2018 Update

It’s been over a year since the last update.

I’ve got a server running in my house now, cobbled together from older parts after a recent PC upgrade. I brushed up on my Linux, and installed the Ubuntu 16.04 server distro, with Ubuntu MATE desktop environment for occasional non-command-line management tasks. Teamviewer, the free single-user edition, handles the remote connection to the MATE desktop. Otherwise, I log in to a terminal command line from either my Galaxy S6 using the JuiceSSH app, or from my main PC using MobaXterm.

The Linux server is there for three main reasons:

  1. Plex Media Server. Plex with the subscription (“PlexPass”) is the best home theater media server out there, at the moment. This one was running on my main PC, but while streaming to my Roku apps, or mobile Plex apps, it put a strain on the PC’s modest resources. So, it’s nice having a dedicated box for that, and the main PC breathes easier now.
  2. Calibre. My main activity on breaks at work is reading SF books. There’s no better reader for Android (for now, only Android, sadly) than Moon+ Reader Pro. It is the best epub/mobi reader on any platform, far superior to Amazon’s own Kindle product line, and B&N’s, and the many competitors. I’ve tried many. It’s one of the things keeping me locked on Android mobile devices. How could I switch to iPhone, and lose my favorite reader app? Anyway, it integrates with Calibre library software effortlessly, and Calibre has a Linux version. One less server running off my main PC. I need to donate to the dev coding Calibre; he’s a saint.
  3. I have two Foscam security cams watching my place. After trying all the main software suites out there, the opensource Linux version proved superior (no surprise there). It’s called Zoneminder. Yes, the learning curve is steep, but it’s well documented.

So that’s three server-based software suites I don’t need to worry about hogging resources and slowing down the main PC. Previously, I would just turn one or two off, to take the strain off whichever one I was using. Now, I have the luxury of a set-it-and-forget-it server and uninterrupted access to three useful server-based apps, all happily running crash-free on the excellent Ubuntu Linux server platform.

Podcasts remain another lifesaver for work and commute. Again, I’ve tried all the Android-based alternatives to Shifty Jelly’s Pocket Casts, but it remains the best pod catcher out there. (Plex just got in the game, but they’ve got a long way to go to get my attention off Pocket Casts).

I dumped the Rubin Report because it got repetitive, boring, and annoyingly tilted toward libertarian causes. Also, he never asks a tough question. I lost interest in Penn Jillette’s Sunday School, even though I retain much respect for the man.

My current playlist, updated:

  • New York Times’ The Daily, now only Mon-Thu, is still a list-topper. Two caveats: Michael Barbaro has a painfully slow, overwrought cadence to his speech. Happily, it’s not often you have to hear him, since he usually just starts and ends the episode, but that’s usually enough to irritate. Pocket Cast’s speed control and silence-trimming feature help some. Also, it’s a poorly edited podcast, for being so high profile, and presumably high-budget. For example, when Michael’s first audio clip is the phoned-in voice of one of his colleagues at the Times, we don’t just hear the reporter’s introduction to the topic; they leave in the sounds of Michael dialing the number, the ringing, the answer, and preliminary chit-chat, sometimes even the chit-chat with hotel switch-boards also… I can only assume the producers think listeners are fascinated with Michael Barbaro’s career to the extreme of wanting to listen in on even mundane portions of his day. Other problems include long pauses and long, longgg music breaks for emotional impact. For a news outlet, they seem pretty motivated to pull on the heart-strings. It’s all so very pretentious and wasteful of the listeners time. It is a glaring error in judgment, in my opinion. Please, Daily producers, hire a real editor. Otherwise, it’s got good production values and well-written stories.
  • Sam Harris’ Waking Up and subscriber channel, too. My current favorite podcast, and always trumps all others on the list whenever it’s released.
  • Also, Twenty-Thousand Hertz, mentioned below. Probably the podcast with the highest quality audio. That makes sense, given their topic, and who is producing it, but theirs is the one I would recommend above any other for new pod casters to study and emulate.
  • Reply All. Delightfully weird, hipster in the best ways, often heart-wrenching. Stay for the post-credits mini-series of some weird inter-dimensional traveler and his dog(?). From the Gimlet network (high quality stuff, there).
  • Binge Mode. I started listening after they split off the weekly show from their GoT-obsessed one (I’m not into Game of Thrones. Shoot me.). Catch up gems: Star Wars Heroes, Westworld and the Nature of Consciousness.
  • The Rewatchables. Good catch-ups: Good Will Hunting, The Big Lebowski, The Princess Bride, The Dark Knight, Speed, The Silence of the Lambs, A Few Good Men.
  • The Recappables, Westworld edition. These last three are from the Ringer network, and have really high production values; they raise the bar for podcast quality.
  • The Joe Rogan Experience, but not all episodes. I always skip the fight recaps and most all comedian interviews, but when mainstream authors come on, it’s always the best long-form interview you can get. And there’s a YouTube video of every episode, if you want that. Recent gems: Michael Pollan, Matt Taibbi, Sam Harris & Maajid Nawaz, T.J. English & Joey Diaz, Bret Weinstein & Heather Heying.
  • Radio Atlantic, produced by the editorial staff of the Atlantic magazine.
  • Crazy/Genius, another in the Atlantic house.
  • The Caliphate, a spin-off miniseries from the New York Times.
  • Intelligence Squared debates. Optional, only if waiting on the above pods.
  • Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History. Recent episodes are extremely long– several hours, usually– but worth it if you have the time and interest. Oddly, the first few episodes were produced with background sounds and music accompanying Carlin’s narration. It was a good decision to dump that; it’s unnecessary and distracting. But I would like to learn more about both sides of that decision (to do it in the first place; and then, to stop it).
  • Switched On Pop. Two scholarly music reviewers, thoroughly deconstructing pop songs. Their take on Demi Lovato’s Sorry, Not Sorry was great fun. This one’s optional.
  • Trying to find time for Slate’s new one: Lend Me Your Ears, current events through Shakespeare’s eyes.

