My youngest reader

August 23, 2019 Incoherent ramblings No comments ,

My nephew Jake is a prodigy, and is already tackling QM!

Two more books dispatched: Art of the Deal, and Deception Point.

August 3, 2019 Incoherent ramblings, Reviews No comments , , , ,

I’ve been working hard to take down my backlog of books to read, and have now finished two more.

1) Trump’s: The Art of the Deal.

Other possible alternate titles for this book would be “How I financed my projects at others’ expense using  tax rebates and other tricks”, and “How I used PR to get what I want.”  Reading this leaves you with the slightly nauseous feeling that you have after talking to a slimy used car salesman.  A lot of what was stated left me with the feeling that relevant facts were being omitted.  I’d like to see a fact checking “Coles Notes” for this book, and to look at how the projects that are named in the book are doing now.

I am inclined to enumerate all the people that Trump mentions in the book and dig into the relationships that Trump took the time to name drop in this book.  Trump’s pedophile buddy Epstein didn’t make the cut in the book, but Adnan Khashoggi did. A lot of the other names I didn’t recognize.

EDIT: here’s some backstory on the book.  Included in that article was one more interesting name drop, Roy Cohn, Trump’s lawyer.  That name may have been mentioned in the book, but if so, I didn’t recognize it when I read that part of the book.  With Epstein’s case reactivated, I now recognize Cohn’s name from Whitney Webb’s writing [1], [2] and her interview with Pierce Redmond.

2) Dan Brown’s: Deception point.

This book would be a lot better as a movie. Like a lot of Michael Crichton books, this one moves very fast, but is pretty shallow, as well as predictable and probably forgettable.  I did enjoy it, but it’s definitely not one to keep, and I intend to bring it to the second hand bookstore, or if they don’t want it, to the communal take-or-leave a book shelf at the recycling depot.


[1] Hidden in Plain Sight: The Shocking Origins of the Jeffrey Epstein Case

[2] Government by Blackmail: Jeffrey Epstein, Trump’s Mentor and the Dark Secrets of the Reagan Era

Gatto’s “Dumbing Us Down”

July 20, 2019 Incoherent ramblings 1 comment , , ,


I’ve just read John Taylor Gatto’s “Dumbing Us Down, the hidden curriculum of compulsory schooling.”  I’ve heard Brett Veinotte on the School Sucks Podcast talk about Gatto’s exposition of the origins of the North American school system.  Given that, I expected a lot more from this particular book.  Instead this book is a largely a collection of speeches, converted into essay form, as opposed to a systematic deconstruction of the school system.

I did enjoy those essays, but my reaction included a lot of “Sir, you are preaching to the choir.”  I am guessing that the book that I really wanted was his “The Underground History of American Education“, which weighs in at ~450 pages.

A interesting video with some analysis of the Wim Hof method

July 14, 2019 Incoherent ramblings 3 comments , , ,

I’d heard the Wim Hof interview on Joe Rogan a while ago, which was pretty interesting.

Due to the indoctrination of my youth(*), I recognize that I’m predisposed to the idea that the mind can control the body, so the techniques that Wof described in the Rogan podcast seemed plausible.  However, that plausibility wasn’t enough to make me want to spend the money me to purchase his book.

I have to admit that I did try some Wim Hof style intense breathing before jumping in the late fall 50F pool, after some time in the hot tub.  I suspect that I was not doing the breathing exercises correctly.  At that pool temperature, without the ablity to self-regulate my body heat, I find that I don’t warm up, even after a number of laps.

For anybody that finds the idea of body self regulation interesting, here is some analysis of the Wim Hof method on the medlife youtube channel.  It may not be the way to acquire Bene Gesserit like abilities, however,  if you also have the urge to play the hot-tub/cold-pool alternation game, or climb mountains, it does sound like the breathing techniques are worth knowing.


(*) I grew up Scientology household where the actor at the head of the body-mind-spirit story is an all-powerful entity, somewhat akin to a Jin, but in need of significant re-training.

