-term bonds present the problem that their market value can go up or down depending on prevailing interest rates, which only affects you if you need the money before maturity. If interest rates rise, market value falls. If you hold to maturity you get the full face value. (This is what screwed SVB: They had all their cash reserves in long-term government bonds, 100% safe, but illiquid, and when they had a bank run they had to sell those bonds, but because interest rates had gone up, the market value was down, and they became insolvent.)

Normally, short-term bonds pay less interest, but right now t-bills at very short maturities are paying real interest, while banks are not. The minimum is $100. So if you have $100 you know you won't need for a month or more, you can get over 4% interest rather than the bank's 0.01% (or whatever).

CAVEAT: All the above is what I've gleaned. I don't know if I'm missing something critical. If anybody knows, I'd like to hear it. It seems too good to be true. Of course 4 to 5% is still below the current inflation rate of somewhere around 6%, but it's better than leaving money in the bank. Obviously the higher rates for t-bills are because the Fed raised interest rates, but why t-bills are paying over 4% while banks are still paying nothing is what I don't understand.
#27
I have a very vague memory of a wire-fu movie in which (I think?) suitors for the hand of the rich man's daughter has to defeat her champion, but she IS her own champion, in disguise. I think she ends up fighting another woman and they run around on people's heads while fighting, and onto a rickety wooden (or bamboo?) structure.

Does anybody remember what movie this is? 

I've looked at a couple of on-line "best kung fu movie" lists and nothing strikes a bell. 
#28
General Discussion / NY Times - Digital Price
March 08, 2023, 12:43:18 PM
A bit over a year ago I accepted an introductory offer from the NY Times: A digital news subscription (does not include games, recipes, etc) for $1/week. Not paying attention to the expiration date, I noticed recently that they were now billing me at the regular price of $4.25 per week. They had not notified me. Of course they were under no obligation to notify me.

So this morning I went online to cancel my subscription. The website asked me to say why I was canceling and I checked the box that the price had gone up. The next page said "Look at all the good stuff you will lose if you cancel," or words to that effect, and I had to scroll down to click on "Cancel anyway."

And the next page was an offer to continue my news subscription for $1 a week, and including a games subscription!

So it turns out that if you cancel at or shortly after the end of your introductory rate, and go all the way through the process, they'll give you another year at the introductory rate. I accepted the offer, because I do think it's worth $1/week. And now I can play all the games that I actually cannot play because I'm no good at them.  ::)  

I was playing the Mini crossword, which is maybe free to everyone, or maybe was part of my intro offer, and which I can almost always solve. Sometimes easily, other times with enormous difficulty. I am crap at the real crossword. But now I can try the regular crossword if I want to pull my hair out in frustration. Plus broader access to the other games, none of which interest me.

Of note is that for the past few weeks they've been offering a deal on a full subscription, less than the regular price, but a lot more than the price I got for news+games by trying to cancel.  8)
#29
A perhaps throw-away line from Astronomy Cast got me to thinking about this. There seems to be an assumption that the government or some private company will pay to get colonists to Mars, assuming anybody is dumb enough to actually try to establish a colony there. But lets look at history: No colony has ever operated that way. England sent convicts to Australia, so that's one way: We could colonize Mars with death-row inmates, or shoplifters. A cruel and unusual punishment if ever there was one!

The more likely, and time-honored way is indentured servitude: You agree to work for a set number of years to pay back the cost of your transportation. Indentured servants are generally not treated well, but at least in theory they have certain rights.

Let's say that SpaceX builds a colony on Mars and needs people to populate it. Because people are ignorant of just how hellish life would be on Mars, a lot of people would want to go. To "be the first" at something. Perhaps they'd see it as a way out from under their debts, or an escape from a bad relationship or a dead-end job. So they agree to work for, say seven years, in return for transportation, after which they'd be free people on Mars.

But what would it mean to be free on Mars? The company owns the colony and everything in it. The company is the only employer. The company owns the only communication with Earth. The company is the only source of food and water. Maybe oxygen as well if it turns out to be too expensive to maintain an environment of 21% oxygen, and everybody has to wear breathing apparatus.

