Joho the Blogmisc Archives - Joho the Blog

March 25, 2017

How a little bit of data ruined my morning run

Since I was 21 years old, I’ve gone through long stretches where I have “run” outside for exercise — in quotation marks because I am passed by people who are running so slowly that I feel bad for them until I remember that they passed me. I’ve gone years running infrequently, and then other years I’ll run 3-6 days a week. But three things have been consistent throughout this: I don’t like running, I always run the same set route, and I have always run for distance, not for time: I set a course and don’t care how quickly I complete it.

That’s almost true. I care enough that I time my runs, but I don’t try to run faster in order to beat yesterday’s time. It’s just a little bit of long-term quantified knowledge that gives me a rough indication of what sort of shape I’m in as a jogger.

Beyond that smidge of data, I have gone out of my way to be data-free about my route. I don’t know how long it is. I therefore don’t know how long it takes me to run a mile. I therefore don’t know where the halfway point is, or the quarter markers. (My route’s a loop, so the halfway point is not obvious.)

Until today.

My Pebble smartwatch is declining, so I looked for a running app on my phone. The one I rather randomly chose gathers info beyond the duration of the run, but I just wasn’t thinking well about it when I plugged in my my headset, picked some upbeat music, and set off this morning.

“You’ve run one mile,” said the woman’s voice in my ear when I was a block away from the pond. I cannot unhear where the first mile marker is. And because I didn’t want to stop to fiddle with the app, I also know where the second mile marker is. And I know my home is 0.03 miles short of being the third mile marker. I also know how fast I run.

I don’t want to know any of this, although the distance and my speed are both a little better than I would have guessed. So, yay for being marginally less pathetic than I’d thought?

The real problem is knowing where those mile markers are.

I’ve tried lots of other sorts of exercise, and I haven’t stuck with any of them. They’re too boring, they take too long to get to, or — this is the crucial one — they involve counting. How many laps? How many reps? Am I at the twenty minute mark yet? It’s not the numbers that bother me. It’s knowing that there’s some knowable quantity I have to complete in order to be done. Doing a countable exercise is like watching a clock tick. You want to slow down time? Pay attention to it.

Running wasn’t like that. Now it will be. I’ll know when I’m at the one-third mark, and, more to the point, I’ll know when I haven’t even reached the one-third part. This little bit of data turns the entire run into a set of tasks that must be accomplished in sequence — a set of tasks that at any moment during the run I know have not yet fully accomplished.

For the past forty-five years, I’ve managed to run with some regularity by running through space. Now I’m running through time, and that takes much longer.

1 Comment »

February 1, 2017

How to fix the WordFence wordfence-waf.php problem

My site has been down while I’ve tried to figure out (i.e., google someone else’s solution) to a crash caused by WordFence, an excellent utility that, ironically, protects your WordPress blog from various maladies.

The problem is severe: Users of your blog see naught but an error message of this form:

Fatal error: Unknown: Failed opening required ‘/home/dezi3014/public_html/wordfence-waf.php’ (include_path=’…/usr/lib/php /usr/local/lib/php’) in Unknown on line 0

The exact path will vary, but the meaning is the same. It is looking for a file that doesn’t exist. You’ll see the same message when you try to open your WordPress site as administrator. You’ll see it even when you manually uninstall WordPress by logging into your host and deleting the wordfence folder from the wp-content/plugins folder

If you look inside the wordfence-waf.php file (which is in whatever folder you’ve installed WordPress into), it warns you that “Before removing this file, please verify the PHP ini setting `auto_prepend_file` does not point to this.”

Helpful, except my php.ini file doesn’t have any reference to this. (I use MediaTemple.com as my host.) Some easy googling disclosed that the command to look for the file may not be in php.ini, but may be in .htaccess or .user.ini instead. And now you have to find those files.

At least for me, the .user.ini file is in the main folder into which you’ve installed WordPress. In fact, the only line in that file was the one that has the “auto_prepend_file” command. Remove that line and you have your site back.

I assume all of this is too obvious to write about for technically competent people. This post is for the rest of us.

2 Comments »

January 23, 2017

Trump's conspirators

For too long, a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have bore the cost. Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered but the jobs left and the factories closed.

So said Pres. Trump in his inaugural address, identifying the perpetrators of the Bladerunner-esque hellscape he depicted.

It’s not clear who he means. That’s worrisome.

