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Friday, October 31, 2008

Let's Read The News

Tam has a post about the attack on "construction workers" / "known terrorists" in Syria that was reported Monday on CNN. The CNN article was full of blather from some Syrian maroon. Then I thought let's see just how bad it is, so I made a copy of the text, went through it and sorted the sentences based on where they originated. Hmmm, I don't like these results. The U.S., Syria and Iraq each provided about eleven lines of text.

But then I went through and highlighted the actual quotes from each source and then cut out all the non-quoted material. And what do we have left?
  • 2 (two) lines from the U.S.,
  • 4 (four) lines from Syria, and
  • 8 (eight!) lines from Iraq.
The two lines from the U.S. do not say much. The four lines from Syria are all bombast accusing the U.S. of being the devil. These were the ones that irritated me. The eight lines from Iraq were from someone who is caught in the middle and is just making soothing noises.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sarah Palin

I try and avoid the news and political commentary. So much of it focuses on superficial stuff:
"Did you hear what he/she said? That's just awful! He/She isn't fit to pick up my garbage, much less stand for office."
Mr. McCain's selection of Ms. Palin as his running mate sure caused an uproar. I think it was a brilliant political move on his part that may just get him elected. Naturally one side erupted in cheering, and the opposition, once they got over their shock, started attacking.

As to whether Ms. Palin is qualified for the office of Vice President is of little consequence. The office is Vice President, not President. She is not going to be in charge unless something bad happens to Mr. McCain. That might happen, then again it might not. I am not going to worry about it.

And what if she does become President? Can she really do any worse than those that have come before her for the last 60 years? (60 years is my limit because before that is ancient history, those guys are all dead, and winning WWII was the best thing America ever did.)

Look at the convoluted thinking that went into the cold war, the nuclear arms race, the CIA's involvement in foreign operations. I'm thinking the last 60 years could not have been more screwed up if we had tried. I am thinking that perhaps a little common sense from an independent woman might do us all a lot of good. But that won't happen unless McCain gets elected, and then something bad happens to him. I'll give 50-50 odds on either one, which means there's only a 25% chance Ms. Palin will get a chance to try and direct the behemoth that is America.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Stump Grinding

My brother has been tasked with taking out a tree, including the stump. He asks for advice and I tell him:
Had a small stump taken out when I lived in Beaverton. Or maybe I just saw a guy using a stump grinder. Typical American power tool response to a non-problem. I mean all you have to do is dig a trench 12 feet deep, four feet wide, with a mean radius from the stump of about eight feet. From there it's simple matter of chopping out the bits of root and dirt that are left. Don't forget to install the cave-in prevention barriers.
Then I go looking for a video of a stump grinder in action. Here's a light weight one

But I'm looking for one like the one I saw in action. As I recall it was built like an oversized roto-tiller, balanced on two wheels with a toothed wheel spinning on a horizontal axis out in front. The wheel was about a foot in diameter and a foot wide. This one is pretty close.

MR Stump. - how to remove a tree stump with stump grinder. - MR STUMP

Here's a BIG one:

Red Roo: Hurricane Remote controlled stumpgrinder on tracks

Watching this in action reminded me of an old video of a shredder working on a car:

Update December 2016 replaced missing videos with similar ones.

Good Customer Service

I recently dealt with customer support at three different companies. I was amazed when all three problems were resolved quickly and efficently. It was such an unusual occurence I thought I should at least mention them in my blog.

Canon PowerShot SD110
My wife's digital camera went on the fritz. No picture on the screen in camera mode. Screen works fine for viewing old pictures. Try taking a picture with the optical viewfinder. Camera takes a picture, but viewing it only gives you a black screen. Look on the net, see if we can get it fixed. What's this? Canon has a recall out on this particular camera. Something about humidity or a shock causing a solder joint to fail. Email exchange with Canon produces a UPS mailing label that I print and tape to the box. Carry it to downtown Hillsboro to drop it in the UPS drop box, but the UPS driver stops at the corner and I just hand it to him. A week or two later the camera reappears, fixed, and no charge. Good job Canon!

Delta Debonair Pull-out Kitchen Faucet
Our kitchen sink is leaking. It has a single handle control typical of kitchen faucets. The handle swings side to side for temperature control and up and down for volume. The handle is loose. I have tightened the screw a couple of times, but it keeps coming loose. Makes it difficult to figure out if it is really in the turned off position, which is why it leaks. At least that's my theory. Fooling with the handle can make it stop leaking. Email Delta, ask for help. I am thinking that a new handle might just be enough to solve the problem. They say they will send me a new part. They don't specify just what part they are sending. A week or two go by and a big box shows up on my door step. They sent me an entire new faucet! Massive overkill, but hey, I should be able to fix it with this. Good job Delta!

A Cuisinart Blender, similar to, but not, the model 100
Drive wheel on the Cuisinart blender broke. This is the part that sticks out of the top of the base and engages its' mate on the bottom of the blending jug. Write to Cuisinart. No reply. (Well, I did get a phone call but only after the problem was resolved.) Call Cuisinart expecting a miserable experience. Surprise, no noticeable delay before I am talking to someone. However, they do not stock the part anymore. They claim the blender is nine (9!) years old. That's a little hard to believe, seems like we've only had it a couple of years, but who knows? Maybe it is nine years old. Maybe it sat on a warehouse shelf for five years. Maybe it's counterfeit. Maybe it has been hiding in our pantry for nine years. Whatever. Cuisinart has no parts for it. Back to the web, and presto! More web sites selling parts for Cuisinart blenders than you can shake a stick at. Found one site that made it very easy to find and order the part. It was like one click for each step: Cuisinart, Blender, Model, Clutch, Estimate Shipping, Order, fill in form with Google AutoFill, pay $16 with PayPal. Done. Kind of expensive for such a dinky little part, but it might enable us to get another nine years out of the blender. Good work doesn't come cheap. Somebody put in some serious effort on that web site. Good job!

Update February 2016. Replaced missing pictures.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

It's a small thing really

From a comment left on Steve Sailer's iSteve Blog:

Steve, I'm all in favor of engaging in fantastic reveries about what sort of "Conservativism" will emerge in the post-election period but I think we'd be way overestimating the American populace's ability to reason were we to take such daydreaming seriously.

People are f***ing fools. Even smart people.

The average person doesn't reason the way that you do Steve. You see positions and principles that have been tried and that have failed and you figure that something ELSE must fill the void left by such failures.

Nonsense. Human reasoning may or may not exist but if it does it's so small a thing that only the historian can spot it.


Conspiracy Theories 'R' Us, Part Deux

Nathan Brindle has left a new comment on the post "What color is the sky in his world?":

"All these conspiracy theories.

Somebody oughta write a book."

