Oops

Yesterday, I sent out the fifth installment of an email series about keywords. It should have gone out BCC, but it didn’t so each and every recipient received contact information about all of the other recipients. While this is not the end of the world, it should not have happened. Of course, I have prepared a list of several hundred excuses to explain away this mistake. Yet, for this one time only, I’ve decided to simply admit that this was my mistake, to say I am sorry it happened, and – in this web log post – explain procedures that I have taken to prevent it happening again, as well as other procedures that could be undertaken if it, unbelievably, should ever happen again.

In addition, I am providing some more general thoughts on the challenges facing content creators, and the distribution of their works.

Web-log vs email

I feel more comfortable writing a web-log post, than an email. There are two important reasons for this. First, writing content in a web-log post is almost a pleasure, because of the editing facilities found in web-log software. In comparison, Email editing facilities are second-rate. Second, content written in a web-log post can be updated as required, even after it is published.

This web-log uses WordPress as its platform. Recently, its new Gutenberg editor has been used to write posts. While some features (such as links) still require use of the Classic editor, Gutenberg is a superior editor. Mozilla Thunderbird is used for emails. I work on both a Chromebook laptop and a Linux Mint stationary machine. Both programs allow me to transition between these machines as often as I want, and the updated post or email I am writing follows me.

One of the major differences between an email and a web-log post is that an email is immutable. It doesn’t change. If one has written something foolish it remains in that foolish state, in that email, forever. This is not the situation with a web-log post, which can be edited and updated. This is very useful for a person, such as myself, who has difficulty spelling words correctly.

Please note, that from Keywords 06 and onwards, keywords content will be posted on Brock at Cliff Cottage. Only a link will be sent as an email.

Thunderbird

At Cliff Cottage, the Mozilla Thunderbird email application, runs under Linux Mint. David White, provided a Use BCC Instead add-on for Thunderbird. If the Always Substitute BCC for TO and CC option was enabled, any recipients addressed using TO or CC were automatically changed to BCC before the message was sent. This was a great help for people such as myself who can be forgetful.

Unfortunately, the Use BCC Instead add-on, was not updated when Thunderbird V60 was released in August 2018. TO was the default setting. This meant that every email had to have BCC selected manually. I failed to do this when Keywords 05 Brands was sent out.

Current Fix

The English language recipients of Keywords were stored in an address list titled Keywords. Similarly, the Norwegian language recipients, were stored in Nøkkelord. These two lists have had their respective names changed to BCC-Keywords and BCC-Nøkkelord. Hopefully, when I add the name to the TO: field, this name change will be sufficient for me to change TO to BCC.

Permanent Fix

If I make the same mistake again, a more permanent fix is to downgrade the version of Thunderbird to 57. This version allows Use BCC Instead to function as an add on.

Global Warning

“The good Lord has to fix it. We’re not capable of it.” Voyd Fleming commented on life, global warming and California wild fires at the Sundial Bridge at Turtle Bay, Redding, California, a quotation appearing in: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jul/31/california-wildfire-climate-change-carr-fire

Sundial Bridge at Turtle Bay, Redding, California. From the south. Photo Chad K. 2007-02-16

It is challenging to engage conservative Christians in discussions about climate.  Here are three responses.

  1. There is no need to do anything about climate change. Christ will return, and everything will be fine.
  2. There is no climate change. God micromanages the earth. There is no need for people to do anything.
  3. Forget climate change. Concentrate on business. God rewards Christians on Earth and well as in heaven. Capitalism, business jets and offshore tax shelters are all part of God’s plan.

This post was originally written 2018-08-01. It stopped here. In keeping with the above set of Christian principles, I waited patiently for God to finish writing this text for me, and to publish it. This did not happen. Thus, I have had to revise my text about God’s plan.

  1. Forget business. Concentrate on climate change. God rewards people on Earth and well as in heaven, who are or were stewards of his planet. Capitalism, business jets and offshore tax shelters have no place in God’s plan.
  2. Climate change is real. God does not micromanage the earth. People have to do everything, and they have to work together.
  3. Christ has already returned (as Baha’u’llah) – and left again, leaving us to deal with climate change. Nothing is fine until we learn to work together, for the benefit of all humanity.

