Fixpoint

2020-03-07

JFW's 130 top Trilema picks to date

Filed under: Bitcoin, Hardware, Historia, Lex, Paidagogia, Philosophia, Politikos, Software, Vita — Jacob Welsh @ 16:25

Inquiring minds have asked of me to please shed a bit more light on what this Republic thing and that Popescu fellow in particular are all about. Is there more to it than the ravings that first meet the eye, of sluts and slaves and scandalous sexual predations and every "ism" and trigger word known to man or woman? What's the value I see in it that keeps me coming back? And what's the plan for this world domination thing anyway?

I gave the most accurate response I could, if not the most helpful: see, all you gotta do is read a couple thousand articles in multiple languages averaging maybe a thousand words each, a couple times over, and likely a bunch of the imported cultural environment and extensive chat logs besides, and then all will become clear! At least as clear as it can be so far. At least I think it will. But what would I know, I'm a long ways from being there.

Well great, so couldn't I at least give an executive summary? Not exactly an easy task either. Short of that, here's an attempt at picking some of the especially interesting, informative or significant articles on Trilema from my reading so far, a map of sorts of enticing entries to the rabbit hole.

The very unfair process that articles went through to make this list was as follows:

  1. I extracted an initial set of 957 items from my presently accessible browsing history, using some CLI magic.(i)
  2. I narrowed the list to those where I believed I recalled something of the article, going off the title alone. This brought it down to 424.
  3. I further selected based on roughly the above "interesting, informative or significant" standard in my subjective perception, again by memory from title alone.(ii) I also ended up skipping some that would have met this by way of having especially horrified me; not sure if I've done anyone any favors thus, but there it is.

The ordering within each publication year is merely alphabetical (because I can't quite see a pressing need to do it better in this context).

Enjoy... if you dare. What can I say, it's not for everyone.

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

2020

  • The slap and human dignity
  • Fin.

    1. You know Firefox keeps this in a SQL database, yes? Because they told you about it in the manual, and documented the schema and all? [^]
    2. At times I was overpowered by the temptation to go check, with the inevitable expenditure of time on re-reading which, useful as it can be, I hadn't planned on getting drawn into just now. And while my shiny tools got this down to a minimal "this button to keep, that button to skip" flow, they were entirely powerless to speed up the thinking. [^]

2020-02-19

Warm and cold, new and old, fresh and salt 4: free falling

Filed under: Vita — Jacob Welsh @ 05:11

Continued from part 3.

A ski trip was about the only suggestion I had for my Christmas list, and for this time around I was treated to a generous three-day stay at Sunday River, one of the top East Coast resorts. I hadn't made it to the slopes since a 2014 Colorado trip; while there are some decent options in Virginia and nearby, the season is on the shorter side making December visits a hit or miss affair.

We stayed at the Snowcap Inn; while on the property, it wasn't really in gear-laden waddling distance to the ski area, and the room was on the basic side for the price. I figure lodging in town would be the better value; the dining certainly was.

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The first day followed on the heels of a nice New Year's Eve powder dump, leaving things a bit on the lumpy side, easy to catch an edge especially when as rusty as me. Nothing I couldn't bounce back from though, and the skills and confidence came back soon enough. Conditions were excellent and temperatures quite comfortable the next two days.

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The views are fantastic.

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Lift rides can be a good chance to strike up conversation with strangers, though many seem to actively avoid it.

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Looking down to the halfway-up Peak Lodge, the favored spot for a hot lunch or just a hot chocolate.

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Salvation's closed, obsession's the only way.

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In what's surely a metaphor for life, the harder trails tend to be easier than the noob ones - once you're good enough to handle them - because of less traffic.

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People even live out there in that nowhere.

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Yours Truly.

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We have to shovel? Life is hard!

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$5 got you a large Belgian waffle. The olfactory advertising covering a good 50 foot radius was all it needed.

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Frosted spruce trees, don't they look tasty? (I'll hazard a guess that the aim made sense earlier in the day due to wind.)

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"Airglow", heading off to the right, was probably my favorite: steady don't-forget-to-breathe downhill thrills yet nothing too treacherous.

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Thin cover in parts.

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I'm a decent skier, though I still steer clear of the double-diamonds (highest difficulty rating), so there'll be no view from past the event horizon.

Growing up I only had a couple trips - mainly through Boy Scouts - which were enough to know I loved it but not nearly enough to get over the initial ineptitude. I made the investment in college, picking up some gear of my own, a season pass, and arranging my spring semester schedule to fit the twice weekly carpool with the ski and snowboard team.

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One alone stands tall.

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The golden hour.

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Back at the inn.

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Sadly not a real wood fire, though still cheery.

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Stretching out a bit and checking the joints were still in working order.

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The end of the trip brought the end of the holiday, after a last night at home, some morning reflection and farewells.

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Connecting through Newark (EWR), the C gate was filled with a microphone and camera array posing as an entertainment and shopping system. It was eerie.

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Somehow it was my camera that stuck out as odd?

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America loves its veterans, and makes sure the supply keeps coming.

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The chairs being bolted down at the designated sitting distance from the desks turned what was trying hard to be a comfortable setup into just another reminder that yes, you're in a public airport.

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We have the figure at 5,596 iPads, on the good authority of Oatly.

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If they were gonna be watching me, it was the least I could do to return the favor!

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But not to worry, they delete the officially announced images. And it's probably even true: who could possibly be bothered to sort through it all?

