Monday, January 31, 2011

Wet Morning Walk...

We got a little rain yesterday afternoon and last night – enough to thoroughly wet down our valley, but not enough to produce any runoff.  My weather station is down at the moment, so I don't have a measurement.  My best guess is about a quarter inch.

The dogs always like these wet morning walks, as they can smell so much better under these conditions.  I suspect that every blade of grass and every grain of sand has an odiferous story to tell them.  The three field spaniels certainly acted that way – they wanted to spend an hour or so at each interesting repository of smells, which was about every half inch. 

Race, on the other hand, just wanted pine cones.  He appeared to take pleasure in the fact that they were cold and wet, crunching them with a bit more delight than usual (and that's saying something!).

No stars or moonlight this morning; it was completely overcast...

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Seven Years of Opportunity...

APOD has a celebratory post up today – celebrating seven years on Mars by the amazing Opportunity explorer.  Designed for a mission of 90 days, it is still in nearly perfect condition seven years later.  It has now logged over 15 miles (27 km) of roving over the Martian surface, far more than its designers ever dreamed of.  It's also had its share of good luck: unexpectedly common dust devils have cleaned the accumulated dust off its solar panels on several occasions.  Without these lovely dust storms, Opportunity's solar panels would long ago have been blocked.

Opportunity's sibling rover Spirit is also still operational, but it has suffered more component failures (especially its wheels) and is now stuck in one place.  Nevertheless, it's still doing yeoman science work every day.

Click on the image below to see it greatly magnified, or see it on APOD...

Friday, January 28, 2011

An Unserious Speech...

Peggy Noonan on Obama's State of the Union Speech - her lead:
It is a strange and confounding thing about this White House that the moment you finally think they have their act together—the moment they get in the groove and start to demonstrate that they do have some understanding of our country—they take the very next opportunity to prove anew that they do not have their act together, and are not in the groove. It's almost magical.

The State of the Union speech was not centrist, as it should have been, but merely mushy, and barely relevant. It wasted a perfectly good analogy—America is in a Sputnik moment—by following it with narrow, redundant and essentially meaningless initiatives. Rhetorically the speech lay there like a lox, as if the document itself knew it was dishonest, felt embarrassed, and wanted to curl up quietly in a corner of the podium and hide. But the president insisted on reading it.
What she said.

Read the whole thing...

Mac Software Recommendations...

Quite a few things on this list that are new to me, and sound interesting...

Happy Music, Happy Feet...

Via my cousin Mike D.:

I was panting myself by the time they were finished...

She Lives Way Down the Street!

Very funny sermon, via my mom:

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Shameless Plug...

For my company.  Our marketing folks just posted this little movie about our upcoming Winter 2011 release (coming in early February).  There are no technical details here; it's just setting the scene for them.

I love it that we do things like this movie!

Winning the Future...

As many others, including Sarah Palin, have observed: Obama's State of the Union theme “Winning the Future” is the wrong phrase to describe his leadership, but it's the right acronym.  The graphic is already viral...


She's Back!

Rachel Lucas is posting again, albeit only occasionally.  Here's one destined to be a classic: “Noodles that are Wrong”.

I go to work with a smile on my face on those days when Rachel has a new post...

M78 (in Orion)...

Jeez, it never looked like this in my telescope!  From APOD, of course...

Holey Moley!

It's like Christmas for geeks!

Sometimes, You're Just Amazed...

Just over a month ago, Frankie joined our little development team.  She keeps a blog that I think of as part of her recovery plan – recovery from a profoundly sad event in her life a couple of years ago (I'll let her tell that story through her blog).  The blog is called “Hope Rising”; a title that is hopeful in and of itself.

Well, this morning I visited her blog for the first time in a few days, and found this beautiful post.  The paragraph below was just one of several that I stopped and reread a few times:
My pursuit of hope introduced me to what I have come to call the space in between. The place in my life where what was is gone and what will be has yet to be revealed. It’s the place where the only road available is the one forged with decisions and consequences of my past and my only power is in choosing the demeanor with which I walk it. For me that road was letting go of Arielle and walking that road in pursuit of hope was my spoken choice.
Arielle is the subject of the sad event. The post this comes from is all about Frankie being ready to run in her first half-marathon – which she did on the next day.  That's her at right, crossing the finish line.

I'm proud to know you, Frankie.  And I'm looking forward to knowing you better...

Monday, January 24, 2011

Found Emu...

Seen on a piece of chipboard posted along side Lawson Valley Drive this morning on my way to work (at 4 am!):
Found Emu

Update: added photos

Industry, Meet Statist...

TigerHawk explains, very clearly, how the Obama administration's failure to understand how capitalism works is wrecking our industrial jewel: the pharmaceuticals.  Read it and weep.  Then vote these assholes idiots out of office at every possible opportunity.

For the children.

And yourself...

Minimum Wage = Recovery Roadblock...

If it's not obvious to you why the minimum wage (at any level!) is a problem, then read Warren Meyer's excellent piece in Forbes.  Meyer, by the way, is the blogger at the always-interesting CoyoteBlog...

Sunday, January 23, 2011

These Really Work!

Via my mom, who says she verified the following on Snopes:
Amazing Simple Home Remedies

1. Avoid cutting yourself when slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold the knife while you chop.

2. Avoid arguments with females about lifting the toilet seat by using the sink instead.

3. High blood pressure sufferers – simply cut yourself and bleed for a few minutes, thus reducing the pressure on your veins. Remember to use a timer.

4. A mouse trap placed on top of your alarm clock will prevent you from rolling over and going back to sleep after you hit the snore button.

5. If you have a bad cough, take a large dose of laxatives. Then you'll be afraid to cough.

6. You only need two tools in life – WD-40 and duct tape. If it doesn't move and should, use the WD-40. If it shouldn't move and does, use the duct tape.

7. If you can't fix it with a hammer, you've got an electrical problem.

And the daily thought:

Some people are like slinkies – not really good for anything, but they bring a smile to your face when pushed down the stairs.
Yup, this is the kind of home I grew up in. Does that explain anything for you?

So You Think You're a JavaScript Whiz?

Try this mind-bender!  What does this JavaScript expression do, if executed in a browser?
The answer can be found here, once you give up trying to figure it out...

New Memory Technology...

This sounds very promising: a new semiconductor technology for non-volatile memory with the speed of volatile RAM.  Unlike some other, more exotic methods proposed over the years, this one doesn't require any advances in fabrication technology...

Alternative to OS/X Terminal...

In alpha right now.  It has some interesting features...

Public Key Cryptography Invented Earlier than We Thought?

Ask anyone interested in cryptography about public-key cryptography, and the names of Diffie, Hellman, Murkle, Rivest, Shamir, and Adleman will quickly arise.  They're the inventors of the concept of public-key cryptography as most of us know it.

Well, maybe not.  If this article is accurate, apparently the British government developed public-key cryptography independently and several years earlier than the six listed above.  The narrative sounds plausible to me, though of course I have no personal knowledge of any of it...


Via APOD, this video of a spectacular meteor from 1992:

Friday, January 21, 2011

Morning Walk – Now with Coyotes!

Miki and Race are with Debbie in Arizona, getting ready to compete today.  So this morning I just had Mo'i and Lea to walk.  When I went into our living room to get ready to take them out, I noticed that our outside patio light, which has a motion sensor on it, was already turned on.  It takes a fairly large animal (dog sized) to make it turn on, so of course that got me to wondering what was out there.

Mo'i and Lea are our two oldest dogs, the least able to defend themselves.  So I walked out first by myself, with a flashlight, to see if anything was still hanging about the yard.  I shined the flashlight all around, and didn't see a thing.  Whatever it was that tripped the light seemed to have hightailed out of there.

So I went back inside, leashed Mo'i and Lea, and we went for our usual morning walk.  But when we got to the bottom of our driveway, I heard a couple of preliminary noises and then ... the unmistakable sound of a pack of coyotes howling.  And these were close!

I had the flashlight with me, but wasn't using it.  I fumbled for a moment and turned it on, aiming it at where the sound appeared to be coming from.  Just to the left of the beam, three pairs of glowing eyes – a kind of greenish orange color, moving up-and-down as they howled.  The three were about 150 feet (50 meters) away, alongside and outside the fence around our yard.  They didn't act aggressively in any way – but neither were they shy. 

We turned back toward the house, and the coyotes stopped howling.  Mo'i and Lea seemed completely oblivious to all of this, acting just as they normally do, and paying no attention whatsoever to the racket the coyotes were making.  What does this mean?  I'm guessing it means that having coyotes about is no news to them, as they smell them all the time.  But that's just a guess.

I hustled them both back inside, as I didn't hear the coyotes any more, and the glowing eyes had disappeared.  Most likely they were headed away, but just to be on the safe side, I got the oblivious dogs back inside. 

