Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Farmers in the Stone Age got the girls...

Farmers in the Stone Age got the girls...  Seventeen of them, on average!

Barn progress...

Barn progress...  I got the upstairs subpanel installed and tested yesterday.  Now it will be quite straightforward to wire up my office, some lights in the storage area, and the electric hoist for hauling heavy stuff up through the “hatch” in my woodshop. 

The tile guys showed up with the wrong tile (dang it!), and getting the right tile is going to add a week onto the project.  They did get the underlayment (a kind of concrete board) in place, doing a very nice job.  The guy in charge was particularly skilled at cutting perfectly straight edges in the concrete board with a small, hand-held, battery-powered saw that used a 3" diameter diamond blade.  If I tried that the result would be ... not good.  He made it look ridiculously easy, but in a conversation with his sidekick I discovered that though he (the sidekick) has been trying to do it for a year, he still can't make a straight line.  It reminds me of watching the masons at work, doing things that they made look easy, but when I tried it I got nowhere at all.

Today I'm mostly going to concentrate on getting lights up in Debbie's indoor agility arena, though I have a few other little things to do as well...

Solar corona...

Solar corona...  Taken as a composite of 29 images, during the recent solar eclipse, from Svalbard, Norway.  Click to embiggen.  Via APOD, of course...

“…he was just doing his job.”

“…he was just doing his job.”  Robert Hite, one of the last surviving crew on Doolittle's Raid on Tokyo in WWII has died of heart failure.

A few years ago, when another of the Doolittle Raid survivors had died, I was shocked to learn that many of my colleagues at work had never heard of the Doolittle Raid.  It's not as though it was ancient history – it happened in 1942, just ten years before I was born.  It was one of the most memorable stories to emerge from the American side of WWII, and was the subject of a wildly popular book and movie, both titled “30 Seconds Over Tokyo”.  How could any American not know about it?

Worse, those few colleagues of mine who did know the story were all immigrants.  Several Estonian colleagues knew about it in considerable detail, having been educated in primary school about this bit of American history – in the Soviet Union.  A colleague who hails from Australian knew about it, as did another who immigrated from Israel.  It seems that everybody except Americans knows about it!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Eye of the tiger...

Eye of the tiger ... played on a dot-matrix printer.  Geek out!

Barn progress...

Barn progress...  The band saw is now powered, and I've tested it (works great!) and done all the alignments and calibrations.  The wood shop is starting to look like a wood shop!

I've been ordering a major power tool roughly every ten days, trying to space out the arrivals a bit so I have time to unpack, assemble, clean, align, and test each one.  Generally they take a week to ten days to arrive.  However, my careful plans have been waylaid by shipper errors, missing parts, and so on – and now this coming Friday three of them are scheduled to arrive on the same day.  On three different trucks, naturally.  It's going to be a bit of a zoo around here on that day!

I had to make a Home Depot run yesterday, and while there I picked up the parts I need for a handrail for the stairs up to the second floor of the barn, and also the parts for a second floor electrical sub-panel.  I'm going to put a 50 amp sub-panel up there more for convenience than anything else.  I doubt I'll need even 15 amps, but wiring the office and second floor lights will be easier when the circuits are all pulled from a (closer) second floor panel rather than the main panel on the first floor.  This has an interesting consequence: the main panel on the first floor is a big one (20 positions/40 breakers), but I'm only going to be using about 7 or 8 of those positions.  The vast majority of the circuits in the barn will be pulled from either the sub-panel in the wood shop or the second floor sub-panel.  Looks like I over-bought that main panel :)

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Dancing to the music...

Dancing to the music...  Via my mom, who gave me a great belly laugh as I ate my lunch of tlapeno made by my lovely bride...
She walked up and tied her old mule to the hitching post. As she stood there, brushing some of the dust from her face and clothes, a young gunslinger stepped out of the saloon with a gun in one hand and a bottle of whiskey in the other.

The young gunslinger looked at the old woman and laughed, "Hey old woman, have you ever danced?"

The old woman looked up at the gunslinger and said, "No, I never did dance. Never really wanted to."

A crowd had gathered as the gunslinger grinned and said, "Well, you old bag, you're gonna dance now," and started shooting at the old woman's feet.

The old woman prospector – not wanting to get her toe blown off – started hopping around.  Everybody was laughing.  When his last bullet had been fired, the young gunslinger, still laughing, holstered his gun and turned around to go back into the saloon.

The old woman turned to her pack mule, pulled out a double-barreled shotgun, and cocked both hammers.  The loud clicks carried clearly through the desert air.  The crowd stopped laughing immediately.

The young gunslinger heard the sounds, too, and he turned around very slowly. The silence was almost deafening.

The crowd watched as the young gunman stared at the old woman and the large gaping holes of those twin barrels.  The barrels of the shotgun never wavered in the old woman's hands, as she quietly said, "Son, have you ever kissed a mule's ass?"

The gunslinger swallowed hard and said, "No ma'am.  But ... I've always wanted to."
Now that's what I call a measured and well-considered answer!

An obituary for the ages...

An obituary for the ages...  A snippet:
He excelled at attempting home improvement projects, outsmarting rabbits, annoying the women in his life and reading every book he could get his hands on.

He thought everyone could, and should, live on a strict diet of salmon, canned peas and rice pilaf, and took extreme pride in the fact that he had a freezer stocked full of wild game and seafood.

His life goal was to beat his wife at Scrabble, and although he never succeeded, his dream lives on in the family he left behind.
Do go read the whole thing...

Comet 67P...

Comet 67P...  As seen by Rosetta on March 21st, from a distance of 83 km (about 50 miles).  The outgassing is much more visible than it was just a few weeks ago, because the comet is getting closer to the sun and is warming up...

Meanwhile, over on the other side of Mars...

Meanwhile, over on the other side of Mars ... the Curiosity rover is doing a tire self-examination.  You may recall that the mission planners were getting worried about the unexpectedly high rate of tire damage – and photos like this one show why, graphically.  Those aluminum tires look like the losers in a rough fight.  In the photo at right (click to embiggen) you can see several badly damaged parts on one of the rover's six tires.  The mission planners are driving carefully these days, most especially to avoid any particularly sharp or jagged rocks.  Let's hope this caution keeps Curiosity mobile long enough to explore Mt. Sharp!

The shadow knows...

The shadow knows...  The Mars rover Opportunity is sitting on the edge of Endurance Crater, and happened to be in the right position to snap a nice photo of its own shadow.  Opportunity is now almost finished with the 11th year of its planned 90 day mission – you just gotta love that little robot!  Via APOD, of course...

Barn progress...

Barn progress...  I got my new band saw unpacked, cleaned up (the table was covered with grease for storage), and mostly aligned.  There were some challenges here, as that thing was very heavy.   The biggest challenge was getting it onto the mobile base I got for it.  Working by myself, how do I get almost 500 pounds of band saw off its shipping pallet and onto the mobile base?  The answer involves the tractor, of course – and also the very convenient eye bolt that comes on top of the band saw for lifting it.  I wrapped a chain around my forklift's tines, cranked the forklift high enough to clear the band saw, hooked up the chain to the eye bolt, and hoisted away.  Tractors sure are handy things to have around!