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Fin.

2020-02-17

Warm and cold, new and old, fresh and salt 3: downtown Portland

Filed under: Vita — Jacob Welsh @ 03:24

Continued from part 2.

Let's proceed to a stroll downtown, starting from the Waterfront (Old Port) district (archived). It's all very brick and granite.

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CASCO BAY MUNICIPAL FERRY TERMINAL & PUBLIC PARKING GARAGE, Commercial & Franklin St

W. L. BLAKE & CO. MILL & INDUSTRIAL SUPPLIES

I hear the standard baking is excellent; we'll have to stop by on the next round.

THE STANDARD BAKING CO.

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Custom house.

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The Thomas Block at 100 Commercial Street, dating to the mid-nineteenth century.

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All the key financial services, except for the free cash machine.

BITCOIN Sold Here, lottery, ATM

Heading inland; at left is the Time And Temperature Building with rooftop display of... guess what.

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John Ford surveys the intersection from the director's chair.

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Driving was complicated more by the artificial obstacles of turn-only and bike lanes coming and going without warning than by any actual hazards.

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The Maine Lobsterman depicted in the square outside the Nickelodeon Cinemas.

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Woodman Building

CAUTION FALLING SNOW AND ICE

We've seen the Thomas, now here's the Thompson Block on Middle Street. There's not much construction predating 1867, on account of much of the city having been destroyed by a fire in 1866.

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Works Progress Administration conduit #376. Er, I mean Morgan Stanley.

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Some new growth.

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Karen McDine entertained over dinner and craft beers at a singer-songwriter showcase hosted at Blue, with songs flowing from the ever-abundant streams of love, loss and longing. This Tim guy followed, whose baseball cap entirely shadowed whatever expressions he might have had and whose indistinct crooning became unbearable in short order. My mom, who has no trouble letting you know what's on her mind, initiated the escape plan, though we were slowed by not having arranged for the check.

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In the guest bedroom upstairs, parts of the relocated library were looking tempting; more so than the first few thousand times the spines had passed through my field of vision at any rate. I ended up sticking with what I'd brought though.

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To be continued.

2020-02-07

Warm and cold, new and old, fresh and salt: part 2

Filed under: Vita — Jacob Welsh @ 23:55

Continued from part 1.

My last morning in Rutland we met up with a prospective client. He was affable, seemingly enthusiastic about our digital security training offering, and efficient in the meeting itself, though in its circumstances showed some fluid notions about time.

Robinson planned to see me off with a famous Gill's Grinder for lunch, but there was a lineup running nearly out the door, so we stopped instead at the apparently underrated Maxie's.

Back in Maine, I observed that my nose wasn't taking so well to the climate and I'd been waking every morning constricted. We figured the problem was the dryness, so made a stop at the aptly named Maine Hardware to pick up a humidifier and other sundries.

The bum seated at left (only one I noticed on the trip) asked for change, adding at once that it was for coffee and he didn't drink.

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The shop was indeed well stocked on all sorts of hardware and the staff eager to help.

The humidifier seemed to help somewhat - or at any rate gave the feeling of doing something to be in control.

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I'm just now noticing the broken glass and boarded windows at the "OPEN" Halaal market.

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There's an Eastern and Western Promenade adjoining some older upscale neighborhoods, with hillside views of city and water. Here, the Western.

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My guide takes in the scenery.

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Thomas Brackett Reed, who resigned from the House while Speaker over the Spanish-American War.

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On the distant horizon, possibly the White Mountains.

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Golden hour in the suburbs.

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There's an extensive network of walking trails in and around the woods. Here, fluffed out cattails.

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Putting together some lunch at the new place.

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We headed across the street for a delicious, ample and somewhat chaotic Christmas dinner with the extended family. (Having a kids' table works in theory...)

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We headed up to Boothbay to do some further winterizing of the cottage. There used to be a pine forest on the rocky ridge nearby, but what with being a rocky ridge and all, the trees weren't deeply rooted. Much of it had to be cleared out after some went down in a heavy storm.

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Log cabin in the woods, better hidden in summer.

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Cottage interior.

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Views of the Sheepscot River from nearby Porter Preserve.

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Ducks (or possibly cormorants), osprey nest, locals and tourists.

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Among the rocks was a small sandy area with signs of assorted flora and fauna.

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We went down to the touristy harbor area and dined at an Italian place that struck our fancy.

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Whale watch, boat trip and puffin cruise on pier 7. In season, we haven't gone for those larger scale things, instead finding our sea legs on ferries to the outlying islands or on the Schooner Eastwind. For more vigorous and independent adventures there's kayak rental, and one year we found a guy able to rent us a small outboard skiff. Skippering that all around (after some instruction from dad) was probably the most fun I ever had on the water; sadly the litigious climate was making business increasingly risky and I doubt such a rental could be found anymore.

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Every time I go back, the place feels a little bit smaller, though it still has its charm.

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Up the road, the Coastal Maine Botanical Garden was putting on a light show to attract some off-season traffic.

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Moose crossing!

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A local tradition is to have the kids build and furnish these "fairy houses".

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It was pretty cool! Easily the same scale if not larger than the similar ZooLights in DC. The hot chocolate did brisk sales.

Back in Portland, we had an item to return at a small branch library so I took a peek inside.

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It was a short drive south to see the iconic Portland Head Light.

