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    • Coda
      Posting these cat-cartoons-without-the-cartoon was a long journey that I don’t know if I’ll repeat soon again. A daily blog is tough … even when you have your material handed to you! But, I couldn’t have done it without the artwork … Continue reading →
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      Father Time is riding out his last few minutes of being the temporal keeper for 2011; he sits in an easy chair with a calendar showing “Dec 31” behind him and a grandfather clock pointing to the time of 11:53. … Continue reading →
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      A happy young lady shares a table at a tony restaurant with her cat; they both wear festive, cone-shaped party hats. The woman gaily says to the tuxedoed server, “One martini and one glass of milk.” The cat does not … Continue reading →

Archive for the ‘Trivia’ Category

Stop in your tracks moment

Posted by joeabbott on December 8, 2017

I’m not a huge Facebook fan but I like to stay connected to family and friends, a voyeur into their lives more than a contributor. I put myself out there enough in other ways that the instantaneousness of a Facebook post feels vacuous. And this comes from a guy who’ll post about Bing searches and Yeti. Still, good stuff comes to me from perusing the various posts from my friends and family and a recent visit stopped me in my tracks.

The piece was re-posted by a climbing friend and is a poem by Wendell Berry, someone I’d not heard of prior to that introduction. I read the poem, stopped, reread it … and then just sat there reflecting. It was beautiful and moving in its simplicity and voice. I’ll share it here … it’s called The Peace of Wild Things:

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

As I reread I literally got goose bumps. I’m not sure why it speaks to me. As social and extroverted as I am, I find deep contentment in solitude and silence, I find healing in the winds high in the hills, and I have a yearning to see day-blind stars, waiting for their light.

It’s a good piece. Good enough to have me read up on Wendell Berry, good enough to put one of his books on my Amazon wish list, and good enough to share with all of you. Thanks for coming by.

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Really, Bing? OK, I’ll bite …

Posted by joeabbott on December 7, 2017

While minorly controversial, I actually like Bing. Not “like Bing more than X” and not “I don’t like another service” … I just like Bing.

I like the colorful pictures it shows me every day as the main background splash, I like learning tidbits about things I never knew I was curious about in the various stories that appear as current hits, and I like “Bing Points”, which were rebranded Microsoft points earlier this summer when Microsoft combined and streamlined their rewards offerings. But, I still think of them as Bing Points.

The idea being Bing Points (Microsoft points) is that you earn some of these points for each search you do (on Bing) on either desktop or mobile devices. And, every day through the Microsoft Account page, you can click on extra items for additional points. Sometimes these are single story items (like a recent click about the Apollo 17 mission) and other times you get a multi-part quiz.

I recently was offered a multi-part quiz on Mythical Creatures that included the question: when was the term abominable snowman first coined? Turns out it was 1921, the answer came in the form of

The phrase abominable snowman was coined in 1921 after Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Howard-Bury led the Royal Geographical Society’s "Everest Reconnaissance Expedition". During the expedition, footprints were discovered that Sherpas attributed to "metoh-kangmi" (man-bear/snowman).

Abominable Snowman – Paranormal Encyclopedia
www.paranormal-encyclopedia.com/a/abominable-snowman/

Additionally, the sidebar contained the below item for further information on Yeti

image

The part that caught my eye was the “related people”.

It was with a bemused chuckle that I saw Reinhold Messner, a storied climber who was my idol during my climbing years … to see him included in a Yeti article was pretty amusing. Then I clicked the link and learned a little more: Reinhold Messner was a Yeti Hunter. Yup, in the mid-80s he bumped into what he thought was a Yeti and spent over a decade searching and researching them, only to come to the conclusion the Yeti is nothing more than a Himalayan brown bear. Entertaining article that I recommend you read.

And that cements my “I like Bing” statement. Again, not more than some other service but I would have never thought to search on mythical creatures, would have never thought of including Reinhold Messner in the search, and would have never hit on the article of him being a Yeti hunter. Thanks, Bing!

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Need to know … who is your computer talking to?

Posted by joeabbott on November 20, 2017

I used to post a number of things under a “trivia” category\tag … this is one of those items.

