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Quite a random ramble

Random action produces random results.

The last two weeks have been busy-busy, with little time for reflection.

It’s been the kind of busy-ness that leaves you (meaning me) tired and depleted but barely able to point to any accomplishment. At the end of the day, I ask myself what I did and can recall a lot of activity, signifying nothing.

In the last week, I even attended two Dreaded Social Events. One of them was actually a hoot; but that sort of thing saps all my creative and spiritual juices, sometimes for days afterward.

Oh, I also managed a smattering of drywall mudding, fabric dyeing, and housecleaning. But somehow the house got messy again already and I’m asking myself, “Why does that always happen?”

I did, at least, finally get that &^%$#! door done:

I slaved over it, thinking I was doing a good job. Then I looked closer, groaned, and decided my work required a heavy disguise. Thus you (meaning you) see faux stained and leaded glass in the eight outside lights and faux-faux stained glass in the large center light.

That is, I painted acrylic Gallery Glass on the eight and squeegied a vinyl cling sheet from Amazon in the middle. Result? Meh. But better.

It may not be great, but it’s as done as it’s going to get until The Wandering Monk arrives for the installation.

Someday, when I have more Gallery Glass than came in my garage-saled kit, I may take the door down again and replace the faux-faux stained glass in the center panel with authentic faux stained glass in a different pattern.

Random adventures in computerland

With my installation of Mint Linux 18.2 having gotten buggy, I made the serious mistake of installing Mint 19.1.

Not only are a few existing bugs still there, but for the first time a usually reliable, user-friendly Mint installation added brand new ones.

The first and most blatant was a “feature” that caused Thunderbird to freeze the entire system every time it completed sending an email. Reboot time!

That, I learned with a bit of DuckDuckGoing, was actually the fault of the included Cinnamon desktop, not Mint itself. The fix turned out not to be terribly difficult — as long as you (meaning me) are comfortable using the command line. Having not opened a terminal in six months, I fumbled a bit. But once I replaced a certain js file in usr/share/blahblahblahblah or someplace like that the problem departed.

UPDATE: As khperkins posted in comments, the following Firefox problem turned out not to be permanent, or a result of the new “Quantum” FF design. It was a huge bug that now has a fix. I’m leaving the rant as it was because … um, well, it was a good rant and an even better reminder of what hell the Internet is without privacy and sanity protections.

Then I did a quick news cruise for the first time in ages and discovered that Mint 19.1 also gave me a shiny NEW! IMPROVED! QUANTUM! version of Firefox. The biggest “improvement” was to turn my previously ad-free, pop-up-free, flashing-script-free surfing experience into something like Times Square on a drunken Friday night.

Good lord. Is that what the Web looks and feels like to people who don’t load their browsers with security features? How does anybody stand it? Even the otherwise dignified New Yorker, wrecked an article I was deeply interested in with screaming sidebar neon. I had to stop reading, even though the piece was on technical competency and the right to drive our own cars, a fascinating and apt subject.

Once I got over being blinded and sent into convulsions by all the flashing and popping, I went to reinstall the invaluable NoScript and AdBlock Pro add-ons — and discovered that this new QUANTUM! Firefox had killed — forever — eight of my 10 security add-ons.

But you see, this is a good thing. Because technology! NEW technology, therefore GOOD technology! The Mozilla people say so.

The Mozilla people also assure us: “Note: Starting with Firefox version 57 released on November 14, 2017, only extensions built with this new technology will work in Firefox. A majority of the most popular add-ons are already compatible, so most users should not notice any changes.”

Yes! A majority! Eight out of 10 of Firefox’s most vital online safety features — gone. But who’d notice that but a few fringeoid privacy nuts? And you know Those Kind of People must be up to no good, anyhow.

Those dear Mozilla people also gave me a “legacy” page for my dead add-ons, with helpful “Find a Replacement” buttons next to each of the eight late, lamented security and sanity features. You will not be surprised to learn that the “Find a Replacement” button did not, not even in one single instance, lead to anything like NoScript or a good ad blocker or Ghostery or … sigh. Just a bunch of irrelevant junk.

So it’s put up with the neon, the tracking, and the pop-ups (despite having the browser’s preferences set to block the latter) or switch to another browser.

The only decent everyday (non geek) browser for us security-minded Linuxians is now Brave, which I’ve been using sporadically for months. It’s okay and (being new) will undoubtedly get better before it goes the Firefox route and gets worse.

But its big problem is that, unlike FF with the indespensible NoScript (which lets the user choose which, if any, scripts to enable), Brave itself decides which scrips to allow. And it operates with a monumentally broad brush. You can block all scripts on any given page and deal with non-functional pages, or you can unblock them all (as many as 43 on a recent site I visited!) and take care of business.

