Charlie

June 8, 2013

I use a lot of products and services and while I like them (why else would I keep using them? :-)), I have not really publicized that at all. So, I’m going to start doing some reviews!

My lack of smell

As some of you may know, I have no sense of smell. I’m not quite sure if it was something I was born with, or perhaps it came later in life (I did have an accident when I was young where I fell from a roof and had a mild concussion, so that could have had something to do with it too). But, what I do know is that I can’t smell anything. Sometimes this is good, as I can’t smell foul odors and the like. But it’s also bad as I can’t smell my OWN foul odors, nor truly good things, like food, flowers, etc…

I do get asked various questions whenever people learn that I have no sense of smell though and just recently, I found a FAQ written by Simon Tatham (creator of PuTTY) in which he talks about the fact that HE has no sense of smell either. So… here it is, just think of all the questions and answers being for me instead :-)

1. I can’t believe you have no sense of smell!

Why not? You’d have no trouble believing somebody was blind, or deaf. I’m just missing a different one of the five senses, and I’m fortunate that it’s not such a vital one as sight or hearing.

2. Is there a short word for the condition, like ‘blind’ or ‘deaf’?

Yes, but it’s not a very well-known word: the condition is anosmia, and people with the condition are anosmic. (Some people claim this covers impaired senses of smell as well as completely absent ones, in which case mine is complete anosmia; other people claim that a merely impaired sense of smell is hyposmia, and ‘anosmia’ should be reserved for a complete absence.)

I don’t tend to bother using these words, because I’d only have to explain what they meant most of the time.

3. Why don’t you have a sense of smell?

I don’t know.

4. Don’t you miss having a sense of smell?

Not consciously. I’ve never had a sense of smell, ever. I can’t imagine what it would feel like to smell things, so I don’t miss what I’ve never experienced.

It causes me the occasional practical problem. I get nervous of gas appliances, for example, because I can’t detect gas leaks by smell. [...] But it’s not something that generally bothers me in my daily life.

5. Since taste is partly smell, does that mean you can’t taste things?

You have to be a bit careful with the terminology here.

I have a functioning sense of taste, in the sense of the thing you do with the taste buds on your tongue. ‘Sweet’, ‘sour’, ‘salty’, and ‘bitter’ are perfectly meaningful words to me.

What most people perceive when they put food in their mouth is a combination of taste (which I can do) and smell (which I can’t). That combination of senses is sometimes referred to as ‘flavour’. My sense of flavour is therefore equivalent to my sense of taste.

There are certainly some kinds of food which I don’t find particularly interesting, but which other people appear to like, and I speculate that this might be because the flavour of those foods is mostly in their smell.

So I probably wouldn’t make a good restaurant critic or wine taster, but on the other hand there are still foods I like and dislike, and my limited sense of flavour is still broad enough for me to find plenty of variety in food. Perhaps if I’d once had a sense of smell and lost it, the spectrum of tastes I can perceive would feel flat and uninteresting; but since this is all I’ve ever had, it doesn’t bother me in the least.

Senate Bill 968 (PIPA) and House Bill 3261 (SOPA)

The web is in an uproar over Senate Bill 968 (PIPA) and House Bill 3261 (SOPA), and why shouldn’t they? The language is stern and allows for wide-ranging punishments for infringing websites (see http://americancensorship.org/infographic.html for the slightly sensationalized infographic, or https://www.google.com/landing/takeaction/sopa-pipa/ for a more wordy, but less sensational version). The problem is that we don’t know what WILL happen with bills like PIPA and SOPA, but we’ve seen what has happened with earlier bills like the DMCA and it makes myself and many others afraid of what bills of this sort will mean for the future of the Internet.

As such, I have written both Senator McCain and Senator Kyle, as well as Representative Giffords, who all represent me in Washington to express my concern over these bills. While the emails I sent to each were slightly different, what follows is my viewpoint that I sent to each of them:

I have been an Arizona resident my entire life. I was born in Tucson Medical Center over 30 years ago and am proud to call Arizona my home and to have you representing me in Washington D.C.

With recent changes to the government and policies however, I have become more and more discontent with what is happening. One of those areas is with Senate Bill 968 (PIPA) and House Bill 3261 (SOPA).

I make my living by building websites for many organizations and many of those websites allow third parties to post their own content in the form of comments or reviews. Sometimes that material can be of an obscene nature, or even encourage illegal acts and should be dealt with in appropriate manners.

However, the language of both Senate Bill 968 and House Bill 3261 make me concerned about the wide amount of power that might be given to groups that, quite frankly, I do not trust. The major proponents of both bills, the media producers and creators, have shown time and time again that they would rather err on the side of censorship rather than allow people to have the freedom of speech that is allowed by the constitution.

