Linked List

Glanced at briefly, filed away for future reading, and presented here for your edutainment.

Rules For Being Human

Came across this today.  I don't entirely agree with #9, but man, #10 is spot on.

  1. You will receive a body. You may like it or hate it, but it will be yours for the entire time you are here.
  2. You will learn lessons. You are enrolled in a full-time informal school called life. Each day in this school you will have the opportunity to learn lessons. You may like the lessons or think of them as irrelevant or stupid.
  3. There are no mistakes, only lessons. Growth is a process of trial and error, experimentation. The “failed” experiments are as much a part of the process as the experiment that ultimately “works”.
  4. A lesson is repeated until learned. A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned it. When you have learned it, you can then go on to the next lesson.
  5. Learning lessons does not end. There is no part of life that does not contain its lessons.  If you are alive, there are lessons to be learned.
  6. “There” is no better than “here”. When your “there” has become a “here”, you will simply obtain another “there” that will, again, look better than “here”.
  7. Others are merely mirrors of you. You cannot love or hate something about another person unless it reflects to you something you love or hate about yourself.
  8. What you make of your life is up to you. You have all the tools and sources you need.  What you do with them is up to you. The choice is yours.
  9. Your answers lie inside you. The answer to life’s questions lie inside you. All you need to do is look, listen and trust.
  10. You will forget these rules.

– Author Unknown

Historical Swordfighting

Flagging to watch later.  This is a subject that has always fascinated me.  I have always wanted to see about seeking out some instruction in saber fencing, and this looks much, much more interesting.

A Question

An old though, prompted by this article in the NYT:
Holly Leonard has been homeless on and off for years. There was a stint in jail and, more recently, a period in a women’s homeless shelter, while her husband slept in their car.
But last month, the two moved into a one-bedroom apartment in San Jose, Calif., complete with a small garden. Ms. Leonard found it on Craigslist while using her Nexus 5 smartphone — a donation from Google that she got from a San Jose nonprofit called Community Technology Alliance.
“People don’t put out ‘for rent’ signs anymore, so the Internet is the best way,” Ms. Leonard said. “You can’t even go get a paper application for a lot of things. You can’t get a job unless you get online.
“Before I got a free phone, it was like you’re almost nonexistent.”
The smartphone giveaway program, though small, typifies the way Bay Area tech companies have started to respond to the glaring homelessness problem right outside their luxurious company campuses: not by donating clothes or serving food, but by using technology.
Now, here's the thing.  While I might take issue with the idea of a government agency doing this, that is based on the premise that government should not be taking money by force from one set of people and giving it to another group without a compelling reason.  In my mind, keeping someone alive (food, shelter, clothing) meets that standard; providing smart phones, no matter how useful, does not.

That said, I do not have any problem at all with the idea that Google or a non-profit organization is doing exactly that.  I think it is commendable in this case; they are taking their money (or, money given to them voluntarily) and using it in a way that they think helps them meet the needs of others. If they believe that buying smart phones for the homeless is the way to go, I would not only say "more power to them", I would absolutely agree. A smart phone, as the article points out, is a game changer.  It gives people not only the chance to survive, but the ability to improve their lot and prosper.

Now, here is a scenario for you to consider.

Suppose that another individual - Joe - and I are discussing this issue.  Joe and I both happen to think that providing smart phones to those less fortunate is a Good Thing.  We disagree on how this should be accomplished, though.

Joe favors the idea of a government program to provide smart phones for the less fortunate.  What level of government we are talking about does not really matter to him.  He thinks that there is a compelling interest in such a program, and that the government should spend up to $X a year supporting such a program.

I point out to Joe that there are already private organizations - Google and the CTA, for example - that are doing exactly that.  I think there are obvious advantages to having a private organization continue to do this type of work, and would rather see their efforts encouraged and expanded upon. To that end, I propose that instead of the government spending up to $X a year supporting a smart phone program, they could instead offer $X a year in tax credits to those who make contributions to existing programs.

