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What I Do Here

If you are here for genealogy, try this: http://walkitout.livejournal.com/tag/genealogy

I write about whatever I am thinking about. It helps me think about it and remember it later. Because I live far away from many of my longest term friends, we don't always get to participate in each other's daily life; sharing my blog is a second-best.

My interests change over time, but at any given time, I am usually very intensely interested in a few things. This might look more organized and logical than it really is. I have two children with autism spectrum diagnoses, and they seem completely normal for my extended family; if I were a kid growing up today, I'd have a diagnosis, too. Try to keep that in mind, if you're trying to figure out what kind of person would write the kinds of things I write.
I was foolish enough to sign up with gmail early on using firstname.lastname as my username. Other people have the same firstname and lastname and some of them sign up for services on the web using my gmail address. I unsubscribe from _a lot_ of stuff. Sometimes I wind up having to take over an account in order to get account related emails to turn off.

Spotify has turned out to be remarkably horrible! I sent them email asking them to shut it down.

"Hi. I started getting email from spotify. So I did a password reset to access the account. Now I am asking you to remove the account. Thank you."

They replied with this:

"Hey!

Thank you kindly for getting in touch about this.

I'm sorry to hear you want to remove your account. I'll be able to help you with this, I'll just need to confirm a few details first. Could you please get back to me with;

1) Your date of birth
2) Your Postal/ZIP code

I'll look out for your reply! :)

Kind regards,

Sonny"

So, a service I didn't ever sign up for makes it impossible to unsubscribe from their emails without taking over the account (or at least I couldn't figure out a way to do that). So I took over the account, asked them to shut it down, and they want my DOB and zip in order to shut it down.

No, thank you. I did actually reply to them explaining in more detail -- since they didn't understand the first email -- what I had done and why, and that I didn't care whether they shut the account down or just scrubbed the email from it, but I wanted at least one of those things to happen.

Oh, and then they asked me to answer a survey regarding their customer service (which I filled out).

Hi, Spotify!

You are loathsome. Change your account set up process to round trip the email address to make sure the person setting up the account isn't making a mistake (or intentionally spamming someone, which I do not believe occurred in this case).

To re-iterate: spotify wasn't one of the worst for allowing this to happen. But their customer service process after allowing this to happen _is_. Also, as is always the case with a two-tier online service, never, ever, ever pay any attention to the free account number. Because that thing is a farce.

guess I didn't really need to go shopping

I went to the local consignment store for a costume for T. about a week ago and got something that matched what he said he wanted -- he even liked it when it got home. So that was pretty amazing.

This Saturday, they put out all the winter stuff, so I've been thinking I should wander around, figure out current sizes and what might work from last year and what needs to be replaced.

And wow, partly because I had to replace some stuff midway through last winter, everything looks like it is basically a workable size going into this winter. I bet that won't last. Maybe I'll see what they have in the next size up . . .

The connected house

There's this "thing": "The Internet of Things". It has a bunch of sub-"things", such as wearables, and the "connected house".

I forget the details of why I decided to buy a Nest thermostat (probably to do with the opacity of programming the damn things and constantly having to adjust them manually: http://walkitout.livejournal.com/1075502.html And indeed, I adjust the Nest 'stats a lot less. Also, I love love love being about to tell the house to warm up or cool down on the day we return home from a trip but hours in advance of our arrival). We also experimented with a wifi garage door opener that you can access through a keypad or a phone app (mixed feelings about this: super awesome to be able to let a repair person in when you can't be there Right That Minute. Super UN cool that there has been an intermittent mystery open problem that forces us to lock it closed more often than I would prefer).

More recently, R. (I'm sure he regrets this) mentioned someone at work looking at who was at their front door -- while they were at work. I thought, cool! We should get cameras. But then I thought, wait, where would we mount them? I don't want to muck up the look of the front of our house.