I spend a fair amount of time online and I’m much less interested in being on a computer without internet access. Yes, I can look at my digital photos or work on my SketchUp models without the internet, but there seems to be so much out information out there, that having internet access seems to be a basic expectation. But, whether thru legitimate business requirements or nefarious means, your computer can be an open door of information in and out of your house!

On one side, you want things like your Internet security programs to be communicating with a central server to pull down the latest virus signature information, people who want push requests from social media will want to be notified when things are happening, and news or sales events may be of interest … all are legitimate communications to and from your computer to an outside source.

But then there are communications you may not want or have authorized. Things like viruses or Trojan horses, corporations with whom you have a legitimate relationship but who may be drawing information about your usage for data analytics. Stuff like that. Stuff you may not be interested in sharing. Or, perhaps you just want to be better informed on who your computer us talking to.

Well, this article answers those questions by showing three easy ways to determine who your computer is talking to.

https://www.howtogeek.com/98601/easily-monitor-your-computers-internet-connection-activity/

While it talks about using PowerShell, the program TCPView, or checking what ports are open, each of the three ways are easily and simply demonstrated … just type along.

Running the programs are easy but interpreting the results is a little harder. Mostly what I look for are unexpected entries. Here’s a sample of the output from the excellent TCPView utility

Process             PID Protocol LocalAddress LocalPort   Remote Address    Remote Port    State  
[System Process]      0    TCP    homepc.home    60668    162.125.1.3       https        TIME_WAIT 
[System Process]      0    TCP    homepc.home    60669    162.125.34.2      https        TIME_WAIT 
[System Process]      0    TCP    homepc.home    60661    40.77.228.92      https        TIME_WAIT 
[System Process]      0    TCP    homepc.home    60636    52.169.123.48     https        TIME_WAIT
[System Process]      0    TCP    homepc.home    60652    64.4.54.254       https        TIME_WAIT
[System Process]      0    TCP    homepc.home    60649    72.21.81.200      https        TIME_WAIT
Discord.exe       12548    TCP    homepc.home    60630    104.16.58.5       https        ESTABLISHED
Discord.exe       12548    TCP    homepc.home    60088    104.16.60.37      https        ESTABLISHED
Dropbox.exe       13964    TCP    homepc.home    50001    162.125.1.3       https        CLOSE_WAIT 
Dropbox.exe       13964    TCP    homepc.home    60634    162.125.1.3       https        CLOSE_WAIT 
Dropbox.exe       13964    TCP    homepc.home    60567    162.125.33.7      https        CLOSE_WAIT 
Dropbox.exe       13964    TCP    homepc.home    57781    162.125.34.129    https        ESTABLISHED
Dropbox.exe       13964    TCP    homepc.home    60099    162.125.34.129    https        ESTABLISHED
iexplore.exe      13684    TCP    homepc.home    60663    65.52.235.123     https        ESTABLISHED
iexplore.exe      13684    TCP    homepc.home    60664    65.52.235.123     https        ESTABLISHED
NIS.exe            3512    TCP    homepc.home    57914    13.91.60.30       https        ESTABLISHED
NIS.exe            3512    TCP    homepc.home    60109    40.114.95.106     https        ESTABLISHED
OUTLOOK.EXE       14724    TCP    homepc.home    60635    40.97.118.162     https        ESTABLISHED
OUTLOOK.EXE       14724    TCP    homepc.home    60662    40.97.118.162     https        ESTABLISHED
OUTLOOK.EXE       14724    TCP    homepc.home    60472    40.97.152.18      https        ESTABLISHED
OUTLOOK.EXE       14724    TCP    homepc.home    60667    40.97.162.162     https        ESTABLISHED
SearchUI.exe      17796    TCP    homepc.home    60656    13.107.21.200     https        ESTABLISHED
SearchUI.exe      17796    TCP    homepc.home    60659    13.107.255.32     https        ESTABLISHED
SearchUI.exe      17796    TCP    homepc.home    60658    13.107.42.254     https        ESTABLISHED
SearchUI.exe      17796    TCP    homepc.home    60655    204.79.197.222    https        ESTABLISHED
SearchUI.exe      17796    TCP    homepc.home    60657    204.79.197.254    https        ESTABLISHED
svchost.exe        3632    TCP    homepc.home    60666    64.4.54.254       https        ESTABLISHED

There are some parts I’ve snipped about the amount of data sent to\from the computer and I only included the details that indicated communication outside my computer.

