I recently experienced an interesting phenomenon, and wonder if any of you have as well.
I was having a dream which, like most of my dreams, occurred in my childhood home in Temecula. My buddy, who was ostensibly staying the night because we’re going on a vacation together soon (that part is true), had left his electric toothbrush running, and it was just sitting there buzzing on the staircase. As if he’d vanished into thin air. Sure enough, I call out for him and start looking around the house, and realize EVERYONE has vanished (parents, etc.). There were even the empty piles of clothes laying crumpled on the ground to prove it.
Here’s the fascinating part. My higher level brain actually stepped in and said “Oh look, a ‘nobody exists’ / ‘everybody vanished’ Twilight-Zone-esque dream.. cool, never had one of these before.” Literally. It also fought with the subconscious a bit at some point, where the latter was like “don’t go in there, it could be scary!”, but the higher thought said “full speed ahead, charge!”. Or maybe that was vice-versa. Anyway, it was REALLY interesting to me looking back on it — how those two different planes of consciousness worked and interacted with each other.
Dreams are weird, man. But also really neat. If we ever invent the technology to record and replay our dreams in vivid detail, I… well, we’d drive ourselves insane, realistically. But it could be fun! =P
Since WP’s ‘Page’ creator was being a recalcitrant child (to borrow a phrase from my Australian coworker — you’re required to read it in an accent, obviously), I’m writing this post to ‘stick’ to the top. You see, dear reader, I handed out a few impromptu business cards recently, advertising myself as a “small scale IT service”. Which really means I get to play with other people’s computers for money. And not much money, either, let’s be clear about that. Heck, sometimes I do it for free. But we’ll get to that in another post. Also there’s a lot of mansplaining “The Cloud”.
So, to anybody finding this page for the first time. Hi! Welcome to my personal site / blog / thing that I sometimes write stuff on. On which I sometimes write. Thank you grammar 101. You’ll find a lot of posts (that’s what you call a piece of writing in a blog, a “post”) about my grief journey from losing my wife in 2018. But hopefully you’ll also find some humor, some movie reviews, and even a bit of tech advice once in a while.
On to the point. Hopefully, I can help you (or someone you know) navigate this tech-infested world a bit better. This Zoom-tastic, TikTok-loving (God knows why), Twitter-ranting, post-millennial socially-distanced hellscape we call Earth.
Boy I sound a little doomy-gloomy, no? I promise I’m not always that way. In fact, I’m a goddamn ray of f*cking sunshine, most days. I’ve been described as ‘chipper’, by a friend and former colleague. (Not the Aussie one, but she’s never met me in person, so I can’t blame her.)
Anyway, here’s what I’ll leave you with. Contact me on social media or using either my blogs’ Contact pages. The one over here has more complete info. We’ll have a chat about what your technological pain-points are, and figure out if they’re something I can help with. And trust me, if they’re not, if you need a professional, I will be the first to tell you.
I don’t know everything. In fact I know very little about TikTok and Minecraft and how exactly Amazon seems to know what you’re thinking about before you even shop for it. (Actually that last one’s not too hard, but it’s still mind-boggling if you start down the rabbit-hole of human-machine relationship ethics, but I digress. Again.) But I know how to Google the heck out of stuff, because people a lot smarter than me have usually figured out the problem you’re trying to solve. I also love analogies. So if nothing else, I can at least explain to you how your computing device’s memory is like your stovetop and cutting board — the amount of food you can cook/prepare at once — while its storage space/drive/system is like your pantry and cabinets and fridge — the amount of ingredients and food you can store and keep long-term in total. Then you’ll have to stop me from ranting about how “Marketing ruins everything” because they call your phone’s storage its “memory”.
Oh, and use a password manager. For the love of all things holy. It can literally be a paper notebook, if you must, but please. Know your dang passwords. I can’t read your mind and I can’t hack your iPhone. It’s not that difficult to recover forgotten ones, so I can help walk you through that, but srsly. You’re not dumb, you’re not crazy, you just have way too many frickin’ things to remember. Password managers solve this specific problem and they solve it well. Get one.
I didn’t know this was a thing until this year. To be fair to myself, it seems it only started in 2019, so I’m not terribly late to the party. But anyway. I’m not really here to write about the movement itself, but it seemed a fitting click-bait topical title.