Why a tax credit instead of a tax deduction?  A credit is a 1:1 reduction in the amount of taxes owed, which is a much stronger encouragement that a deduction.  More importantly, it makes the amount of spending in each case identical.  Either individuals are making $X a year in contributions to these programs, or the government is taking $X a year and using it to fund their own, equivalent program.

There are two major differences in these competing proposals.  One is the reliability of funding.  Joe can argue that a government program will generally be fully funded, while a program of voluntary contributions may fall short of the desired funding.  US charitable giving ran to over $316 billion in 2012, though.  I think it is safe to say that if there is private funding to be had, these types of programs will be able to find it.

The other difference is who is in control.  In Joe's proposal, control of the funding and the program resides with the government.  In my proposal, control of the function and the program excludes the government.

Here is the question: all other things being equal, why would an individual choose one proposal over the other?

I suspect that there are a number of folks out there who honestly want to help the less fortunate, and would be happy if either proposal was implemented.  If $X a year is going to be spent on smart phones, the important thing is that $X a year is spent - not who has control of the program and the spending.

I also suspect that there are a number of people who would fight, tooth and nail, to see that one proposal or another was accepted, because for them, the issue is not whether or not homeless people get cell phones, but who gets control.

Marriage Singularity

Today is a special day for me... a milestone, a waypoint, a marker on my path in life. A singular moment, if you will.

I was born on a certain day in 1969.

Eight thousand, five hundred and forty-nine days later, I married the lovely Mrs. Robb.

Yesterday happened to be 8,549 days from that amazing day when my life changed.

So, as of today... I have spent the majority of my life married to the most beautiful, amazing, wonderful, fantastic, and lovely woman in the world.

Mrs. Robb - you are my best friend, the love of my life, and I am eagerly looking forward to the rest of my days with you. I pray that God would grant us another eight thousand days together, and more besides; but however many days we have together, each is precious, and wonderful, and better than the last, because I have you to share them with.

The Murder That Wasn't

Just in time for Halloween, I came across a bizarre story from the Daily Mail in 2010:
Firefighters who responded to a hotel blaze stumbled upon a blood-spattered hotel room littered with bottles of alcohol and even a piece of a scalp. Police Chief J.R. Blyth, who was called in to investigate, described the discovery at the George Washington Hotel in Pittsburgh as 'the most grisly murder scene in his 35 years in law enforcement'.
Horrific! Except...
Detectives had spent eight hours of overtime on the investigation before Chief Blyth realised the blood wasn't real and that the murder scene was in fact the leftover set of a horror movie filmed two years ago with Corey Haim.
The film called New Terminal Hotel shot a scene in the hotel and the owner, Kyrk Pyros, decided to leave the room untouched in case the crew had to come back for re-shoots.

Now, this has all the trappings of a classic urban legend - especially including the fact that pretty much all the reporting of the incident seems to trace back to the above story. Seeing as this is in my neck of the woods, though, I decided to do a little digging.

After posting the above link on the Book of Face, an old friend who works with the Pittsburgh police pointed out that Pittsburgh records show that there has never been a police chief named Blyth on the force. That would seem to be a big red flag right there.

On top of that, the owner of the hotel that caught fire was reported as... Kyrk Pyros. Seriously. A fire in a hotel owned by Mr. Pyros? How... delightfully karmic.

Smelling more and more like an urban legend, isn't it?


The George Washington Hotel really does exists, but is not located in Pittsburgh - it is in Washington County, which is south of the city. Now, the Daily Mail is an ocean away, so I'll give 'em an A for effort. They managed to get the right area of the country, at least.

More importantly, while there has never been a Blyth as police chief in the city of Pittsburgh... well, we should be looking at Washington County, shouldn't we? Apparently the chief of police in Washington County from at least 2009 until 2012 was one James Roger Blyth.

What about the oh-so-conveniently named Mr. Pyros, though?

Turns out that he's not only a real person, he's a builder who specializes in restoration of historic structures. He did indeed buy the George Washington hotel in 2007 with an eye towards remodeling it. Said remodeling was derailed a bit in 2010 by a fire that started in one of the hotel's laundry rooms.