We see coyotes around our neighborhood on nearly a daily basis, so it's not particularly surprising that we saw them this morning.  The bits that are unusual is to see them quite so close to our house, and to hear them howling from so close by – and most especially, to actually see them howling.  We have a self-filling waterer in our back yard, and we have all sorts of wildlife that comes to it for water (especially at night), so my guess is that we have guest coyotes in our yard quite frequently, though we don't see them...

Just Fiddle Around With It...

Through both work and play, I've dabbled in several kinds of engineering: software, electrical, mechanical, thermal, concrete, and audio.  Probably a few more I'm forgetting at the moment, too.  One thread (of many) that runs through all of them: one of the best (and most enjoyable) ways to learn about something is to play with it.  By which I mean: to experiment, and actually try different approaches.  In other words, to just fiddle around with it.

With software in particular, this is generally pretty easy to do.  One can simply write little scraps of test code, run them, and observe the results.  But certain kinds of software are more difficult, because they are parts of more complex systems.  JavaScript running in a web browser is a great example of this more difficult soft of fiddling.  jsFiddle is an interesting attempt to erase that difficulty...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Commentary on Palin...

Suddenly there seems to be a lot of commentary on Sarah Palin.  Specifically, why the left hates her with such a passion.  Here are three takes on that (one of these via my brother Mark D.): one, two, and three.

One thing that occurred to me as I read these: “Sarah Derangement Syndrome®” is a pretty darned good diagnostic for unthinking progressivism.  That is, if you're trying to gauge how well informed someone is (politically), and whether they think of themselves as progressive, the answer to a single question (“What do you think about Sarah Palin?”) is probably all you need...

Repeal of ObamaCare...

A nice piece in the WSJ this morning.  The lead:
Democrats are deriding last night's House vote to repeal ObamaCare as "symbolic," and it was, but that is not the same as meaningless. The stunning political reality is that a new entitlement that was supposed to be a landmark of liberal governance has been repudiated by a majority of one chamber of Congress only 10 months after it passed. This sort of thing never happens.

More House Members—245 in total—voted to rescind the new entitlement than the 219 Democrats who voted to create it last March. That partisan majority narrowly prevailed over all 178 Republicans and some 38 Democrats. The three Democrats who favored repeal yesterday confirmed the bipartisan opposition to the kind of vast new social program that historically has been built on a national bipartisan consensus.

Republicans across the country campaigned on repeal last year, and yesterday's vote showed refreshing respect for the often invoked, rarely consulted American people. Meanwhile, six additional states have asked to join the momentous constitutional challenge to ObamaCare in Florida, bringing the total to 26, plus Virginia's separate suit. A majority of states resisting this mandate is another "symbolic" threshold.
More like this, please, Republicans...


Last night, around 7 pm, I took the four dogs out for their evening walk.  It was magical outside – we were completely enveloped in a thick, dense fog – the kind that fills the air with tiny droplets so small you can't see them, but if you wave your hand through the air it gets wet.  Visibility was down to just a hundred feet or so.  You can see this on the chart at right as a “pulse” of high humidity a few hours ago.

The three field spaniels went on an ecstatic tour de odeur, madly sniffing at anything and everything, drinking in the enhanced odors of the evening.  Race chased pine cones both real and imaginary; he didn't even notice the fog.  The dogs fur quickly was covered in tiny little droplets, giving them a diamond-encrusted appearance in the dim light from our front porch.  There was a full moon high overhead, but the fog so dimmed and diffused the light that I could scarcely tell it was there.

This morning was a completely different story.  We got up a bit early, around 2 am.  Everything was damp outside, but the sky was completely clear and it was much warmer than last night.  On the chart above, you can see that an hour or so before our morning walk, the humidity dropped precipitously (from near 100% to under 10%) in the span of a few minutes, and the temperature jumped 10°F at the same time.  A beautiful full moon was high in the sky, and it was very bright outside.  No flashlight needed this morning!  Off to the west I could see the top of fog in the lower reaches of Lawson Valley, bright white in the moonlight.  Colors were easily visible all around us, even in the distance.  The stars were largely washed out by the moon, but this was more than compensated by the beautiful views of the moonlit landscape.

The dogs were excited, too, but by something completely different and unknowable.  They spent our entire morning walk – all four of them – being very quiet, staying close to me, and sniffing at a dozen or so particularly interesting spots.  It was hard to get them off those spots.  A couple of times the four dogs made a perfect "plus" sign, with all four noses smelling the same square inch of ground, 90° apart.  I'd sure like to know what they were smelling!  It had to be something really, really interesting to get Race's mind off pine cones. 

I'm looking forward to seeing that fog in the moonlight as I drive into work this morning...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Interesting AGW Development...

Months ago, Virginia's Attorney General (Ken Cuccinelli, a Republican) initiated an investigation of fraud targeting Dr. Michael Mann (the infamous “hockey stick” graph creator).  Dr. Mann is a professor at the University of Virginia, and Cuccinelli is investigating the misuse of public funds.

I've not commented on this before, because I wasn't sure in my own mind whether the investigation was justifiable (not being party to whatever evidence Cuccinelli had) and was quite possibly more of a witch hunt (Cuccinelli is an outspoke AGW skeptic) than of substance.

But today comes news that makes me wonder.  It seems that two state Senators (Democrats, both) have proposed legislation that would prevent Cuccinelli from continuing his investigation, by retroactively removing his authorization.

That smells like shenanigans to me.

And now I'm more inclined to believe that Cuccinelli had something real to investigate.  Otherwise why would there be retroactive butt-covering going on?

Get 'em, Cuccinelli!  String 'em up!

Storm on Saturn...

Photo by the intrepid robotic explorer Cassini, which is still collecting science every day as it whips around in the Saturnian system.  APOD featured this photo today...

AGW, Explained...

Via reader Aaron B., this very nicely done takedown of the typical poorly-informed, poorly-reasoning member of the public who believes in the pending AGW doom:

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I Sure Miss This Guy...

It was easier then, to know who opposed us, and why...

The Chicago Way...

“The Chicago Way” is the moniker used to describe the ways of politics in Chicago.  The politics that Obama came out of.  This little story describes it very well:
There was an investigation of voter fraud in Chicago, and the investigators wrote to my friend’s grandmother, asking to interview her. This made her nervous. She was a widow and lived alone, and so she turned to her son who was away in college and asked that he return to be with her when the investigators came to see her.

And so he did. The investigator had a question or two to ask. It was 1947, and he wanted to know whether her husband had died in 1928 as the records seemed to indicate – and she acknowledged that sadly this was so. Then, the investigator posed his second question. “Why, then,” he asked, “had her husband continued voting with such admirable regularity in the two decades since his decease?”

My friend's grandmother reportedly paused then -- and for a long time. Then, if the story is true, she looked the investigator in the eye and posed a question of her own, which brought the interview to an abrupt end. “What is this all about?” she asked. “Why would anyone suppose that just because a man has died he has given up his interest in politics?”

MATLab Alternative?

This sure looks like an interesting alternative to MATLab.  Especially the free, open-source part!

Good Doggie!

Meet Chaser, a 6 year old border collie from Spartansburg, South Carolina.  Chaser is a typical border collie, busy and motivated.  Oh, and she knows over 1,000 words!

Pro-Business Rhetoric from ...Obama?

If you casually and credulously read Mr. Obama's words in todays Wall Street Journal, it sounds like he's advocating a pro-business review of federal regulations on the books.  A more careful parsing of the text, however, reveals that he's equally ready to make the regulations even more onerous to business.  And he can't help but get a partisan dig in, blaming the current recession on regulatory failure. 

I'd really like to believe that Mr. Obama was taking some lessons from November to heart, and was really going to do his best to ease regulations on businesses to help stoke our jobs engine.  The cynic in me says that this is just another crisis that he'll feel compelled to take advantage of.  Time will tell, and probably nothing else will.

Others are wondering similar things...

Man's Best Friend...

Via reader Jim M., this ode to man's best friend:

A real woman is a man's best friend.

She will never stand him up and never let him down.

She will reassure him when he feels insecure and comfort him after a bad day.

She will inspire him to do things he never thought he could do; to live without fear and forget regret.

She will enable him to express his deepest emotions and give in to his most intimate desires.

She will make sure he always feels as though he's the most handsome man in the room and will enable him to be the most confident, sexy, seductive and invincible...

No, wait...


I'm thinking of whiskey.  It's whiskey that does all that shit.

Never mind.

After Retirement...

Via reader Dave H., what wives can look forward to after their husbands retire.  I'm pretty sure this guy was a software engineer:

After I retired, my wife insisted that I accompany her on her trips to Target.

Unfortunately, like most men, I found shopping boring and preferred to get in and get out. Equally unfortunate, my wife is like most women - she loves to browse.