I haven't tested the band saw yet, or done the final alignment, as I haven't connected it to power yet.  I'll have to run to Home Depot today for a few components, and then I'll do those last things...

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Bob Hope...

Bob Hope...  Via my lovely bride...

21 ways that English is the worst language ever...

21 ways that English is the worst language ever...  Via friend and former colleague Aleck L. (for whom English is his second language).  My favorite is #17:

Read the whole thing...

Our family meme...

Our family meme ... as suggested by my brother Mark:


Do you ever gaze downward?

Do you ever gaze downward?  Don't do it in the airport security line, because the TSA is trained to think that's an indication that you might be a terrorist.

Reminder: the TSA's vast, expensive, intrusive, obnoxious security apparatus has caught exactly zero terrorists trying to get on planes.

Zero.

Does anyone other than me think there might be a cost/benefit problem here?

Speechless, I am...

Speechless, I am...  The person most likely to be the next President of the United States illegally erased all her emails sent or received while she was the Secretary of State, and was receiving sensitive intelligence information about Libya that contradicts her public statements about the Benghazi disaster.

Makes you proud to be an American, no?

This is big news for the space industry...

This is big news for the space industry ... the Air Force is acting to level the playing field for commercial launchers.  Two big events on the same day: the Air Force announced the end of subsidies to the United Launch Alliance (which made their launchers artificially cheap at the taxpayer's expense), and an internal Air Force review released a report saying that the Air Force's recent certification process for SpaceX was artificially difficult (again advantaging the United Launch Alliance).

I'm not sure what motivated the Air Force to act in a sensible manner, but it's surely a welcome development...

Beautiful cloud photo...

Beautiful cloud photo...  It's pouring under there!

Three lucky deer...

Three lucky deer...

Friday, March 27, 2015

Shareholder's meeting...

Shareholder's meeting...  When we bought our new home here in Paradise, we also bought some shares in the irrigation water company that provides our pressurized irrigation water.  A few weeks ago the fellow that runs alfalfa on our south field stopped by and let me know that he was running for a seat on the Board of the irrigation company, and that he'd really appreciate my attending the upcoming shareholder's meeting and voting for him.  I listened to why he wanted to get that Board seat, and I liked what I heard – so I agreed to show up and vote for him.

Last night (way past my bedtime!) was the shareholder's meeting.  It was a much more interesting experience than I expected it to be.  About 50 people showed up.  These are all people who live in or around Paradise, so that's actually a substantial fraction of the total population!  Most of them have known each other for many years, and of course most of them attend church together in one of the (four) local LDS wards.  This made for a lively and congenial meeting.

The meeting's process was recognizable to anyone familiar with formal shareholder or Board meetings – but really just barely recognizable.  The President struggled mightily to stay on track and make sure the right stuff got into the minutes, but it wasn't easy for him.  The audience of shareholders was, I think, largely ignorant of the formalities beyond making and seconding a motion.  Much of the business was approved by acclamation (a show of hands, absence of opposition) instead of by actual vote.  The only actual votes came toward the end of the meeting, when new Board members were being selected.  There were four openings, but only two of them had multiple nominees.  To vote, the Board handed out blank Post-It notes, and we scribbled our name, the number of shares we were voting, and the name of the candidate we were voting for.  Then they retired to another room to tote up the vote and check the share count.  It wasn't exactly the procedure you'd see in even a small public company :)  But it worked.  The four new Board members were duly elected and welcomed on board.  The fellow I came to vote for won his seat, much to his delight.

On my short drive home, I reflected on how this Board meeting illustrated the differences between the culture here in Paradise and where we used to live in Southern California.  I can't imagine this short, cheerful meeting with it's loose attention to formality ever working in California – not even in the relatively small community of Jamul that we were part of.  The closest experience I have to compare it with was a couple of meetings held in Jamul to discuss the (then proposed) Jamul Indian Casino.  That was a much larger room full of people who were mainly strangers to one another.  There was much mistrust and suspicion, and little shyness about openly voicing it.  Absolutely nothing was accomplished, other than a couple of local politicians being able to get their statements in the paper.  We left much unhappier than we arrived.  Here, by contrast, several contentious issues were discussed in a friendly manner, solutions proposed, courses of action agreed upon, and everyone left with smiles on their faces (and, most of them, with a donut in their hands).  It was part social event, part business, and 100% effective.

I love this place!

Barn and house progress...

Barn and house progress...  Painters arrived yesterday to start painting my new office on the second floor of the barn.  They're planning to finish today, and the tile installers will be here next Monday and Tuesday to put the floor down (wood-look tile).  With any luck at all, the construction guys will show up later next week to put in the baseboard and trim (windows and door).  After that, it's all up to me: I need to put up an electrical subpanel for the second floor, then wire power and lights in the office (and some lighting in the upstairs storage as well).  I also need to install some ducting and a fan so that I can use the heated air from the first floor to keep the office temperatures from dipping below freezing.  In two or three weeks, I may be able to start moving my computer, etc. into the new office.  Woo hoo!

Yesterday I took delivery of my band saw – a 17" monster from Grizzly.  It came in a wooden crate on a pallet, which I was able to drive right to it's location in the woodshop with the tractor.  Very convenient, that was.

Yesterday we also got a big furniture delivery, one we've been waiting for with bated breath.  The shipment included our dining room table and chairs, a dresser and chest for our bedroom, and a dresser and end table for the guest bedroom.  They're all beautiful pieces.  I'll post some photos after it gets light enough to take them...

We can all be angels now...

We can all be angels now...  Angel investors, that is.  If I'm reading this correctly (and you'd be totally fair to doubt that!), the SEC just decided that crowdfunding companies can peddle equity to the masses.  In other words, companies sites like Kickstarter can now offer stock (or, presumably, instruments like options or warrants) to anyone who signs up to help fund them.  Previously they've been limited to offering product, swag, or smiley faces.

It will be fascinating to see what happens with this.  It's sort of the next stage after the reforms starting in the '70s have made the stock market more accessible to ordinary people unsophisticated in the art of equity investing...

Your daily owl...

Your daily owl...  Because, mom...

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A startling statistic...

A startling statistic...  While reading a largely unrelated article this morning, I came across this statistic:
Nearly half of black males and almost 40 percent of white males in the U.S. are arrested by age 23...
 Do you find that as startling as I did?  I've only known a few people who have ever been arrested, and several of those are not even American.  Are the arrest rates much higher today than when I was in my early 20s?

I couldn't find any authoritative data on that question, but I did find several sources that dramatically cited increased arrest rates (250% to 600%, depending on who you want to believe) starting in the late '60s and early '70s – right when I reached that age.  That immediately led me to suspect the war on drugs, so I went looking for data on that, and I found it.

Of the over 11 million arrests last year, 13% were directly for drug abuse.  Note that this data is for arrests, not people.  Some people were arrested multiple times in the year.  What's not uncovered by this data is how many of the other crimes related to drugs in some way (generally by users desperate to come up with the money for another high-priced dose of illegal drugs).  The dramatic increases in other crimes coincident with the war on drugs suggests that the related crime rates are very high indeed.