A common tactic in company towns is to charge such high prices for food and other necessities that people go into debt and never get out from under. "You load sixteen tons and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt." That sort of thing is frowned upon these days, and maybe illegal, but on Mars who's going to enforce such laws? 

And let's say you do finish your term of indenture. What do you do then? You can't return to Earth because you have no money to pay your way and nobody will loan you the money because no work you could do on Earth would be worth it to them. You cannot leave the colony because there's nothing outside but dust and near-vacuum.

You went to Mars to better your life, or out of a sense of adventure, and what you get is you are a virtual slave of the company for the rest of your life. Technically you are free, but there is literally nowhere you can go, and literally no way to get food or any other necessities except by working for the company.

Futurists and trekkies assume that a space colony would be like an Earth city with a democratic government, where people would have free time to play in the holo-deck. But in fact such a colony would cost thousands of trillions of dollars to build and maintain, which is one reason why it will never happen, but if it does happen, the owner(s) will not be giving anything away for free. They'll demand the maximum possible amount of work from everybody, and your pay will be just enough to barely keep you functioning well enough to do your job.

Colonies are never formed for benevolent motives. They are formed to make money or to dispose of criminals, and the colonists are ground into dust. On Earth, colonies grow and evolve and sometimes break free of their owners. But on Earth, colonists can escape and move elsewhere. Mars will be a dead end for the colonists there.

A Mars colony will not be the means of survival for the human race, as Elon Musk pretends. If it ever exists, it will be a labor camp in a hellscape. It will make the prison in Cool Hand Luke look like the Four Seasons a thousand times over.
#30
Tech Talk / New track pad
February 23, 2023, 10:58:34 PM
Until yesterday I was using a very old Apple "Magic" Trackpad. I know about when I bought it because I was going to tell a friend about it but we had been drifting apart and I didn't see him again, and the last time I saw him was when I gave him a ride in my (at that time very new) car, so it would have been 2011. So twelve years ago. Maybe a year or so ago, the batteries started providing very short use before having to be changed. I was using rechargeable AA batteries, so I figured that after a decade they were probably worn out, and I bought a new pair, but the trackpad still needed them changed every few days. The new batteries didn't help.

So when I saw that the latest version of the Apple trackpad has a built-in battery and charges via a USB cable, I decided to upgrade. It seems to function exactly the same, but I won't have to switch out batteries and charge them in a separate charger anymore.

The downside is that there doesn't seem to be any way to replace the battery, so when it dies I'll probably have to buy a whole new trackpad. But if it lasts as long as the old one did, it will probably outlive me. 
#31
Recipes / Pizza (home made).
February 18, 2023, 12:31:34 PM
I looked, and if there's already a pizza thread it's more than a couple of years old.

This will be long and probably boring because I'm killing time. You've been warned.

A bit over 50 years ago I found a DIY pizza kit in the grocery store. It consisted of a small bag of flour, a small can of plain tomato sauce, a small packet of grated cheese, and instructions. Add water to the flour, mix and knead, roll it out flat, spread the tomato sauce and cheese on it, and bake it. It use an unleavened crust, which is supremely easy to make. Much easier than yeast bread. I had never made bread before, but this was easy-peasy.

The kit, however, was overpriced for what you got and the pizza, while good, was very plain. It was obvious that I could buy flour, tomato sauce, and cheese and do it all much cheaper, and I could add other toppings. I was very poor at the time. I counted my money before going to the store and kept a running total of what I put in my cart. A can of peaches was a special treat. Anyway, I made pizza occasionally from scratch. Years passed. My sister, who had spent several years in Italy, taught me how to make tomato sauce from the tomatoes from my garden. I started grinding my own 100% whole-wheat flour from wheat I bought at the local grain elevator. And when my finances improved enough, I went from a hand-cranked flour mill to an electric one. I eventually graduated from unleavened pizza crust to leavened whole-wheat bread. It wasn't until many years later that I started making yeast-leavened crust for pizzas. 

