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About the Iowa Caucuses - it's about the tickets, not the winners

People are talking about who won Iowa, who lost Iowa, etc. - and it really doesn't matter.

Iowa's caucuses serves two purposes. First, although it's less true than it used to be, it's small size is the equivalent of opening a play off Broadway. You have a chance to get attention for less than it would cost in California, etc. Someone who doesn't have a chance can make a splash and get attention.

Second, we kick people out of the race. You don't have to win in Iowa, being #1 is just bragging rights. But you have to show you're serious and can get some following, or your run is over. This is usually called "earning a ticket out of Iowa". There's always two tickets out of Iowa, usually three tickets, rarely four. If you got a ticket, that's a win. If you didn't get a ticket, that's a loss. Whether you got the #1, #2, or #3 ticket really doesn't matter.

So Cruz, Trump, and Rubio continue their campaigns, and maybe Carson convinces himself "I've still got a chance". Everyone else goes home, disappointed but without the debts from a full campaign. On the other side - Clinton and Sanders fight on, and O'Malley probably folds his tent soon.

Does this mean that some candidates get weeded out who shouldn't? Depends on the meaning of "shouldn't". Neither Cruz nor Trump nor Rubio would've been my choice if I'd still lived in Iowa (but then, none of the candidates had my enthusiastic support). But it's no surprise that the others would be sad today, or any real reason to think they'd do really well elsewhere, the only surprise tonight is how well Rubio did.


Posted on February 1, 2016, 9:14 pm

Donald Brown

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The HTTPS mandate - annoying, overreaching, not the apocalypse

Google's Chrome browser and Mozilla's Firefox browser will soon be flagging sites that aren't encrypted. This is a minor annoyance to me, a greater annoyance to Dave Winer, and from what I've read, confusion with others. So here's my take on it:

First, the basics, what is HTTPS (skip ahead if you know this) - much of the web's core systems were designed when the Internet was used by a small group of relatively trustworthy academic types. One of the side effects is that data is sent unencrypted. So when you go to a website and either see a kitten picture, or discuss your medical conditions, or do online banking, anyone on the network could see whatever you do and capture anything you type. So yes, anyone on your network can see that you're reading this blog.

HTTPS is an improvement to encrypt everything between your browser and the web server. Not only can others not see what you're typing or reading, they can't even see what pages you're visiting. This is important for a number of activities like online banking or buying stuff online, and great for things you want to keep private. There are those who want to keep everything private, and wish every site was HTTPS - but can't because many websites don't support it.

To support HTTPS with your website, you need to buy a certificate from a place like SSLs.com, set it up on your website, and start giving out URLs with https:// instead of http:// - this has gotten a lot cheaper in the past few years, and easier. But it is an expense, and something you need to keep updated on the server.

BTW, there are two types of SSL certificates. There are verified certificates, where they make sure that I am indeed the one and only GadgetDon, doing business as gadgetdon. These are more expensive, and you have to jump through a number of hoops to qualify for it. Apple Computer has done this, as has Google, so when you visit those sites you know it's the real thing. Unverified certificates say nothing about who owns the site and just encrypts. And that's plenty for the vast, vast majority of sites.

Until recently, unencrypted was the norm, encrypted sites using https were less common and marked with a "lock" in the URL address bar. And a generation of education about "before you enter sensitive data, look for the lock!"

What's changing now

Firefox and Chrome browsers are going to put up a symbol on unencrypted sites, in part to warn users when their data isn't being encrypted and in part to push more websites into using https.

(1) They aren't blocking unencrypted sites, they aren't putting up a big warning saying "WARNING! THIS SITE IS DANGEROUS" (like they do with sites with known malware), it's just a small icon.

(2) I'm not sold on the need of this. But I'm a pretty advanced user and once every few months I do encounter a website where I think "damn, this should be encrypted". So what's the tradeoff between warnings on the vast majority of unencrypted sites that really don't matter that they're unencrypted vs. the few that REALLY need warnings on them? Google and Chrome came down on "warn"

(3) If you're on the fence of whether to encrypt your site, I'd say "go for it". I'm not encrypting, but there are a few articles I didn't write because it could be sensitive. Side effect - if you are getting email from the same server, your email gets encrypted too, and some of that CAN be sensitive. And it's never been cheaper or easier to encrypt it.

(4) After all these years seeing how few people notice a "lock" icon or favicons - I doubt that many people will even notice the icon. Those who do, most will understand "oh it's just saying it's not encrypted" - and if it doesn't matter, won't care.

Posted on January 31, 2016, 4:30 pm
Last updated on January 31, 2016, 4:41 pm

Donald Brown

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T-Mobile's Binge On is a Net Neutrality violation. Which is Net Neutrality's fatal flaw

Samsung has a deal where if you buy a 4K Samsung TV, you get a free Samsung Galaxy 6. While I'm not in the market for a 4K TV of any brand nor particularly interested in a Galaxy 6, this is considered a good thing for the customer. On a much smaller stage, this past summer, the local grocery store offered a tub of free Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream with purchase of some frozen pizzas (and yes, I took advantage of the deal, the pizza was OK but the ice cream was great).

Apparently, I conspired to a violation of Ice Cream Neutrality, the grocery store picking winners and losers in the ice cream market. Except nobody talks about Ice Cream Neutrality. And what's considered acceptable behavior in every other market, make customers happy and thus loyal by giving them FREE STUFF, is an attempt to control the Internet.