That same report gives the overall arrest rate as 3.7% of inhabitants per year.  Even if you figure a very high average number of arrests – say, 2 per arrested person per year – that works out to more than 1% of the population being arrested every year.  That's really hard for me to wrap my brain around, given how few people I know with an arrest record.

Maybe half my friends are hiding something...

No obligation whatsoever...

No obligation whatsoever...  Much of what passes for politics these days reminds me of the vacuity of celebrity culture (i.e., the dominant culture in the U.S.).  A great example of this: the U.S. – Chinese “announcement” of CO2 reductions.  Delingpole summarizes nicely...

Obama's foreign policy triptych...

Obama's foreign policy triptych...  Excellent...

“Color is an amazing experience...”

“Color is an amazing experience...” 

The reason for our oil shortage...

The reason for our oil shortage...  Via my brother Scott...
A lot of folks can't understand how we came to have an oil shortage here in our country.

Well, there's a very simple answer. Nobody bothered to check the oil. We just didn't know we were getting low. The reason for that is purely geographical. Our oil is located in:

Alaska, California, Coastal Florida, Coastal Louisiana, Coastal Alabama, Coastal Mississippi, Coastal Texas, North Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Texas

Our dipstick is located in the White House!

Any Questions?

No? Didn't think So.

Barn progress...

Barn progress...  Well, the planer is completely assembled, oiled, greased, cleaned up – and tested.  The operation is smooth and solid, and not as noisy as I was expecting.

The model I have uses a four-row spiral carbide cutter head, which is new to me.  All the planers I've ever used had tool steel cutter blades; this one uses lots of little square carbide “chips” like the one shown at right.  These chips are just over 1/2" square, and can be rotated (“indexed”) to used any one of the four sides as the cutting edge.  Wood run through this planer has a subtle pattern showing in the planed face, just barely visible but definitely “feelable”.  A couple of passes with 400 grit sandpaper and it's gone, though.  This seems a very small price to pay for all the advantages: no sharpening (yay!), easy (and inexpensive) “blade” replacement, and no subtle alignment or calibration issues.

The painters will be here today to paint my office and the baseboard for Debbie's agility court.  Hopefully the tile floor will go into my office early next week...

JavaScript has won the browser...

JavaScript has won the browser...  You may have thought it had already won, but there was still Google's Dart trying hard to supplant JavaScript as a native browser scripting, or at the very least to supplement it.  But now Google has announced that it's giving up.  As a language, Dart will live on – but only as a version that compiles to JavaScript.  That's the end.  There's no other credible effort to replace JavaScript.

There are probably not all that many old farts still around who remember the other half dozen or so scripting languages that have tried to take on JavaScript.  The one that made the most traction was Microsoft's Visual Basic, unless you count their JavaScript variant (JScript) as a separate language.

I think having a standard browser scripting language – even if it's only a de facto standard – is a very good thing indeed.  It feels a bit overdue, as if the railroads had just now agreed on a standard track gauge, or pipe manufacturers had just agreed on standard diameters and threads.  Browser scripting language was already almost at that point – but there was this behemoth out there (Google) declaring their intention to upset that particular apple cart.

No more.  JavaScript has won...

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Dance of the flowers...

Dance of the flowers...  Via reader Simi L...

Barn progress...

Barn progress...  I did a bunch of wiring yesterday, mostly adding 110V outlets to the south side of the wood shop area.  Now that I have lights (see them at right!), I can see well enough – even before dawn – to install the rest of the wiring.  I'm using plastic junction boxes and conduit (at left),
which are ridiculously easy to install compared with the traditional galvanized steel boxes and conduit. 

Early in the afternoon I had some excitement: my planer arrived!  I spent the rest of the day removing it from its wooden crate, getting it onto the floor, and starting to assemble it.  It's a kit, of course, just like all the other tools I've purchased.  It's another beast of a machine – almost 700 pounds of steel and cast iron.  The manual was packed inside a cardboard box, which in turn was inside the planer itself.  I wrestled the planer off the pallet it was shipped on, onto the barn's concrete floor.  That was challenging to do by myself, because of the weight, but I didn't see any safe place to lift it with the tractor.  After I got it onto the floor (and rested for a bit), I unscrewed the side panel on the planer, pulled out the box, opened it, got the manual, and started reading about unpacking and assembly.  First thing it says: lift the planer off the pallet with a fork lift, using the built in extensible lifting bars.  Dang it!  The manual is available online; I could have read it before I even uncrated the machine.  Next time I get a heavy machine in here, that's exactly what I'm going to do...

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

“The promise of America...”

“The promise of America...”  I don't know much about Ted Cruz, but ... I like what I'm hearing here...

We thought Mo'i was really bad at catching food...

We thought Mo'i was really bad at catching food...  That's despite his rather extreme food fixation.  But this dog is even worse than Mo'i!

I hate it when that happens!

I hate it when that happens!  Bug report: “ restarting squid results in deleting all files in hard-drive (rm -rf /*)”.

It happen if you try to stop or restart squid on Red Hat Linux 6 – and it's reproducible...

Monday, March 23, 2015

Barn progress...

Barn progress...  First off I finished all the lighting in the workshop: fifteen 100 watt bulbs.  It's nice and bright in there!  Then I got the dust collection system and the table saw wired up today, and tested – both worked great (though they make a lot of noise!).  I also assembled and tested the compound miter saw; it also worked great.

My builder showed up today to make the “hatch” doors.  He made them out of foam panels with aluminum covers – strong, lightweight, and very good at keeping out the cold air.  Finally, this evening the drywall guys showed up to finish the last of the work on my office.  It's now all ready to paint.  Progress!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

So God made a liberal...

So God made a liberal...

Question from a reader...

Question from a reader...  Do I still think that going paperless on my personal finances is a good idea? 

Answer: oh, hell yes!  I've now got nearly 300 documents scanned, stored, and indexed.  It takes very little effort to do this – less effort, in fact, than storing them in a file cabinet with any sort of organization.  Best of all, still, is the fact that I can search them just like I can google the web.  I find myself now routinely referring to receipts and other records, where before I did so only as an absolute last resort – because it meant manually searching through piles of paper.  Another benefit I hadn't really appreciated before actually doing this: my records are now all backed up offsite, into the cloud...

Early morning light...

Early morning light...  Yesterday morning, with the sun striking the Wellsville Mountains to our west, before lighting up the valley floor (where I was standing)...

Spring has sprung ... in Paradise...

Spring has sprung ... in Paradise...  A red-leafed tree in our yard (which I haven't yet identified) is about to pop this year's leaves out...

Interesting Martian rock, up close and personal...

Interesting Martian rock, up close and personal...  As imaged by MAHLI...

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Barn progress...

Barn progress...  I made some headway on wiring the lights for the woodshop yesterday – power is connected, a switch is in place, seven of fifteen ceiling boxes are installed, and the first light is up and working.

On the way out, I walked by our willow tree (at right).  Its leaves are now about an inch long, and the flowers look like they're just about ready to pop out.  Soon we'll hear the buzz of busy bees as we walk by it!

