Useful Stuff

One of the folders I have on my list of bookmarks is something labeled “Useful Stuff” — a collection of references and links that I keep coming back to because they are so useful. As I just added one today, I thought I would share the list with you:

  • Temporary Email Addresses. Have you ever had to give an email address to a site when you didn’t want to? Matadors CCU wrote about an interesting solution to that problem today: provides a free disposable email address that lasts as long as you have the window open. Email sent to the account automatically pops up, but everything about the account goes away when you close the window.
  • Network Tools. The DNS Toolbox provides a large number of DNS-based tools. However, it can’t do the good traceroute to (you must try it). For that, use the Online Visual Traceroute.
  • Finding a Real Person. Tired of calling a number and ended up in voice-menu hell? Here’s how to get a real person. Also useful is
  • Credit Reports. Federal law (until Trump changes it) requires each credit reporting agency to give you one free report a year. Here’s how to request it. Hint: Do a different agency every four months, rotating, to keep up to date.
  • 2FA. We all know how important it is to use two-factor authentication. What if you lose your phone and it is the 2nd factor. Here’s what to do. By the way, if you don’t know how to turn on 2FA, here’s how for many sites. Also useful is the 2FA List.
  • URL Encoding and Decoding. If you practice good security hygiene, you know what the URLs are before you go to them. But that’s difficult when URLs are encoded with loads of % codes, or it is a tiny URL, or a URL in an email. URL-Encode-Decode allows you to encode or decode a URL from the UTF % forms. GetLinkInfo takes a URL and follows all the redirections to the end, letting you know if it is safe.
  • Characters and Emojis. Three useful sites here. The Character Entity Reference Chart is a list of all HTML encodable character. Character-Code provides a list of all sorts of characters that you can cut and paste, including some iconic symbols. Both are incomplete when it comes to Emoji; for that, you need Emojipedia.
  • Time. Figure out the time anywhere with XKCD Now.
  • Password Generation. XKCD can also help you with XKPassword, a password generator. I also like the nonsense word generator.

I Didn’t Know That!

This week’s news chum brings together a number of articles that present facts that you might not have known, but that are fascinating to read. Shall we begin? I quote a bit more from the first article, simply because the words crack me up every time I read them.

  • Fighting Capitalism. As you may have just read, Hasbro has dropped three timeless Monopoly tokens — the thimble, the boot, and the wheelbarrow — and replaced them with a T. Rex, a Penguin, and Rubber Ducky. Some speculate that this is further evidence that what was once a game that protested capitalism is being further eviscerated to celebrate it instead. After all, all three tokens eliminated fit into the theme of capitalism and its discontents: the railway baron’s top hat, the worker’s thimble, the boot with the strap by which to pull one’s self up, and so on. But after Parker Bros purchased the game, it has slowly and surely been turned into a game demonstrating how fun it is to make lots of money and bankrupt your friends. But fear not. A wonderful Vox article identifies the hidden anti-capitalist meanings behind the new tokens: (1) The T. Rex stands for the inherent predatory nature of capitalism. When you use the token, you’re saying, “Behold, I devour all that stands before me, just as capitalism devours the rights of the workers.”; (2) The Penguin. It carries a double meaning. It stands for the coldness of Wall Street, and also for the profit-driven destruction of the polar ice caps. Plus it was a classic Batman villain. (3) The Rubber Ducky. It seems to say, “Much like water off of this duck, the inhumanity and decadence of late capitalism just rolls off my back.”
  • Time Zones. You’ve heard of “fun with flags”; here’s fun with time zones. Some timezones have 1/4 and 1/2 hour offsets. Some are next to each other, but when you cross only the date changes. Some even allow you to go back in time.
  • Chemistry and Ironing. Here’s why your shirts come out of the dryer wrinkled, the easy way to unwrinkle them, and the chemistry behind no-wrinkle fabrics and treatments.
  • Making Lemonade. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. When genetics gives your vitilgo, turn it into art.
  • Pennnnnnnnnnnnnies. Here’s a history of coin-elongation machines,  which you’ve probably seen, but never thought about.
  • Decluttering. Here’s why it is so hard to let go of stuff.



