The Dysmey Blog
The personal weblog of Andy West.

November 2008
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XMas Season 2008, part 1
Filed under: General
Posted by: Andy @ 11:24 pm


Thanksgiving has come and gone, and with it the four-day weekend.

I had the standard dinner — turkey, mashed potatoes, sage dressing (with gravy), corn and roll, with pumpkin pie for desert. I had it again Saturday evening for leftovers. The rest of the day was spent cleaning the back rooms of the house, including the dryer vent, which had not been touched since I moved in.

On Friday I visited Muncie to shop for a shade for my floor lamp. I had no luck, and it looks like I will have to shop the Net for one. But I did find ornaments suitable for my XMas tree, and gift bags for my presents to my sisters and Padre. I also got gifts for my nieces. They are arrayed around the XMas tree at home.

The last day was a surprise. I got out of bed, walked to the bathroom, and wondered why the light outside was so bright and I could not see the yard. I looked out and learned: There was an inch layer of snow outside. I sent the morning shoveling out the deck, around the car and the front sidewalk.

courts as threat to the net

Anonymity plus an audience turns an average person into a dumbass. It also creates really bad law — the kind of law that makes the use of all those so-called Web 2.0 sites like MySpace, Facebook and YouTube dangerous because it holds their users criminally liable for violations of the sites’ terms of service. That was the result of the ruling in the conviction of some evil woman who was supposed to have driven a teenage girl to suicide. How the decision is ruled on in the next few days will make or break Web 2.0 as a viable medium.

wireless network

I finally admitted to myself that having a computer downstairs without a network connection is unfeasible. It does not mean I will take the computer upstairs with the other two machines. It means I will have to find some way to connect it to my home network.

Wiring it to the network is out of the question because that would involve moving cable out of the house, along the phone line, then along the side of the house, around the chimney, and into the living room. That is not feasible.

I would like to move all my wiring (network and phone) under the house, like the folks have theirs; but they have a basement, and I do not. I want at least a trench-like crawlspace under my house, like what my sister the editor has, but that is a we-can-dream project that may or may not be doable.

That leaves wireless, something that I have resisted for years due to security issues. But I have found an Ars-recommended programmable wireless router that will let me join the downstairs computer to the home network with a wireless card.

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Mid-November 2008
Filed under: General, Work
Posted by: Andy @ 3:06 am

The past couple of weeks have gotten more and more frosty. There was even snow on the ground — bearly — for a couple of days. I had to drive slowly on the rural roads due to the ice. It is going to be a habit, as I drive in places with too little funds for snow removal.

I can see my juice bill fly into the clear crisp sky this winter. But at least my heating bill will not be as bad as my folks or sisters, who heat with gas.

I lend my sister the editor an issue of Consumer Reports with ratings on space heaters. Her furnace died the death at the most inopportune time, so she is looking for a stop-gap measure to keep at least the inner rooms of the house warm. Madre suggested she get a wall furnace — and had to hammer into her head that she was not talking about a space heater.

My cat Isis is in recovery from her sprained back as well as being on a diet to get her to shed that weight. The vet had worried about Isis jumping during the week or so after the visit. But Isis has been doing almost no jumping. Indeed she has been spending almost all her time in the dark space underneath the base step of the stairs. I have had to take her food dish to the step to get her to eat dinner because the dinner has her anti-inflammatory medicine in it. It is kind of worrying, but she does move about every so often, so I am not too worried.

XMas is coming, and the desperate stores are starting their XMas sales early due to the recession. (Actually the start of the XMas sales season had been creeping earlier and earlier in the past few years.) Anyway, as my last plastic XMas tree bit the dust when its lights burned out, I bought a new one. It is a meter tall, has white lights, and runs off the mains instead of batteries. It sits on the table in front of a living room window. It looks okay, but could use some ornaments and something on top.

I tried Ubuntu on the Janovac. It is the easiest thing to install. The problem is installing stuff like Apache and PHP on top. The root account is almost inaccessible, making it hard to install software on top. Evidently Ubuntu is set up with the maximum amount of distrust on the part of the user. It looks like I will go back to Fedoara.