Two monitors wasn’t enough

July 12, 2019 Incoherent ramblings No comments

I’ve got a double headed set of thunderbolt Mac monitors for most of my work, but do most of my work through ssh to a pair of headless Intel NUCs

Those are the systems where I run my “mainframes”.  Every couple months I usually end up re-imaging one or both of my NUCs, which is a bit of a pain, since I need a monitor attached for that operation, and the Mac monitors are designed to not work with anything non-apple, and don’t even have an HDMI input.  This means hauling out an old VGA LCD monitor that floats around the house, scrambling around to find an HDMI/VGA adapter, and then putting it all away when I’m done.

With a reimage of my “nuc2″ overdue, I bit the bullet and forked out $60 CAD for a cute little 7” LCD Starto brand monitor that I can keep on my desk for when I need it:

I’ll also be able to bring it on the road with me with one of the NUCs, like when I go to the office in Zurich, or to the Raincode office in Brussels, since I always need a temporary display to find my IP address on such trips (at home I can use the fing app on my phone to find my IP address after boot.)  The new monitor looks a little funny against the backdrop of the giant Mac monitors (see it hiding right between them behind the mac itself), but it will do the job nicely for the very occasional uses I’ll have for it.

“Space” by James Michener

July 7, 2019 Reviews No comments , ,

I’d picked up the book “Space” by Michener at my local second hand book store, over on Markham Rd:

Google says the store is called “Alfsen House Books“, but I don’t remember ever seeing a sign.

I’m pretty sure I’ve read a few Michener books over the years, including (I think) Mexico, the Covenant, and the Source.  Of these, “the Source” I remember most.  All of these I probably read it in my late teens, which was way too long ago, so I have only vague recollections of them, but I definitely found all of them amazing at the time of reading.  When I grabbed Space at the bookstore, using up whatever credit I had from bringing in books, I didn’t remember having read it.

However, with each page I read, it was like deja-vu.  This was a book I’d definitely read, and hard to believe that I’d forgotten doing so.  Michener books, if you haven’t read any, are all elaborately constructed histories, full of amazing backstory, and the interleaved lives of the characters that make up the stories.  This particular book interleaves the stories of rocket engineers, test pilots, politicians, and their families, as well as the history of the US space program.  It was really fun, ~25 years later, to read it a second time.  This story covers older aspects of the  space program (even compared to when I read it), but it has aged really well.

Years from now, if I see another copy of this book (my current copy is pretty mangled now as I read large chunks of it in the hot tub), hopefully I’ll remember having read twice before, and opt for something new instead.


July 6, 2019 Incoherent ramblings 4 comments


The following was a rough outline for some words I said at Mom’s service.


Mom always seemed a lot like an unstoppable force.  Anybody that knew her would probably agree, so a sudden diagnosis of cancer came as a shock to us all.  It’s still hard to believe.  Even with her body treasonously shutting down, mom wasn’t finished living, and was making long term plans.  Those plans including continuing her roles as mother, grandmother, musician, and wife.  It looks like Mom will have to defer and change some of her plans.


Mom had five kids, myself, Krista, Erik, Karin, and Devin.  We grew up fairly poor, not just compared to kids in “the beaches” (with their double lawyer/doctor families), but the household income was low enough that we would have qualified for welfare and other social assistance.  Mom wasn’t about to stoop to the level of accepting any such assistance.  She worked so hard, that I don’t think we kids really thought of ourselves as poor.


Money was tight enough that very little food was ever wasted, even in extreme situations.  There was once a time that mom had scrounged enough to treat us to a home-made cake.  We didn’t have air conditioning in that rented house, so the cake (left to cool on the kitchen table before it could be iced) was accessible to anybody that happened to be able to walk in the open front or back doors.  A happy little family of racoons invited themselves in that day and sat themselves at the kitchen table to eat the cake that had been left there for them so nicely.  Mom walked in on the dining party and screamed.  This wasn’t the scream of somebody finding these little beasts in the house, but of having the cake (which she had worked hard to provide and to make) violated – it was supposed to have been a treat for her kids.  Within seconds we all rushed to see what was going on and things degenerated into a chaotic Benny Hill like scene, with a human family chasing a family of racoons in circles on the main floor, through the kitchen, living room, dining room and back into the kitchen, and eventually out the doors.  Mom tried to salvage the remains of the cake, pleading with us to eat it, exclaiming that “It’s still good!”