There are some potential risks of bad behavior by ISPs that justify many parts of Net Neutrality regulation. ISPs should NOT be allowed to block or artificially slow down traffic to sites they don't like or are in competition with services they provide. And if they get in bed with one provider, maybe that's iffy (really iffy there's any connection between that provider and the ISP).

But what T-Mobile has done with their music products and now video is provide free access to all the major players without counting against the monthly data limit. Does this put Joe's Video Shoppe at a disadvantage? Maybe. But they're already at a great disadvantage. And it's not like people only use one service. So for the three T-Mobile customers who do use Joe's Video Shoppe, they haven't been charged for the bandwidth used watching Netflix and Amazon Prime so it's easier to decide to stream stuff from Joe's Video Shoppe because you have more room.

More importantly - T-Mobile is providing FREE STUFF. Customers usually like regulations because they benefit them directly. They get protected from faulty stuff sold to them, they make sure prices are properly labelled, etc. (Yes, there are arguments that some regulations make things worse, make prices go up, etc. - but that's a side issue.) If those who are arguing that what T-Mobile does is a violation of Net Neutrality and the FCC must stop them get their way, the public is going to ask "what are we getting out of this? And legitimately so.


Posted on November 11, 2015, 12:42 am

Donald Brown

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Why I don't want sequels to movies I love like Inside Out

Just rewatched Inside Out. It has become my favorite Pixar movie. And one I pray will never get a sequel. Why?

I read something once, I think it was from David Gerrole, two basic rules of story-telling. The first is that it must be the most important story ever in the main character's life (or why are you telling THIS story instead of the other one?). The second is that there always has to be a lesson to be learned. There's no place like home, value you're friends, a hero is someone who keeps people safe. It doesn't HAVE to be learned, that's one thing that makes many tales into tragedies, but we as the audience should see someone not learning it.

Obviously these can't be taken as absolutes or as the only rules that matter. As I recall, he was pointing out how episodic TV like Star Trek had to break it (with many stories each season, and they could be aired in any order so characters had to end pretty much where they were). But when I look at the movies and books I love most, there's a lot of truth in it.

Sometimes, books are written as series (the Harry Potter series is one story, broken up into episodes). And sometimes, you get a great sequel by changing the focus of the story. (The Godfather Part II is largely the story of the son, and how it differs.) And sometimes, you can just break the rules and do great stuff.

But still, they aren't bad rules. And Inside Out is a great example. SPOILERS BELOW.

The main character of the movie is Joy, the main emotion of a girl named Riley. There's also Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust, but it's pretty much accepted that Joy is in charge, and a good day is when the memories are mostly joyful. A bad day is when Sadness gets near the memories or the console and Riley is sad.

Things go badly wrong, Joy and Sadness are sucked out of Headquarters with the core memories that make up Riley's personality, and the movie is mostly about the struggle to get back there (plus the problems that the other emotions have trying to run the show and the effect on Riley's life). In the process, Joy realizes that she's hurting, not helping Riley by keeping sadness locked away and not allowing her to work through the times she's unhappy. When Joy and Sadness return to Headquarters, she has Sadness take control, letting Riley cry out her troubles and have her parents see her unhappy and help her rather than relying on Riley to cheer everything up. Moving on, they now have a control where all emotions have a role to play, and the memories developed have twinges of multiple emotions.

It was a really great movie, the kind Pixar used to do but slipped a bit recently. It's also been financially successful and a critical hit. So I'm sure that Bob Iger, CEO of Disney, is thinking "sequel!"

Don't do it, Bob, don't do it.

This clearly was Joy and Sadness's most important story, that journey back. In the world they've created, the emotions never leave HQ, it's unheard of. So a story of another trip out just isn't reasonable. There will never be another story as big as this for the emotions. Yes, Riley will go on to bigger adventures, but Inside Out isn't about her except as the effect of the story that the emotions go through.

And more important - Joy has learned her lesson. She will want Riley to be happy and give her lots of happy memories, but she knows now that it's more complicated than that, that the other emotions have a role to play in Riley's development and mental health. To do a new story where she's unlearned that lesson, well, that's just going to make a very weak sequel.

That's not to say that I won't enjoy little shorts, like "Riley's First Date?", they can be short and cute and just for fun. Just no sequel.

BTW, I have very similar concerns about a sequel to The Incredibles. Mr. Incredible had to learn about living in the present, caring for his family and people around him. That's what lifted it from Just Another Superhero movie (and I say that as someone who often likes Just Another Superhero movie). Not sure where to go with a sequel, and apparently that question is what has delayed it. I trust Brad Byrd when he says that they got the right story for the sequel, but it's why I'm glad they did let it go so long.

Posted on November 7, 2015, 6:50 pm

Donald Brown

Dear Sigmund - Man, I've missed M*A*S*H

Was flipping through channels, and happened upon an old rerun of M*A*S*H. The episode was Dear Sigmund, where psychiatrist Sidney Freedman deals with depression by a visit to the 4077 MASH unit. I'd forgotten how good they mixed comedy and drama in 30 minutes.

I'm not sure I buy it, though, someone able to deal with depression by visiting the 4077. No, it's not clinical depression, it's experiential, so other experiences and ways of thinking can help one get out of it.  But as someone in a situation that's sometimes not so good, not sure experiencing people deal with it will help.

But don't overthink it. If you haven't seen it for a while, apparently it's on YouTube. Definitely worth a rewatch.

Posted on November 5, 2015, 10:02 pm

Donald Brown

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