Our neighbor is visiting with relatives in St. George, so we stopped by their house to make sure things were ok.  Two of their cats came out to greet me, making it quite difficult to walk – they were taking turns twining around my feet :)

Friday, March 20, 2015

Curiosity is looking closely at some peculiar Martian rocks...

Curiosity is looking closely at some peculiar Martian rocks...  It's nice to see it back at work, after being offline for a few weeks while engineers troubleshot the intermittent short circuit that was plaguing the rover...

The hardest part of a penis transplant?

The hardest part of a penis transplant?  Finding a willing donor.  The donor is dead, mind you, just like with most other transplants...

Day of the Grizzly...

Day of the Grizzly...  The cyclone dust collector version, that is.  I received the feet, and yesterday I mounted them (the yellow disks visible on the bottom of the stand).  That meant I was ready to raise the (roughly 300 pound) beast from it's previous position on its side to the upright position you see in the photo at right (click to embiggen).  But how does an aging geek lift 300 pounds nine feet into the air, by himself?

With his tractor, of course :)  I tied a wooden beam to the motor and impeller assembly (the green bit near the very top).  I drove my tractor into the woodshop, then used the forklift on the loader to raise it up, driving forward very slowly at the same time to make the fork traverse an arc.  It worked surprisingly well, and not much in the way of muscles were required.

Once I had it standing upright, I attached the final bits: the HEPA filter (the big cylinder on the right), the hoses and muffler (above the HEPA filter), and the short piece of hose attaching the chip and sawdust barrel (cylinder on wheels below the cyclone cone), and then I was done.  Next step for the beast is to get power wired for it, find a way to lash it to the wall without making the entire wall vibrate, and then get the ducting up to connect it to the various machines.  I've discovered that the lead time for the ducting is several weeks, so that's not going to happen instantly...

Visualizations of pi...

Visualizations of pi...  Some of these are quite beautiful; all are interesting...

Thursday, March 19, 2015

We still keep getting surprised...

We still keep getting surprised ... at how different ordinary things are up here in Utah, as compared with our decades of experience in San Diego...

Yesterday Debbie had a doctor's appointment in the morning.  The doctor she was to see is a physical rehabilitation specialist at the largest local hospital; the appointment was a followup from the emergency room visit she had a couple weeks ago.  All very ordinary, the kind of thing we've been through quite a few times in the past.

In those past experiences – mainly in the San Diego area – we'd get to the office 15 or 30 minutes before our appointment, do some fiendish paperwork, then wait for the doctor to actually see us.  Generally that would happen quite a bit later than the actual appointment, sometimes hours later.  We'd experienced this so many times that we knew to come equipped with things to read, to while away the time.

That's not what happened yesterday morning.  Instead, we were handed a very small pile of paperwork, some of which was actually entertaining (we had fun with a section asking about our “social life” and how Debbie's injury affected it).  We finished with that in under five minutes, sat down, and about a minute later a nurse came back to take us to the exam room.  Wow!  Then she figured out that Debbie needed some more X-rays, so Debbie got dressed up in one of those spiffy hospital gowns (with a bonus pair of bloomers), and hauled off for X-rays.  I wanted to take photos, but Debbie threatened me with a painful death if I did.  So I settled down with my Kindle, figuring (based on past experience) that I had at least 45 minutes or so to wait.  Four minutes later, Debbie was back in the exam room with me, X-rays finished.  A minute or so after she got dressed, the doctor came in to see her.  He'd already reviewed the history and X-rays, and immediately started the exam.  The exam was thorough and unhurried, with even some time for small talk – a most unstressful and even pleasant experience.  In the end had an uncertain diagnosis, but thought it likely that all she needed was some physical therapy – and we were done.

We walked out of his exam room just under one hour after we walked in the door.  In that time we were put into the hospital's record system for the first time, had Debbie's history taken, got X-rays, saw the doctor, and got a prescription for physical therapy, pre-cleared by our insurance company.  I don't know what your medical experiences have been like, but compared with our own past experiences, that's simply remarkable.

But the surprises weren't finished.  We decided to make the physical therapy appointment (with a different clinic in the same hospital) right away – Debbie was really eager to get started.  It's a big hospital, with some construction going on, so we were confused about where to go.  We asked at a physical rehab clinic we saw a sign for, and were told where we should go.  Then the receptionist asked us if we knew how to get there – and when we said “No!”, she promptly got up and led us on a five minute walk through two floors of the hospital to get us to the right place.  A few minutes later, we had her first appointment scheduled – for later that same afternoon.

So yesterday afternoon we drove back up to the hospital and checked into the physical rehab facility.  Again we got there early.  Again we were handed a small pile of paperwork that we quickly worked through.  And again, within a few seconds of finishing the paperwork we were taken back to the exam room.  This time the physical therapist did another unhurried and thorough exam, with lots of particular tests to see if he could locate the source of Debbie's knee pain.  It took about an hour, but eventually he nailed it down: she has an injured (or perhaps just irritated) illiotibial band.  Treatment is some simple physical therapy, and the prognosis is complete recovery within 4 to 6 weeks.  We've both been through excellent physical therapy before (though Debbie more than I), but this experience still stood out for the physical therapist's competence, persistence (Debbie's injury was hard to diagnose, and both the doctor and the physical therapist thought it might be a meniscus tear initially), and easy, encouraging manner.  Once he figured out what the problem was, we settled on a course of treatment, and left to get it all scheduled.

The fellow who scheduled Debbie's PT appointments was a college student, and he mentioned that he'd spent two years in Lithuania.  That caught my attention immediately, as Lithuania is one of the Baltic states, quite close to Estonia, which I know very well.  We ended up having a great conversation about our mutual experiences there while we got Debbie all set up for PT.

An hour and a half after we walked in the door, we were walking back out to our truck.  To get there, we walked through the physician's parking lot, and something struck me: amongst the 50 or so doctors' cars, there was exactly one car that could qualify as a “luxury” car – an older Mercedes.  All the rest were perfectly ordinary cars and pickup trucks – an assortment of Toyotas, Chevys, Fords, etc.  There wasn't a single Porsche, BMW, or Maserati on the lot.

Presumably, after we've lived here long enough, these sorts of experiences will stop surprising us.  I wonder what it would feel like to go back to California at that point?  Not good, I suspect...

Was there a nuclear explosion on Mars?

Was there a nuclear explosion on Mars?  It looks probable...

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Morning ponder...

Morning ponder...  Why do Israeli Jews vote overwhelmingly for the conservative candidate (Netanyahu), while U.S. Jews vote overwhelmingly for the Progressive candidates (Clinton, Gore, Kerry, Obama...)?  Are conservative Jews more likely to emigrate to Israel?  Is it the proximity and obviousness of the existential threat that radical Islam poses to Israel?  Is it something in the U.S. water supply?

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

It's undeniably spring in Paradise..

It's undeniably spring in Paradise ... and a much earlier spring than even last year.  As I write this, our willow's leaves are out, about 3/4" long.  The roses along the canal just started popping leaves from their buds today.  Several other trees in our yard look like they're ready to pop into leaf as well.  Looking back on my blog posts from last year, that's just about the same state we were in on April 12.  That means we're almost a month earlier this year, which validates all the locals' astonishment at our mild winter and early spring.  Temperatures today were in the high 60s; it was just lovely outside.