Yesterday my dear wife received the following letter from the local Target:

Dear Mrs. Harris,

Over the past six months, your husband has caused quite a commotion in our store. We cannot tolerate this behavior and have been forced to ban both of you from the store. Our complaints against your husband, Mr. Harris, are listed below and are documented by our video surveillance cameras:

1. June 15: He took 24 boxes of condoms and randomly put them in other people's carts when they weren't looking.

2. July 2: Set all the alarm clocks in Housewares to go off at 5-minute intervals.

3. July 7: He made a trail of tomato juice on the floor leading to the women's restroom.

4. July 19: Walked up to an employee and told her in an official voice, 'Code 3 in Housewares. Get on it right away'. This caused the employee to leave her assigned station and receive a reprimand from her Supervisor that in turn resulted with a union grievance, causing management to lose time and costing the company money.

5. August 4: Went to the Service Desk and tried to put a bag of M&Ms on layaway.

6. August 14: Moved a 'CAUTION - WET FLOOR' sign to a carpeted area.

7. August 15: Set up a tent in the camping department and told the children shoppers he'd invite them in if they would bring pillows and blankets from the bedding department to which twenty children obliged.

8. August 23: When a clerk asked if they could help him he began crying and screamed, 'Why can't you people just leave me alone?' EMTs were called.

9. September 4: Looked right into the security camera and used it as a mirror while he picked his nose.

10. September 10: While handling guns in the hunting department, he asked the clerk where the antidepressants were.

11. October 3: Darted around the store suspiciously while loudly humming the 'Mission Impossible' theme.

12. October 6: In the auto department, he practiced his 'Madonna look' by using different sizes of funnels.

13. October 18: Hid in a clothing rack and when people browsed through, yelled 'PICK ME! PICK ME!'

14. October 21: When an announcement came over the loud speaker, he assumed a fetal position and screamed 'OH NO! IT'S THOSE VOICES AGAIN!'

And last, but not least:

15. October 23: Went into a fitting room, shut the door, waited awhile, then yelled very loudly, 'Hey! There's no toilet paper in here.' One of the clerks passed out.


First they tell us to stand by for extended drought caused by global warming.  Then they tell us to stand by for extended drought and desertification caused by “climate change”.  Now they're warning us that we could have a “superstorm” that lasts for over a month and dumps over 100 inches of rain – based on historical records of such storms occuring before, most recently in the early 1860s...

Monday, January 17, 2011

I Have a Dream...

The full speech by Dr. King:

We've made a lot of progress, but we haven't quite yet realized his dream...

To Realize...

Via my mom:
To realize
the value of a sister/brother
ask someone
who doesn't have one.

To realize
the value of ten years:
ask a newly
divorced couple.

To realize
the value of four years:
ask a graduate.

To realize
the value of one year:
ask a student who
has failed a final exam.

To realize
the value of nine months:
ask a mother who gave birth to a stillborn.

To realize
the value of one month:
ask a mother
who has given birth to a premature baby..

To realize
the value of one minute:
ask a person
who has missed the train, bus or plane.

To realize
the value of one-second:
ask a person
who has survived an accident.

Time waits for no one.
treasure every moment you have.

You will treasure it even more when
you can share it with someone special.

To realize the value of a friend or family member:

Planet Sounio...

From APOD, of course.  Awesome on several levels, including the technical photography and digital editing...

Bite Me...

From Don Surber:
I do not want civil discourse

For a decade, from the election of Bush 43 forward, the Left has lied and cheated as it tried to return to power. Al Gore made a mockery out of the American electoral system by being a spoilsport over Florida, which Bush indeed won by 537 votes. Dan Rather forged a document to try to derail Bush’s re-election. Twice Democrats stole U.S. senators from the Republicans. After voting to support the war to get by the 2002 election, many Democrats quickly soured on the war. The profane protests were cheered by liberals who misattributed “dissent is the highest form of patriotism”to Thomas Jefferson; the words belong to the late historian Howard Zinn.

Once in power, liberals were the opposite of gracious.

For two years now, I have been called ignorant, racist, angry and violent by the left. The very foul-mouthed protesters of Bush dare to now label my words as “hate speech.”

Last week, the left quickly blamed the right for the national tragedy of a shooting spree by a madman who never watched Fox News, never listened to Rush Limbaugh and likely did not know who Sarah Palin is.

Fortunately, the American public rejected out of hand that idiotic notion that the right was responsible.

Rather than apologize, the left wants to change the tone of the political debate.

The left suddenly wants civil discourse.

Bite me.
What he said.  Squared.  Read the rest of his excellent post...

Old Computer Ads...

I remember the one at right (click to enlarge), as I had a business manufacturing computer systems at the time, and these folks were selling the same hard disk that I was – but for about half my price!

If you work out the numbers, these folks were selling a hard disk at $350/mb, and I was selling them at $500/mb – and both prices were an order of magnitude less than the cost of disks just a few years prior.  I remember thinking that we had to be approaching some sort of price asymptote; it couldn't possibly go down any lower!  And now, about 30 years later, what do disks cost?  Roughly $0.0001/mb, or about five millionths of what they used to cost.  Is there anything else that has declined as much in cost as computer hardware?  If so, I can't think what it is...

More ads at the link.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Potential Cure for Tinnitus...

Tinnitus is a persistent ringing (or other noise) that one hears when there is no actual noise to be heard.  I've suffered from an irritating, but much less than debilitating, version of it for 10 years or so.  Some people's tinnitus is so bad that they can't work, read, watch TV, or enjoy much of life.

Now some scientists say they may have an actual cure, one that involves “rebooting the brain”.  Hmmm.  Are they telling us that our brains are equipped with Microsoft software?  I sure hope not, 'cause that's a mighty scary thought!

Hey! Peggy Noonan Agrees With Me!

Her lead:
The beginning of the president's speech wasn't good, and was marked by the sonorous banalities on which White House staffs in times of crisis always insist. "We join you in your grief," "We mourn with you for the fallen," "a quintessentially American scene ... shattered by a gunman's bullets." Modern presidents sometimes speak as if their words were crafted by producers for a TV newsmagazine like "Dateline." This is bad because television producers tend to think their audience is composed of people who require the plonkingly obvious to be repeatedly stated in the purplest prose. The trend should be stopped. Presidents are not anchormen of true-crime shows, or were not meant to be.

I begin grouchily to underscore the sincerity of the praise that follows. About a third of the way through, the speech took on real meaning and momentum, and by the end it was very good, maybe great. The speech had a proper height. It was large-spirited and dealt with big things. It was adroit and without rancor. The president didn't mourn, he inspirited.
Read the whole thing...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Morning Walk...

I miss Orion in the sky; at this time of year it has already set in the west before I get up.  And it looks odd to me to see the Big Dipper (Ursa major) “upside down”, almost straight overhead.  But the clear skies I really enjoy.  The half-moon was very high in the southern sky this morning, and bright enough to wash out most of the stars.  There was plenty of light to walk by.

Race chased pine cones, as is his want.  He likes any sort of ball or toy that's kicked or thrown, but for some reason pine cones are his absolute favorite.  You can see his delight when he finds one, and his joy when he chases down one that I've kicked – he runs back to me with it held in his jaws, practically skipping and dancing with happiness, his head whipping back and forth.  Then down it goes on the pavement just in front of me, and he crouches, focused totally on that pine cone and the moment of my kick.

The three field spaniels wandered from smell to smell.  I want to be able to ask them “Who visited there?  How long ago?”  I'm assuming they know, that they can tell from what they're smelling.  Maybe I'm wrong, though; maybe those smells are to them like a nice glass of wine to me – I don't really understand it very well, but I sure enjoy it!

I got to thinking, during our walk this morning, about Debbie, who is away with her friend Marsha Y. in the Los Angeles area.  I miss her, of course.  But I'm very proud of the way she leapt in to support her friend.  She and Dick (Marsha's husband) are so far Marsha's only visitors.  This isn't because Marsha is without friends or family (she has plenty of both).  I don't know why others aren't there to be with Marsha.  But Debbie is there, when Marsha needs friends and family the most.  I'm proud that my wife is the kind of person who responds to a friend's need in the way that she has.

Marsha appears to be making good progress.  Last night she was able to eat on her own, for the first time since the stroke.  In my last call with Debbie, her tone was full of optimism and hope...

A Clear Path to $1B in Revenue...

Now that's the sort of thing I really, really enjoy hearing from my boss...

NGC 3521...

From APOD, of course.  As always, click to enlarge.

Tough Stuff...

Just by happenstance, I know someone working on this stuff.  They think it just might be the next “miracle material”, with the potential to be as revolutionary as the advent of plastics...

Obama's Tuscon Moment...

Long time readers of this blog will know that it's rare for me to agree with a position that President Obama takes.  It's rarer still for me to agree with – much less admire – something that he does.

Last night was an exception.  I thought his speech in Tuscon was an exemplary one, delivered with all the skill and theatre that he's famous for (but has so rarely actually delivered).  Obama surprised me by staying well above the left's rhetoric of the past few days, instead delivering an message of unity I always hope a politician would hit in such situations, but which so few actually do.  He also did a superb job of honoring the dead and injured, without using the occasion directly for his own ends.