In March, I got my five year pin. I’m still at Hollywood Studios. The new Toy Story Land is opening later this month, and Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge (really? couldn’t just call it Star Wars Land, which we all will anyway?) opens in about eighteen months. These two changes, combined with getting a station on the new Skyway gondola network going in, should make for some pretty big changes in attendance at my park.

I quit Facebook (and their Instagram platform, too, though I was fairly inactive on that one). I deleted my Tumblr, which only had about ten posts anyway. The only social media I kept was Twitter, and I only look at it for news, and rarely ever write anything on it. I don’t miss social media a bit, and have a much healthier relationship with my smart phone. I also recently finished the last couple mobile games I’d been working on. No more games or social media pull me to my phone. I’m proud of that!

I’m all caught up on Asimov’s Foundation canon, Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller series (he needs to publish a new one! Please!), the published works of Neil Stephenson, and Ernest Cline’s two great books (so far). I’m working on James S A Corey’s Expanse series.

I got four books in, and then caught up with the SyFy Channel’s adaptation, three seasons long so far. The actors are not A-listers, and most of the cast is way too young; plus, casting actress Shohreh Aghdashloo as Avasarala is unfortunate, but not because of her skill, I think. Science fiction isn’t her thing; her pronunciation of so much technical jargon and her character’s generous use of cursing just feel wooden coming out of her mouth. Her almost opaque accent is irritating, too. That, combined with Corey’s made-up “Belter” pidgin English phrases freely mixed in to the dialogue (without captions, unless you turn them on for everyone) make it a bit of a strain to keep the disbelief suspended. CGI effects are pleasantly well-budgeted, however, and the fairly strict devotion to the source material make it worth the viewing time, if you’re enjoying the series. Word is, SyFy is giving over production of the fourth season to Amazon; luckily, I have a Prime subscription.


Catching Up

It’s been the better part of a year since the last post, although my Twenty-five Years in the Seventh-day Adventist Church post continues to draw comments and I reply to each one.

We’ve had a bitter and contentious election season, and somehow elected a bitter and contentious person to the office of President of the United States. Way too much being written/ Youtubed/ podcasted about that fiasco for me to bother adding any more than I just did.

Speaking of which, podcasts have continued to skyrocket in popularity, enabling some rising stars to catch my attention. Here’s my current faves:

  • Twenty Thousand Hertz, a too-short, very sweet occasionally published dive into interesting sounds. Created by a film and game sound effects house, it offers compelling background info on a topic which has always obsessed me: sound.
  • The Rubin Report, Dave Rubin’s audio version of his YouTube channel. He’s gone completely Patreon/subscriber funded, and that’s enabled him to build his own studio, and say whatever the hell he wants, and interview anyone, penalty free. This makes for some terribly informative listening.
  • Penn Jillette’s Sunday School is fairly narrow in demographic, but I happen to fit into it: fans of magic, of Penn and Teller, and those interested in libertarianism. I started listening during the middle of last year, and it helped me comprehend that much-maligned political doctrine, and fleshed out a little of candidate Gary Johnson’s background for me. The format is long and rambling, and seems like you just entered a long-running conversation between three best friends. It’s not for everyone, but it has never failed to crack me up.

I’ve moved over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios merchandise from the Magic Kingdom. I’m glad I did my first three years at Disney at the busiest, most intense park, but I’m thrilled to be away from the madness and chaos. Just ask anyone you know who’s ever worked at MK or even an annual passholder or vacation club member; they’ll help you understand that madness. It’s a wonderful place to visit, but I’m not sure I could handle ever working there again.