I took possession of this house last April 3rd, just under a year ago.  Though sometimes it seems like we're making slow progress, when I think back to what this house was like when I moved in and started “camping”, it's obvious we've actually accomplished quite a bit this past year...

Slimy, that one is...

Slimy, that one is...

By popular demand...

By popular demand...  Well, ok, one reader asked – but that's a significant percentage of my readers!  Here's a photo of the hardware card I wrote about yesterday, and also a photo of the table saw in its partly-assembled current state...


Monday, March 16, 2015

Putin reappears...

Putin reappears ... making just about nobody happy...

Harry Potter fan fiction...

Harry Potter fan fiction...  I haven't read this, but I'm going to...

“Almost immediately, it became clear that we were all going to hate each other.”

“Almost immediately, it became clear that we were all going to hate each other.”  The subject is “mom dates”.

Geek: unexpectedly difficult...

Geek: unexpectedly difficult...  Every once in a while I've come across a problem that turns out to be far more difficult than it first appears.  Most recently this happened to me with the need to produce GUIDs.  I accidentally observed a GUID collision (that is, identical GUIDs being generated multiple times) in the system I was working on (which shall remain unnamed).  That's the sort of thing that just isn't supposed to happen, so it got my attention.  I tracked down the source of the collision by examining the algorithm used.  It turns out that collisions were happening when multiple processes with identical GUID generators were being run on the same server – as we were doing in our datacenter, with some servers having over a hundred such processes.  Under those conditions, collisions were likely to happen several times a day – very bad indeed.  Fixing that was challenging, especially fixing it in a performant way.

This morning I stumbled across a discussion about another such problem: uniformly distributing random floats in [0,1] given a source of random bits.  I knew, vaguely, that it wasn't exactly trivial – but it's definitely more challenging than I'd have guessed!

Geek: fast, easy jump consistent hash...

Geek: fast, easy jump consistent hash...  Next time I have a sharding problem, I'd like to try this.  But now that I've retired, why on earth would sharding ever raise its head again?

Memory lane, geek edition...

Memory lane, geek edition...  I stumbled across this 1999 paper on data structures for representing text sequences in editors.  I love the idea of using a simulator to rank the data structure approaches! 

All of the data structures it discusses are far older than that paper, and I've implemented many of them.  In the late '70s I wrote a Basic interpreter that used a buffer for each line of the program.  In the early '80s I wrote a text editor (in Pascal!) that used what the paper's author calls a “piece table” data structure that included a snapshot feature (not discussed in the paper, but an obvious enhancement). 

I got the idea for that last by reverse-engineering a '70s program by MicroPro called WordMaster (manual) – a general purpose WYSIWYG text editor I used for programming.  I was amazed by its ability to handle large text files, and I wanted to know how it worked.  I reverse engineered enough of it to understand that it kept something like a piece table data structure, and that gave me the ideas I needed to write my own with the snapshot capability.  The “gap” approach discussed in the paper is new to me, and I'm surprised its performance was as good as it was...

Quote of the day...

Quote of the day...  An employee of WBTV (Charlotte, North Carolina) said:
“This is a learning lesson for all and we hope this will never occur again.”
She's talking about another employee who was caught whistling Dixie.  Literally.

I feel the doom crushing down on my shoulders...

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/entertainment/tv/media-scene-blog/article14423408.html#storylink=cpy
Sh

The table saw is out of the box...

The table saw is out of the box ... but its assembly is far from finished.  The main box weighed about 250 pounds, a bit more than I could muscle around by myself.  The box was on a pallet, and I'd plopped it down in the garage section of the barn after unloading it from the delivery truck.  However, we conveniently built the door from the garage section to the woodshop section just barely large enough to drive my tractor into the woodshop.  So I loaded the box back onto the tractor's fork lift yesterday, and carefully drove it right to it's designated location in the woodshop.  It took about 50 “K” turns to get it in the right place, and about 50 more to get the tractor back out of the woodshop – but I did it, and without bashing down any walls or posts in the process :)

Unboxing the table saw was a much more interesting process than I expected.  The overall experience reminded me a bit of unboxing an Apple product – one pleasant surprise after another.  First I cut the straps and pulled off the lid, revealing a piece of molded foam about 30" x 50" in size.  I pulled off the foam, and discovered its bottom side was elaborately molded with bosses (for strength) and cavities to fit various things packed underneath it.  The main part of the saw was packed on its side, with its cast iron top swaddled in heavy wax paper to cover the protective grease underneath it, and the entire saw covered in shrink wrap.  Other components were boxed or wrapped in bubble wrap, with everything very carefully separated by some kind of shock absorbing material (several kinds were employed).

On the very top, prominently showing, was a single sheet of paper with detailed diagrams and explanation showing exactly how to remove the saw without damaging it.  This was particularly nicely done.  The first step was to remove the remaining box and other components.  One of the things I pulled out was a large, colorfully printed piece of stiff cardboard, covered with plastic that had bubbles in it to hold various bits of hardware needed to put the saw together, along with some special tools (like metric Allen keys).  This piece of cardboard was a delight to examine – someone went to a great deal of trouble to make my life easier!  The colors are a form of coding to help identify each piece of hardware.  Text in each colored section explained what the hardware was.  Behind each bubble the cardboard was scored to make it easy to remove the hardware.  I've assembled lots of kits like this one, but never one in which the hardware was so easy to locate and identify.  Very nice job, SawStop.  Very nice indeed.

After I removed everything except the base saw, I had about 150 pounds to muscle around – not so bad, especially since all I had to do was roll it and tilt it up.  I followed the (excellent) directions, and in very short order I had stood up the table saw in its new home.  It was getting toward the end of my day, so I didn't do much more work on it – just cleaned the grease off the cast iron tabletop, installed the two hand wheels (also cast iron, and beautifully made) and the motor cover.  Today I'll tackle the rest of it...

Sunday, March 15, 2015

State of the dust collector...

State of the dust collector...  The left photo below shows the partly assembled dust collector, lying on its side like a crippled minnow.  The large cylinder in the left foreground is the HEPA filter for the beast, and the smaller cylinder in the background is the sawdust/chip collector.  Both of these will be attached once the beast is raised upright.  The right photo shows the variety of small parts that remain to be attached...


Spent the morning picking old caulking...

Spent the morning picking old caulking ... out of the seam between our kitchen sink and the granite above it.  This was the old fashioned translucent silicone caulking, which is a bit of a pain to remove.  The previous caulking job was pretty bad – the caulking wasn't all under the granite; a sheet of it crept over the stainless steel sink.  Over the years since it was installed, the thin parts had worked loose from the stainless steel, and colonies of alien bacteria lived on the trash and dirty water that had infiltrated. 

I picked all that out with a dental pick, then used steel wool and a lot of elbow grease to get the film of translucent silicone off.  That was surprisingly difficult!  I also used steel wool on the sink itself, followed by a course of Barkeeper's Friend (the best stuff I've ever used for cleaning metal); this cleaned and shined up the sink nicely. 