Nice job, Mr. President.  Thank you.

More like that, please...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Collar Bomb Heist...

Amazing true crime story.  I'd heard of this before, but not all these details.

Light Blogging Alert...

There is a nearly perfect storm brewing for me: at work we're in crunch mode to get a release out, Debbie is away (more on that in a moment), and we have a sick dog.  I'm working from home today, and won't be posting much.

Debbie is away to be with Marsha Y., a good friend who suffered a stroke on Monday.  Marsha's doing ok – she's awake, talking, and the only symptom seems to be some problem with movement on her right side.  She was at the gym when the stroke happened, so people were with her and helping immediately; she was at the hospital in very short order...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


...but perhaps not what you were expecting.  This is the Tarantula Nebula, via APOD (of course!).

The Little Book of Semaphores...

A freely downloadable book about concurrent programming.  I've only skimmed it so far, but it looks pretty good...

Ice Extrusions...

Both by happenstance and by design, ice can be extruded from large containers with small exits (as in the photo at right).  James Carter has learned how to do this on purpose.  See his web site for lots of interesting examples and an explanation...

Online Advanced JavaScript Course...


WTF: IPv6 in the Science journals?

Here's an example.

An entire generation of computer scientists has been born, educated, and gone to work since IPv6 was first invented.  There are very damned few deployments of it outside of the backbone.  The benefits are clear, but so are the implementation challenges.

The linked article refers to a government mandate for IPv6 upgrading.  I'd get excited about that except that I remember the first such mandate (around 1995), the second (around 2000), and the third (around 2005) – none of which had much impact so far as I can tell.  Outside of the squandering of vast amounts of taxpayer dollars, of course.


Monday, January 10, 2011

You Know You're a Dog Owner When... accept the fact that walking in your stocking feet through the kitchen means that you're at risk for getting wet socks.  Because the dogs, when they drink from their waterer, dribble gallons of water all over the kitchen floor, of course...

Something to Keep an Eye On...

The Obama administration is apparently moving forward with some kind of “Internet ID” program.  I've not been able to find any details about this, anywhere. 

If this turns out to be some sort of optional ID that would provide trusted identification when the user desired it, then I think that's at least possibly a net good thing.

On the other hand, if the use of this ID becomes mandatory for any purpose, then we've got a potential problem.

Let's all watch what develops here...

Akins' Laws of Spacecraft Design...

Here's a list of design principles that will ring true to any experienced engineer, in any field.  Here are a few that are just as applicable to software design as they are to spacecraft design:
Design is an iterative process. The necessary number of iterations is one more than the number you have currently done. This is true at any point in time.

Not having all the information you need is never a satisfactory excuse for not starting the analysis.

There is never a single right solution. There are always multiple wrong ones, though.

Don't do nuthin' dumb.

Schedules only move in one direction.

A designer knows that he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.

It Begins...

Most of us are still recovering from the shock of the attack on Congresswoman Gabby Giffords.  The more calculating political class is falling over over themselves to take advantage of the moment.  The winner for first strike: Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy is preparing gun control legislation, continuing our apparent national obsession with blaming the tools rather than the perpetrator.

Glenn Reynolds (aka “The Instapundit”) has a piece in today's Wall Street Journal on another manifestation of the left's “Don't let a good crisis go to waste!” tactics.  He's disgusted with the left's instant blaming of the Giffords shooting on Sarah Palin and the Tea Party.  His conclusion:
Where is the decency in blood libel?

To paraphrase Justice Cardozo ("proof of negligence in the air, so to speak, will not do"), there is no such thing as responsibility in the air. Those who try to connect Sarah Palin and other political figures with whom they disagree to the shootings in Arizona use attacks on "rhetoric" and a "climate of hate" to obscure their own dishonesty in trying to imply responsibility where none exists. But the dishonesty remains.

To be clear, if you're using this event to criticize the "rhetoric" of Mrs. Palin or others with whom you disagree, then you're either: (a) asserting a connection between the "rhetoric" and the shooting, which based on evidence to date would be what we call a vicious lie; or (b) you're not, in which case you're just seizing on a tragedy to try to score unrelated political points, which is contemptible. Which is it?

I understand the desperation that Democrats must feel after taking a historic beating in the midterm elections and seeing the popularity of ObamaCare plummet while voters flee the party in droves. But those who purport to care about the health of our political community demonstrate precious little actual concern for America's political well-being when they seize on any pretext, however flimsy, to call their political opponents accomplices to murder.

Where is the decency in that?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

One-Liner Smiles...

Via reader Dr. Simi L.:
1. My husband and I divorced over religious differences. He thought he was God and I didn't.
2. I don't suffer from insanity; I enjoy every minute of it.
3. Some people are alive only because it's illegal to kill them.
4. I used to have a handle on life, but it broke.
5. Don't take life too seriously; No one gets out alive.
6. You're just jealous because the voices only talk to me
7. Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder.
8. Earth is the insane asylum for the universe.
9. I'm not a complete idiot -- Some parts are just missing.
10. Out of my mind. Back in five minutes.
11. NyQuil, the stuffy, sneezy, why-the-heck-is-the-room-spinning medicine.
12. God must love stupid people; He made so many.
13. The gene pool could use a little chlorine
14. Consciousness: That annoying time between naps.
15. Ever stop to think, and forget to start again?
16. Being 'over the hill' is much better than being under it!
17. Wrinkled Was Not One of the Things I Wanted to Be When I Grew up.
18. Procrastinate Now!
19. I Have a Degree in Liberal Arts; Do You Want Fries With That?
20. A hangover is the wrath of grapes.
21. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a cash advance.
22. Stupidity is not a handicap. Park elsewhere!
23. They call it PMS because Mad Cow Disease was already taken.
24. He who dies with the most toys is nonetheless DEAD.
25. A picture is worth a thousand words, but it uses up three thousand times the memory.
26. Ham and eggs: a day's work for a chicken, a lifetime commitment for a pig.
27. The trouble with life is there's no background music.
28. The original point and click interface was a Smith & Wesson.
29. I smile because I don't know what the heck is going on.


On our frequent drives from home to Descanso, Cuyamaca, Pine Valley, or Laguna, our route takes us up Japatul road to where it meets Interstate 8.  Along that road there is a house on the west side with a beautiful collection of mature Pyracantha (Firethorn) plants.  Some individual plants are about 10 feet high and perhaps 12 feet in diameter.  Every year those plants treat us to a gorgeous display of orange-red berries, but this year (presumably because of the early rains) they were especially spectacular.  Enjoy (as always, click to enlarge)!

A Satisfying Repair...

A couple of months ago, I bought a Das Keyboard (at right) for use at home.  It has the mechanical switches whose “feel” I've long missed.  My typing isn't as fast or as accurate on the modern keyboards with (usually) rubber dome switches.  So I splurged a bit (these things are expensive!).  Within a couple of weeks, the constrast between my keyboard at work and my keyboard at home was unliveable, so I bought one for use at work as well.  I love my Das Keyboards!

But my keyboard at home developed a truly obnoxious problem.  The left-arrow and up-arrow keys (just to the right of the right shift key) started working intermittently.  For a while, they'd work only if the keyboard was tilted toward me (with the top edge higher than the low edge).  Then they stopped working altogether.

I contacted support at Das Keyboard, and very quickly they said they'd never seen this particular problem before, and offered to exchange the keyboard.  That's entirely appropriate support, for which they should be lauded – but it wasn't what I wanted.  Now that I've grown so attached to my Das Keyboards, I was loathe to have to use something else for the few weeks it would take to send my old keyboard back and get a new one in return.

So I decided to try to fix it myself.  I've designed switch-based keyboards, so I'm very familiar with how they work.  There's really not much to go wrong in such a keyboard – it's just switches, diodes, and printed circuit board – any of which I ought to be able to fix.  So to work I went.

The first step turned out to be the most challenging: getting the danged thing open!  I'm not sure I would ever have figured it out if it weren't for this lovely post (thank you, Geoff Breach!).  Thanks to his precise directions, I was able to open my Das Keyboard, and without breaking anything.

The next step was to study the situation.  I had a good clue (what every debugger wants most!): two keys simultaneously failed in the same exact way.  This means it was extremely unlikely to be a key switch problem, as the chance for two of them to malfunction identically was vanishingly small.  It had to be something in common between the two, and that could only be a diode or a printed circuit trace.  It took just a minute or so to figure it out.  In the photo at right (click to enlarge), you can see what I discovered.  The two orange ovals at right show one of the terminals on each of the up-arrow and left-arrow switches: they are connected.  A long skinny trace (highlighted by the arrows) connects them to one terminal on the enter key switch.  The enter key always worked fine.  The problem had to be an intermittent break in that skinny trace connecting them.

