On  George W. Bush the painter, or, the importance of good teachers

Whatever you think of George W. Bush as a president, most agree he is  not bad painter. There are two reasons for the latter: one, he had good teachers, and two, he is a good student. How do I know he had good teachers? According to this, Pocket: Art critics alarmed to discover that George W. Bush is actually a pretty good painter, Bush…

… didn’t have to sign up for classes at a local art school or the museum, of course. Instead, he took private lessons from a prominent Dallas artist named Gail Norfleet. Norfleet wrought a change in Bush’s worldview. He began to see the colors even in shadows, the subtle shifts of palette in a clear blue sky. “I was getting comfortable with the concepts of values and tones,” Bush writes in the introduction to his book. Norfleet also thoughtfully introduced the once monochromatic president to her mentor, another well-known Dallas artist named Roger Winter, and it was he who gave Bush the idea to paint world leaders. Bush also consulted a landscape painter, Jim Woodson, whose visions of the vast, untouched terrain of New Mexico are nothing like the conventional bluebonnet vistas many still associate with Texas art. It was Woodson who introduced Bush to, among other things, larger canvases and thicker paint, and guided him toward a more complex view of the world about him. (Underlying by me for emphasis).


Bush took the lessons from these teachers to heart. But he was fortunate to have access to good teachers. A lesson for us all.


Two interesting pieces on UBI (universal basic income)

There have been many articles written on UBI. (If you don’t know what it is, it’s  universal basic income: a cash payment made to every individual in the country).

Two of the more interesting ones I’ve read are here: The UBI already exists for the 1% – Medium, and this one here (on how India is looking to do it).

UBI is coming. It may take some time though.

The CRTC upholds net neutrality in Canada

It may not seem obvious, but preventing ISPs from providing zero-rating is actually support for Net Neutrality.

I generally see Net Neutrality as a good thing, though the ISPs have something of a case here. That said, Net Neutrality is a good thing to stick with, especially because what the ISPs give they can also take away.

More on the CRTC ruling here: CRTC ruling against zero-rating a boon for businesses, experts say (via IT Business)

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a candidate right out of a Philip K Dick Novel

Melenchon hologram
In France, politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon plans to be in seven places at once using  something similar to a hologram. According to Le Parisien:

Strictly speaking, these are not holograms. Jean-Luc Mélenchon will be present in seven different places thanks to … an optical illusion discovered for the first time half a century ago by an Italian physicist

Virtual Mélenchon reminds me of the politician Yance in Philip K Dick’s novel, The Penultimate Truth. We may not be far off where we get virtual candidate that look like people but behind the scenes we have AI or some combination of AI and people.

For more on the technology, see the article in Le Parisien. For more on Dick’s novel, see Wikipedia. Read up now: I think we can expect to see more of this technology in use soon.

12 Cafés Every History Buff Needs to Visit (a great list)

Cafe Central
If you like cafes, coffee and travelling, then this link is for you: 12 Cafés Every History Buff Needs to Visit | Travel | Smithsonian. Of the places in the article, I’ve only been to Cafe Central in Vienna and it is great. (In truth, Vienna has many great cafes. I went there years ago and enjoyed many of them. Cafe Central was one of the highlights.)

As far as bucket lists go, you could do worse than making it your aim to visit all the places listed here. 🙂

(Hat tip to @candicewalsh on twitter for sharing this link originally, and who also has a great travel blog.)


How to get a Raspberry Pi working with a TV with composite/component input (as opposed to HDMI)

I had an old Raspberry Pi 1 Model A, with an HDMI port and a standard RCA composite video port for older displays and I also had an old Toshiba TV (pictured above) and I wanted to get them working together. Here’s what I did and here’s some things I learned.

First things first, I had to get a the Raspberry Pi functional. To do that, I mostly followed the steps here: http://www.pcworld.com/article/2598363/how-to-set-up-raspberry-pi-the-little-computer-you-can-cook-into-diy-tech-projects.html. I say mostly because I was using a Mac, so I used SDFormatter to format the SD card. If you have a Mac, you can get SDFormatter here.