There was a memorial for the USS Eagle-56 sub-chaser:

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This is not the light.

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This is!

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Quoth the plaque:

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow often walked from Portland to visit this Lighthouse. The Keepers were his friends and it is believed he sat here for inspiration for his poem "The Lighthouse"

"Sail on: Sail on ye stately ships,
And with your floating bridge the ocean span.
Be mine to guard this light from all eclipse
Be yours to bring man near unto man."

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Watching the watcher.

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People can have interesting reactions to finding themselves in the camera's sights. A common one seems to be assuming that they're in the way.

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200 years of keepers of the light.

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What does he see?

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Just some wiring, comms and a model in storage.

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It turns out paint doesn't make for the most lasting of memorials.

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Of course I'll have to go check out the cliffs.

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Town of Cape Elizabeth and possibly some of Portland.

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Abandoned naval fort.

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Turns out the light was commissioned by Washington himself!

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Special delivery, one shed.

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And down to the water.

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A vein of Shiny White Rock (technical term).

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There's a park area around the old Fort Williams.

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It was a prolific year for acorns; they have this cycle apparently.

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Back in Portland to see the Eastern Prom.

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The same fort from earlier, from the other direction.

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I can just see it going through the Panama Canal.

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Sailboats in storage, behind some large barge.

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USS Portland monument.

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To be continued.

Warm and cold, new and old, fresh and salt: part 1

Filed under: Vita — Jacob Welsh @ 01:22

My family tree on the paternal side has roots reaching back a ways in New England. Some lines go back to colonial Massachusetts. Another had fled Hungary at the time of ...one or the other World War,(i) landing in Maine with plans to head south but deciding they liked it well enough to stay.(ii)

While neither my father nor I grew up there, the family maintained a summer cottage near the coast in Boothbay, ME where we enjoyed vacations. Meanwhile my aunt settled in a more urban spot in the state and expanded the tribe. So when my parents semi-retired last year - having imagined they never would - these ties among other considerations made the Portland area (not to be confused with the Oregon one) a logical destination;(iii) though living there full-time, and having spare time too, was as much a novelty for them as the visit was for me.

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The state is known for its tourism, lighthouses and lobster fishery. The airport had a Christmas tree built of lobster traps on display.

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I'm unsure if the moose is a year-round resident.

But let's leave Portand for now. Once settled in, I rented a car(iv) and headed across the way to the Green Mountain State to hang out with Robinson and see his hometown of Rutland.

I made the drive sans GPS: partly to make sure I still knew how to navigate, and partly to make sure it could still be done. I'm pleased to report it certainly could, and the sprawling road atlas got kudos from a gray-bearded toll collector on I-95. The only pain is in going solo, losing time to pull over and reorient after a mistake.

The first evening, Robinson's folks took us to a nice dinner at a place downtown called Roots. He and I then stayed out a bit, though not much of interest was going on. The area's mountainous geography left it typically a few degrees colder than the Maine coast, and that made a difference; walking around near midnight felt like the very life was being sucked from your bones, like there was a timer over your head counting the seconds left to get indoors.(v)

In the morning Robinson took me for the driving tour.

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If you love lawnmowing, it's the place for you!

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The prominent Killington ski resort is a short drive down the highway.

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It's called Vermont maple syrup for a reason!

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Very New England, apparently: covered bridges and solar panels.

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The country club.

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Castles.

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A low school and a high school.

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Synagogue.

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Casella Waste Systems Inc., apparently started out of a pickup truck in this very town in 1975, now publicly traded.

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Downtown (you were starting to wonder if there was one?), we see a Mead Building occupied by uncertain shops and an uncertain building occupied by a Castleton University Bank Gallery. (Wait, what's a bank gallery?)

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The usual American entertainment fare.

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Plenty o' steeples.

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Ted's Pizza Shop. I'm told it's the best in... some large area, and you might have to get your orders for Friday in by Thursday.

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All the essentials of civilization: laundry, brakes, oil changes and guns.

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But how about some real countryside!

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And looping back to town.

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Howe Center: formerly industrial, now mostly offices and logistics if I recall.

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Public library.

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When you don't manage to keep the problem stack small.

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That afternoon we went for a hike up to the cliffs of the East Mountain. It was just right: enough to get the heart pumping and have to plan one's steps on the steeper parts, yet not too exhausting.

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Robinson's dad outfitted us with these Micro Spikes that slip over the boot, quite helpful for the icy conditions.

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The views from the top were so worth it, with mountains in the distance and town below.

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We enjoyed some Finest Liquids (maple goes with everything apparently!) and chatted until sunset.

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And what a sunset!

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Some friends of the family had a good crowd assembled with pizza, desserts, a fire going, and a football game playing. We stayed for a while, then headed downtown. The pubs were much livelier that night and we met a number of Robinson's old school friends and acquaintances.

The third day I was keen to put the rental car to use, so we made a longer expedition west to Lake Bomoseen where many townsfolk spend summers. On the way: either a slate or marble quarry.

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"Between the woods and frozen lake, the darkest evening of the year..."

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More rock scrabbling and views awaited, up The Slate Pile.

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We saw some ice fishing on smaller nearby lakes but just the evidence here.

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Birch, pine, sumac.

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The ill-fated camera.

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Heading back past more farms.

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We stopped for a look at the rodeo grounds.

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West Rutland, a separate town.

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The high school had a fetching facade of the local marble, and its own Frost reference.