Very early on in my pizza-baking career I discovered that extra-sharp cheddar cheese is way better than the traditional mozzarella. And while there may have been fancy tomato sauces in the jars by then, my home-made tomato sauce made with my own home-grown tomatoes was way better than what any pizzeria was using. 100% whole-wheat flour instead of tasteless white flour, cheddar instead of mozzarella, home-made tomato sauce, and lots of veggie toppings, made better pizzas than you could buy anywhere. I no longer make my own tomato sauce because it would be pointless with the cardboard tomatoes from the store. So my pizzas are no longer what they once were, but after a hiatus, I'm back to making pizza occasionally.

I now use a basic 100% whole-wheat bread dough for my pizza crusts. Up to and through the final kneading I don't even have to decide if I'm going to make pizza or bread. It's exactly the same. Then I either form it into a loaf for bread, or roll it out flat for pizza.

I put so much topping on my pizzas that the crust is cooked before all the toppings are adequately cooked. So my latest innovation is to bake the tofu and onion before putting on the pizza. Cut half a block of extra-firm tofu into small cubes, and dice a half a medium onion, and spread it out on a baking sheet (I put it on oven paper, which then goes onto the hot pizza stone in the oven) and bake it for 15 minutes at 500° F. Then that goes on the crust over the tomato sauce, with any other toppings. And then the toppings are well-enough cooked when the crust is done after ten minutes at the same oven temperature.

Yum.
#32
Podcasts / Fewer podcast ads -- Confirmed.
February 15, 2023, 09:25:08 AM
I have been noticing for a while that some of my podcasts that have ad breaks, often say "We'll be back after this ad" (or words to that effect) and then there's no ad. Just a couple of seconds pause, and the program resumes. I speculated that they're having trouble getting sponsors.

Yesterday I got an email from Sabine Hossenfelder via Patreon explaining that she will be releasing fewer videos due to the difficulty of getting sponsorships. Due to the economy, YouTubers and podcasters are seeing sponsorships drying up. Her show costs so much to make that Patreon patrons alone cannot fund it. She needs sponsors (and has chosen to accept only skippable ads, making the problem harder). The email was clear that she's not asking patrons for more money. She's explaining why she will be releasing fewer videos.

I presume that it costs less to make a podcast than a video, so the crunch might not be as hard for podcasters as for YouTubers. And since I get the ad-free versions of most of my favorite podcasts I cannot tell how much it's affecting them. But I've noticed it on podcasts where I do get ads. 
#33
General Discussion / Census scam?
February 10, 2023, 10:23:02 PM
I have gotten several texts on my phone claiming to be from the U.S. Census Bureau. The first text says "U.S. Census Bureau: An important survey on the economy, health and education." The others say "Reminder: The Census Bureau needs your help..." and "Reminder: Your household was selected..." and repeats the above with variations. They all have a link to click, though the links are different in each email. I don't click on links in emails.

Is this a scam? (I presume so.) Or is the Census Bureau actually sending out texts to random phone numbers? There's no way in hell they've actually selected my "household" based on my phone number. My phone number still has the area code of my previous city.

I don't know how to tell if links in a text go where they claim. On the desktop computer I can hover the mouse over the link and Chrome will show me where it really points. But on the phone, with a text, I don't know how to do that. They all appear to point to census-dot-gov but whether they really do or not I don't know. And the fact that they're all different is suspicious.
#34
A philosophical ponder:

Let's imagine that a huge rock, say, an asteroid, some miles across, is discovered on an orbit that has a 99% chance of hitting the Earth in 500 years, which would result a K-T level extinction event and end civilization.

Let's further imagine that scientists have highly-reliable but expensive deflection technology, which is cheaper if used sooner and becomes more expensive the closer the asteroid gets. The question becomes, do we pay for it now, or do we let future generations deal with it, given that not even our great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandchildren will be alive when it hits. And we don't even know if there will still be humans then. (Some of us think that civilization is doomed in the next 100 years, while others of us think that humanity will be here for many tens of thousands of years more.)

