Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Phantom Cosmonauts

And just in time for Halloween.

No, not like those.  Like these: write-up at Fox, and a somewhat more complete article at Wikipedia.  The real truth?  The world will never know...

But these next five outer space horrors are real, and that's a fact.  Take a look at 'em over at Discovery.  That spooky tophat... shudder.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Half-Time Intermission's Over

OK, that was fun but it's back to work today.  All's well BTW, procedure worked just as doc had hoped, totally on the rails for a full recovery.

Sunday, October 28, 2012


Enjoying a cup of coffee while savoring the afterglow of a brunch consisting mostly of andouille sausage and listening to something sung in French involving accordion and fiddle on KLEB "The Ragun' Cajun."  Life is as it should be.

Andouille: it's good because it's made out of pig.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Recording ANY SOURCE on a Mac

There are some web streaming-only audio shows I occasionally listen in on, and I wanted to record some of them.  (Three points if you can guess which archived show pushed me over on this.)  The old Wiretap program hasn't been updated in a while, but there're two newer – and less expensive – games in town: Audio Hijack and Piezo from Rogue Amoeba software.  Piezo is dirt-simple to use and costs only $15, and it puts out OK-quality mp3 recordings of whatever you happen to be streaming.  Up the scale, Hijack is merely very easy to use and can put out higher quality audio files in different formats.  It runs about $30.

You can download and do a free ten minute trial from the above links. After ten minutes they still work, but there's some noise inserted and you pretty much will want to either buy or stop using.  Ten minutes though is plenty of time to see if it'll work on your machine, has the features you want, try a few options, make a few test recordings, and to see if the cheaper Piezo is good enough for your needs.  After trying both I went with Hijack, wasn't that much more money for a lot more flexibility.

Nice stuff, recommended.

Friday, October 26, 2012

2005: the year that would not end.

From today's xkcd:

Insofar as I can tell, the last Katrina-related incident on my property happened this past August when the top of a damaged oak tree finally dropped in the back-left corner of the lot.  Seven years after the storm, after I'd moved away, sold, bought back, and moved back into this same rat-shack.  Fortunately I'd sold the kayak that I'd been storing in the spot the limb landed two weeks prior.
But I swear, there are times when I'm working in the attic when I can still hear the wind scream.  And there's this little whirlwind up near the end of the AC ducts that just won't stop.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

DIY Air Purifier

I've been having allergy problems.  A few visits to the ENT doc plus a battery of scratch tests narrowed down to a massive penicillium mold allergy.  Well, I can't get the carpet ripped out of my house for a few more weeks, but I needed something to knock down the irritant count now.  Looked at air purifiers, at the direction of the allergy specialist nurse, and talk about pricy – some up around $800.  But there's nothing exotic going on inside, no electrostatic precipitators or other tech, just a fan, a filter, and some control electronics.  So... off to the search engine of choice to look up "DIY air purifier" and here's the main result courtesy of Consumer Reports and University of Michigan.
Here's my version, front & back: 
About the only mods I made from the UofM design were to put the filter on the back of the fan, and to seal it down all around with duct tape.  It sucks down against the fan better that way, so instead of trying to blow the filter off it's being pulled into a stronger configuration and the tape job doesn't have to be as robust.  The filter is a 3M Filtrete 1900 Maximum Allergen model, about $20 at Lowe's.  Be sure to get the flow direction right when you tape it on.  There are arrows on the filter's edge and it's not hard to figure out.  The fan is an old $10 cheapie.  Luckily 20"x20" seems to be a common size for both box fans and filters, and everything meshed right up.

Cut to the chase: Yes, it works.  I haven't had a sniffle in over 48 hours now.  While I was at it, I got one for the central air system too and effectively turned the whole house into one big allergen filter.

But I still popped for a nice $130 ready-made HEPA purifier for the office.  Quieter, and with nice timer and speed controls.  It seems to work about the same otherwise.  Effective, cheap, quiet: pick any two.

Damnit, wish I'd known this two years ago.

WSM 650 this evening: That was a treat.

This evening Eddy Stubbs at WSM had Merle Haggard in studio picking the records.  In between songs, they’d have a mini-interview, or discuss some personal or historical aspect of the song just played or about to play, or just talk about something country music related.  There was quite a discussion about the manners expected in the rough-and-tumble of roadside bars back last mid-century.  (If you invent order from ACME a time machine and want to go honky tonkin’ back in the 1950’s, be sure and stop off at about 11:40 CDT on 10/24/2012 in the listening area to brush up on how to act.  If I remember correctly, the three main rules were to never touch another man’s woman, beliefs, or his hat.  And be sure to park the Delorean in a discrete spot, it'd probably stick out too much around all the Fords and Chevys.)  

They also discussed the hows and whys of country music sounding better after dark on AM radio, and I concur.  If you've never tried it, especially via long-range skywave propagation, you're missing out on a big chunk of America.  WSM, being an FCC-designated clear channel station, is the only transmitter in North America licensed to operate on 650 kHz, and it pumps out a healthy 50 kilowatts day and night.  If you're east of the Rockies, you can probably step outside on any clear night and pick it up on your car's radio.

Finally, in a parting comment as the show ended just before midnight, Stubbs mentioned that tomorrow (i.e., today) would be Minnie Pearl’s 100th birthday.  That’s quite a coincidence.