Work presents two problems. One is getting the university repository registered with the Open Archives Initiative (OAI). Of OAI’s six protocols, the repository fails on one because the Web server chokes on it. Apart from certain info not making it to the Web server, I can’t figure out why.

The other deals with Macs using a Windows network feature called Active Directory (AD). AD recycles its internal passwords periodically; and when it does the Macs become unbound to AD, forcing me to rebind them by hand. The university’s computing service found me a script that can be used to make a Mac rebind to AD at every login. If it works, it saves me work.

When someone is trying to fix something for you, you only make the repair take longer, and make the worker angry, if you annoy or pester them with questions they cannot answer. And when they don’t answer, don’t assume that they cannot hear you. It all works out in the end if you just leave the worker alone.

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Veterans Day 2008
Filed under: General
Posted by: Andy @ 6:05 pm

I took Veterans Day off in order to make appointments with the veterinarian and the dentist on one day. It did not work out that way.

The dentist decided on the afternoon off on Veterans Day, so I had to come in on Monday afternoon to have my teeth cleaned and examined. I am good for another six months.

This morning I delivered my Heroes Tree ornament to the library, and give another copy of the ornament (and a birthday card) to Madre. Then I put the cat in the pet carrier and drove her to the vet. No, she does not like being carried around like that.

It was found that my cat injured her back at mid-spine. It was not a hip dislocation. The doctor gave the cat a non-steroid anti-inflammatory shot, and me some medicine to keep the inflammation down until she heals. But the ultimate cause of the cat’s injury was her weight. Fifteen pounds is obese for a cat, and I was told that the injury will recur if I do not get her weight down. So, I have dietary food for the cat to eat as part of a six-month regiment to get her weight down to nine pounds.

After I got the cat home, I drove to Muncie to eat at the Olive Garden. I ate there to celebrate the fifth anniversary of my dismissal from the Bank. It turned out to be the best thing that happened to me, so I had the best meal I had in a while. After getting an oil/lube change for my car, I returned home.

I have revived work on the Janovac, a tiny server using a VIA ARTiGO kit based on the Pico-ITX motherboard. It takes awhile to set it up, not because of the installation itself but because of the updates, which can take hours because of all the components in a Fedora system.

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Late Autumn 2008
Filed under: General
Posted by: Andy @ 12:17 pm

bitter cold

It has been a stay-inside weekend.

Well, I did rake and bag most of the leaves from the other tree on Saturday. That pretty much takes care of leaf-raking for the year.

heroes tree

I finished the set of ornaments, one of which will go on the Heroes Tree in the library. I will take the ornament to the library tomorrow morning.

isis is ill

My main worry right now is for my cat Isis. For the past few days she has had difficulty walking, as her hind legs would collapse on her with every ten or twenty steps. She has had to clamber up on surfaces no higher than a foot off the floor. Jumping is no longer possible for her. At first I feared the effects of a spider bite (there are lots of brown recluse spiders in my area) or of something she ate. My folks and sister the teacher suspect a dislocated hip, which sound more reasonable. The local veternarian will determine what is wrong tomorrow.


I also planned to use vacation time tomorrow for a dentist’s visit. But my dentist has decided to leave early, so I have had to come in at 4:00 this afternoon. That means I have had to forgo my lunch break to make up the lost time. Annoyance!!

good dismissal

It is not just the vet and dentist visits that I took Veterans Day off. It is also the fifth anniversary of my dismissal from the Bank. That dismissal led to the job I have now. It was the best thing that has happened to me. It is even better, knowing that the bosses who fired me have been forced out themselves. I want to celebrate! Olive Garden, here I come!!

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The Annoyed Librarian
Filed under: Work
Posted by: Andy @ 10:42 pm

The American Library Association has added a librarian blogger called the Annoyed Librarian. The blogger calls herself that because she tends to be fed up with bull that comes from patrons, her fellow librarians, and even from the ALA itself. The latter is ironic, as her blog has relocated on the Web site of the Library Journal, the organ of the ALA.

Care for some samples?

The Cult of Twopointopia

Library 2.0 is a fad based on Web 2.0, a marketing ploy of O’Reilly Media to get the public more interest in new Web services like blogs, wikis and social networks. Web 2.0 was never really meant for the programming gurus, who laugh away such attempts at marketing to them. Evidently the whackos pushing Library 2.0 are having similar success with librarians, who tend to share the following retort.