It's this kind of thinking that makes me happy.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Proof of Funds

There was an ad in the sidebar on Google email for Seasoned Funds. They will deposit money in your bank account temporarily to provide "Proof of Funds" so you can get a loan. I don't know which is worse: the 4 to 10% interest they charge for the 30 days, or helping people get loans that they would not ordinarily be able to get. I mean isn't that why we are all in hot water now? Assuming we really are all in hot water. Personally, I detect no difference between not having a job before the "crash" and not having a job after the "crash".

Update December 2016 replaced missing image. Seasoned Funds seems to have gone bye-bye. The link now goes to a placeholder.

The Official Website of the Prophet Mohammed

There are Muslims and there are Muslims, just like there are Christians and then there are Christians. Some people subscribe (regardless of their religion) to the "you pray your way, and I'll pray mine" point of view. Others do not. Some religions carry the "we are chosen people of god and everyone else is a heathen" to the point where they should not be allowed to mix with civilized people. Or else we should ALL get out our whacking sticks and join in the slaughter.

There is something fundamentally wrong with our relationship with Saudi Arabia.

Mohammed has a website. You will be offended. I hope.

Got started down this track via a post from Dustbury.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sarah Base64

A couple of days ago I was talking about my Aunt Lucy and base64 encoding. I started looking into this and what I wanted to know was the nuts and bolts (or bits and bytes) of how this encoding is done. Found many items purporting to explain all, but you know, I don't really want a dissertation. Finally found the source code for a program that will do encoding or decoding. Was able to compile it on my windows system, ran it against the data from file attached to my Aunt's email, and lo and behold. Maybe being a flaming liberal runs in the family.

Now that I know the program works, let's see what it's doing. Hoo boy, what a lot of complicated bull puckey. Cut all that out and what we are left with is a program very similar to uuencode in that it:
  • takes (3) 8-bit bytes from the file to be encoded,
  • cuts them into (4) 6-bit values,
  • uses some magic rule to generate a printable character for each of those 6-bit values
  • and writes them to the encoded file.
The difference between base64 and uuencode is in the magic rule. What it finally comes down to is this:
uuencode uses a different ordering of characters. Decoding is the inverse. Take a letter, find it's position in the string. That position will be a number from 0..63, which can be represented in 6-bits. Decode four letters, pack them together in 24 bits, and them cut them into (3) 8-bit bytes.

Source code here. (The link now points to github.)

Because I am trying to learn something about Linux, I copied it to my Linux system. It compiled and ran fine, but I did learn a few things.
The file I received from my Aunt Lucy was full of html and email gobble-de-gook, until you scroll down a couple of pages and then you come to a point where the "readable" text stops, and you start getting just line after line of real gooble-de-gook. It continues on in this vein for another thousand lines or so. This block of mystery text is the encoded image. Cut off everything before it and the few lines or garbage at the end and you have an encoded image that you can feed to base64.

Content-Type: image/jpeg; name="image.jpg"
Content-Transfer-Encoding: base64
Content-Id: 2165402007


Update December 2016 replaced missing picture, updated source file link. Fixed broken html on Content-Id. Id is probably no longer correct, but who cares?

Still Cold

Or maybe it's turned into a sinus infection, my favorite. To the allergist on Tuesday for some permatex, er, primatine, er, Prednisone! That's it. Meanwhile I am fooling around with my base64 codec (a computer program) on Linux. It seems to work, but the test script is not exactly reassuring. If everything goes well, it doesn't say anything, so I am fooling around with bash script programming so that when it does run correctly it will make an announcement to that effect.

Anyway, out there wandering around on the web and I came across this. Is my age showing? Or does being sick have something to do with its' impact?

"The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne." - Chaucer

Friday, October 24, 2008


I've got a cold and I've got all the stereotypical symptoms, including being a big baby. I wonder if I had premonition that I was going to get sick, and that's why I spent money at the toy store last Sunday.

I got an email from my Aunt Lucy (sister to Aunt Pat) with an attachment that is supposed to be a picture, but got encoded as text so now it's a hundred K of goble-de-gook. It is using base64 encoding, and I am thinking that maybe this has got something to do with the new 64 bit processors. This has happened before and I never found any useful information.

This time I asked the right question ("decode jpg image from RFC-822 data") and Google came back with some answers. It isn't fancy it's just the latest incarnation of the old Unix uuencode scheme used for sending binary files over text links. 64 refers to the fact that 6 bits can have 64 different values. Just so we understand each other:
  • 2^6 = 64
  • 2 to the sixth power equals 64
  • 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 = 64
Found several moronically derived web apps that purport to be able to decode the base64 stuff, but they must be from kindergarten. They have a little text box on their web page where you are supposed to paste your data and then they will send it back to as a binary file.

And once again Wikipedia comes to the rescue with info that I want, a whole bunch that I don't, and this fine quote from Thomas Hobbes's Leviathan:

Man is distinguished, not only by his reason, but by this singular passion from other animals, which is a lust of the mind, that by a perseverance of delight in the continued and indefatigable generation of knowledge, exceeds the short vehemence of any carnal pleasure.

Mary Jane Rides Again

It's always nice when you can get some information straight from the horses mouth.
Detectives from the Westside Interagency Narcotics (WIN) Team are concerned about an increasing number of illegal marijuana grows associated with the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP).
I was reading somewhere about medical marijuana in California where there is a lot more flak. The word down there seems to be that if you keep your operation small, the law won't bother you. It's only people who try to scale up their operations into big business that attract the lawmen, and evidently the outlaw men as well.

Just remember to stay on the right side of the family that is providing you with protection.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Spad S. VII
We stopped in Centralia, Washington, on the way home so Anne could indulge in some shopping at the outlet mall there. So John and I walk around for a bit looking for something to amuse ourselves for the duration, and, lo & behold, a KB Toys outlet store! We are saved!

It's been a while since I have been in a Toy store and right away a Ford GT-40 / Transformer catches my eye. Absolutely useless, but it might be interesting to see how they implemented all the folding mechanisms. I wander around for a while and I find a bunch of cool stuff. Normally I am pretty immune to impulse buying, but I am feeling a little low, so I go ahead and indulge and buy a couple of things.

One of them was model of a Spad S.VII. It came in an easy to build kit form. Already painted, no glue required, just some screws and a little dexterity. I finally sat down and put it together this morning. Took about 30 minutes.

Looking at the model I notice there is a four-into-one exhaust pipe manifold on each side of the engine housing. That looks suspiciously like what you would find with a V-8 engine. Could it be? Well, yes it could. A Hispano-Suiza V-8 to be exact.

Update June 2019 replaced missing picture.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A-10 Thunderbolt

I know the A-10 is a tank killer, but I did not know just how it killed those tanks.

