Stuff Yaron Finds Interesting

Technology, Politics, Food, Finance, etc.

Reviews of well, everything and anything

Inhuman Bondage – A Book Review

Inhuman Bondage - The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World by Dr. David Brion Davis is a summary of Dr. David's research into slavery in the "New World" (i.e. the Americas). Although wonderfully written the subject matter makes it a hard read.While I have no illusions about the barbarity of humanity reading the details is still a hard task. But a worthwhile one. What I give below is but the thinest summary of some of the key points made in the book. The book itself is incredibly rich with endless detail and anecdote to make the history come alive. I heartily recommend the book.

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I Shall Not Hate – A book review

Dr. Abuelaish, the author of the book, has suffered in ways that are awful to contemplate. The book explores the doctor and his family's history, how he achieved what he has, who his family was and how he has reacted to what has happened along with some ruminations on how the Israeli/Palestinian peace process can move forward.

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Griftopia – A book review

There have been plenty of books on the financial crises but most aren't quite as entertaining and, to be frank, potty mouthed, as this one. Matt Taibbi is a muck racking reporter for the Rolling Stone who, I suspect, will be the first up against the wall when our corporate overlords decide they can stop even pretending to care about the rule of law. The book lays out some of the facts about how exactly a bunch of insanely greedy evil doers destroyed our economy with the active help of 'our' government. I can't say these folks are criminals because we live in a criminal state where the evil doers simply have the laws changed to make their acts legal. In this blog article I look at the part of his book that deals with the mortgage crises.

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Anarchy Alive! – A book review

Anarchy Alive by Uri Gordon is an overview of the modern Anarchist movement. Dr. Gordon is an active member of the Anarchy scene and he wrote this book from his perspective as an activist. The book attempts to explain the characteristics of the modern Anarchist movement and the issues Dr. Gordon thinks it needs to address.

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Four Views on Free Will – A book review

What is free will? This book presents the views of four different philosophers on the topic. The book defines free will via a question - what are the prerequisites for someone to be held morally responsible for their actions? What is especially great about this book is that the authors could see each other's sections in the book so that as the book progresses each author can refer to what the authors in the sections before them said. Then at the end each of the four authors gets another chapter in which they can refer fully to what the other three authors said and respond. I especially liked the fact that the authors really engaged with each other's points rather than just throwing stones at each other. Below I explore the key points that each of the authors made and why I'm not fully buying any of it.

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11/2/2010 General Election Seattle, King County, Washington

It's voting time again. I still don't know why I bother. But here I am. Scroll down to see details about why I am voting the way I list.

  • Initiative Measure No. 1053 - No

  • Initiative Measure No. 1082 - No

  • Initiative Measure No. 1098 - No

  • Initiative Measure No. 1100 - No

  • Initiative Measure No. 1105 - No

  • Initiative Measure No. 1107 - No

  • Referendum Bill No. 52 - No

  • Amendment to the State Constitution Senate Joint Resolution No. 8225 - Yes

  • Amendment to the State Constitution Engrossed Substitute House Joint Resolution No. 4220 - No

  • Charter Amendment No. 1 Amendments to the Preamble - No

  • Charter Amendment No. 2 Amendment of Section 690 - Campaign Finance - Yes

  • Charter Amendment No. 3 Amendment of Section 890 and New Section 897 - Collective Bargaining - No

  • Proposition No. 1 Sales and Use Tax for Criminal Justice, Fire Protection, and Other Government Purposes - No

  • Seattle School District No. 1 Proposition No. 1 Supplemental Operations Levy - No

  • United States Senator - Patty Murray

  • United States Representative Congressional District No. 7 - Jim McDermott

  • State Representative Legislative District No. 46 - Position 2 - Phyllis G. Kenney

  • Seattle Municipal Court Judge Position No. 1 - Edsonya Charles

  • Seattle Municipal Court Judge Position No. 6 - Karen Donohue

  • State Supreme Court Justice Position No. 6 - Richard B. Sanders

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For more years than I care to count I have been a happy customer of First Tech credit union. Their website has always been top notch and the service I received from them was the best. But now I find myself looking for a new bank and would welcome any suggestions.

