Honest Dissent

Here in America we are descended in blood and in spirit from revolutionists and rebels—men and women who dare to dissent from accepted doctrine. As their heirs, may we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

The Future Baroness

I will never be one of those women, who stay silent and pretty on the arm of her husband. Or remote and alone in the kitchen doing the washing up for that matter. One’s life must matter, Denis, beyond all the cooking and the cleaning and the children. One’s life must mean more than that. I cannot die washing up a teacup.

— A characterization of the young Margaret Roberts from The Iron Lady.

“Luge”

Video by the Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion.

User Expectations Regarding Files & Mobile Applications

There has been a fast foray by most business software companies into ultra-mobile computing. Microsoft is finally starting to catch up on non-Windows Phone devices with Office for Android. I say that they’re only starting because I met a critical flaw in their own application.

Mobile software has taught users—myself included—that you only need to save documents on full-fledged computers, not smartphones or light tablets (i.e., anything with an ARM chip). It’s great, because that’s one less step to do with a tiny keyboard on a tiny display using an interface that wasn’t designed for handling files.

In fact, it’s one of the intentional decisions made by Apple, and later Microsoft, with their respective mobile platforms: removing the file system from the average user’s view. This is great for most users: you don’t expose the underlying system, so the system appears less complex and it’s less intimidating up front for people who haven’t learned to use the system.

Apple took this step with OS X: they’ve hidden the Library folder in users’ home directories and have somewhat replaced their file browser from being the center of interaction when you first turn on a Mac by introducing Launchpad.

While the rest of the industry starts moving away from exposing the file system to non-power users (and Apple just hides it from everyone), the shift is clear: we don’t open files directly anymore. Instead, we always open applications to handle files.

Some developers have handled this well. Their apps automatically save changes, even to drafts. If the operating system terminates the application when it’s in the background, the file is safe and, to the user, the application’s state hasn’t changed when the user switches back to it. And there’s no need to worry about finding a place to save a file when you press Save; you just need to tap the name of the new document, Untitled, and type in a new name. It’s saved until the user tells the application to destroy it.

Now, here’s my gripe: a certain app for Android doesn’t do that. It still uses parts of the file metaphor (which is partly due to Android as a platform having a silly insistence on exposing the file system for normal users despite everyone else realizing it makes things more complicated) and, its most egregious sin, doesn’t autosave files or drafts.

I just lost an entire hour’s worth of fiction I wrote before sleeping that I’ll never be able to recover, because someone didn’t think about how the modern device’s user environment handles files as part of the industry’s standards, the platform, and the user experience.

If your application doesn’t automatically save changes, please warn me now so I can avoid it.

Have you ever seen the rain?

Sometimes there is no better metaphor for a period in one’s life than rain. There’s the spring shower, where it’s grey for a day and everything blooms come the next. There’s the summer thunderstorm, which is often dark, loud, and scary. It seems to last forever, stretching deep into the night and keeping you awake, hiding under your covers. There’s the autumn rain, where there’s wind stripping the trees of their bright, colorful leaves and giving arid farmlands a sigh of relief until harvesting ends. And further, there’s the wintry rain, sometimes frozen, hammering on the roofs of homes and offices, shattering on windshields and pelting pedestrians; and when the rain stops, the path can be treacherous, well into the following days and weeks.

There is beauty in rain that no other weather has. There are so many conditions that can coalesce into something beautiful, or into an absolute terror.

In the late summer, each raindrop that falls onto the parking lot evaporates from the absorbed heat of the asphalt. The sweet vapors flow through your nose, giving a subtle nudge to your brain to recognize how amazing its natural talent of cleaning the air of its impurities and pollutants really is. The realization that despite human expansion, we have no control over the weather and that only it can undo so much of our contamination is both humbling and frightening. It leaves one awestruck.

Even the long, dark winters of the Pacific Northwest are beautiful. The sound of the rain against the rooftops and streets, mimicking its mother ocean’s waves breaking against beaches, can lull one to sleep at night or provide a soundtrack for busy afternoons at work and romantic evenings.

And perhaps the most amazing, when you think about all of the factors and extremes that contribute to it happening, is every single rainbow. The sun burns at several thousand degrees to throw visible radiation in every conceivable direction, and a few of those photons make it to Earth, slip through her atmosphere, break through the rainclouds, strike the raindrops at just the right angle, refract through it, and strike the back of your eye, turning into pulses of electricity, showing amazingly bright, saturated hues across the entire spectrum in your brain to your soul.

After the rain hits the ground, it drains away, from capillaries, to larger and larger waterways, until it hits a river like the mighty Columbia, and flows back into the ocean, only to take the journey again—someday.

Though today is a sunny one in my part of Oregon, winds are calm and our high is set to be around 54°F. A nice day for Thanksgiving in America.

Gods know I have a lot to be thankful for. But in particular, I’m grateful for being alive, for knowing the people I know, for my family and friends, whether living or absent, and for everyone who works around the globe on everything from computers and medicine to water treatment and milling so I don’t have to.

And I’m grateful my friend is still alive. The world would not be as bright of a place without you.

The rain may come, but it doesn’t stay forever.

Working Wear

Wood from a grain elevator’s spout. The grain had singlehandedly eroded the wood down from decades of processing.

You are tiny.

Animated representation of the scale of stars.

Some days are better than others.

Events occurred 12 April 2013. Thank you to all of my readers. I enjoy reading the comments, so please: if you have a minute free and an opinion on what I’ve written, I’d like to hear it.

Something like this shouldn’t have such an influence on me; shouldn’t make me want to cry… but it does. These were the words that a client, a Navy veteran nonetheless, said this morning:

They say “It’s OK to be gay,” but it’s not.

A sentence of just over 10 words shattered my day. On the way home from work, I pulled off the road at the park near my neighborhood. I stopped the engine, pulled my iPad out of my bag and, not bothering to unlatch my seatbelt or crack open the window, started writing this. Honestly, I’m putting off having to go home and explain to my mom and dad the reason their son is broken.

Continue reading “Some days are better than others.”

Determining Types of Files With No Extension on Linux & OS X

Determining types of extensionless files on OS X and Linux

Being lazy and in a rush, I saved a download with its default name, thinking I’d remember what kind of file it was without adding an extension. Needless to say, I didn’t—but a quick search revealed a solution, and I’d suggest adding it to your toolkit. Hit up the link or run man file in your friendly local terminal emulator for more.

Mercurial

mer·cu·ri·al
adjective

  1. (of a person) subject to sudden or unpredictable changes in mood or mind: his mercurial temperament.

    • (of a person) spritely; lively

I recently had someone describe me as mercurial. I think he was right.