Restless Legs

I just had a discussion with a friend about restless leg syndrome (or something like it) being brought on by sleeping pills. We’ve all (maybe) had that feeling when you’re drowsing off, not quite asleep, and you get jolted by some dream-motivated movement, even though you weren’t quite dreaming yet.

I’m aware that this isn’t the strict clinical symptomology of restless leg syndrome, but it’s pretty similar, and something we’re more likely to have experienced. Talking about it made me realize that there are a lot of other potential “leg syndromes,” each with their own set of symptoms, that might be usefully labeled and brought in to the light of day, if not the light of modern pharmacology. I offer this list as a starting point, and welcome your non-R-rated contributions.

  • Irritable leg syndrome: while sleeping, your leg will, of its own accord, haul off and kick the person who has been irritating you. You may or may not be consciously aware of said irritation – the continual kicking may, in fact, be what brings this subconscious feeling to your attention. Repeated occurrences should be viewed as a warning that the end of a relationship may be approaching (if for no other reason than that your partner may not enjoy being kicked into awakeness every time you fall asleep, whatever your protestations of innocence).
  • Stealth leg syndrome: One or the other of your legs will, without conscious control, end up somewhere other than where you thought it would be, without your noticing it has gone. This usually happens while you are in motion, resulting in your falling down/up the stairs, falling on your face, falling on your butt; generally, falling. It’s not easy when you go to step onto a leg only to find out it’s now behind you.
  • Hollow leg syndrome: Big eaters and drinkers of the world are familiar with this one. It’s what allows you to put away that additional couple of pounds of food or liters of liquid without apparent effects. This syndrome can mistakenly be diagnosed as a fast metabolism, so be on the lookout.
  • Bashful leg syndrome: In a standing position, this manifests itself when one leg hides behind the other, without your conscious control. Typically, it is the same leg that does the hiding. This can also be seen in the bedroom, where one leg slings itself off the side of the bed, and remains “hidden” there. This may or may not be the same leg that is bashful in public.
  • Jittery leg syndrome: You know, the one that never stops bouncing, kicking, tapping, moving, etc. On yourself, usually not noticed. On others, potentially a cause of irritable leg syndrome.
  • Cold leg syndrome: Can be merely a matter of general body temperature, with some people being generally warmer than others. People with this syndrome, though, often have one leg that is markedly colder than the other. The leg will feel colder to the sufferer, and also to other people.
  • Friendly leg syndrome: The one that ends up pressed against someone else’s leg with no conscious thought on your part. Often happens while sleeping, which, when combined with cold leg syndrome, could almost be considered assault. When not sleeping, and when exhibited against a stranger and observed by one’s partner, another possible cause for irritable leg syndrome.

I’m not at all sure that this list is exhaustive. I would appreciate any suggestions you might have.

Spys in flats

I just watched “Salt,” the new Angelina Jolie spy-action movie. In terms of the action, it was pretty impressive. There were a couple of plot holes big enough to drive a truck through, which I’ll address in another posting, but I thought I should mention something specific that leapt out in the early moments of the movie. There are no spoilers involved, as the action I’m discussing was in the preview anyway.

At the beginning of the movie, Salt (who is an acronym-agency spy of some kind, possibly CIA) is outed as a Russian agent and brought under suspicion with her colleagues. They promptly detain her, and she promptly escapes. During the escape, she removes her high heels so that she will be able to run/fight better. She then proceeds to run around the building she’s in, escape through a window, and run around the streets of DC in bare feet.

I can understand the not wanting to run in heels part, and I’m sure that the “I’ll just beak the heels off and then I’ll be fine” approach doesn’t really work in real life. But in the back of my mind, throughout all this action, was the thought, “That must be KILLING her feet!” Similarly, “No, not the fire escape! Don’t run across the grate! Watch out for broken glass!” and so on.