On top of that, IMDB says that yes, there was a horror movie titled "New Terminal Hotel" that was released in 2010, starring Corey Haim, and it was filmed in... Washington, PA. (Which is apparently the place to go if you want to film a low-budget horror movie for some reason...)

So the major characters, the events, and the timeline all seem to match up. At this point, I suppose that it could still be a very well-put together hoax. Take all the elements, toss in an unusual hook, and bingo! If someone pulled that off, I would honestly have to tip my hat to them; the details certainly seem to check out.

One of the benefits of this being a local story, though, is being able to stir up other people's memories. After doing the above digging, a friend of mine from college commented on Facebook, saying:
Sam, I worked for one of Kyrk's companies and kept an office at the GW circa 2011. This story was told to me a couple of times back then. Pretty sure it's true. The room was on a floor that hadn't been remodeled, yet.
I would say that's a pretty reliable source right there!

So, there you have it. The true story of a freakout over a false murder.

Cruz/Webb 2016

Discuss amongst yourselves.

What A Drag It Is...

After a decent start, a decent couple of weeks.  Hitting the gym and the treadmill has allowed me to rack up just under five miles, albeit spread out over five days.

On the plus side, I don't have much trouble at all with a 15 minute run, which is light years ahead of where I started a few years ago.

On the minus side, while my left knee is doing OK, my right one is bugging me now.  I had to curtail today's run because I was starting to feel a little funny in the kneeticular region.  A co-worker recommended compression knee sleeves.  I may have to give that a try.

Sigh... yeah, Mick and his friends were pretty much spot on.

It's Happy Fun Bernie!

Yes, it's Bernie Sanders! The political sensation that's sweeping the nation! Only $1500 (and your self-respect) at participating fund raisers! Get your piece of him today! 

Warning: Pregnant women, the elderly, and children under 10 should avoid prolonged exposure to Bernie Sanders. 

Caution: Bernie Sanders may suddenly accelerate into a frothing, economically incoherent rage. 

Bernie Sanders contains a liquid core, which, if exposed due to rupture, should not be touched, inhaled, or looked at. 

Do not use Bernie Sanders on concrete... more than once.

Discontinue use of Bernie Sanders if any of the following occurs:
  • itching
  • vertigo
  • dizziness
  • tingling in extremities
  • loss of financial stability
  • muddled foreign policy
  • blindness to basic economic principles
  • profuse pandering
  • or a desire to "eat the rich".
If Bernie Sanders begins to talk about "free college for everyone", get away immediately. Seek shelter and cover head. 

Bernie Sanders may stick to certain types of talking points well beyond their sell-by date. 

When not in use, Bernie Sanders should be returned to his home state, and be kept away from sharp objects and under adult supervision. Failure to do so relieves the campaign of Bernie Sanders, the Teamster's Union, and its parent company, the Democratic National Committee, of any and all liability. 

Bernie Sanders spawned from an unknown glowing green substance which fell to Earth, presumably from outer space.

Bernie Sanders has been shipped to our troops in Afghanistan and is being dropped by our warplanes on Syria.

Do not taunt Bernie Sanders.

Back In The Saddle Again

Fifteen minutes.  One mile.  Heart rate 175.

Not bad for having taken almost a year off.  I was worried that I would have to start off all over again from the beginning, and that if I really pushed myself, I might be able to manage a half mile.  Apparently, though, it takes more than a year of relative inactivity for your cardiovascular system to completely reset.  A fact that I was quite happy to realize.

I feel good now; we'll just have to see how I feel come the morrow.  Aching muscles I can deal with - that's just a matter of stretching, patience and time.  If my knee is hurting again, though, I may have to start considering a lower-impact workout.

If the knee holds up?  My ultimate goal is to get back to where I was a year ago: 36 minutes, 3 miles, all at a heart rate 160, three times a week.

Here's hoping.

She Haz A Happy

The Lovely Mrs. Robb, enjoying the inaugural fire in our new fireplace.