Good Enough Websites

Websites have many uses. Perhaps two of the more important, involve the sharing of information, through emails and web logging, or blogging. The first email was sent by Ray Tomlinson (1941-2016) in 1971. He is quoted as saying that these first “test messages were entirely forgettable and I have, therefore, forgotten them.” The first web log post is 25 years old, this week. It was published on 1994-01-27 by Justin Hall. Here is a link to it:

links.net/vita/web/start/original

Statistics are hard to come by, but it seems at least half a billion people have their own web logs. On 2017-09-14, one blogger reported 440 million blogs just on Tumblr, Squarespace and WordPress. Most of these people, including myself, don’t have either the interest or the skills to set up a website that follows best practices. I am not sure that they even want to, I don’t. Instead, they want something that is simple but good enough for the needs of themselves and their families.

Why stress to obtain the best, when good enough will do? Patmos, Farm vehicle near Chora, Greece. Photo: Brock McLellan/ Digitization: Patricia McLellan. 1979-07-27.

Having gained some experience through work, with Moodle, a Learning Management System, and being dissatisfied with a couple of web hosting providers that were supposed to support this product, I opted for one.com as a host, on the advice of someone I trust. The first lesson, then, is to ask for help from 1) someone who has experience with family oriented websites, 2) is trustworthy and 3) knows you, your family and your situation.

The proposed solution, which was implemented, may not be the world’s best hosting service, but it is certainly adequate, inexpensive and good enough for my family’s purposes. No issues have arisen during the past year that make me want to change vendor.

We purchased, or more correctly rent on an annual basis, a domain based on our family name, which provides email addresses for members of our family, but they are not in active use by everyone. We also paid for “Starter” web hosting services on a server.

Like most web hosts, our provider tries to make customers feel that they are getting a lot, or at least something, for their $3 a month in hosting fees. They try to impress with a content list that includes ten items: Unlimited bandwidth; Email on your own domain; Unlimited email accounts; Unlimited email aliases; Spam & Virus Protection; Fully featured professional webmail; Individual Calendar & Address Book per email account; IMAP/POP; Single domain; and, 25 GB SSD Storage. While I have a theoretical interest in some of these services, including spam and virus protection, the main product being purchased is storage space. This storage is being used for emails, as well as web logs.

Now, a second domain name has been purchased/ rented for a family member with a different surname. This has necessitated an upgrade to a “Professional Plus” web hosting service, offering hosting of multiple domains, eight times more storage (200 GB) as well as Backup & Restore facilities. Above this there is a “Business” level that offers 500 GB of storage, as the only significant difference.

Sometimes an upgrade is necessary. But that does not mean it has to be expensive. Honda Van, Exeter, England. Photo: Brock McLellan/ Digitization: Patricia McLellan. 1979-06-21.

An aside: Wouldn’t it be wonderful if names didn’t have to have elitist attributes? Why not name products after winds? The breeze, the gale and the hurricane. Or birds? The crake, the coot and the crane. I would even accept the apprentice, the journeyman and the master, or even a simple level 1, 2 and 3.

The needs of most families are relatively simple. They are not running businesses that need complex e-commerce solutions, with marketing and sales support, traffic management and guaranteed up-time. Everyone finds downtime detrimental, but it is something that can be lived with.

So, one of the first questions to ask is: Why not just use Gmail/ Hotmail/ Outlook/ Yahoo? Yes, some of these offer lots of storage space, spam and virus protection, and much more. Google offers 15 GB of storage for each user, Yahoo offers 1 TB. Personally, I am not using more than 10 GB, for email and web log, and other family members are using considerably less.

Similarly, one can ask: Why not just use Facebook to post information/ opinions that would otherwise end up in a web log?

The main reason to avoid multi-national corporations, is to protect families from the effects of long-term exploitation. These corporations are mining data and monetizing it. Yes, that is a big word, and it means they are making money off of your data. In the long-term, this will make you and your family poorer and less secure, while the elites grow richer. By using your own website, you will prevent these corporations from accessing the data they need to manipulate consumers and voters. These corporations, and a few others, are instruments effectively used by an elite, to consolidate their power.

