Armen Chakmakjian

There is no choice…

In Random on October 22, 2016 at 3:31 am

Stop. Stop telling me that your candidate is the last hope, or doing it for the right reasons, or is less bad than the other person, or is the change we need…yadayadayada.

First, Trump is completely, and uniquely unqualified by temperament and knowledge of the political and diplomatic system to be the president. He is apocalyptically bad in how he is destroying our republic and the peaceful transition of power.

I remember what I thought when he came down the escalator.  “This is a joke”.  About a month later I let out what I had suspected. That Trump it was a Trojan horse sent by the Clintons and their supporters to shake up the Party of Lincoln.

postI have never been a Clinton family supporter, I even voted for Barak Obama in the Massachusetts primary in 2008 because my 1990’s view of the Clintons was still stuck in my craw. Hillary Clinton may have been one the most experienced public servant since George HW Bush, whom her husband had defeated, and she had not yet been a Secy of State at that point.

I kinda thought her a carpetbagger going to New York (like Robert Kennedy) to win in a state that had a quirky rule that allowed people from out of state to become their Senator.  She always seemed competent and more serious than Bill. As much as I respected John McCain for his public service and his sacrifices for the country, his selection of Sarah Palin created a chasm in my cognition.  How could he select this…this person who thinks the Minutemen could see Russia…oh forget it.

I am still convinced that Barack Obama was actually a good thing for the Republic even though I voted against him 4 years later. That being said, I still talk about Bill Clinton’s speech at the 2012 Democratic convention (and you can ask my family) .  When he pleaded with the convention hall, “Wait…Wait…this is important” I howled. “Oh My God, he just won the reelection for Obama. This is the greatest political speech in television history! No one else could have pulled that off. God I hate him. He’s just so good at this.”

Anyway, as 2015 went from fall into winter, I kept feeling worse.  Trump was slinging shit at all the terrible Republican candidates, broken pols who were the weakest, lamest group of power-seeking bunglers ever collected in western civilization since King John. And I continued to think that Trump was just a distraction created by the Clintons to tear apart their former oppressors.  “We are being punked,” I repeated time after time.

Mind you I believe that Republican party went through a 20 year period of dumbing down themselves to get the Pat Buchanan voters.  Even though I voted for him, George W. Bush pissed me off each time he would say “Don’t Mess With Texas”.  I’d be like, “Dude, it’s not about Texas. Any anyway, you were born in New Haven!  You’re assuming the lead of the party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Eisenhower and Reagan…and George Herbert Walker Bush.” Whatever…

Anyway, as I said I thought it was a ruse. We were being punked. Then Trump began to win against the numbnuts and I started to get worried. Trump started to act like the Sean Connery character in Rudyard Kipling’s “The Man Who Would Be King”.  He suddenly was no longer the disruptor, he started to believe his own bullshit. He thought he was Iskander, he was destiny. Then I got really really upset.

Why?  Because while he was sounding like the second coming of Huey Long, Hillary Clinton was getting slammed for her email server.  Benghazi.  The Clinton Foundation. Bill Clinton. Instead of simultaneously falling down because of the expected conspicious Clintonesque sleaze sideshow and to a well run and clean campaign by Bernie Sanders, with whom I disagree on almost every policy position, I saw her getting stronger as more baggage was being brought in from foreign sources.

Next, exactly what I was worried about. Trump the sideshow had now become the worst nightmare for the Clintons.  He moved from agent provocateur to actually viable.  Now they were going to have to destroy him.  And his partisans weren’t going to change. They were going to dig in!

I blame the press.  The press was amused by Trump’s rise. They let out a collective snicker as they gave him free campaign ads each night on TV for a year. The nightly news story was not the policy issues we were supposed to be talking about – it was small hands, furry shoes, name-calling and other epithets. The mainstream media, biased against republican candidates by editorial nature, were reveling in the disrupter. He got good ratings…great ratings.  He was the lead story every night. He made fun of a disabled person. He called Mexicans names. He was going to build a wall.

In February, I was really distraught. I watched Bernie get attacked by Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s machinations. I watched the coincident lameness of the candidates on the republican side and then I wrote the following post in which I lamented about the lack of statesmen in the election: Statesmen?  What had happened to Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt. This was the best we could have? Was Hillary the best of the party of Wilson, FDR and Truman..or just the inevitable candidate. If she gets elected we have another round of whitewater, blue dresses, congressional hearings, special prosecutors…ugh…

For a brief period I thought that maybe I’d hold my nose for Gary Johnson and Bill Weld. I tried to ignore that he called Trump a pussy in February and challenged him to climb a mountain and…and…and then he discovered Aleppo. Johnson always seemed to me to like he was a side character in a Cheech and Chong movie, with a puff of smoke rising from behind him. “Hey Mr. Lizard, want a Cheeseburger?”  Bill Weld in contrast seems like Leslie Nielsen, looking bemused and amused by the confusion around him, then letting people know he’d known where Aleppo was because he read a story book about Aleppo when he was 4 years old in between events where he recited Cicero…and will show Gary a map when it is necessary.

