Red Storm Rising – A Review

I first read this book when I was 18, about a year after it came out. At the time it was both scary and fascinating, richly detailed with the minutiae of war. Now 51 I just read it again to see how it has held up since then. The details of war are still there in all their glory even if some of those details weren’t quite right (like the F-19A Ghostrider, which I assume was really the F-117 Nighthawk, that plane not being public until 1988).

But wow some of the writing is just terrible. The parts of the story on Iceland revolving around “Miss Vigdis” should never have been in the book. Not only completely misplaced but very poorly written. I’m still not sure who Clancy was writing for when he put them in the novel.

If you like technical war novels this is probably your cup of tea (minus Miss Vigdis). If not it’s going to be a hell of a trudge.

Goodreads Review

The Olympics – Women’s 4x400m Relay Final

Wow. One for the ages. The women’s 4x400m relay was something truly special and tingle-inducing (yep, I said tingle-inducing) to watch. The US paired up 4 medal-holders, 2 gold, one silver, and one bronze. One of the gold and the silver had just taken the 1 and 2 spots in the women’s 400m hurdle race (itself a tingle-inducing race to watch) and had broken the world record held by the gold medal winner who had just broken the world record herself a bit over a month ago at the US track and field trials. The other gold-medal winner won the 800m race and is only 19. The bronze? She just happens to be the most decorated US track and field athlete ever.

Yes of course I’m talking about Sydney McLaughlin (gold, world record holder in the 400m hurdles, oh and it happened to be her 22nd birthday), Dalilah Muhammad (silver, 400m hurdles), Athing Mu (19, gold in the 800m), and of course Allyson Felix who, before the race, was tied with Carl Lewis for 10 medals, the most ever for a US track and field athlete. I have to say of the other teams racing against these women I expect they were terrified because I’m pretty sure they all knew the rest would be fighting for silver and bronze.

The race started with Sydney McLaughlin in lane 7. Finishing her leg in 50.21 (a longer stint for the lead runner) she handed off to Allyson Felix.

Sydney McLaughlin hands the baton to Allyson Felix

Felix had a nice lead and almost got caught by 2nd place Poland despite clocking in at 49.38s for her leg. Felix then handed off to Muhammad for the third leg who took off like a jet and clocked in at 48.94s.

Allyson Felix hands the baton to Dalilah Muhammad

The last leg was carried by Athing Mu, the collegiate 400m record-holder, clocked in at a blistering 48.32s. Total time? 3:16.85, the fifth-fastest time in history.

The race is over
Post-race huddle of champions
US champions draped in the flag

Watching these women run was just something to behold. They all made it look effortless, the way an elite athlete in their prime always makes it look. Honestly gave me the shivers to watch. They finished almost 4 seconds ahead of 2nd place Poland (who were also impressive). For Allyson Felix it was a gold, her 11th and leading, medal leaving her alone as greatest US track and field athlete in the medal count. I expect I won’t see that again in my lifetime. She started at the Olympics in 2004 and this was the cap to one of the greatest careers ever. Will really miss her but the future is secure with McLaughlin and Mu.

US champions with gold medals

I’ve been trying to stay away from politics as much as possible as of late but I happened across this article and one quote stood out:

It’s no secret that Republicans really distrust the media. In fact, that distrust is increasingly an important part of their political identity.

The Gallup poll the article links to covers America’s trust/distrust of the “mass media”. Of course Republicans report that they really, really distrust the mass media.

Except of course the reality is they don’t distrust the media. Republicans are consuming mass media in mass quantities if Fox News and Tucker Carlson’s ratings are to be believed. They just don’t trust the media they don’t like. I understand this as I feel the same way. I don’t trust Fox News to report a single bit of truth in any given minute of the day but that doesn’t mean I don’t trust the media.

Poor reporting on the part of FiveThirtyEight. They know the real story behind the numbers.

