News and Views

From my kids accomplishments, to my heretical perspective of the world

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Happy Loving Day!

June 13th, 2017 · 3 Comments

Actually, I’m a day late — “Loving Day” was yesterday, June 12. It was the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in the case of “Loving vs. Virginia” that ruled inter-racial marriages legal in all states.

If Gisele and I had come back to Arizona from Taiwan before 1962, our marriage would have been declared illegal. It was that recent that Arizona finally abolished its miscegenation law, but several other states (all southern) still had such laws in place until the Supreme Court’s decision on June 12, 1967.

In Arizona before 1962*, marriage between Whites and anyone even partially Black or Asian was illegal. In fact, the law even prohibited anyone of mixed race from marrying anyone else at all.

A mixed race (Black-White) couple, Richard and Mildred Loving “had married in Washington, D.C. to evade Virginia’s anti-miscegenation law (the Racial Integrity Act). Having returned to Virginia, they were arrested in their bedroom for living together as an interracial couple.“*

The Lovings went to court, but a Virginia judge denied their case, stating, “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, Malay, and red, and placed them on separate continents, and but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend the races to mix.“*

(Sounds a lot like the arguments against same-sex marriage, doesn’t it?)

The Lovings took the case all the way to the Supreme Court, where they finally won.

According to Pew Research, in 2015 17% of marriages were between different races, vs. 3% in 1967. Young people are much more accepting than their elders, with 88% of young white people accepting, vs only 36% of white seniors.

Interracial Marriage Acceptance by Age

The incidence of interracial marriage varies a lot by race and sex, as seen in the following graphic, also from Pew:

which matches my experience: it’s more common to see a black man and white woman vs. the other way around, and likewise a white man with an Asian woman.

I think most people, especially young people, see this as an ongoing trend towards openness and acceptance, but there are still large pockets of mostly older people who see it as a slide into immorality and depravity. All I know is that I can’t imagine being in a better marriage than my own, interracial or otherwise, and there is nothing depraved about our love for each other.


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Shoulder Surgery

May 28th, 2017 · 1 Comment

In the interest of using this as a diary, I need to document the recent left shoulder surgery, and I’ll provide an update.

Two complete rotator cuff tears and bone impingement, and something else I can’t remember right now. Surgery done Feb 7.

It is now 4 months (16 weeks), and I am feeling pretty much back to normal, thanks partially to the excellent Physical Therapy treatments by Mark. I see the doctor again next Thursday. With the right shoulder 6 years ago I was able to go back to basketball at 16 weeks, so I’m hopeful that my long injured-reserve time is almost over. I really miss it.

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Android Pay

May 21st, 2017 · 6 Comments

I recently signed up for Android Pay, and have been using it the past couple of weeks. It’s very convenient.

When you pay, you just tap your phone on the card reader. Within a couple of seconds you are done, and the amount is charged to your credit card.

It’s accepted at many places, including Starbucks, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and most fast food places, with more being added all the time.

Using the new credit cards, with the embedded chip, is slower than it used to be. Android Pay is faster than the old credit cards, and a lot faster than using an embedded chip card.

My only concern is that my phone could be hacked and the card number stolen. But probably no more likely than that my wallet could be stolen, with all my credit cards.

There’s an Apple version for those of you on the other side of the fence, and Samsung has their own Samsung Pay, though that’s only available on a few of their phones. Samsung phones can also use Android Pay.

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March 25th, 2017 · 2 Comments

Gisele recently had surgery for Spondylolisthesis, “the forward or anterior displacement of one vertebra over another”. In her case when she bent forward or back the vertebra would slide forward or backwards over the one below. There was also degeneration of the disks, but simple disk replacement wouldn’t keep her vertebrae in line, so surgery was the only option.

Her symptoms were: Increasing numbness in her feet when she walked more than a few steps, a developing weakness in her legs and feet, and pain in her hips and back. She was on track for painful confinement to a wheelchair within a few short years.

For surgery she went to the Barrow Neurological Institute, which Wikipedia states, “is the world’s largest dedicated neurosurgical center and a leader in neurosurgical training, research, and patient care.”

The surgeon, Dr. Steve Chang, fused the L4-L5 and L5-S1 vertebrae together, installing screws and rods from both the front and back, on two separate days. Fusion can often be done just from the front, but in her case the spine was so unstable that the vertebrae needed to be supported both front and back.

The surgery was completely successful, with one caveat: Her vertebrae are so soft that until he x-rayed he wasn’t sure the screws were going in correctly. He described it “like screwing into butter”, hopefully an exaggeration, but still indicating advanced osteoporosis. Her recent bone scans had only shown osteopenia, so this is a disturbing finding. She will be seeing an endocrinologist specializing in osteoporosis to try to improve her bone density.

She is home now, 15 days later, and slowly recovering. The best news is that all her symptoms are gone — numbness (except for a little residual amount in one foot — probably from permanent nerve damage), and the pain and weakness. Pain from the surgery is still significant but improving all the time.