Mom, who was a Scientologist, was a model of the Scientology “make it go right” attitude, and we learned that attitude by example.  She may have had a shoestring budget, but she was able to see to all our basic requirements, clothes and housing, and of course healthy food.  If that meant working a day job, performing late into each night in those smoky piano bars, carrying 3 mortgages, and self-financing her “Checking out of Lonely” album, then so be it.  She didn’t let anything get in the way of what needed to be done, and we grew up with her demonstrating, by example, that we could do anything that we set our minds to.


Mom was really proud of all of us.  Whatever we happened to be doing, mom raved to everybody about it.  She insisted that her kids and grandkids were the best artists, students, photographers, athletes, gymnasts, musicians, and performers.  Roles that I got to play for mom included artisan, artist, father of grandkids, engineer, and author.  As an author, it happens that my total book sales number 37 (a third of that to family), but a mere fact like that would not dissuade her from a belief that I was her brilliant published author.  As kids I think that we all knew that Mom didn’t have an objective opinion of us, and that we weren’t brilliant because “our mom said so”.  Despite that, her absolute confidence in our abilities and our capabilities made a big difference in our lives.  Like her “make it go right” attitude, we were encouraged to follow our desires and goals where ever they led us.  I don’t think that many kids are given such unrestricted opportunities for self-direction, and we were really lucky to have had Mom as a role model, guide and mentor.


Mom was incredibly smart and talented.  I think it would be fair to describe her as a musical prodigy, and she could play intricate piano pieces at a very young age.  I’m not sure how many instruments she could play, but they included piano, guitar, voice and even accordion.  She could hear just a couple song fragments, and then be able to play them.  Her music note books mostly contain only the lyrics to songs, and perhaps a chord annotation or two, since (to her) there was no point writing down anything more.  She could even listen to music from memory as if she was hearing it played.  Music was an integral part of mom’s life.  You couldn’t put music on in the background, since its mere existence required that she stop and listen.  That intensity translated to an ability to touch and move people through music that was phenomenal.


I remember mom telling me about a time when she was a kid and snuck some time at the piano to furiously and vigorously play a Beethoven piece.  It was a piece which she wasn’t allowed to play, because it wasn’t ladylike to do play that kind of music.  Granddad almost caught her, and while she looked at him very guiltily, he told her gently “it’s okay Helen, you can play my Beethoven record.”  I’ve wondered what a very young mom would have looked like, pounding the piano, playing that forbidden music?  Granddad moved for work a number of times, which provided Mom with opportunities to skip grades a number of times.  I think that she said she started college around 16, and she finished so young that her parents still had legal custody of her.  After college, she found a composer that she found inspirational, and was able to talk her parents into letting her go to Canada to do a master’s in composition at the University of Toronto.


In Toronto Mom met dad, had all of us, transitioned to single-motherhood, and eventually met and married Wade, who I would describe as her soul-mate.  Mom and Wade shared a too brief 20+ year life together, touring the United States as together as a dynamic duo delivering “The Wade Henry Show”.  Mom’s musical performances tapered off in this time or her life, but despite that, she still continued to inspire and spread joy in all the relationships she formed around the country.  If you were to color the path of Mom and Wade around the USA on a map, it would look as if some kids had scribbled all over it!


Mom built relationships all over the scribbled path of her life, and she touched the hearts of countless people as she went.  Mom, I don’t have good words to describe how much I’ll miss you, and I wonder where you will end up next.  I hope that you end up with a nice sturdy set of hiking boots for the next steps of your adventure, where ever that may take you.