The cost per taxpayer in your country has been calculated and there's a referendum to decide if we will tax ourselves and deflect the asteroid now, or bump it off to the next generation to decide. But whatever we decide, we know that the cost will increase by 25% for every decade that we wait. So if the cost is US$100 per person now, in 100 years it would be $931 per person in 2023 dollars, and in 300 years it would be $8,779 per person.

But maybe it's more or less than $100 per person now. Most of us would probably pay a one-time tax of $10 to avert a known and certain catastrophe in 500 years. I'm going to speculate that most of us would not pay a one-time tax of $500,000.

How much would you pay? Or would you just say that a 25% cost increase in a decade is small enough we can afford to wait?

I think this thought experiment is relevant to the climate crisis. It's not a perfect analogy because the climate crisis does not have a known extinction date. But it has in common that we've been kicking the ball down the road for several decades, saying "We can fix it later."
#35
Tech Talk / MacOS Ventura cannot open Pictures folder!
January 29, 2023, 01:51:08 PM
When I got this computer I used Migration Assistant to migrate all my files over from the old computer, which was running El Capitan.

This morning I wanted to look for a picture and I opened Finder and clicked on Pictures and got a message saying  

Quote"Pictures" can't be opened because the original item can't be found.

The Pictures folder shows in Finder on the left-hand side, along with all the other top-level folders such as Documents and Desktop and Applications, etc. But Finder cannot open it. I did a search and finally found my pictures at

Macintosh HD -> Users -> Shared -> Previously relocated Items -> Security -> Pictures

I managed to make an alias to open a finder window to the Pictures there, and at a first reviewing, they all seem to be there. But is there a way to make the top-level Pictures folder viewable to Finder? I presume if I could do that I could move my pictures back there.

FWIW, I have some other pictures in a folder under Documents, and those had no problem coming over and landing where they belong. It's just the Pictures folder that MacOS Ventura doesn't seem to like.

#36
Tech Talk / External SSD (backup drive) recommendation?
January 20, 2023, 08:19:15 PM
I've been using an external HD for my backups. Every once in a while I plug it in and do a backup. I'm thinking I should have the computer set up for automatic backups, but because of wear and tear on the motor of an HD I'm thinking that if I'm going to have something always connected it should be an SSD. When I look on Amazon I'm blown away by the number and variety of drives.

Sandisk is the only brand I recognize. But there's a myriad of other brands.

Anybody got any recommendations?

Thanks.
#37
Tech Talk / AppleCare?
January 11, 2023, 09:54:25 AM
As posted elsewhere, I bought a new 24" iMac. The old one couldn't run the current OS and that affected my access to some websites, and apparently was a security issue.

There's no Apple store on Maui, so I got it at an independent Mac store, which is an authorized Apple dealer and service shop.

The sales guy gave me a really hard sell on AppleCare. He said that pre-2015, Apple devices were very solidly built. (No problems with my late-2015 iMac except for being unable to run the current OS, and no problems with my Gen-1 iPhone SE other than the battery is starting to fade.) The sales guy insisted that post-2015 Apple devices are basically crap (!) and he tells people there's no point in buying any Apple product if you're not going to buy AppleCare. He told me to keep using my iPhone SE until it dies because the current phones are such crap, and be sure to buy AppleCare for my next phone when the time comes.

Consumer Reports generally says that extended warranties are a waste of money, except for a certain kind of TV that tends to get burned-out pixels, and even that info may be out of date. 

MacRumors says

QuoteIn general, the editors at MacRumors feel that AppleCare is worth getting for Apple laptops that you plan on keeping for longer than one year, and ‌iPhone‌, iPads, and Apple Watches due to the accidental damage coverage. For Apple TVs and HomePods, we generally don't see the need, and for desktop Macs and displays it becomes more of a personal judgement call.

So, they don't even offer an opinion for the iMac.

