25 years ago

25 years ago today, in this bar, I lost my first argument in the US. This was to be the first of many such “arguments”, until I learned to avoid them. Here’s how it went down.

Olive Branch Bar and Restaurant
Olive Branch Bar and Restaurant

I was fresh off the proverbial boat, having just arrived in the US the day before. Culture shock and all. It was a hot summer afternoon. I had just finished applying for a social security number at the Rutgers Student Center, I was hot and thirsty, and this bar was beckoning to me. I went in for a beer.

The place was cool, dark, and deserted. The bartender — a young fellow — was watching basketball on TV. He poured me a Coors. This exchange followed:

Him: “Do you like to argue?”

Me: “No.”

Him: “Why not?”

Me: “I just don’t.”

Him: “Let’s argue.”

Me: “No.”

Him: “Let’s argue.”

Me: “No.”

Him: “Come on, let’s argue!”

Me: “OK.”

Him: “What’s your favorite basketball team?”

Me (glancing at the TV): “The Chicago Bulls.”

Him: “The Chicago Bulls can take their horns and shove ’em up their asses.” </victorious look>

Me: “…”

I paid for my beer and left.

Election 2016 = massive free brand-building campaign for Trump Enterprises

[PYONGYANG, December 2016] Kim Jong-un: Mr. Trump, I want to put your name on my new hotel.

Former presidential candidate Trump: That’ll be $2 billion, Kim. Cash. Used non-sequential twenties.


What do Howard Stern and Donald Trump have in common? Both are cynical showmen who care about nothing but their own bottom line.

Remember when Howard Stern ran for governor of New York? Howard didn’t want to serve, the campaign was just a publicity stunt for his radio show. Same thing is happening now with Trump, but on a much larger scale. Trump’s campaign is just a massive marketing campaign for Trump Enterprises.

1999 Doonesbury
1999 Doonesbury

Howard didn’t want to serve, and found a reason to drop out. So will Donald.


[UPDATE July 27, 2016] By now it should be obvious to all that Trump DOES NOT WANT TO BE PRESIDENT!!! You think these “blunders” are accidental? He is trying TO GET OFF THE HOOK!!!!!


Facebook gradually cutting off the mobile web

In 2016 we as a nation are facing an important decision, which will have a major impact on our lives for many years to come. Making the right choice will lead to happiness and prosperity. Making the wrong choice will lead to tyranny, and will send us back to the Dark Ages.

I am speaking, of course, about whether to install Facebook Messenger.

Facebook Messenger has never been a reliable communication tool for me. Now the Zuck Empire renders it even less so by making Messenger not work in the mobile browser. The message is clear — get on, or get off. I won’t be installing Facebook Messenger, so its utility diminishes even further for me. I am getting off.

Ten best ways to reach me, ranked

Will Zuck next cut off Facebook access on mobile browsers and force all users to use his app? I wouldn’t be surprised, and I don’t like where this is going.


[UPDATE June 7, 2016] Vulnerabilities in Facebook Chat and Messenger exploitable with basic HTML knowledge (via Randal Hale)

Strava or Ride with GPS?

TL;DR: It depends. Strava is Facebook for cyclists. Ride with GPS is the serious geogeek/cyclist’s companion. I keep both apps on my mobile device, but I use mostly Strava will be using exclusively Ride with GPS going forward. My decision was made easier by my friend Adena Schutzberg — a digital mapping (GIS) and endurance athlete veteran — who told me that her bike club, the Charles River Wheelmen, selected Ride with GPS as their route distribution tool.


With the demise of Google My Tracks, I needed to select an alternative — a replacement app with which to track and record my bike rides on my Android phone. (I briefly considered getting a dedicated bike computer (e.g., a Garmin), which many veteran cyclists swear by. But the thought of owning and charging and managing yet another device quickly rendered this option untenable.)

On January 30, 2016 — the day of the Google My Tracks deprecation announcement — I went back to Strava, which I had signed up for years ago and subsequently replaced with My Tracks. The reasons I ditched Strava in the first place are still there today — it has way too much stuff. Challenges, badges, game-like “social” features are to me bloatware that I don’t need. But I kept using Strava, because it did what I needed — kept track of my rides.

Then I signed up for a charity 40-mile ride, which published the routes in what the organizers called “Garmin” and “Ride with GPS” formats. Garmin not being an option I was willing to consider, I looked at the “Ride with GPS” format, which turned out to be a GPX file. Can you import a GPX file into Strava? No. So I signed up for Ride with GPS.

I paid $2 for a three-day pass, downloaded the Tour de Franklin route to my device, and set out to test the navigation capabilities of Ride with GPS — in my car. Which is where I ran into problems (almost certainly attributable to my aging device). I couldn’t get the audio or spoken alerts to work no matter how many things I tried, and towards the end of the test — after about an hour and a half of driving — my device’s battery was at less than 10%. It was now clear that I wouldn’t be able to use Ride with GPS with my current device (Google Nexus 4) to navigate along a four-hour ride.

[UPDATE May 5, 2016] My technical problems with Ride with GPS were caused by user error (me), and were swiftly and expertly addressed and resolved by RWGPS tech support represented by Tomas.


Screenshot of Ride with GPS Android app
Screenshot of Ride with GPS Android app

Back to The Google. After some digging I found a beta script on Strava Labs that allows users to upload a GPX file and convert it to an editable Strava route. At the time of this writing the script does not create new geometry data in Strava, only best-matches GPX data to geometry that is already in Strava. This was close enough in my use case, and my experiment ended. Strava won this round, if for the wrong reasons.

CONCLUSION: If I had to make the switch away from Google My Tracks today — knowing what I know now — I would select Ride with GPS right away. It is an excellent app with serious mapping chops and outstanding support.

Why is Orthodox Easter different from Western Easter?

Or, when is a full moon not a full moon?

The formula for Easter — “The first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox” — is identical for both Western and Orthodox Easters, but the churches base the dates on different calendars: Western churches use the Gregorian calendar, the standard calendar for much of the world, and Orthodox churches use the older, Julian calendar.

The two churches vary on the definition of the vernal equinox and the full moon. The Eastern Church sets the date of Easter according to the actual, astronomical full moon and the actual equinox as observed along the meridian of Jerusalem, site of the Crucifixion and Resurrection.

You can find many more details here.