She has to wear her “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle” back brace for about 3 months whenever she is out of bed. Since she can’t put it on by herself that means that hubby has to get up in the night with her each time she has to use the bathroom. Small price to pay to ensure proper healing!

I was going to put a picture of her in her brace, but she didn’t think that was a good idea. Here is what it looks like worn by a model.

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San Francisco Travel Documentation

December 7th, 2016 · 1 Comment

In the interest of documenting my travels for later reference, we just got back from 4 nights in San Francisco. We usually stay with Angela, but since she has mice and not much room, we stayed this time in a motel just a 10 minute walk from her apartment.

We flew. Had a connection cancelled in Los Angeles for mechanical problems, but then they brought in another plane and we arrived a couple of hours late.

That’s all. No comments solicited or expected.


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Hawaii 2-Island Conclusion

November 14th, 2016 · 3 Comments

I already posted about Oahu (Wahoo!). We only spent 3 full days there, but we were on the Big Island and Maui for 6 days each. Here are some high points.

Here’s the kind of paradise I usually think of as Hawaii:

or this, on the Hana Highway in Maui:

But there are places that look like this (driving up Mauna Kea on the big island):

and this recent lava bed near Hilo on the big island:
Lava Landscape

We loved our house on the Big Island, right across the street from a nice little beach. This picture of the sunset:

was taken through this window:

One thing made us a little nervous living here. Each time we drove down to our house next to the beach, we passed this sign (but it looks like the person is running towards the water…?):
Tsunami sign

The volcanic action on the Big Island was really neat. Here’s where lava was spouting up into the air out of a lake of lava:

Here the lava was running out into the ocean generating this huge cloud of steam:

And here it is flowing underground:

I love watching big waves crash against the shore (north-eastern Maui):

We also visited the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut packaging plant near Hilo. Not worth making a detour for, but if you are passing by, why not stop in.
Mauna Loa

I went snorkeling off the coast of Maui. Gisele took these through the windows of a “glass bottom boat”. The water was clearer than it looks in these pictures — the glass wasn’t very transparent. Lots and lots of colorful fish that I could get within a foot or two of.



And I did a little ziplining on Maui. This was a very tame ride, but easy to get to and didn’t take too long.
Ziplining on Maui

And back on Oahu, here’s a picture of the Kualoa Ranch where most movies that take place in Hawaii are filmed. This tree is from the first Jurassic Park. The doctor and kids hid behind this when the T. Rex was chasing the Galomimus.
Jurasic Park

Two weeks was a good visit. Long enough to see the three islands, I think. Maybe someday we will go back and visit other islands, but there are lots of other places in the world beckoning to us.

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October 26th, 2016 · 2 Comments

The first time Dennis the Menace went to Hawaii (over 50 years ago), as the captain announced that they were finally landing in Honolulu, Dennis shouted out “Wahoo!”. The flight attendant (they were called stewardesses at that time) said, “Why yes, that’s right Dennis. It is the island of Oahu.”

Oahu was lots of fun. We had a hotel near Waikiki Beach, though we were surprised to find that they only had valet parking at $22/night.

We really liked Kualoa Ranch, where we took a new tour of movie sets. This tour rides in air conditioned vans, stops at more places and takes about an hour longer than the old movie set tour, so we got to see a little more, in comfort. I was quite surprised at all the movies and TV that had been filmed, and are being filmed at this site. At least two of the Jurassic Park movies, Lost, Hawaii 5-0 (less of a surprise), King Kong, Jumanji (they are filming a sequel right now; we saw some of the sets as they were tearing them down) and lots, lots more. We saw several sets for many of these, many that I recognized.

Here’s a partially concealed skull from the not-yet-released new King Kong movie, Skull Island or something like that.
Kong Head

We also went to the Polynesian Cultural Center. We paid for a upgrade, but that was a mistake. Not worth it. Without the upgrade, it would have been an interesting afternoon anyway.

Another intersting adventure was hiking up to Manoa Falls, only about 20 miles from Waikiki Beach. We especially liked this area shown below, with the lush creepers wrapping the trees; everything was so green!
On the trail to Manoa Falls

We left Oahu on Monday, flying to the Big Island which will merit its own post.

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The Dunning-Kruger Effect

October 9th, 2016 · 2 Comments

David Dunning and Justin Kruger of the department of psychology at Cornell University in 1999 performed experiments measuring how well people evaluated their own competence. The result was that people who knew very little about a topic generally greatly over-estimated their competence, while experts tended to correctly or slightly under-estimate themselves. It was only after being trained on a topic that those lacking skill began to realize their own incompetence.

As Dunning himself put it: “If you’re incompetent, you can’t know you’re incompetent.… The skills you need to produce a right answer are exactly the skills you need to recognize what a right answer is.”

Dunning here discusses how this effect applies to Trump supporters, and in fact probably to Trump himself. Trump probably doesn’t understand how grossly unqualified he is for the job. (This article is worth reading.)