Brave explains that they decide what third-party scripts to allow — but “leash” — so as not to break the Internet. They further explain that the very parts of the ‘Net they’re so concerned not to break are the very ones I most want broken — e.g. Facebook and Twitter crap. They don’t mention whether they also grant special permissions to the other in that triumvirate of evil, The All-Powerful Goog (and its partners in the NSA and the Five Eyes global spy system).

On principle, I won’t trust Brave until they finally implement the promised individual script-blocking feature.

Oh well, whaddaya expect from free stuff?

I expect more from a professional

Then tomorrow I have what ought to be the penultimate appointment with a professional with whom I’ve been working for several months. And I’m consumed with dread.

I’ve worked with her satisfactorily in the past. But through the last months, I’ve become convinced that either she’s deliberately conning me and we’ll end up with a defective result in our joint project or she’s become so flakey she doesn’t know what she’s doing and can’t tell responsible behavior from irresponsible or quality work from bad.

Neither possibility bodes well. Tomorrow’s meeting will tell whether we’re ultimately going to pull roses out of this heap of manure. Problem is, she’s going to insist she sees roses even if we end up nothing but bullsh*t. I’ve expressed concerns since March that things are going wrong, but my doubts disappear into her bland reassurances that all is well. What look like serious errors or omissions to me are all part of her plan, she says. I’m silly to worry; why even discuss it?

It’s like throwing my thoughts into a vat of molasses. Problems can be solved only if they can be discussed openly. This? Dread.

The good news is …

… Ava had her kidney-function recheck and her degenerative disease hasn’t degenerated one bit since she was diagnosed in December. Maybe it was the change in food; I don’t know. But her readings were unchanged. Still stage one of a four-stage fatal disease.

She’s still a happy and beautiful girl, too.

On dreams and higher things

So no, this hasn’t been a great time for Higher Thoughts and Profound Observations. (I do have one, but it’s about why the Reformation (way back when) immediately produced something as crude, cruel, and anti-human as Calvinism when the Reformation should have been a time for intellectual and spiritual revitalization. It would take more brain than I have at the moment to convey the relevance of that insight to our current anti-freedom plight, though relevant it is, I assure you. Thank you for filling my head with brilliant nonsense, Michel de Montaigne.)

Nevertheless, last week’s afterlife dream still stays with me, surfacing frequently through the murk of everyday busy-ness and existential dread. That dream was A Message. Though its portent remains as mysterious as ever.

I appreciate your insights and comments on that strange “ponder me” experience (as Commentariat member david called it), particularly that last post from firstdouglas and one I received from Shel via email, pointing out that the red-haired man in white is a Jungian animus figure, and a high-level one, at that. I still have no clue what to make of the zombies.

8 Comments

  1. jed
    jed May 5, 2019 4:51 pm

    See, that’s why I don’t upgrade. Still on Mint 14 here. I’m sure the day will come when I’ll have to install something new, but I’m going to hold off as long as I can. The OpenDesktop movement is filled with *NEW* *IMPROVED* UI crap that I have no interest in. And, I assume I won’t be able to run older browsers as I do now either. Mostly, I still use Seamonkey, but I do use FF for a few things, and I’m staying with v.54.

    I’m going to take another look at alternative browsers. Waterfox, GNU IceCat, Basilisk, and Iridium. I’m not interested in Brave.

  2. Ted Dunlap
    Ted Dunlap May 5, 2019 5:40 pm

    I spent some time trying to love Vivaldi thanks to Mozilla’s moves towards the dark side. It didn’t stick. The upstarts offer us much. Moving away from what was once a dramatic improvement over the when-doze-evil-browser is a balancing act.

  3. Claire
    Claire May 5, 2019 7:10 pm

    You’re right, khperkins. Thank you. I came back to a wifi source and found your comment. I allowed Firefox to plant “studies” on my system — and in minutes all but one of the add-ons were active again (and that one wasn’t a security feature).

    So I was wrong; my installation wasn’t ruinous. The timing was. Kudos to the Mozilla people for rushing to fix the problem over the weekend. But very much non-kudos to them for describing browsers completely stripped of all security as “an inconvenience.”

  4. Comrade X
    Comrade X May 6, 2019 9:45 am

    I’s likes the door!

  5. RW
    RW May 6, 2019 1:08 pm

    The other ff add-on may need permission to update, mine had 2 that I had to ok. Have been using Brave https://brave.com/ with Mint 17.3 for months now and very happy, faster than ff, maybe more private/secure, lots of options. Add-ons from chrome store that I use are ublock origin, privacy badger, privacy possum, decentraleyes, disconnect, ublock origin extra, and uvpn. All free. Https everywhere is built in. The only snag found is visa won’t let me pay their bill online.

  6. coloradohermit
    coloradohermit May 7, 2019 10:04 am

    Techtard here with no clue about the internet stuff, but I definitely love the door. You did an amazing job on it.Bless your artist’s soul.

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