I am a librarian who knows how to use all this stuff, and I’ve been serving users for years. I’m the knowledgeable skeptic who isn’t awed because some librarian knows how to blog. Also, I’m skeptical, and whenever anyone starts jabbering about yet another movement with its own manifesto, I can’t help but criticize it. I don’t jump on bandwagons. I don’t follow fads. I’m not a convert or an ideologue.

AL American Libraries Column #5: On Getting No Respect

There is a movement among public library boards to reduce the role of library personal to that of customer-service representatives, which is a fancy title for retail clerks and telemarketers, on the grounds that the library is a service. The real reason is to stiff the staff of a good chunk of money, since retail clerks are poorly paid.

We can’t get away with that in Indiana, as new certification requirements demand an MLS for directors of libraries above a certain size, and a set number of education credits for all staff. Those credits are not cheap, and the staff will expect boards to cough up at least part of the cost. But that sort of evil is being done elsewhere, and the blogger rightly will not stand for it.

While it’s true that public librarians need to, in some sense, give the patrons what they want, and all public service librarians need some of the skills we might label customer service skills, I think modeling librarians after retail clerks and libraries after malls are huge mistakes, and will prove detrimental to the status of librarians. Retail clerks don’t get any respect, and if librarians model themselves after retail clerks, they’ll get even less respect than they do now. Any worker who, when abused, takes the Christian injunction too far and turns all four cheeks to the abusive patron will never get any respect. Bootlicking sycophants and servants get no respect and deserve none, and as long as this toadying image is promoted and tolerated among librarians then they don’t deserve any respect.

As a case in point, a past director of the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library replaced reference librarians with clerks because as customer-service representatives the clerks were less expensive. This, and other factors, have led to rancor with the library staff, which finally tried to form a union. The library board eventually forced out the director. The staff was not sad to see her leave: She came into town and in two years demoralized a system worse than it already was, and took off.

Et tu, ACRL?

Academic libraries exist for students, faculty and staff to read and to do research. It is not there to curry to ignorant apelings, as the public libraries supposedly must. The blogger knows this, points to the difference between academic and public libraries, and asserts that the missions of the two are not the same. That said, she is angry at the emergence of gaming in academic libraries, and thinks extremely little of the ideas of marketing and information literacy in the academic libraries. I do not think she will get along well with the Dean of my library.

According to some of the public librarians, public libraries are there to give the public what it wants. But academic libraries are there to teach people, not pander to them. Is academia to become as puerile and idiotic as the rest of American culture? Do we academics have to amuse ourselves to death, too? As usual, I’m sure my pleas for sanity will fall on deaf ears, but please, pretty please, leave the gaming to the public libraries and the children. There has to be some place in librarianship for the intellectual and scholarly among us, for those librarians devoted to reading hard books, supporting research, and helping students learn how to be little scholars. If academic libraries are overwhelmed by the same pandering to childish interests that public libraries have been, there’ll be no bastions of intellectual life left in libraries. Is that really what we want?

She is right. Games like Bioshock become cheap (around $10-$20) after a few months; computers are no longer expensive; and a dial-up modem is enough for most games, which need Internet connections only for authentication and registration purposes. You do not need a library, even a public one, to play video games. But if there is a need for games in the libraries, confine them to the public libraries, and let the academic ones do what they are supposed to do.

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The Election Is Past
Filed under: General, Politics
Posted by: Andy @ 12:22 am

A couple of things before I give politics a toss for the year.

First, there was a lot of bitter, disillusioned stuff that I wrote in the past couple of entries. And there has been plenty more on my last blog and on my Web site. I do not apologize for any of it. I have never believed in my adult life in the divinity of the State, or even in the silly Canadian concept of Good Government. The State is composed of human beings. Humans are selfish, self-regarding critters from the day they pop out of the oven. Why should an entity composed of evil beings somehow become good?

Also, the American people have been taken for a ride by their leaders for the past twenty years. This is mostly because they have been deceiving themselves into thinking that everything is fine, which is the modern version of god is in his heaven, all is right with the world. It really is time for my fellow citizens to open their eyes, at least for a moment. I recommend reading Idols for Destruction by Herbert Schlossberg (ISBN 978-0891077381); it’s been around since the early Reagan years (I bought it at the bookstore of the Wesleyan Church HQ before it was moved to Indianapolis), but its message is still pertinent.