Thoughts? Opinions?
#38
Quote from: Harry Black on January 09, 2023, 05:13:07 PMSo are you just accepting that there is nothing we can do to save the world but taking solace in having the car you like?
Because thats pretty much what the gas guzzler owners are doing....

I think the world is fucked. I still donate to progressive causes and charities. I still vote for the lesser of evil candidates. I have solar on my house and drive an electric car so as to minimize my use of fossil fuels. (Though some here seem to think that driving an electric car is worse than driving a gasoline car!) In short, I do everything I would do, at my age, if I thought there was any hope. I was active when I was younger, but I no longer have the energy.

I just don't see how anybody can look at the political reality, where nearly half of Americans, and fully half our legislators deny that there's even a problem, and even the politicians who acknowledge the problem are unwilling to face off against the oil companies, and think that America is going to contribute to the solution. I don't see how anybody can look at China, building new coal-fired power plants as fast as it possible can, and think that the world can reduce its CO2 emissions during the next 50 or 100 years. And while other nations are not as bad as America and China, governments everywhere kowtow to big money, and big money doesn't want change.

Pessimism is the only realism. Sorry if people don't like my saying that, but it's the result of 74 years of observation. This three-quarters of a century has been the best time in human history to be alive if you're white and middle-class in an industrial capitalist nation. Not so much for anybody else. We've spent our carbon budget on making ourselves wealthy without regard to the rest of the world or the future and our chickens are coming home to roost, but they're going to be shitting on the generations to come.
#39
General Discussion / What superpower do you want?
December 12, 2022, 12:40:53 PM
I suspect this has been discussed before, but I think it's time to do it again.

From another thread:

Quote from: Shibboleth on December 12, 2022, 09:45:45 AMI want a fusion powered phone that instead of plugging it into my house to charge my phone, I would plug it in to charge my house and then unplug it and use it to run my car.

I also want superpowers.

So, what superpower(s) do people want. Should we say only one superpower per poster, or open it up for your whole list of superpowers? I suspect the latter would result in too many nearly-identical lists.

I'll suggest some ground rules. (Obviously, not being a mod I cannot enforce these.):

1. Just one superpower per person.

2. No multi-part superpowers or superpowers that give you other superpowers. I.e., don't say I want X plus Y plus Z. Don't wish to be God or a god. In the same vein, don't ask for god-like powers. "I want to be able to make everybody do what I want," will be considered god-like and disallowed. 

3. You cannot have more than one superpower, but you can change your mind and ask for a different superpower.

I'll start:

I want to be a super-freediver. This would mean being able to swim down to any depth in the ocean and stay down for as long as I feel like it, without any negative consequences.
#40
Tech Talk / Apple Air Pods?
November 29, 2022, 02:52:29 PM
So I think it was on the SGU (?) that they were saying that Apple Air Pods Pro (not the cheaper ones) can function as hearing aids that are almost as good as $10,000 professional hearing aids.

I don't think I'm really ready for hearing aids yet, but sometimes I have a hard time understanding people on streaming media. Apparently you can link Air Pods to Amazon Fire Stick, which is what I use for Netflix & Amazon Prime Video. And obviously I could link them to my iPad and iPhone.

I got curious enough to look them up on the Apple store, but the website is kind of screwy and didn't answer the questions I had. I didn't get as far as the checkout page, but on the shopping cart page they wanted me to pick up the Air Pods in Honolulu. No mention of being able to get them by mail. My ISP is in Honolulu. I am on Maui. Different island. They also offered me $50 off and I was almost ready to buy them at that price, but it looks like they want to charge me the full price and then mail me a $50 gift card. Pretty sleazy.

But that still leaves the question of how good they are and whether they'd really be any use to me. I have good-quality wired earbuds for music during exercise. And there are cheaper BT earphone/microphone sets for talking on the phone without having to hold it. Personally, I think it looks stupid when people walk around everywhere they go with those things hanging out of their ears.