Another important reason for having a family domain is for blogging. Roger McNamee, an early investor in Facebook, has written that information and disinformation look the same; the only difference is that disinformation generates more revenue, so it gets better treatment, at Facebook or Google. He claims that there is no way for these giants to avoid influencing the lives of users and the future of nations. Recent history suggests that this threat to democracy is real. McNamee proposes fundamental changes to their business models to reduce the harm they cause to democracy

The rest of humanity cannot wait for these enterprise Titanics to turn in an attempt to avoid icebergs of dictatorship and oppression. People must take control of their own lives back again, to the degree that this is possible. This means reducing our presence on Google, Facebook and Twitter, and increasing our presence on our own personal websites.

Blog is short for weblog, an online journal or informational website displaying information in posts, generally accessed in reverse chronological order. Some blogging platforms are run by the Titan(ic)s. Blogger (previously called Blogspot) is owned by Google. Tumblr is owned by Verizon. Instagram is not so much a blog, as a photo and video-sharing social networking service owned by Facebook. Two open source platforms are WordPress and Joomla.

Joomla is powerful and flexible enough to be used to build any kind of website or blog. There are enough templates to choose from, to customize any site. Extensions add more features. Yet, because Joomla has a shorter reach than WordPress, there are fewer themes and addons, and less support. Backups, updates, and security take more work.

WordPress provides sufficient control website, and allows one to add extra features like forums and an online store, if that is the direction of travel. Website management can have its challenges, especially things like backups and security. Despite some imperfections, WordPress is the platform used on Brock at Cliff Cottage. Personally, I do not see any advantages to throwing away my insights with this platform, just to select a different platform that will require more time to learn.

Video bloggers are called vloggers. Many choose to upload their videos to YouTube, another Google owned site. Here, one creates a free and simple vlogging channel, with an existing audience close by. Other websites for video content include: blip.tv, vimeo and veoh. However, there is nothing to prevent a vlogger from using their own site to host their own videos. This, in fact, is in the spirit of this weblog post. WordPress offers several plugins especially designed for vlogging.

Some web logs are very specialized: auto repair, cooking, fashion, music, Norse mythology and robotics come to mind. In addition to vloggers, there are podcasters, who make web logs featuring audio tracks. Some people create portfolios of their work. Others just want a place to display their photographs, or their paintings/ drawings/ etchings. It is all up to the individual. Artists and artisans may want to upgrade a website for business purposes, including the display and sale of merchandise. It is relatively easy to build out WordPress with plugins to accommodate new needs.

WordPress can be updated using plugins, into a website for e-commerce. Three-wheeled electric milk van, Exeter. Photo: Brock McLellan/ Digitization: Patricia McLellan. 1979-06-22.

There are several WordPress books for beginners. The one I prefer is: Michal Bradek 2017 WordPress Guide for Beginners. The only challenge with this book is that it is based on WordPress version 4.8. Version 5.0 was released 2018-11-19, and is becoming standard. The greatest change with this update is the Gutenberg editor, which is actually easier to use than the previous “classic” editor, but is different – so some skills have to be unlearned, and others learned.

V2: Minor corrections made 2019-01-24 19:47

Peace

The Universal House of Justice, the nine-member supreme ruling body of the Bahá’í Faith, published a peace letter on 2019-01-18. This post contains a short summary of what the letter is about. The complete text can be found in the Download link, below.

  • The letter is addressed to the Bahá’ís of the World
  • The letter is written on the 100th anniversary of the Paris Peace Conference which was held after World War 1 ended.
  • Bahá’u’lláh asked people to establish peace on earth.
  • The letter is five pages in length, divided into five sections, and 14 paragraphs.
  • Section /A/ is the introduction (paragraph 1)
  • Section /B/ is a reflection on the progress made towards peace (paragraphs 2 – 4), so what has happened so far
  • Section /C/ is a comment on some of the contemporary challenges to establishing peace (paragraphs 5 – 9), mainly the need for people to see unity and peace as the goal
  • Section /D/ is a statement of the contributions that Bahá’ís are asked to make (paragraphs 10 – 12), that they need to act on to make things happen
  • Section /E/ is the conclusion (paragraphs 13 – 14) and tell us what we must do – “build communities founded on spiritual principles and apply those principles for the betterment of your societies”
The members of the Universal House of Justice are, from left to right, Paul Lample, Chuungu Malitonga, Payman Mohajer, Shahriar Razavi, Stephen Hall, Ayman Rouhani, Stephen Birkland, Juan Mora, and Praveen Mallik. The House of Justice was elected by delegates to the 12th International Baha’i Convention in Haifa, in 2018-04.