A-10 Thunderbolt

This plane has been in service since 1972.

Update December 2016 replaced video since the embedded one from Metacafe wouldn't play.

Embargo Saudi Arabia

There is something fundamentally wrong with Saudi Arabia. We send them a billion dollars a week, they send us boatloads of oil. They send us a billion dollars, we send them a handful of advanced military aircraft. Rumor has it that their government supports Wahhabi schools. Our government says Saudi Arabia is our friend. The price of oil might go up if we blockade Saudi Arabia, but it might go up anyway. If the number of terrorist acts go down, we might all have a little more money, since no one will be having to replace the stuff the terrorists have destroyed.

Never mind people's lives. Only live people vote and the only thing most live people care about is how much money they have in their pocket. Being as an elected official's primary concern is getting re-elected, keeping the price of gasoline down, and thereby keeping more money in their constituents pockets is their primary goal. Never mind what's right.

If we really want things to really change, something needs to be done about "our friend" Saudi Arabia. So write your congressman and tell him we need to put a stop to Saudi oil production. Cutting off the Saudi's supply of money is the only thing that will convince them they are doing something wrong. Freeze all their assets in the US while we are at it. The Islamic extremists want a war? Let's give them one.

Quantum Figments

I had the opportunity to step on the gas this afternoon and enjoy a brief moment of sudden acceleration. People enjoy this. People enjoy shooting guns. Both involve acceleration of pieces of metal. With cars you have a large piece of metal accelerating on the order on one gravity. With firearms you have small bits of metal accelerating at hundreds of thousands of gravities (One Gravity is roughly 10 meters per second squared. So a hundred thousand gravities is roughly one million m/s^2). Acceleration is indistinguishable from gravity (theoretically speaking anyway). Could your brain be detecting a disturbance in the gravitational field caused these accelerations? Could that have anything to do with why people enjoy this things?

Context shift. A common story element involves people who know each other well, like twins or spouses, separated by a long distance, something bad happens to one, and the other senses it instantly.

I wonder whether these two phenomena might be related. Theoretical physicists have been talking about quantum entanglement for 75 years now, more or less. How a pair of particles can become entangled, and then when separated by even a large distance, one will react when something affects the other. Action at a distance that defies the law of relativity.

Could our brains be quantum activity detectors? Could twins have particles that were entangled in the womb and then separated as they grew? As far as we know, the brain runs on very low level chemical and electrical signals. Could there be even lower level activity going on that we do not yet know how to detect? (The old you don't know what you don't know issue.)

At this point most of all of this stuff could be explained by other factors, or written off as coincidence, but I just wonder ...

Wall Of Voodoo

Mexican Radio. Because reading Tam's blog reminded me.

Things You Can Do With Bacon

King of Pies from Breda via Tam.

Financial Kool-Aid

Letter from Iowa:
I was surprised when my high rated mutual funds collapsed. Morningstar Ratings Bullshit!

Other raters: Standard and Poors. Moodys. Fitch.

Junk bonds depending on high risk mortgages received the same AAA ratings as the US Treasury.

Interesting CSPAN Congressional hearing on why Credit Agencies missing the investment value of the subsequent failures.

It is now known that there were plenty of people in these agencies that knew of the rising problems.

Yet the agencies continued to rate these risky companies highly.

Fitch rating company president, Stephen Joynt, said that as soon as they applied a strict realistic standard, their rating business dried up.

Congressmen Sarbanes observed ".... you didn't recognize misconduct, because you had no standard for conduct...."

AIG was rated AA 2 days before it went bankrupt.

"You have no creditability!"

Coniving Financists

My brother Michael tried to buy a house in Kalamazoo, Michigan. His report on the experience:
The house in Kazoo was a total bait and switch. I am appalled at the idiocy of realtors. "You must have the offer in today." So I do. Next day. "Oh yeah, it takes three months to close on a short sale." Thanks a lot.

It turns out that buying a short sale is a huge waiting game, especially with this backlog and very few are actually sold as short sales. Another real estate farce.

How it typically works is like this (as I can remember):
  • Homeowner (HO) can't make mortgage payments.
  • Notifies lender.
  • Lender says sell it.
  • House goes on market.
  • No buyers.
  • HO asks lender for short sale approval, lowering the asking price below what they owe.
  • Lender says ok and listing price is lowered.
  • Interested bargain hunters respond with offers, giving the lender a better idea of the current market.
  • Lender drags feet on approving short sale.
  • Offers expire and bargain hunters move on.
Now what is really little known, NOT reported at all, and hard to prove but easy to visualize is this:
  • The original HO took out (or equitied out) a 95%+ (or adjustable) mortgage (or some such nonsense) and that requires PMI (private mortgage insurance).
  • Then their mortgage resets, they lost their job, tired of making payments, divorce, whatever. Life has hiccups. The bank doesn't care. They will get paid from the PMI, terms not really known. They know the value of the house since they got bids. The bank recoups enough from PMI to let them sit on the house indefinitely.
  • The house sits empty, PMI insurance paying the mortgage.
  • Eventually the bank sells the property after it's loss is covered.
That's how I'd do it if I were a bank.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Briar Patch

About a month ago darling daughter was out picking blackberries for her food class at U-dub when her brand new and very fancy cell phone fell out of her pocket and into the blackberry bush. She was standing on the top of embankment that was covered with blackberry bushes, so when the phone fell into the bush, it also started sliding down the bank. She made a valiant effort to recover the phone, but each attempt to reach it caused it to become dislodged and slide farther down the bank.

I, being Master Of The Universe and a legend in my own mind, bestirred myself to attempt recovery of this wayward device. I was in Seattle this weekend and my daughter showed me where the unfortunate accident had taken place. She showed me the person sized hole she had made in the top of the briar patch attempting to retrieve the phone, and then she went on her way. She is not big on futility.

I attempted to enlarge the hole and work my way down, but I am trying to work in a very awkward position, sitting crouched over, cutting at my feet. The bank is very steep and about twenty five tall. There is nothing to support me. I go down some stairs to the roadway at the bottom of the bank and attempt to cut a path upwards through the briars. I make better progress this way, but after an hour I am worn down, not to mention having acquired numerous scratches all over my forearms.

So. If you are looking for a Star Trek communicator, or just a treasure hunt, feel free to attempt recovery of this prize. I would recommend an assortment of longish extension ladders, a gasoline powered weed wacker equipped with a brush blade and a suit of kevlar armor. A climbing rope, a stake to attach it to, a pair of clippers and a callous disregard for thorns ripping your flesh might also do the trick.