Anyway, I'm curious if anybody here has experience with them and what you think. How well do they stay in? How is the audio quality for music? Do they really improve the intelligibility of speech?
#41
Tech Talk / Six-year-old computer woes
November 14, 2022, 09:48:17 PM
In the Elon Musk thread I started to complain about my six-year-old computer that makes web browsers think that websites are unsafe. For some, like a local Maui news site and some others, it makes me click through a bunch of "this site is unsafe, visit it anyway?" links before it lets me get there, and for some, including Wikipedia, it won't let me go there at all! All these sites work fine on my tablet, which is not as old as the computer and still runs the current OS version.

I priced out a new iMac. Just under $2K for the minimal system I'd want; just over $2K after taxes. My computer works fine for everything except web browsing, which is most of what I use it for, but also some record-keeping, including my weight log and my blood pressure log.

So I could buy a Chromebook just for web browsing. But I don't like laptops. I don't like typing on them. Very uncomfortable. I could get a separate keyboard for it, I presume. 

Or I could get a keyboard for my tablet and use it for web browsing. But while the tablet is great for some things, the screen is much smaller and so reading and typing are hard on the eyes. So I'd like to stick with the big screen but I don't really want to spend $2K just to make web browsing easier.

Don't know what, if anything, I want to do.
#42
My new cardiologist ordered some labs. "Go in fasting." Every time I've ever had labs done before they've told me that coffee (black!) is okay. So when I got up at 3:30 a.m. I had my cup of instant decaf with a tiny bit of instant regular.

At the lab they asked me if I was fasting. "Yes. I just had my cup of mostly-decaf coffee 5 hours ago, and nothing else but water."

"Didn't they tell you to come in fasting?" She said. "Didn't you know that caffeine affects your cholesterol? Even decaf!"

What the fuck? If that's the case, I've never had an accurate cholesterol test. I always have my cup of mostly-decaf when I get up, and I've always been told it's okay.

So I left and I need to go back in on Monday morning. (When the traffic will be horrid due to some truly idiotic construction! But that's a whole 'nuther rant.)

Damn nuisance!
#43
Tech Talk / Quantum Hype
November 07, 2022, 07:48:46 PM
I've long been suspicious over all the hype about quantum computers. Turns out I'm not the only one. In this 20-minute video, Sabine Hossenfelder (Science Without the Gobbledegook) explains where the current technology is at, and why it's unlikely to produce anything commercially useful.

Quantum effects are real and existing quantum computers can do stuff. For example, there's a quantum computer that can factor the number 21. It's designed specifically to factor the number 21. It cannot factor the number 22, or any other number. Quantum computers can do some operations faster than conventional computers, but to date, none of these are useful for anything.

The biggest quantum computer so far as IIRC 127 qbits. Researchers think that to be actually useful for anything in the real world, several hundred thousand to a million qbits would be needed. Quantum computers are very susceptible to noise, and to (I forget the word) loss of integrity of the qbits. Google and IBM have quantum computers that operate at a temperature a few milikelvins above absolute zero.

There is a tremendous amount of hype around quantum computing. It appears to be all hype.

https://youtu.be/CBLVtCYHVO8

#44
Tempeh, of course, is a traditional Asian fermented soy product. When I was very briefly in Madison, WI, circa 1990, the house I was staying at had a large (2.5 gallon?) bucket of fresh tempeh in water. Grab a chunk, fry it in a skillet, and it was ready to eat.

The Tempeh I can get here is very dry and is wrapped in plastic. I found a recipe online that said to steam it for a while, then marinate it for a while, then bake it. That worked. It was eatable, but it wasn't great. For a while the tempeh just sat in my fridge.

Recently I tried a variation which I rather like: 

I cut it into strips and then boiled it in low-sodium V-8 juice with some chopped onion, salt substitute, and black pepper. After about a half hour simmering on low heat I took the tempeh out and marinated it in sweet chili sauce and some honey teriyaki sauce. I let that sit, mixing occasionally, for another while. Finally I poured just a little of the hot V-8 on it and mixed it again to dilute the marinade so it would not all stick to the tempeh strips, which I then baked in a pre-heated 500° oven for 15 minutes.