Which led me to connected doorbells. There are a couple (I've ordered the SkyBell) that wire into standard doorbell wiring, but also will let you look through their camera (whenever you like!), alert you whether the bell is rung or not, based on motion sensor, infrared for night time -- and all through your phone app.

We have a slight problem. The doorbell is mounted in a place where the SkyBell might not fit. So we shall have to see. But if you're wondering what idiots are participating in the Connected House part of the Internet of Things, apparently I am one of Those Sheep.

ETA: If you are wondering, no, we haven't gotten into any of that control-interior-lights-TV-etc. using-motion-sensors stuff. If you have, I'd love to hear the details.

Of Amazon and Watches

I really liked this article:

https://a16z.com/2014/09/05/why-amazon-has-no-profits-and-why-it-works/

It has a really interesting theory about Amazon continually having virtually no profits or losses quarter after quarter after quarter despite having massive changes in the maturity of existing businesses and brand new, rapidly growing business. I had never given this aspect of Amazon any thought. I have a pretty orthodox growth perspective on Amazon: they are growing. They are growing as fast or faster than anything else I might put my money into. So I'm in no hurry to experience the massive tax consequences of getting out of Amazon in a big way and then finding something else to invest in. Instead, I have been, and will continue to for decades to come, slowly get out of Amazon -- I'll wrap up around the time the Zon's fearless leader and I are both ... old. I think of it as either a commitment to a very long roller coaster ride, or a bet on El Jefe. At any given moment, one or the other or both are true representations of my motives.

I so liked this article that I thought, hey, Andreesen Horowitz often as not produces completely hare-brained stuff. Who is this Benedict Evans and how consistent is his analysis?

http://ben-evans.com/benedictevans/2014/9/15/ways-to-think-about-watches

This is nice. I think he oversells this point:

"If you tell the young people of today this they won’t believe you, but in the mid 1990s most people thought that mobile phones were an expensive niche product without mass-market potential. We already had phones, and pay phones, so why would you need this other thing?" But I was living in Seattle and working at Spry and Amazon during that time frame, so it makes sense that I'd feel like I was surrounded by people who took mobiles for granted -- even if most of the world was some years behind on the curve. I got so freakishly far out on the curve that I bought a Treo phone in the early 2000s. On road trips, I'd pull it out with my folding keyboard and ... where was I?

Okay. So Evans doesn't mention payments. The _first comment_ mentions payments. At the risk of flagellating a deceased equine, I'm going to do background now. We go to Disneyworld once or twice (this year three times) a year. The last few trips have involved Magic Bands, which are basically the wristband (waterproof and fairly durable) RFID equivalent of the Key to the World cards that people staying on property had grown accustomed to. They have profoundly influenced our experience of The World, both Disney and the regular old world we live in year round. Once upon a time, I didn't think of wallets as inconvenient, even though I often found my wallet inconvenient. I didn't think of payment cards as inconvenient, even thought I often found myself cursing how long it was taking to get one out or stuff it back into place, often with a paper receipt (btw: curse you paper receipts!). It didn't occur to me that the amount of time I spent waiting in line to pay, the amount of time I spent paying, then the amount of time I spent waiting for the goods (popcorn, a cold drink, merch, lunch) to be delivered -- those time frames have relationships to each other and those relationships are not Ordained By a Deity. Specifically, the mental tradeoff of whether or not to bother getting the merch or popcorn often depends on just how long it will take that line to move, in turn, depending heavily on time to complete payment. (Lunch is really interesting, because you can _see_ the change because the line no longer "fits" into the various elements of the queue -- the payments are processing that much faster vs. the kitchen.)

R. and I spent a bunch of time trying to figure out who could deploy wristband payments. It gnawed at me that it might be something that never got clear of resorts. This beautiful thing might be trapped like level loading public transport, because of costs that make no sense when you aren't on vacation. Then I thought, Apple! Apple could Make This Happen. But for all the talk of a coming Watch, and for all that there were watches and NFC phones and cases and etc. already in existence, no one seemed at all interested in making it possible for me to pay by holding my wrist next to a terminal.

