Geeky Bob

Just a short, simple blog for Bob to share his thoughts.

Be sure to check out my technical blog at www.microsoftbob.com.

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Soul-Crushing Meetings

A friend of mine posted the following image to social media… and as someone who has had to attend more than a few soul-crushing phone conferences, I thought it was hilarious.

Soul-Crushing-Meeting

That being said, I thought this play set was missing a few things that would add to its realism.

For example, why doesn't it come with a whiteboard and four dried-out markers?

In addition, the conference phone should come with dozens of lifelike features, such as Dropped Calls, Random Static, Open Microphone Keyboard Typing, Private Background Conversations, and 15 minutes of 'Can You Hear Me?' dialog. This would turn your kids' 5-minute meeting into hours of troubleshooting entertainment - every time!

Posted: Apr 01 2018, 09:41 by Bob | Comments (0)
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Adventures with the Easter Vampire

A few years ago I wrote a blog titled "Adventures with the Tooth Werewolf", where I wrote about how I rose my children with a belief in the Tooth Werewolf instead of the Tooth Fairy. In that same blog I also briefly mentioned that I had come up with the Easter Vampire instead of the Easter Bunny. (I'll bet you wish your parents had been this cool, right?)

That being said, one of my daughters sent me the following video, which she appropriately-labeled, "The Easter Vampire?"

Smile

Posted: Mar 30 2018, 03:39 by Bob | Comments (0)
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Atheist Prayer Warriors

Did you ever notice how many atheists are actually the fiercest prayer warriors?

Every time they declare, "GD this!" or "GD that!," they are - in fact - calling on a God whom they claim does not exist to intervene on their behalf.

The tragic part about this fact is that in so doing they are praying more times per day than most Christians.

Posted: Mar 30 2018, 02:04 by Bob | Comments (0)
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Happy Pi Day!!!

In honor of "Pi Day" (3/14), here are the first 256 digits of Pi set to music... (which was achieved by taking the numbers in Pi and overlaying them on a C major scale).

At first I thought about overlaying the digits on a pentatonic scale to create a little more harmony, but it turns out that it wasn't necessary. (Of course, the bass line and drum parts add a lot, too.)

I also thought about doing something with a pentatonic scale, but as I said earlier it didn't appear to need it. I also thought using about some sort of timing extraction from the numbers in Pi instead of using 8th notes, but most of my experiments started to sound far too random and chaotic.

FWIW - I also did a version in 7/8 time, just 'cause... you know... RUSH.

Posted: Mar 14 2018, 07:15 by Bob | Comments (0)
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Do you think that the Russians want war?

In response to Vladimir Putin's recent proclamation that Russia now has "Invincible Nuclear Weapons," someone posted a link to Dick Gaughan's 1983 song "Think Again:"

The problem with songs like Gaughan's is that they do a tremendous injustice to what was actually going on in the world when that song was written. At the time, there were a great deal of songs written to protest the Cold War and to encourage everyone to "give peace a chance." The problem with naive statements like "give peace a chance" is that many a conquered nation has wanted peace at all costs, but their desire for peace did not prevent their eventual destruction. Appeasement of Hitler prior to WWII is a perfect example: most of Europe did nothing as Hitler stormed through country after country because everyone else remembered WWI, and the rest of Europe would rather stand by and let a madman conquer the world than upset their personal peace.

Which brings us back to Gaughan's song and it's central question: "Do you think that the Russians want war?" The target of Gaughan's lyrics was the policymakers in the West, who have largely done nothing whenever madmen went to war, because the West typically seeks peace at all costs. The West wanted peace with Hitler, and peace with Stalin, and with Khrushchev, and with Brezhnev. The West may not have approved the actions of these madmen, but the West would much rather have peace than declare war on every psychopath who comes along. But here's the thing: even though the West wanted peace, the Russians - in the form of the Soviets - very clearly wanted war.