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Fire and decor back at base.

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To be continued.

  1. Nothing like writing to discover what you didn't know, especially of the things you thought you did. [^]
  2. Except now I'm recalling they landed in New York, so um. There was some story of that nature, okay? [^]
  3. Sure, people warn you about the winter. But as I'm told, we live in a (post)modern age, with access to wondrous tech like fire, coats, snowy-salty-boot mats, and snowplows even. At least for my two-week stay I didn't mind it at all, but found it invigorating and often quite lovely. [^]
  4. Went for the cheap end but snagged an upgrade to a Nissan Altima. Recent model, nice enough, brakes a bit too touchy. NOT a fan of the computerized-everything, and there's probably no escaping it for new models either. [^]
  5. Wait, did I say I didn't mind the cold? [^]

2019-12-14

Uruguay parte 4: el turismo es trabajo

Filed under: Historia, Politikos, Vita — Jacob Welsh @ 16:11

Concluding from Parte 3.

On Sunday my host generously treated me to a five or six hour walking tour of the city, starting at the Feria de Tristan Narvajo, a weekly flea market named after the street it centers on in the Cordon neighborhood, where we browsed a while, then headed west along Avenida 18 de Julio through Centro to Ciudad Vieja (old town) and the seaport, then back and northeast to El Obelisco and finally back southeast to Pocitos. His extensive time on the pavement and accumulated trove of information became all the more apparent. He figured we did about ten miles on foot on this part of the day alone and noted it was certainly more than whatever else passes for tours these days.

The previous night he had made his rounds near the site of previous post-election destruction and observed light tank, helicopter and searchlight presence, apparently effective at deterring a third weekly recurrence.

Once I had managed to rouse myself, grab a bite and walk to his place, we proceeded by cab to be sure to catch the Feria. As at the airport, the orange-and-white themed cab system is far more orderly than Panama's, with taxi stands (this one unoccupied presumably due to being Sunday, but we didn't have to wait long for one to stop by), metering, divider between front and back seats and a better kept (or at least more consistently so) fleet from what I saw. Cost is higher but still reasonable.

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Exiting Pocitos, looking northbound down the Boulevard General Artigas if I'm not mistaken.

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Things get a bit less polished in Cordon.

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Arriving at the entrance to the Feria.

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My illustrious guide.

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The Feria had all manner of things from varyingly finished woodwork...

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to outright junk...

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to antiques such as typewriters...

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guns...

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rotary phones, some sporting the Antel brand which has enjoyed its monopoly from the early days...

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treadles...

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kerosene lamps...

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mechanical calculators...

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and more guns...

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to clothing, plants, birds...

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to cameras new and old...

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to some nice amethyst, one of the few items of local origin...

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and more generic polished rocks.

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Not pictured were stands with fresh produce, empanadas and similar prepared bites, jewelry, books (mainly well-used and yellowing paperbacks from what I saw), and paraphernalia for Mate consumption.(i) Something to do with cannabis too, its being fully legalized now: some "art" but I don't recall whether any consumables.

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Exiting the Feria onto 18 de Julio where we find an Universidad de la Republica. The stand in front with red handwriting was promoting a hunger strike (better pictured).

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Some live percussion on the corner...

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Then a national library...

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where Cervantes, or perhaps his ingenious Don, reminds us that he who reads much and walks much, sees much and knows much.

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Many shops here were closed for Sunday, leaving a good view of the graffiti on the roll-down metal covers protecting the glass within.

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McD's will use old buildings if needed to get that corner real estate.

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The local Communists and friends, known as the Frente Amplio, fly an inverted Russian flag.

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Aaron takes note of a new message scrawled on the Ministry of Social Destruction by someone who doesn't want her rights pissed on. Er, stepped on.

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The Bronze Statue of Man on Horse series begins.

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The Intendencia de Montevideo, a government office and one of the taller buildings with Mirador public observatory from which we were going to "see the entire city (if not up close)"; sadly it was closed that day, for reasons the posted officers didn't know.

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A particularly elegant cupola, I thought, with neighboring buildings of entirely differing character.

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The lamppost builletin board is alive and well.

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I would have liked to see if the arcade machines were as old as the signage evokes.

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Park with some epic struggle depicted, fountain not operational...

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But side fountains were.

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A look toward the Palacio Legislativo, suggesting this is from Plaza Fabini.

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Four blocks further and we reach the sizable Plaza Independencia, marking the transition from Centro to Ciudad Vieja.

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Presidential office gets a nice building. Whatever's to the right, not so much.

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Nor do the offices look much more pleasant inside.

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Radisson.

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The biggest statue is for national hero Artigas, who died in exile. I'm told that ashes are kept below and might even be his.

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Old city gate.

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There's this rainbow-filled park-of-sorts tucked around a corner.

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Pictures and sign read "Trans Law Now", "Fight for Diversity", "Constructing the future with love".

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Back to park-like parks; some National Party colors.

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First glimpse of the port down a street in Ciudad Vieja.

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It's a mix of the very old and the new.

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Instituto Nacional de Colonizacion: I'm told there's an active homesteading program for unused land in the interior.

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Caribaldi, chief of naval forces of the Republic, 1842-1848.

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Across the water to the Antel tower, tallest building in the country at 158m if the Internet is to be believed.

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Port facilities.

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Holding pen for containers, and a cruise ship.

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View across the water to what might be a refinery, past some wreckage I hadn't noticed at the time.