A little work with my DVM quickly confirmed this hypothesis.  While measuring the resistance between the enter key's terminal and the up-arrow key's terminal, I twisted and prodded the circuit board.  Sure enough, the resistance varied all over the place, from infinity to near zero ohms.  Somewhere on that trace there must be a hairline crack (so thin I couldn't spot it, even with a magnifier).  So I tried a brute-force repair: I soldered a piece of hook-up wire between the two terminals.  Voila! I reassembled it all without difficulty, and now my Das Keyboard is now as good as new.

I haven't the words to describe how satisfying it was to be able to troubleshoot and fix this.  Silly, I know, but true nonetheless.  Note that in the process of repairing it myself, I violated the terms of my warranty, so now my keyboard is truly mine.  I'm sure the Das Keyboard folks would sternly disapprove.  I'll tell them anyway, as they may be interested to know of a potential manufacturing quality issue...

Where Does Good Code Come From?

xkcd has a cartoon that will resonate with every experienced developer:

Too Dumb to Fight...

From Strategy Page:
... But the fact that a quarter of high school graduates who tried to join failed the written exam attracted less attention. The main reason for this is that fact that most of the uneducated high school grads are minorities (mainly blacks and Hispanics) from urban schools. Those schools are failure factories controlled by teachers unions, bureaucrats who are willing to sacrifice education for jobs and more benefits. You do not want to mess with teachers unions, as they have a lot of political clout and can make life miserable for mainstream journalists and their editors. What is scarier about the failure rate of high school grads is that the armed forces entrance exam tests for skills common to most civilian jobs. Survey civilian employers, and you will find that they see the same failure rate among applicants who are high school grads.
Trust me, industry has noticed.  A significant fraction of outsourcing is motivated by the need to find talented, well-educated workers...

WTF Kitty!

Music and Dogs...

Those Tricksy Employment Reports...

From a WSJ piece on Friday's unemployment report:
The unemployment rate fell to 9.4% from 9.8%, which led to celebration in some Washington quarters. But that improvement was largely because 260,000 eligible workers dropped out of the labor force.
The unemployment report these days, as reported by our curiously uncurious lamestream media, is biased by the “adjustment” described above: unemployed workers who have stopped looking for work (usually because they've given up) are not called unemployed for the purposes of this report.

So this time, as it has several times in the past year, the unemployment rate “declined” mostly because we stopped counting 260,000 unemployed people as unemployed.  This gives the public (most of whom have no idea this trick is being used) a decidedly incorrect impression about what's happening.

On the flip side, when the job market finally does start to (really) pick up again, many of those so-called discouraged workers will start looking for work again.  When that happens, they'll be counted as unemployed once more – and the reported unemployment number will go back up!  Once again, the public will be deceived – but this time, they'll think the situation is worse than it really is.

Wouldn't it be simpler and better to just report the real number, and to separately report how many have just plain given up?  I certainly think so.

Meanwhile, some conservatives are already anticipating a schadenfreude moment around the summer of 2012.  They're thinking that the economy will likely be improving by then, the unemployment rate will appear to be going up (for the reasons given above) – and Obama will be running for reelection...

Autism-Vaccination Link...

Several readers have asked what I think of the recent news that the British Medical Journal is calling the infamous Wakefield study an “elaborate fraud”.  My reaction – that this is old news ” is nicely summarized in the Wall Street Journal.  I'll add this: the kerfuffle generated by the Wakefield study is an instructive example of how dangerous the combination of science funding mechanisms, public scientific illiteracy, and yellow-sheet journalism can be...

Java Byte Code...

A good article and basic introduction.  There's remarkably little literature on this topic...

A Better Way Home...

A beautiful story about one of my personal heroes, Richard Feynman...

Why OK?

Did you ever wonder why the buttons you click on your computer say “OK” and not “Do It”?  Well, just in case you've been losing sleep over that very question, here's the answer – and it's probably not what you're expecting!

CBO Report on Savings from Repealing Obamacare...

This is from an email sent by Sandy Davis (of the CBO) to Congressional Hill staffers:
We have been asked to provide the revenue and direct spending components of that total. Extrapolating the estimated budgetary effects of the original health care legislation and accounting for the effects of subsequent legislation, CBO anticipates that enacting H.R. 2 would probably yield, for the 2012-2021 period, a reduction in revenues in the neighborhood of $770 billion and a reduction in outlays in the vicinity of $540 billion, plus or minus the effects of forthcoming technical and economic changes to CBO’s and JCT’s projections.
Translation from bureaucratic-speak: repealing Obamacare will (a) reduce spending by $540 billion, and (b) reduce taxes by $770 billion.

If you've paid attention to the news reports, you might be forgiven for thinking that this analysis is in direct contradiction to an earlier analysis the CBO did, wherein they notoriously said that Obamacare would reduce costs to the government.  But it's actually not a contradiction at all.  In that notorious report, they were “scoring” the Obamacare legislation, at the request of the Democrats.  They were given a set of (demonstrably false) assumptions, and told to compute what the costs of Obamacare would be given those assumptions.  The CBO must do what it is charged with doing; they delivered the requested computation and did not deliver what they weren't asked for: a review of the validity of the assumptions. 

This time they were asked to do something much more concrete: given reality, how much would we save by repealing Obamacare. 

Answer: $1.3 trillion.

Tango Mike Mike...

Via my mom:

Some years ago I read a book about Master Sergeant Benavidez' actions that day in Vietnam.  I don't recall, at this remove, the name of the book or its author.  But I do recall being absolutely awed by the demonstrated courage.

I had not heard about the Special Forces' use of “Tango Mike Mike”.  I couldn't verify it from sources online, but...I hope it's true.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Search Engine for Electronics Parts...

Octopart.  And they've just added Digi-Key's entire catalog.

The Internet is awesome!

A Question of Character...

Peggy Noonan on her good game still:
But it's a great mistake when you are in a leadership position to want to be like everyone else. Because that, actually, is not your job. Your job is to be better, and to set standards that those below you have to reach to meet. And you have to do this even when it's hard, even when you know you yourself don't quite meet the standards you represent.

Mystery Solved? Why the Sun's Upper Atmosphere is so Danged Hot...

It has long intrigued me that nobody had a good explanation for this.

Keyboard Alternative?

I have an iPad, and while I like many things about it, there's one thing that drives me to distraction: typing on its !()$&^!)_$@ built-in keyboard.  If I need to type more than about 5 letters, I'll switch over to my laptop.  It's that bad, at least for someone like me who is used to touch-typing at a reasonable speed.

This looks like it might be an interesting alternative, though currently only for Android.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Thevetia peruviana, from Botany Photo of the Day.  As usual, click to enlarge.  Gorgeous!

Why Parents Drink...

Via my mom:
A father passing by his son's bedroom was astonished to see that his bed was nicely made and everything was picked up. Then he saw an Envelope, propped up prominently on the pillow that was addressed to 'Dad.' With the worst of premonitions, he opened the envelope with trembling hands and read the letter.

Dear Dad:

It is with great regret and sorrow that I'm writing you. I had to elope with my new girlfriend because I wanted to avoid a scene with Mom and you. I have been finding real passion with Stacy and she is so nice. But I knew you would not approve of her because of all her piercing, tattoos, tight motorcycle clothes and the fact that she is much older than I am. But it' s not only the passion...Dad she's pregnant.

Stacy said that we will be very happy. She owns a trailer in the woods and has a stack of firewood for the whole winter. We share a dream of having many more children. Stacy has opened my eyes to the fact that marijuana doesn't really hurt anyone. We'll be growing it for ourselves and trading it with the other people that live nearby for cocaine and ecstasy. In the meantime we will pray that science will find a cure for AIDS so Stacy can get better. She deserves it.

Don't worry Dad. I'm 15 and I know how to take care of myself. Someday I'm sure that we will be back to visit so that you can get to know your grandchildren.

Love, Your Son John

PS. Dad, none of the above is true. I'm over at Tommy's house. I Just wanted to remind you that there are worse things in life than a Report card That's in my center desk drawer. I love you. Call me when it's safe to come home.

Husbands and Wives...

From reader James M.:
A store that sells new husbands has opened in New York City, where a woman may go to choose a husband. Among the instructions at the entrance is a description of how the store operates:

You may visit this store ONLY ONCE! There are six floors and the value of the products increase as the shopper ascends the flights. The shopper may choose any item from a particular floor, or may choose to go up to the next floor, but you cannot go back down except to exit the building!

So, a woman goes to the Husband Store to find a husband. On the first floor the sign on the door reads:

Floor 1 - These men Have Jobs

She is intrigued, but continues to the second floor, where the sign reads:

Floor 2 - These men Have Jobs and Love Kids.

'That's nice,' she thinks, 'but I want more.'

So she continues upward. The third floor sign reads:

Floor 3 - These men Have Jobs, Love Kids, and are Extremely Good Looking.

'Wow,' she thinks, but feels compelled to keep going.