Then I re-caulked with modern, water-clear silicone – and kept the bead completely under the granite.  I finished it using a trick I learned from the guys who installed our bathroom granite: I spritzed the bead with half water/half isopropyl alcohol, then just ran my finger down the bead.  Perfect finish!  The face of the caulk bead is basically vertical.  When it's cured (tomorrow), I'll get rid of any films of silicone remaining on the stainless steel – and then the kitchen sink will be completely finished!

Well, it took all day...

Well, it took all day...  And also four trips to Ace Hardware and Home Depot, and the deployment of an extensive vocabulary of words not often heard in areas so dominated by the LDS church.  I removed all the old kitchen sink plumbing, including the garbage disposal, an under-sink “instant” hot water heater that we never used, all three faucets, and the broken hand soap dispenser.  I then installed a new garbage disposal, new sink drain, and all new plumbing.  Along the way I discovered that virtually nothing under the sink was done in a standard way (the norm for this house, it seems), so several of my trips were to obtain various adapters to make non-standard plumbing play nice with the bog standard new stuff that I bought.

The end result, though, we're very happy with.  The new faucet (and matching hand soap dispenser) are beautifully made Kohler models.  They feel rock solid, and operate just as you'd expect.  The pull-down spray head works great; goes in and out easily, and the hose is quite limp and flexible.  The new garbage disposal is so quiet compared with the old one that when I first tested it, I thought it was broken!  That's despite being twice as powerful.

One sink-related task remains for today: I'm going to strip out all the old caulking (it's an under-counter sink, caulked to the bottom of the surrounding granite) and put new in.  That means a fifth trip, this time to Home Depot to get some decent grout, hopefully in a color that will blend nicely.  I'm also going to use steel wool to thoroughly clean the sink itself, as now it's old grungy appearance contrasts badly with the nice new faucet :)

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Hillary's email...

Hillary's email...  The latest revelation is that the State Department didn't actually archive the emails that Hillary sent to other State Department employees.  Nor did they archive anybody else's.

Everyone I know with any sort of IT background shares my reaction to the news reporting on this issue: it's all complete nonsense, credulously reporting the State Department's assertions that this is a difficult problem only recently addressed.  That's the sheerest poppycock and twaddle.  Specialized email backup programs have been readily available commercially, and routinely used by private organizations, since at least the late 1980s – almost thirty years ago.  I personally selected and acquired such a system for my then-employer in the mid-1990s.  These backup systems save every email (no selection is required) and then provide tools for recovery of particular (or all) emails.

For the State Department (or any branch of government) to assert that this is difficult, time-consuming, or expensive is one of two things: an outright lie, or a confirmation of an almost unimaginable level of incompetence.

Occam's Razor says: it's a lie.

But why would the State Department lie about this, making themselves look stupid and ignorant?  The most likely reason I can imagine is that if they actually produced copies of their internal emails, it would expose them as the utterly incompetent fools and nefarious knaves the electorate suspects they are...

Dinner out...

Dinner out...  We went to Cafe Sabor last night for a nice outing.  The salsa and chips were just as good as on our previous visits.  Debbie had their tortilla soup (ok, not great – she says the coconut soup she had last time was much better), and the blackened shrimp tostada (also ok, not great).  Debbie's meal is in the photo at right – as you can see, the food was quite attractive, especially the tostada at left.  I had a chile relleno (outstanding!) and a sweet pork enchilada (very good, though odd).  By the time I thought to take a photo of it, I'd already eaten half of it :)  We ordered flan for dessert, and it was more like an eggy bread pudding (with one piece of bread) than a traditional flan (which should be a slightly overcooked custard).

The drive home in the late evening light was especially pretty.  The mountains around the valley were glowing in the reddish light of near-sunset, while the valley was mainly in shadow.  There were quite a few dramatically-lit scenes along the way.  Just south of Hyrum, on the east side of Highway 165, there's a small farm that's recently acquired a bunch of baby goats.  They were out playing “king of the hill” on a pile of giant wooden telephone wire spools.  I could watch baby goats for hours.  It's too bad they're only babies for about ten minutes – and then grow up to be extremely uncute goats...

Barn progress...

Barn progress...  I spent most of the day yesterday assembling the stand and about half of the Grizzly dust collection system.  By the end of the day, I had roughly 400 pounds of steel and copper assembled and lying sideways on my barn floor.  Next step: raising it to a vertical position.  That's going to have to wait for a few days, though, as I discovered during assembly that the stand doesn't actually come with feet.  That's because the usual method of mounting it to a concrete floor is to use fasteners in holes drilled in the floor.  That won't work for me, as I have heating tubes embedded in the concrete floor – and I'd really, really hate to hit one of those!  So I had to order some rubber-and-steel “machine mounts” (essentially, industrial-strength, 5" diameter rubber feet) designed for sitting this monster on a wood floor.  They'll be here early next week.  Meanwhile, the monster shall recline in a resting position :)

The two shipments due to arrive yesterday did arrive.  We now have two pallets full of foam flooring for Debbie's agility court.  My SawStop table saw also arrived, in a collection of sturdy boxes strapped to another pallet.  The garage area of our barn is starting to look like a warehouse!

Today is “sink day” – I'm replacing the faucet, garbage disposal, drains, strainer, and under-sink plumbing on our kitchen sink.  The immediate provocation was an annoying, persistent, and unrepairable leak in the existing faucet.  The secondary provocation was a desire to get a more powerful garbage disposal (1 HP model replacing an aging 1/2 HP model) and to remove an “instant on” hot water heater that we never use.  I bought all the parts I thought I needed earlier this week, but as I start the actual work I fully expect to discover 12 more things I need, necessitating at least 8 more trips to Home Depot and/or Lowe's...

Original Moog schematics online...

Original Moog schematics online...  This is a treasure for anyone interested in some classic analog engineering work...

Friday, March 13, 2015

The hazards of open source programming, part 692...

The hazards of open source programming, part 692...  This is from the SQLite project.  Click to embiggen...

Barn progress...

Barn progress...  So I did finish wiring all the lights in the garage section of the barn yesterday ...  and boy howdy is it nice and bright in there now when I flip the switch on!  There are 12 “100 watt” LED bulbs in there.  The LED bulb manufacturers have taken to specifying the light output of their devices in terms of incandescent bulb equivalents.  I guess the American public just isn't sufficiently acquainted with actual units of light brightness (usually lumens).  The specified power consumption of these LED bulbs is 17.5 watts each, or 210 watts total.  I measured it at 196 watts, or just under one sixth of the power it would have taken to achieve the same brightness with old fashioned incandescent bulbs.  Actually, if I couldn't have obtained LED bulbs, I would have used halogen bulbs, and they'd have used about 1,000 watts to get the same brightness.  I detest the CFL bulbs and would never have considered using them.

Next up on the wiring front: 30 more LED lamp fixtures for the two other “rooms” on the first floor of the barn.  Parts are on order for them.