Christmas has been a struggle for me since my wife passed away in 2018. It was her favorite time of the year, and she was always the one to organize and manage our gift-giving efforts. That first year, a mere 2 months after her death, I frankly don’t even remember what I did. In 2019, I was able to pull myself together and give some pretty thoughtful/needed gifts, to some, while to others I reverted to (what may become a habit) “wait til after it’s over, ask them what they didn’t get that they still really want, and see if I can make that happen.” Which, honestly, I kinda like. It makes things more fun but also WAY less stressful.
Maybe I’ll still do that, in some limited ways. But the big change this year is that I’m buying a brand-new house. So every spare penny of my budget is going toward that, because, as much as there is to NOT worry about with a new build (maintenance/upkeep, renovations, etc.), there is an equal amount of stuff TO worry about — namely, for one, the backyard, which will be a big ol’ rectangle of plain-ass dirt. (Also appliances — I will need a fridge and washing machine; dryer is on-hand thanks to my wonderful parents.)
Anyway. None of that is an excuse to “not participate” in the Christmas tradition of gift-giving. Instead, what I’m proposing is, hopefully, meaningful and acceptable in light of the trials and tribulations that this Year of Our Lord 2020 has wrought on the world, and in the spirit of #GivingTuesday.
Because as bad as 2020 has been for many, many folks — and it’s a shit-show, believe me, for some — for me, it’s been alright. I’m fortunate enough to have kept my job, to be making good money, and to not have lost anybody I love to COVID. I thank God for that every day that I hear the news. And I pray for those that have, or that are in danger of it. But the point is, I’m okay. I’ve got my health, and I’ve got a roof over my head (soon to be a different and new roof!). I’ve got my loving family, my supportive friends, my wonderful church, my brilliant colleagues, my fantastic bosses, and my amazing workplace.
Yes, I lost the love of my life. Yes, I was devastated. I grieved. I wept. I dealt with it.. in unhealthy ways, at first, but I’m getting better. I’m coping in healthier ways. I’m learning to see the good in things; the “silver linings”, as she would say.
Anyway, the point here is really, if you’re doing okay, GIVE BACK. Find a charitable cause, and back it; find a need, and fulfill it. Don’t circle the same old tired Starbucks cards and Visa Prepaids and Amazon Gift Cards and “that thing that was on sale that looked like a good manly gift for a manly man”. (Seriously, nobody really likes it.)
But don’t pull a George and write a card saying “I gave to this charity in your name, as your Christmas gift.” At least not without discussing it. Because gift exchanging IS a part of the American holiday tradition, and if you suddenly flip the script on everybody without warning, while they all got YOU some pretty nice stuff, you’ll look like the asshole. So communicate, first and foremost. Then decide if you’re really gonna do things drastically different, or perhaps just start small on a personal, self-reflective level.
Final thoughts. I’m not saying I’m converting to Festivus. But I AM saying that I’m scaling back this year. And those who read this, who ARE usually on my list (and I on yours), should be aware of that. For all of the above reasons. I hope I made that clear without sounding selfish — it’s not “just” that I’m buying a house, or “just” that I think you should give to charity instead of buying gifts. I want the whole picture considered — the whole ball of wax, as my old pastor used to say.
So that’s that. I hope you have a safe and warm holiday season, and a Merry Christmas, if you celebrate it. Cheers!
You died. I couldn’t save you, and you fucking DIED. So obviously I have a savior complex now. It was latent before, subtle; then it kicked into overdrive. The new struggle becomes getting past it. Moving on from it. Dealing with the fact that I could not save you. Couldn’t have. Never had a chance. All that goddamn guilt.
You died, in our bed, on October 17th 2018, sometime in the afternoon. Probably wishing I was there beside you instead of working or out with the dog. Probably asking God “why me, why now?”. And I wasn’t there. I couldn’t save you. And THAT… that fucking kills me. I could spend my entire life trying to right that wrong, and it would never be enough. It would not change the past. It wouldn’t bring you back. All the money and all the friends and all the influence and the all the power in the world, cannot alter that heart breaking, gut wrenching page of history.