15 countries ceased to exist with autonomy in the name of Russian/Soviet war: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belorussia, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kirghizia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldavia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and the Ukraine. These countries did not want war, but Russia gave them war anyway. As a result, these conquered territories became the 14 satellite republics of the Soviet Union. But let us not forget that Afghanistan also did not want war, yet the Russians/Soviets invaded anyway. Afghanistan was destined to become the 16th Soviet republic, until clandestine meddling from the United States helped turn that war in favor of the Afghanis, (and thereby bring about the collapse of the Soviet Union, but that's another story).

But it doesn't end there, because the Russians/Soviets also brought war to Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, and Romania. These countries were conquered by the Russians/Soviets to serve as sacrificial "buffer states" in the event of hypothetical invasion from the West, (rather than becoming formal Soviet republics).

While Gaughan's lyrics pontificate about the 20 million people slaughtered by Nazi invasion, it does nothing to address the 30 million or so of their own countrymen killed by the peace-loving Russians/Soviets, nor does begin to account for all of millions of people slaughtered senselessly during the Russian/Soviet invasions of the countries previously mentioned, nor does it account for the hundreds of thousands of casualties incurred during the brutal suppressions carried out by the Russians/Soviets whenever one of those countries fought for their independence. (Nor do those numbers address the additional tens of millions of people slaughtered by the USSR's allies in the Far East and South/Central America; but let us refrain from digression and stick to Russia, shall we?)

People can claim that the "Average Russian" did not want war, and that all of these atrocities were caused by the actions and ideologies of their leaders. I must admit, there is undoubtedly a grain of truth to that perspective. But then again, you have to realize that millions of "Average Russians" actively participated in conquering of all of the countries that I have mentioned. Those countries wanted peace; Russia brought them war. As a result, those millions of "Average Russians" are no less guilty than the millions of "Average Germans" who brought the Nazi War Machine to peaceful Europe.

I have quoted this poem before in other contexts, so please forgive my repetition here; following WWII, the German pastor Martin Niemöller expressed the folly of "Average Germans" doing nothing about the Nazis when he wrote:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out -
because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out -
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out -
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak for me.

Niemöller's sentiments may not be a call to arms, but they certainly condemn the cowardice of those who do nothing while their fellow countrymen commit atrocities.

Gaughan's song attempts to lay the desire for war at the feet of the West's leaders because - as he put it - we didn't "like their political system." To restate what I have said earlier, no one liked Russia's political system. But the Russians/Soviets forced their political system on millions of innocent people through decades of violent bloodshed. Gaughan conveniently ignores all of that.

I have stated many times before that Russia is never more than one madman away from becoming the Soviet Union again, and we're seeing that come to fruition. Under Putin's leadership, Russia has once again annexed the Ukraine, and it has violently suppressed dissension in other former Soviet republics. And once again, the West has done nothing, because despite the flowery rhetoric of naive dreamers like Gaughan, the West still desires peace more than war. But Gaughan ignores all of that, too.

As I have mentioned all along, the West has almost always wanted peace; that much is clear from the staggering amount of reticence that it has shown whenever another madman has come along and started conquering its neighbors. The West attempted to intervene in the Far East, with disastrous results, and we have learned our lesson. As a result, the West typically does nothing now, because most people in the West believe in peace at all costs. But as the saying goes, "Peace is a fleeting fantasy, embraced by fools, signifying nothing." A desire for peace does not prevent war; at best it only delays the inevitable.

With that in mind, to answer Gaughan's question: even though the West wants peace, Russia has always wanted war.

Posted: Mar 01 2018, 03:15 by Bob | Comments (0)
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When Pianists Talk While Playing

Here is my truthful rendition of what piano players think they sound like when they attempt to talk while playing the piano, versus what they actually sound like to everyone else around them. Winking smile

Note that the preceding video is by-product of the author's sarcastic nature and created for entertainment purposes only. Time signatures, tempos, keys, chords and embellishments are either the products of the author's imagination or used in a facetious manner. Any resemblance to pianists, living, dead, or undead, or actual music is purely coincidental.