Getting closer to a JCL one liner equivalent to Unix head -1.

June 14, 2019 Mainframe No comments , , , , , , , ,

I was somewhat bemused by how much JCL it took to do the equivalent of a couple ‘head -1’ commands.  It was pointed out to me that INDATASET, OUTDATASET can be used to eliminate all the DD lines, and that all but the SYSPRINT DDs for IDCAMS were not actually required.  This allows the JCL for these pair of ‘head -1’ commands to be shortened to:

The REPRO lines still have to be split up because of the annoying punch-card derived 72 column restrictions of JCL. Note that to use OUTDATASET in this way, I had to sacrifice the JCL shell variable expansion that I had been using. To retain my shell variables (SET TID=UT; SET CID=UT128) I still need DDNAME statements to do the shell expansion in JCL proper, since that doesn’t occur in the SYSIN specification.  Translated to Unix, we must think of this sort of SYSIN “file” as being single and not double quoted (unlike a Unix <<EOF…EOF inline file where shell script are expanded).  The JCL is left reduced to:

Note that since I opted to retain the DDNAME statements, the REPRO lines are now short enough to each fit on a single line.

It turns out that there’s also a way to do variable expansion within the SYSIN, essentially treating something like a Unix double quoted script variable.  You need to explicitly export the symbols in the JCL prologue using EXPORT SYMLIST, and then import them in the SYSIN specification using SYMBOLS=CNVTSYS

I’ve switched to IDS and ODS to make the lines shorter, which makes it possible for one of the REPRO lines to be a one liner (with 6 lines of helper code).  The final JCL line count weighs in at 8:2 vs. Unix, but is not as bad as the original JCL I constructed (22 lines.)

Book reflection: My Estonia, by Justin Petrone

June 13, 2019 Reviews No comments , , ,

My brother was tearing through this book when I saw him last, enjoying it thoroughly. It’s a book about the relationship of the author (Justin) with his Estonian girlfriend and eventually wife, as well as anecdotes about Estonia itself and some of the people encountered by Justin along the way.

My brother was amused by the characterization of Estonians as unfeeling and emotionless, and said that he saw aspects of that in Dad and himself. I don’t see that in him, nor in myself. I’m also not really sure how much of that characterization of Dad is due to Estonian heritage vs. having had a rather hard life as a refugee, having had an absentee father, and having that topped off with an abusive drunk of a stepfather. Dad left Estonia at age 2, so there was limited cultural exposure available to him. I’m inclined to believe that the emotionless aspect of Estonians portrayed in this book is more nurture than nature, so I’m not sure how much of Dad’s personality can really be ascribed to being Estonian.

Having grown up with blood sausage as a special treat at Vanaema’s* house, I really can’t understand how Justin can object to it. Who wouldn’t like bloodsausage – it’s so good!

I was amused that the Finns were aiming to take over the world one Sauna at a time. I wonder if the Sauna at Vanaema’s old house is still there? The Finns never took over that Sauna.

I don’t speak, nor understand Estonian.  I always imagined that it would make a super code language, and I love the sound of it.  We never spoke it in the house, with only one half of mom and dad knowing the language.  Dad was not terribly encouraging about the idea of learning the language, saying that it’s almost impossible for somebody to learn if they didn’t grow up with it.  It was encouraging to hear of Justin learning Estonian, so maybe there’s hope for me in the long run.

This was an amusing book, and I’d like to read the followup stories. I just hope that now that Justin is both married, has had his child, and has valid immigration papers, he manages to shelf his anxiety.

(*) Vanaema == grandmother, literally, old mother.

JCL equivalent of head -1.

June 12, 2019 Mainframe 1 comment , , , ,

Suppose you wanted to do the equivalent of the following Unix shell code on the mainframe in JCL:


Here’s the JCL equivalent of this pair of one-liners:

There are probably shorter ways to do this, but the naive way weighs in at 22:2 lines for JCL:Unix — damn!

I can’t help but to add a punny comment that knowing JCL must have once been really good JOB security.