And now, as the year of shit hitting the fan draws near to an end, I must actually learn to live with that. To accept it. Radically and wholly. Fearlessly and openly. To fully understand myself, my trauma, and my path to recovery. I still get mad at God. I still hate and distrust most doctors. I still can’t look at penguins or Christmas lights or crystals or even this damn old Macbook, without thinking of you. Or speak to your mother, your brother, your grandma, without a searing blast of nostalgia for what we had and what we lost. But I need to do those things. I need to do them while there is still time. Because, as proven by exactly the reason I write this, time is short, and fleeting. More importantly, I need to FEEL all these things, and not just write them. To let my heart burst, break, bleed, stop, restart, regroup, regrow, and ultimately heal.
Because the only way through this shit, is THROUGH it. Not over it, not around it, not under it or beside it or past it. Through it. One foot in front of the other. Every. Damn. Aching. Painful. Step.
I loved you. I will always love you. And I will be okay. Even without you, I will be okay. You made me the best version of myself that I could be. It’s time I started being that self again. It’s time I honored your memory by re-becoming the man you saw in me, that you loved so unconditionally and so fearlessly. It’s time to get to work.
I will see you again, my angel. But until then… bask in radiant light, sing throughout the heavens, and walk the eternal beaches of paradise.
You were here. In the wee waking hours of the morning, you came to me.
You stood by the bedside as I wrapped my arms around you and buried my weary head in your bosom, and you stroked my shoulder gently. We talked of things that might have been. That will never be. I began to weep. But you wiped my eyes and said “No more. It has been two years. You are ready to move forward.”
Am I? Some days it certainly seems so. Other days drag on in loneliness and idle excuses for work. Yet if I am to trust your spirit, let me find peace.
You were here. If only for a moment. God bless your sparkling soul.
Wherever I am, you’ll always be, more than just a memory. If I ever leave this world, alive.
I’ve been packing and organizing and purging — the more I do now, the less I have to do when I actually begin escrow on a place. I had 2 entire boxes of unsorted planner/notebook stuff. Now fortunately, I know B. will want some of it, particularly the wedding themed scrapbooking bits. But a lot of these planners are dated to the year, so they can’t be useful anymore. As I skim through them to find the pages you actually filled in, I’m always amazed at how you can take something so mundane and bring it to joyful life with your creativity. And reading these entries certainly makes me remember just how lovingly devoted you were to me, and I to you.
Yet there is such sadness and regret in these pages. Because so many of them… SO, so many of them… are empty. The searing irony — these are “Life Planners”, after all. And your life, cut short, likewise leaves so many unfilled pages of potential. Such volumes of unwritten, un-lived words of unspeakable love and laughter, pain and pleasure, happiness and heartache, tears and triumphs. If only I had known. Had come back to you in time to rush you to the ER or to call 911 before it was too late. But it was. It is. Gut-wrenchingly late.
Occasional other reminders jump out as well. Adult coloring books with merely a few pages partway done. A random quote or journal blurb. Dozens of shanghai score-pad pages with stars and hearts over the winner’s initials. Haphazard bundles of coloring pens and markers. Thankfully some of this stuff can be donated and go to a good second home, while other bits can even go to one of our nieces for her artistic pursuits.
When I posted a particularly poignant bit about you not having a baby, J. called you her superhero. That made my heart warm again. Yet cold in quick succession, reminding me that you, and perhaps by some extension, I, will never have that chance. I still say that raising kids in this pandemically-induced-quasi-apocalyptic society would be chaos, and that in a very small and somewhat selfish way, I’m glad that we didn’t, but my heart aches for you that you didn’t. If that makes any sense at all.
I wish things made sense. They still don’t. I loved you. Goodnight sweet angel.
Seriously ‘Boomers. Just stop. Did you fall for those old chain-letters back in the day that came through the actual mail? No? Didn’t think so. So why do you continue to fall for the digital version?
Sure, I could provide you with links upon links upon links of why these don’t work and why they’re stupid. Even our old favorite myth-debunking site, Snopes, which has been around forever and was literally founded people of your generation, tells you it’s bogus.
But you’re not going to read those are you? You’re probably not even going to finish reading this article. So if you take nothing else away from this, just hear me once, right now, yelling this into my keyboard.
STOP POSTING COPY-PASTE SPAM, CHAIN-POSTS, AND FAKE NEWS. JUST STOP.