Open-mouthed smile

Posted: Feb 20 2018, 17:26 by Bob | Comments (0)
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Jordan Peterson versus Cathy Newman

A good friend of mine shared the following video on Facebook, wherein Cathy Newman, who is a journalist for Britain’s Channel 4 News, hosted a debate with Jordan Peterson, who is a liberal clinical psychologist from Toronto. But you can’t really call it a debate, because Newman was clearly out of her league. She obviously entered the studio that day in possession of several pre-conceived beliefs, and she held steadfastly to those beliefs despite the fact that all of her arguments disintegrated into a flaming pile of excrement as the ‘debate’ progressed. (Or digressed, as the case may be.)

Peterson easily defeated all of Newman’s false assumptions with a never-ending stream of well-researched and articulate facts. Nevertheless, Newman repeatedly assaulted her studio guest as though she were a pit bull from hell, to which Peterson continuously responded with a polite demeanor and a gracious disposition, which was an incredible accomplishment seeing as how Newman’s arguments had no basis in reality.

Here is the video of the debate in question:

All joking aside, this ‘debate’ should become required watching for all journalism students in the future, because it is the best example of how not to conduct an interview or debate. Not only did Newman arrive at this interview ill-prepared and bursting with incorrect, pre-conceived notions about what her guest believed, but she also failed to accurately listen to her guest. Throughout the debate, Newman maintained a constant state of combatant and accusatory maliciousness despite all of the well-researched evidence that was presented as contrary to her personal feelings. Newman continuously interrupted her guest, and she constantly misquoted Peterson by twisting his responses into almost the opposite opinion of what he actually said or believed, and all the while she prefaced her misquotations with a condescending introduction such as, “So, what you’re saying is…,” or “So, you think that…,” etc.

With all of that in mind, here is my recap of the general flow of information during the debate:

  • Cathy Newman: I have this pre-existing and baseless opinion about what you believe, and I disagree with everything that you have ever said in your life.
  • Jordan Peterson: Your pre-existing opinion of my beliefs has no basis in fact.
  • Newman: So what you're saying is, my pre-existing, baseless opinion is correct.
  • Peterson: No, I never said that. Your pre-existing opinion is easily defeated by these concrete facts.
  • Newman: I will completely ignore your facts, and I will restate my baseless opinion as your belief.
  • Peterson: No, I don't believe that. Here are some more facts, examples, and things that I have said in the past which disagree with your pre-existing opinion.
  • Newman: I will ignore everything that we have said so far, and I will restate my original pre-existing and baseless opinion as though we hadn't said anything.
  • Peterson: No, you are deliberately distorting reality; what I believe is this, which is backed up by years of empirical evidence.
  • Newman: In a futile attempt to reinforce my baseless opinion, I am going to quote an unresearched statistic and hurl it at you in an accusatory manner.
  • Peterson: I am going to easily refute your false statistic with an example that...
  • Newman: I would rather interrupt you in a rude an insulting manner than listen to your facts, and ask what gives you the right to believe that my baseless opinion is somehow incorrect?
  • Peterson: I am an expert in my field, and here is a bunch of reinforcing data that I have collected from first-hand experience throughout my vast career within this field, which is backed up by years of academic studies conducted by other experts in this field.
  • Newman: So what you're saying is, you believe that my original pre-existing, baseless opinion is correct.
  • Peterson: No, I don't believe that. You're doing very badly here, so I will attempt an offhanded compliment to spare you the embarrassment of looking like an intellectual buffoon on a public broadcast.
  • Newman: I will resoundingly deflect your unnecessary compliment, and I will suddenly steer this conversation into a nonsensical, unrelated direction and use this change of topic to state another pre-existing and baseless opinion.
  • Peterson: I have no idea why we are discussing this unrelated topic, but your other pre-existing opinion is also incorrect, and I can back this up with centuries of evolutionary evidence and study.
  • Newman: So let me get this straight, you also agree with my other pre-existing opinion.
  • Peterson: No, I never said that; I don't agree with either of your baseless opinions.
  • Newman: I am clearly out of my league here, so I'm just going to call you a big meanie like I am some sort of kindergartener.
  • Peterson: I'm not a big meanie.
  • Newman: Well, you're mean to people who disagree with you.
  • Peterson: I vehemently defend my beliefs with other academics, although I also have letters from thousands of people over the past few months who have thanked me for making their lives better.
  • Newman: This interview has gone down in flames, so I'm going to thank you curtly and basically throw you out of my studio.
  • Peterson: I will respond politely, as I have done for this entire debacle, which has been an amazing feat of patience for me since you clearly lack the intelligence to tie your own shoelaces.