I look for a couple things:

  • Do I recognize all the programs listed in the Process column? (you can search on the names using a search engine if you don’t recognize it)
  • Is the Remote Port using the secure version of HTTP (that is, https)?
  • Does the Remote Address look right?

To answer the last question, I use a web lookup service like http://findip-address.com.  Be careful … there is a TON of buttons to click, ads hidden as information, and other deceiving information on sites like findip-address.com but it does the trick if you can wade through the information. Here’s a sample of what it told me when I entered 65.52.235.123 (one of the Remote Addresses listed above):

ASN and ISP for IP address 65.52.235.123

General traits like organisation, autonomous system number (ASN) and ISP associated with the IP address 65.52.235.123.
ISP                              Microsoft Hosting
Organization                     Microsoft Hosting
Autonomous system number (ASN)  8075
Autonomous system organization   Microsoft Corporation
Anonymous proxy?                No
Satellite provider?              No

And the best I’m looking for is for the information to be consistent. So, while I won’t know whether the Autonomous System Number 8075 is accurate, I do know that I pulled the Remote Address from the iexplore.exe line, that iexplore.exe is the Internet Explorer app, and that it’s owned by Microsoft. So, as far as I can tell, everything is checking out OK.

While you couple probably write a book on this topic, I hope this brief introduction shows you there are ways you can tell what’s going on … and that you should! Happy hunting and I hope all your travels on the Internet are safe.

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Fall is coming

Posted by joeabbott on October 9, 2017

Seattle actually has a drought climate for 3-4 months out of the year. That’s forgotten most of the time as the other 8-9 months are spent in varying degrees of rain and now the rains are back. A curious matter that in equal parts bemuses and amuses me is the fact that, when the rains first start returning, they only appear on the weekend

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While the forecasts are often wrong, it’s surprising how often we get these sorts of predictions.

Fall is coming.

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When I get serious about blogging, I’ll follow this advice

Posted by joeabbott on April 30, 2017

I get a surprising amount of information\news from Twitter these days. I’d originally avoided the service as my perception was that it was a place people went to post things like “I hate rude people” and “Ate a great sandwich just now”. The sort of comments that aren’t really helpful or entertaining. But, since joining, lurking, and curating folks I follow who caters to my interests, I find it both helpful and entertaining. At some time in the past couple weeks, this came across my feed:

image

I don’t follow Darren, so I got the item as something someone else shared, but I’m a fanatic about writing well. Unfortunately, I rarely edit my posts and so, upon rereading them, I feel I very much need this sort of advice. Darren’s Twitter post then links out to this page, which contains the 9 crucial tips. While I encourage you to read the original post, I’ll summarize his nine tips here, with a few notes from my experience:

  1. Plan before you write – aaagh … I fail the first rule!
  2. Avoid editing while writing – agree … I often let things sit for a day or two before getting back to it
  3. Don’t go straight from writing into editing – yup … your head is still too into what you’d just said to be objective
  4. Edit the big picture first
  5. Cut down the introduction – this is a place I often suffer (I start a post about one thing and wander off to another)
  6. Add a call to action
  7. Don’t let spellcheck do your proofreading
  8. Don’t agonizing over making it perfect
  9. Preview the post and check the formatting

That’s it: just some simple tips that may or may not work for you. A lot depends on whether you’re writing a blog, but most of the tips are solid enough to work against any writing you do. Thanks for dropping in.

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Now that’s pretty cool–weather influences in your area

Posted by joeabbott on April 30, 2017

I save snippets and websites throughout the week when I come across them at work and, those I think are interesting, are sent to my home email address. Not all are winners … I just discarded a list of “15 things Kurt Vonnegut said better than anyone” (it was interesting but just didn’t inspire me as I thought it would) … but a simple link I’d sent myself filled me with a sort of sense of magic; the kind of thing that makes me happy we have the Internet. Here’s the link: https://www.windy.com.