Now that I think of it, the Japanese Yakuza guy in the new Predators movie also chose barefoot over dress shoes, in the jungle, with a lot of freaky wildlife around. I did  notice it then, but he carried it off with a certain “curling my toes into the mud” nonchalance that made it seem a little more natural. And, of course, ot was the jungle, which everyone knows is easy on the feet (?).

I don’t spend a lot of time in bare feet myself, aside from wandering around my apartment. Maybe I’m different from everyone else; maybe my feet are softer or wimpier than most. And, needless to say, I don’t spend a lot of time in high heels either (I can never find anything in my size). But given the wincing and mincing that has accompanied past bare-footed forays across roads (to get to the beach), gravel (to get to the lake), and so on, there’s no way I would choose bare-footed as my escape-and-evade option. Heck, I’d pick up a pair of high heels before going barefoot. Otherwise, my slow and cautious escape would be bound to fail miserably. Of course, my high-heeled escape would be equally slow and cautious, with the added embarrassment of everyone commenting on my gams.

So, a word to all those spies out there. Maybe it’s time for a general fashion choice: Wear flats. Or even trainers on those “Might get my cover blown today” days.

Facebook “friends”

Anybody who knows me knows that I am not an avid facebook fan / user / whatever. I have an account which I check every six months or so, on the off chance that something important will have happened. Usually, not the case.

Anyhow, I do have a suggestion that would make facebook a lot less lame. My main issue with the system is that it allows only one category of association: “friend”. The reality of the situation, of course, is that few of the people you’re linked to on facebook could actually be described as friends. Maybe people just don’t understand what “friend” actually means, but I think it’s more likely that people just don’t have any choice. I propose that a whole series of new categories be added:

  • acquaintance
  • somebody I was friends with 10 years ago
  • somebody I met once who thinks we’re friends
  • friends of a friend who I don’t really know
  • somebody I went to school with but don’t remember
  • and so on …

You get the idea. If I didn’t have to respond to friends requests from people who belong in one of the categories above with “Yes” or “No” – if I had more choices – I would probably be a little less creeped out by the idea. And think of the additional layers of drama that could ensue from people sending friend requests and getting approval for “somebody I went to school with and don’t remember” instead. Would they accept? Burst into tears? Get a grip on their lives and stop trying to befriend people they don’t even know?

Dream the dream, facebook aficionados!

Angels and Devils

During the past few episodes of 24 (and needless to say, there is a SPOILER ALERT in effect), a fair amount of time has been given to the good vs. evil struggle between former President (and known evil bastard) Charles Logan and current President Taylor’s Secretary of State (former Chief of Staff Ethan Kanin). There is a very palpable sense of the little devil and the little angel on President Taylor’s shoulders as these two play tug-of-war with her surprisingly malleable opinions and decisions.

So much so, in fact, that I find myself singing softly to myself, “He’s the devil,” whenever Logan appears and makes another bid for Taylor to do something unethical and doomed to long-term failure (because it’s against Jack’s wishes, among other reasons).

I guess, having thought about it a bit, that I actually enjoy President Taylor’s being a lot more flawed this season. Gives the show a bit more depth, and some of that “the government can never work because” sort of feeling. Democracy is flawed because people, both as individuals and in the aggregate, make terrible decisions (less flawed than when only one person gets to make all the decisions, mind you). This plays out well on the show, as they’re now trying madly to cover up their cover-up of the initial incident this season.

I think that the worst part of this (from a “feeling for the characters” sort of view) is that President Taylor knows she’s wrong, knows it’s all slipping away, and yet can’t help herself. I anticipate her cracking up before the season ends, but I’ll just have to wait and see.

Frak!

As far as I know, Battlestar Galactica (the original one) was the origin of the word “frack” (replacing another well-known f-word). In the recent remake, it became “frak” (a more typical four-letter word). The use of frak in the show was never excessive (like the frakin’ use of the frakin’ f-word in a frakin’ lot of frakin’ places, for frak’s sake) which was fine. Understandably, people need an expletive at times (like getting shot, or finding out that your wife – or you, for that matter – is/are a cylon). Sometimes, “well, gosh” just doesn’t cut it. So far so good.