Things You Should Know

Amongst the political and transitional news chum I’ve been collecting of late, there are a number of articles that are more informational — that is, they provide some really useful tidbits and insights. I’d like to share them with you:



Bigger and Better in Los Angeles

I’m doing my best to limit myself to one political musing per day, and I’ve met my quota. So let’s turn to my city and county, Los Angeles, and see how it is on the brink of some big changes:

  • Biggest IKEA in the US. Come February, the current Ikea near the Colony Theatre is closing, and a gigantic (shall we say “yuuuuge”) IKEA is opening down the street. The store will be 456,000 square feet, nearly twice as large as the previous Burbank store, replacing a total of 19 different storage buildings. The store will also include parking for 1,700 vehicles, a childcare facility, and a 600-seat restaurant significantly larger than the dining area at the existing Burbank location. The store will display the whole range of products that Ikea has to offer. Shoppers will be issued Firhot Flare Guns upon entry, together with Gaarmaan GPS maps and whistles to call exclusive IKEA Doog robots if shoppers get lost.
  • The Chargers Return. The San Diego Chargers are coming to Los Angeles, where they will be known as the San Diego Chargers of Los Angeles. Perhaps I should say “returning”, after all, they played their first season here before giving up and heading south in more ways than one. The general reaction of most people in the city is “yawn”. Inglewood is happy, because they will have even more nights with “home” football games. I’m not sure whether they will be successful in the move. I’d wish them the same success as the Rams, but I’m trying my best not to be nasty. Meanwhile, the Oakland Raiders are planning to run to Vegas and have a quick nuptual presided over by Elvis (who is getting a street named after him, but that will be a different post)
  • A Magical Duplication. There is an old convoluted, invitation-only, black-tie house in the Hollywood Hills called the Magic Castle, operated by the family of Milt Larsen, where it serves as the home to the Academy of Magical Arts. Evidently, an unknown side-show magician who was once on TV has indicated more slight-of-hand magicians are needed in Washington DC; as a result, the Larsen family has decided to open a second Magic Castle. The new castle will be near Santa Barbara and called the “Magic Castle Cabaret”, and will overlook a lake and nature preserve in Montecito (the property formerly housed the Casa del Sol restaurant and events center). The structure is about a fifth the size of the Hollywood castle and will feature a 50-seat theater and a lounge.
  • Ewoks in the Park. George Lucas has announced that he has finally selected where he will put his musuem of Star Wars Ephemera and randomly collected art works. Exposition Park. As if that park didn’t have enough museums and attractions with the California ScienCenter, the African American Museum, the Rose Garden, the Natural History Museum, the Space Shuttle Pavilion, plus an LAUSD elementary school, the Coliseum,  and the new LA Soccer Stadium. There’s plenty of space and parking. Right?

So you want to get me a present….

So you forgot to get me a present for the Christmas or Chanukah this year (and I know you did)? Don’t despair. Here’s what you can get me:

  • If you are someone who hates liberals, who despises Clinton and Obama: Please, give it up (or at least give up your online animosity towards Obama, Clinton, and liberals). You won the election, both Clinton and Obama will be gone from the elected political stage in a month. It’s not worth the anger. As for the Liberals, remember that this country was made great by people from both sides expressing their views and finding compromises that both could grudgingly accept, even if they found them a little distasteful. Liberals want this country to succeed just as you do (even though you might not believe it). Let’s tone down the animosity and the partisanship.
  • If you are Liberal, and/or utterly despise Donald Trump: Tone down the rhetoric. The hatred has quickly become one note, and you will come to realize it isn’t worth it — it may feel good now, but remember that it didn’t feel good when they did it to Obama, or when they will do it to the next Democratic President (and there will be one). What you do now is poking an anthill with a stick, and it doesn’t help the country. We should be respecting our President as much as we can, and being generally silent when we can’t. Note that I didn’t say agree. We should be continually working to rebuild our party(s), and insisting that Congress and the Courts do their job to uphold the constitution, limit the Presidency as the Constitution designed, and to investigate any malfeasance (as was done for past administrations). We should figure out how to find compromises to make this country succeed, instead of being small children and insisting that it is our way, or we take our toys and go home. As for Trump, we need to play to his ego, and convince him that he is at the crossroads of going down as one of the worst and most divisive presidents, or one of the greatest presidents who unified the country after years of intense partisanship. He needs to do the latter — abandon the tweeting, pick good and qualified advisors and cabinet heads and listen to them, and work to best serve not only those from the electoral majority states that won him the election, but those voters who are a majority of those who vote who voted for his opponent. He is better than that — he must be positive, not punative.

Folks, we all want this country to succeed, grow, and prosper. We may disagree on how to get there, but our goals (I hope) are the same.  How we behave on the network — at least many of us — does not help us get that goal. Don’t become the Internet 4Chan wants. We are so much better than that.

And that, friends, can be your holiday gift to me.

May all of you have the merriest of Chrismas Days (if that is your celebration), a Chappy Chanukah and a Gud Yom Tov and Chag Sameach (if that is your celebration), a blessed Kwanza (if that is your celebration), or just a relaxing day off of work while everyone else celebrates, thankful that the holiday music is finally coming to an end.


