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About 29 SEP 2014
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Certainty Encoded According to Rumsfeld

There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. We also know there are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don’t know we don’t know.
– Donald Rumsfeld (several occasions)

“unknown unknowns” sounds too weird for most people, so instead of exploring what it means, they just make fun of it. That’s an unfortunate oversight. Some of the oversight could be attributed to the context in which it was brought up: as an excuse.

When someone as high up as Donald Rumsfeld states that things they never considered made big changes in the outcome, it’s an important admission. Offered as hindsight, this insight is less useful than at other times. The admission of unknown unknowns is best made before the launch of the project.

Unknown unknowns can’t be seen before we come into contact with them. If a project, in this case, a war, is presented as occurring with the certitude of complete knowledge, unknown unknowns trigger delayed recognition. Unknown unknowns get a chance to transition quickly through being known unknowns into becoming nasty knowns before a response can be made. Perspective and perception often work or fail together.

Unsympathetic perception can keep an important idea from gaining acceptance. Rumsfeld’s obfuscated semantics and style obstructed the adoption of “unknown unknowns.” Perhaps too late, I now offer my humble translation services to clarify his terms by matching them to the response they generate

known knowns: We see it, it’s handled.
known unknowns: It’s out there, we’re ready.
unknown unknowns: What the hell? That can’t happen!

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Quest is the Beginning of Questions

“Moral? It’s better to ask some of the questions, than to know all the answers.”
Fables for Our Time/The Scottie who Knew Too Much by James Thurber.

“Why am I doing this?” I asked myself at 5:05 AM that Sunday, but it was too late. I’d already asked too many questions.

Morning MAX-1

I started by asking “where can I go to take pictures of butterflies?” Thought that I found a great answer in “Wings of Wonder” But when I asked for further details, the biggest one was that they had closed two years earlier.

Further inquiries about a good place to see butterflies, advised me that the Oregon Zoo was a good bet. The Oregon Zoo still lists “Winged Wonders” as one of their special events. But they don’t have any plans do to it again. At least, no plans they’re willing to tell us about.

That’s actually what provoked this whole interest: the exhibits they had held seven and eight years ago. The entry that listed the Oregon Zoo as a great place to see butterflies neglected to tell me how to pull off the enough time travel to get back there. Too bad, because this time I’d catch the shot I missed because my camera’s SD card was full

It was a wonderful shot. This guy had a camera with a mega lens so big, he had a tripod for the lens. He was bent over, intently attending to the shot he was trying to get and didn’t notice the butterfly landing on his back. It was such a cool shot, I’d risk tying a knot in the time-space continuum to get it. That may be why no one has told me how to pull it off.

Left with the time-space that was available to me, I queried Seattle’s Pacific Science Center. Their exhibit is listed as permanent, and a day trip to Seattle seemed doable. But then I asked, how long is that drive? Google’s answer: three and a half, maybe four hours with traffic each way. That led to more questions.

Given the amount of time I could spend at the exhibit, did I really feel like spending seven or eight hours driving? Not really. Did I want to deal with Seattle traffic? Seattle without traffic is like Portland without rain: it does happen, but don’t count on it. To find some other way to get there, I Googled again.

Google was so quick, I didn’t finish typing out: bus portland seattle before it was showing me listings on Bolt Bus. I read Joseph Rose’s column on about riding it to the NFC championship game. Joseph’s Bolt Bus Review. Bolt Bus sounded like a good alternative. A brief visit to their website was encouraging. The next question was how would I get from where the bus would land me to the butterflies.

Again, Google directed me to a useful site, the SoundTrnasit trip planning site. All the routes suggested involved walking a block or two, a transfer, $2.50 for fare and 20 to 30 minutes. I decide to mull it over.

A crucial question that I had to resolve: was the exhibit going to be open this Sunday. Stuff happens. It’s a year round exhibit open every day, but Stuff Happens. Seattle, Seattle Center’s a nice place to visit, but it would suck to get there and find the exhibit closed. I called and confirmed I wouldn’t be up there saying “Damn I should have checked first.” That situation turned out to be closer than I realized.

In theory, this was a simple day trip. Hop up there, take a look around, take some pictures, and hop on back. I still had some hoops to hop through. One more alternative that occurred to me was the monorail. The 1962 Seattle World’s fair had two icons: The Space Needle and the monorail. I got to visit the World’s fair several times, and got to take in the view from atop the Space Needle, but I don’t remember riding The Monorail.

When I saw the route map for the monorail, it didn’t look like Westlake Center was anywhere close to my landing zone at 5th & King. Monorail or not, all this planning had me pretty much committed to making the trip. But was I through with questions? Don’t ask.

Which departure time to schedule? That looked simple: 8:30 AM is a decent, civilized time to be awake and about, even on a Sunday. When I looked at the available times for the return trip, not so simple. Leaving Seattle at six wouldn’t leave enough time to unwind out of weekend mode and get ready to get back to work. Leaving at three wouldn’t give me enough time at the exhibit after I allowed for travel time inside Seattle.

So it would have to be a 6:30 AM departure from Portland. Could Tri-met get me downtown by 6:20 on Sunday? Tri-met’s trip planner told me NO. That answer was not satisfying, but better than having it suggest I could catch a 1 AM trip and hang around. I needed to be more resourceful if I was going to get this website to work for me.