I think that accurately sums up their discussion.


UPDATE: The same friend later posted the following image, which nicely sums up the overall accuracy of Ms. Newman’s responses to Peterson’s statements.

jordan-versus-newman

Posted: Jan 22 2018, 08:47 by Bob | Comments (0)
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Good Days and Bad Days

It’s been a few months since I was diagnosed with Essential Tremor, and as I have mentioned in other blog posts, I have good days and I have bad days. I also mentioned that – thanks to modern medicine – my good days usually outnumber the bad days. But that being said, today was a bad day, and at the risk of regaling you with “Too Much Information,” I thought that I would take a moment to explain what that’s like.

Throughout the day, dozens of seemingly-trivial tasks were made difficult by miniscule tremors that caught me completely off guard. In each occasion, either my fingers would tremble, or my entire hand would tremble. To anyone nearby it might seem as if nothing was happening, but each instance was terribly frustrating for me.

Here is one example from earlier this evening: my wife and I were standing in our kitchen, and I held up a jar of salsa to dip a chip into it. But when I turned the jar on its side so that it was parallel to the ground, my hand started to tremble so badly that I could barely hold the jar. I certainly couldn’t be trusted to try dipping a chip into the jar, so I quickly set it down. I attempted the activity again – with the same result. I looked at my wife and chuckled helplessly, but I usually only get tremors in one hand, so I thought that I would just change hands to work around the problem. However, I soon discovered that my other hand yielded the same outcome – my hands were simply shaking too badly to be reliable.

I was briefly annoyed at my own inability to accomplish this ridiculously-simple task, when I thought of a workaround: I could hold the jar on the kitchen counter and simply lean it on its side. This worked brilliantly, and it reveals a lifestyle behavior that I am having to employ more and more commonly these days: I use something else for stability.

Quite often I find myself running into situations where my hands are shaking, and even though I mentioned earlier that my physical dilemmas are probably imperceptible to those around me, I cannot help but feel embarrassed by my circumstances – either by my hands shaking or by my inability to do something simple. However, I increasingly find myself working around the problem by leaning my hands against something else for stability; occasionally I will quickly push my hands down onto a table when I find that cannot hold a fork or spoon steady while eating, and other times I will pull my arms to my chest so that I can complete a task with a relative degree of stability. These situations are very frustrating to experience, but I am doing my best to cope with them and find workarounds when possible.

Another annoyance that I have discovered is how these micro-tremors in my hands seem to sap my strength. The tremors are not actually making my hands weaker, but it seems that way because my fingers shake as I try to use them, and as a result I cannot accomplish my intended activity. (If you’ve ever had your hands shake because your blood sugar was crashing, it feels a lot like that.)

Here’s a case in point from earlier today: I received a DVD from Netflix in the mail, and when I picked it up, a quick set of micro-tremors in my fingers made me lose my grip on the envelope and it went sailing through the air. This happened a couple more times, and when I finally managed to force my way through my symptoms and I had a firm grip on the package, the tremors made it impossible to slide my fingers through the seal on the envelope and open it. (That’s when I decided that it was time to go find a set of scissors…)

So this is what my life is like on bad days: I find myself plagued with what seems like a never-ending stream of tiny tremors that are making average, day-to-day activities far more difficult than before. But I am attempting to keep my spirits high as I soldier through my occasional predicaments, and whenever possible I am trying to find workarounds for my setbacks.