The “rewards of government” Trump has in mind seem to be monetary, since in the next sentence he talks about wealth, and in the one after that he contrasts prospering politicians with factory workers who have lost their jobs.

So, who does Trump thinks is this shadowy group that has controlled our nation for their own personal monetary profit? Obama and his administration? Especially in terms of personal enrichment, the Obama years were the cleanest in my lifetime. And, of course, Trump’s poised to be the most corrupt in terms of self-enrichment.

It makes me nervous when politicians blame a small unnamed group that controls the country and does so for personal monetary benefit. Sounds like a dogwhistle to me, especially when an anti-Semitic white racist is the president’s chief strategic adviser.

I’m struggling to make sense of this particular paranoid conspiracy theory. I’m only coming up with one answer.

Be the first to comment »

November 6, 2016

United Needs Info: a screenplay

United Airline’s new app let’s you watch free entertainment on flights on your Android or IoS device. But it wants to know a lot about you first:

United app's permissions

Some find that a tad intrusive. Not at all. Let me explain why…


You’re watching a movie on the new United in-flight app when suddenly a perfectly groomed middle-aged white man in an expensive suit and a carefully cropped goatee stands up and announces that the plane is now under his control. He turns his palms up, and one by one six young men rise from their seats spaced throughout the plane. Their dark faces are covered by bandanas so that all you can see are their dark eyes and dark skin. One of them coughs in Arabic.

All of your instincts, honed by years in a service known by a three-letter acronym that no one knows, not even you, come into play.

You gently swipe your thumb, scarred and weary from your many exploits, across your iPhone7™ on which you had been watching a movie, using United’s revolutionary YouScreen Personal Full Entertainment System — the Home of the Whopper — revealing what to the shapely white woman in the seat next to yours appears to be a game of Ultimate Fighter. The quizzical but charmed look on her face says she’s thinking it’s an odd time to play a game. But you know better.

Click left-right-right-up-up-A-left-D-down-right-down-down-up-A-A-B-A and … you’re in.

YouScreen slides a special screen in front of its usual friendly GUI. The YouScreen ATM (Anti-Terrorist Mode) displays blinky data and little fiddly bits against a camo background. It does a quick matrix analysis and reports on all non-white passengers currently not activating their AIS (Ass In Seat) sensor.

Got ’em!

The YouScreen’s map reveals that the one closest to you, in seat 16B, has some Arabic name that sounds all the same to you, lives in, let’s say, Iran, has been treated for cardiac arrhythmia, and during the flight watched two Jennifer Aniston movies and an episode of “Touched by an Angel.” He is clearly the weak point where you can begin.

But then you notice something interesting. YouScreen tells you that the man standing at the front of the plane is Fritz Deutscher, a German national. YouScreen reports that his phone is filled with TED Talks about leading through intimidation, and that he recently searched for “shoe inserts that embiggen you.” You can see that on his calendar are weekly therapy appointments, and twice weekly tanning sessions. There are daily skype calls to and from his mother with an average her-to-him talk time ratio of 14:1. Herr Deutscher may look tough, but is quite insecure.

You have the YouScreen ATM call Deutscher’s mobile using the special ring tone he’s set for his mother. As he lifts it to his face, you have it take a selfie, knowing that the lighting in the plane is low enough to trigger the flash. He is just for a moment dazed, confused — why is Mutti calling him in his moment of triumph? Why can’t he ever satisfy her? — and blinded.

You are out of your seat. Within moments you have subdued the terrorists.

Humbly waving off the cheers from the rest of the passengers, you slip back into your seat. The white woman next to you touches your hand. You go back to your movie.

And that movie is … Die Hard. Or maybe Air Force One. Something self-knowing and ironic. Doesn’t matter.

[Fade out]


You see, ladies and gentlemen, it’s all for your safety and convenience.

1 Comment »

October 14, 2016

What is it anyway?

I found this on Reddit. Can you tell what it is?



Click on the black stripe to find out: The gear that drives a lawn sprinkler

2 Comments »

October 10, 2016

Second debate: The wordclouds

Here are wordclouds, generated by WordClouds, for the entire debate last night, and for Clinton and Trump. Here’s the transcript.

By the way, according to the tool at Planetcalc, Trump used 1,162 unique words; Clinton used 1,242. According to Readability-Score, Trump spoke at a 7.6 grade level, while Clinton spoke at a 9.0 grade level. Yay for democracy.