Catching the 6:30 AM departure after parking at the nearest park and ride lot wasn’t going to work. Could I make it if a picked a stop closer to Portland? The answer was yes. The 5:22 AM departure from Millikan Way would get me there with time to spare. In fact, time to kill, more time to kill than I wanted, but that was the deal. If I didn’t feel like catching that one, the second Tri-met option was the 3:30 Max train.

I made the reservations with Bolt Bus, and, a minor inspiration raised another question: How hard would be to get to Westlake Center from where the bus left me? Easy, all kinds of easy. I’d make sure I carried enough cash for bus fare. I was done with questions and concerns. . . . Not entirely.

The bus ride was comfortable. The Link Train ride to Westlake Center was uneventful. It ended inside a shopping mall. There were directions for different facilities, but none for the monorail. I navigated my way out to the street.

“Damn! where did they hide it?” Elevated above the street, the monorail and its track should be easy to spot as I circled the block from where I emerged, but no joy. I thought about asking my smart phone, but decided instead to ask the polite looking gentleman who was tidying up the sidewalk. He accompanied me half a block and pointed “See the Starbucks? It’s on the third floor of the building behind it.” I thanked him and was shortly back on track.

Now it was time to take in the sights:

The Space Needle
Space Needle-1

The graceful arches of the Pacific Science Center
Pacific Science Center Arches-1

And the butterfly exhibit.


Knowing that it was a year round exhibit, I was curious about whether they had a special exemption that allowed them to breed butterflies. When I asked one of the staff members, he told me they didn’t. They imported fresh batches of chrysalides to replenish the display. He informed me that they had recently scaled back some on the size and variety of the population. Tomorrow the exhibit was going to close for several weeks of extensive refurbishing. You really don’t know what you’ll find out until you ask.

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You Don’t Say. Literally.

When I post something on this website, I hope that, at least now and then, someone who reads it would be interested or annoyed enough to leave a comment to express their reaction. So far, only a few friends and family have felt comfortable doing that.

On the other hand, spam-bots and those who unleash them, make themselves known with the tireless persistence of things that don’t get tired. The other night I was going to post something I’d finished writing, but spent my time going through the spam comment queue compiling a list of IP’s to ban. When I finished, instead of adding them to the .htaccess file’s banned IP list, I restricted this site’s ability to accept comments. It’s a concession to the spam-bots

Trying to keep up with the spam-bots isn’t worth the effort anymore. It’s like tending a garden where the only thing growing is weeds. If I allowed it, they would turn this website into an ugly mess no one would want to visit. Oddly enough, with only spam-bots visiting, they would have no reason to put their stuff on display. Go figure.

Twitter and Facebook demonstrate that, overall, people aren’t shy about expressing their opinions. I guess this may be about turf. Social websites are social, publicly open space, but private websites are private turf. My website is my turf, even when I extend an invitation for people to make their feelings known.

The change in access may produce something useful. In addition to creating extra work, all the spam-bot visits clutter the picture of what’s happening with real people. With no place to land, spammers may reduce targeting this site. In a couple months, the visit and page hit numbers might actually tell me something. We’ll see.

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Grappling with the Gauntlets of Gmail

According to Wordnet 3.0:

Gauntlet [Noun]

2. a glove of armored leather; protects the hand;

4. a form of punishment in which a person is forced to run between two lines of men facing each other and armed with clubs or whips to beat the victim;

Both apply in this case

When I first used Gmail, it creeped me out when I saw ads that told me that Google was peeking in on my emails. That’s why I never made Gmail my regular email host.

Hotmail (, and intermediate descendents) and Yahoo! were never exciting providers, but email isn’t one of those places I look for excitement. Just like banking, I don’t expect to love them. Just don’t piss me off, and we’ll all go about our daily business.

Changing your go to email address is the same amount of hassle as changing banks. There’s always the chance that something I forgot about bounces back. But, as I said, I never made Gmail my default email.

I use Gmail for the specialty subjects like YouTube. I’ve set up separate accounts according to what group I expect to be notifying me. Senders all want my immediate attention, but that’s their convenience, not mine. If my weekly review of what they sent me comes too late, it’s their loss not mine.

I give my important contacts the Hotmail or Yahoo address and keep up with those daily. That’s my decision. Google’s decision appears to be One Account to Rule Them All.

There are two strategies to getting people to change:
– Make it easy and desirable to change
– Make it difficult not to

Google may feel that they have taken the high road and made first choice. This morning their dealings with me have felt heavy handed. Hence, the gauntlet reference. Somehow, one of my Gmail accounts has been designated as the default. When I attempt login to Gmail, I don’t get a choice: there’s no input field. The two choices they offer are both poor choices for me.

The first choice Gmail offers is to bring my other Gmail accounts into the service of the One Account to Rule Them All. My first objection is that I had my reasons for setting them up separately to begin with. My second objection is that avoiding account entanglement reduces security risks.

The second choice occurs after I’ve worked around their first choice by opening a private window in Firefox. The Gmail login gives me a blank field for the ID. It also has a default selection for ‘Stay signed in’. You’re allowed to uncheck it, but if you do, Gmail’s response is let you log in, but immediately cover your session with a new tab scolding you about the choice you made.

I’m not sure if my work around would work in Chrome. One more reason to stick with Firefox.

Google, don’t be evil. Let me go about my business the ways I prefer.

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