(One final note: you wouldn’t believe the number of typos that tremors caused while writing this blog.)

Posted: Jan 18 2018, 14:55 by Bob | Comments (0)
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We Are a Nation of Immigrants

Living in a border state, I am constantly reminded of the need for immigration. Here in Tucson, we see the myriad of ways which immigration has shaped the culture; our entire Southwest identity is a melting pot of Hispanic, Native American, and Old West subcultures. But if you would permit me to put things in perspective, unless you are 100% Native American, then you are either an immigrant or the descendant of immigrants. For example, my ancestors were immigrants: my father's family arrived from Ireland in 1858 as refugees of the Great Famine, and the patriarch of my mother's family travelled to the fledgling American Colonies as an indentured servant in 1807.

No person of European, Asian, Latin American, or African descent can lay claim to native status in North America; (although if you go back as far as possible, even the ancestors of the 'Native Americans' migrated from somewhere else). Nevertheless, it pains me to see people who suggest that we should close our borders. To do so would be ludicrous; immigration has been and always will be the lifeblood of the United States.

However, immigration must be a legal process, and those who do not adhere to the letter of the law must not be allowed to continue residing here. To be fair, the United States' path to citizenship is long and difficult, but that is no excuse for violating the laws by which our nation is governed.

For those people who insist on incorrectly labeling illegal immigrants as undocumented workers, I would like to redirect your attention to an analogy that I saw the other day:

  • If you are of legal age and driving a car with your driver’s license in your pocket, then you are a legal driver.
  • If you are of legal age and driving a car but you forgot your driver’s license at home, then you are an undocumented driver.
  • If you are not of legal age or you do not have a driver’s license, then you are an illegal driver.

Make no mistake about this: if someone enters the United States by anything other than legal means, then they are not undocumented, they are here illegally, and they have no legal right to remain here. However, if someone if someone enters the United States using any of the methods prescribed in our nation’s laws, then they are here legally, and from my perspective they are more than welcome to stay.

My son-in-law was born in Canada, and over the course of several years I watched as he navigated the steps to citizenship. I can tell you with complete honesty that many of the setbacks that he faced were ridiculous and unnecessary; for example: after years of work on his application for citizenship, someone simply failed to sign one document in my son-in-law's paperwork, (which is easy to do when you are dealing with hundreds of documents). When the mistake was discovered, common sense dictates that the single document would be returned for the appropriate signature. However, the United States government is apparently incapable of using common sense, and it rejected the entire packet, so my son-in-law was forced to restart the entire process. As I said earlier, the United States' path to citizenship is long and difficult, but my son-in-law persevered, and this past year I was privileged to attend his citizenship ceremony.

That being said, while the bureaucratic process should certainly be improved with regard to efficient process management, the need for a detailed and lawful path to citizenship is still required. For example, background checks are necessary to ensure that immigrants are not criminals escaping prosecution in their native countries, and basic health checks are required to ensure that other countries are not simply reducing the burdens on their civic responsibilities by relocating their infectious populace across our borders. Once immigrants have passed the basic checks set forth by our laws, I see no problem with making the path to citizenship a much-easier process than our nation currently possesses.

If I suddenly became emperor for a day, I would revamp our immigration system as follows:

  • First, I would announce a temporary amnesty period, where everyone within our shores who is currently residing here illegally has five years to voluntarily report to the United States Immigration Naturalization Services (INS).
  • Because of this temporary amnesty period, everyone who voluntarily reports to INS will be automatically granted work visas for the duration of the amnesty period, after which they will be required to renew their visas, (which should be an easy process).
  • Those who do not report to INS during the temporary amnesty period will be subject to deportation, and possibly barred from applying for work visas or entry into the United States in the future.
  • And lastly, the path from worker to citizen would be revamped so that productive immigrants will have a much-easier process to complete in order to remain in the United States indefinitely as full citizens.

