31 December 2017
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Is it 2018 Already?

No, it Isn't

Rarely does one receive an unequivocal answer in this blog, but at least for the writer, and in my current time zone, it remains firmly 2017, albeit the final day. Furthermore, even though I have read Vonnegut's Timequake, the odds of it not being 2018 at this time tomorrow are slim indeed. So, consider that a prediction on which I expect to score 100%. My other predictions are somewhat less certain.

My blogging activity in recent years has been sporadic. Sometimes, as I did this summer, I have a spasm of zeal and commit a significant number of blogs. But often I have blog-free months, and in 2015 almost a blog-free year. Resolution for 2018: More than 2015, fewer than 2006. Certainty of resolution success? Pretty high, even if The System focuses on me this year.

I have developed a simple habit that encourages me to engage in this long-form scribbling: It is short-form scribbling. When I get an idea (OK, inchoate notion,) for a blog, I'll write a sentence or two on a secret web page that will prompt my memory when I finally sit down at the keyboard. These sentences occasionally make sense after weeks or months; often they no longer do even when I wake the following morning. Either way, they exist, and to clear the phosphors for a new year, I propose to dispose of most of them below. Welcome, therefore, to the Random Blog of New Year's Eve, 2017

Winston the Cargo-Cult Puppy

We have a dog. He is the cutest dog on earth. His name is Winston the Puppy. Is he the smartest dog on earth? Well, no he isn't. However, he is almost certainly smarter than I am, although his spelling is often suspect. I had planned to explain here the "Cargo Cult" reference in the heading, but as I started writing this, I realized that it would require more than the few lines I am allocating to it right now. So, I shall, System permitting, explain at greater length in a future blog. Meanwhile, we all gain from cute puppy pictures.

Another Hayden in Government

I noted that one Carla Hayden was nominated late last year as Librarian of Congress. She remains in that position, despite her name comprising slightly modified spellings of the two notorious spies in John Le Carre's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. If it were Karla Haydon I'd be truly suspicious, but, as with Michael Hayden, I'm mollified by the slight differences and the fact that librarians are less likely to give up our precious secrets than is the director of the NSA.

The Ex-President of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves,

was interviewed in yesterday's Wall Street Journal. His latest passion is making our (the United States) government more convenient and digital. He complains that he actually had to hand people paper forms to accomplish seemingly minor tasks. Although I am largely with him on that sentiment, I was reminded of an almost fully digital experience I had this year with the FAA. I thought it might be worthwhile* to get my drone/UAS pilot license. By virtue of having a license to fly manned aircraft, part of the procedure can be bypassed, making it theoretically simple. And it was, sort of. All I had to do was read some rules and take a simple test to qualify. But getting the license itself? I had to establish accounts on three separate web sites, each with a different password, and then propel my physical corpus to the nearest FAA FSDO to present credentials proving my personal existence. Time to qualify: 2 hours. Time to deal with bureaucracy: 8 hours. Not a total loss—perhaps it spared you a blog.

Have I Lost My Senior Citizen Status?

I fly on Southwest Airlines a few times a year. I am a senior citizen. Southwest has a senior citizen rate which is particularly advantageous if one's schedule is uncertain, since the fares are fully refundable. Understandably, the first time one takes advantage of this policy, they are keen to see proof of age. Less understandably, they are, or at least were, keen to see it every time I flew, requiring the extra inconvenience of waiting in line to get a boarding pass. Each time I did this, I would remind them that there have been no cases (of which I'm aware) of a customer getting younger. Maybe they have remonstrated with their computer by now.

Sentences You're Probably Seeing Here for the First Time

I don't remember where I read these, but here they are: You can't see spider poop. He got his foot caught in his ear. In a similar vein, after a serious accident or terrorist attack, one often hears The death toll may increase. I've never heard or read the converse.


I sustained several emails from a company called "Wonolo" whose contact seemed to be one Harrison Frisbee. I'm pretty sure there is a company named Wonolo, and there may even be an actual Harrison Frisbee. I was just tickled by the names. Less tickling is the welter of emails from an unending series of (most likely) fictional folk who keep trying to sell me lists of attendees to trade shows and conventions various. I'm taking names, such as they may be.


Can you remember the last time you got a splinter? I think it's been decades for me. When was the last time anything smaller than a house was made of wood?

Strange Disabilities and First-World Problems

Part of one's annual eye exam involves the dilation of the pupil. It seems that my Samsung Galaxy cellphone, with the retina scan unlock feature, won't unlock when the eye is dilated. I had to actually type in my unlock code so I could use it for the few minutes between the application of the eye drops and my inability to read anything on the screen due to the dilation. And if that's not enough of a first-world problem, I often fulminate about my on-line newspapers. Do you know that to read the Wall Street Journal, you have to swipe left and right, while the New York Times requires an up-and-down swipe?

The Great Mallomar Scandal

No blog would be complete without a teaser, for which, see the heading above. (I'm getting better at this "suspense" thing.)

Interesting Read of the Year

This year's physics Nobel Prize was won in part by Rainer Weiss, who was instrumental in designing the LIGO gravitational wave experiment. Mostly by accident I came across this oral history on the web, and found it of surprisingly great interest for its insight on how "big science" is done. I'm looking forward to some fascinating science stories on gravitational wave discoveries in 2018.

Social Media

I'm working on being able to use the terms "tweet" and "friend" without quotation marks. Perhaps next year?

Happy New Year!

The usual exhortation. Why suggest anything different?

* For reasons unclear then and now

"Garbage Land"
World Entertainment War



Extra Blue! I endorse the sentiment, of course, but am clue-free about the shirt itself. I think it's a fashion thing.


Richard Factor

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