Candlelight Vigil for Tiananmen Square Massacre, 30 Years Ago

There will be a candlelight vigil for the Tiananmen Square Massacre victims of thirty years ago when the Chinese Communist Party slaughtered many of its own citizens who wanted greater freedom. The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation works to maintain awareness of Communism's horrible track record of oppression and systemic impoverishment, environmental pollution, and mass murder.

I remember watching that unfold over days and weeks while on summer vacation. Unforgettable.

No Pecan Nuts to Brazil

Around Christmas 2018, I mailed a one-pound bag of pecans, harvested from local groves, to a Brazilian friend, since he didn't know what pecans are. His wife does, but she acknowledged they are rare and costly, certainly in the country's northeast. Surely they would enjoy a bag of pecans, I thought.

Mail to Brazil is slow, often a few weeks, but my friend says the Brazilian postal system is reliable, if slow. He says they have never lost or stolen anything. I expected delays because of Christmas and other seasonal holidays as well as a Brazilian postal workers' strike. But March came without the pecans showing up, so we gave up.

Around May 1st, almost a half year later, the pecans returned to me. They bag had been opened for inspection and a pamphlet inserted, written in Spanish, about what is prohibited entry into Brazil by Vigiagro, Vigilância Agropecuária Internacional. I had checked with the USPS about whether nuts could be sent to Brazil and got a definite maybe, so I decided, Why not? And now I know.

What I found particularly interesting is the forbidden items pamphlet in Spanish, not English, the international language of business. I find it odd that Brazil's Vigiagro has no English forms; however, since Brazil's neighbors and, probably, majority trading partners are nearly all Spanish-speaking, maybe there is no real reason for such forms in English.

Next time, like Ghostbusters, I'll know who to call.

Judging a Science Contest

On Wednesday the 27th, I volunteered as a judge for an 8th grace science contest at Imago Dei Middle School. There were three groups for whom my input was particularly important. One involved people's fear of robots, another involved human-powered electricity generation, and the last involved crown gall, a bacterial infection of plants. I also talked with two girls who did a presentation on aromatherapy (lavender and peppermint) and relaxation.

All the kids did a good job, and I enjoyed judging. It was interesting to see what the students put on their posters versus what they had to say about their projects.

This project, Your Own Electricity, was done by a group of three young men who went through five different generators in an attempt to charge a cellphone.

"Your Own Electricity" Science Project

This project, Crown Gall, was about a bacterial infection of plants and was a solo project. Unfortunately for the student, someone who had a collection of crown gall-infected roses never delivered them to her, so she wasn’t able to perform her experiments.

"Crown Gall" Science Contest

The final project, Robotics, mainly involved building and programming two kit robots, but the two young men who did this researched who fears their possible future robot overlords.

"Robotics" Science Contest

Everyone did a good job, but I regret that I didn't spend more time at others' presentations.

Flash Flushed

This past weekend I finally removed Flash. Adobe has declared that Flash will die this year or next, so I decided to get it done now. It's somewhat sad, as I liked the Flash panoramas, and I had some hope of playing with a Flash to do what could be done with QuickTime in LiveStage Pro. However, it died a long time ago, too,

Studying (Brazilian) Portuguese: Some Software and Sites

For a few years now, I have been studying Brazilian Portuguese since befriending a Brazilian visiting professor while I was completing my engineering degree. He is an electrical engineering professor in João Pessoa, Paraíba, Brazil, which I have visited once. The regional accent of Brazil's Northeast is sometimes called Nordestinês, spoken by Nordestinos, people who live in the northeast.

When reading Portuguese online, I usually am on my iPad and using the very nice iOS browser iCab. It has a Google Translate module that works very well.

