Jonathan Field - Maker of Random Stuff

Since I’ve got the time…

I’m a bit surprised at how many people say the shutdown can be blamed on both sides equally. I wonder if it would be seen the same way if Democrats forced a shutdown to “negotiate” gun control. I mean, hey, we just want to talk about it. And by the way, we won’t let anything else happen, even stuff we normally support, until we talk about it. And by “talk about it” we mean “you cave”.

I wonder if I could have pulled that at work. I don’t like the benefits, but I’m told they’re not changing. So I shut down all our servers. The company can no longer function. Can we “negotiate” now? Don’t point that finger at me – if we go out of business it’s just as much your fault as mine.

I think many people want to feel balanced and nonpartisan. We’ve all got Republican friends and family, and we don’t want to upset them. So we talk about it as though both sides have a reasonable argument here and, well, what can you do? Crazy old Washington.

Except the two sides do not both have a reasonable argument. There is something fundamentally wrong with the Republican approach. I get that they don’t like the ACA, but that is something they have to address by attacking the ACA, not by attacking Veteran’s benefits and the Grand Canyon. Negotiating means you give something to get something. It does not mean you confiscate everything to get something. In any other arena we’d all recognize this for what it is: sabotage.

My stance on this is nonpartisan. I wouldn’t want sabotage to become an accepted tactic for any party. It creates a constant state of crisis and it’s a stupid way to run a country. Or anything. The fact that the Speaker of the House, the de facto leader of the Republican party, thought this was a good idea, or was convinced to pretend it was, is a colossal embarrassment and obliterates any semblance of competence or good faith. Even more shamefully, this is not an isolated incident, it’s just the latest culmination of an ongoing policy to disrupt the government while there’s a Democrat in office.

I put up with plenty of laws I don’t like. I want to see them changed. But I don’t want to change them by putting all that’s good in our country on the chopping block for political theater. And I’m not going to pay lip service to “balance” either: the Republican party gets full credit for cooking up and executing this crisis. I hope their ploy fails, and I hope they pay dearly in the midterms.

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Khan Academy Offline

So at first I felt a bit odd downloading and distributing a collection of Khan Academy videos for offline usage, being that they’re already freely available online, but it turns out lots of people want the same thing. Apparently there’s a big overlap in the Venn diagram of “places that need better educational resources” and “places that don’t have fast, cheap internet access”.

Just before my most recent trip to SA, I found a guy who was doing much better job of it than me, and so I started using his package instead. After a bit of back and forth it was determined that while the package would benefit from being updated, he didn’t have the time. So I offered to help out.

After learning a bit about Khan Academy’s API, re-downloading all the videos, learning about Handbrake Encoding Options, and yes, hacking a bit of perl, I came up with this preliminary update.

I’m discussing with others now about what tweaks to make so that it can be most useful. Although I’ve moved away from coding in general these days, I do still enjoy the flow that comes with it.

Also, I think this is the first project where I didn’t resent CSS layout by the time I was done. Now that’s progress!

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Cabbage Patch Kid

As a proud investor in a tiny cabbage farm, I have to promote it here with photos. Here it is in early June, having just been planted:

Phila's Cabbage Farm, June 1, 2013

That’s Phila the farmer observing his domain. And here is the farm yesterday:

Phila's Cabbage Farm, July 21, 2013

I’m told it will be ready to harvest in September. So if you happen to be passing through Tugela Ferry in the future, buy some cabbage. It’s healthy! It’s inexpensive! And I can assure the ones of you that care that it’s not GMO.

It may, however, have been transported in the back of an old pickup.

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Turning 40

I’ve been 40 for over a week now. I can’t tell the difference, but boy does that sound old. Here’s a serious recommendation to the kids, though: stay out of shape through your teens and twenties, then get in reasonable shape just before you turn 30. You won’t even notice you’re aging.

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South Africa 2013 Wrap Up

It ended up taking a nasty cold to keep me still long enough to write an update. Here I am at my mom’s in Rhode Island, wrapped in blankets and sniffling the night before my birthday, trying to figure out how to describe the three month whirlwind I just experienced.

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South Africa 2013

I suppose it’s time to give a small update about my first three weeks in South Africa this year. So here goes.

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Chili Time

Ever since I came up with my own cheap, easy, healthy, and delicious chili recipe, it’s just about all I eat at home. Here’s what I do:

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Finally – Thalana High School Internet!

When I left South Africa this past May we had successfully networked Thalana High School, but we were still waiting on the local Telkom to hook up the DSL line. At the time we thought this would take a few weeks. And I really should know better than to take such an optimistic estimate at face value.

As it turned out, when Telkom did come to hook up the DSL a month or so later, there was some kind of line problem at the pole and it didn’t work. So they left and told us they’d fix it when they got a chance.

Then a bit after that the school fell behind in their phone payments and suddenly Telkom wasn’t feeling all that motivated to get the DSL fixed. And if I thought they were slow when they were motivated…

Anyway, I had tried to keep things rolling with persistant encouraging emails, but it soon became apparent it was out of my hands and was going to resolve itself, or not, of its own accord. As of a couple weeks ago I had more or less given up and I assumed I’d have to try getting things back on track when I returned.

Then today, out of the blue, I got an email from the CAT teacher Lucky, proclaiming that the internet was finally up and running! He included a picture of him accessing his hotmail account from the lab. This totally made my day. Now I’m re-fired up to see what we can accomplish next year.

It’s not always two steps forward one step back… sometimes it’s just very slow steps.

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Finally Home

As of Wednesday night I’m “home” – whatever that means. The calendar tells me I’ve spent 3/4 of my 2012 time elsewhere so far. After getting back from South Africa I spent a couple weeks in New England visiting family and friends. I also did some renovations at the Warwick RI house while there – tuned up the electrical and the kitchen and bath to be more in line with my standards. My mom and Tim seemed to appreciate that too.

I’m off to San Francisco on Tuesday, but it’s nice to have a little break and to catch up with folks here. Had a lovely lunch with friends on the sidewalk cafe at the Paris, and I’m heading to a housewarming party tonight.

Life is a party. But what’s underneath the party? I say it’s parties all the way down.

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South Africa 2012 – Heading Home

Time to head north to Joburg. Then northwest to Atlanta. Then a little further north until I find myself in Boston. I’m a bit sad to be leaving so soon.

So let’s see how I did on my goals:

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