Sunday, March 28, 2010

"Heating with Icecubes" update

Sometime last month I'd posted that I was heating my house with icecubes, so now's time for an update.

Finally got the heat pump replaced ten days ago, and maaaan it's been great.  We had a few temperature dips down into the mid-40's, and the new 3 ton unit just puts the house at the desired temperature.  After years of living with an old, cheap, worn out 2 1/2 ton unit, it was like moving into the 21st century.  Which in a way it was, considering that the old unit dated to 1997.  The best part is having the compressor (the outside unit) relocated somewhere other than under my bedroom window.  Specifically, out in back of the bathroom, where it's not under the roof's drip-edge, and where the extra noise can be considered a feature-not-a-bug.

Now about costs.  Pretty big bucks.  But there's a 30% tax credit, capped at $1500) for high-efficiency heat pumps installed this year (details here), so I'll be getting about $1500 of the initial outlay back in about a year.  And, based on past performance, it looks like my electric bill will be about $100 lower during each of the six $hard months of the year (where $hard = sorta cold or really hot).  So even if the old pump had kept going (which it didn't), this new unit should completely pay for itself in about five years.

But really, the whole idea of heating with ice (well, pumping heat out of cold rain water and making ice as a by-product) worked pretty well, up until the fan motor died.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Way Back in The Day

As seen in a web board post from Charlie Kelly on the Dirt Rag site, here are two 7 1/2 minute video clips of the 1980 Crested Butte to Aspen Klunker Tour.  Soooo much cooler than any roadietude-on-dirt stuff could ever be.

So go ride your bike just to have fun.  Like those folks were doing in 1980.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Yet another great day in the woods!

The monthly tato-nut no-drop mountain bike ride happened today -- just like the third Saturday of every month at the Bethel Trails in Desoto National Forest.  Pictures can be found here.  Man, but the weather was nice.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

What's up with this?

Tuition, evidently.  That's what's up.

Credit to PhD Comics.  I mean, sure, the dorms are pretty nice these days, but really, where is all the money going?  And oh by the way, this is for in-state tuition.  You can double things for out-of-state.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Niven's Laws

Not 100% sure I completely agree with Niven's Laws, but they are food for though.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

happy pi day

In case you're needing anything past 3.14159, here are the first 10,000 digits.  And Slashdot has it usual pi day article here.

Friday, March 12, 2010

I love XKCD

... and I don't care if it's in still frame or video form.  
I just wish this 7-yo 933 MHz G3 could play that 360p video smoothly... 

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Google's now doing bike maps!

Get yer maps here.  And here's and article on the whole thing.  And another article at Bicycle Times on this new extension to Google Maps.  They're pretty psyched too.

I tried out a few of my old routes through Tallahassee, some of my favorite shortcuts through New Orleans, and a few routes along the MS Gulf coast, and it does a nice job of picking a first draft for good route.  From there, the software has a workable click-and-drag for tweaking the route, which is just over and above anything I'd have expected.

Probably the coolest thing to happen all week.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Book Review: The Road

Here’s the story in a nutshell: a father and son are wandering through a burned-out America some years after an unspecified global cataclysm.  The sun is eternally shrouded in clouds and ash, nothing is growing anymore, and they’re just trying to reach the Atlantic coast before heading south to hopefully find... something better, maybe warmer.

OK, OK, I get it, I get the story, its message, its style.  It’s a deliberately sparse canvas on which McCarthy has painted his masterpiece.  Here’s the message: Parents care for their children and keep them safe.  Children, through their innocence and trust, keep their parents true to their principles.  “Were the good guys.  We dont eat people.  Were carrying the fire.”  Parents sometimes have to fake it when they really don’t have a clue.  In the end, the most a dying parent can hope for is to have a child step into the world and make the right choices, to recognize and team up with “the good guys,” and to keep moving in some generally right direction.  There, that’s the message of The Road, and you didn’t have to suffer through 287 pages of bleak to read it.  Worth a short story?  Sure, if done well.  It is a good message after all, and it is cleverly woven into the story.  A full-length novel this dull?  No way.

Some other things bothering me about The Road: 
  • What’s with the lack of punctuation?  Did the apostrophe key on McCarthy’s keyboard rot off in his future wasteland?  Did Reavers steal his double-quote key and carry it away back to Joss Whedon’s computer?
  • They’re hauling all their stuff in a shopping cart.  Ever try to push a loaded one over anything but smooth grocery store floors?  You put a keg in one and try to get it across a brick dorm walkway while being pursued by campus cops sometime, and now tell me that you’d use one of these rattletraps to haul your beany-weenies while being pursued by cannibals.  Nuh-huh.  Hasn’t McCarthy (or an editor at Random House) ever heard about the Mormon handcart settlers?  BIG wheels, they roll over rough ground better.  While running from Indians, which is a lot more scary than running from the gimpy half-starved cannibals on The Road.
  • So just exactly how did the man realize the magic bunker full of goodies was under his feet?  I’ve read and re-read that passage, and it doesn’t work.  And, having camouflaged the hatch, why didn’t they stay there for a couple of weeks fattening up before continuing on?  “No, let’s leave these dry bunks in a secure hidden shelter full of food and cool stuff to go hang out in the rain in some woods next tree over from a bunch of hungry-ass cannibals.”  Um, yeah.
  • These two are on the run from some genuine violent nutballs.  So at every opportunity they seem to light a fire, saunter down the middle of the street, shoot off flares, and generally be conspicuous.  Just sort of blows the whole “suspension of disbelief” on which fiction depends.  Well, good fiction anyway.