She goes to the fourth floor and the sign reads:

Floor 4 - These men Have Jobs, Love Kids, are Drop-dead Good Looking and Help With Housework.

'Oh, mercy me!' she exclaims, 'I can hardly stand it!'

Still, she goes to the fifth floor and the sign reads:

Floor 5 - These men Have Jobs, Love Kids, are Drop-dead Gorgeous, Help with Housework, and Have a Strong Romantic Streak.

She is so tempted to stay, but she goes to the sixth floor, where the sign reads:

Floor 6 - You are visitor 31,456,012 to this floor. There are no men on this floor. This floor exists solely as proof that women are impossible to please. Thank you for shopping at the Husband Store.


To avoid gender bias charges, the store's owner opened a New Wives store just across the street.

The first floor has wives that love sex.

The second floor has wives that love sex and have money and like beer.

The third, fourth, fifth and sixth floors have never been visited.

Symbolic Reading...

The Republicans are going to read the current version of the U.S. Constitution on the floor of the House today.  This is mainly a symbolic gesture to reinforce the notion that the U.S. is a land of laws, not of (powerful) men.  It's also an acknowledgment of the role of the Tea Party in the Republican's newly-won majority.

The reaction of the left to this reading is instructive.  It's almost entirely negative, ranging from hand-wringing about the cost (that's rich, after the last two years of spendathon!) to entirely predictable snide remarks about the irrelevance of the literal Constitution to governing today.

This symbolic act is a bit like having a powerful flashlight that one can shine into the warren of Congress-critters to illuminate those who see the Constitution as fundamental to our way of governing, and those who would prefer to ignore that pesky, dusty old document.

Bring on that flashlight, Speaker Boehner!

Reentry Blackout...

...a possible solution.

Nice, Free, Open Source Hex Editor for OS/X...


WTF, Japan?

One hardly knows what to say...
In the early ’90s, Sega held 65% of the US video game console market, had millions of fans, and was considered one of the premier creators of modern gaming entertainment. Today, they are helping you play with your pee. The Japan branch of the multinational company recently announced that they are testing their Toylets male urinal video game at select locations around Tokyo. Toylets uses a pressure sensor located on the back of the urinal to measure the strength and location of your urine stream. A small LCD screen above the urinal allows you to play several simple video games including a simulator for erasing graffiti and a variation on a sumo wrestling match. At the end of a game, the screen displays advertisements.

2011 is a Prime Year...

The number 2011 is a prime number, and it's the sum of 11 consecutive primes:
157 + 163 + 167 + 173 + 179 + 181 + 191 + 193 + 197 + 199 + 211
Is that enough geekiness for you on a fine Thursday morning?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Obamacare Repeal Bill...

Here's the full text of the Obamacare repeal bill, due to be voted on by the House next week:

To repeal the job-killing health care law and health care-related provisions in the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


This Act may be cited as the “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act”.


(a) JOB-KILLING HEALTH CARE LAW. — Effective as of the enactment of Public Law 111–148, such Act is repealed, and the provisions of law amended or repealed by
8 such Act are restored or revived as if such Act had not been enacted.

(b) HEALTH CARE-RELATED PROVISIONS IN THE HEALTH CARE AND EDUCATION RECONCILIATION ACT OF 2010. — Effective as of the enactment of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 (Public Law 111–152), title I and subtitle B of title II of such Act are repealed, and the provisions of law amended or repealed by such title or subtitle, respectively, are restored or revived as if such title and subtitle had not been enacted.
This is almost certainly a symbolic vote: the Senate, still Democratic-controlled, is most likely going to vote this down – and even if somehow they passed it, Obama would surely veto it and there aren't the votes in Congress to override it. Even so, it's a very useful procedural effort, as it puts the Tea Party/Conservative marker down on the table, hard – and forces the Progressives to openly show their hand. It will be very interesting to see which Progressive Congress-critters (House and Senate) can't work up the gumption to vote “no” on this (they know that a “yes” vote will come back to haunt them on their next campaign)...

George Washington...

Here's a nice collection of quotes from George Washington.  A couple of my favorites were in there:
If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to slaughter.

The very atmosphere of firearms anywhere and everywhere restrains evil interference - they deserve a place of honor with all that's good.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The MOS 6502...

Some of us (hardware and software engineers, that is) are ancient enough to actually remember the MOS 6502.  A photomicrograph of it's top layer is at right (as always, click to enlarge).  The 6502 was the microprocessor at the heart of some of the early successful systems, such as the Commodore 64, Apple II, and Atari 2600.  I remember it well and fondly: it was cheap, fast, and easy to design in.  I incorporated it into several of my early projects, mainly as the processor for peripherals in a Z80-based system (because the Z80 could run CP/M, an early “operating system”).

These days, the 6502 is thought of more as an antiquity, something to be conserved in a museum.  Which is exactly what these folks are doing!  I was led to that site by a fascinating article on Bill Mensch, the guy who manually laid out the six masks used in manufacturing the 6502 – with no errors.

Top 25 Movies of 2010...

By box office receipts per week.  This makes a beautiful graphic, even more so because it's interactive on the author's site.

I haven't seen a single one of these movies.

Fascinating Side-Effect of the Kindle...

One that I certainly wouldn't have foreseen: sales of bodice-rippers are soaring, and all the growth is in the Kindle editions.

Strange are the ways of the world...

Beautiful Science Video...

Here's a rare treat: a rich, gorgeous animation about the interplay between the Fibonacci Sequence and nature.  It even comes with an excellent explanatory page, aimed at a non-scientist audience.  Oh, I'd love to see more like this!

Just When I Thought...

...that I couldn't possibly be any more disgusted by Arnold Schwarzenegger, he goes and does this.
Some assembly required.

The Gate to Hell...

Ran across this in my web surfing yesterday.  It's apparently a left-over Soviet mistake, deep in TurkmenistanMore photos here.

The Greatest Country Ever...

From Rich Lowry of The National Review:
Our greatness is simply a fact. Only the churlish or malevolent can deny it, or even get irked at its assertion. When a Marco Rubio talks of the greatness of America, it’s not bumptious self-congratulation. Our greatness comes with the responsibility to preserve our traditional dynamism and status as a robust middle-class society. To paraphrase the Benjamin Franklin of lore, we have the greatest country ever — if we can keep it.
Read the whole thing.

It's not patriotic blathering if it's true...


First rain of the new year: 0.59" (1.5 cm) over two days.  The mountain valleys of San Diego are greener than they've been in 8 or 9 years.  Streams are running.  Sheets of water seep over exposed mountain rocks.

And our rainy season has just begun!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

TSA Statistics...

Via my mom:
Year to date statistics on Airport screening from the Department of Homeland Security:

Terrorist Plots Discovered     0
Transvestites                133
Hernias                    1,485
Hemorrhoid Cases           3,172
Enlarged Prostates         8,249
Breast Implants           59,350
Natural Blondes                3

New Year's Wishes for My Friends...

Also passed along by Jim M.:
My Wishes for You in 2011:

May peace break into your home and may thieves come to steal your debts.

May the pockets of your jeans become a magnet for $100 bills.

May love stick to your face like Vaseline and may laughter assault your lips.

May happiness slap you across the face and may your tears be that of joy.

May the problems you had, forget your home address.

In simple words, may 2011 be the best year of your life!

The Brothel...

This little story comes from reader Jim M.:
The Brothel

The madam opened the brothel door and saw a rather dignified, well-dressed, good-looking man in his late forties or early fifties.

'May I help you sir?' she asked.

'I want to see Valerie,' the man replied.

'Sir, Valerie is one of our most expensive ladies. Perhaps you would prefer someone else', said the madam.

'No, I must see Valerie,' he replied.

Just then, Valerie appeared and announced to the man she charged $5000 a visit. Without hesitation, the man pulled out five thousand dollars and gave it to Valerie, and they went upstairs.. After an hour, the man calmly left.

The next night, the man appeared again, once more demanding to see Valerie. Valerie explained that no one had ever come back two nights in a row as she was too expensive. But there were no discounts. The price was still $5000.

Again, the man pulled out the money, gave it to Valerie, and they went upstairs.. After an hour, he left.

The following night the man was there yet again. Everyone was astounded that he had come for a third consecutive night, but he paid Valerie and they went upstairs.

After their session, Valerie questioned the man, 'No one has ever been with me three nights in a row. Where are you from?'she asked.

The man replied, ' Ontario '.

'Really?', she said. 'I have family in Ontario .'

'I know.' the man said. 'Your sister died, and I am her attorney. She asked me to give you your $15,000 inheritance.'

The moral of the story is that three things in life are certain.
1. Death
2. Taxes
3. Being screwed by a lawyer

Munich Jazz...

