2019-10-06 Sun: Sunny Sunday, back to books.

I promised myself I was going to get away from the computer keyboard and spend some time outdoors today, and that's what I did. In addition to a quick grocery run, I took a low-key run/walk around the block. It was sunny and cool, temperatures around 64 to 69F during the day.

I want to get back on one of my reading/writing projects this year - my series of Toni Morrison reviews - after a long hiatus. I'm working on TM's sixth novel, 'Jazz', right now. It's set in Harlem in 1926/27; the story was inspired in part by a photograph of a young dead woman at her funeral, and in part by Morrison's discovery of her mother's trunk of memorabilia. The language is magical, mysterious, and mystical, even by Toni Morrison standards. The voice of the unidentified, omniscient narrator is powerful and hypnotic, and you get drawn deep into the characters and their inner lives, their secret loves and obsessions.

Also been reading 'A City In Its Fullness' by S. Y. Agnon. The English edition I'm reading is a selection of tales from the original Hebrew edition (which comprised over 140 stories). It took me a while to warm to Agnon at first but he is definitely growing on me. There is so much going on beneath the surface. (I feel certain that the final comment at the end of 'The Hazzanim [cantors]' is intentionally humorous, since in fact the story is not mainly about the [male] cantors but rather about two women, Miriam Devora and Rivka Henya.)

Tonight, early to bed; tomorrow, back to work.

5780: The year so far.

Germany: 'A 23-year-old Syrian armed with a knife on Friday ran into a Berlin synagogue, and was arrested at the entrance. According to eyewitnesses, the Syrian yelled "Allahu akhbar" and anti-Israel statements. ...' He was questioned and released.

France: 'A staffer at Paris police headquarters who stabbed four colleagues to death on Thursday adhered to "a radical vision of Islam", an anti-terror prosecutor said Saturday, according to AFP. The 45-year-old computer expert had been in contact with members of Salafism, an ultra-conservative branch of Sunni Islam, and defended "atrocities committed in the name of that religion", Jean-Francois Ricard was quoted as having told reporters. ... The assailant, named as Mickael Harpon, was shot dead by a policeman, who was a trainee at the police headquarters. ... Harpon held a high-level "defense secrets" security clearance, which authorized him to handle sensitive information of national defense importance and would have subjected him to regular, stringent security checks.'

Australia: Twelve-year-old Jewish boy harassed, beaten, forced to kiss feet of Muslim boy. 'AFTER term two began, so did the antisemitic name-calling. “Jewish ape”, “Jewish n****r” and “Jewish gimp” were just some of the slurs hurled towards Taylor. He silently took the verbal abuse. ... BUT it was the reaction of the school – both immediately and in the ensuing weeks – that left Karen bemused and ultimately, devastated. They refused to label the incidents as antisemitic. ...'

Canada: 'On 29 Sept., 2019, antifa and allied left-wing protesters rioted outside an event in Hamilton, Ontario featuring Dave Rubin and conservative politician Maxime Bernier. "She was crying, hands were shaking," queer activist Jackson Gates tells me. "She was petrified."' Via my friend Andy Ngo.

2019-10-02: Passing score 720, my score ...

... 679. So, no Network+ certification this time round, but now I know what to expect and what I need to study. Considering I've never worked in networking and had no formal training, I think I did OK for a first attempt.

The main thing is, I got over my fear of taking the test. My earlier test - for A+ certification, that's the entry-level cert for work in IT - was some five years ago. I knew if I kept putting off the Net+ test, I'd just keep on dreading it, and I didn't want to risk it being one of those things I would never get around to doing. So I jumped right in. The test fee wasn't cheap (about half a week's pay) but I think it was time and money well spent.

Next steps are to continue self-training (there are some very good courses online at LinkedIn Learning) and get ready for school next year. I've enrolled in the local community college for a two-year program in Computer Information Science, plus lower-division credits towards a Mathematics degree.

That means I'll be starting with basic courses like Computing Concepts (maybe elementary, but I'm sure even that will fill in some gaps in my knowledge) and going on to Microsoft Server and Linux; plus I'll be re-taking Calculus 2 and 3, and Linear Algebra, and then tackling Differential Equations. That'll all be happening in calendar years 2020 and 2021.

So, I'm stoked about moving forward.


Victor Davis Hanson on the decline of higher education.

Overwhelmingly liberal and often hippish in appearance, American faculty of the early 1970s still only rarely indoctrinated students or bullied them to mimic their own progressivism. Rather, in both the humanities and sciences, students were taught the inductive method of evaluating evidence in hopes of finding some common explanation of natural and human phenomena.

Yes, we studied “mere” facts—dates, names, grammar, syntax, and formulae—but deliberately to ground or refute theories with evidence and to illustrate and enhance argumentation. Essays bled red by old masters of English prose style, whose efforts were aimed at ensuring students could communicate effectively but also with a sense of grace. ...