Reading Portuguese online with Google Translate:

  • Jornal da Paraíba is a local newspaper that is well laid out with longish articles covering a range of topics.
  • FaceNewsJP has a more cluttered interface but many more articles on happening events, especially crimes and accidents, in João Pessoa.
  • BBC News | Brasil (in Portuguese) has lengthy articles on which I tend to give up then read in English.
  • O Globo is a major Brazilian media firm whose reporting tends to be conservative, according a Brazilian professor I had. Many of their articles are only for subscribers, but I find their RSS feed a good way to pick short articles of interest.

Listening to Portuguese online:

  • ReallyLearnPortuguese is a podcast that has fairly frequent interviews and conversations. If you become a paid member of the site, you gain access to their transcripts. They also have a good flash card collection through Quizlet and its iOS app. My membership has lapsed, because I'm not yet fluent enough and lack the time to benefit from it. Sadly, on 17 January, the owner of RLP passed away, so the site's future is now uncertain.
  • Rádios Brasil is an ad-supported app that lists streaming Brazilian radio stations, including a bunch from Paraíba.
  • Rádios do Brasil is a site with plenty of streaming Brazilian radio stations.

Online Study Tools for Portuguese:

  • Google Translate can help immensely. Its corpus is larger than that of any dictionary I have used.
  • Duolingo warrants special mention, since it is so comprehensive. The Duolingo app offers various drills arranged by theme or grammatical function. An optional flash card app, Tinycards, helps reinforce the drills. If you login to the site, you get the same drills as well as conversations in Brazilian Portuguese.
  • ReversoTranslation is a good bilingual dictionary, but I cannot recall the last time I used their translation tool.
  • Conjuguemos drills you on conjugating Portuguese (and other languages).
  • Conjuga-me is another tool for conjugating in Portuguese.

Software for Portuguese:

  • Duolingo offers various drills with a point system. Too many missed points, and you must either wait for points to return or do practice drills to recover points.
  • Tinycards is a flash card app that is especially bound to Duolingo's drills and conversations.
  • Quizlet is the app for the flash card website.

Updating My Site and Its Panoramas

Having recently bought a used Canon 50D with the intention of shooting panoramas again, I have begun updating my old panorama work, trying to relearn various things, and seeking alternatives to applications no longer supported. This includes the looming obsolescence of Adobe Flash by the end of 2020, which was the format I used after Apple killed QuickTime VR support. I never cared for the Java-based options.

Last night I purchased a costly upgrade to Garden Gnome Software's Pano2VR, which I used years ago before engineering studies ate all my free time and energy. Thankfully converting an old *.p2vr project to HTML 5 turns out to be quite simple. However, expecting to be able to add a few more pages to my website built with the long-defunct ShutterBug by XtraLean Software, I was only mildly surprised to find that the program's built-in FTP functionality apparently no longer works. My guess is an OS X update has crippled or blocked it, but I have not yet been able to confirm anything.

Initially I thought a forgotten password was the problem, but Yummy FTP works just fine for connecting to my site. I ended up doing some simple quick edits through it with my text editor BBEdit then a few more edits from my iPad with FTP Client Pro.

My plan is to replace all of my Flash panoramas with HTML 5 ones over the next couple of weeks while doing as little website HTML tweaking as possible, since I need to spend more time messing with C programming. I did pick up a cheap copy of Flux 6, but I haven't even opened it, and they're on at least 7 anyway. There is little benefit to learning HTML for me, so I am happy to keep with a WYSIWYG option.

National Day for the Victims of Communism

I was pleased to learn that President Trump has declared November 7 as the National Day for the Victims of Communism. There have been so incredibly many millions of victims, especially in China, Russia, Cambodia, and Cuba. The grossest ongoing statist scam, Communism and its gateway drug Socialism are still killing, oppressing, and impoverishing people in North Korea, Venezuela, and elsewhere.

Befriending Vietnamese boat people somewhat opened my eyes as a youth. In university, on my own I read accounts of life under Communism as well as the risible propaganda of the starry-eyed Westerners who visited Communist countries. Reading The Black Book of Communism was particularly influential, and I recommend it to everyone.

Consider visiting and donating to the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.