Wrist Screenshots (no, not really)

I’ve put some screenshots up of my primary machine, just in case people are interested. Doubtful, but remotely possible.

I went to see the doctor about my wrists this afternoon, and he said that I was an “odd case” because I haven’t had any tingling in my fingers that I’ve noticed. I’ve been referred to some neuromuscular specialist over in Kirkland — thankfully, the case is non-operative, according to my physician’s assessment. Thank goodness for that.

Not much else to report today, so.. until next time!

Iraqi Resistance to U.S. Colonialism

U.S. forces are being held at bay by Fundamentalists in Western Iraq, and the only thing I can think of saying here is: good! The fact is, active resistance is probably the only chance Iraq has of gaining any freedom from a U.S. agenda that includes and implicates the puppet regime currently in place. The U.S. agenda is the only driving force in Iraq today. That is, of course, why it’s called a puppet regime.

Never mind that this resistance is Fundamentalist, and some are loyal to the Hussein regime of old. At this point, anything works. The U.S. must withdraw, whether forcibly or otherwise, or we risk overextending ourselves (which we have, in fact, already done) and alienating more of the world than we have already. Our cries for assistance in Iraq are being met with deaf ears, and Iraqis have made it inordinately clear that they just wish we (the United States of America) would leave them alone.

While I question their tactics (“question” is really the wrong word here – beheadings are just plain Dark Ages cruel), I still maintain that the spirit, the goal, is correct. Find a less abhorrent way of dealing with it that doesn’t violate every shred of human rights law and invest in a little bit of Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience, and this would go much smoother. While I advocate arresting and putting on trial those who would behead our troops and commit violence against U.S. military officers, I say again, the aim is correct, though wrongly implemented through violence towards those that are only following orders.

But then, that was the defense during the Nuremberg Trials.

American Electoral and Presidential Politics

It seems somewhat appropriate that the 100th entry on this blog deal with everyone’s best friend — Presidential elections and electoral politics! Well, okay, it seemed exciting when I put that exclamation point in there…

In the debate of George W. Bush against John Kerry, let me enumerate several reasons why Bush is not the right choice for me:

  1. Bush has repeatedly lied to us in the war on terrorism, and continues his lies today even though he has clearly been proven wrong on matters of weapons of mass destruction and justifications for war. Not only that, they have covered up evidence that proves that Iraq has no WMDs — specifically, the Kay Report, written by David Kay on October 2, 2003. Only parts of this report have been declassified, but he writes:

    Information found to date suggests that Iraq’s large-scale capability to develop, produce, and fill new CW [chemical weapons] munitions was reduced — if not entirely destroyed — during Operations Desert Storm and Desert Fox, 13 years of UN sanctions and UN inspections . . . to date we have not uncovered evidence that Iraq undertook significant post-1998 steps to actually build nuclear weapons or produce fissile material.

    — Quoted in Oil, Power, and Empire: Iraq and the U.S. Global Agenda
    ISBN 1-56751-246-1, p289
  2. Bush has repeatedly turned down efforts to increase federal MPG standards on all cars in order to promote a cleaner environment. In addition, his most recent transportation package does very little for the environment itself.
  3. Bush is responsible for smear campaigns against John Kerry, which, in my mind, is both unprofessional and unethical.

This is somewhat of a short list, but it gives you an idea of my objections. As for Kerry, since I don’t know much about him, it’s hard for me to really say much; however, I can give a list of my concerns for the next administration:

  1. Federal environmental standards will continue to plummet and, due to our want for power over the international landscape, we will not take measures to decrease our dependence on Middle Eastern oil, and will instead expand that campaign to overthrow countries that are not US-friendly, such as Syria and it’s client state, Lebanon.
  2. No accountability will be afforded for the lies told to the American public during the ramp-up to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The materials that prove that Bush and party lied repeatedly to the public will be buried in favor of bipartisan amity.
  3. No attempt will be made to allow a fair trial to Saddam Hussein, and much of the evidence that proves that he may not be as complicit in Iraq’s problems as this administration has suggested will never be released.
  4. No effort will be made to recognize the independence of Kurdistan, in the northern regions of Iraq.
  5. Efforts to privatize health care will not be made comprehensive enough to ensure that my generation can take advantage of the system. Social security will not be beefed up enough to allow the system to survive.
  6. National security will still remain on the back burner; instead of focusing on our own borders, we continue to attempt to stabilize Afghanistan and Iraq, nations which have made it clear that they do not desire US help in governing their own countries.
  7. The No Child Left Behind Act will continue to drag down schools in trying to comply with unreasonable guidelines and standards; rather than truly attempting to reform our educational system to be more sustainable, Americans will continue to accept the status quo.
  8. Instead of tightening federal standards for cars — specifically the federal MPG requirements — they will instead be loosened, and no encouragement will be made to switch towards hybrid models or to make existing cars more efficient.