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Radar, presumably for maritime traffic control.

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Fortress atop a distant hill.

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There was this nice semi-indoor plaza, the one exception to the uniform restaurant cost thing.

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The town has its run-down parts.

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It's a peninsula, with water visible in both directions.

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I hadn't recalled seeing an evergreen yet.

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As-yet unidentified man on horse. And sheep.

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Juniper if I'm not mistaken.

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Itau and BBVA branches.

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Some fine woodwork on the Palacio Santos, home of the ministry of foreign relations.

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En esta plaza, el dia 24 de abril de 1925 el fisico Albert Einstein mantuvo un dialogo con el filosofo uruguayo Carlos Vaz Ferreira.

Homenaje del Consejo de Educacion Tecnico Profesional (UTU) y el Gobierno Departamental de Montevideo 30 de junio de 2005, a los 100 años de la Teoria de la Relatividad

If the bench were traveling half the speed of light, would it still fit within the chains?

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Lavalleja.

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In Ciudad Vieja and on the way back we were approached two or three times by beggars: bold, persistent, sad stories at the ready, and ungrateful when I did once offer a coin against my better judgement.

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Back at Cordon, the Feria was packing up. Below, one of the air-cooled VWs that provide an inexpensive transport option as many were produced nearby (Brazil?) and imports otherwise face steep tariffs.

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Classic Plymouth soft-top, apparently in decent shape, a rare sight here.

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We made our way to this freestanding radio tower, marking an approximate center of the city and visible from many directions due to height.

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Mega-flag and mega-cross; Aaron tells me there were three when the Pope made his one and only visit.

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The promised obelisk: A los constituyentes de 1830. Bystanders included at the base for scale.

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Heading back to Pocitos; there's a hospital complex behind the row of trees. Perhaps you'll recall this boulevard from the cab ride.

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Petrobras, soon to be leaving the country.

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Pole painted in Commie colors; private school in the background.

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Church of Christ, Scientist. No sign of Scientologists though.

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This time we dined at a Club de la Papa Frita. Determined to get in some beach time, we went home to change and, at least in my case, rest up a bit from the day's mileage.

A waxing gibbous hangs above the Rambla just before dusk.

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Hitting the beach, with sunset peeking through the distant showers.

Health hazards are sometimes flagged for the water e.g. due to city runoff after a rain or cyanobacterial blooms, but no problems this time.

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We walked the surf for a ways then back. Among topics that came up were DDoS attacks; Aaron reflected on how they had varied depending on time and context, comparing things to a shallow beach where waves can travel far and steeper beach where they break.

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180+ saved shots yet only one of the cameraman; I oughta take more initiative about requesting these.

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A look at the hotel room prior to rolling out Monday morning.

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The balconies were a nice touch, at least on this side that faces street rather than concrete wall.

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Kitchenette stocked with plates, glasses and cutlery; works for leftovers if not quite for cooking.

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Bathroom with separate bidet, which might be the first time I'd seen this type IRL. (Panama does this hose on the wall thing, cheaper I suppose.)

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At center, the World Trade Center tower that once housed a datacenter, the failure of which set in motion the whole chain of events that led me to this spot.

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The cab driver tuned to a radio program on which there happened to be some extended chatter about Bitcoin y Blockchain en Uruguay. I didn't make out much but it sounded like someone promoting a conference.

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Chilling at the gate, this time with plenty of time to spare. The wait for check-in was reasonable; security was noticeably less obnoxious just for that seemingly small difference of leaving shoes and coats alone.

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Eat enough of those Uruguayan portions of mozzarella and you too could transition from underwear model to pear.

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Perhaps airplane photos are a cliche but I still enjoy them...

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Likely the Hipodromo de Moroñas, from a glance at the map.

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Unlike Panama, Uruguay supplied real butter with the airplane dinner. Aaron also tells me that unlike Europe, they produce consistently unadulterated olive oil.

Near Peru, some Andes poking through the clouds.

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Approaching Panama.

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The decent beaches here are a ways out from the city.

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Clockwise from bottom: the causeway islands of Amador; the old town Casco Viejo with bypass on the water, the coastal Avenida Balboa, Punta Paitilla.

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Mouth of the canal.

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Punta Paitilla and the manmade Punta Pacifica, with recently added islands.

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On arrival I had what seemed like at least a kilometer to walk from gate to immigration; the moving walkways along the way were out of service just as they'd been my last several trips. Despite walking briskly and getting in the short line for residents, by the time I got through the bags from my flight had already been unloaded from the belt and stood in a row. I suppose they think this is helpful, or necessary to make room; it does tend to confuse the newbies.

I faced another vague list of things requiring customs declaration, citing all sorts of old and recent laws and decrees, and decided I could argue that my stuff qualified for exemption if need be while declaring might draw additional scrutiny. It probably would have been about the same either way. As I'd mentioned, the servers attracted some curiosity on the X-ray belt, but no further trouble once it was clarified they were my own, not TVs, used, relevant to occupation, or whatever other checksums the agent was looking for.

Congratulations: we've made it to the end. I hope you've enjoyed the tour of the tour; I certainly enjoyed the thing itself and the recounting. Till next time, que les vaya bien!

  1. Hot infusion of Yerba Mate, the local caffeinated drink of choice and apparently something of a ritual involving special gourds and straws, though I didn't get to witness or try. [^]

2019-12-12

Uruguay parte 3: encontrar, destruir y proteger

Filed under: Hardware, Vita — Jacob Welsh @ 17:47

Continued from Parte 2.