Overall debate

Made with WordClouds.com

Clinton

wordcloud - hillary

Trump

wordcloud Donald

1 Comment »

October 3, 2016

Happy Roshashana from Donald J. Trump

Trump eating out of a bagel and honey bowl

Click to enlarge

Be the first to comment »

September 30, 2016

Clinton's tech policy in five tweets

Hillary Clinton’s tech policy is progressive. This doesn’t surprise me because the techies she has surrounded herself with understand the Internet not only as an information system but as a democratizing, person-to-person, many-to-many, cultural force.

Her policy brief, however, is long and detailed. No, of course you won’t agree with everything in it. Me neither. But that’s how politics works, and how it’s supposed to work.

So I decided to try to reduce the policy down to a more manageable scale, starting with a bumpersticker and working my way up. It’s here.

If you care about the cyber, vote.

Be the first to comment »

September 22, 2016

The Trump Stand-in Audition Tapes

The Clinton campaigned apparently auditioned a bunch of celebrities to stand in for Trump as she practices debating him. I somehow managed to get the transcripts of their auditions. They include, perhaps surprisingly, Louis CK, Bryan Cranston, Quentin Tarantino, and some others.

You can read the full transcripts here.

Be the first to comment »

September 2, 2016

Wait, did I become a jock?

I believe we invented the indoors because it’s better than being outdoors.

I don’t care about sports. Oh, sure, I watched the clips of the USA’s women’s gymnastics team, but mainly as amazing science fiction because clearly that was not possible.

I enjoy watching dance for the same reason, although I am also capable of being moved by it, something that no home town team does for me. I went to a couple of dance classes with my not-yet wife when we were courting, but I stopped coming out of pity for our poor, kind teacher who would not accept that someone could fail to master walking with his arms in opposition to his legs…you know that thing humans do when their right hand swings back as their left leg swings forwards.

Needless to say, I was not on any high school or college teams.

In short, I am your basic indoor Jew. A schlub.

I prefer it this way. Bodies are over-rated, except for eating and, well, you know. They’re high-maintenance and whiny. But what are you going to do? You can’t live with ’em and you can’t live without ’em, am I right?

So I was surprised to realize that I may have become a jock.

It’s September. I live in Boston. Tomorrow we might get snowed in until April, or, like last year, it might stay early Fall until January. Which means my jogging days are numbered. And, of course, they’ve got a big red number counting down as well, given that I’m 65 years old and never thought I’d still be sweating into a baseball cap at this age.

Jogging — yes, I know the whippersnappers don’t call it that any more — is the only athletic activity I’ve ever succeeded at, where success means doing it more than twice in a row. I started doing wind sprints when I was in college, very occasionally, and then in grad school in Toronto started running at the local YMCA. That came to an end when people complained about the volume of my footfall on the wooden track. Apparently my feet have hinges that cause them to slap the boards like cricket bats. So, I began running outside.

I reached my peak around 1977 when I trained for and then ran in a 10K. I was pretty proud of myself as I reached the finish line until a twelve year old girl sprinted past me chewing gum and holding a transistor radio to her ear. But in truth I’ve never been motivated to run fast or even a bit faster. I’ve been motivated by making it back home where I can sit indoors.

That ultimately is the secret to my success with jogging: I head out in a loop and the only way to make it stop is to keep going.

I am a terrible jogger. I was always slow but now I watch who’s passing me and realize that I only feel like I’m running. Still, I come home and sweat for half an hour.

Being a world-class athlete isn’t always pretty

During the intervals when I’m running, I do it maybe 3 times a week, although I’ve been running every day, compulsively, all summer. I put on my bright green shorts, one of my ancient baseball hats, and my earphones playing something upbeat that I can stop listening to as the voice in my head gets more insistent, and run 2.5-3.5 miles depending on how I feel and how cool the temperature is; my endurance is in a non-linear negative relationship with the heat.

The truth is that my mood is better during the months when I’m running. Could be the sunlight, which I otherwise avoid the way other people duck out of the rain. Could be the cardiovascular effects; my heart rate is lower during my running months. Could be the general lassitude the exertion brings on; when it comes to everything, I just give less of a damn. Who knows.

But what’s made me think that I’m slipping into jockhood is that I’ve actually been looking forward to my daily jog. I’m not running any faster, I’m not running any better, I still look like a bag of potatoes falling down the stairs, but I sort of enjoy it. Sort of.

It will pass. As will we all.

3 Comments »

Next Page »