The result was not bad at all.

I drank the still-hot but not boiling V-8 juice as soup.

A variation would be to split the Tempeh so the chunk is only half as thick, rather than cutting it into strips. It could then be eaten on bread like a sandwich with fixings.
#45
Forum Administration and Rules / Origin is unreachable
November 01, 2022, 10:41:21 PM
I've been getting a lot of "Origin is unreachable" errors (523).

Generally if I press reload the site loads. But the error screen comes on a lot. Other times it just takes a long time to load.

It's not doing it now, but earlier today when I tried to post this, I couldn't because it was failing to connect more than it was connecting.
#46
Health, Fitness, Nutrition, and Medicine / Shakti Mat
September 13, 2022, 11:43:18 PM
Shakti Mat: Fun home self-torture device.

A while back, Ross & Carrie did an episode on the Shakti Mat. Most of the "alternative health" products and devices they cover on their podcast are downright bunkum, and though they're not always as blunt as I am in their descriptions, they make that pretty clear. This one was an exception since they ended up saying that it probably won't do you any damage, and some folks might find it relaxing. It has a 30-day return policy, so there's no financial risk. If you believe them (and on this I have no reason to doubt) their mats are ethically sourced, paying fair wages to the workers.

So finally I decided to buy one. They make health claims, which of course are bullshit. They say it works by acupressure, which itself is bullshit, but in addition, it doesn't target specific "acupressure" points. It's got spikes all over, which stick into your back (or whatever other body parts you choose to lay on it).

Here's the weird thing: For the first couple of minutes the pain is excruciating. On the first try I couldn't go past about a minute. But it doesn't actually break the skin (if you do it right) so the next day I decided to try it again and, wimp though I am, I powered through it. The pain starts to diminish after a couple of minutes, and by the 6-minute mark it doesn't hurt very much at all. By ten minutes it starts to feel kind of pleasant. And after that the only thing that will make you want to get off it is boredom. I put on music (Simon Preston playing the complete Bach trio sonatas for organ BWV 525-530 because there's a YouTube of that which is long enough to last longer than I'll be on the mat) and lay on my back on the mat for half an hour. Kind of pleasant after the first ten minutes. No health benefits, of course. Just a pleasant way to torture yourself for a bit.
#47
Recipes / Split Pea Soup & Other Soup
September 02, 2022, 11:04:38 AM
I love split pea soup. (Vegetarian, of course.) But it takes a long time to make. It wouldn't be so bad if I planned far enough ahead to soak the peas overnight. And maybe some day I'll get organized enough to do that. But for now the time it takes to cook the peas has been an obstacle for me.

But yesterday I needed a day of rest from cardio, which meant that I didn't have to leave the house at 6:30 to get to the canoe club for a 7:00 a.m. launch, so I used the free time to make split pea soup:

Cook a cup of split peas in plain water for IIRC an hour and a half, adding more water as needed, and then let them sit for another hour. Then sauté one very large onion, chopped, in olive oil. (Butter would be better for this, but I never keep butter in the house. If I were making this to impress a girl with my cooking skills I'd have bought butter just for this.) When the onions were golden brown and just starting to darken, I added water to stop the cooking and then added a finely-chopped head of broccoli, a half-head of cauliflower, also finely chopped, a double-handful of green cabbage, also finely chopped, and two medium potatoes, diced. Some garlic, black pepper, smoked paprika, French tarragon, some garam masala, and a little potassium chloride, which is my salt substitute. I added a pretty large amount of low-sodium V-8 and a small can of tomato paste mixed with water so it wouldn't be a clump in the soup pot.

After that had cooked for about ten minutes, I mashed the peas with a potato masher, adding some water as needed, and then added that into the soup.

I think that's everything. I could be forgetting something.

Then I cooked it for another 20 minutes or so on a simmer, and then let it sit for another hour or so.