Basic steps to set up the Pi were:

  1. Download Raspbian
  2. Download SDFormatter
  3. Put the SD Card in my Mac (you want at least an 8 GB SD card).
  4. Format the SD Card using SDFormatter
  5. Unzip Raspbian
  6. Take the files in the unzipped Raspbian folder and copy them onto the SD Card (which should appear on your desktop)

All that is pretty straightforward in terms of setting up the Pi. If you don’t care for the instructions from PCWorld, Google “Raspberry Pi setup Mac” (or Windows or whatever your operating system) and you will likely find a site that is helpful.

Now, once the files are copied on to the SD Card, modify the config.txt file on the SD card. This is a key thing I had to do. Before I did it, I could plug my Pi into the TV but nothing appeared on the screen. After modifying the config.txt file (and it took some hacking around), I was able to get it to work.

Why do you have to do this? It seems that Raspbian assume you will be using HDMI and will not recognize a non-HDMI output device unless you modify the file. So modify it you must.

Note! Before I edited the file and replaced the text in it, I selected all of the text in that file and copied and pasted it into a file on my Mac as a backup. I recommend you do the same. Then I made the changes to the file, saved it, then ejected the SD card and put it in my Raspberry Pi. If you want to see my version of the file, you can see it here.

It was a process of trial and error to figure out which lines in the the config.txt to change. I was fortunate that I could start with this page which had details on how he got it working. Unfortunately his config.txt and the one I needed were slightly different, so I kept at it until I figured out how it should work. (With his file, the text was unstable: it kept rolling up the screen. With my file, the text did not roll.)

In my config.txt, I have colour burst disabled, rendering everything in black and white. Enable it if you want colour. I disabled it because I thought it would improve resolution but it did not.

Other things to note:

  • I had trouble determining which part of the composite cable should go into the TV. I had one end plugged into the Raspberry Pi, but it took me trial and error until I figured out where to plug the other end into the TV.
  • It will take up to a minute or longer before the Raspberry Pi sends video to my TV. If you don’t see output right away, be patient.
  • Most newer TVs also have composite/component ports. I used them for some testing.
  • Is it worth doing this if you can hook up to HDMI? I’d say no. I wanted to make use of the old Toshiba TV but if I had an old monitor with an HDMI port, I’d get an HDMI cable from the dollar store and connect up the Raspberry Pi that way.
  • When is it worth doing? I’d say if you had simple output to display, and the only ports available on your TV were the component ports, than give it a shot. I actually wrote a simple Twitter client in Python that polls Twitter every 5 minutes and displays my feed in text form. For simple text output like that, this set up is perfect. (You can see the output above: it looks weird due to the refresh rate and my phone: to the eye, it looks ok.)
  • Is it component or composite? I see the words “component” and “composite” used  and I am not sure which is correct.  In my case, all I know is I have one cable to connect the Pi’s video output to the TV’s input port. The Pi has only one video port to plug into, so that’s easy. Most TVs will have more than one port to accept video input: you need to experiment to get the right one.

I hope you found this useful.

P.S. The other thing I like about doing this is: my TV now  looks like the TV between Leon and Holden in Blade Runner. 🙂

Why the stock market goes down and why it goes up (and what you should consider)

Stock market gains chart since 2009

Since the start of the great recession in 2009, two things have happened in the stock market:

  • In the short term, events have occurred that correlate with declines in the stock market
  • In the long term, the stock market has steadily improved significantly

This leads me to two conclusions

  • Always take a longer term view of the stock market
  • The things that drive the stock market in the long term are very different than the short term drivers

The second conclusion is something that this piece tries to tackle: Gradual Improvements Go Unnoticed. It is easy to see what drives the stock market down in the short term: it is difficult to ascertain what drives the stock market up in the long term. Gradual improvements could be a contributor. Other things, like the activity of the central bank, affects this. Even how other markets in the world in the world can affect the stock market.