Which is irritating. Every person I _KNOW_ has misplaced card or a wallet or something, at some point in their life. If it was _strapped to your wrist_, that would be a lot harder to do. We're freaking selling multiple brands of RFID tags and subscription services to fix this problem. GIVE ME A DAMN WATCH THAT I CAN PAY WITH.

Then Apple announced and Apple Gave It To Me! I have to wait. My contract isn't up until May. The Watch won't be available under the new year. Etc. But I can see the Holy Land and I'm not even standing on a mountain.

And this amazingly brilliant guy is musing on how it's just not obvious what the killer app for the watch is going to be. I'll tell him what it is, in all three parts.

(1) Every person who ever was in a meeting that they would leave if they got a certain phone call would rather not announce that by putting their phone on the table next to them. And every parent whose kid might have trouble in school that day is that person, which is a lot of people.

(2) I know you all quit with the watches because you could always check the time on your phone. And you all have cracked screens. Enough said.

(3) Payments.

Evans is right about the watch having to look right. And it was great to see that articulated carefully and thoughtfully. He's a smart guy. And that means that I might be really, really, really wrong about whether everyone is going to love wristband payments as much as I do. Time Will Tell.
Two recent articles, one in the NYT:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/17/automobiles/electric-vehicles-are-cleaner-but-still-not-a-magic-bullet.html

This is based on a UCS 2012 report, "State of Charge", with some updates.

PacNW specific:

http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/the-dirty-secret-of-electric-cars/Content?oid=20608318

This is based on information from Alan Durning's Sightline Institute.

So I cannot complain in any great detail about the sourcing -- these are suspicious, petrochemical greenwashers.

The Stranger article compares a base model Tesla S to a Prius C. The Prius C comes out ahead if you charge in Bellevue using the utility but the Tesla wins in Seattle using the Seattle. And the Prius C only _barely_ comes out ahead on the Eastside. All PSE has to do is reduce its usage of coal power and voila. One of the least efficient of the BEVs wins. Don't lose track of the "C" on the Prius, either -- that does mean something! Good luck lining 3 car seats up in the back of a Prius C (go on -- do it and post the picture in a comment!).

Here's the data out of the NYT summary of the UCS update to the 2012 State of Charge report:

"That means an electric vehicle operating within the Midwest electric power grid, which blankets several states in whole or in part, is now as clean as a gasoline-engine car achieving 43 miles per gallon. In 2012, that number was said to be 39 m.p.g.

Some states that don’t depend heavily on coal for power generation fare much better. An electric vehicle in New York achieves the equivalent of 112 m.p.g., according to the scientist group’s data, while in California the number is 95 m.p.g. Others still lag behind. Colorado, which relies heavily on coal, is once again at the bottom of the list, with an E.V. achieving the same emissions as a 34 m.p.g. gasoline-engine car."

You should feel really pretty awesome driving your Prius or other hybrid, plug in or not, that is getting over 30 mpg. You should! Really! But don't let someone make you feel bad about switching to an electric car. Especially if you also put PVs on your roof.

And the link for the UCS report: http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/clean_vehicles/electric-car-global-warming-emissions-report.pdf

Showing Your Work

I sure hated when I was a kid in school and I got busted for having the right answer but not showing my work. I particularly hated it when I had in fact shown all of the work I was aware of doing, but the teacher (or aide or whoever) wanted additional detail that, honestly, I had no awareness of. Part of the issue was that my process was often very different from the process they were teaching. But part of the issue was simply that a lot of my process is mostly invisible to me. I know that, and I've spent a lot of time finding ways to expose the thinking that is going on "behind the scenes" or in my subconscious or in the dark or whatever metaphor you prefer. It turns out the teachers are onto something: if we can understand _how_ we came to a conclusion we came to, we can understand that conclusion a lot better than when we just get there through a magical leap.