Clubhouse has a problem

(wrote this awhile back and thought it worth posting. Clubhouse still has problems, not the least of which now is slowing user adoption and competing services coming in from the big boys like Twitter. I see the problems I mention below to get worse now that the Android app has been released)

Recently I was sent an invitation to Clubhouse to check out and for about a week straight I couldn’t get enough. There was a lot going on and it was pretty cool to be in rooms with people I knew from TV, or musicians I listen to, or whatever. But now I can’t get way fast enough because they’ve got some huge problems.

One would think that a system that is invitation-only would be able to maintain a pretty good ratio of signal to noise but that isn’t happening on Clubhouse. There are now millions of people on the service and the noise is really drowning out the good stuff. This is really hurting with discovery of stuff I’m interested in and has me running to the exit instead of making me want to listen longer.

There is way too much self-promotion. Way too many “gain thousands of followers” channels at any given moment. Hot topic of the minute, NFTs, are way over-represented in the chat list as is Bitcoin.

On the self-promotion front everyone is also trying to out do one another in their profiles with boosting what they’ve done, number of emojis, etc. I get it to a point but the point of social media isn’t just to hock your wares and that is what Clubhouse is becoming.

The right-wing bullshit stuff is working its way into the rooms as well. Recently there was a chat with Alex Berenson on COVID-19 and this guy is one of the worst. He touts himself as a “former New York Times writer” and he’s one of these types that is very good at making his arguments sound plausible by sprinkling in bits of studies, etc. The problem is he’s full of shit.

Lots of self-help stuff there too. Everyone’s a self-help expert these days and they’re well-represented on Clubhouse. The best one was this woman I was listening to on some chat I had dropped in on, who is a writer of some sort living in Chicago. Her profile was self-boosting to a crazy degree and when it was her turn to speak it was all garbage and to make it even better it was clear she was reading from some notes.

The funny thing about all of this is that people then heap praise on these folks. The lady just mentioned had tons of praise heaped on her including “I’d love to fall asleep to your voice”. I guess we all have our opinions but the way she was reading in a soft, breathy voice grated on my nerves.

There was a chat just recently too with Deepak Chopra and it was the same thing. Heaps of praise no matter what he said. He could have burped or talked in 3 work sentences and it would have been the same thing. It was a bit disgusting to be honest.

Thoughts on task management

Last week I started doing a “week in review” in my Day One journal. The idea being to put down some of the things I’ve done or was thinking about the previous week. One of the things I wrote about in that first review were thoughts about task management because I’ve been struggling as of late trying to really keep things moving forward. I talked about several things I might try because a Kanban board seemed like a really good way to get a handle on everything going on. Trello is a fantastic product for that but I have little desire to add yet another application on to the list of things I need to check on a given day.

Looking back over that review this morning I came to the conclusion that my ideas about task management were short lived. I have been using Things 3 for years for task management. In my journal entry I noted that I was going to start by sticking with Things because it still is the best fit for me but that I was going to drop using Areas because I was having issues keeping a grip on what is happening/what needs to happen. Tasks and projects seem to get hidden too easily and I lose track of them. The idea behind getting rid of Areas was to have all active projects in one list that was viewable in its entirety.

Change of plans; I’m back to Areas/Projects as I was before. This is due to having come across a very good article by Tiago Forte about a system he calls PARA:

  • Projects 
  • Areas 
  • Resources 
  • Archives

Right now I’m just worried about projects and areas but his distinction about the two was very interesting:

A project has a goal to be achieved — a discrete event that will happen, allowing this item to be completely checked off and struck from the list. And this goal is supposed to take place by a specific moment in time. It has a deadline or timeframe, whether externally or self-imposed.

An area of responsibility, by contrast, has a standard to be maintained. And there is no end date or final outcome. Your performance in this area may wax and wane over time, but the standard continues indefinitely and requires a certain level of attention at all times.

A good example of project vs. area where I have been making a mistake is my gardening tasks for this year. I’ve had this as a project where I keep adding/removing tasks but it’s not really a project because there really is no defined outcome or deadline save for some time in the Fall when it all wraps up for the year. It really is an area of concern, separate from my “Home” area.