Making this about a million times better, though, is the use of “frak” becoming more common outside the show. Just this week, characters on The Big Bang Theory and Criminal Minds used “frak” as it was intended to be used – to express shock/surprise/disgust at ongoing events in the show.

This is great for a couple of reasons:

  1. No need to offend the easily offended. “Frak” doesn’t refer to any body parts, bodily functions, sexual activity, or excretions (the main source of “swears”). So, there’s nothing to complain about. It’s just a made-up word that has been given “swear” status.
  2. Since “frak” is being used in the present, because of its use being demonstrated in the future, this provides an excellent example of time travel. Also, it explains where the word came from in Battlestar Galactica – they learned it from us.

Just kidding about that last one. Still, I think that reason #1 is legitimate. There have been any number of people who have written about the lack of “common courtesy” or politeness in today’s society (citing some people’s complete lack of awareness of the difference between public and private space, for example). I think we could use a few additional new expletives which would allow for the function of swearing without the additional rudeness. I’m accepting suggestions.

Justified

Justified is a new cop drama that I’ve just caught up on (it’s in the first season, but has been approved for at least one more). It stars Timothy Olyphant, who is usually fun to watch, as Rayland Givens – a US Marshall. The main interest here is that his character in Justified is basically exactly the same guy as Seth Bullock in Deadwood. I’m not complaining – I think there’s a place for the soft-spoken filled-with-burning-rage lawman in almost any TV show. Well, maybe not any show, but at least the cop variety.

Justified is based on some Elmore Leonard novels and short stories, so it’s not like somebody said “Well, Deadwood’s over, so let’s give young Olyphant another vehicle to continue his journey as a lawman”. Or, at least, I assume that’s not what happened, though it wouldn’t be impossible that his performance in Deadwood had something to do with getting this role.

Anyhow, it’s nice to see another series starting up. Initially, quite watchable, some good dialogue, and a good (realistically flawed) main character. I’ll be keeping up for the time being.

Unskilled and unaware of it

While doing my undergrad at Dal, I read an article called “Unskilled and unaware of it“. The article blew my mind at the time, and the authors have come out with several updates in response to criticism and further debate. Well worth following up! The jist of the article is the idea that someone who isn’t very good at doing something is unable to accurately assess their abilities in that area. For example, if your skills at writing English aren’t any good, you are unable to say with any accuracy whether a piece of your own writing (or anyone else’s writing) is any good.

Seems like a fairly obvious statement, but I (and probably you) frequently encounter people who don’t think this applies to them. An easy example is the student who can’t produce a coherent sentence,  but can’t understand why their mark is so low. They, of course, really do not see the problems with their own writing – they don’t have the skills necessary to assess their own work accurately.

The second element of this failure to assess accurately (and I don’t remember if this was brought up in the original article – I’ve certainly seen it elsewhere) is the tendency everyone has to assess themselves inaccurately. Many people, in today’s culture of rampant narcissism, regularly assess themselves higher than they should (witness the never-ending cavalcade of  untalented people who are willing to make fools of themselves exhibiting their non-talent on TV talent shows). Others assess themselves more harshly than they should, for whatever reason. There is a host of studies that show large groups of people, on average, assess themselves as being above average (sometimes called the Lake Wobegon effect, after Garrison Keillor’s fictional town). On the whole, it seems, it is pretty rare for one to be able to take a clear look at one’s own abilities, talents, and so forth.

This is important, in the end, for one simple reason. It is impossible to teach anyone anything until they realize that they have a need to learn. When your default assessment of yourself is that you can handle whatever comes your way, that you know it all (or enough), that whatever you don’t know can’t be that important anyway, you are not likely to pay too much attention to anyone telling you how to do something new. After all, you already know everything you need to … don’t you?

Hiring Policies at CTU

So we’re well into season 8 of 24. I’m finding it a bit hard to watch again this time around, but having invested so much time already I figure I might as well keep up. My only problem is that since you now it’s going to be 24 episodes, it’s a little anticlimactic when Jack gets oh-so-close to catching the bad guys in episode 6 or whatever, when you know full well they’re going to just barely slip through his fingers (again and again and again).