This effect is apparent everywhere, and in fact is a major weakness of Democracy. Voters are passionate about their choices, but often based on limited or incorrect understanding of the issues. Many people have strong feelings about economic policies, but really understand almost nothing about economics. Stimulus? Balanced Budget? Deficits? Raising or lowering taxes? Are these things always good or bad, or does it sometimes depend on the situation? People knowing nothing about Climatology are convinced that climate change is a hoax, throwing a snowball into Congress as proof the world is not warming.

I think a reasonable approach is to listen to the experts when they agree, such as with climate change. On a topic such as economics, we should probably go along in the cases where most economists agree, but when the experts disagree it is foolish to be sure you know the right answer.

There are some interesting quotes showing that this is not really a new discovery:
– Confucius “Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance”
– Bertrand Russell “One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision”
– Charles Darwin “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge”
– Shakespeare (As You Like It) “The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool”

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South Dakota

October 2nd, 2016 · 3 Comments

We spent a week in South Dakota in mid-September. It was even better than we had expected.

We flew into Rapid City, near the south-west corner of the state, and stayed in a beautiful hotel in Keystone. Keystone is just a couple of miles from Mount Rushmore; in fact we could see George Washington and Thomas Jefferson from our room.
Mt Rushmore from room

It was much clearer, though, from within the park. Note the workers on Roosevelt’s head. We’re not sure what they were doing.
Mt Rushmore

We also visited Badlands National Park. Dad always used to say that they don’t make National Parks for nothing; they are always worth visiting. Badlands is no exception.

In our drives around the state we saw lots of wildlife along the road, such as Bisons:

and Pronghorn (note the radio collar on the center one):

and Big Horn Sheep:
Big Horns

One day we drove into Wyoming to the Devils Tower. It was more interesting than I thought it would be, definitely worth a visit if you are in the area.
Devils Tower

We saw three climbers on their way up the tower; two of them are in this picture. It takes skills that I don’t have to climb something like that.

On the last day we went to see the Crazy Horse Monument. They’ve been working on this for many years; I’m not sure it will ever be complete. Eventually it is supposed to be an Indian mounted on a horse; so far they have completed the Indian’s face and carved a hole which will be under his extended arm. After paying $22/car load you really can’t see it any better than from the highway. The only reason to go inside is to watch a movie on the project, and of course the gift shops.
Crazy Horse

While Donna was Googling our location, she noticed that a nearby gulch and road carried our family name:
Lafferty Gulch Road

We also visited Wind Cave National Park. This one might be an exception to Dad’s rule. While it is a long and deep cave and has some unusual formations, in our travels around the world we have seen much more majestic and beautiful caves. Even Kartchner Caverns here in Arizona is a lot more colorful. However, the park above ground was beautiful and worth the visit by itself. That’s where several of our wildlife photos came from. So we are still glad we came.

It was a nice trip. People were friendly, drivers cautious and courteous, the early Autumn weather was pleasant and the scenery was magnificent. This part of the country remains less settled; hopefully it will stay that way so the natural beauty can be preserved.

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Everyone Aiming at Defender?

August 13th, 2016 · 5 Comments

Windows 10 has built-in anti-virus, called “Windows Defender”. It’s nice to have free anti-virus, but I have some concerns about it.

First, Defender doesn’t get very good ratings from independent anti-virus testing labs. (4 stars out of 6 on Protection.)

My bigger concern is that even if it worked very well, it’s an obvious target for hackers. If everyone is using the same AV program, then effort spent finding holes and weaknesses in it are going to pay off big. Every black-hat hacker in the world must be focusing on finding and exploiting flaws in Windows Defender. Based on this, I’ve decided to try an alternative for a year.

It’s not that I have a lot of problems with viruses. I think I’m a pretty safe user, and have never had a significant infection. But I work on other people’s computers and know that malware is prevalent and can be messy. Worse yet are things like ransomware that encrypts your data unless you pay for a key.

Based on independent lab AV-Tests’ results**, only Kaspersky Lab’s AV got 6 out of 6 stars in all three categories (Protection, Performance and Usability). Obviously Protection is the most important category, and several other programs get 6 stars in that category (including AVG and Norton).

Whenever I read about the latest exploit or malware infection, it seems that people are quoting Kaspersky Lab, and they are often the first to find it. They have an excellent reputation in the AV world. Based on all this, I bought a one-year, 3 computer subscription. I’ll see how it goes.

I would suggest that if you are already using the free version of AVG there’s no strong reason to switch since it also gets 6 stars for protection. But if you are depending on Windows Defender, you might want to think about using something else.

** In June, Defender detected 97.3% and 99.3% of two categories of current malware. AVG was 100% and 99.4%. Kaspersky was 100% and 100%. Looking back over previous months, Defender is often much worse (sometimes in the 80’s), while Kaspersky continues to shine. AVG slightly exceeds Kaspersky in a few cases, but on average is lower. And Kaspersky consistently has less impact on system performance than either of the others. That’s a tie-breaker for me.

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