VW Diesel Goodwill Package Expires Soon!

I’m one of the “lucky ones”… A “proud” owner of a 2010 VW Jetta Diesel 2.0 Liter engine. I’m afraid to look at the loss of value in the Kelley Blue Book from a year ago.

I signed up today for the Goodwill Package. As partial compensation for the loss of value and hassle, VW provides a $500 prepaid card to spend anywhere, a $500 card to use at a VW dealership, plus three years of Roadside Assistance.

So I’m going to use the cards to pay for needed repairs to the Jetta: one at my local garage that I trust, and one for (still other) repairs at the local VW dealer. Regrettably, I don’t think either card will cover all the expense 🙁

But… I guess I am sort of lucky – I just squeaked by the deadline. The expiration for the Goodwill Package is the end of this month – 30 April 2016. All you Jetta owners – get on the stick! Go to https://www.vwdieselinfo.com/goodwill_package/ and type in your VIN.

More magma…

We have been planning a trip to Iceland (mostly to see the aurora) next year. I am now looking into tours that go near the volcano at BĂĄrĂ°arbunga and Holuhraun as well.

I think that land tours (I would love to stand next to the lava front) are out of the question, since the authorities have closed the area for ~18 miles around.

But there appear to be a couple air tours flying from Akureyri to BĂĄrĂ°arbunga, Holuhraun, and over the Askja crater for a little more than US$300 per person. The view from the planes can been seen in these Youtube Videos… I’m psyched.

A Memorization Tip

I have given out this tip in past years to people in Revels North who’re preparing for the Christmas Revels show…

I found this trick for memorization in a wonderful book, Don’t Shoot the Dog, The new art of teaching and training, by Karen Pryor. It talks about modifying behavior — yours and others. (One way of modifying behavior is shooting the dog. But she talks about lots of other—usually more appropriate—ways to change behavior.) She tells about coaching, teaching, and maybe even making things better in your life. And it’s a fun read…

But back to memorization: The trick is to learn the last verse first, then the next-to-last, and so on.

Why? Because the usual way of learning the verses sequentially is enormously dispiriting. You struggle to get the words of the first verse. After a lot of work, you begin to be comfortable with them, so you attack the second verse. But you’re back at sea. It feels like such hard work. After the second verse, you hit the wall of the third verse. You despair of learning the words at all.

Instead, learn the last verse first. Then start learning the previous verse. After you get the new verse down, you can keep on singing, but they’re words that you already know. You’re drawn along by the familiar material. You feel competent and confident. You feel good.

Gettin’ my magma jollies!

I’ve been following Rei, a blogger from Iceland, who is reporting on the BĂĄrĂ°arbunga/Holuhraun volcano as it continues to erupt. It’s way more impressive/scary than I originally thought. It’s huge, with fresh lava covering 37 square km, or about 2/3 the size of Manhattan, and the magma fountains are shooting 300 feet or more in the air.

Her recent posts have shown a lot of information about the volcano’s progress. The one from last Saturday contains the best view so far of the extent of the lava, and absolutely stunning views of the magma sloshing around. The video is second-to-last picture on this page.

See it here: Rei’s post with great volcano video

For a bit more context, you can read her earlier posts. This map shown on this link tells more of the story. The big volcano, called BĂĄrĂ°arbunga, is at the red dot in the big glacier. The magma has pushed about 70 km (45 miles!) beneath the surface to erupt at Holuhraun, labeled with “Eruption” below.

The good news is that the magma remained underground until it got to a flat sandy desolate location, instead of coming up under the ice and melting it (to make flood) or an ash volcano. The other good news is that the (poisonous) sulfur dioxide has mostly been blowing northeast, so it hasn’t seriously affected either ReykjavĂ­k or Akureyri.

Mayday.us – Bringing sanity back to campaign financing

I recently joined Lessig’s citizen-funded MAYDAY.US campaign, an ambitious experiment to win a Congress committed to ending corruption in 2016, and we did something amazing: We raised $1 million dollars in 12 days. That’s a ton of money, but it’s not enough.

The plan is to raise $12 million in 2014, and use it to make fundamental reform of campaign financing the major issue in five congressional races. Then we’ll apply what we learn from those races to 2016.

We’re raising $5 million more by July 4, and I’m asking my readers if you can help us get the rest of the way there. So my question is: will you help?

Visit Mayday.us

Net Neutrality & Whitehouse.gov petition

There’s a Whitehouse.gov petition posted about Net Neutrality. It’s a little bit of a rant, but I agree with its punchline: No bandwidth modifications of information based on content or its source.