This has been shown time and time again via takedown notices to YouTube and other web sites under the DMCA (the Title 17 amendment made in 2008 under President Bill Clinton) that have later been shown to be “overbearing”. Even the esteemed Senator McCain had videos removed from his YouTube account during his 2008 presidential bid via DMCA takedown notices. His campaign at that time wrote a letter to the YouTube and Google General Councils that the takedowns were based on “overreaching copyright claims.” See http://regmedia.co.uk/2008/10/14/mccain_youtube_takdown_letter.pdf for a PDF of the letter Senator McCain’s campaign sent.

In light of this, I am strongly against giving these parties more power to take down more websites with even less notice. I understand that piracy and illegal actions need to be acted upon. But the measures described in both Senate Bill 968 and House Bill 3261 are far too broad and it’s been shown time and time again that the measures that were implemented in the amendment to Title 17, known as the DMCA, have been abused beyond their original intent.

Therefore, I strongly urge you to vote AGAINST Senate Bill 968, House Bill 3261 and others like it and instead, work with the many companies that are striving to have an open internet to create legislation that will meet the needs of the copyright holders and still allow freedom of speech.

Thank You,
Charles Lehardy

Trump, Obama and “Birthers”

OK, I’m only going to say this once, so don’t worry. This won’t be a big thing. BUT, I watched an “interview” that Chris Matthews had with Pat Buchanan and just couldn’t quite believe I was hearing this right.

So, Chris Matthews says in the clip:

I am looking around for birthers. And I consider a birther—and this is my rule, Pat, my colleage—anybody who has questions. Anybody who thinks this is a significant issue in this campaign coming up. This guy’s identity as a fellow American. Is it a significant question to you whether he is in fact a fellow, natural born, American.

WHAT?! OK, look. The United States Constitution, Article II, Section 1 states the following:

No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty five years, and been fourteen Years a resident within the United States.

Now, I seem to recall that when McCain was running for President, his birth in the Panama Canal was questioned multiple times. And you know what? That’s FINE. It’s our constitution and we need to make sure that it’s being upheld. Not just the spirit of the law, but the letter of it too.

So now (and then too), we’ve got people saying that it’s not even a significant question when it comes to Obama. THIS is where I take issue. Do I think he was born in the United States? Probably. I am VERY curious however why he’s not released his birth certificate and resolved this once and for all, but whatever.

However, do I think this is a significant issue and one that needs to be verified for EVERY candidate for president? ABSOLUTELY! This is part of our constitution and that should be upheld at ALL COSTS.

EDIT on 27 April 2011:

Looks like Obama has released his full birth certificate. Hopefully this’ll put this whole thing to rest now!

The web, security and me

This is going to be fairly short, but it’s too long and important to be relegated to a status update.

Social media has come a long way in the last couple of years, mostly due to the smart phones that have become so popular, even I bought one (and am writing this post with it). However, with the rapid advances, security has been pushed to the wayside most of the time, or at least only given a passing glance.

This is apparent when you look at the phishing attacks.that keep happening on Twitter, and sites like http://pleaserobme.com/ cropping up. With so many sites dedicated to tracking your every move and people passing their personal info around like it’s candy (how many of those “I’ve lost my phone and need contacts” groups have you seen on Facebook?), I expect we will be seeing more and more criminals that take advantage of the info we publish without a thought.

In the case of location checkins via services like FourSquare, I think PleaseRobMe.com has it right. Whenever we post this info, it’s telling people that we’re not at home and plenty of people will start taking advantage of that.

Secondly, with services like Facebook, we can post all our contact info for all our friends to see. I don’t know about you, but my “friend” list on Facebook is MASSIVE. Far more than I’m actually friends with. But yet, I’ve got my address, phone number, email address, birthday, employer and much more, all available to these “friends”. Not that I’m saying I don’t trust them, but who’s to say someone I DON’T trust gets access to their account?

Then there’s multiple account access. Services like OpenID are great, but what happens if someone gets your login info? Also, do you really trust 3rd party services with keeping your Twitter or Google (more on them later) password safe?

So what should be done? First, I think I’ll be removing all that contact info from Facebook and avoiding checkins like the plague. But I’d also like to see services like Twitter give the ability to easily restrict some updates to people that are following you (or even better, to a list of people). This way we can continue to keep most updates public, but have some that are private.

I’d also like to see API keys used more so I don’t have to five out my Twitter password to integrate with a 3rd party. And as for things like posting updates, Facebook, Twitter and the like should time sessions out after a short time. Still allow the user to browse info, but not allow posting until the password is verified again. Until that time though, I’m just not going to have the sites remember me which will keep rogue posts to a min.