I will use an example from someone who I don't much like and am really happy to not have to work with any more. We will call her X., rather than use her actual first initial, because there are days when anonymity may not be enough!

When T. was 4 or perhaps 5, he was in preschool. Then, as now, he has a lot of spare physical energy and needs ways to express it. It is the hyperactivity characteristic of a lot of ADD diagnoses but now known to not always be present in the disorder. I think of it as motor restlessness: "ants in your pants", "can't sit still". Etc. He liked to walk around in circles along a few sidewalks at his preschool, and one winter day, that suddenly became Not Allowed and he and I were freaking out about it because it was after school and he didn't want to head home yet. We were on the bike (because I couldn't get him to leave his seat belt on in the car) and you can't make a kid ride on a bike if they don't want to. Anyway. X was insisting we leave and T. not walk on those sidewalks, a new, unexplained rule. And after some discussion between me and X. about T. and rules, X. said, "Well, he won't be able to go to any school if he can't follow the rules."

Which was just ridiculous and also a violation of FAPE, IDEA, etc. I eventually got the kid home, but it took a while and we wound up involved in a really unpleasant interaction with a woman in a car who couldn't understand why I was walking a kid and a bike (also pretty dangerous -- it was a parking lot -- but we'd been kicked out of the safe place to be in motion and this was the safest route home). I was spitting mad and talked to the director of the preschool and the ABA head and possibly someone else -- definitely those two. A couple of things turned up. First, earlier in the day in a completely unrelated incident, a child had slipped on ice on the sidewalk and hit her head, precipitating a trip to the hospital and widespread fear and panic. Did anyone _tell_ me about this? No. They just freaked out, made up an arbitrary and ridiculous rule, and _did not show the work_ that had generated this rule.

Show your work.

If I had known about the accident, I could have addressed the underlying fear. We could have collaboratively problem-solved a way for T. to be physically active in the quiet, car free precincts of the administration building where the preschool is located and not trigger this fear of slipping on the ice. But since I didn't know about the incident, I couldn't do anything about that fear.

Second, the aide in question honestly had no idea what the next placement would be for T. if the school district preschool was unable to meet his needs. And honestly, they did not do a great job meeting his needs, altho they did a lot better than kindergarten did the next year. Halfway through kindergarten, the consensus that T. couldn't be helped in the school district was unanimous (I didn't even have to say anything!) and the special ed coordinator for the district found out what the next placement short of a private placement would be and proposed it. I thought, okay, this is the next hoop to go through before ending up at Nashoba Learning Group or New England Center so, "Sure!" we'll jump through that hoop and maybe it will work and if it doesn't well everyone will agree about the private placement and we won't have to argue with anybody.

I was annoyed that my district seemed unable to come up with any information about the proposed placement (like, not even a printed piece of paper -- I had to find the website myself). I asked around and the placement had a Rep. But, shrug, gotta do the work. Placement was _awesome_. There has been some teacher turnover, which is a bummer, but T. has steadily improved and steadily become happier and all is good. So I circled back to everyone who said anything negative or just had no idea and told them. Because that is part of having the knowledge to do better next time. Rep is undeserved. Rep is probably a historical artifact. Etc. The experience for the next crop of kids who were having trouble meeting the rules of the district schools was really different: they had staff at the preschool who knew the name of the next placement choice and could refer them to a mother of a child in that placement to talk to about details (that would be me). By showing the process, the next placement happened in kindergarten instead of first grade, and everyone was happier and less stressed.

When we cannot explain how we get from point A to point B, it's entirely possible that somewhere in there, we failed to see a choice, we failed to recognize we _made_ a choice, and that failure meant we had a worse outcome than was inevitable.

Usually, showing your work is something that conjures up long division, or listing sources for Birth, Marriage, Death dates in a family tree. But showing your work -- knowing the process, recognizes each choice you make _as you make it_, knowing what data went into the decisions, _knowing where we didn't have data to make decisions_, are things that happen every day for the rest of our lives. Showing our work can help us understand why we have the friends we have, why we have the family we have, why our kids are thriving (or not), why we find our lives satisfactory (or not) and even why we feel the way we feel.