Believe me, it's a good thing that I'm not emperor, but that being said - I am not alone in my desire to see our system of immigration preserved and legally enforced; here are like-minded thoughts from several former United States Presidents from throughout our nation’s history:

  • "Even as though we are a nation of immigrants, we're also a nation of laws. Undocumented workers broke our immigration laws, and they must be held accountable." Barack Obama
  • "Nearly all Americans have ancestors who braved the oceans - liberty-loving risk takers in search of an ideal - the largest voluntary migrations in recorded history... Immigration is not just a link to America's past; it's also a bridge to America's future." George W. Bush
  • "We are a nation of immigrants, but we are also a nation of laws. It is wrong and ultimately self-defeating for a nation of immigrants to permit the kind of abuse of our immigration laws we have seen in recent years and we must do more to stop it." Bill Clinton
  • "Why don't we work out some recognition of our mutual problems; make it possible for [immigrants] to come here legally with a work permit, and then while they're working here and earning here, they pay taxes here. And when they want to go back, they can go back." Ronald Reagan
  • "The [United States]  flourished because it was fed from so many sources - because it was nourished by so many cultures and traditions and peoples." Lyndon B. Johnson
  • "Everywhere immigrants have enriched and strengthened the fabric of American life." John F. Kennedy
  • "Remember, remember always, that all of us, you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists." Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • "We came to America, either ourselves or in the persons of our ancestors, to better the ideals of men, to make them see finer things than they had seen before, to get rid of the things that divide and to make sure of the things that unite." Woodrow Wilson
  • "Born in other countries, yet believing you could be happy in this, our laws acknowledge, as they should do, your right to join us in society, conforming, as I doubt not you will do, to our established rules. That these rules shall be as equal as prudential considerations will admit, will certainly be the aim of our legislatures, general and particular." Thomas Jefferson
  • "I had always hoped that this land might become a safe and agreeable asylum to the virtuous and persecuted part of mankind, to whatever nation they might belong." George Washington

In closing, I think the following quotation from Ronald Reagan sums up what it means to be an immigrant to the United States:

"I received a letter just before I left office from a man. I don't know why he chose to write it, but I'm glad he did. He wrote that you can go to live in France, but you can't become a Frenchman. You can go to live in Germany or Italy, but you can't become a German, an Italian. He went through Turkey, Greece, Japan and other countries. But he said anyone, from any corner of the world, can come to live in the United States and become an American."

Posted: Jan 16 2018, 04:49 by Bob | Comments (0)
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Learning to Cope with Essential Tremor

Today I couldn't open a plastic package containing a cheese stick. It was such a silly little task, and yet I couldn't manage to do it. My fingers kept going to the correct places, but then they'd shake uncontrollably and I couldn't pull open the packaging.

At first I started to grow frustrated, but then - much to my own amazement - I found myself spontaneously laughing about the situation. As I thought about my petty predicament, I realized that there are three ways that I could react to my ever-changing, day-to-day reality:

  • Cry about the situation
  • Scream about the situation
  • Laugh about the situation

If I allowed the frustration to take over and rule my life, I could easily see myself devolving into a blubbering pile of self-pity. Or if I demanded that God needed to answer why he was making me suffer, I could just as easily see myself filling with rage every time my hands don't do what they're told.

However, in this instance I simply realized that it was just a silly little task, and there was no reason to let stronger and useless emotions prevail. While there was nothing that I could do about my hands, I could try to figure a way to work around my physical difficulties. And if that didn't work, I could easily walk into the next room and ask my wife for help.

In the not-too-distant future, I will undoubtedly find myself having to ask for help a lot more than I would ever want to do. Like everyone, I have my pride, and asking for help just seems so... weak. But I cannot escape the fact that I will need help, and I will have to learn to set my personal pride aside and ask for assistance. Even if I'm simply trying to open a stupid cheese stick package.

Posted: Jan 08 2018, 15:20 by Bob | Comments (0)
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