The one good thing that eight years of El Dubya has done is to discredit the neo-conservative movement, that mutation of statist Republicanism à la Nelson Rockefeller. Thanks, El Dubya. You may go back to your beer, your couch and your baseball. And let Obama clean the mess you and your minions made.

Second, my sister was in shock at the victory of Obama in, of all places, our own state of Indiana! She was amazed that he had won despite the decrepit useless wreck that is the Indiana Democratic Party. But when you study the results, it is not really surprising. Indianapolis and the university towns and the peripheral urban areas formed enough of a disaffected base to force the rest of the mossback, values-besotted state to hand out their electors to Obama.

Yes, McCain’s concession speech (I heard part of it before going to sleep) was gracious. Given his political career, this is hard to interpret. It is likely he realized his one chance at the presidency has now passed, and that it was now time to wind down his political career on a graceful note.

Still, the only vote that is wasted is the one that is never cast. I did not waste mine. I have done my civic duty on Tuesday morning. And that is the end of it.

The maple tree in my back yard chose the past three days to dump all of its leaves on the ground. As it had a full crown of yellow and orange three days ago, it is now almost bare. And I could not wait until this weekend to rake it all up: This weekend promises to be cold and wet. So I raked up the whole yard of its leaf cover and lined the edge of the street with a leaf pile that extended almost half a block. The long pile is a tad too much to bag up, and I figured the town will have broken out the leaf sweeper by now.

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The Election Is Over
Filed under: General, Politics
Posted by: Andy @ 1:00 pm

Obama won.

Obama won the electoral votes of the states of the Northeast (Virginia to Maine), of the Great Lakes and of the Pacific Coast, to which he added Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Florida and maybe North Carolina (lots of carpetbaggers there). His opponent got the rest of the South, Texas and the Plain States, the Mormon heartland, and his home state of Arizona.

Obama only just won Indiana, with Indianapolis, the Calumet and other northwestern counties, some other urban areas, and the three university cities dragging the rest of the state into his arms. Oddly, two counties along the Ohio River, a traditional trans-Kentuckian reserve, voted for Obama. The Republicans had to be content with winning the governor another term of office.

Yes, Obama is the first African-American president in history. And I mean African-American, not black: His father was a real African whose ancestors (as far as we know) were never slaves and who was never infected with the lesser labor-hating feudal culture of the South.

As for Obama himself, we could be looking at the American version of Henry Plantagenet: An exceptionally talented fellow who mixes with everyone, regardless of their history, to further his goals. He is also someone who does not put up with bullcrap from ministers, not even his own. The old fart at Obama’s church in Chicago should be thanking God he did not end up like Thomas à Beckett.

But, in the end, Obama’s victory matters only because we can get rid of Dick Cheney, his wooden dummy, his incompetent and venal minions and their corrupt policies once and for all. That is all that matters. And, knowing that an Obama victory will neither lessen the recession nor end speedily the war in Iraq nor free us from the national debt Cheney and his dummy have burdened us with nor restore our freedoms lost by the Law of October 24th nor free us from the tyranny of corporate power and its abuse of the legal system — despite all that, I am content.

McCain lost.

The BBC article on why McCain lost made a long list of reasons why the senator from Arizona lost. At the top of the list is the ball and chain on his ankle: The ball is El Dubya, the links in the chain are Dick Cheney and his minions, and the fetter is McCain’s misplaced loyalty just because that loser happens to be President.

Let’s quote the first paragraphs in full.

Few in America did not know about his decades of service, his breath-taking heroism as a war hero in Vietnam, his foreign policy expertise and his ability to reach across the Congressional aisle.

Mr McCain’s opponent was largely untested, inexperienced and, initially at least, unknown; his race only added to his challenge.

Mr McCain’s opponent came out of the bloody-fist world of Chicago politics. Nobody has the right to say, after all that, that a Chicago politician is untested or inexperienced. But as this is an ignorant Brit writing this, I will let it pass.