The briar patch in question is alongside the Burke Gilman trail very near Eastern Avenue North. Alongside the trail, starting from the Northeast, there is a section of tall bushes/trees, then about 100 feet of grass verging on the blackberry bushes, then another section of tall bushes/trees. The stairs to the lower roadway (North Northlake Way) are about 100 yards Southeast along the trail. On the other side of Northlake Way is a boat storage yard with racks for storing small power boats. The spot should be easily recognizable by the person size hole in the bush at the top, and a coffin sized hole at the bottom.

View Larger Map

Should anyone recover this phone I would be willing to shell out a couple of bucks to get it back. Will it even work after being outdoors for all this time? Good question.


I just got done looking through our Voters' Pamphlet (volumes 1 & 2, roughly a hundred pages each), filling out and mailing in my ballot.


I voted for Democrats wherever they were so identified. I will get into the why of that in a bit. There were nineteen offices listed on the ballot. Seven were "partisan" Federal or State offices. Ten of the offices had only one candidate listed. Either we have a very agreeable bunch of people in this area, or the political machinery is very weak.

State Measures

There are an even dozen state measures on the ballot. I voted for the two that were recommended by the legislature that are intended to clarify some legal mumbo-jumbo, and are not supposed to cost any money. Those are measures 54 & 55.

All the other measures were going to require quantities of money for nebulous gains. Five were supported by Bill Sizemore, our perenniel gadfly/tax activist/racketeer. I voted against all of them.

Local Measures

There were six local measures, most are for bonds to fund some fancy new project. They sound like pretty good ideas: roads, parks, libraries, zoos, that sort of thing. The only one I had any doubts about was the one for the zoo, but then I am categorically opposed to zoos. On the other hand my replacement for zoos would cost a whole heck of lot more than I can imagine anyone wanting to spend, so we compromise and we let the existing zoo continue to struggle.

Bond Measures Spreadsheet
Pros & Cons

The Voters' Pamphlet contains statements from partisans about the relative merits of the various issues, either pro or con. There are a great number of them. I read a couple, but mostly I looked to see who contributed the statement. There are statements from individuals, unions, teachers, police, firefighters, etc. The League of Women Voters also contributed some statements. My mom was a member, and the few times I have looked into what they were supporting I found that I agreed with their position. So I take their position on an issue as a pretty good indicator. They disagreed with Sizemore on all four of the issues where they took both had a position.

Why Democrats?

Because I am angry at the Republicans. Um, let's not say angry, that sounds like strong emotions are involved. Let's say I am annoyed. I believe in many of the ideals of the Republican Party, but I have not seen much evidence of them lately. What I have seen is the lashing of the electorate on whatever hot button issues they can come up with in order to get themselves elected, and then using their power when elected to loot the country. Scumbags, the lot of them.

There may be some respectable Republicans in office, but the theatrics of the rotten apples has been absolutely disgusting, and if the honest members of the party cannot control these shenanigans, then they are going to be tarred with the same brush.

Still, if Obama gets elected I will be surprised. A black man getting elected in America. What a concept. I think America is still a pretty racist country. It might not be so blatant as it used to be, as regards business or official matters I think most people are willing to deal fairly with people, regardless of their race. But when it comes to personal matters, I suspect there is still a fairly strong undercurrent of racism. So if Obama gets elected I will take that as indicator of how angry people are at the President Bush and the Republican Party.

Update December 2016 replaced missing images.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Seattle Football Game

Drove up to Seattle this weekend to watch a football game between the University of Washington Huskies and the Oregon State University Beavers, and to visit with darling daughter. A friend of ours is an alumni of OSU, our daughters are long time friends and they both attend UW, so it seemed like a fine idea.

The stadium is U-shaped with open end of the U facing East towards Union Bay. Our seats were in the bottom of the U right near the top row, so we had a view past the jumbo-tron of the boats out in the bay. The stadium is huge. It dwarfs Autzen stadium in Eugene (72,000 to 54,000), which is where my son goes to school. The Beavers are from Corvallis.

The Huskies have not been doing too well this season, and the Beavers clobbered them pretty good. For example: the Huskies completed a long pass to the one yard line, but in the next four plays they could not move the ball into the endzone. Final score was 34 to 13.

There was another play where they attempted a field goal from the hash marks. I know perspective can sometimes distort your view of things seen from a distance, but it looked to me like the kicker wasn't compensating enough for being so far left of center, and sure enough the ball went left of the goal posts.

I'm not much of a football fan. I find it difficult to follow the game. There is some action, and then there is a delay before the next play, and during that delay my mind wanders, so half the time I don't even see the next play come off. On top of that I was tired from my morning's foray into the briar patch and I ended up watching many of the plays on the jumbo-tron instead of on the field. Easier to see, it's brighter.

The OSU contingent occupied an entire sector of the bottom of the U and could be easily identified by their bright orange clothes. I estimate they took up 10% of the U (the lower level), and maybe 6% of the entire stadium. The picture may have been taken during another OSU game: you can see the orange contingent in the same section of the stadium. Outside of the UW student seating and the OSU contingent, the stadium was about half full.

It was a beautiful day (much like the picture above). The weather was cool when the game started but by the time the fourth quarter rolled around it was cold. I had thought about bringing extra clothes, but I thought, naw, I have been overprepared too many times. No one else is bringing extra stuff, if it gets cold we can all freeze together. The worst part was the dang blasted aluminum seats. Another example of corporate bean counters saving a few long term pennies for the corporation and the people get it in the shorts, literally. Whoever came up with this idea should be forced to sit on these things in freezing weather for eternity.

Two biggish orange helicopters flew through the stadium prior to the start of the game. We joked they were OSU choppers, but I think they were probably Coast Guard choppers.

The marching bands were a big improvement over our local high school band. They played loud military marching band music. I could hear them, mostly. And they did not have these fancy percussion instruments sitting on the sidelines. The only thing that wasn't marching were the directors. They had five or six or them standing on ladders placed all around the field. That isn't really kosher in my book, but I suppose it's tolerable.

We stayed to the bitter end. The Husky fans started bailing after half time and come the fourth quarter there was a continuous stream of them heading for the exits.

I don't really understand why other people enjoy football games so much. I find they are most interesting when the outcome is in doubt, when you have two teams that are evenly matched and the score is close enough that either team could end up winning. In the case where one team has established so large a lead that the outcome is no longer in any real doubt, I lose interest. Okay, sure, there have been the rare cases where the dominate team has fallen on their faces and underdogs have rallied and come out victorious, but those cases are few and far between. So why continue a game whose outcome is no longer in doubt?

Once upon a time a man asked Conan The Barbarian what is best? And Conan's reply was: To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women! It's a paraphrase of Genghis Khan, but I think there is something here. It is not enough to just prove yourself better than your enemy, but to drive them into the ground so they are no longer a threat.

Genghis Khan: It is not sufficient that I succeed--all others must fail.