DHS is more my speed, and yes, I realize that it’s about to get a LOT busier, when they finish Toy Story Land and Star Wars Land (2019-ish?). That’s okay. First of all, I’m more of a fan of Star Wars than probably any other aspect of Disney; those geeky, nerdy, Star Wars fans the world over are my tribe, and I love meeting them every day. Also, I’m not intimidated by crowds or busy shifts; I routinely tell my coworkers and guests that I can’t wait for the opening day of Star Wars Land, and I hope I get to work that day, since it will be so insane as not to be missed!

I’m re-watching Neil deGrasse Tyson’s version of Cosmos on Netflix. I have lately been delving deep into my interests in evolution and pondering the question of where we came from. This series is a must-see for anyone….period! And just finished reading Stephen Baxter’s Evolution: A Novel, which has one of the most sweeping story arc’s I’ve ever encountered (including Asimov’s Foundation series).

Thanks to a new friend (Stephen Barry), I’ve discovered bandcamp.com and uploaded all the homemade electronica tracks I had previously showcased on SoundCloud.com. The latter’s interface and players are still superior to almost any other available for free online. But bandcamp allows monetization quickly, easily, and for a reasonable price. I’ve also created a bandcamp site for my wife’s piano CD, An Offering.

I’ve also created a WordPress.com mirror to this site, just because I can and because it offers a different selection of themes. I think I like the look of it better.

That’s the news for now. Thanks for reading.


Social Justice War On Speech

​Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) have found the enemy, and it is freedom of speech! On university campuses, on their podcasts, blogs, and social media, and in their advocacy and movements, this branch of the political spectrum is ostensibly fighting for the victims of abuse and bigotry and systemic injustice. But in so doing, they have armed themselves with weapons to fight against the free exchange of ideas. Now everyone and everything is scrutinized for a possible political impact. Every word is being parsed, every decision analyzed, every move broken down to find out how it potentially hurts someone somewhere, and thus hurts everyone everywhere, and therefore must be banned from the safe spaces, which are growing and merging, the logical end result of which looks startlingly like Orwellian dystopia. If you question everything, hold nothing as sacred, and say whatever is on your mind, you are not invited to the SJW party. 

The regressive left has gone crazy.  Being liberal used to mean protecting freedom of speech. Now the SJW flank of the left have abdicated that protector role in order to secure an illusory goal of somehow keeping everyone safe from ever hearing anything threatening or uncomfortable (triggers). 

As I learn about the damage being done to the right to speak freely, it reminds me of my own self-censoring while I was a Christian, and a Bible teacher. The parallels between the right and left on free speech have been discussed frequently by Dave Rubin on his excellent Rubin Report, which I highly recommend to anyone concerned about free speech issues. I also credit his series of podcast interviews launched last September for the inspiration for this writing. 

It finally dawned on me last night that I could remember being confronted with ‘threatening speech’ occasionally during my Christian delusion. Even in the safe spaces of the Seventh-day Adventist campus where I taught, I could access and interact with challenging ideas outside that protective bubble, using the Internet. When challenges to my faith arose, I usually just dismissed them, feeling a pang of guilt which was quickly tagged as ‘evil’, or whatever– Christians are good at inventing justifications from “The Devil made me do it”. The guilt and shame came from my conscience, which knew better than to dismiss facts just because they were uncomfortable, but I did it anyway, time and again, in order to prop up my delusional belief system. That dismissal and damage to the conscience is a thing everyone did, everyone who clung to the irrational and illogical doctrines we all held sacred. It was easier to do in a community which encouraged it. 

This kind of violence done to one’s conscience cannot be healthy. Across years of indulging in this denial of basic values like freedom of expression and freedom to question sacred beliefs, the cognitive dissonance builds up like scar tissue on one’s reasoning ability. I know this self-censorship made me vulnerable to conspiracy theory paranoia, inappropriate trust in bogus claims and authority, and doubtless contributed to the depression I fought since I began my journey out of Christianity.

I think that same kind of cognitive dissonance threatens those apostles of the social justice mania chilling free speech on university campuses and trolling social media now. I wonder if they are becoming vulnerable to irrational schemes and conspiracy theories just like Christians are. 

It hit me again last night how much I regret wasting my youth teaching teenagers how to deny their consciences for the purpose of delusion-maintenance. Those same regrets are waiting to pounce on any current advocates of the speech policing now popular in academia and the liberal press, just as soon as they realize the damage they are doing to our hard-won 1st Amendment rights. 

Supporting popular causes can make you feel important, and stroke your need to belong. But if that cause you love ever makes you censor your doubts about it or damage your own conscience, run away from it. Get out of that toxic pattern now, before you build up life-altering loads of regret. 

If you’re interested in learning more about freedom of speech and the current threats it faces, a good place to go is Dave Rubin’s Rubin Report. It’s a podcast and a YouTube video channel, and the interviews and commentary there are really interesting and informative. But prepared to be challenged! It is not a safe space for anyone still caught up in the regressive left mind-fuck!