A lot of people regard the phrases John McCain and war hero as oxymorons. You are not war hero if you spend most of a war in a prisoner-of-war camp, especially if you are the type to do anything to survive, while others refused to collaborate and still got out on their own two feet.

His service first in the House and then in the Senate was troubled. He was something of a leftist (probably the result of his time in Hanoi) in a deeply rightist state; and had to resort to chicanery to win the right to set up house in the left shoe of his predecessor, Barry Goldwater. His reaching across the aisle was merely to other leftists.

And he did not well tolerate activists from his home state. As an example, here is his reaction to two rightist reporters who doggedly pursued him when he was a congressman back in the 1980’s.

The Congressman began to charge to the back of the hall, where I and associates sat, shook off one of his aides, losing his jacket in the process, and SCREAMED: You f*cking idiots! You’ve been following me around for weeks! Get outta here! Get out! I’m sick and tired of being followed around. Get the f*ck out of this hall!

That is why I call McCain the Orangutang.

And as far as foreign policy experience goes, he was a pigmy compared with Richard Lugar, whom Obama learned foreign policy from. McCain was too kissy-kissy with the Russians, anyway. And, in the end, as Lugar found out the hard way, Americans do not give a damn about experience in foreign policy in presidential campaigns.

But it does not matter now. He lost. He did not have enough money, even with party help. His anti-Obama campaign ads hit below the belt, losing him independent voters. His hostility to the influential civil religionists came back to haunt him. His choice of vice-presidential running mate exploded in his face as she turned out to be ignorant and, um, ethically challenged.

In the end, McCain was indeed a man from America’s past. But it was not the past of the original United States. It was the past of the current United States, one built on a crumbling foundation, desparately strugging to reach for the top as he sank in the sand under his feet.

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Election Day 2008
Filed under: General, Politics
Posted by: Andy @ 1:10 pm

Fairmount has always had low voter turnout. That is the reason why the town hall got only two voting machines. It got two voting machines even though the district for north Fairmount and the one for the township except the hamlet of Fowlerton now have the same polling place.

This is why, when I showed up at the town hall, there was a line of at least thirty people, extending out of the back door of the hall and into the parking lot. I had to wait at least an hour to confirm my identity (with my new driver’s license), sign my name in the registration book, and vote.

After warning my folks about the long lines, I made it to work at 9:30 a.m. Now I will have to work over my lunch break.

My attitudes towards the candidates have already been gone over in the last entry. I would like to add something about all this talk about change. Change is certainly not the word as used by those who worship the Clock in colleges and news rooms, who intone in hashed voices that we cannot turn back/around/off the Clock.

Change is the right word only in the sense of change for a dollar.

The politicians are trying to buy the voters with the loose change from the moral capital that the American people has been living off of since World War II. This is why they talk about values (they cannot very well talk about faith, can they?), service, honor and suchlike to win the votes of those who remember (or wish they could remember) the days before the War.

The difference between the two is that one honors his opponent for his service to his country while pointing out his opponent’s support of El Dubya and his remarkable incompetence in war and at home. The underlings of the other spew slanders like inexperience (from a guy in his late 40’s?), radical, tax and spend (as opposed to spend with money from China?), associate with terrorists, crypto-Muslim, and (everyone’s favorite) baby-killer.

It is amazing that everyone is jamming into the polling places in large numbers for the first time in living memory, to exact upon the party in power the punishment for its greed, incompetence and lying folly; and to reward the other party for, at long last, picking a candidate both electable and free of oozing bubbling moral slime.

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All Souls 2008
Filed under: General, Politics
Posted by: Andy @ 12:37 pm

pledge drive

I spent a couple of hours at the phone banks for Indiana Public Radio. It was during the evening news hours, but not many pledged called in. But we (I and five other volunteers) got a good meal as a local grill called Amazing Joe’s donated barbecue chicken, lasagna, salad and rolls. The barbecue chicken was actually delicious, and BBQ chicken usually isn’t.

My next stint was also a couple of hours, when the more popular programs come on, like a two-hour Car Talk. But I also sat in the back phones and did not get any calls.