Franz M., my friend and fellow collector from Munich, Germany, sends along this video of a jazz band he and his wife Ellen saw on New Year's Day.  He said they were “as always, very beautiful”.  Their taste in jazz parallels my own:

Saturday, January 1, 2011


Many moons ago, before my beard was gray, I lived on my parent's farm in New Jersey.  I had a “shack” behind the house where I did a lot of my early experimentation with electronics.  Some TV repair shop (remember those?) gave me a broken stereo record player – one of those all-in-one units the size of a refrigerator on its side.  This was a vacuum tube design with “electrodynamic” speakers (meaning that they had electromagnets instead of permanent magnets).  By today's standards, it was quite a monster unit.  I remember that it had 18" diameter woofers, and three or four other speakers, all coupled with (for those days) a relatively sophisticated cross-over network.

One of my first successes in electronics was to fix that thing.  That's more of a feat than you might think, as I had no schematics.  I reverse-engineered the audio amplifier and discovered a blown-up resistor that prevented a key bias voltage from being generated.  This was in 1969, a month or two before the first moon landing, and I can still remember the hand-drawn schematic I made – and the overwhelming flush of victory when I figured out what the problem was.

Within 15 minutes of finding the problem, the stereo was up and running – I'd scavenged a replacement part from a broken TV.  After that, the stereo was my constant companion in my little electronics shack.

A year or so later, I bought a double vinyl album: “Tommy”, by The Who.  I couldn't afford to buy many records, and those few I did were played very often.  “Tommy” sounded particularly good on that stereo, so it got played extra often.

A few years later, I was in the U.S. Navy and something happened to that album (I don't remember what, exactly).  I've not heard “Tommy” since.

Until today, that is.  I just purchased it from iTunes, and I'm listening to it as I write this post.  There are several things about this experience that are kinda freaking me out.

First, the flood of memories about that shack.  Suddenly I'm remembering all sorts of details that I haven't thought about in many, many years.  There are very strong associations between that particular music and my very earliest engineering experiences.

Second, I still have perfect memory of that album.  As each song plays, I know what's coming next.  I know the words to every song.  The “Underture” is playing now, and every note in it is as familiar as the back of my hands.

Third, I am frequently startled by the different sound of the music, all of which can be accounted for the the difference in quality (by any measure!) between that old stereo and the way I'm playing it back now (through iTunes on a Mac Powerbook, through top-notch computer speakers).  I hear details clearly now that I've never heard before, and they surprise me.  But it's all good!

Powerful stuff, music is...


Taken in New York last week.  Sure glad I wasn't there...

Nice job on the video, though...

The Therapy Dog...

Lea is our oldest dog; she's a field spaniel, about 13 years old.  She's still in good health, but creaking a bit, and her sight and hearing aren't what they used to be.  She spends a lot of her days curled up in a dog bed.

I just spent about five minutes down on the floor, next to her on one of those beds.  She kissed me, grunted, and made happy faces while I held and caressed her.

Best five minutes I've had in a while...

What Does a Big Government Bureaucracy Look Like?