And with that, I’m tired and going to sleep. I’ll. Next talk about Google and what needs to happen there.

Global Warm(cool)ing – The Cash Cow of the 21st Century

First off, this blog post has been in the works for a while, so some of the “news” could be a little old, but that doesn’t mean that it’s outdated, it’s just taken me a while to write this post is all :-)

I’m not one of those people that really trusts most scientists. I mean, they’re really smart people and know a lot more about their fields than I do. But it seems that most scientists have blinders on, they don’t look beyond their lab and don’t care so much about the end results, just that they get their results.

Obviously, this isn’t the case for a lot of scientists, there’s many out there that are not only good at their jobs, but they pay attention to the world as a whole and make sure that their findings actually make sense in the “real world”, not just the laboratory. But in the world of Global Warm(cool)ing, the sad fact is that the scientists that just don’t care about the big picture are not the ones getting the attention. Rather, it’s the ones that are claiming that there’s more global warming (or cooling, depends upon the week) and that we have to stop flying, driving, manufacturing and whatever else, so that we can save the Earth.

Now, before you get the wrong picture (or to correct your view of me if you already have…), I have a healthy respect for the Earth and am all for policies and changes in our society to make it so that we don’t pollute so much. We need cleaner ways to create electricity and whatever that is is great to me provided that it doesn’t cost more than we’re paying now. Plug-in electric, hydrogen, solar, nuclear, wind, wave, etc… They’re all great and I’m glad the money is being spent to develop the technologies further. I’m especially a fan of solar power since, well, there’s a lot of that, but the whole wave power thing that’s being worked on is great too.

However, I think the Japanese and French have it right with Nuclear power. We really need to invest more in that right now because, well, it works, it’s cleaner than anything else we have and it’s dirt cheap. Plus, it’d reduce our reliance on coal, oil and hydro-electric dams, among other things. But I’m getting off-topic here. We’re talking about Global Warming and the industry it’s becoming.

Boiling Tea KettleWith all the hype these days about global warming and what it’s allegedly doing to our environment, there’s a lot of companies out there trying to make a buck (or ten) selling consulting services, CO2 credits and anything else they can think of. For instance, back in January, some research was done by a fellow named Alex Wissner-Gross. He alleges that two searches with Google produce about 7g of CO2, or the same amount as boiling a kettle of water for tea (he’s English). Of course, this assumes that you do multiple queries per search and depends upon how in-depth it is.

Of course, it’s not mentioned until much later in the article that Mr Alex Wissner-Gross has started his own company called CO2Stats. Their purpose is as follows:

“CO2Stats is the only service that automatically calculates your website’s total energy consumption, helps to make it more energy efficient, and then purchases audited renewable energy from wind and solar farms to neutralize its carbon footprint — all for a flat, affordable monthly fee.”

Of course, I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that he’s at the same time come out with this “research” about Google’s CO2 production for searches. But really, who can put a price on saving the world? ESPECIALLY when you can advertise to everybody who visits your site that it’s “green” with their nifty logo.

OK, so there’s one “scientist” that’s trying to make a quick buck, but who can blame him anyway? I mean, he’s just doing what everybody else would do and try to make a little money, right? Well, actually, yes, that seems to be the case. At least, if you really mean “everybody”.  Take the Climate Change Committee (CCC). They are a group in the UK that recently advised Parliament on CO2 emissions and advised that they should work to have emissions in the UK reduced by 80% by 2050. A noble goal to be sure, but might there be other motives there too?

According to an article by The Register, there are… To start off, there’s big money to be made in the carbon credit market. To quote the article:

“The group has its eyes on the carbon market, which it says “grew from $10bn to $34bn between 2005 and 2006″, and projects to be worth well over $100bn in the future.”

And of course, there’s many companies that are involved in this whole thing. There was a recent conference for those companies entitled ‘Cashing in on Carbon’ and again, according to the article:

“Amongst these bean-counters-turned-Gaia-botherers were representatives from IDEAcarbon, which offers carbon market intelligence, ratings and advice to governments, organisations and companies. Climate Change Committee member, Samuel Fankhauser, a former climate change economist for the World Bank, is the company’s managing director, strategic advice.”

Conflict of interest? Perhaps so since IDEACarbon’s whole purpose is to provide advice and counsel to it’s clients about climate change and CO2 credits.

Anyway, all this is to say that the next time you hear people talking about new “research”, “studies”, or “advice” on Global Warming or CO2 production, why not take a look at who it is that’s talking and see if they might have a secondary motive? Because call me a cynic if you want, but so far, all this hysteria seems to just be a way to make more money and promote their own products.