Upon meeting at Aaron's castle, we chatted briefly then got down to the business of picking out my purchases from the pile and loading the rackmount items onto his trusty fold-up hand truck. I passed on the pile of cables, nuts and bolts as these could be procured easily enough anywhere and the weight adds up quickly. We gathered a complete set of Supermicro rails and he demonstrated their mechanical robustness compared to the more complex and jam-prone interlocks on the Dell rails. He also lent me a bathroom scale and set of finer screwdrivers to help with my packing job.

Then we rolled down the Rambla with the iron, by a route perhaps more direct and certainly with less curbs to navigate than I'd come by. I stupidly neglected to get pics of the intrepid couriers. We got some curious looks but no questions; Aaron explained that while the locals are friendly toward strangers, they're culturally inhibited from initiating contact.

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The trip could have been done by cab, but with the pleasant weather, reasonable distance and helpful host there was really no need. On arrival to the hotel the concierge caught our attention; I was half-expecting some lecture about how we were using them the wrong way, but rather she was helpfully directing us to the parking entrance where there'd be fewer stairs to navigate.

As expected based on measurements, the first server fit in hardshell suitcase with just enough room to spare for some padding. Behold the sweet Opterons, RAID card and true random number generators (which turned out to be mounted by advanced technology of double-stick tape).

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The second server fit likewise in softshell.

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The highest-value item, whether by weight, volume or replacement cost, was a Russian teapot. Well actually, the contents of a box that once held a Russian teapot: another 18 of the aforementioned TRNGs.(i)

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Aaron headed home while I worked on packing. He asked if I wanted to help with his duty of data destruction on former customers' unclaimed storage media. Of course I did, not least of all for the chance to learn from a pro (I learned he once worked for a data recovery firm). We reconvened and went out in search of a pentalobe - apparently the latest wave of screwdriver DRM - for SSD disassembly. We found none at three or four places, but his shop was well stocked otherwise with implements of creative destruction; the aluminum cases proved susceptible to prying and ripping with pliers.

The biggest surprise was the hard disk platters, which we'd both expected to be made of glass, that merely dented rather than shattering on hammer impact. We roughed up the surfaces as best we could with sandpaper then left them to cook outdoors in a mild chemical bath of tomato sauce (with an excellent smelling touch of basil!), Coca-Cola and salt (fluoridated at that, apparently a local thing).

The hammer also proved ineffective for the SSD boards, mostly just ripping the plastic bags we tried to contain them with. The pliers again prevailed as the boards would bend or crack after some flexing, exposing the thin IC packages which could be snapped into flakes.

This time I had stupidly left my camera back at the hotel so perhaps Aaron can provide destruction pics, but here's the setup the next day with chip remains soaking in their own salt bath, to be dispersed across multiple dumpsters.

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Having worked up a good appetite we headed to Expreso Pocitos for dinner. It had recently been named the best in the area, mostly on account of the competition going out of business. Apparently the restaurant landscape in Soviet Uruguay is quite flat, with little variation in menu or prices. Their idea of a basic pizza is just crust and sauce; if you order with mozzarella they figure that means you want it drowning in the stuff. Portions are consistently generous. Water is only served bottled, despite the tap water being safe. Service at least here was not remotely attentive.

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Here as generally I tried to ask my host as many pertinent questions as I could think of, and enjoyed the conversations. General topics included the country and city, their economy and politics, our own Republic, ourselves, and computing. I observed his ability to pick out interesting details from large topics and integrate information from differing fields. One topic I recall might be summarized as the usability hazards of insufficient context in text-only computing interfaces.

After dinner I resolved to get my packing done for real so we could enjoy Sunday for tourism. A particular difficulty was the Ubiquiti Networks EdgeSwitch, a 48-port beast with 500W supply for Power-over-Ethernet capability which weighed in at 6 kg. I didn't have an immediate need for such a thing but had picked it up cheap since I was making the trip anyway. My first thought was to move a server PSU to carry-on, after a pic to note the wiring and RAM sticks I removed to get at its screws:

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This didn't quite save enough weight though, so next was opening the switch, which in a strange laptop-like style required removing a great many small screws.

Remember, kids: if you see an open power supply like this with mains-voltage capacitors that may have been recently powered, short out their terminals e.g. using a screwdriver with well insulated handle prior to handling, as they can pack a nasty shock.

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As there was nothing heavy inside I could remove yet re-package adequately for carry-on, and the switch didn't seem worth the marginal cost in overweight fees, I opted to leave it behind for either the next guy or the dumpster divers ("nothing is ever really thrown away here", says Aaron.)

I disassembled the server rails a bit further, allowing me to bundle them up to minimize chances of damage. I had brought my roll of the proper kind of tape for these jobs, plain old Scotch magic tape.

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Fully mummified rails:

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One server got bubble wrap for its first layer; the other (not pictured) got my old mattress pad.

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Some sound-absorbing foam pads I happened to have at home proved excellent secondary padding and space filler.

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Some $3 pillows made fine space filler to finish it off.

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To be continued with proper tourism.