The Lethal Legacy of World War II

Jack's home sick and making trouble today instead of working. He sent me a link to an article in Der Spiegel:
In the whole of Germany, more than 2,000 tons of American and British aerial bombs and all sorts of munitions ranging from German hand grenades and tank mines to Russian artillery shells are recovered each year. Barely a week goes by without a city street or motorway being cordoned off or even evacuated in Germany due to an unexploded bomb being discovered.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Rock, Paper, Scissors

"Rock, Paper, Scissors" by Jill Lepore in last week's issue of "The New Yorker" is an entertaining history of how elections have been conducted in this country. It's a fine, medium objective story, until you get to the last paragraph and then her true colors come out, or the publishers colors. Hard to say how much influence publishers have on what writers write, but that's an argument for another time. I think the story is fairly objective. I say "medium objective" because the partisans can always find a phrase or a group of words in a speech or document that they can use to hang their accusations on, whatever they are. Man, I am sick of these people.

But let's not impugne Ms. Lepore's integrity, I'll assume that last paragraph accurately reflects her views, which are unsurprising being as she is writing in "The New Yorker". It's kind of weird. You could easily cut that last paragraph off and be left with a fine story, and a fine story it is.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Went for a drive with my teenage son this evening. He needs to put in time behind the wheel, and since he has acquired an iPod, and we can connect it to the car stereo, he is happy enough to do so. So we are out driving around this evening listening to a variety of tunes. I can't tell you what they are, I didn't recognize any of them. But it was interesting. A lot of the tunes seem to have a high level of background noise, like static, just this kind of medium level buzz. I am wondering what the heck it is. Could it be that our iPod to car stereo adaptor is flakey? I don't think so. They are some passages where the music is crystal clear. Could this just be high frequency sound that is somehow getting corrupted in my ears? Or is it really the way this stuff is supposed to sound? Perhaps it's in there to drive off the old people who can't stand to listen to static. And it wasn't just one band that sounded like that. I was the iPod operator and I can attest that we listened to songs from several different bands.

We drove out to Timber and got back just in time for the Glencoe Choir Concert. One my son's friend's is singing, so we go listen. It's early in the year, so they haven't had a lot of practice, but they did very well with their limited program. There were four or five different groups, some larger, some smaller, some single sex, some mixed.

Vance Sele, the choir director, explained that he was teaching them to read music so they would be musicians not just "parrots". He gave each group a piece of sheet music, previously unseen, to sing from sight. They just used the names of the notes (do, re, me) for words, and then did very well.

In preparation for one piece, the members of the choir were practicing bits of the song independently, much like you would hear an orchestra tuning up before a performance. It gave me the impression of another choir singing from backstage, kind of like the background music in a movie.

Online Storage Space

I am starting to need some online storage space.
  • My daughter has more photos that will fit in the free space that Picasa gives you.
  • I found a place that offers free file storage, but if you don't use it for 30 days, it goes away.
  • gmail won't let me mail executable files.
  • I'm looking for a host for podcasting.
Some places offer reasonable prices for storage. I think Picasa wants $20 a year. I found a podcast host that will charge $5 a month.

Any suggestions?

A word about the picture. I was looking for a cool hi-tech shot of a server farm, but I wasn't finding anything I liked. Then I saw a picture of this grotesque head, and I thought THAT might be suitable. But when I pulled up the pic, it was just a little too gruesome for my taste. (It was a picture of Beowulf from the most recent animated/live action film version of that story). Then I realize that this picture reminds me of some of the sculpture of the ancient Aztecs, all gruesome and dismembering kind of stuff. But when I looked, I could not find anything remotely like what I was looking for. But now it's late and I need to move on, so we have a picture of Coatlicue.


So I've been trying to put together a podcast of our Thursday lunches, and the first thing we need is a name. Dennis likes "curmudgeon". I like it also, but I am afraid it may be getting over publicized. So Dennis goes exploring to see just how widely it is being used. His report:

‘Curmudgeon’ has potential, with the right qualifier. Can we aspire to such high standards?

‘Curmudgeons corner’ may be taken see:

There are a few other web sites with curmudgeon in the name. my favorite (name only) is

The ‘inchoate curmudgeon’ at

ker MUJ en) noun A cantankerous person; an ill-tempered and disagreeable person.

curmudgeon n. An ill-tempered person full of resentment and stubborn notions. [ Origin unknown.] from

Cur-mud-geon [origin unknown]
1. archaic: a crusty, ill-tempered, churlish old man.
2. modern: anyone who hates hypocrisy and pretense and has the temerity to say so; anyone with the habit of pointing out unpleasant facts in an engaging and humorous manner.

Taken from Jon Winokur, The Portable Curmudgeon (New York: NAL Books, 1987).

Comment: (1) should be avoided; (2) should be embraced by those who can withstand it.

A curmudgeon's reputation for malevolence is undeserved. They're neither warped nor evil at heart. They don't hate mankind, just mankind's absurdities. They're just as sensitive and soft-hearted as the next guy, but they hide their vulnerability beneath a crust of misanthropy. They ease the pain by turning hurt into humor. . . . . . They attack maudlinism because it devalues genuine sentiment. . . . . . Nature, having failed to equip them with a servicable denial mechanism, has endowed them with astute perception and sly wit.
Curmudgeons are mockers and debunkers whose bitterness is a symptom rather than a disease. They can't compromise their standards and can't manage the suspension of disbelief necessary for feigned cheerfulness. Their awareness is a curse.
Perhaps curmudgeons have gotten a bad rap in the same way that the messenger is blamed for the message: They have the temerity to comment on the human condition without apology. They not only refuse to applaud mediocrity, they howl it down with morose glee. Their versions of the truth unsettle us, and we hold it against them, even though they soften it with humor.

Diary of a Psychiatrist...A Day in the Life

Letter from Iowa:

6:45 am:
Phone call to SCU to check on patient who overdosed along with a case of beer. Is she in alcoholic DT's? Excellent night nurse, thorough, professional, great reporting, says no.
8:20 am:
Email fiance, wishing him well. And smiling to hear he is happy and involved in his project.
8:25 am:
Dr. B comes in, discuss plans for Open House at my house on Election night, with TV's on in every room, food and fun. He will check to see what others are doing.
8:30 am:
Report from weekend, Sunday night, at another Area Hospital. Seems my next door neighbor was there in ER and became tired of waiting, began shouting "Just let me die!" went outside, flung herself in bushes, screaming, crying, tearing grass up until police were called, who instructed her quite firmly to sit herself down in the ER chair and wait patiently until she could be seen by the ER doctor. When seen, patient explained that "Dr. D..... hates me." She further explained, "She won't give me any pain pills, even though she knows I am addicted to them." Patient was sent back home, next door to her nemesis... Dr. D.
8:45 am:
In SCU, checking on patient who overdosed. Sobbing, very depressed, going through tissues, husband standing next to her, hand on shoulder, wiping tears though they flow ceaselessly. Patient's son shot himself with a gun to his head, age 16. Was in intensive care on life support...until patient finally made decision to pull the plug. Heartbreaking, her only child. Listening to others talk about their kids' graduations, jobs, families, grandkids is the worst part. Co-worker/friend's son hung himself 2 weeks ago, patient says, and it all came back. "I just wanted the pain to end," she states.