My real problem, though, is with the oh-so-inevitable mole in CTU. I was unhappy to find out that it was (SPOILER ALERT) Dana this time, as I still had some bad/good girl carryover from Battlestar Galactica. Anyhow, aside from that level of disappointment, I was unshocked but still heartily displayed by the existence of yet another mole in the newly refurbished CTU. Has there been a season without a mole? I don’t remember one, but I’d be happy to be corrected. In any case, it’s certainly a common plot element.

My question is: Who is doing the job screening and interviews for this place? Clearly, they need someone more along the lines of Jack for the job interviews. Imagine:

Jack: Are you a terrorist?
Prospective Employee: No.
Jack: <grabs their throat> ARE YOU A TERRORIST?
Prospective Employee: <breaks down in tears> Yes, yes, I confess, I was going to be next season’s mole.

Problem Solved.

Granted, this might pose some problems on the “how do the bad guys slip away so many, many times” front … maybe some sort of low blood sugar episode for Jack could make up the difference. Good opportunity for some product placement as well. Hmmm. Somebody get back to me on this.

Of course, this being the last season, I guess I’m a bit late with the constructive criticism. Maybe the movie could, dream of dreams, be mole-free! Anybody?

Well, I had to post something, didn’t I?

OK, so I’m moving from a “normal” website (whatever that is) to a blog format. I had just been updating my resume now and then anyway, and I’d been thinking about doing some blogging, so it seemed like the time. I can’t imagine anything the world desperately needs less than a blog, but I’m helpless in the face of the cultural gestalt. Possibly, unlikely as it is, I’ll actually enjoy this. Even less likely, maybe somebody else will as well.

If not, at least I’ll provide yet another forum for some useless spam comments and trackbacks. I live to serve.

Eventually, I’ll include some of the work I’ve done in PHP and MySQL, for those who haven’t made it over some of the hurdles I’ve managed to claw my way past over the years. If, as seems quite likely, that it’s only my Mom keeping up with this, just ignore that stuff. Maybe there’ll be something chatty about Castle.

So if you need somebody to help you make your custom essay, term paper, research paper, thesis or dissertation a real success, PremiumQualityEssays.com is assist with my term paper

Portable Webmaster

Please note that this was published in 2010. You should have no expectations that the content is current. Notably, TrueCrypt is a thing of the past (though you should look at VeraCrypt and/or hardware-encrypted USB sticks, both of which I’m currently using in 2017 to do what I was using Truecrypt for before). Also, I’m sure the hosting suggestions are too old to be useful.

 

That said, enjoy …

Instructions for setting up Free Webhosting

Software we’ll be using

Useful Websites

And if you’re really serious …

The following is a list of programs which (combined with those above) will give you a pretty complete web development platform that you can carry around with you on a USB stick. There are a lot of advantages to this, not least being the ability to test-drive your PHP-based sites to make sure they’re actually working before uploading them to your “real” host. The second advantage is always having your settings, bookmarks, and so on, with you wherever you (and your USB stick) are. If this is appealing, you might want to look into the portable version of Open Office, and just give up on desktop-installed software alltogether.

Truecrypt isn’t web development related, exactly, but it has two important functions. First of all, it allows you to create an encrypted virtual hard drive; basically, it’s a big file that you can “mount” as a disk drive on whatever computer you’re using. So, this allows you to keep backups of site passwords, database tables, and so on on your usb stick without having to worry about them being read by someone, even if you lose the stick. That’s a big deal. Secondly, though, and just as important, Truecrypt allows you to choose which drive letter to mount the virtual drive on. Both of the portable servers below rely on their files (and yours, for that matter) being in the same place (on the same drive) all the time, which isn’t possible using a usb stick (without manually changing the drive letters). Using the Truecrypt volume, though, you can mount it on drive W when you install the server, and mount it on drive W every time after that, and everything will work out swimmingly. So, between the encryption and the portable-but-still-the-same-drive features, Truecrypt is well worth having.