More xkcd goodness

Yep, I finally finished reading all the XKCD comics through to the beginning and found a few more of my favorites. Really, they’re just awesome! :-)

Movie Seating

Movie Seating

Guilty! I’m always worried about this when going to the theater with large groups of people. It’s just never optimal…

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Paths

Paths

The only problem with the shortest path is that then you’re generally walking on the grass and NOT the sidewalks, so then you’re making ugly dirt paths by taking the most optimal path. Seriously, this is a problem! So, the real question is this, what’s worse? Helping to make ugly paths OR not taking the most optimal path. The jury is still out on that one.

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Family Circus

Family Circus

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Spoiler Alert

Spoiler Alert

Rosebud…

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Pointers

Yes, I’m a geek and yes, I find this funny. You got a problem with that?

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Donald Knuth

Donald Knuth is my hero. But yeah, I’ve got one of his books and got scared reading it, have not tried since. Perhaps they’re onto something here…

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Turn Signals

I really hate it when my turn signal isn’t in rhythm with the people’s in front of me…

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Misusing Slang

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It’s ALREADY proving to be a fun thing to mess with the youngsters… :-D

Again, make sure you read the alt text (hold your mouse over the images), it’s usually SO much better that way! Oh and uh, what’s YOUR favorite XKCD comics?

Blackberries, India, Terrorists and Privacy

By now I’m sure you’ve seen the news that terrorists have attacked various places in Bombay, India. If not, what rock have YOU been living under? :-)

Anyway, I also read from the Times Online that terrorists “seized mobile phones and BlackBerries from their hostages and used them to contact each other and monitor world reaction.” Which reminds me of some stories I read a number of months ago about RIM and the Indian government.

In March of this year, the Indian government threatened to shut down the entire Indian Blackberry network of almost 400,000 if RIM didn’t give the government access to the security keys required to decrypt all wireless data. RIM balked, but then gave in on May 22nd of this year. However, they backtracked on that promise a bit and promised to keep things secure on the 27th of May.

Now, considering the reports that the terrorists were using Blackberries to communicate with eachother and keep an eye on the outside world, I’m a bit worried. Why? Well, I’m sure that people in the Indian government (and RIM themselves) are wondering what they might have been able to do differently if they had been able to see what the terrorists were saying to eachother.

Just watch and see, it’ll be just another week or two and the Indian government will be calling for monitoring of RIM’s Blackberry network in India and they won’t be put off so easily this time. Next it will be the English government (they’re already implementing CCTV “crime prediction” cameras) and then the rest of the governments that we the people answer to. All in the name of security.

This isn’t to say that I know exactly what I think of this. I mean, on one side, it’ll truly help in the war on terror and allow our governments to more effectively protect us, their citizens. However, it will also give a LOT more power and with that comes abuses. The movie V for Vendetta comes to mind and that rather scares me. But that’s where we’re collectively heading, you can see the writing on the walls. So, what do you think?

xkcd defines me

OK, so maybe it doesn’t quite define me, but I was going through the comics the other night and found a number that represent some of my character traits well (for good or bad), so… here they are:

Thinking Ahead

Thinking Ahead

Duty Calls

Duty Calls

Rock Band

Rock Band

Names

Names

Do make sure you read the alt text (hold your mouse over the images), it’s usually SO much better that way! Oh, and last but not least, I SERIOUSLY need to make something like this!

New Pet

New Pet

Your help is needed!

A Kurdish family from Iraq I met

A Kurdish family from Iraq I met

I need your help. Well, when I say “I”, I really mean refugees here in Tucson. THEY need your help. Here’s the short version. I just got back from visiting a few refugee families that have come into Tucson in the last 45 days and there’s a LOT of needs for them, I’ll post more about all the needs later, but the critical need right now is school registration.

You see, these families have kids that are old enough to be in school when that starts (August 11th!), but they don’t know English very well (if at all) and they certainly don’t understand the school system. So, they need someone to go with them to get their kids registered for school. That’s a very important thing for them and so I’m going to help out as much as possible.

Another family of 5 from Iraq that I met

Another family of 5 from Iraq that I met

However, there’s 7 kids and 4 adults that need to get registered and my car only seats 5. So, someone else (or two someones, even better) needs to help out in getting the kids and parents to the schools and help them get registered so they can start school on Monday! So, do you have time during the day (9am to 4pm lets say…) this week to help out? It should only take a couple hours and will mean a LOT to these refugees.

There’s a lot of other needs of course too, but this is the most critical one and the easiest to solve. So, can you help? If so, PLEASE get in touch with me via the form at the bottom of this message. I’ll post more later about how this goes and what else the families need, but for now, this should be enough :-)

Thanks!
Charlie