This relates to a comment from Philip Greenspun’s blog (How many times do we have to pay for the same internet service?) If I’m paying my Internet Service Provider (ISP) to provide bits from the Internet to my home, and content providers pay an ISP for getting their bits into the Internet, what’s the problem? Why do the ISPs ask to be paid more for certain content, say, from Netflix?

The problem is that most ISPs (cable company, DSL/phone company, etc.) seriously underprovision their facilities. If every home subscriber ever attempted to use the service (at 3 megabits/second or 7, or 15, or 100, or whatever) that the ISPs advertise, there would be dramatic slowdowns. The ISPs simply don’t have sufficient capacity in place. The “easy out” for the ISP is to brand Netflix and other content providers as “bandwidth hogs” and using “more than their share” of bandwidth.

Two questions come from this:

  1. If, Netflix, say, did pay more, would my ISP promise to provide great service that didn’t slow down? (I wouldn’t bet on it. They don’t like to promise anything…)

  2. Why shouldn’t we consumers treat these bandwidth claims as false advertising? ISPs take our money while promoting a service that they know they have no ability or intention of providing. Wouldn’t that be a fun class-action suit? 🙂

In any event, you can read and sign the Whitehouse.gov petition at http://wh.gov/lwhFt They got almost half the signatures they need in a week; they need another 60K signatures by 24 May to get an official response from the White House. The more publicity on this issue, the better.

Get your IRS transcript!

Why can’t the IRS tell me how much has been reported? Various companies and entities forward the same information to me and to them. If only I could look at the IRS’ notion of what has been reported, I could avoid rummaging around for all those scraps of paper at tax time.

Well, now you can. The IRS Get Transcript site allows you to get a list of all the accounts, forms, etc. that have been filed in your name.

Go to the site, create an account in the obvious way. My confirmation arrived within seconds, the entire signup process took two minutes. Then you can browse your records, both for the current tax year and for previous years (including your past tax returns).

Hat tip to Dave Winer’s Scripting News and Philip Greenspun’s blog

Better than rm -rf /.Spotlight-V100

My MacBook Pro (10.9.2) was running slowly. I saw frequent spinning beach balls, systemstats was consuming 100% of the CPU on a regular basis, Apple Mail was grinding away indexing files, etc.

The forums at discussions.apple.com contain all kinds of dicey recommendations about rm -rf /.Spotlight-V100 followed by “Works for me!” and “Didn’t work for me!” I’m not averse to wading in with Terminal, but I’d rather get advice from a trusted source.

One of the advantages of having AppleCare (you get it for 90 days after you’ve upgraded to a new OS, such as Mavericks) is that you can call 800-275-2273 and speak to a knowledgeable person. They recommended that I do three things:

  • Boot into safe mode, and let the computer perform a thorough disk and permissions check. (See the Apple “What is Safe Boot, Safe Mode?” article for more info.)

  • Force Spotlight to blow away and rebuild its index.

  • Then let Apple Mail re-index.

To do this:

  1. Boot into Safe Boot mode. Restart your computer and hold down Shift until you see the Apple and the progress bar that indicates that the hard drive is being checked/repaired. When the OS starts up (probably many minutes later), you’ll see “Safe Mode” in red text at the upper right corner of the screen. Restart your computer.

  2. To force Spotlight to rebuild its index, simply open System Preferences, click Spotlight, then the Privacy tab. Add your hard drive (hit the “+” and select the hard drive). Then close System Preferences. Re-open System Preferences, and remove the hard drive from the Privacy tab. This is the cue for Spotlight to begin re-indexing. In a moment, you can click on the Spotlight magnifying glass to see that it’s rebuilding the index. (Rebuilding took about three hours on my system.)

  3. Leave Apple Mail closed during all this. (You don’t want to have them both indexing at the same time – it hammers the processor and prolongs the agony.) When Spotlight finishes its indexing, open Apple Mail to allow it to re-index its cached files. You can continue to work in Apple Mail while this happens.

My system has been much more responsive since I did this, and I didn’t have to try any odd suggestions.

And the H@ckfest results…

What a great weekend! What interesting ideas came from the H@ckfest!

My team, the inforMED project, presented an idea for helping first responders (EMTs, ED triage) to get relevant data on their cell phone/tablet when they first encounter a patient. If the patient has one, the EMT would scan the token (RFID, QR code, NFC, etc) and this would immediately bring up a face sheet that give contact information, current medications, allergies, and advance directives to that they could initiate appropriate treatment.

We won an honorable mention for the CIO Track of the entire competition, and also won a $1,000 prize from Intel. The team members were:

  • Rich Brown
  • Adrian Gropper
  • Jake Mooney
  • Susan Katz Sliski
  • Jessica Wang
  • Joyce Zhang
  • Alice Zielinski
  • Patrick Zummo

What a great team!