This is all, of course, a very short enumeration of the concerns and reasons driving my decisions in the upcoming primaries (both for the President and for Washington State itself). I invite comment on these — as you will note, comments are open for this post, but will close on September 3.

Fedora Core 2 Updates

Apparently, you can use Boinc (the new SETI@Home platform) as a system service. This is interesting (and useful). Downloading this init script and placing it in /etc/rc.d/init.d/setiathome with permissions 755 works fine under FC2, along with the following commands:

root@autumn(/etc/rc.d/init.d): service setiathome start
Starting BOINC client as a daemon:          [  OK  ]
root@autumn(/etc/rc.d/init.d): chkconfig setiathome reset

I tried to do this for MySQL as well:

root@autumn(/etc/rc.d/init.d): service mysqld start
Initializing MySQL database:                [  OK  ]
Starting MySQL:                             [  OK  ]
root@autumn(/etc/rc.d/init.d): chkconfig mysqld reset

This doesn’t seem to have worked. My MySQL server install was via apt, so I’m not sure that makes any difference at all. With a mysqld file in the same directory as the setiathome file, it seems like this should have worked…

Bored Considerations

Ah, in my woefully isolated state clear out here in Snohomish, there’s really not all that much to do.

Good thing, too. Gives me the chance to sit around and wait until next Friday, when I finally move into my apartment. Well, okay — when I finally get the keys and finish the paperwork so I can start moving in. Big difference there, right?

Anyway, here’s how I’m doing on reading my books for class. Anything struck out has been completed.

Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States (in progress)
Noam Chomsky, The Chomsky Reader (select readings only)
John Locke, Second Treatise on Government
George Orwell, 1984
Angela Davis, The Angela Y. Davis Reader
Thomas J. McCormick, America’s Half Century: United States Foreign Policy in the Cold War and After
Kevin Phillips, American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush
Larry Everest, Oil, Power, and Empire: Iraq and the U.S. Global Agenda
Douglass V. Popora, How Holocausts Happen: The United States in Central America
Mike Prokosch and Laura Raymond, The Global Activist’s Handbook: Local Ways to Change the World

Thus, 2 completed, 8 remaining.

Does anyone actually read this stuff? If so, e-mail me, for God’s sake! I feel like I’m on an empty stage yammering at a nonexistent audience here (probably not far from the truth).

Walla Walla

Due to a death in the family, we had to head over to Eastern Washington for a few days. There’s not really much interesting to report from that endeavor — since we had to clean out an apartment as a result of this, I managed to get some very nice decorations for my apartment at no cost, and some of them were created by family members. Death is, of course, always a sad and harrowing affair, but I found some small enjoyment in exploring and finding things that I appreciated.

While we were there, we had dinner at one of the top (if not the top) restaurants in Walla Walla, Whitehouse-Crawford. I dare say it’s one of the best in Washington. Anyway, I ordered the following:

Salad: Warm spinach salad with smoked trout, bacon, grilled onions, and mustard vinaigrette

Entree: Grilled Thundering Hooves Farm burger with bacon, Cougar Gold cheese, mustard aioli, and fried onions

Dessert was a huckleberry mousse with some other stuff added in — very good. Unfortunately, the description isn’t on the web site, so I can’t quote the menu verbatim on that one.

The hamburger was to die for. Probably the best hamburger I’ve ever had — very rich in flavors, but not overly pretentious (if that adjective can be applied to a hamburger!). Cougar Gold cheese is produced by Washington State University, and is exceedingly rare and hard to get. They only produce it about once a year. Incredibly popular and delicious. I’ve had it maybe twice in my whole life.

Enough about dinner.

On the way out of Walla Walla going west, there’s a wind farm run by Pacific Power, which I’ve had the chance to visit in the past. The windmills are huge, the blades a couple stories high, and these appear very large even from a mile or two away. They’re awesome to stand next to, with nearly constant wind blowing around us and threatening to bowl you over. The view coming west today was quite pretty, since we were leaving in the morning hours and the sun was rising low out of the east.

I did manage to finish another one of my class books today — that makes two out of 10 completed. With any luck, that’ll be closer to four by the time school starts.

More Observations on Hearing Aids

After a full day of using these new aids, a few observations:

In a restaurant where there’s conversation at my table that’s at a normal noise level with quiet background music, these aids seem to pick up best on the background music. Muting one aid appeared to fix this, at least in terms of its ability to create a headache.