  1. jfw: asciilifeform: do you know the origin of this zavarochnyi chainik box (if my translit serves)?
    jfw: otherwise, safe travels and enjoy that real olive oil, sadly I didn't manage to grab any
    asciilifeform: jfw: it's a teapot ( the kind where make concentrated tea and then can make quicker at teatime by pouring in cup + hot water )
    asciilifeform: standard item in household of tea maniacs
    asciilifeform: jfw: how didja end up with a ru teapot ?
    jfw: that's what I'm wondering! 'tis what the FGs were stowed in. BingoBoingo?
    jfw: (I didn't end up with the teapot, merely the box.)
    BingoBoingo: jfw: I acquired the teapot at Tienda Inglesa
    BingoBoingo: That's the box it came it.
    asciilifeform: pretty great
    BingoBoingo: It just happened to be the right size for FUCKGOAT packing
    jfw: BingoBoingo: ha, neat. RU teapot from English shop in Uruguay.
    BingoBoingo: Layering happens [^]

2019-12-11

Uruguay parte 2: llegada y primeras vistas

Filed under: Historia, Politikos, Vita — Jacob Welsh @ 20:12

Continued from Parte 1.

My text having overtaken the start of photography, I'll have to backtrack a bit to Montevideo's Aeropuerto Internactional de Carrasco (MVD) which was looking quite shiny and new. Bag claim (evidently I misremembered: there were three on the international side, though just the one active):

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Aduanas (customs). That bienes de ingreso/egreso temporal would seem vague enough to cover just about anything if they felt like it; fortunately they didn't give a second glance (perhaps even first glance) to my scandalous screwdriver and packing materials.

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Free at last, but not quite home.

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I would have picked up a local SIM but the booth was closed for the night. It turned out my Panama SIM worked on roaming, at least briefly, which it hadn't in the US.

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The bit of the world that is me thanks Uruguay for the welcome.

MUNDO, BIENVENIDO A URUGUAY

In contrast to Panama, there was no crowd of taxi syndicate reps soliciting eagerly. Instead it's an orderly racket; you go to the taxi counter and arrange a ride with prepayment and receipt. Having been warned the cab would be around US $55, I held out for the $13 shuttle bus, taking the wait time to replace that stolen sunscreen, collect my thoughts and decompress a bit. I found myself tired but alert and relieved.

The only exterior shot I managed of the airport, so it'll have to do:

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Some Himpton by Halton thing near the airport with well-lit street:

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First shuttle stop was at the Motel Bahamas:

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A pleasant nighttime drive down the coast and another one or two stops later and I'd made it to my destination in the relatively nice Pocitos neighborhood.

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The buildings here cap out around 10-12 stories due to zoning. Most are mixed-use, with shops at ground level and apartments above. My first impression of the area compared to most of Panama City was of something older (turns out many buildings date to the 1930's if I recall), more stable (as opposed to wreckage and new construction everywhere), cleaner, and far more pedestrian friendly (wide and not entirely treacherous sidewalks). Aaron pointed out that this does not apply to the whole city, with outlying neighborhoods ranging from more typically LatAm to outright favela (though these not walled off as in Brazil).

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Right around the block was an ANCAP gas station with rare 24-hour convenience store and deli, which served me for breakfasts, rather dreadful espresso (they couldn't believe I didn't want sugar, which probably says it all), and a printed map so as to navigate free of any "mobile device" nonsense.

First daytime views of the coastal Rambla, supporting vehicle, bike and pedestrian traffic and beach access, as I made my way to meet my host.

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Oh yes, the street signs serve advertising; it does seem to help keep them in good shape.

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One of the larger mini-parks opposite the beach, near the Avenida Brasil.

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Battery scooters for hire.

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"Por la vida y la convivencia" : La Policia seem to like their mottos...

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There's a lazy tourism option.

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I have no idea. It didn't seem animate.

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"Orgullosamente blanco" - "proudly white" - referring, I gather, to the party colors of the recently victorious Partido Nacional rather than something racial.

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Either Ave. Brasil or Espana, two thoroughfares that converge at the coast.

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Corner florists seem to be thriving...

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Corner locksmiths not so much.

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Heading inland a bit; some gym/yoga place.

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Apparently they don't need no education at the Center of Foreign Tongues. Aaron tells me the buildings generally don't get repainted much because maintenance work is taxed the same as new construction.

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Perhaps this would have been the spot for a better coffee.

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There's minimal piped natural gas infrastructure (as in Panama, though there it's often provided building-wide and refueled by tanker trucks).

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Pizzeria Trouville

Another florist, and some of the typical sycamores lining the streets.

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To be continued with rare electronics and proper tourism.

2019-12-10

Una visita a la Republica Oriental del Uruguay, parte 1

Filed under: Politikos, Vita — Jacob Welsh @ 18:22

Having bought some of the remains of the historic but sadly liquidated Bitcoin firms No Such lAbs and Pizarro ISP, and with expected overseas shipping costs being comparable to a personal courier run, I seized the opportunity for some travel and networking. It's been a success on all three fronts: retrieving the gear, getting a taste of Montevideo, and meeting and spending some quality time with Aaron Rogier aka BingoBoingo, whom I'd previously known mainly as the humorously grandiose voice of Qntra and a thoughtful contributor to IRC discussions; I found him to demonstrate the same insight in person and be quite likable besides. I made it a three-night stay to allow one full day for the hauling and packing and one for tourism.(i)

My biggest mess-up of the trip as I see it was not allowing enough time for my initial departure from the "Hub of the Americas", Panama's recently expanded Tocumen International Airport - for which I'm starting to develop a hearty loathing - or the time to get there, my previous departures here having been either in the wee hours or from locations with better toll road access. I got stuck in the check-in cattle queue for the better part of an hour.(ii) By the time my turn came, I was informed that due to late check-in my bags would be subject to "voluntary separation" and might end up on the next flight. Since apparently I couldn't find out whether they made it until arrival, I worried and contemplated my options on the flight. At security, while not subjected to the gate-side mandatory gropings reserved for the US-bound, there were still US-inspired theatrics like shoe removal and inspecting my carry-on for liquids, confiscating my over-100ml sunscreen. Serves me right for being such a terrorist, huh.