It is a royal pain in the fundament.

ETA: If you are still hung up on me stating that it was ridiculous that a kid wouldn't be able to go to school just because they couldn't follow the rules, and mentioning Tourette's doesn't resolve that tension for you, here's another way to think about it. Let's say the rule is that before you can start learning/being taught, you have to "show you are ready" by sitting still facing the desk. This is a pretty typical preschool/kindergarten compliance measure, widely understood as "necessary" and obviously at odds with a variety of low-incidence medical conditions and thus cannot truly be a reason to not educate someone. In T.'s case, the motor restlessness makes the sitting still tough, and the autism makes the eye contact component of the rule difficult (eye contact is used by a lot of neurotypical classrooms as a proxy for shared attention, and let's just note that this is ridiculous and move on). X. saying that inability to follow the rules = can't go to any school crystallized a realization in me. "If you can teach a kid to read, do math, and learn about history and science while the kid is jumping on a trampoline, then sitting still is Not a Requirement." Since it is trivially true (NOT SHOWING MY WORK HERE! IRONY!) that you _can_ teach a kid to read, do math and learn about history and science while the kid jumps, sitting still really cannot be a requirement and anyone who says it is has failed to show the work of why the rule is valid -- federal law says the rule _isn't_ valid -- and this is a perfect example of why you should remember how you got to where you are, however you feel about that place.

History and Genealogy

I received a message from a distant cousin on ancestry. There was a question about a shared ancestor who is believed to have been born in 1764. Many trees show this man, a Mennonite, as being born in Russia. When I saw that, I went, yeah, that's not right. Because the first Mennonites arrived in Russia in 1787, and 1787 is after 1764. So I just put in "Prussia" and didn't think of it again.

http://www.gameo.org/index.php?title=Chortitza_Mennonite_Settlement_(Zaporizhia_Oblast,_Ukraine)

So my distant cousin would like to know my rationale for saying "Prussia" rather than the "generally held" South Russia.

So I politely pointed the cousin at the above link, and suggested reading Dyck's history, and maybe Klassen's book (_Mennonites in Early Modern Poland and Prussia_).

I love history, so it is a joy to have an excuse to read more, and a frisson of wonderment to feel like I am reading about my relatives. But I understand that even many genealogists find history incredibly boring. Still, genealogists need to know the timeline of migrations of Their People, or they will get sucked into really embarrassingly obvious errors.

I'm betting I'll be getting another message shortly about why I think the man's son (who was born after the first settlement was established in Russia) was also born in Prussia. I'll need to dig around to remember why I thought that.

Tags:

A Few Words about Child Abuse

And I would like to be clear here. If it involves blood, a hospital visit and/or damage to genitals, it is not corporal punishment or discipline or anything like that. It is child abuse.

There is a fairly high profile case right now involving an athlete. As a result of publicity associated with his reinstatement with his team after being indicted for child abuse, his charitable foundation -- which is named after a nickname his father gave him -- has gone on "hiatus" and taken down the pages which refer to the non-profit partners because people have been calling the non-profit partners and asking them painful questions.

The Internet Wayback Machine tells us that several of these non-profit partners are directed at reducing domestic abuse (Cornerstone Minneapolis, The Texas Council on Family Violence), but there are also organizations listed like Special Olympics, Feed the Children, Toys for Tots, Make a Wish and similar. There are a few human trafficking foundations (including DNA, the Demi and Ashton foundation).

Here is one of the more interesting selections:

The Symphonic Love foundation: http://symphoniclovefoundation.org/

The Symphonic Love foundation is Chris Brown's charitable foundation.