Time is ticking. Another patient I interrupt her and say gotta go? Do I stay and listen another minute? Two more patients waiting now... better go. We talk some more. Life, death, transitions, purpose, meaning... I leave her feeling better, encouraged, hopeful.
Walk fast back to clinic. Next patient ready and waiting, someone
new... be continued.....

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Goin' Down

Take the recent Wall Street action, mix in a jaded outlook and see what it gets you.

Snail House

The world is full of strange and wonderous things.


De TOMASO PANTERA GT-5. 9,4 Litre HEMI engine.
OK, another cool car. What's the big whoop? The internet is full of pictures of exotic high performance cars that we will never be able to afford to buy. What's so special about this one you ask? Well, I'll tell you bucky-boy, Extreme Documentation! And Guitars! How's that for a spectaculous combination? The web page goes on forever and has enough engineering detail that you might be able to reproduce this machine, given 20 years and the metal working skills of a dwarf from LOTR. Me, I start drooling anytime I see polished aluminum.

Update December 2016 replaced missing picture and dead link.

Computing Marathon

Okay, I am officially impressed. My wife ran/walked in the Portland Marathon a week ago last Sunday and managed to complete it in a respectable time. This is after having been home sick with pneumonia the previous week. I frankly did not think she would be able to finish it, but evidently she's a pretty tough cookie.

Have you ever seen the start of one of these big races? Each participant has some kind of doo-dad attached to one of their shoes. (This one is cardboard with some kind of electronic circuit embedded in it.) There is a big, wide rubber mat stretched across the starting line. As each person goes across the starting line there is a chirp. When starting a big race and there are a mass of people crossing the line simultaneously, the individual chirps blend into a continual buzz, kind of like a large flock of bird all squawking the same squawk.

This picture is from 2007. You can see the detector lying on the ground under the runner with cables coming out of the left hand end. Evidently there were more of these doo-dad detectors at work at several places along the course because there is a web site where you could check an individual's progress, or even several people simultaneously.

Shortly after the race was over, pictures of the race were available on the web. You enter your bib number (your racing identification number), and the web site puts up the photos closest to the time you were near the various photographers. They put up a row of photos for each photography station and you can scroll left or right, one second at a time, to try and locate your picture. Somebody put a lot of effort into organizing the photo shoot of this race and in putting together the computer software that got this information up on the web in a timely manner. I'm impressed.

We looked for photos of Anne Saturday night and we were able to find eleven pictures of her. In some cases her photo showed up immediately, sometimes we would have to scroll a few pictures one way or the other. There was only one station out of three or four that didn't have pictures of her, and she remembers seeing a photographer at that point fiddling with his camera and not taking pictures.

There were a bunch of pictures of the start of the race, but there were so many people in the pictures and the pictures were so small (thumbnails on the web) that it was a little hard to tell if you were in them or not. Even if you had a large format picture of these scenes, I think you would still need a red circle and arrow to point out the person of interest.

At each station along the route and at the finish line Anne was captured in several pictures. Naturally not all of them were great and wonderful, but several were pretty decent. Of course, they are willing to sell you copies. You could just capture the thumbnails from the screen, but they are pretty small, grainy, and have advertising graphics impinging on them. The prices aren't cheap, but they are reasonable, considering I didn't have to be there to take them. Besides, I would not have been able to make it to all the various stations in time to take the photos.

You can get the photos printed in a variety of sizes, download them, or buy a CD. This causes some consternation. Which would be best? Printed photos are nice. You can hand them around to your friends and coworkers. You can pin them on the wall. A CD would be nice. You could put it in a box and know that your precious memories were safe. The way I work now, and the way things are going, downloaded might just be best. I could post them on my blog, as long as my wife didn't find out. She is kind of particular about that kind of thing. I could upload them to Picasa, where they would be safe forever. Right? They would be safe there forever, wouldn't they?

Update October 2016 opened to fix problem of text overlapping photos. Editor view looks fine. Try preview, preview won't load. Now I have a warning about an html problem, click on fix, and it is apparently fixed, unlike the previous trip down this road which resulted in the photos disappearing.

Update December 2016 replaced missing photo.
Update March 2020 replaced missing photo.

Be the hit of your neighborhood!


Gave me a chuckle. I think the kids seat on the back is what did it. From Andy.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Adventures Of Aleph-Null

Roberta X referred to Aleph-Null in a post last Friday:
Linguistic Patrol: At&T (I love you guys, O Providers of my Internet, POTS and Celphone, please don't pull the plug, 'kay? Call me?) keeps stickin' Post-Its™ to the newspaper that read "When you need more than 411, call the new 411." No, dammit, "411" was the number for the old 411. Or is black the new black? "When you need a number more than five, use five." Look, that only works with Aleph-null (et seq...) and I am not sittin' here with my steam-powered desk phone waiting for the dial to scroll back, flipping the pulse contacts a transfinite number of times, okay?
Now it sounds to me like she might be referring to a place that only exists in Science Fiction, so I inquired and she was kind enough to explain:
Transfinite Maths Made Stupid, with your hostess, Dr. X:

Aleph-null is the, erm, smallerest transfinite number.

From Wikipedia: "...m is a transfinite cardinal. That is, there is a Dedekind infinite set A such that the cardinality of A is m.
"m + 1 = m." Or m + 10. Or m + 100. And so on, though not exactly forever.

And that's the only sensible situation that came to mind in which "411" = "the new 411," other than for extremely small values of "new" which would appear to be ruled out by the emphasis given the greater utility (and implicitly, more content) of the "new 411."

OTOH, advertising has been driving the value of "new" near zero for over a century...
I laughed till I cried. This is why I read Roberta's blog.

Figure 8 Hose Bucket

Coiling up and storing garden hoses is a real pain. I have tried a number of methods and none of them are worth a hoot. There is the old dump-it-in-a-heap and that probably works the best, though it usually takes up more space, looks sloppy, and can lead to frustrating tangles the next time you try and use it. There are the hose hangers that go on the wall, which resolve some issues, but add others. In order to deploy the hose, you need to lift the hose over the hook. If you have a light weight vinyl hose, or only need twenty feet or so, that's not too bad. A hundred feet of rubber hose filled with water is another matter. That is going to require a grunt or two to get it off the hook. Then when you stretch it out to use it, it twists. Eventually these twists will work their way to the nozzle end of the hose. That part is not too bad. I can deal with that. The problem comes when you try to coil the hose up and put it back on the hanger. Every loop of hose you put on the hanger puts a 360 degree twist on the rest of the hose. Some hoses will just kink every so often, but heavier hoses require some wrestling to force them into compliance.