The article was good food for thought that I’ve been grazing on and made me think more about intentionality and thoughtfulness about what I’m doing. For instance the weekly review in my journal. It’s not just about getting it done and checking off some item on a list. I need to be more thoughtful about what I’m writing to get a really good overview of what is going on week to week in my life. This needs to extend to everything else. The goal here is to be more thoughtful (in other words, take more time to think, don’t just do!) about any of the tasks I’m doing and taking the time to get them done with purpose and conviction, not just check an item off a list.

Another problem is that I’ve not been doing a proper weekly review of everything at hand. I have items in my “weekly review” project for things like “Review Someday list” but again I haven’t been really thoughtful and deliberate about it. I’ve just been doing a quick look at things and checking off items. This was never the intent for the weekly review process. The result is I have a mess that needs to be fixed.

The initial step was to put all projects on my “Someday” list. The next step was deliberately going through each one looking at the real priority which resulted in me picking a few projects off and assigning to Areas once again. But that list of active projects won’t grow until something has been completed. It’s now a much shorter list that doesn’t feel overwhelming and won’t feel overwhelming because it won’t keep growing.

Tiago wrote:

Now, imagine the psychological effect of waking up to the list on the left day after day, week after week, month after month, even year after year. Areas of Responsibility rarely if ever change, remember? No matter how hard you work, how many years of service you put in, the list of never-changing obligations only gets heavier and longer.

I couldn’t design a better method of killing personal motivation if I tried.

That fits my situation perfectly. The solution is breaking things down more effectively into shorter projects that have defined outcomes with a definite end in mind. This is where I’ve been having problems and now it’s causing a larger issue with motivation.

Intention. Thoughtfulness. New ideas to apply to my life. But they sound a lot better than chaos and anxiety. And in the end I was doing this before and somehow got off track. It’s just time to get back on.

Yes let’s blame the victim…

I’ve been having some odd conversations on Twitter around a story that @DHH tweeted and frankly they’re so obnoxious that I had to take the time to write something longer-form.

Here is the story. Long story short:

  1. App author writes a client to play Go games via OGS
  2. App author gets a rejection from Apple because his client doesn’t offer “Sign in with Apple”.
  3. Author appeals to Apple because author doesn’t control the login form on OGS, and he’s simply a third-party client.

    During appeal, the author notes to Apple that by section 4.8 of their own App Store Review guidelines he doesn’t need to offer “Sign in with Apple” because his application fits the 4th bullet point under “Sign in with Apple is not required if:”
  4. Author is rejected again for the same reason.

Section 4.8 of the App Store Review guidelines covers “Sign in with Apple” and specifically states that you don’t need to provide support for “Sign in with Apple” if:

Your app is a client for a specific third-party service and users are required to sign in to their mail, social media, or other third-party account directly to access their content.

This is exactly the category of the author’s application. The author says:

Since my app is a client for OGS

The author does not run or maintain OGS, his app is only a client for playing Go games via OGS. This is the same situation of any Twitter client like Tweetbot from Tapbots. Tweetbot is a third-party client of Twitter and Twitter is completely under control of the authentication system.

Here is Apple’s tone-deaf first response from the initial submission:

The tone-deaf response to his appeal was:

It is quite apparent that nobody at Apple took the time to read what he wrote nor look at the application. If they had they would realize this app is a third-party client of OGS like Tweetbot is to Twitter.

They are suggesting that he add code to OGS which is ridiculous. What’s worse is that they parrot back Section 4.8!

The story is bad enough up to this point but once DHH tweeted the link to the author’s story out came the Apple lovers on Twitter to defend Apple’s honor.

Here are some examples of the people I have been interacting with:

@dscape obviously didn’t read the article and neither did the people who liked his tweet.

Here @MichalLangmajer and @simped both are defending Apple and both clearly didn’t read the article. @simped’s response is absolute Apple Defender gold too:

Just because he doesn’t own the login process, they should change the rules for him?

Really? This suggests that Tapbots would have to change Twitter’s login process. This is a ridiculous stance. But @simped didn’t bother to read the article as he thought it was about the Go programming language.

