ArcoJedi's Holocron

Who is ArcoJedi? A life-journeying Christian, ecstatic husband, proud father of four, web guru, all-around geek and Star Wars fanatic. Read these thoughts that he felt were worthwhile. Then wonder why he thought that way.


Delicious Bookmarks - What's Happening Now?

My favorite social bookmarking service, the one and only original has sort of languished for a while without any real obvious development or changes. Stagnant. The mobile app had stopped working for me and possibly others. There has not been any blog posts from them in over a year and their social feeds are also non-responsive. But that suddenly changed earlier this month.

Now there's been a sudden flurry of blog posts since the beginning of June. Mostly they are a review of site history and some evolution and foibles. They seem nostalgic without being unrealistic.

But... what does that mean? Are we going to see some improvements / changes / new features? 


No. We are not going to see updates. After a little more digging, I found a tweet that announced that Delicious had been sold again! And upon further reading I gather this will be the last time.

You can read more on the Pinboard Blog. But the short version is that is going away. And though I'm saddened, perhaps it's time. I can lead cheers for free web services at the top of my lungs, but some of them just can't last forever. Perhaps none of them can.

The longer version of the announcement is that the company was purchased by a competitor. The new owner has updated and reactivated the export feature but that's probably it. The site is going into "read-only" mode (should already be happening, but to my tests has not yet) and I'll have to find another social bookmark service eventually. Perhaps it will be Pinboard? My initial read of the new owner's blog posts gave me the impression that he's a bit of an arrogant snob, but further along and I have decided I was being hasty. He's knowledgeable and seems to have a good strategy with Pinboard's minimalism. There are other options I've looked at briefly, but $11/year is cheap compared to most other options.


Challenger Space Shuttle Disaster - President Ronald Reagan's Speech

This was January 28th, 1986.


Collector of Music - 20,000 Songs

I reached a personal milestone this past week I'd like to mention here. I now have over TWENTY THOUSAND songs on my Google Play library. I'm sorry, let me say that a bit louder…

20,000 Song Files!

Check out the screen shot below of the menu and you'll see the little highlighted section. That's a lot of music.

Google Music 20,000 Songs

I'm not sure I've ever owned 20,000 of anything. And for the most part, I legally own all of these files, at least as much as anyone can claim to own music. Sure, back in the day I did my fair share of Napster, WinMX and Kazaa (*cringe*). But that's a few computer migrations ago. I still have those old files packed up in mothballs, perhaps retrievable but not easily. A larger portion of the music in my Google Music library arrived completely free, but still legally.

First, I should start with an introduction to Google Music for those of you who don't know. If you have an Android phone, you should be familiar with the official app store, otherwise known as Google Play. It's where you browse and get new apps for your phone. You can also purchase music, ebooks and digital magazines.

But my introduction to Google Music came before I owned an Android phone. In fact, my first smart phone was an iPhone I got from my work. Through the iTunes store I found there was a music section with a "iTunes Single of the Week" and I checked it regularly to get that free song. Sometimes it was pretty good, sometimes just blah. One standout that I still listen to regularly is a Gregory Porter song called Real Good Hands.

In the iTunes store, when you clicked a song it got downloaded and added to your iTunes library automatically. And it also got added to your phone at your preference. Each song was brand new. Additionally, I was getting exposed to a lot of international / world music due to the one coworker friend from Armenia that had a huge collection. Come to think of it, we had a lot of different music backgrounds in that department at the time, and I was constantly hearing something new. And I was also in a band at the time, getting exposed to all kinds of new music there too.

Somewhere along the way, the company switched cell providers and were offered iPhones OR Android phones. I didn't switch, but some did. And they discovered quickly that whereas Apple's iTunes had a free single each week, Google Play had a new free song almost every day. But you didn't NEED to have an Android phone for it, just a Google account (like Gmail). Not only did they make these songs available for free download, they also had an online library where you could store them as well as any other mp3s you wanted to listen to -- up to 20,000 at the time. There was a plugin you could get that would sync upload your whole iTunes library. Since having my collection in more than one place seemed attractive, I set that up pretty quickly. It was easy and I could continue adding new songs form the iTunes store and they'd be synced up to Google Play in a day or two. I could then listen to the same library from my computer at work AND my computer at home AND my phone.