I had a few hours left yesterday after finishing the wiring, so I started assembling my new Grizzly dust collection system.  First step was to unpack the entire unit and inventory the (hundreds of) parts, and that took me nearly an hour.  The packaging of all these odd shaped parts was done in a very clever manner to reduce the total volume.  Some of the tricks took me a while to reverse-engineer so I could figure out how to get the parts separated.  My hat is off to the ingenious packaging engineer who came up with the dozen or so key elements of the packaging.  Not only did it reduce the volume tremendously, it also securely protected anything that was even slightly vulnerable.  The pallet weighed 494 pounds, and there isn't a ding, scratch, or even a little mark anywhere on anything.  Very impressive!

I haven't got very far on the assembly yet, but what I've done so far shows this thing to be a real beast.  I'm putting the stand together, and it's made out of very heavy gauge steel, beautifully powder coated.  It looks like something you'd see in an industrial setting.  Once I get this monster assembled and wired up, then I have to install 8 inch diameter ducting to the major pieces of equipment (most especially the table saw).  For smaller tools I can run 6 inch or even 4 inch ducting.  It will be interesting to see how all this works out!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

A couple more paintings...

A couple more paintings...  These are by friend, reader, and former colleague Larry E...


Shoelaces...

Shoelaces...  Friend, reader, and former colleague Simon M. passes along this site he stumbled across that's all about shoelaces.  Tagline:
Ian's Shoelace Site - Bringing you the fun, fashion & science of shoelaces
Some of the stuff there looks genuinely useful.  Most of it is far more about shoelaces than I ever wanted to know :)

The site was created by Ian Fieggen, the self-styled “Professor Shoelace”.  He has written a book (“Laces”, now out of print), and has apps about lacing for iPhones and Droids.  He apparently now supports himself through the web site and apps.  Oh, and did I mention that he's Australian (as is Simon)?

Big rocket test fired...

Big rocket test fired ... not far from here, just yesterday.  This test occurred at the Orbital ATK test facility in Promontory, Utah – about 40 miles west of our house.  The rocket being tested is intended for the SRS manned missions, so a great deal of money is being spent on it – all wasted so far as I'm concerned.  I'd much rather see that money spent on robotic missions launched by competitive commercial systems.  Still, it's one hell of a spectacle...

Comet 67P...

Comet 67P ... in a recent photo taken by Rosetta.  It's outgassing like crazy now...

Pi is a metaphor for the unexplained...

Pi is a metaphor for the unexplained...  An interesting piece on why we're all fascinated by the constant π.  One thing is very evident from that article: some of us are way more fascinated than others :)

Consumer Reports is anti-science...

Consumer Reports is anti-science...  On GMOs, at least.  I cancelled my subscription to Consumer Reports over 25 years ago, when I discovered that they use undisclosed non-objective factors in their rankings (things like “greenness” and political correctness).  I've disregarded their ratings ever since...

Glowing vegetables...

Glowing vegetables...  A collection of photos of ordinary vegetables lit from the inside...

Training with an Osprey...

Training with an Osprey...

Utah House defeats “Tesla” bill...

Utah House defeats “Tesla” bill...  HB 394 would have cleared the way for Tesla to sell cars directly to Utah residents, but it was defeated on Tuesday.  There were two major drivers for its defeat, one openly discussed, the other not so much.

The in-the-open reason was the fear that sales taxes from new car sales would decline.  This is at least a real issue, but it illustrates nicely the inertia of an established tax.  Once something is taxed and there's a dependency on the “revenue” from that tax, then it becomes very, very hard to do anything that would disturb that tax. 

The not-so-open reason for the bill's defeat is the fact that the auto dealership lobby (which is vehemently opposed to direct sales of new cars) contributes a great deal of money to politician's campaign funds.  There's nothing illegal or surprising about this; they're doing the same thing any business would do to protect their own interests.  Politicians are perennially searching for campaign funds, so naturally they're going to think twice about pissing off a major contributor.

If we want a Tesla, it looks like we'll have to travel to Nevada or Idaho to buy it, or else arrange for delivery here.  I've already informed my state legislators that their vote on this issue will be remembered come election time.  Apparently I have no pull :)

Barn progress...

Barn progress...  I installed about half the lights in the garage section of the barn yesterday (6 of 11); I should be able to finish the rest of those today.  While I was doing that wiring, a building supply delivery truck showed up, bringing the wallboard and “mud” for my future office on the second floor of the barn.  The builder will be here early next week to actually do the work.

The truck had a particularly long boom crane on it, designed to allow the delivery of heavy construction products up to five stories high, or 45' away from the truck horizontally.  The photo at right (click to embiggen) shows the crane partially extended to deliver our wallboard.  The crane operator used a belt-mounted remote control.  This let him stand right where he wanted it to go, and then guide it in very precisely.  The two guys on the truck humped all that wallboard up my stairs to the second floor.  They were wishing I had bigger windows so that they could have used the crane :)

Later in the day, a Fedex freight truck showed up with a 494 pound pallet full of my new Grizzly dust collection system.  Naturally it's a giant kit, with hundreds of parts.  I unpacked it all (see photo at left) to make sure nothing was damaged in shipping.  That thing is built like the proverbial tank – if any damage occurred, I'm certain it was on whatever the box hit, not on the dust collection system itself!  The system is far larger than I was imagining.  Assembling is going to pose some interesting challenges for this one-man operation.  The motor/impeller assembly weighs about 180 pounds, and it needs to be hoisted to the top of a six or seven foot high device – I'm going to have to get some local muscle to help, or come up with some sort of hoist.  One possibility: I can drive my tractor into the workshop, so I may be able to lift the assembly with the loader.  Or I could mount a block to the roof, then pull it up with the tractor.  What fun! 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

“I was stunned. I didn’t know what to say.”

“I was stunned.  I didn’t know what to say.”  And neither do I.  On what planet does this make sense???

More guns ≠ more crime...

More guns ≠ more crime...  Criminologist Gary Kleck – no stranger to controversy he – has published a new study debunking the trope that more guns cause more crime.  It's sure to twist progressive knickers...

Volcano under the stars...

Volcano under the stars...  Via APOD, of course...

Speechless, I am...

Speechless, I am...  USB typewriters.  I had thought that the faddish attraction to vacuum tube amplifiers was the ultimate expression of this particular type of insanity – but I think a USB typewriter (at prices approaching $1,000!) eclipses even that...

Strange nonchaotic attractors in the heavens...

Strange nonchaotic attractors in the heavens...  Spotted in the strange pulsations of a distant variable star...

Quote of the day...

Quote of the day...  From Strategy Page:
The accountants always win in the end.
Read the details of how ISIS is disintegrating from within.  It's encouraging, and gives a good explanation of how air power actually does have a good chance of bringing ISIS down (and accountants figure in this).  At the very least it should dramatically weaken them; in the best case it will defeat them...

Powerful photos...

Powerful photos...  Thirty-one, including the one at right which had me in tears the first time I saw it years ago...

Photos from the window seat of an airplane...

Photos from the window seat of an airplane...  Twenty-seven beauties like the one at right!

What did I think of Hillary Clinton's email explanations?