Then there are hose buckets. That's what I am using now. I like them better than hangers. Stuff the hose in the bucket and you can't see how sloppy a job of coiling you did. Pull on the nozzle end of the hose and it comes out. You don't have to lift it off the hook.

I tried a hose reel once. It seemed like a really good idea, but the plastic ones just aren't up to job, no matter how big and fancy they are. I suppose one made of cast iron with a three foot long crank handle, and giant guide rollers would be okay. Some of the better plastic ones may be strong enough, but they need to bolted to the ground in order really be useful, and that kind of installation is just contrary to working in the yard. Hose reels also require sealed rotating couplings. Good couplings exist that do not leak, but they are rare, and seldom found in reels for water hoses. It doesn't really matter in this situation if it leaks, but criminently, here we are going to all this trouble to set up this complicated contraption, and it leaks! Bah.

I have a cardboard box in my garage that I use to store the hose for my air compressor. My technique for storing the hose is to just shove it in the box, hand over hand. The hose is fairly stiff, not like string, more like a garden hose. It goes in until it runs in the side of the box and then it bends and curls up and eventually it is all in the box. When I need some hose, I just pull on the end and out it comes.

While pushing the hose into the box I noticed that it tends to coil one way and then the other. It is almost like there is a center vertical panel dividing the box in two. First the hose makes a loop on one side, and then it crosses the center and makes a loop on the other side. It is like a series of figure eights laid one on top of the other and then folded in half.

I saw this once when some electricians were stringing some kind of thick cable where I worked. They laid out all the cable they needed in this same figure eight kind of arrangement on the floor. When they pulled it into the ceiling it uncoiled from the floor without a hitch. Smooth as silk.

So I am thinking I want a two-bucket bucket for storing garden hoses. It could be ceramic or steel (I have one of each) or even plastic. It should not be too difficult to come up with a shape that would work. Someone just would have to spend the time to do it. The best part about this is that there would be no moving parts. Actually, you would not even need a bucket. You could just dig a couple of holes in the ground.

P.S. And while we are on the subject of garden hoses, what is it with hose nozzles? Admittedly the water pressure at my house may be a little high (90 PSI when I measured it, what, 14 years ago?!?!), but how about a nozzle that doesn't leak, shuts off when you release the handle, does not corrode into uselessness in a single year, and does not land on the handle spraying all and sundry when you drop it? Is that asking too much?

Update December 2016 replaced missing pictures.

Friday, October 10, 2008


I just stumbled across this and thought that is one fine picture. So I decided you should enjoy it too.

Proposed Oregon Measure 56

Description of Proposed Oregon Measure 56 from
May And November property tax elections are to be decided by majority of voters voting in the relevant election (removes supermajority requirement established by Measure 47 in 1996.
I do not know why we have elections twice a year. I suppose someone thinks it's a good idea. Once a year would be plenty for me. A while back some tax measures were passed in the Spring election and that annoyed some folks, so they came up with Measure 47. Measure 47 says that if you want to add a property tax at a Spring or odd year election, you need a supermajority to get it passed. That means a majority of the registered voters have to vote, and a majority of them have to approve the measure. That pretty much killed the idea of getting any taxes passed anytime except during the main elections.

I think Measure 47 was a pretty good idea. The people working in the government should be able to plan a little farther ahead than next week. The should be able to plan far enough ahead that they can put the proposed tax bills on the November ballot that will fund their agency till the next general election.

There has been entirely too much emphasis on tax cuts and how high taxes are. We need more emphasis on the community services those taxes fund. Every time you drive by a big road construction project there is a sign that says "Your Tax Dollars" at work. We need more signs like that. Put them on police cars, fire trucks, schools, all the kids who go to school.

There have been excesses, and it might be a good idea to have an independent agency reviewing the finances of government agencies on a regular basis to evaluate whether the "people" are getting their money's worth.

Constitutional Amendments

Some of the Measures that make it to the Oregon ballot are proposed Constitutional Amendments. A number of these have been passed over the years and now the Index to the Oregon Constitution is forty pages. I have no idea how long the entire constitution with all its' amendments is. I do know that I would not want to have to read it.

What I was taught in school was that a constitution was a serious document. You put some effort into crafting it, and you tried to make it durable. It wasn't something you were supposed to change to accommodate every little whim that came along. You need to able to modify it, but any modification should only take place after due consideration. I don't think this is what we have in Oregon.

I think we need a new constitution for the state of Oregon. We should convene a new Constitutional Convention for the purpose of writing one. I do not know if that will every happen, but I believe it is something we should work toward.

Sandbox Elections

Part of problem, at least according to rumors I have heard, is that some of these measures make it onto the ballot of the general election because the legislature will not, or can not, come to some kind of agreement on what needs to be done, so they throw up their hands and turn it over to the "people". Of course what happens is that the people who have an interest in the issue start an advertising campaign to convince other people to vote one way or the other on this issue. My inclination on most of these things is to just vote NO. Take your squabbles some place else, I am not interested in learning every detail about every issue. That's why we have legislators, and why they have staff. They are supposed to wade through this stuff and figure out what is best for the state.

Maybe our legislature is hopelessly deadlocked. Maybe that's why they can't decide. I imagine it is the rural Oregonians versus the urban ones. There seems to be a big divide between the two groups, and Oregon still has a relatively sizable rural population.

Perhaps what we need is a method to get grievances to be aired, and if they are found to have merit, refer them to the legislature for due consideration. Allow people to put advisory measures on the ballot. Putting these measures on the ballot would have the same requirements as ballot measures do now, but when passed, would not become law, but would be forwarded to the legislature with the requirement that they review these measures and make a formal report back to the populace. This would involve a great deal of effort and discussion, but it might keep us from enacting bad legislation with far more serious consequences.

Good Ol' Commie Propaganda

Maybe. I found this while I was looking for a recording of "Brother Ivanovich's turn to throw the bomb". I am not quite sure what it is, but it is entertaining, regardless of what you may think of it.

Why couldn't I find a recording of the "throw the bomb" song? Could it be that it is now (gasp!) politically incorrect? Or maybe it's just culturally insensitive? Well, I think by depriving me of an easily accessable copy of a recording of this song "they" are being culturally insensitive to me. Ah'm a gonna sue!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Brother Ivanovich's turn to throw the bomb.