In addition, there were several free music blogs that I subscribed to. You can subscribe to blogs/podcasts in iTunes and I grabbed a lot of files here. I could review some of them, but I'll just quickly list.

I could list more, but that's a sprinkling. I had all this music coming into my iTunes library from various sources then uploading to the Google Play library and it grew. And grew and grew. And of course, I was also adding music from my physical media CD collection. Keep that up for weeks and weeks and months, and now years and here you go.

Somewhere along the way, I switched from iTunes mostly with a little bit of Google Play to the opposite. Additionally, Google's music library limit was increased to 50,000. And I'm pretty sure that if you've downloaded the music from their free/paid service it does not count towards that limit. Google has stopped promoting and giving away free music in favor of their radio service, which I pretty much eschew in favor of Spotify or Pandora when I'm in the mood for that. I could write a post in response to the folks I love who favor physical media, be it CD or vinyl, but I kind of get it so I won't talk about that here.


Fighting Fraud

I got a phone call this past Saturday and I wanted to write a quick post with my methods on how to fight phone fraud. First off, this is not a post about how to protect your identity, how to obscure your publicly available information, how to add yourself to the 'do-not-call' list, or anything correct and vanilla like that. This is a post about what I do when I get a call that I KNOW for a fact is someone sloppily attempting to gather information from me to defraud me.

This past Saturday, the lady was supposedly calling from "The Government" to get me money that was due to me ($8,000? Wow!) due to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which is an actual thing but was enacted in 2009. In addition to the standard red flags -- her accent, stumbling with English, nervous fast-talking -- there was also the fact that she was calling at all. If the "government" actually owed me money, they'd likely just mail me a check assuming they were to notify me. Add to this the fact that it was a 2009 stimulus thing, and I was pretty sure all the money from that had already been given out by now.

So clearly this phone caller was a liar trying to trick me and it was a waste of my time even talking to her at all. OR WAS IT? Lucky enough for her (and me) I happened to be between tasks.

I guess a lot of people would have just hung up the phone or told her where to stuff it. And my belief is that this is a mistake. Hang up, and then this predator moves on to the next potential victim. And that person might not be alert or smart enough to spot the thief.

The Way to Stop Phone Fraud and Phone Spam is To Distract Them

So I talked with her, asked a lot of questions, sometimes the same questions more than once, gave her no real accurate personal information and kept her talking to me as long as I possibly could. I've done this many times before, when the timing of the call is convenient. In this particular instance, I was only able to keep her going for 15 minutes before her script was overly exhausted. At that point, she gave me a different number that I should call and give my "money password" to an "accounting officer" which I promised dutifully that I would do. Of course, I was lying. My record for this type of call is just under an hour and a half.

And before you ask, no I don't feel the slightest bit guilty about it. Sure, you could argue that the person on the other end of the phone may not be aware they are part of a fraud scheme. Or perhaps they are in an extremely poor situation and this is their only way out of it. There may be no other economic option in their country. Sure. That's certainly possible.

But I'm not fighting them individually. I'm fighting the industry. The people at the top, making the decisions, setting up the scams. They are only successful if the small army of poorly paid people who do these canvas calls can churn out 1,000 calls in a week and get 10 successful marks to hand over vital information like bank accounts, social security numbers and so forth. Certainly the larger percentage of people are aware of these schemes and can spot them, but it's still a numbers game. As long as most people who know it's a scam hang up immediately, they can move on to the next potential fish. So I instead keep them talking. The longer they talk to me and the more fake personal details I give them -- "Yes, my full name is Galen Marek..." -- and the more fake credit card numbers I offer them -- "My Visa card number is 4012888888881881..." -- the longer they spend with me and the more frustrated they get with me. The more times they attempt to run a credit card number that won't work, the more times their processor charges them a fee.

You could argue that in the grand scheme of things, me doing this all by my lonesome self is not going to really do much to a huge criminal industry of fly-by-night jerks. It's just me, taking one call at a time in my spare time and I can't possibly cause that much wasted time and damage.