Like this:
California Academic Performance Index (API) * California Access for Infants and Mothers * California Acupuncture Board * California Administrative Office of the Courts * California Adoptions Branch * California African American Museum * California Agricultural Export Program * California Agricultural Labor Relations Board * California Agricultural Statistics Service * California Air Resources Board (CARB) * California Allocation Board * California Alternative Energy and Advanced Transportation Financing Authority * California Animal Health and Food Safety Services * California Anti-Terrorism Information Center * California Apprenticeship Council * California Arbitration Certification Program * California Architects Board * California Area VI Developmental Disabilities Board * California Arts Council * California Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus * California Assembly Democratic Caucus * California Assembly Republican Caucus * California Athletic Commission * California Attorney General * California Bay Conservation and Development Commission * California Bay-Delta Authority * California Bay-Delta Office * California Biodiversity Council * California Board for Geologists and Geophysicists * California Board for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors * California Board of Accountancy * California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology * California Board of Behavioral Sciences * California Board of Chiropractic Examiners * California Board of Equalization (BOE) * California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection * California Board of Guide Dogs for the Blind * California Board of Occupational Therapy * California Board of Optometry * California Board of Pharmacy * California Board of Podiatric Medicine * California Board of Prison Terms * California Board of Psychology * California Board of Registered Nursing * California Board of Trustees * California Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians * California Braille and Talking Book Library * California Building Standards Commission * California Bureau for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education * California Bureau of Automotive Repair * California Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair * California Bureau of Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation * California Bureau of Naturopathic Medicine * California Bureau of Security and Investigative Services * California Bureau of State Audits * California Business Agency * California Business Investment Services (CalBIS) * California Business Permit Information (CalGOLD) * California Business Portal * California Business, Transportation and Housing Agency * California Cal Grants * California CalJOBS * California Cal-Learn Program * California CalVet Home Loan Program * California Career Resource Network * California Cemetery and Funeral Bureau * California Center for Analytical Chemistry * California Center for Distributed Learning * California Center for Teaching Careers (Teach California) * California Chancellors Office * California Charter Schools * California Chil dr en and Families Commission * California Chil dr en and Family Services Division * California Citizens Compensation Commission * California Civil Rights Bureau * California Coastal Commission * California Coastal Conservancy * California Code of Regulations * California Collaborative Projects with UC Davis * California Commission for Jobs and Economic Growth * California Commission on Aging * California Commission on Health and Safety and Workers Compensation * California Commission on Judicial Performance * California Commission on State Mandates * California Commission on Status of Women * California Commission on Teacher Credentialing * California Commission on the Status of Women * California Committee on Dental Auxiliaries * California Community Colleges Chancellors Office, Junior Colleges * California Community Colleges Chancellors Office * California Complaint Mediation Program * California Conservation Corps * California Constitution Revision Commission * California Consumer Hotline * California Consumer Information Center * California Consumer Information * California Consumer Services Division * California Consumers and Families Agency * California Contractors State License Board * California Corrections Standards Authority * California Council for the Humanities * California Council on Criminal Justice * California Council on Developmental Disabilities * California Court Reporters Board * California Courts of Appeal * California Crime and Violence Prevention Center * California Criminal Justice Statistics Center * California Criminalist Institute Forensic Library * California CSGnet Network Management * California Cultural and Historical Endowment * California Cultural Resources Division * California Curriculum and Instructional Leadership Branch * California Data Exchange Center * California Data Management Division * California Debt and Investment Advisory Commission * California Delta Protection Commission * California Democratic Caucus * California Demographic Research Unit * California Dental Auxiliaries * California Department of Aging * California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs * California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Appeals Board * California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control * California Department of Boating and Waterways (Cal Boating) * California Department of Child Support Services (CDCSS) * California Department of Community Services and Development * California Department of Conservation * California Department of Consumer Affairs * California Department of Corporations * California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation * California Department of Developmental Services * California Department of Education * California Department of Fair Employment and Housing * California Department of Finance * California Department of Financial Institutions * California Department of Fish and Game * California Department of Food and Agriculture * California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF) * California Department of General Services * California Department of General Services, Office of State Publishing * California Department of Health Care Services * California Department of Housing and Community Development * California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) * California Department of Insurance * California Department of Justice Firearms Division * California Department of Justice Opinion Unit * California Department of Justice, Consumer Information, Public Inquiry Unit * California Department of Justice * California Department of Managed Health Care * California Department of Mental Health * California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) * California Department of Personnel Administration * California Department of Pesticide Regulation * California Department of Public Health * California Department of Real Estate * California Department of Rehabilitation * California Department of Social Services Adoptions Branch * California Department of Social Services * California Department of Technology Services Training Center (DTSTC) * California Department of Technology Services (DTS) * California Department of Toxic Substances Control * California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) * California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVets) * California Department of Water Resources * California Departmento de Vehiculos Motorizados * California Digital Library * California Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise Certification Program * California Division of Apprenticeship Standards * California Division of Codes and Standards * California Division of Communicable Disease Control * California Division of Engineering * California Division of Environmental and Occupational Disease Control * California Division of Gambling Control * California Division of Housing Policy Development * California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement * California Division of Labor Statistics and Research * California Division of Land and Right of Way * California Division of Land Resource Protection * California Division of Law Enforcement General Library * California Division of Measurement Standards * California Division of Mines and Geology * California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) * California Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources * California Division of Planning and Local Assistance * California Division of Recycling * California Division of Safety of Dams * California Division of the State Architect * California Division of Tourism * California Division of Workers Compensation Medical Unit * California Division of Workers Compensation * California Economic Assistance, Business and Community Resources * California Economic Strategy Panel * California Education and Training Agency * California Education Audit Appeals Panel * California Educational Facilities Authority * California Elections Division * California Electricity Oversight Board * California Emergency Management Agency * California Emergency Medical Services Authority * California Employment Development Department (EDD) * California Employment Information State Jobs * California Employment Training Panel * California Energy Commission * California Environment and Natural Resources Agency * California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA) * California Environmental Resources Evaluation System (CERES) * California Executive Office * California Export Laboratory Services * California Exposition and State Fair (Cal Expo) * California Fair Political Practices Commission * California Fairs and Expositions Division * California Film Commission * California Fire and Resource Assessment Program * California Firearms Division * California Fiscal Services * California Fish and Game Commission * California Fisheries Program Branch * California Floodplain Management * California Foster Youth Help * California Franchise Tax Board (FTB) * California Fraud Division * California Gambling Control Commission * California Geographic Information Systems Council (GIS) * California Geological Survey * California Government Claims and Victim Compensation Board * California Governors Committee for Employment of Disabled Persons * California Governors Mentoring Partnership * California Governors Office of Emergency Services * California Governors Office of Homeland Security * California Governors Office of Planning and Research * California Governors Office * California Grant and Enterprise Zone Programs HCD Loan * California Health and Human Services Agency * California Health and Safety Agency * California Healthy Families Program * California Hearing Aid Dispensers Bureau * California High-Speed Rail Authority * California Highway Pat rol (CHP) * California History and Culture Agency * California Horse Racing Board * California Housing Finance Agency * California Indoor Air Quality Program * California Industrial Development Financing Advisory Commission * California Industrial Welfare Commission * California InFoPeople * California Information Center for the Environment * California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank (I-Bank) * California Inspection Services * California Institute for County Government * California Institute for Education Reform * California Integrated Waste Management Board * California Interagency Ecological Program * California Job Service * California Junta Estatal de Personal * California Labor and Employment Agency * California Labor and Workforce Development Agency * California Labor Market Information Division * California Land Use Planning Information Network (LUPIN) * California Lands Commission * California Landscape Architects Technical Committee * California Latino Legislative Caucus * California Law Enforcement Branch * California Law Enforcement General Library * California Law Revision Commission * California Legislative Analyst's Office * California Legislative Black Caucus * California Legislative Counsel * California Legislative Division * California Legislative Information * California Legislative Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Caucus * California Legislature Internet Caucus * California Library De velopment Services * California License and Revenue Branch * California Major Risk Medical Insurance Program * California Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board * California Maritime Academy * California Marketing Services * California Measurement Standards * California Medical Assistance Commission * California Medical Care Services * California Military Department * California Mining and Geology Board * California Museum for History, Women, and the Arts * California Museum Resource Center * California National Guard * California Native American Heritage Commission * California Natural Community Conservation Planning Program * California New Motor Vehicle Board * California Nursing Home Administrator Program * California Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board * California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board * California Ocean Resources Management Program * California Office of Administrative Hearings * California Office of Administrative Law * California Office of AIDS * California Office of Binational Border Health * California Office of Child Abuse Prevention * California Office of Deaf Access * California Office of Emergency Services (OES) * California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment * California Office of Fiscal Services * California Office of Fleet Administration * California Office of Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Implementation (CalOHI) * California Office of Historic Preservation * California Office of Homeland Security * California Office of Human Resources * California Office of Legal Services * California Office of Legislation * California Office of Lieutenant Governor * California Office of Military and Aerospace Support * California Office of Mine Reclamation * California Office of Natural Resource Education * California Office of Privacy Protection * California Office of Public School Construction * California Office of Real Estate Appraisers * California Office of Risk and Insurance Management * California Office of Services to the Blind * California Office of Spill Prevention and Response * California Office of State Publishing (OSP) * California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development * California Office of Systems Integration * California Office of the Inspector General * California Office of the Ombudsman * California Office of the Pat ient Advocate * California Office of the President * California Office of the Secretary for Education * California Office of the State Fire Marshal * California Office of the State Public Defender * California Office of Traffic Safety * California Office of Vital Records * California Online Directory * California Operations Control Office * California Opinion Unit * California Outreach and Technical Assistance Network (OTAN) * California Park and Recreation Commission * California Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) * California Performance Review (CPR) * California Permit Information for Business (CalGOLD) * California Physical Therapy Board * California Physician Assistant Committee * California Plant Health and Pest Prevention Services * California Policy and Evaluation Division * California Political Reform Division * California Pollution Control Financing Authority * California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo * California Postsecondary Education Commission * California Prevention Services * California Primary Care and Family Health * California Prison Industry Authority * California Procurement Division * California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) * California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) * California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) * California Real Estate Services Division * California Refugee Programs Branch * California Regional Water Quality Control Boards * California Registered Veterinary Technician Committee * California Registrar of Charitable Trusts * California Republican Caucus * California Research and Development Division * California Research Bureau * California Resources Agency * California Respiratory Care Board * California Rivers Assessment * California Rural Health Policy Council * California Safe Schools * California San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission * California San Gabriel and Lower Los Angeles Rivers and Mountains Conservancy * California San Joaquin River Conservancy * California School to Career * California Science Center * California Scripps Institution of Oceanography * California Secretary of State Business Portal * California Secretary of State * California Seismic Safety Commission * California Self Insurance Plans (SIP) * California Senate Office of Research * California Small Business and Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise Certification Program * California Small Business Development Center Program * California Smart Growth Caucus * California Smog Check Information Center * California Spatial Information Library * California Special Education Division * California Speech-Language Pat hology and Audiology Board * California Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) * California Standards and Assessment Division * California State Administrative Manual (SAM) * California State Allocation Board * California State and Consumer Services Agency * California State Architect * California State Archives * California State Assembly * California State Association of Counties (CSAC) * California State Board of Education * California State Board of Food and Agriculture *California Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) * California State Chil dr en's Trust Fund * California State Compensation Insurance Fund * California State Contracts Register Program * California State Contracts Register * California State Controller * California State Council on Developmental Disabilities (SCDD) * California State Disability Insurance (SDI) * California State Fair (Cal Expo) * California State Jobs Employment Information * California State Lands Commission * California State Legislative Portal * California State Legislature * California State Library Catalog * California State Library Services Bureau * California State Library * California State Lottery * California State Mediation and Conciliation Service * California State Mining and Geology Board * California State Park and Recreation Commission * California State Parks * California State Personnel Board * California State Polytechnic University, Pomona * California State Railroad Museum * California State Science Fair * California State Senate * California State Summer School for Mathematics and Science (COSMOS) * California State Summer School for the Arts * California State Superintendent of Public Instruction * California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS) * California State Treasurer * California State University Center for Distributed Learning * California State University, Bakersfield * California State University, Channel Islands * California State University, Chico * California State University, Dominguez Hills * California State University, East Bay * California State University, Fresno * California State University, Fullerton * California State University, Long Beach * California State University, Los Angeles * California State University, Monterey Bay * California State University, Northridge * California State University, Sacramento * California State University, San Bernardino * California State University, San Marcos * California State University, Stanislaus * California State University (CSU) * California State Water Project Analysis Office * California State Water Project * California State Water Resources Control Board * California Structural Pest Control Board * California Student Aid Commission * California Superintendent of Public Instruction * California Superior Courts * California Tahoe Conservancy * California Task Force on Culturally and Linguistically Competent Physicians and Dentists * California Tax Information Center * California Technology and Administration Branch Finance * California Telecommunications Division * California Telephone Medical Advice Services (TAMS) * California Transportation Commission * California Travel and Transportation Agency * California Unclaimed Property Program * California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board * California Unemployment Insurance Program * California Uniform Construction Cost Accounting Commission * California Veterans Board * California Veterans Memorial * California Veterinary Medical Board and Registered Veterinary Technician Examining Committee * California Veterinary Medical Board * California Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board * California Volunteers * California Voter Registration * California Water Commission * California Water Environment Association (COWPEA) * California Water Resources Control Board * California Welfare to Work Division * California Wetlands Information System * California Wildlife and Habitat Data Analysis Branch * California Wildlife Conservation Board * California Wildlife Programs Branch * California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) * California Workers Compensation Appeals Board * California Workforce and Labor Development Agency * California Workforce Investment Board * California Youth Authority (CYA) * Central Valley Flood Protection Board * Center for California Studies * Colorado River Board of California * Counting California * Dental Board of California * Health Insurance Plan of California (PacAdvantage) * Humboldt State University * Jobs with the State of California * Judicial Council of California * Learn California * Library of California * Lieutenant Governors Commission for One California * Little Hoover Commission (on California State Government Organization and Economy) * Medical Board of California * Medi-Cal * Osteopathic Medical Board of California * Physical Therapy Board of California * Regents of the University of California * San Diego State University * San Francisco State University * San Jose State University * Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy * State Bar of California * Supreme Court of California * Teach California * University of California * University of California, Berkeley * University of California, Davis * University of California, Hastings College of the Law * University of California, Irvine * University of California, Los Angeles * University of California, Merced * University of California, Riverside * University of California, San Diego * University of California, San Francisco * University of California, Santa Barbara * University of California, SantaCruz * Veterans Home of California
That's a list of the California state government agencies.


That's where the money that the theiving legislators are stealing from me is going.  Looks to me like at least 95% of them should just be disbanded!