Finally, look at the glowing newspaper review snippets plastered over the flypages: New York Times, Boston Globe, L.A. Times, Rocky Mountain News (R.I.P.).  Gushing love from dying legacy media, for a book about an all-but-dead world.  Like the ghosts in J.K. Rowling’s world, maybe the literary critics at these print zombies relish the flavor of rot, because it’s all they can still almost taste, it’s the only thing left to them. 

Bottom line: this is crap.  Put it down and walk away.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Good Day for Mountain Biking

As you can see.  A little waterfall has formed under the 2nd Couch Trail bridge, and for all the blood and spills that bridge has caused, it's a thing of beauty.

Here's a view of Tuxachanie Creek.  That's sand on the banks, not snow.

And a pic of the bike, overlooking the creek.  (The picture's doing the overlooking.  The bike can't see a damn thing.)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

It's been a Couple of Months Now.

One obituary and a friend's column.
Another obituary, this one from December.
And yet another obituary, this one from a year and a half ago.  And two associated columns, here and here.

There.  Now I don't have to go dig around on the Apalach Times' web site to find them when I want to re-read them.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Replacements retrospective

Pretty good reviews of when they were good, when they tried new stuff and flamed out, and their compilation album, sadly and aptly named "Don't You Know Who I Think I Was?"  Ultimately theThe Replacements were one of those things like the X-20 Dyna-Soar or the Antikythera mechanism: a good start that left everyone wanting more and wondering what might have been.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Movie Review: {Live Free or} Die Hard(er) [with a Vengeance], #4

#4, Live Free or Die Hard: 3 Stars.
It’s 2007 and teh drEeded internets hackerz will take down the U.S.’s infrastructure.  Oh noes!  Whatever shall we do?  Well duh, call in John McClane to nab one of these guys (perfectly played by Justin “I’m a Mac” Long) and keep him alive long enough to Solve The Puzzles and Get the Bad Guys.  And make wisecracks all the while.  Lots of fun, some plot holes, and actionActionACTION!  Muddled bad guy motivation and some unbelievable stunts (e.g.: the CGI of Bruce Willis wing-walking an F-35 looked more like a video game than a stunt) keep this flick from rating more than 3 stars.  For all the problems though, I was 100% entertained, so the 3 stars are well-earned.  See it.

Will there be a #5?  I doubt it, and kind of hope not.  But you never can tell, the series has held up so far.  Um, maybe “Die Hard on an NYC Cop Pension”?  Anyone?  No.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Movie Review: {Live Free or} Die Hard(er) [with a Vengeance], #3

#3, Die Hard with a Vengeance: 3.5 Stars.
It’s 1995, and McClane’s doing the cat-and-mouse puzzle bit again.  Well, this time though there’re puzzles, and then there’s a meta-puzzle, which was a new add-on to past efforts.  Simon Gruber, yes, brother of the dead bad guy from the first movie, has McClane scrambling around NYC fixing minor problems.  “Simon says... go tie your brain in knots.”  Samuel L. Jackson takes a good half-hour to warm up into his role as Zeus the racist shopkeeper, but after that he’s got the part really going.  Standard helping of action, and of course, wisecracks.  3.5 stars, for all of the standard Die Hard stuff, but also for the layered puzzle twist.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Movie Review: {Live Free or} Die Hard(er) [with a Vengeance], #2

#2, Die Harder: 2 Stars.
Two years later McClane is back, this time dealing with rogue former U.S. covert badasses who’ve taken over Dulles airport.  Action, puzzles for McClane to solve, and (of course!) wisecracks, all served with a large side order of cheese.  Indeed, cheese aplenty: a plot twist that depends on jet fuel being unbelievably flammable, the infamous “Glock 7” line, and using Blue Light counterterrorist guys as mooks?  C’mon.  Throw in numerous showcasing references to Our Glorious New 90’s Tech (fax machines, big clunky mobile phones, etc.), and a sappy “gotta save the estranged wife again” plot line, and in some ways it’s barely watchable.  About all that saves it is the cat-and-mouse fun, a generous sprinkling of wisecracks, and actionActionACTION!  (Fred Thompson’s moseying onto the set, laying out a plan, then moseying off again was pretty fun to watch too.)  See it, but only as a bridge to the next episode.