Reaction speed seems a little slow — for instance, if Amanda starts talking (and she usually has a quieter voice), I usually have to ask her to repeat what she said. Then again, it was this way with the old aids as well, but these ones don’t seem to do as good a job as the old aids in the second program I had (see previous entry). At least in those, it felt like it was picking up the sound efficiently.

In terms of watching TV, I definitely have to have the volume lower than I used to, but I’ve never been good with picking up speech in a TV show if I don’t have captions enabled on the TV set. Thus, I almost always watch with captions, so this seems to me to be a non-issue.

My statement that this change in aids was less about sound quality than sound control continues to be true, for the most part. I do pick up softer sounds much better (the end of the consonant “S”, for instance), plus some smaller noises I might not have noticed before (my computer keyboards sound louder now). There is the return of a volume control on these aids, but it gives me a very small (about 3dB) range to adjust in. That’s not all that large, but it’s usable. The question is whether or not it’ll allow me to adapt well enough to noisy situations. I didn’t try the volume control in the restaurant today, so that might have actually made a difference. We’re going to Mount Vernon to take Amanda home tomorrow, and we’ll more than likely be having lunch with her father and her sister, so that’ll be another chance to test drive these aids in restaurant environments. Hopefully, my experiences in restaurants, cars, and other louder environments will give me some sort of clue as to what to expect when I return to work and classes in September.

First Impressions of New Hearing Aids

We picked up new hearing aids at a late audiologist appointment today — I’m now “test driving” the Oticon Synchro series of hearing aids, with a fair amount of skepticism involved. If my audiologist is to be believed, she’s quite grateful for my skepticism — says it helps give quantitative feedback about how well the aids really work in particular situations.

Hopefully, that’s not asking too much of me.

Anyway, she asked me to take notes on my experiences with these aids, and I figured it might be worth putting them in my blog so that people might get a glimpse of what it’s like being hearing impaired. It may not work well, but it’s at least an attempt.

Just to explain before I go on: Oticon’s Adapto and Synchro model are both digital, as opposed to analog hearing aids. This gives them far superior sound quality and higher adaptability. It’s exactly like the difference between analog and digital phones — the sound tends to be crisper, cleaner, and more understandable than most older analog devices.

That said, this was a transition from one digital aid to the next, so in terms of the quality of the sound, there wasn’t that big of a leap. The real changes involved in this model switch have more to do with the ability to control sound in a more intelligent way. In the Adapto model (my old aids), the aid can be loaded with two different programs, which usually act in two separate ways. There’s no middle ground — you either use one program or another while the aid is in use. In my case, I had one program which was a noise reduction program, which basically treated any background noise as the enemy and eliminated it. The second program on those aids was more of a broad program, with high volume feed-in that let me pick up a lot more sound with little or no discrimination between what sounds I should or shouldn’t be hearing. The first program was one that I usually used in louder situations — highway travel or walking through a very loud, crowded room, for instance. The second program tended to be the one I used most — though it was only intended for things like lectures, I used it in almost all my everyday conversations in order to ensure that I was getting everything people said.

Of course, hearing aid users (and, dare I say, people with normal hearing) always have a big fear of not hearing things.

Anyway, the Synchro works differently. Now I have up to four programs to choose from, but there are only two currently loaded — a general use program, which is what I’m using for all my hearing, and a telecoil program, which I use with my specially-equipped cell phone. Clearly, I don’t have the option of switching back and forth between programs right now if I encounter a problem, but in some ways, this is better. The single program that I use with the new aids have a much better handle on being able to realistically adapt noise levels based on surroundings. These aids are slanted towards being able to efficiently pick up human speech patterns, and, unlike their predecessors, these new aids can do that just as well whether the person speaking is in front of me or behind me. The old aids had a heavy bias towards picking up speakers that were directly in my line of sight. These new aids, however, while they still have a bias towards line-of-sight speakers, can pick up speech from behind me in much the same manner. I’ve only tested this ability in my audiologist’s office, but I’ll be experimenting with it over the next week or so.

As for the ability to hear on my cell phone, the sound is, as expected, clearer than with the older aids. The only thing that bugs me with these aids so far is that they adapt to current situations based on a set of computed scenarios, then picks whatever volume scenario it thinks is best at the time. I’m in a slightly faster mode than other users of this same aid, but I’m not at the fastest adaptation level that these aids have. I don’t really know if that would help or not.

Of course, aids aren’t the only thing that control how well I hear, but it’s the second most major component. The other major component, since I have behind-the-ear hearing aid models, is the mold that inserts into the ear. I just had these remade, and got new ones fitted along with the old aids, so the sound pickup right now is optimum. That’ll help me test these aids as best as I can.

More later!