Both of these servers work really well for testing purposes. The idea is that you run your own server that only you can see (no real “internet” access) so that you can test your PHP code out before deploying it for real. In the inc/variables.php file you will note that the code decides whether or not it’s on the localhost, and sets up file locations accordingly. This way, the same code runs both on my own machine and publically.

Each server sets up a folder that will contain all of your actual “website” material. Usually, it’s called htdocs, or www, or something like that (sorry I can’t be more exact, but I’ve fiddled with my setup fairly extensively). This folder is the one that the server delivers to your web browser when you surf to http://localhost/ . So, you could put a folder in there called “portfolio”, for example, and then browse to http://localhost/portfolio and see your website up and running for testing purposes (assuming you’ve set variables.php to the correct values for the local host – just put in w:/mowesportable/www/portfolio or whatever for the thisRoot, and http://localhost/portfolio for the thisURL and you should be OK). Then, when all is well, just upload the contents of that folder (the portfolio one) to your portfolio hosting site, making sure that you’re set to overwrite if the source is newer. Much less risky than editing in real time as we did during the seminar.

Both of these servers offer PHP, MySQL and Apache, which parallels what your free host offers, and what any paid host will as well. Beyond that (imagemagic support, for example), you would have to check with your specific host. By all means, do that before building something that relies on a particular module, only to find out that your host doesn’t offer it. It’s very possible that your own portable server will have some capabilities (or things enabled) that your real-world host does not.

One of the painful tasks that comes up from time to time is changing something in a whole bunch of files. There are a lot of programs that can change one line or one string of text, but not many that can change a whole block of text (several lines). This one can, and it’s free.

Free Commander is a dual-panel file manager with built-in zipping abilities. Great for copying stuff from one place to another, and since it’s portable you can get it to start up in two folders on your usb drive or truecrypt volume.

SQLYog isn’t a “portable” installation, but once you install it to C:\Program Files\SQLYog\ (or wherever), you can copy that SQLYog folder to your USB stick (or wherever) and the program will run just fine.

We didn’t deal with MySQL this year, but depending on demand we may do so next time around. There are two main reasons we didn’t. First of all, once you add MySQL to your website, you might as well go the whole distance and serve the page content, menus and so on from MySQL as well. The resulting page code would have been, I though, too complicated for the time we had to look it over. On the other hand, people would have been able to edit the website through a secure section of the site itself, and MySQL would have allowed for blogs and forums and all that fun stuff. Anyhow, for this year, SQLYog is a great supplement to PHPMyAdmin (a web-based MySQL manager) which comes with both the portable servers mentioned above. PHPMyAdmin is also provided by most web hosts, so it’s used a fair bit. I just like having a program interface (which SQLYog provides), and the backup/dump/copying features of SQLYog are very handy.

Finally, hardware being what it is, I would strongly suggest that you keep a backup copy of the complete contents of your USB stick, or your secure drive if you go the Truecrypt route. This is easily accomplished by syncing the whole thing to your desktop or laptop or whatever, and maybe occasionally burning the whole thing off onto a DVD or copying it to an external hard drive. Paranoia is only laughable until you’re the one whose USB stick dies, sending your thesis or websites or whatever into the void. Pathsync works very well, and is free, but there are a lot of syncing programs out there. You mainly need to be careful about what you want the program to do. A “sync” is usually bi-directional, whereas what I usually want to do is make one location (my backup) exactly like the other (my stick). That way, when I delete something on the stick, it gets deleted on the backup as well. Usually, the programs have setting to handle things one way or the other.

Places to go for more Portable Software

Please note that all of the programs I have recommended, and the sites I suggest, lead to open-source or publicly released software. At the same time, depending on where you go looking, there are “portable” versions of commercial software available. Be aware of where you’re getting this stuff, and whether it’s really freeware or not.

 

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