A unique view of WSM’s Blaw-Knox tower, from over at the Radio-TimeTraveler blog.

p.s. 10/26/12: link to WSM's archive of the evening.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Shortwave Blues

There are all kinds of local blues radio shows around here, just check the WQRZ-LP and WWOZ web pages.  But if you want long-distance up-north blues, the shortwave show Last Radio Playing (from a line in Bob Dylan's song Shooting Star) is the answer.  Because it's on shortwave, the frequencies and times are all over the place.  You'll have to go check the hosting station's schedule over at the swamp that calls itself WWCR.  Here's a direct link – search on "Last Radio" and even then it's not easy viewing.  Currently Last Radio Playing is on starting at 7pm Friday @4840 kHz, again at midnight Friday (well, Saturday morning) @3215 kHz, 11pm on Saturday @3215 kHz, 6pm Sunday @9350 kHz, again Sunday at 8pm @3215 kHz, and 6pm Tuesday @9350 kHz.  There, got all that?  Yeah, no wonder shortwave's not so popular with the kiddies.  And for added fun, the frequencies shift with the seasons, usually to lower frequencies for better propagation as the nights get longer, so you got to keep checking the schedule.

But.  It is worth it.

Look at last weekend's line-up (forgive the spelling, I'm not going to go look these up, bunch aren't on the web anyway): JB Hutto & The Hawks, Chris Duarte, Memphis Slim, Slim Harpo, T-Bone Walker, Commander Cody & his Lost Planet Airmen, a big long interview with Todd Edmunds the bass player (way better than the one Mr. Rogers did), Shawn Starsky, and wrapped up with Link Ray.  And I've left some out. Tonight was the Halloween run-up show, with everything from BB King to Echo and the Bunnymen then back to Screamin' Jay Hawkins doing I put a spell on you.  "Eclectic" isn't a strong enough word here.  (the term scattershot sorta works, and so did the show)  Bonus, you can pretty well get this anywhere on the globe you happen to be with the right receiver and a big enough wire hanging out of it.

But if you stray outside of this show and maybe the country music show that sometimes follows, hoo-boy, watch out.  WWCR is indeed a swamp, a very strange swamp.  Enjoy this island of blues in its midst.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Fourteen grand... for a hybrid?

It seems so.  Gucci & Bianchi teamed up to produce this absurdity.
P.T. Barnum was right.  And I am embarrassed for both the cycling community and humanity.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Yes, this is awkward.

Though I'd add "manned" somewhere in the caption.  The Mars rover program is going pretty damned well.

Remnants of the Cuban Missile Crisis

Seen over at the BBC, when one of their news crews goes traipsing through the backwoods of Cuba to track down an old missile launch site.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Kids, leave this one to the professionals.

As seen over at SMBC:
But if you must, suitable Klein bottles are available over at Acme Klein Bottles.  No kiddin'.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Insight for anyone currently looking for a job.

From the Evil HR Lady, along with two linked articles from PBS & CBS.
The story has a ring of truth to it.  When all 29,000 applicants for an engineering job are automagically filtered out, it's pretty evident that that particular HR software package is worse than useless.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

October Edition 4th Ward Cleaver's up.

Really feels like October these last few days too.

Dr. Coyote's Iron Law of Web Site Exit

Any web site that instantaneously begins blaring music or any other sound upon simply accessing the site rates an immediate 'close window' action.
Having said that, and having braved – earplugs at the ready – a certain site that shall remain unnamed, for those who wish to either participate in the festivities or circumvent the gaudy affair altogether (depending on your point of view), here is the mercifully-silent-page schedule of events for the 2012 Crusin' the Coast.

Got to say though, that was one sweet '67 Mustang I saw yesterday.

Monday, October 8, 2012

This is what the future looks like, Part 5

SpaceX lifts off with ISS cargo, over at the BBC.
I'm thinking that the transition to operational, private, commercial, sustainable spaceflight may well be harder than putting a man on the moon.  But we've done the latter and are well on the way to the former.
Here are the other parts in the series This is what the future looks like: Part 1. Dead-end past. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4.
Frankly, it's better than I'd hoped for.  A lot better.

Extra reading: A recent summary of private space efforts and the people driving them over at Reason.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Honest Trailers reviews Avatar

In a completely honest fashion.  Here.
And of historical note from this blog, here are my two previous skewerings of the movie:  Review.   Reflux.
With all the money Hollywood blows on sfx, you'd think producers would consider actually kicking a few bucks to a competent SF author to touch up the script and take the howlers out before the director starts spending money.
But noooo!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Bike Helmet Redux

Earlier this year I posted a piece on why you should always wear a bike helmet.  Well, some recent research (abstract only; the rest is paywalled) in effect says "hey, wait a minute, maybe helmets aren't all that."  Here's a bit more over at the Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation, and a NYTimes weekend article on the matter.
OK, all of that may well be true.  But I'm not concerned with a "net societal health" enhancement brought on by encouraging more people to ride who otherwise would not by not legally requiring helmets – I know how I ride, I know that I will ride, I know how some people drive, and I know that I have to keep my brain intact and running at peak performance just to make a living.  I also know that I've bounced my way through three helmets in the last fifteen years, as have several friends, and that a couple of friends who should've been wearing helmets have had their bells well and dangerously rung.  (They call one "Crazy Dave" these days for good reason.)
For all that but probably for different reasons, I too feel strongly that bicycle helmets should not be legally mandated.  But I will not ride without one.  Period.  If you need further elaboration, please visit last June's post and the Dirt Rag article linked from there.
Thus ends today's rant.