My unhappiness started when First Tech's website was down for 5 days, worse yet, a scheduled 5 days, so they could upgrade their online banking. In this day and age to have a 5 day downtime for an upgrade is unacceptable. This is not the 1990s. This isn't even the 2000s.

Things only got worse when, according to their own notice the upgrade failed because after 5 days of being down they got three times their normal traffic and couldn't handle the load. Huh? You were down for 5 days, what the heck did you think was going to happen? Of course you're going to get a load spike! Their solution was to roll all of their website back to the old website so they could get back up and running while they figured out what to do about the extra load. The planning screw ups this situation called for are, well, concerning.

All of this was irritating but then there was the final straw. Their new on-line bill pay system wouldn't work for me. It kept saying my login failed. I sent mail to their help desk and they quickly responded (still good customer service). Their instructions were for me to reset my browser's security settings to accept third party cookies. What? I have to commit one of the most basic privacy mistakes and let everybody on the Internet trivially track me just so I can use your bill pay service?

This is a bank we're talking about. An institution which is supposed to be all about privacy. And they are so clueless that they think it's o.k. to require third party cookies? Their previous behavior already gave me good reason to question their technical competence but this is just over the top.

So does anyone have a recommendation for a bank with a solid web banking system that has a clue about privacy?

Chef’s Choice SmartKettle Model 688

I love green tea and its variants such as jasmine and genmaicha. But these teas only taste good to me when made with hot water around 160’s. Anything hotter just turns them into an acid brew. But seriously, sticking a thermometer into a cup to measure the heat just wasn’t working out. I bemoaned the lack of a kettle with a thermostat to save me. Thankfully Wired clued me in to a great solution – the Chef’s Choice SmartKettle Model 688. My wife was nice enough to buy me one, it works great and my green tea tastes outstanding!

11/3/2009 – General Election – Redmond, King County, Washington

Honestly, I don't know why i'm bothering with this. Now that we have gone to an all mail based ballot we have all but guaranteed that over time voter fraud will be the rule. There are just so many easy ways to cause ballots to 'spoil' (before if I screwed up a ballot the machine would tell me, now if there is a mistake I'm just out of luck), to connect who a person is with their ballot, to make ballot purchasing or coercion verifiable and therefore easy, that it's ridiculous. An all mail in ballot system is inherently an illegitimate voting system. We lost folks. There's no way around it. I don't know why I insist on going through the charade that our votes matter. Any system that makes fraud easy will be defrauded and an all mail in ballot system is the very definition of a 'fraud friendly' environment. But my guess is that the fraud will take a little while to start up in full bloom so until then I'll pretend my vote matters. I'll pretend my vote was received. I'll pretend that my vote was counted correctly. Because that's all the system leave me with, pretense.

  • Initiative Measure No. 1033 - NO

  • Referendum Measure No. 71 - APPROVED

  • King County Charter Amendment No. 1 - YES

  • King County Charter Amendment No. 2 - YES

  • King County Charter Amendment No. 3 - YES

  • King County Charter Amendment No. 4 - YES

  • King County Executive - Dow Constantine

  • Sheriff - Sue Rahr

  • King County Assessor - Bob Rosenberger

  • Metropolitan King County Council District No. 3 - Kathy Lambert

  • Court of Appeals, Division No. 1, District No.1 Judge Position No. 3 - Anne L. Ellington

  • Port of Seattle Commissioner Position No. 1 - John Creighton

  • Port of Seattle Commissioner Position No. 3 - Rob Holland

  • Port of Seattle Commissioner Position No. 4 - Tom Albro

  • City of Redmond - Council Position No. 2 - John P. (Pat) Vache

  • City of Redmond - Council Position No. 4 - Kim Allen

  • City of Redmond - Council Position No. 6 - John Stilin

  • Lake Washington School District No. 414 Director District No. 3 - Nancy Phillips Bernard

  • Lake Washington School District No. 414 Director District No. 4 - Doug Eglington

  • Public Hospital District No. 2 - Commissioner District No. 1 - Al F. DeYoung

  • Public Hospital District No. 2 -Commissioner Position No. 4 - Charles A. Pilcher

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