What did I think of Hillary Clinton's email explanations?  Inquiring readers want to know.  Well, the Wall Street Journal editorial board had basically the same reaction I did, which I can sum up with one word: “preposterous!”  Their lead:
Hillary Clinton’s admirers say she’ll run for President in part by invoking the glory days of the 1990s. For a taste of that era, we recommend her brief press conference Tuesday explaining why she had used a private email account as Secretary of State. It had everything nostalgia buffs could want—deleted evidence, blustery evasions, and preposterous explanations that only James Carville could pretend to believe.
I'm not even sure about Carville :)

Do go read the whole piece – it hits all the notes I would...

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

There were a lot of guys from Samoa and Guam...


There were a lot of guys from Samoa and Guam ... who served with me in the U.S. Navy.  Their high participation continues.  Other American territories have similarly high participation rates.  The reasons for that are complicated, but they serve in high numbers nevertheless.  I learned from them that they're American citizens, but they can't vote; this has always seemed terribly unfair to me.  Samoa is a special case – things are even worse there.  In the video at right, John Oliver explains this nonsense, in his own special (and very funny) way.  I hope he succeeds in raising the profile of this issue...

Aurora over Icelandic glacier...

Aurora over Icelandic glacier...  Via APOD, of course...

Geek: “Dieharder” random number generator test suite...

Geek: “Dieharder” random number generator test suite...  I hadn't run into this before.  There have been several times when I wished I had access to such a test suite.  Digging into this will make a good weekend project for me sometime...

Geek: a searchable catalog of NASA open source software...

Geek: a searchable catalog of NASA open source software...  There's quite a bit of interesting stuff in here...

Dasatinib and quercetin...

Dasatinib and quercetin... You may be hearing a lot more about these.  Quercetin is available over the counter today (though I have no idea what the quality of it is, and the supplements industry is notoriously fraud-filled).

6.5 million Americans are over 112 years old...

6.5 million Americans are over 112 years old...  Not really, of course.  But that's what the Social Security Administration's records say.  You can probably guess what a wide door that opens for fraud – and, of course, that door is being used by tens of thousands of crooks.  At least tens of thousands, and quite possibly, many more.

Who's the idiot that thought it was a good idea for the federal government to manage healthcare?  Every time we turn over a bureaucratic rock, we find more festering incompetence, fraud, and waste.  I'd have thought the Post Office was all the example anyone needed.  The $900 toilet seats purchased by the Pentagon might have been another clue.  The “stay in line until you die” lists at the Veteran's Administration might have clued someone in, too.  Apparently all of this together is still insufficient to convince the progressives that it's a bad idea to have government managing anything...

Life in Paradise...

Life in Paradise...  For the past three days, every afternoon we've had people showing up at our door with complete evening meals – hot, tasty food ready to eat.  Two of these times the people were complete strangers to us.  Why is this happening?  That's a bit of a story...

It started in our driveway last Thursday afternoon, as Debbie and I walked out  to her truck to drive up to Angie's (in Logan) for dinner.  We hadn't been there for a couple weeks, and we both felt like some comfort food.  Our driveway still had patches of ice, but the afternoon was warm and it was melting.  Wet ice, as you may know, is very slippery.  Then add to that the fact that Debbie was wearing leather-soled cowboy boots.  They might as well have been Teflon-coated.  You can probably guess what happened next: her slippery feet slipped on the slimy ice, and down she went.

After an uncomfortable night, we went to see a doctor on Friday morning.  The verdict: a “strained” back and knee.  A “strain” is less severe than a “sprain”, but more than just “pulled”.  I'm not sure how they come up with this terminology, but the doctor made it clear this was nothing to worry about, that she'd recover completely and quickly, and she just needed some rest, to wear a knee brace for a while, and a little pharmacological assistance (muscle relaxant and analgesic).  Home we went.

Fast forward to Saturday morning, when our friend and neighbor Tim D. came over to visit.  I was out in the barn working on the wiring, and he went in to chat with Debbie.  When she came hobbling slowly to the door, wearing the brace, he knew something was up.  He got all the details when talking with her.

I've learned enough about living in an LDS (Mormon) community by now that I should have known what was going to happen next, but it got me by surprise anyway.  Tim is a former bishop, a devout Mormon, and upon learning about Debbie's injury (however minor!) he sprang into action as though she was now a quadriplegic.  A few hours after he left, Alan and Nikki L. (another set of friends and neighbors) showed up to visit with Debbie.  They were there both to comfort her and to interrogate her about our dining preferences.  Later that afternoon, they showed up with a ready-to-eat meal, which of course we disposed of very quickly.  This is despite our protestations that all this was entirely unnecessary, as (a) I can cook, and (b) Debbie wasn't bedridden, just slowed down.  They insisted anyway, Alan telling me, basically, to “shut up and embrace it”, because it was going to happen no matter what we said.

Sunday and Monday afternoon, women who were part of the local LDS ward's Relief Society showed up with another installment.  Sunday's meal was particularly good: roast beef with potatoes, carrots, a salad, and dessert, all ready to eat.

Yesterday morning, Michelle H. (the wonderful woman who does the heavy cleaning in our house every couple of weeks) came over as planned – but she was all prepared to do a lot more (I think Debbie's condition has been wildly exaggerated in the rumor mill) to help out.  She was ready to do the cooking (note the assumption that the male animal of the household can't prepare food!), take care of the animals, etc.  We didn't actually need any of that help, but it was comforting to know that if we did need it, it would be readily available.

The local Mormons are enjoying our discomfiture with all this, I think :)  But I have to say that we're enjoying the food and the opportunity to meet some members of our community who are new to us.

Monday morning I ran down to the Post Office to pick up our mail.  When I walked in the door, the postmaster asked me how Debbie was doing.  His assistant wanted to know if we were happy with the meals.  They both knew all the details of Debbie's fall, which is typical of any small community, I suspect – but after spending so much time in California, it's sure not something I'm used to.  Everyone is connected here, somehow (including, of course, through the LDS church that the majority of our community are members of).  Brent, our postmaster, is the brother of the woman who runs the local Relief Society.  Linda, his assistant, is actually a neighbor of ours (and a water rights expert currently working on getting our well permit).  Both are LDS.

Out in the Post Office lobby, where the P.O. boxes are, another woman greeted me with good wishes for Debbie.  I had no idea who this woman was, and it must have showed in my face, so she explained that her husband pointed me out as they drove into the Post Office (the lobby has big windows).  He knows me because we'd previously chatted in the Post Office lobby, and he remembered where I lived – and had heard in church that Debbie (whom he'd never met) had fallen.  So when his wife ran in to pick up their mail, she was full of concern and good wishes – even though she'd never met (or heard of) either of us before!

We love living here.  After forty-plus years in California, land of adjacent strangers, to live in a community that actually is a community is jarring in some ways, but comforting in so many more...

Monday, March 9, 2015

Taking notes...

Taking notes...  I noticed many years ago that if I took notes, pen on paper style, at a lecture or meeting, I'd remember the important things much better.  This was true even if I threw the notes away and never looked at them again.  In my corporate life I then developed a habit of taking extensive notes at meetings and often even during one-on-one conversations.  When I was managing teams of engineers, this was extremely useful, as it allowed me to remember many different things in a complex and ever-shifting environment. 

Now there's research that backs up my observation about the value of taking notes...