It turned out so good that I ate way too much and got a stomach ache. I think I ate 2/3 or 3/4 of it. The rest will be today's lunch, along with a half a very small loaf of 100% whole-wheat bread I made the day before yesterday. I am going to have to make this more often. Maybe I can make myself put the split peas on to soak the night before and save time. Then I need to set half or two-thirds of it aside for later before I start eating.
#48
General Discussion / Anew scam (new to me, anyway)
August 17, 2022, 03:41:14 PM
I got a phone call the other day. A robo-voice said something like "Your purchase of <something or other> for $495 has been approved. If you did not approve this purchase, please press 1 to speak with..." at which point I hung up.

This was a new one for me. I presume that if you press 1 a scammer comes on the line and asks for your credit card details so that they can reverse the charge. Of course, if you give them that information they'll either charge your card, or sell your information to someone else who will charge your card or use it to buy stuff.

I get calls from time to time from "Alexa at Visa" which I hang up on so I don't know exactly what the scam will be, and calls telling me that my car is out of warranty, and calls telling me there's a virus on my PC. But this one was new to me.
#49
Tech Talk / Should I get fiber optic?
August 05, 2022, 09:37:17 PM
Today a fellow from the local phone company (Hawaiian Telcom) came to  my door to pitch fiber optic cable for internet. I've seen them putting up the cable around my neighborhood. (I asked a workman what they were doing: Installing fiber optic cable.) 

Right now I pay $80/month (total including taxes) for Spectrum cable internet. That includes renting their router, probably stupid. I did an Ookla speed test: 349 Mbps download; 11 upload. I almost never experience buffering, and when I do I suspect it's the content provider and not the internet provider or the download speed.

Hawaiian Telcom is offering 300 Mbps for $40/month; 500 for $45; 750 for $55; or 1 Gbps for $70. $10/mo more if I rent their router.

The guy said that these speeds were guaranteed and would not slow down when more people in my neighborhood are using it "because it's optic." It seems to me that even though optical cable has much greater capacity than copper cable, if they put too many people on one node, it could still bog down. Whether it's fiber or copper, it will be slow if they don't install enough bandwidth.

Their FAQ page talks about fiber being so much faster than copper, but says nothing about speeds being guaranteed or promises that the price won't rise.

What do folks think? Is fiber optic generally a better choice? It would be cheaper for the same or even greater speed, assuming the guy was telling me the truth and the quoted speeds are real.
#50
Tech Talk / Curious about VR
July 15, 2022, 10:06:46 PM
I'm curious about VR. On the show they've talked about VR experiences like walking the plank of a sailing ship, or stepping off the edge of the Grand Canyon, probably others. I had previously thought that you needed a high-level gaming computer to run VR, but I once bought a very cheap goggles that you set a smartphone into. My iPhone SE is too small to give much field of view but it did function, sort of. 

Now I see that there are stand-alone VR headsets like Oculus Quest 2, but a little bit of reading suggests that people mostly use these for gaming. I have zero interest in computer games (other than things like chess or sudoku, etc., that I play on my tablet, no VR needed). But I'm intrigued by some of the VR experiences the rogues have mentioned.

Then I see references that you need Facebook to use Oculus, but I cannot find:

1. If that's only for playing multi-player games over the internet; or
2. If that refers also to downloading anything for the headset; and
3. I cannot find if there are VR experiences available, or only games.

I mention Oculus only because it's one brand I saw that has good reviews. I don't care what brand I might get, but I cannot get anything that requires Facebook because Facebook won't let me on without giving them my cell phone number so they can mine and sell my personal information. I won't do that so I don't have access to Facebook. 

Are there options for stand-alone VR sets that have "experiences" available, as opposed to just games?

I can think of a lot of things that would be cool. In addition to the ones mentioned above, I could imagine walking along the sea floor with sharks and barracudas and giant squids; walking on the Moon or Mars, visiting the world's great museums; walking among big animals in Africa; big snakes in the Amazon...

What's the current state of all this? 

Thanks.