Obviously, there are a whole lot of things that one could comment on, but I'm going to start with one. Out of 18 listed partners on the old About Us page, 5 have within the name either the athlete's name, or the initials of his nickname. 2 (DNA and Symphonic Love) are other celebrity foundations, which means another layer between the money and the target recipient. 1 is or was a Rosemount, MN special education school -- not sure what that's about, but it would be interesting to find out. There's sort of a grab bag of big feel good operations, a few domestic violence groups, and some Houston connected charities.

The mix of charities that people set up or choose say _something_ about them. It would be interesting to know what domestic violence operations in general think about physically disciplining children (one assumes they deplore child abuse) -- seems like something worth asking about in general, not just because this particular offender gave money to one. But more importantly, I worry a whole lot about people who really involve their own name over and over and over again in their charitable activities.

Matthew 6:3, dude. Seriously.

Dishwasher woes

For a long while now, our Bosch dishwasher (which is not particularly old -- newer than the house), has been giving us E 24 codes intermittently. We clean out the filter (which is never particularly dirty) and try a couple more times and it usually works. But then it started giving us an E 24 every single time.

This is not a perfect dishwasher. It goes through rinse aid at an appalling rate. Possibly related to that, there is sometimes mystery film on the dishes. Sometimes the soap dispenser gets stuck and doesn't open properly.

But this Just Doesn't Run thing is infuriating. R. has a trick -- open it up during points in the cycle where it is testing the pump -- and that will get it running and once running, it runs fine and drains completely. This is _not_ a clog.

The very nice man from Hunter Appliance has been out three times. On the first visit, he established that we had accurately described that it was not a clog. On the second visit, he had a replacement control board. That did not fix the problem. He called Bosch; they suggested there was a sensor in the pump and that the pump should be replaced. The machine ran correctly twice after visit number 3 (which was _yesterday_), and is now back to its wicked E 24 ways. Because we recognize that it could be a clog, we did that whole drill again, then resorted to the usual trick.

My fury, at this point, is pretty epic. If it were Just The Dishwasher, I might or might not be that annoyed, but there have been other things (my favorite dog just died -- neighbor's dog, but I've been buying that dog treats for years now. I loved him and he is gone; there was a Mental Health Event in the extended family recently, fortunately non-fatal; my son's transportation to and from school has been amazingly sketchy, culminating in what is normally a 25 minute ride home becoming over an hour and a half and causing two temper tantrums over a missed play therapy appointment), and I'm feeling like I'm in straw-camel's-back mode.

Google says (and the appliance guy's call to Bosch as well) that we are not the only people to experience this problem with Bosch dishwashers. Obvs, I will be calling the lovely people at Hunter Appliance again tomorrow and hoping that they will have something helpful to say. I'm this close to buying a new dishwasher, but what the hell am I supposed to pick? Bosch has some of the highest reliability out there and I got what appears to be a lemon.
Long, long ago, gmail was in beta. A friend of mine somehow got signed up when it was invite only, and I asked him to add me, but I didn't use the account for very long because I have a different primary email address and because I was an idiot and signed up for firstname.lastname@gmail.com, I got a lot of spam AND account information for stuff other people signed up for. A while back, I made it a Project (in the GTD sense) to unsubscribe from everything, which helped, but it has been an ongoing task to unsubscribe from new things. Along the way, I have learned a lot about how various companies set up accounts and I Am Not Impressed. Many, many services that I would expect to know better (Match.com, I mean you) do not roundtrip email addresses before letting people sign up for them (also disqus). The latest discovery along these lines is Spotify.

Seriously. Spotify does not round trip emails.

Well, Insert Expletives Here. Disqus had the nerve to suggest I just roundtrip the password reset and take over the account. And then I can decide whether to nuke it or keep it around as a placeholder. In the Spotify case, I took it over and have requested customer service to get rid of it (partly out of curiosity -- it took a while to convince Dropbox to disconnect the email, and I want to know if it is easier to convince a service to disconnect before or after I've commandeered the account).

None of these accounts (because I caught them early on) have any interesting information attached to them (other emails, phone numbers, physical addresses, etc.). I'm sort of waiting for that to happen.