I learned from listening in that the fast-forward idea (two months of pledge advertisements and four days of pledge taking) is working about as well as nine or ten days of pledge taking. It may be adopted permanently.

performance lab

First thing after I arrived Friday was to visit the Human Performance Labs in order to volunteer for the same kind of gait measurements that were taken from me last year. I am part of a control group to study ways to help stroke victims regain mobility.

I had little silver balls taped to my joints and head. Then I walked a set distance ten times at normal gait, then ten times at very slow gait. It took a little over an hour, and I got a $25 Wal-Mart gift card for volunteering. I used the card for groceries.

I will also report for the same thing eight weeks from now, and then six months from the second test.

possible appointment

I got a nice card a couple of days ago from Linda the librarian, thanking me for my help in moving books, shelves and equipment from the old library to the new one. I was also informed of the submission to the county council for my appointment to the library board for a full four-year term. I assume that if it does approve my appointment that I will be personally notified, as there is a two or three month gap before the council posts their minutes on their Web site.

My mother has pointed out the following classified ad in the Madison-Grant Shopper, that I have missed because it was in such small type. (The newspaper and library board do not get along.) This is the pertinent part, with some editing.

The Library will be opening for full services on Monday, November 3. The Library is still a work in progress; but Director Linda Magers felt that being closed for almost a month for the move is long enough. The Library has been open to patrons for fax, notary and other smaller services; but looks forward to checking materials out to patrons for their informational and recreational needs. A formal dedication for the new building in being planned for a later date.

What had been delaying the opening was the lack of parts for the remaining stacks. It looks like we will have to open the library without them. Everything else, including the outdoor sign, is ready. The formal opening plans might be discussed in the next board meeting on the twelth of this month.

yard work

The maple tree in the back yard is doing its serious leaf-dropping. The yard was a blanket of leaves when I found the time this weekend to rake them. The announcement at the last town board meeting of the breaking out of the leaf sweeper was so vague that I continued to bag the leaves until I see proof of the leaf sweeper making the rounds. I worked late Saturday afternoon into the twilight, and then early Sunday morning. I raked and bagged leaves, pulled up dead patches of crabgrass, and mowed some of the lawn, especially the front and along the west road. That made up seven bags of yard waste.

I had to do the mowing with the original push-reel. The green push-reel is jammed in the right wheel. I tried taking apart the right wheel and oiling the appropriate parts, but it did not seem to work. It looks like I will have to get another mower next year, maybe the one I recommended for my neighbor’s mother-in-law — before his son decided that he would be the lawn-mower.

election 2008

It looks like I will be voting at the town hall this year. Come to think about it, I voted there last year, too. I will probably go to the council chamber because it is the biggest room in the hall.

While I was relaxing Saturday afternoon, I heard strange noises on my screen door. Then I saw people wander around the neighborhood. I realized they put something in my door, so I checked. There, wedged in my screen door, were flyers from the Republican Party, talking about values and suchlike.

It is evident that the Republicans are no longer taking Indiana for granted, now that it is likely that the Democrats will win its electoral votes for the first time since the Goldwater-Johnson elections of 1964. I think it is a little too late for that sort of thing:

When your life and livelihood is under threat, appeals to values seem tepid to almost all, and taken seriously only to a shrinking number of people who can still remember life in the pre-WWII United States.


I called the doctor’s office Friday morning. I was told that my metformin perscription will stay the same, but that I will be taking a new drug called a glimépiride that simulates the pancreas to do its job. I cannot pick up the perscription at the doctor’s office, since it is open only when I am working. So they will mail the perscription to me. I will then decide whether to take it to a drugstore or get my mail-in perscription to process it. If I want it sooner, I may have to pay out of pocket.


My boss found that frequency that British shopkeepers use to drive out the teenagers (and therefore any future business). It is a frequency that they can hear, but older people cannot. The noise drove his younger co-workers nuts, and our sysadmin can hear it as well. But my boss could not, nor could the office manager, nor could I. The reason? The guys were in their 20’s; my boss is in his 30’s; I am in my late 40’s.

Later that evening I downloaded a sound sample of that noise from NPR. It turns out that I can hear it, but only just, and provided that the sound is turned all the way up. It is an extremely high tone, and I can see how it can annoy teens or twenties. I would not be able to hear it in the background noise of an office, however, not even in a library.

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