Unlocking

So my new Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 phone came installed with Xiaomi’s operating system “MIUI”, their variant of Android. MIUI comes with a bunch of custom apps that are useful, helpful, and – given that they are made by a private Chinese company – completely untrustworthy, in my opinion. My goal was to replace the operating system with LineageOS, a vanilla installation of Android.

Here’s how that turned out.

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Virtual Reality

Jill and I enjoyed “Ready Player One” at the theater last week. We didn’t set a very high bar for its plot (and we weren’t disappointed), but the idea of wearing a VR system and interacting with other people in an imaginary world really caught my interest. I’ve also been watching the anime “Gun Gale Online” (a spinoff of “Sword Art Online“) that has a similar concept about donning a headset and becoming a different person in a different place. I believe that VR is the future of how people are going to interact with computers, and I think we’re only now seeing the very start of the technology that’s going to do it.

And I want to get in on it.

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We Are Out Of Duck

(I facebooked this when it happened to me three years ago. Apparently the story has become legend around the office. I’m putting it into my blog for posterity.)

You say the message you’re seeing on the site is ‘we are out of duck.’ Are you absolutely certain?

“Yes.”

You’re completely sure? That’s the wording? ‘we are out of duck?’

“Yes.”

That is the EXACT message? You can reproduce it?

“Yes.”

Send me a screenshot.

We Had to Duck Out

Postmodern Jukebox

On Friday evening, Jill and I went to see Postmodern Jukebox perform at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. (Her Christmas gift to me!)

It was wonderful to see them perform live – so much energy, so much fun! There was no program distributed, so I kept track of the songs they performed. To make sure I had the right songs (hey, I’m not up on Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift) I looked them up on YouTube, where PMJ has posted videos. And as long as I had the videos in front of me, I figured I’d link ’em here so you can get a taste of PMJ’s versions of them. (These videos aren’t exactly the same as the songs we saw them do on Friday; there are different performers and different interpretations.)

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Cruise

Last week my parents treated the whole family (me, Jill, Mom, Dad, Brother John, his wife Jen, and their nine-year-old Claire) to a cruise on the Disney Dream.

This is my second cruise. I sailed on the Disney Wonder ten years ago and very much did not like it. I resolved this time to keep an open mind and try to experience all it had to offer, especially because Mom was looking forward to a great vacation with the whole family, and because Jill really loves cruises and wants me to enjoy them with her.

So let me tell you about everything we did! … No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

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Building a PC

Eve has been wanting to build a gaming PC. We finally found time for me to help her do it.

She’s been using her work laptop for playing Guild Wars 2 with us. It’s got a decent graphics chip, but a slow 5400rpm hard drive (encrypted, too!), so the game has been slow and flaky at times. I gave her a USB3 flash drive to run the game from because that’s actually faster than the internal HD, but it doesn’t help much. So this was good motivation for her to want a new computer – along with her feeling that building a PC will give her “geek cred;” it’s just something that a true computer geek must do at some point. (I called it “building her lightsaber.”)

It’s my belief that building a PC is better than buying a pre-built one. Besides the learning experience (and it is a learning experience), a PC can be built from good, reliable parts that’ll last a long time and that can be upgraded easily. She spent about $1300 on the whole thing, but later she can upgrade the graphics card if she wants to, or even replace the processor, motherboard, and memory while keeping the case and power supply. It’s a good foundation that’ll work well for her. I looked at the prices of pre-built PCs on Amazon, and while they save a few hundred dollars and have good specs on paper, the reviews often complain about glitches or shoddy workmanship or cut corners. I don’t think they would last nearly as long.

Another benefit of having a gaming PC is that there are so many inexpensive good games on Steam that she might never have any desire to buy a console!

So these are the parts we decided on, and why:

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Assault

Many years ago I hated guns and I said as much in my blog. Friends of mine who were pro-Second-Amendment, however, talked me down and convinced me that guns handled responsibly by responsible gun owners are safe; that “assault weapon” is a loaded term and an arbitrary classification; that people need firearms to hunt and to protect themselves; that a gun license is more regulated and harder to get than a driver’s license. That guns themselves are not the cause, that people will always find ways to hurt each other even if they have no guns, that there are other underlying issues that need to be addressed instead.

But, you know what? I’m fed up with news stories about somebody armed to the teeth going into a public place, ruining lives, and then usually ending his own. I was listening to a discussion on NPR about how schools should be better fortified like the TSA checkpoint at an airport, and I thought about how much better it would be if that money could be put towards paying teachers and buying resources instead, so how could we prevent guns from getting to schools? How could we prevent them from leaving people’s homes? Why in the first place do people need firearms that can spray bullets at people?

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On writing

Once upon a time there is an angsty teenage boy who thinks he knew all about love. To teach him a lesson, Eros turns him into an animal and sends him out to challenge his belief and to find what love really is. The boy meets a grumpy old hunter who is seeking courage – the only thing he’s not brave enough to do is to live his own life for himself and take responsibility for his own choices. Together the pair follow the yellow brick road to the ruins of an emerald city, wherein lives a sorceress who they hope can give them what they lack – but she turns out to be as beautiful as she is unkind, and she … well, she does something … and the hunter tries to sacrifice himself but the boy saves him from it and helps him realize how selfish his decision was. The hunter wanted to know how to stop caring about everyone, but in the end, instead he learns how to make a choice to care about another person. And the boy learns that there is more than romantic love – there’s the kinship he feels with this grumpy old hunter, though neither will ever admit it…

… no, that just won’t work. It’s contrived and boring, and I can’t think of anything for the villain to do or any reason why she should be doing it.

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A Name

My last name is derived from my ancestors’ “Kundig” which, in German, apparently means “knowledgeable, expert, well-informed.” (http://dictionary.reverso.net/german-english/Kundig) And I once paid one of those heraldry places that’ll look up your name in a database and print out its history in a Franktur font on a piece of paper that looks like parchment; with this authority, it declares that my last name is derived from “Gend” which is a short form of old Germanic names such as “Gandalf” which itself was derived from Old Norse “gandy” meaning magic.

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