That was all I’d forwarded to myself and, on clicking it, I silently smiled a minute or two as I scrolled around the site. Here’s the sort of image you’ll see:

Windy.com

Zooming in shows local effects from terrain, let’s you see what’s happening in your area, and is just fun to play with. In addition to tracking wind, the site allows you to look at temperatures, precipitation, cloud cover, and pressures. Add to that the ability to see a forecast over days and even show weather at various elevations and this is one cool website. On top of all this: no ads. Yup, as of this writing, none. Love that. LOVE. You never realize just how tired you are of this model of monetization until you get to a clean site that’s truly useful but doesn’t have a sidebar widget trying to sell you the last thing you looked at on Amazon.

I hope you find a little time to play around on the site. I’m not a weather nerd but but found this to be both interesting and well done. Kudos to the developers!

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Another Word-a-Day

Posted by joeabbott on March 19, 2017

A while back I wrote a piece on the A.Word.A.Day daily email that I get from the Wordsmith folks … I believe it started as the brainchild of Anu Garg and has since expanded to require a half-dozen folks to operate smoothly. The daily post is sometimes ignored but, more often than not, I always enjoy the pithy notes on a single word used in the English language. At times the weekly offerings will be based on a theme of sorts, and recently the mailing include a number of words with a nautical origin. I was so surprised at some of them I wanted to share that week’s words here.

offing

MEANING:

noun: Near future (used in the phrase “in the offing”).

ETYMOLOGY:

In nautical use, offing is the part of sea visible from the shore, but beyond anchoring ground. From off (away), from of. Earliest documented use: 1600.

This one surprised me; I’d heard (and maybe even used) this one before but the sense I had was less about “near future” than it was about in some nearby but intangible place. The meaning I “knew” is close, but it had more of a location connotation for me than a temporal one. When I look at the etymology, I feel better about my past usage.

jury-rig

MEANING:

verb tr.: To assemble or fix temporarily using whatever is at hand.

ETYMOLOGY:

On a sailing ship, a jury-mast is a temporary mast, rigged when the original is damaged or lost. From jury (makeshift or temporary), perhaps from Old French ajurie (help). Earliest documented use: 1840.

While I’d used “jury-rig” any number of times in the past, I had no idea this phrase had a nautical origin. Indeed, I likely suspected that it had more to do with loading a courtroom’s jury with a set of people who had a predisposition either for or against someone on trial, thereby “rigging” the outcome. And now I’m just a bit smarter.

slush fund

MEANING:

noun: A fund established for illegal activities, especially in business and politics.

ETYMOLOGY:

Originally, a slush fund was money collected to buy small luxuries for a ship’s crew. The fund was raised from the sale of slush (refuse fat) from the ship’s galley. Earliest documented use: 1839.

This was the point I said, “I gotta blog about these words!” I had no clue that “slush fund”, a phrase I often associate with Wall Street and never occurring to me as having salt in its origins, drew from the same stock as some of the other words here. Again, hard to help but feel just a bit more informed.

pinchgut

MEANING:

noun: A miserly person.
adjective: Miserly.

ETYMOLOGY:

Originally, a pinchgut was someone who didn’t give enough food to a ship’s crew. Earliest documented use: 1615.

This word resonates with a 1600s sort of thing you might expect a salty dog to say, but I’m surprised it had a ship-borne origin and wasn’t something more commonly said in those times. Not sure I’ll have a use for this one in my daily vocabulary, but it’ll be there should I need to call on it.

jettison

MEANING:

verb tr.: To cast off something regarded as unwanted or burdensome.
noun: The act of discarding something.

ETYMOLOGY:

Originally, jettison was the act of throwing goods overboard to lighten a ship in distress. From Latin jactare (to throw), frequentative of jacere (to throw). Ultimately from the Indo-European root ye- (to throw), which also gave us jet, eject, project, reject, object, subject, adjective, joist, jactitation, subjacent, and jaculate. Earliest documented use: 1426.

This is a word I knew, coming into my vocabulary around the time I learned of “jetsam” and “flotsam”. Nice to get a word I knew and actually used correctly in the weekly offerings!

Coda

And that’s it. I wrote about A.Word.A.Day previously but, on looking back in my archives, I see that it was in 2011, so perhaps a quick refresher or reminder is in order. I still get the daily post and still enjoy them … and you can, too. Just sign up here (Subscribe) or check out the website here (http://wordsmith.org/).

And, as always … enjoy.