For a wonderful look into some pure Stockholm Syndrome, with a touch of victim blaming, look at this line of thinking:

Read that line of responses and stew on it a bit. It truly is breathtaking. I actually laughed out loud when he said:

It’s funny how everybody with a different opinion in this discussion “didn’t read the article”. Is it your only argument here?

I honestly don’t understand where these people are coming from and I’m a huge Apple fan. This is not the first time they’ve made a mistake like this and it won’t be the last. I also know it won’t be the last time The Defenders ride out to defend the Billion Dollar Company from Small Developer.

This story is also yet another indication that people are forgetting how to read with comprehension. Twitter is literally killing our brains. Let’s not take the five minutes required to read the article nor another five minutes to let it digest a bit. Let’s just fire off a response because, well, Apple’s honor is being questioned.

Chrissy Teigen quits Twitter or why you should delete your tweets

So the big social media news of the day was Chrissy Teigen quitting Twitter after being on the platform for over a decade and gaining 13 million followers. Of course because she was an outspoken woman of color she was trolled, berated, and abused (anyone remember Pizzagate?) by many on her time on the platform simply for being a smart woman with a sharp wit. The only thing I have to say is good for her!

Writing about why she was quitting, it all boiled down to the platform not working for her and her not liking who she was becoming because of it. As I said, a smart woman who figured out what the line was she wouldn’t cross and doing the healthy thing and leaving when it stopped working for her.

I struggle with the same issues she mentioned every single time I log on to Twitter. It’s hard not to get wrapped up in the negativity. I’ve “quit” multiple times only to come back each time saying “this time will be different”. It usually hasn’t been but I keep trying anyway but this last time I “quit” Twitter, which just happened about a month ago, it dawned on me that for most of us, Twitter should be an ephemeral thing, not some decade-long account of every little thought we’ve had in public.

How many times have we seen someone held accountable for something they said 10 years ago, when they were a different person? Maybe they were younger and didn’t know any better, thinking that nobody would ever go back and search their Twitter “archive”. Maybe they’ve learned a thing or two and have come to different conclusions about life since posting something on Twitter they regret now. People like to point their finger at someone stuck in that situation, not thinking that the shoe may very well be on the other foot some day. We are not a very tolerant society.

Chrissy Teigen noted back in July of last year:

I actually deleted 60,000 tweets because I cannot fucking STAND you idiots anymore and I’m worried for my family. Finding me talking about toddlers and tiaras in 2013 and thinking you’re some sort of fucking operative.

There is a solution to that problem that just about everyone should be taking advantage of: delete your tweets. There are services like that will do this automatically every several days for the the timeframe you choose (older than a week, older than a month, etc). Take advantage of them, use Twitter like the ephemeral service it should be. There is little reason to keep things like tweets around for years. There is no reason to have your words used against you by bad people with bad agendas.

Doing anything well is hard

Yeah I know, the title of this post is obvious, or it should be. The thing is, when you see someone who is really good at something they make it look easy, and the hours and years of training they went through never enter your mind.

I’m learning how to play piano and it is hard, like really, really hard. I’m learning “Invention #10” from J.S. Bach. I plunk through, over and over again, every time getting just the slightest bit better but it’s a slog.

If you haven’t heard of the Inventions they were a series of pieces that Bach wrote, along with the Sinfonias, as exercises for his students. The Inventions in particular are good exercises for learning to play 2 musical lines independently (as always Wikipedia has a good write-up here). As such, when I ran across Simone Dinnerstein playing #10 it killed my enthusiasm.

I’m being a bit hyperbolic because of course Simone has been playing forever and studied at Juilliard. But this is a piece that I am struggling with as a beginning player and she makes it seem so easy; it can be a bit disheartening. That gets back to the title of this piece.

Piano is hard. I know this. Playing piano well is even harder. I’m going to have to put in the work to get good at it. I’m old enough that I won’t ever be as good as Simone Dinnerstein but that’s OK. Part of what I need to remind myself of is that I should also be enjoying this. It should be a lifetime lesson that I enjoy and use to unwind from the realities of life. So here is to putting in the work and enjoying it!