Things went much smoother from there; immigration in Montevideo was a breeze at least for chip-enabled passport holders, there were no kilometers to walk to the airport's one baggage claim, and my bags had made it just fine. Having been warned about the pricey airport taxi service, I elected to wait for a shuttle, which departed once the next flight had dumped enough passengers to form a group. On exiting the airport (around 2am local time) I was welcomed by the delightfully cool, spring-like air: always a nice thing after months in the tropics, though my skin and nose didn't adjust to the dryness too well.

All the travel intel Aaron had given that I had chance to verify proved accurate, and the Punta Trouville hotel he recommended was the perfect fit for my needs: budget but clean, functional, well located and with 24-hour service. Power outlets and money proved easier than anticipated. The hotel had multi-format outlets; it's just as well I came prepared with adapters, as Aaron said those can be flaky, though they worked for me. While there are cambios all over for changing currency with around 4% spread, I never ended up needing one as the airport transit and the merchants I tried were all equipped and even glad to take my specie (well, USD) and give change in pesos Uruguashos; the local currency sees the sort of inflation that gets automatically priced into yearly contracts.

To be continued (and with photos).

  1. Not ideal for really getting to know a place, but I already had a longer holiday coming up and lots to get done before it. [^]
  2. The "web check-in" line turned out to move faster; I can't see any good reason as it doesn't save much time at the counter: you still need to get docs checked, bags weighed and tagged, and any overage paid. The main reason as far as I could tell was simply that they'd allocated more agents there and didn't rebalance until the line was entirely exhausted. [^]

2019-11-27

Early history of me, part 6

Filed under: Ego, Historia, Paidagogia, Vita — Jacob Welsh @ 18:22

Continued from part 5

Another eventually-successful parental negotiation involved my music studies. While my violin skills had advanced substantially from ages six to twelve, both solo and in orchestra, and I enjoyed performing, I had never quite accepted the burden internally, and the rigors of daily practice continued to grate. It probably didn't help that my parents weren't demonstrating much musical discipline themselves. If you want to raise a Wolfgang Mozart, it helps to be a Leopold Mozart, y'know?

At the same time, I'd dabbled a bit with the piano, because it was there, and it called out to be tackled properly. I convinced them to let me switch; we found a local teacher (at greater expense, if I recall, for having to look outside the organization) and I pursued the study with vigor. Unfortunately this only lasted about two years until we couldn't seem to make time for it among the increasing demands of school.

Some words about extended family would seem in order to round out an overview of my childhood. There was one set of grandparents surviving, my mother's side, who had retired about an hour north (a seemingly interminable drive at that age) in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.(i) We'd visit every month or two. I liked them better than my parents did, probably due to less historical baggage on one hand and their inclination to spoil me on the other. When I slept over I'd be able to watch cartoons and play with Grandpa's Mac (with color display!) for hours. They had an affinity for the Arab world, having spent their careers as professors at the American University of Beirut. "Sittou" as we called her was the only churchgoer (Lutheran) in the clan, while Grandpa was a kind of tolerant non-believer. There was an uncle with family that I'd usually see at the grandparents' place.

On my father's side there was an elder aunt and family in Maine; due to the distance we'd see them yearly, at least in the good years when we could afford the vacation. They had picked up the tab on a coastal summer cottage that had been in the family a few generations; I remember with great fondness the change of scenery, climate and pace afforded by these trips; the smell of pine forests and ocean.

While all sorts of details could be relevant to the story of childhood, I will close this series with one that made a distinct mark on me and my generation: the events of the morning of September 11, 2001 and subsequent descent into war on an emotion. It was a school day in the sixth grade. The administration's first reaction was to say nothing, but by lunchtime a growing list of names was being called to report for early pickup, and rumor spread: "the country is under attack!" The superficial facts became clear soon enough, if not the interpretation. Following my parents I was skeptical of the official narrative; LaRouche had even spoken of the possibility of a "Reichstag fire" i.e. false flag event, before it happened. Whatever the Bush/Cheney administration's negligence or even complicity may have been, things played right into their hands. There was an upswell of patriotic fervor, with the songs, "United We Stand" posters and "Fight Terrorism" bumper stickers. I noted the blue skies vacant of contrails as civilian flight was suspended in the following weeks, and the later conversion of airport "security" from this quaint thing with X-ray machines to the complete exercise in humiliation that the inmates now take for granted. As the war whoops escalated, the average low-information voter didn't seem to perceive a difference between supposed Saudi hijackers, Taliban, or Saddam Hussein. Someone had to pay and it didn't much matter who. It marked the beginning of an end of innocence, both in the culture as a whole and my relationship to it.

  1. Perhaps most famous for its battlefield, regarded as the turning point of the American Civil War. [^]
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