Now, for those of you who care to read further. There IS a reason this stuff “seems” to work. Because it’s true, if you and your friends do copy-paste that god-awful chain-post and keep it going, you will find yourself seeing posts in your feed from friends that you don’t normally see/hear much from. So perhaps you’re asking at this point, “Well Nate, if this works, why is it so bad and why are you saying it doesn’t work?”
Facebook is a social network. That means its primary goal in life is to make you interact with what they consider to be your social circle — your “Facebook friends”. Your main interactions with Facebook are via your “News Feed” (or just “Feed”). In your Feed, on any given day/hour/minute, there is literally too much content (too many posts & updates) to see “all at once”. So Facebook tries to do you the favor of “prioritizing” them. They tend to bump the more popular and more potentially “meaningful” things to the top. Like any other social network, it’s basically a popularity contest.
With me so far? Now, let’s think about what happens when you do that whole “copy paste this to your status and all your long-lost friends will come back!” nonsense. It’s roughly the same post-content each time. Which, to the robots at Facebook, means it’s the same “topic” or “story”. You’re actually encouraged to add your own words into the mix, too, which has another purpose that I’ll get to in a minute. But again, essentially, it’s the same “topic of conversation”. It’s now “trending content“.
So now that you and your friends are ON the same “topic”, you’re “talking about the same thing”, Facebook’s robots say “Oh look! They must want to interact with each other some more! I’ll bump up their posts in their friends’ feeds so they’ll show up near the top!” (Yes, robots use lots of exclamation points!)
Here’s why the spam-posts encourage you to change/add words. Because if they were all literally the exact same thing, Facebook’s robots would do something a bit different. They would consider it ACTUAL SPAM. And de-prioritize it (make it drop to the bottom of the feed). Similar reasons to why you’re instructed NOT to “share” or “re-post”, but rather, to copy-paste. If you merely shared/re-posted, you’d just be “adding to the noise”, and it wouldn’t be considered a “meaningful interaction” that Facebook wants you to have with your long-lost friends.
So what have we learned today? Facebook is a complicated beast, and technology in general gets more complex all the time. However, it’s not that complicated to spot a hoax, scam, spam, chain-letter, or any other form of ridiculous miscommunication that passes for content these days. Seriously. It’s NOT THAT HARD. Use your brain for a second, do just a teeny little Google search, and you’ll be just fine.
But I know, I know you think I’m being dramatic. Too salty. Too angry. Right? What’s all the fuss about anyway, it’s harmless! And so what if it doesn’t work they way it says it does — it still made some of my friends show up that I hadn’t heard from in forever! Right?
Why the big querulous rant? WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?!?
Because it makes you look dumb, frankly. And it makes me look foolish too.
It makes you look dumb, because you’re admitting that you are technologically illiterate, that you’re prone to falling for misinformation, and that you’re likely a good target for more insidious forms of attack like social engineering, phishing, ransomware, and other scams (yes, like, actually involving real money!). You’re effectively drawing a big red target on your back that says “Look at me, I’m gullible and technologically fallible! You can probably bilk me out of some money if you know how to push my buttons just right!”
Furthermore, it makes me look foolish, because it means I, as a member of the technologically mature & innovative generation — the “Millenials”, even though frankly I identify more with Gen-X most of the time — haven’t done a good enough job at educating you on how all this tech around you actually works. It underscores the fact that we, collectively, as the people who build and maintain this tech, are increasingly and alarmingly leaving older folks behind, completely oblivious to their needs and limitations. I could go on about this, but I’ll have to save it for part 2.
So please. For the love of all things holy. Next time you see one of those silly copy-paste spam posts come across your feed, don’t do it. Ignore that urge. Instead, use those 3 little dots near the top-right of the post, and tap “Hide post”. This will help Facebook learn that you don’t like those stupid spam posts, and hopefully, if enough of you do this regularly, the fad will die off. And you’ll be a better ‘netizen’ for it. (That’s “Internet Citizen”, just in case you forgot.)
Otherwise, I’ll be re-posting this again next year. And the year after that. Until you get it through your thick skulls. Or die of old age. There’s always that to look forward to.
Because click-bait, why not. But seriously, who else is tired of these? Yeah, we get it, your PR team wanted to make sure your company looked good and seemed like they were making some effort to do “the right thing” in this pandemic crisis, whatever that is. You can stop frickin’ pretending now. We still see your commercials. We still see you selling your products to people who really don’t need them but are convinced they do by your partners-in-crime, the Marketing department.