I was at lunch with my regular gang today, and something triggered my memory of this song:
In an anarchist garret
So lonely and so mean
You can smell the pungent odor
Of nitroglycerine.
The people there are busy
Filling cans with nails
And the little Slavic children
Set up this mournful wail:

Oh it's Sister Jenny's turn to throw the bomb (throw the bomb)
The last one it was thrown by Brother Tom
Momma's aim is gettin' bad
And the copsky's all know Dad
So it's Sister Jenny's turn to throw the bomb.

Sister Jenny took the bomb and started off.
"Mind you now" said Mother, "to blow up Templehoff".
And so the party waited
Till dawn turned into day
And the little Slavic children
Set up this mournful lay:

Oh it's Brother Ivanovich's turn to throw the bomb.
Sister Jenny's gone the way of Brother Tom.
Momma's aim is gettin' bad, and copsky's all know Dad
So it's Brother Ivanovich's turn to throw the bomb.

I remember listening to this song when I was a kid. I thought it was a recording by the "Brothers Four", but that does not seem to be the case. "The Smothers Brothers" maybe? I don't know. Google located this set of lyrics here.

The Forever War

Soldiers in the Forever War
"The Forever War" is one of the great Science Fiction novels of all time, written by Joe Haldeman sometime in the 20th Century.

You could use that title to describe the war between the sexes, to wit: roughly 2700 years ago Hesiod wrote:
"From her is the race of women and female kind, of her is the deadly race and tribe of women who live amongst mortal men to their great trouble, no helpmeets in hateful poverty, but only in wealth."
Geez, think he was a little down on women when he wrote that? I got here by following a link to Wikipedia from Stu Savory. I found the picture while I was looking for book covers, and I just really like it.

Update December 2016 replaced missing picture.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A New Breed Of Gunner

New to me anyway. The story and this picture are from November of 2003. I came across the picture while looking for pictures of gun shops in Peshawar. I found two web sites with some good pictures:
  1. Darra Adam Khel
  2. Guns From Afghanistan
This picture is all the more striking after you get done reading about how they are making guns in Peshawar, and then you think about the society that produced this photo op.

Update December 2016 replaced missing picture.

The Anatomist

A dose of culture for all you neanderthals, whether you want it or not.

Painted by Gabriel von Max around 1860. This computer stuff is getting pretty amazing when you can get pictures like this on your desktop. A high resolution image (800 x 574) is also available. Note that this large image is actually made of four smaller images. The original painting is 190 centimeters across. At 1,000 pixels per inch (which is what I consider the minimum for accurate reproduction), that would mean a good quality copy would be 75,000 pixels across. To put it another way, each pixel in this drawing amounts of about 1/5 of an inch on the original picture.

Dance Monkeys Dance

The narrator gets a little biased towards the end, but for the most part it really puts things in perspective.

If you prefer, you can watch it in a dark room. Found on the same site where I found the monkey picture that I used in previous post.


So I'm trying to get the audio working on my Linux box. I spent some time futzing with it and eventually concluded I need some basic benchmarks, like do the speakers work? Can I make any audio work? Maybe I should just go out and buy a sound card. Whoa! Let's not be drastic here. Shoot, a sound card is going to set you back, what, a dollar? Maybe even a dollar and a half!

I've got another computer sitting here that I was supposed to sell, but somehow I have not gotten around to it. Let's just hook that up and see where we go. Right off the bat we have a problem. The dag-nab PS-2 keyboard connector won't plug in. The mouse connector works fine, it even plugs into the keyboard socket. What gives? Close comparison of the two plugs and sockets reveals that the plastic tab in the center of the keyboard connector is looking a little beat, and look here, in the corresponding slot in socket, there appears to be a piece of metal impinging on the slot. But when I try and plug it in, it feels like it is jammed up around the metal shell. Try another keyboard, it plugs right in. What the devil? Oh, look, the center plastic tab is missing. Now who would have done that? Not me, I would have remembered such a thing. Oh, yeah, I guess I did do that. Okay, same cure here. Use a pocket knife to bend the plastic tab over until it breaks off and falls out. Good, step zero complete.

So now I connect it up and turn it on and ... and nothing. It sits there and hums at me. No video at all, not even any BIOS sign on message. This isn't good, and then I remember! This was going to be my multi-media machine, my personal DVR, until I couldn't get decent video out of it. But while I was fooling around with this thing, I got to the point where I was using only the TV for video. I did not have a computer monitor hooked up to it. Now I have a monitor, but no TV. Hmmmm. Ought to be some way to convince the BIOS to revert to using the standard computer video instead of this TV card. I try pulling the TV card, no help. So I go out on the internet. I haven't found a solution yet, but I did find this:

We've all heard that a million monkeys banging on a million typewriters will eventually reproduce the entire works of Shakespeare. Now, thanks to the Internet, we know this is not true.
Update December 2016 replaced missing picture.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


I went out to the local Albertsons grocery store yesterday evening to pick up some charcoal for the grill. I walked up and down durn near every aisle looking for charcoal and I did not find any. I thought about asking someone for help, but I did not want to have an unhelpful conversation. You know the kind, like a: uh, we don't carry charcoal after labor day, or b: uh, I don't know, let me check, or c: Follow me! I know right where it's at! Only when you get there, it isn't, and you get to listen to a profusion of apologies. Of course it could have gone smoothly and I would have had the charcoal and all would have been well, but I wasn't willing to take that risk. I've run into helpless store employees too many times. Now maybe I am just prejudiced against Albertsons, but their employees just look helpless.

Thriftway Grocery Store
So I drove the two miles to Hank's where I knew where the charcoal was and paid the $5 for a ten pound bag.

Alpha Bits Cereal
So why did I go to Albertsons in the first place? They are the only ones in the area who carry Alpha-Bits. The three of us seem to have developed a craving for them, so I bought three boxes. I expect we will tire of them soon enough.

Update November 2015. Replaced missing pictures.

Windows is Wonderful Part 9487

I set up a Windows Hotmail account for all my Linux related stuff. When I got serious about fixing the problems with my Linux box, I visited a bunch of forums, and they all want you to register, and they all want an email address. No telling how much junk mail this is going to generate, so I set up a new email account to deal with them. I already had a three other email accounts, and hotmail is the only one I hadn't tried so I thought I'd give it a go. The oddness of using a Windows program to cope with Linux didn't even occur to me, or maybe it just appealed to my perverse sense of humor.

But now every time I go to check this account, and it tells me I need to upgrade my browser. I'm sorry, my browser has already been upgraded, but there is no way of telling it that, and there isn't even a check box to tell it not to show me this warning again. I suppose that's what I get for trying to use a Microsoft do-hickey on Linux.

Update December 2016 replaced missing image.