Unless that is, I'm not alone in my methods. That's right, I'm talking to you now, silent reader. The next time you get a call from a number you don't recognize, take a second. Deep breath. Don't block or ignore that call. Answer it. If it's a scammer, dive right into the role of the confused older naive person who legitimately is curious about what the person on the other end is trying to supposedly offer them. Have fun.

Alternatively,... Officially Reporting Fraud

Still with me so far? Okay, so perhaps the above suggestions make you uncomfortable. I get it. But don't just hang up. Grab a pen and paper, and record as many details of the caller and what they are trying to do then politely decline and hang up. Then take all of the details and submit them to the FBI's public tip page. For the specific fraud call related to the ARRA, people are supposed to report it on the fraud page, but sadly that entire web site is buggy and broken. I think the site is abandoned. I never got the form page to load at all.

And that was after researching all over the place for the proper department or entity, page, email address or phone number to which I was supposed to report this kind of thing. Here's a list of the other stops along my route.

Addendum: Also check out what this guy does with a spam email that got through his filter. Hilarious.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments. Be careful out there folks.


xkcd: A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language.

If you accept the infinite universe theory as I do, you might be interested in seeing this funny list of Famous Duos in a Nearby Parallel Universe.

xkcd: Famous Duos

I've posted xkcd comics before. Creator Randall Munroe has an amazing simple style but a head for science and absurd hypothetical questions. His comic was one of the first web comics I'd ever subscribed to.

I had to share this one here as a tribute back to my recent post about my wife's 40th birthday. This recent comic reminded me of my favorite part about writing that, which was coming up with the list of crazy partnerships to compare our marriage to.

She is…

Han Solo
…to my Chewbacca
…to my Westley
…to my Penn
…to my Romeo

Anyway, do check out Note that his brand of humor sometimes goes right over people's heads to some degree. Interestingly enough, there is an entire community wiki site devoted to explaining the jokes for those of you us who may not get it right away. And I mentioned it already, but if you love science and absurd hypothetical questions, be sure to subscribe to the what if site. To close, here are a few of my favorites.

  • Relativistic Baseball - What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90% the speed of light?
  • Yoda - How much Force power can Yoda output?
  • Raindrop - What if a rainstorm dropped all of its water in a single giant drop?
  • Plastic Dinosaurs - As plastic is made from oil and oil is made from dead dinosaurs, how much actual real dinosaur is there in a plastic dinosaur?


Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

A Day Long Remembered...

In 24 hours from this very moment, I'll be sitting in a theater with my wife settling in and watching the next installment in the Star Wars saga. It goes without saying that I'm very excited.

It's been over three years since it was announced that George Lucas sold Lucasfilm to Walt Disney. And it was obvious from the beginning there were going to be new movies. And I have been thinking about this day quite often, perhaps every day. Looking back over this time though, I've rarely written about it which is surprising even to me. I think because I juggle a plethora of emotions about it... some of them good anticipatory ones, and some of them fearful trepidatious ones. What is going to happen?

Will the movie be great? Impressive, unforgettable, revolutionary, spectacular, endearing?

Will it be horrible? Disappointing, lackluster, boring, predictable?

Of course, I have high hopes and everything looks like it will be amazing. Darn right it will be amazing. But... then I just don't know.

Really, though. Why haven't I been writing about these thoughts and feelings for the past several months? I could have written a few blog posts a week all this time and not covered everything I could likely say. Even at this late hour, I still have about ten different things to say all at once. Prioritizing...