Now we’ve had the debates. In the midst of all this, well before the current press-induced virality, I posted a copy of GHWB’s letter to Clinton on Facebook. I lamented at least twice, in July and this month, that class was gone in politics. Class, good behavior, positive condescension, empathy.  I still cringe each time I remember Bill’s “I feel your pain” crack but even that was more memorable and presidential than the discourse we are seeing.

In the three debates I watched Hillary start to wear the play clock down to the last second and then run the ball up the middle. She went into the 4 corners offense with no shot clock. Then, tapes of him talking start appearing talking about what he thinks he gets away with because he is famous and creepy comments about his daughter.

Walk the runner to load the bases. Just last long enough with a smile on your face. Get him to crack by questioning his business acumen.  He’s so dumb and narcissistic, he falls for it every time. She played like she was hoping she could draw him offsides.

He tells the world that he won’t accept a loss.  He thinks he can pull out the Al Gore card.  Did he not not accept the results?  Well, the state rules automatically questioned the results before the Gore campaign did. Then yesterday he goes into the Al Smith Dinner and starts to say really stupid things.

All the while, Wiki-leaks and the KGB are letting out more Podesta emails and maybe today took down the internet in a DDOS attack. So you think it is okay for them to hack our campaigns, either side?  Really? It’s ok to have someone hack our institutions as long as it is against your opponent? Really? Is that the American way?

This election is a cartoon. The candidates are caricatures. Mickey Mouse for President.

The Last Lecture

In career, Literature, Random on September 21, 2016 at 2:22 am

This book has sat on my nightstand for a few years. Not sure who bought it for me — either one of the boys, or my wife. I thought it would be interesting, but over that time I kept putting it off because the concept was so morose.

Anyway, over the last 8 months I’ve plowed through books that I had on my nightstand or in my small bookcase near my bed that I had put off, and got through many of them. Actually a couple of them were on my kindle also. I read Baudolino, finished Destiny of the Republic (about the murder of McKinley), then I finished a bio on Andrew Carnegie that I had started a few years ago. I worked my way through a book on the constitutional convention of 1787, which was fun. I read the David McCullough’s Wright brother’s book with much interest which I received as a gift just as I finished the Andrew Carnegie book bio. I read a book called the Seventh Sense (on my Kindle), which was all about how networking got us here, and what happens after the social media craze. I was in the making my way through a compendium of knowledge on the Tolkien universe, I was in letter “D” and that’s when I saw this small book again.

A lot of what he said in the book made sense and his description of himself was a familiar person to me. I felt I knew Randy Pausch, or 50 people like him. When he was talking about school, or about programming, or about technology, or about characters involved in those endeavors, I knew exactly what he was referring to. We were about the same age when he delivered his lecture and it went viral, and I was just about to embark on an MBA when he published the book. I knew academics like him on the computer science side of my brain. Unlike him, half of my formal undergraduate training was electrical or computer engineering classes, so I had both – a not-same-but-co-conspiratorial-training and a familiar same logic tribe thing going on.

Several things stuck out in the book that I completely agreed with. The crack about his football coach giving him a hard time because he hadn’t given up on him yet. The comments about how knowledge will never replace hard work are something that I say all the time to my kids.

I kinda felt sorry for him because he achieved a lot of success and did meet his professional goals, only to run out of time with his last dream, his family. I thought his quest to leave a record of himself for his young kids was very admirable, many of us do that for our eventual grand-kids. Upon reflection, I would not have traded his success with starting my family at 26 instead of 37 (like he did), so that I could create some really interesting algorithms in those 11 years…and I certainly don’t think he got karma-ed. It’s all a game of chance…

I think the seminal point that I walked away with from his book was something a bit more mundane. Because I mostly understood his normal thinking process (both in my head and observed in others in my field) I was struck by how many times I also try to view the positive or at least the achievable mitigation in most things. Trained-to-be (or maybe born-to-be ) technical problem solvers have a lot of positive wick and wax burn off before they let the light go out on a problem. What impressed me was that he had turned his demise into a mission to solve another problem…that being preparing his family for his departure and leaving a legacy for them to understand him. He had turned his limited time into a mission that he could control with his capabilities and not succumbing to the fact that there was no solution to his health issue.