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Who wants more Mr. P.?

Posted by joeabbott on March 12, 2017

The other day I caught a video of me walking our neighborhood pheasant to the backyard for a little seed treat.

Enjoy.

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That’s an odd bird

Posted by joeabbott on March 9, 2017

clip_image001WP_20170305_14_31_47_ProOn Sunday before heading out for errands, I called an odd-looking bird walking about our driveway to Suzy’s attention. “That’s a pheasant!”, she said. And she’s right!

We tried getting close to it before our errands to see if it was “tame”, but it ignored us until we were within about 10’ and then kept its distance. Whenever she neared with intent, it took off running. When we got home from errands, it was in our front yard. So, we herded it to the back.

We’re not sure what will be next. We’ll watch for signs if someone posts about a lost pet; we’ll watch our local NextDoor.com site for anyone asking about a bird but, until someone asks or claims it, we’ll let it wander about our backyard.

The chickens have shown only moderate interest and the pheasant is just pecking about at this and that. We very much expect it to just be gone sometime tomorrow … having flown to wherever a bird like this might fly. Again, it can be our guest until it decides to go or causes a problem but we’re enjoying the novelty of this beautiful bird just strutting about. Apologies for the poor photo quality … I shot these from my phone behind a window on the second floor of our home.

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At the risk of oversharing …

Posted by joeabbott on November 12, 2016

I’ve always been interested in my credit rating: the evaluation of my risk profile based on held accounts, payment histories, etc. I don’t really need the information, nor do I plan on leveraging it, so it’s always been a question of interest over anything of substance. But, when I’ve looked in on offers to show me my credit rating score, I’m always stopped by having to register a credit card; ostensibly to verify my identity.

But, I’ve never been happy giving out credit card information if I’m not buying something; just seems unnecessary. And, a good thing I’ve walked away from those offers, as a quick web-search tells me that, as often as not, those cards are being used to charge people after small print “trial periods” have expired. Typically within the month.

But, I stumbled upon Credit Karma while perusing my favorite time-wasting site (Reddit). Credit Karma is a “free” service that never asks for money; the “free” being in quotes because you do have to create an account with the company to get your score. While that was almost a deal breaker for me, the more I read about Credit Karma from the company itself and from other people posting online, the more I felt comfortable that this was an ethical company with nothing to hide. And. to that point, they very clearly state (and I’m summarizing here) that “we have to make money somehow and getting your contact information when you create an account that we share with select partners provides that income”. So, essentially, they’re doing what Amazon or anyone else does with your personal information: they leverage it among other companies who want to buy that info. And, hopefully, with discretion.

Anyhow, as I looked more into credit rating information, I found a lot of information. The below is from the Credit Karma founder as posted on Reddit:

    • There is no such thing as an actual credit score. There are dozens per individual. As one person pointed out, even FICO has dozens of variants source. Now consider Vantage. Many banks use multiple scores. None of them disclose because it would be like Coke telling you a secret ingredient.
    • Comparing different scores and different bureaus is comparing apples and oranges. Most times, the scores will be pulled on different dates which is another reason for change. When my balances are high (mid payment cycle), my score is lower since I am using more of my credit. Scores are real time and point in time. They constantly change. A variance of 10-40 points is normal.
    • Fun fact. A difference of 50 points at 600 is very different than a difference of 50 points at 800. I point this out because people banks care about your probablity of default. Not some 3 digit number. FICO Odds Ratio Page 11 shows that a score of 600 has a default rate of 27%, 650 has a default rate of 10%. Whereas a score of 700 has a default rate of 3.6% and 750 has a default rate of 1%.

So, a lot more complex than I thought it would be. But, I’m happy to say that, other than my mortgage, I paid off my last loan in 1993 (“debt free in ‘93!”) and don’t really need to worry about this all that much. But, as anyone else who has spent too much time in a classroom or being rated in some way or another, I was happy to see my credit scores being in the “excellent” category:

clip_image002

I have other questions that are mildly curious to me … can I intentionally move the score by non-loan activity? what’s the average fluctuation? why is it on an 850 point scale? … but I’m not so inclined to go out and research them. I’m just happy to know that, if I need a loan, I can likely get it.

Thanks for dropping by and I hope your credit scores are excellent, too!

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