Oh, and let’s be clear, I’m not talking about my company. My company’s business is doing fine, but that’s because we serve a fairly unique segment of the population and we’ve established ourselves as THE leader in our market niche. And we have a CEO who knows his shit and doesn’t pander to ignorance or FUD.
Let me put one particular company on blast. (Right, because I have SO MANY READERS, AMIRITE??) Partly because this turned into a rant-y text to one of my friends who works there.
Disney. Disney as the ultra huge mega-corporation that owns like 90% of the modern American entertainment industry.
Disney had, and still has, the resources to:
A) Make a massive difference in the fight against the pandemic. Mask & PPE production & delivery via repurposed factories and logistics resources. Scientific research funding and vaccine development funding. Etc.
B) Keep all workers employed WITHOUT re-opening the parks (said re-openings having led to new outbreaks and hot-zones). Rides and facilities still need maintenance even without customers. “Cast members” (gag me with a spoon) could have been outfitted to give virtual tours and rides to people who could watch and even participate from their phones or connected devices. Not hard to come up with this stuff, seriously.
And obviously any & all workers capable of performing their duties from home, should have been given the means to do so. For a company of that size, with such resources and innovation at its disposal, surely SOME kind of role-restructuring and digital transformation efforts could have turned the tide for even MORE workers anxious to remain employed yet unsure of their legacy job’s effectiveness-if-turned-remote.
But no. Disney has done nothing of the sort. They furloughed my friend, and hundreds of others like them. And that’s just a corporate office desk-job position. Imagine the ones in the trenches — the food service and sanitation folks, for example — lord knows if they even got their vacation hours paid-out before they were (likely permanently) shown the door.
The FACT that Disney has done nothing helpful — actually they’ve been harmful, as I said, by prematurely re-opening parks — is a reflection of modern corporate greed in our society, of which Disney is one of the biggest culprits and practitioners. Amazon, Facebook, and several others are right up there with ’em, so don’t get it twisted. But Disney is inarguably one of the worst offenders.
And why? Why do they continue to operate this way? More importantly, why do they get away with it? Because they OWN your kids now. Everything your child loves to watch and play is, as I said, about 90% likely to be some product or offshoot or relation to Disney. Not only that, but their pockets are deep, and deep pockets pay the political bills. Think about it. Nobody in their right mind on Capitol Hill is going to want to regulate (or to the extreme, break-up and force restructure of) a gargantuan titan like Disney. They’re “Too big to fail!”, as we heard in the financial crisis of the late 2000’s.
Two quotes/sayings I want you to remember right now.
The fish rots from the head down.
The love of money is the root of all evil.
Let me close on a positive note. The company I was going to order some audio equipment for the podcast from, Behringer, stopped making their products around March. Went completely offline. They’re not a huge corporation, and I’m sure they had to make some tough decisions about their workforce. But at least they tried to do what was right. Now I hear they’ve spun back up, at least in part, and the thing I wanted should become available soon. But that’s neither here nor there. Unless you’re a fan of the podcast, then it’s kinda exciting.
Let me take you back to an older time. A simpler time. When smoking was cool and airplanes didn’t have covered-glass cockpits. Before all missiles were laser-guided and computerized. When a ship-mounted anti-air gattling gun took 3 people to operate. When those “damn dirty Japs” sunk our battleships as they idled in sunny Pearl Harbor.
Reminder: I’m not endorsing racist slurs, I’m merely quoting the sentiment of the time, that point in history, so stop taking everything so seriously and read with CONTEXT.
One of the main takeaways from this film, for me, is how ploddingly slow war combat was in the 1940s. Compared to anything from this century, the difference is mind-boggling! The technology feels like another world, another lifetime. Which it IS, in fact. Most of those who were alive at that time, at least those involved with the war, have passed on. And this film is, in many ways, a tribute to them, their bravery and sacrifice, and their heartbreak. Roland Emmerich is certainly qualified to handle this material.
Oh look it’s Ajax from Deadpool! Yes, folks, that’s up-and-comer Ed Skrein, probably most famous for playing the tropefully-British-accented villain in our favorite anti-hero movie of the past decade. It’s interesting hearing him do an American inflection now… it definitely sounds less natural. Obviously, since his native tongue is the Queen’s English. Gotta respect the man’s work, though.