Here are the specific contributions to world peace that Baha’is are asked to make:

  1. Accept the oneness of humankind. /6/
  2. Recognize that there is diversity, yet maintaining a love for all people, and subordinating lesser loyalties to the best interests of humankind. /7/
  3. Guard themselves from becoming enmeshed in conflicts or falling into adversarial methods. /9/
  4. Promote the well-being and tranquility of everyone [children of men]. /10/
  5. Educate people. /10/
  6. Create genuine love, spiritual communion and durable bonds among individuals. /10/
  7. Build up and broaden a system of social organization based on Baha’u’llah’s teachings. /11/
  8. Nurture communities. /11/.
  9. Cultivate environments in which children can be raised without racial, national or religious prejudice. /11/
  10. Champion the full equality of women with men. /11/
  11. Welcome everyone. /11/
  12. Empower everyone to build of a new world. /11/
  13. Invite followers of all faiths and none to devotional meetings. /11/
  14. Engage youth to build communities. /11/
  15. Govern in servitude. (This applies to members of local/ national Spiritual Assemblies) /11/
  16. Resolve conflicts and build unity. /11/
  17. Develop an electoral process. /11/
  18. Engage with those around them. /12/
  19. Make meaningful contributions to various important discourses. /12/
  20. Practice consultation. /12/
  21. Cultivate conditions that are conducive to unity. /12/
  22. Implement peace! /13/
  23. Build communities founded on spiritual principles. /14/
Some 1,300 delegates representing 166 countries, at the 12th International Baha’i Convention in Haifa, in 2018-04.



Fika

The Swedish Fika

The adjective Swedish is used deliberately, as potential substitutes, such as Scandinavian or Nordic, are far too generous in describing the affected geographical area, unfortunately.

Anna Brones and Johanna Kindvall, authors of Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break, comment, “Functioning as both a verb and a noun, the concept of fika is simple. It is the moment that you take a break, often with a cup of coffee, but alternatively with tea, and find a baked good to pair with it. You can do it alone, you can do it with friends. You can do it at home, in a park or at work. But the essential thing is that you do it, that you make time to take a break: that’s what fika is all about.”

Wikipedia, under the heading Coffee Culture, notes the following: “Swedes have fika (Swedish pronunciation: [²fiːka]), meaning “coffee break”, often with pastries, although coffee can be substituted with tea or even juice, lemonade or squash for children. A sandwich, fruit or a small meal may be called fika as the English concept of afternoon tea. The tradition has spread through Swedish businesses around the world. Fika is a social institution in Sweden and the practice of taking a break with a beverage and a snack is widely accepted as central to Swedish life. As a common mid-morning and mid-afternoon practice at workplaces in Sweden, fika may also function partially as an informal meeting between co-workers and management people, and it can even be considered impolite not to join everyone else for fika.”

Coffee entered the English language in 1582 via the Dutch koffie, from the Ottoman Turkish kahve, from the Arabic qahwah. It entered Swedish as kaffe, about one hundred years later.

Wikipedia also notes that the English language term coffee break dates from 1952. The Swedish term, fika is considerably older. Equally close to American English as it is to Swedish, it is probably closer to Arabic. The first reference to it, dates from 1910 – 13. Yes, sources differ. Take the English word coffee (kaw-fee) then turn the syllables around (fee-kaw) or fika. Its origins are that simple. Where, precisely, in Sweden this first happened, and why, are questions left to etymologists, and will not be addressed here, except to say that not all sources agree.

The Universal Fika

At formal meetings, almost nothing new is ever said and the importance of messages imparted, is always in doubt. Informal meetings are much more effective, when communication is the goal. Yet, things cannot be left to chance.

I have often argued that e-mails are a much better substitute for meetings. Unfortunately, on the one occasion that my employer tried this, I neglected to read the pertinent e-mail. Thus, one day I drove the 45 km to work, only to be told that we would be going on a course at a hotel 10 km in the opposite direction from our house.

The physical meeting place for a regular fika should be designed. One has to take into consideration how people group, and interact while engaging with each other over coffee. There can be various approaches. Anthropologists use ethnographic observation, and interaction designers have similar techniques. One might even want to consult with architects and engineers, as well as other people who have an understanding of materials and the environment.

