All of my great-grandparents came to the USA through Ellis Island between about 1890 and 1917. This weekend Xingyu and I were in NY so we decided to finally visit. What a different experience it was for immigrants coming to the USA at that time; they show up on a boat and, if admitted, they’re now citizens. Compared to the hoopla people go through today to live here it’s remarkable. At the same time it must have been terrifying knowing there’s a chance you could be sent back, especially considering many people spent their life savings on that boat ride.

The building itself is very welcoming and doesn’t have the bureaucratic and cold feeling of modern government offices. The fact that it’s so close to Liberty Island really adds to the experience. I guess it makes sense now why they called this the island of tears and joy. I’ll post better pictures once I get them from Xingyu’s fancy camera… here are a few from my phone:

The main hall where immigrants were processed for entry
Lady Liberty and the pedestal taken from Liberty Island
Liberty Island with lower Manhattan in the background as seen from the boat heading to Ellis Island.

A Thought on Defending America’s Minds

I had an interesting conversation over dinner with a friend who happens to work in tech as well. I have often joked that Facebook has destroyed the world. What I mean by that specifically is that it seems that the echo-chamber effect of self-reinforcing technology wherein users are (1) provided with content determined by an algorithm to be favorable to them, (2) able to block people that disagree with them, and (3) provided with confirmation bias through searching for agreements has created an environment wherein meaningful discourse is impossible. It has created hyper-sensitive people with vitriolic anger. I would go so far as to say that it’s a significant contributor to populism (in combination with a number of economic factors, of course… let’s call it a catalyst).

We cannot (and should not) ban “fake news” or even hateful speech. However, what we could reasonably ban would be behavioral targeting and personalization. What this means is that a person’s behavior online could not be used to further drive their behavior online. It means that if a person were to go on YouTube and look at a puppy video then the next time they went on YouTube they would not be swarmed with pet videos; they would get the same home page experience as everyone else. Of course, this would break much of online advertising as we know it. I do not think that anyone would consider this to be a terrible thing except for Google and Facebook and the other companies that make a living by hoarding personal information in order to market things to consumers that analysts have determined that they will like based on the specific cohort(s) that they have been grouped into.

It also means that when viewing a news website, users will see the same content as everyone else… no more personalized newsfeeds. I believe that these changes would go a long way to improve people’s interactions with one another. I suspect that the government’s intervention in making this a law could be constitutionally defensible… I imagine there is some argument to be made in here that this represents a greater freedom of speech. However, even if the government never had the appetite to step into this, individuals could make these choices for themselves by opting out of systems that use personalization and behavioral targeting (i.e. basically anything “free” on the internet). It sounds wild, although it is not overreaching to say that this could make the world a better place.

Getting ready to make hay, pt 1

My sister and I decided to grow our own hay for the sheep. This winter we’ll have to buy it, although if we start the growing process now then next winter we won’t have to. Plus, it seems the highest quality hay gets shipped to Japan mostly and is very expensive here. I think we’ll write a separate post all about hay, this one is about the tools to make it.

We’re starting out with a 12″ plow for the tractor. I bought one with a depth guide wheel and a cutting wheel since this ground has never been plowed before and we’ll have to cut through existing vegetation. Here’s the plow that I purchased for our John Deere 1026R compact tractor:

It’s a “land shark” brand, made in the USA, and designed specifically for a tractor like ours (25 hp). It hooks to the three point hitch which will need to be adjusted to stay steady via the turnbuckles. The videos always make it look easy although I’m sure it will be a trial and error affair. I’ll post pictures of our plowed field once the implement arrives and we get to use it. We’ll also be using this to expand the garden beds.

Organizing and Storing Warhammer Figures

I’m a bit of a fiend for organization and I’m pretty sure I’ve spent a needless sum of money organizing “stuff” over the years that I probably shouldn’t even have, or that doesn’t really actually need organization. Anyhow, I find it rewarding and my various organization approaches are something that I’m always tweaking. Since the workshop is where most of my Warhammer models are living nowadays, and it’s a dusty place with a resident squirrel that, fortunately, has not (yet) taken a liking to lining his nest with little models, I decided to organize my models and to do so in a way that will protect them while also leaving them mostly visible.

I saw these cases from Tablewar a while back that basically involve trays with metal in them and each miniature gets a magnet super-glued into its base so that it will stick to the tray, which goes into the case, which in turn has an acrylic front so you can see everything. Much better than boxes filled with foam!

The first step is gluing a tiny magnet to the bottom of every model:

Once this is done, it’s really just a simple matter of deciding how you would like to organize them in the trays.

Gluing the magnets on is easy for the miniatures with bases. It requires a bit more creativity for things like these earthshaker cannons on the bottom tray which I have not yet magnetized.