What went wrong? The former students of the 1970s came into power and gradually began to reject the very code of conduct and training of those who taught them. And in turn they taught a new generation who for the first time had little first-hand knowledge of the great campus scholars and icons of the past. ...'

Michael Weingrad on a science-fiction novel with shadows of anti-Semitism.

'In the alternate timestream of The Smoke, the United States never came to global dominance; instead, a volcanic eruption in the 19th century made parts of North America uninhabitable. Meanwhile, in Europe, World War I came to an early and decisive end in 1916 when a precociously invented atom bomb was dropped on Berlin. As for World War II and the Holocaust, they never happened. A passing comment informs us that, in the world of The Smoke, Adolf Hitler choked to death on a grape.

What, then, became of the Jews? Something much more consequential: in response to mass pogroms against the Jews in 1917, Lenin gave to the Jewish socialist Bundists a home in Soviet Birobidzhan, the bleak Siberian outpost that in real life was proclaimed by the Communists as a (rather unsuccessful) Jewish ethnic territory. There, a Jewish scientist affiliated with the Bund develops a new technology, dubbed the “Gurwitsch ray” after its inventor. In the novel, the “G-ray” enables the Bundists to leapfrog past the rest of the world in technological advancement.

The ray would seem to be Ings’s cipher for technological progress itself. ...'

Gay Republican Mauro Garza to challenge Rep. Joaquin Castro in San Antonio (TX-21).

Garza, who ran unsuccessfully for the nomination to the District 21 Congressional seat in 2018, said he was actually prompted to challenge Castro by the 'doxxing' of Trump supporters by the Congressman.

"No one has a right to incite violence against others or promote the destruction of private property held by others simply because of passionate political disagreements." Garza said. "Freedom cannot survive in an environment where one side thinks the other side is evil and not merely incorrect."'

'We wouldn’t be shooting it down.'

“Why? Because there are things in this world that are more important than ourselves. Freedom. The Constitution of the United States. Our way of life. Mom, baseball, apple pie; these things and so many more that make us uniquely American. We belong to something greater than ourselves. As complex and diverse and discordant as it is, this thing, this idea called America, binds us together in citizenship and community and brotherhood.”

2019-09-10 Tuesday evening: Random journal entry!

The rainy season has well and truly begun, and we even got a little lightning and thunder this afternoon. Oh, and a tornado made a brief appearance near Portland the other day.

Work continues to go well - I've been at Green Hills for 7 months now and am getting comfortable with the job. I'm keeping my eyes open for new opportunities, though.

And with various other obligations finally out of the way, the path is finally almost clear for me to take that Network+ certification test, which will be another selling point I can put on my resume and hopefully increase my earning power.

Going forward, I'm hammering out the details of an education plan. I'll probably start with technical courses like Server Administration and Network Administration at Portland Community College, then start working towards a Mathematics degree. At some point I'll transfer back to Portland State for that.

My new toy.

I don't generally have a strong brand loyalty around tech products, but I will admit I am a diehard BlackBerry fan. I had to give up my BlackBerry Classic in 2014, when the BBOS ecosystem was in its last days and I needed to be able to run Android apps.

Today marks my return to the world of BlackBerry ownership, with my brand spankin' new KeyOne.

I also get a new phone number from ATT with an Oregon area code - and I can finally say goodbye to that 415 number that's been following me around since I lived in San Francisco.

How does it work?

I'm in the process of putting together an education plan. Historically, my big Achilles' heel has been that I'm interested in a million different things, and I've ended up dabbling in a lot of subjects without earning a degree (or even decent grades). So, that needs to change.

What I'm doing now for work is IT help desk at a technology manufacturing firm. (They don't make consumer products or anything you'd be likely to see the company's brand name on; mostly it's semiconductors and radio equipment.) My first order of business is to get signed up for some community college courses that will directly help me at work: CS and particularly CIS courses like Microsoft Operating Systems, Server Administration, and that sort of thing.

I don't really have that strong an interest in computer technology per se - my interests tend to be more directly sciencey. Mathematics, physics, engineering.

Deep down, I've always wanted to know, "How does it work?" Not "How does it work, what button do I push?", but "How does it WORK? What makes it go?"

But the fact remains, you do need to know what button to push. And I can tell you from experience that there are a lot of engineers out there who HAVEN'T GOT A CLUE what button to push - and that's why I have a job.

So, math and physics down the road. But for now, computer technology.

2019-08-18 Sunday evening: New beginnings.

From everything I heard, the demo was a huge success for the conservative side. I had feared the worst, and I couldn't have been happier to be wrong. The police were out in force and did their jobs. Amber had this to say:

Just want to say again GREAT JOB PORTLAND. You finally got the presidents attention and lets hope these punks called Antifa are labeled terrorists. Great job , I couldn't be prouder :)

As for me, I'd planned to make a trip into Portland today to take care of miscellaneous stuff, but ended up staying home and having a leisurely / productive day doing stuff around the house.

With the SF trip behind me, I'm looking forward to settling down into a routine, and seeing what new things will develop in my life.