Nottingham 2016

userpic=faireYesterday, we went to the 4th edition of the Nottingham Festival (FB) (having supported the original Kickstarter back in 2013). This year’s festival (November 5/6 12/13) comes directly after the Simi Valley Historical Ghost Tour, (produced only by Actors Rep of Simi Valley (FB), not Nottingham) which came after the 1st Annual Tumbleweed Festival on October 22/23 and used the same location. This allowed the organizers (Actors Rep of Simi Valley (FB) and the Simi Valley Cultural Association (FB)) to rent the same space for four weekends in a row. As before, the event was held near the Simi Civic Center. Like last year, they used Civic Center Park in Simi Valley, which is the space between the Courthouse and the Simi Valley City Hall, as opposed to being in Rancho Tapo Community Park (note: the map below is mislabeled — the purple is the 2013-2014 location; the orange the 2015-2016 location):

Rought Nottingham 2016 Layout
They seem to have the entry aspect under control: there were no lines. Whether that is due to lower attendance, I don’t know. I do know that it was a simple “collect your ticket”; there were no security inspections upon entry. Had we known, we might have brought drinks. I think this Faire is small enough that the concern isn’t all that great — there were uniformed (although not period uniform — that would be neat!) police officers wandering around.

For some reason, I didn’t like this year’s arrangement as much as the last two year’s (2015, 2014) (although it is certainly better than 2013‘s). [Evidently, 2015 was in the same location, but I recall the layout being very different] The stages seemed harder to find, parking seemed tighter, the Master’s Pavilion (normally a star attraction) seemed tucked away as an afterthought behind some stores. The kids stuff seemed hidden, and there was less play space. It wasn’t a disaster, but I’m not sure the economy of the using the same space and layout as Tumbleweed helped overall (although it did save the sponsors a lot of effort). The new layout, however, did provide some picnic tables. I’m hoping this is like the situation in 2013 — they will workout the flow kinks for the combination, and next year will have a better flow.

Food vendors seemed a little bit lighter than in past years. What was there was excellent and not overpriced, so who am I to complain? I certainly enjoyed what I had for lunch, and wanted to try more but didn’t have the room. There was still a dearth of beverage options for those avoiding sweet beverages — I still maintain that having a “water fill” station for a reasonable price ($1-$2) would allow people to fill their mugs and goblets, and use a lot less plastic and other waste. There were also precious few gluten-free options for my wife — the turkey legs and the Topanga Jerky were about it.

Entertainment options were good from what we saw; as always, more music is welcome. The program was lacking — the map was really rough, and there was not a list of all vendors (which would be very useful).

The crowd seemed reasonable for a small festival — I hope it was worthwhile for the vendors. There was a really good selection of vendors — I believe a few more than last year. They have added at least one pottery vendor, and there are a few more clothing vendors. They still, however, are missing a stave / wand vendor (which is a big surprise, as they had a stave vendor at Tumbleweed). Here’s hoping for more continued growth.

[Edited with a correction on the location from Nottingham’s director of communication.]


You Out of Luck Today. Banks Closed.

[Today is Columbus Day (or Indigenous People Day, if you prefer), and, FYI, the banks are closed. Thus, it is all together fitting and appropriate to remind people why we do this… to give bankers 3-day weekends :-)]

In 1961, the humorist Stan Freberg issued Volume 1 of The United States of America, a musical telling of the founding of America through the Battle of Yorktown (Volume 2 goes through the end of World War I (“They’ll never be another war…”)). The first scene on Volume 1 relates the story of how the Indians discovered Columbus. Although many things have changed since 1961 when this was recorded — Columbus is no longer held in the same regard, the portray of the Native American would likely be very different — there are still points that ring true, especially the exchange:

Columbus: Alright. Hello there. Hello there. We white man. Other side of ocean. My name, Christopher Columbus.
Chief: Oh, you over here on a Fulbright?
Columbus: No, no. I’m over here on an Isabella, as a matter of fact. Which reminds me. I want to take a few of you guys back on the boat to prove I discovered you.
Chief: What you mean discover us? We discover you.
Columbus: You discovered us?
Chief: Certainly, we discover you on beach here. Is all how you look at it.

As today is Columbus Day, let us remember that unfortunate day that the Native Americans discovered a Italian sailor, and the world was never the same. Just look at all he brought us: “real food: starches, spaghetti, cholesterol, … all the better things. That’s called progress.”

I present a transcription of the scene, just as it happened:

Read More …


News Chum Stew: Onesies and Twosies

Observation StewLast night, we had a Shabbabaque at Temple (“Shabbat” + “Barbeque”). There was a bunch of food leftover, and so I brought some home — the sliced tomatoes and roasted zucchini — and threw it into a crockpot. That’s a great thing to do with leftovers: make a stew (and I intend to suggest formalizing that next year*). Just like at the Shabbabaque, I’ve got loads of leftovers — onsies and twosies of news articles — that don’t make a coherent dish. Perhaps they’ll make a good stew. What do you think?

Jewish Summer Camp

Food and Eating

Local Returns and Departures

The Body


What’s Left