Sound is a particularly fascinating factor in the design of meeting spaces. An excess of polished surfaces may cause needless reverberation, while an excess of textiles may absorb and deaden too much sound. With computer simulation, as my own specialization, I will take the opportunity to encourage the use of simulation models in designing any environment.

My experience of fikas is in work and educational settings. For me, a fika is an informal meeting, disguised as a break. During a fika, the situation confronting each and every participant can be discussed in a friendly and helpful manner. Bosses have to put away their titles, and open their ears. Even the most timid are expected to voice their opinions. In this way group consensus can be explored and developed.

While there can be clusters of people, who have cluster-wide communication, there must also be wider forms of communication that allow conversational topics to seep between clusters. It is also important that participants (to some degree) rotate their cluster membership. As in any meeting, some topics are generally avoided. On the other hand, there are usually some people who are willing to break any taboo. This results in fluid transitions, rather than sharp demarcations.

Far too much discussion of fikas revolves around food. Obesity is a major problem in Western countries. Many people suffer with gluten related conditions. Brones and Kindvall are far too concerned with baked goods, and do a disservice in encouraging their consumption. I have come across some institutions that provide free waffle batter (and iron), along with assorted sweet condiments such as syrups, honey and jams. I wonder why these institutions hate people. I will end this tirade by noting that processed foods bring with them more disease than health, and have no place in a modern workplace.

Personally, I would like to encourage the consumption of more fruit and vegetables. These can take many different forms, but I will mention both salads and soups. There are people who cannot consume various types of fruit and vegetables. For example, more than one person I know has problems after consuming raw apples and raw carrots. Yet, they are able to eat apple sauce and carrot cake without problems. The lesson here, is that if anything is to be served, there must be a variety. One size does not fit all.

Every workshop needs space and time for discussion. At Cliff Cottage’s Unit One, we are attempting to develop our own fika tradition. Unfortunately, it still occurs more often in theory than in practice. On Friday, at 12:00 tools are put down, cups are picked up, to be filled with coffee, tea, infusions or just plain water, along with a choice of fruit. For the next hour people are expected to contribute their opinions about workshop activism, or any other topic of mutual interest. The one sin to be avoided is gossip.


Mothership

As we enter 2019, Cliff Cottage is transitioning.

Mothership has been selected as the generic name for the constellation of products and services provided by the central server rack at Cliff Cottage. While cloud is a buzzword referring, especially, to somebody else’s server, we tried to find a specific cloud variety that we could use for a name. Our choice refers to one of the most beastly type of clouds found on earth.

Mothership Clouds, also referred to as Supercell Thunderstorms, bring long-lived, dangerous storms with strong updrafts and rotation. They generate violent (F2-F5) tornadoes, cause downburst damage and produce large hailstones. Warm, humid conditions promote rapid lifting of air, quick changes of wind speed and/or direction increase rotational speed.

Mothership Cloud (Photo: Nevadanista) See: https://icons.wunderground.com/data/wximagenew/n/nevadanista/5-800.jpg

A mothership is also a large vehicle/ vessel/ craft that leads, serves or carries other smaller vehicles/ vessels/ craft, including aircraft or spacecraft. For our purposes, it is a large digital device serving a number of smaller devices/ computers/ peripherals.

For the past 14 years, we have used an ADSL-based internet, which was a dramatic improvement over a dial-up modem. We have now gone over to fiber-optic broadband and cut out our landline. Our handheld personal devices, aka cell phones, are being updated to more advanced variants. We have replaced our inkjet printer, with a laser printer. CAT 6A cables are being installed throughout the house. While our network speed is currently 50 Mb up and down, increasing speeds to 1 Gb is simply an email away. So this is probably the last major communications upgrade in our lifetime.

In another post, a clustered NAS (Network Attached Storage) server system has been discussed (2018-06-21). This is still the goal. While we are not there yet, we are replacing our current NAS, with one designed and built by Alasdair. While we previously maxed out at 24 TB of data, the new NAS will start off with 40 TB. It is expandable to 120 TB. While many of the components are old and used, they are more appropriate for our needs. Typically, they are commercial products, produced by Cisco, but made redundant in commercial environments.

It is not my intention to publish further details about the Mothership in this web-log, at the moment. Rather, detailed information will be made available after a period of implementation and testing, to ensure that proposed solutions work properly.

If you, your close friends or family have developed technological solutions to modern problems, please consider making them freely available, and publishing them in a web-blog, or through other channels.