Speaking of actors.. Dennis Quaid really doesn’t pull this off well. Perhaps its the way they wrote the character, but I just don’t believe it. I believe most of the others, including Woody Harrelson’s Nimitz (which was a tough sell). I don’t know, maybe it’s just me. Nick Jonas ain’t winnin no prize either.
Do one thing and do it well
But overall, Midway accomplishes its goal. It doesn’t focus unnecessarily on Pearl Harbor itself, but presents the tragedy with enough gravitas that we feel the motivation of our fallen brothers to seek righteous vengeance upon those who perpetrated it. It gives adequate treatment to the intelligence side of the equation — the “code breakers” — as well as the combat side. It even presents the Japanese forces and officers in a neutral and respectful light; in fact, it comes off as much less of a “rah rah, ‘Merica!” nationalistic stars-and-stripes-fest than many of its kin. So I respect that. Sure, it’s still an American film, but it doesn’t beat you over the head with patriotism.
In today’s hack, we take a look at a slightly newer tablet than last time, and find out just how much more difficult it is to crack open an Android 7.1 “Nougat” device than it was just 2 major-OS-versions ago.
Spoiler-alert: I did NOT actually end up successfully removing the FRP lock. Instead, I insisted that the owner try harder to find the appropriate Google account info for the device. Which they did, thank God. I am currently waiting on them to set aside some time to walk through the remaining recovery steps.
So instead of actually hacking (removing the FRP lock), this is simply a link-dump and giving credit to the sources that helped me get it back to a usable state.
XDA Forums post which contains the actual stock firmware needed for my specific device (T377A).
Now, you may be wondering, how is this useful? Well, dear reader, allow me to explain.
Scenario A: You need to factory-reset your tablet, but it’s been borked/bricked by some strange 3rd-party firmware or a bad update.
Scenario B: Like me, you’ve managed to use Odin to flash it to “factory binary” firmware (kinda like diagnostic/debug mode), but you forgot to store a backup of the actual firmware first (the one that a normal human can use).
As a reminder, the standard startup-button-combos are as follows:
Recovery mode (standard): hold Home, Volume Up, and Power.
Odin mode (aka firmware download/re-flash): hold Home, Volume Down, and Power.
We’ll talk about #2 first. This has a nice warning screen about how tech-y it is, so you can “abort mission” by pressing Volume Down if you made a mistake coming here. Otherwise, you hit Volume Up, and continue into “Odin mode”. From there, you use the Odin program on your PC to flash the firmware. Obviously, you need to have the tablet connected to the PC with a standard USB cable.
Recovery mode, #1, also looks kinda techy, with the black background and orange & blue text in a sort of old-school Matrix-y way, but it’s really not complicated. You have options like ‘Wipe data/factory reset’, ‘Wipe cache partition’, and ‘Reboot system now’. You navigate up and down with the Volume Up & Down buttons, and make a selection with the Power button.
What do you mean, Theoretically?
Again, I was not successful in actually removing the FRP lock (which was the goal and outcome of the previous post on this topic, albeit with the older tablet). But in theory, if you needed to go that route, this is a decent place to start from. Because if you make a mistake or “brick” the tablet, restoring the stock firmware should get you back to square 1, where you can try ‘hacking’ at it again.
Always always always. ALWAYS. ALWAYS. Correctlysign out of and wipe your devices when you’re done with them (giving them away, throwing them out, selling them, etc). It never gets any easier trying to recover that stuff or work-around it to “break into” a device that you’ve turned into an expensive paperweight by forgetting your owner-login info.
This means, while your tablet is still on and accessible to you (i.e. you can unlock it, use it, get into Settings, etc.) — use the Settings menu to do the wipe/reset!! It varies slightly between devices, but it’s generally under Security somewhere. Just Google “<your device name> factory reset”.
Get your account recovery options up-to-date and keep them that way. Same for your loved ones and relatives. Spouse, parents, etc. By setting up and maintaining proper account recovery options (alternate emails, phone numbers, 2-factor authentication), you can be reasonably secure and still able to work on someone else’s behalf in terms of device ownership and recovery.
If you’re not sure what I mean, drop me a line on Facebook, Twitter, or right here in the comments.