The first thing I want to mention is the lead up to Episode I. And also the reception afterwards. During 1999, I was very busy as I think I've mentioned before. News there would be a new Star Wars and news I would be a dad for the first time came almost simultaneously. And the due date and release date were the same week. "I hope they aren't the same day," I jokingly quipped. "Because I'd hate to miss the birth!" Of course, The Phantom Menace came out on the 19th and firstborn emerged on the 20th so all worked out well there. Worldwide expectations for how awesome the movie would be were high, perhaps too high. But I'll admit that despite everyone's hatred of Jar Jar, I left the theater that evening happy and only a little confused. I liked it, but not as much as I thought I would. For me personally, the days following were filled with baby planning and being a nervous new dad. We were very busy and I had little to no Internet access. What I'm trying to make clear is that it took me a few weeks or months to catch up to the fact that there was a strong bit of backlash against Jar Jar Binks and the whole saga of Star Wars. My own step-brother, whom I considered to be very nearly as big a Star Wars fan as I was, vehemently hated it and vowed not to watch the following prequels. That seemed way harsh to me then and still does. Come to think of it, I don't know that he ever backed down from that. It's possible he'll be avoiding The Force Awakens as well.

I think of that moment in time and I want to say something to fellow fans who might leave the theater tomorrow disappointed. I'm not sure what I'd say. Squelch it? Sit on your disappointment for a bit, or at least keep it out of earshot of little kids or anyone else who might have liked it? I don't know. Maybe all of those things.

The other thing I want to say I think is the most important of all. At the release of this movie, I'll have a bit of a moment of mourning. As these new movies about the further adventures of Luke, Han, Leia and all become canon in the minds and hearts of everyone including me, it means that the final bell will toll for a completely different set of stories that was supposed to be the canonical versions of what happened to our heroes. If you didn't know, starting in 1991, there were a series of books published as part of the Star Wars Expanded Universe. As a ramp up to the prequels that Lucas was working on and potentially to test the waters of fan reception, they hired writers to craft new stories set in the Star Wars universe to share what happened to everyone after the end of Return of the Jedi. Timothy Zahn's initial trilogy was an especially good example, and it was set 5 years later. Han and Leia are married and expecting twins. Luke is planning to rebuild the Jedi Academy. The last few dregs of the once great Galactic Empire are still there, but diminished in power. New enemies emerge --like Grand Admiral Thrawn.

From 1991 on, there were many books and under the careful supervision of Lucasarts and George himself, they were all kept as part of the same continuity. And from a canonical point of view, given the full blessing. This was what was officially happening to these characters in the years after the film ended. And chronologically, they filled up quite a few "years" of fictional time in that universe. Some stories went so far as to follow Luke all the way up into his own marriage, birth of a son and becoming a grand 60 year old Jedi Master.

When it was first announced that they'd be making new movies, many fans like myself wondered where in this set of stories --when in the canonical chronology-- would these new movies take place? Would they make the much loved Timothy Zahn trilogy into movies? Would they pick a different book? Would the movies be new stories that fit BETWEEN the book stories?

Or, as I feared, would Disney take a giant axe to the entire swath of the published --and previously canonical-- Expanded Universe and declare it to be null and void? In the end, that is exactly what they decided to do.

In order to give maximum creative freedom to the filmmakers and also preserve an element of surprise and discovery for the audience, Star Wars Episodes VII-IX will not tell the same story told in the post-Return of the Jedi Expanded Universe. While the universe that readers knew is changing, it is not being discarded. Creators of new Star Wars entertainment have full access to the rich content of the Expanded Universe. For example, elements of the EU are included in Star Wars Rebels. The Inquisitor, the Imperial Security Bureau, and Sienar Fleet Systems are story elements in the new animated series, and all these ideas find their origins in roleplaying game material published in the 1980s.

I loved those books and treasured them close to my heart. And for this reason, I'm sad. These engaging stories that I've spent many hours and days reading and enjoying have been demoted to fanciful, non-official, non-canon, alternate universe stuff. To be fair, I completely understand the decision and admit that if I were in charge at Disney (and I needed to recoup the money that was paid out for the rights to Star Wars) I can't think of any way to make the movies inclusive of the stories in the books. I hate to present an uncomfortable problem I'm unhappy about when I don't have a better solution in mind.

There it is anyway. When the next movie becomes a reality for me, it will mean that the "Legends" stories I read in high school will be less of a reality in some way. Don't get me wrong, I'll ecstatically adore the new film (as I already do), but there's just a tiny bit of sadness to go along with it.

And... That's all I've got time for tonight. Tomorrow night at this point, the whole world will have seen the next Star Wars movie. Here's hoping it will great. May the Force be with you.

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