When my father was going down with lung cancer 16 years ago, that same logic train sparked something in me as I looked at my kids playing in his yard. They were 5 and 8. They would not see him at their graduations or parties as they achieved their goals. I could see that I could not help him with his struggle, especially the day-to-day things that my sisters and my mother were helping him with being close by (I was living 150 miles away).

So, on one of my trips down in the summer, I said to him bluntly, “Baba, you have all these stories you’ve told us whenever your memory was triggered by some event – but they are a jumble. I need you to tell me everything in order and I will type it as fast as I can. I want the kids to know who you are”. My father and I were not so dissimilar in our thinking patterns, and he could see the logic in what I was saying. So we started, he dictating and I typing.

Over the next few visits that summer, I’d start by re-reading what we had already achieved, he’d add a thing here or there, correct something, and then we’d continue adding to the story until he tired or he needed to deal with his pain. We recorded everything that he knew about his grandfather (who was killed before he was born), his father as an orphan in the middle east, and then things about himself and his family until they arrived in the United States in 1956. It’s only 11 pages, but adding that to the black and white pictures from those days, completes a historical record and a personal vignette for future generations of our family.

So I guess what I am saying is that what I learned (or maybe relearned) by reading this book is that rather than focusing on “things” you can leave for future generations (like money or things purchased with money), leave a record of who you are, how you got here, your thinking and who your motivators and what your motivations were. Randy Pausch did that. His kids will always have the videos and pictures of him playing with them and his book, The Last Lecture.

Quick Update on all the Apple “OS” updates today

In apple, technology on September 14, 2016 at 4:23 am

So I’ve been running the iOS 10 and MacOS Sierra beta’s for a while, so those features were no longer a mystery to me. Having Siri on my desktop is somewhat useful. I can have it actuate Chrome by just saying “Chrome”. I can ask “What year was George Washington born?” and I get back a Wikipedia article and Siri tells me the MDY of George Washington’s birth. It’s ok, I still don’t get Siri to understand me all the time, so it’s just extending my normal annoyance with it to my MacBook and Mac Mini.

Anyway, I did update my Apple TV to tvOS 10, and I enabled Dark Mode. That was nice, Thank you. I was even able to ask Siri to do it. Many Thanks, indeed. Other than that, I couldn’t tell anything had changed. The Home app wasn’t visible and since SSO isn’t enabled yet, yawn.

I did also update my Watch to WatchOS 3. Now I got me some nice features. and some yawns.

  1. Reminders App! got myself excited. then Yawn. Reminders could already be added by using Siri, so since you can’t do anything but complete an item in the app (and show completed items with a 3D push) it’s kind of yawn.  I might use it.
  2. Find my friends on the iPhone looks good.
  3. Swiping faces, useful, but kinda yawn.
  4. The new weather app (which I have as a complication on my watch face) now forces you to 3D touch to switch between temp, precip, and forecast.  and tapping now brings up the 10 day forecast. sort of yawn to more complex interaction than needed.  The old one was better.
  5. Heartbeat app was nice and now accessible both in the dock and as a separate app…
  6. Breath. I tested it and it will remind me tomorrow. I suppose this could be useful to force me to meditate once in a while.
  7. The camera app seems to have some more controls added to it, seems ok. control flash and other things…or maybe that was already there using a 3D touch and I never tried it. Anyway being able to reverse the camera from the watch is good.
  8. I enabled watch to unlock my MacBook, but I can’t tell if it is working or not since every time I come back, it appears unlocked already…I’ll see in the morning.
  9. The dock itself might be useful.  Getting to it using the side button is good.  I’ve already forgotten how the old thing worked.  I think it was a swipe up or something. Never found it really useful.

There are a bunch of other things to try in the coming days…apple’s version of graffiti on the watch should be interesting or useless.

I hear that apple pay is supported in the Starbucks app on the 6s.  At the moment you can use the Starbucks card in wallet (on the watch) as a bar code OR you can use apple pay, but not both…so I default to the Starbucks card in (watch) wallet so I get my frequent drink rewards.   In the iOS app on my 6S+ it tells me that apple pay is enabled, but it doesn’t seem to do anything to tie ApplePay to the starbucks card.  I poked around the web to figure this out and got only articles from 2015 and the iTunes store.  So I gave up.

Looks useful overall and the watch does seem a bit snappier, so I’d say for those who don’t like to change  things, this you should do.