Saturday, December 29, 2012

Friday, December 28, 2012

Wait, no, even better than a heroin Martini.

Another NPR show, this one on rye whiskey.  As much as I like a good gin and tonic or Martini (conventional, legal, non-laudunum-laced, thankyouverymutch), rye is more my style.

A Heroin Martini...?

Heroin Martinis, among other things, discussed in an interview with Richard Barnett, author of The Book of Gin over at NPR.

Even without going through the whole interview, the mini-article makes an interesting read.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Sickness in Sci-Fi

Over at Giant Freakin Robot.  It comes down to two over-used tropes:
(1) time travel.
(2) doomsday.
And don't forget the lazy, unimaginative writing.  Go read the rest for yourself, it's short.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Late, as usual.

Hey, I've still got 47 minutes.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

High West Double Rye Whiskey

Read more about it here.  Trust me, it really is that good.

Merry Christmas, Y'all.

And here's some year-end tab clearing:
The History of Rome podcast series.  About 150 hours' worth, worth every minute.  You'll need to dig around to get to the start.
Ugly Pirate's facebook page.
A clinical look at libertarians.
The other Zingarelli artist.  No known direct relation.
A horrifying potential preview for the coming year.
Americans are not stupid.  Well, at least not all of us.  Yet.
Finally, here's a little music to round things out: a collection of Field Hollers.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Skydiving Cats & Falling Cats

There was a ruckus last month over a Swedish insurance ad showing cats skydiving.  Evidently, as this CNN story points out, some people thought it was real.  *sigh*

Actually, it seems that real cats without parachutes would do just fine being tossed out of airplanes at random!  (Not that I am advocating doing this for a second, mind you.)  Read about it here (article in Natural History), here (BBC shortie), and of course at Wikipedia.  Why?  Cats, being relatively small fluffy things, have a fairly low terminal velocity, about half that of humans.  Throw in their natural shock absorber legs, and on the whole they do surprisingly well in falls from high places.  Strangely, they seem to do better when falling from heights over five stories.  The reason for this seeming contradiction is that they need the extra height – and hence time – to rotate themselves and get their legs under them.

Still, don't try this one at home kids.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

What's on the radio?

Type your zip into Radio Locator and find all the stations in your listening area.  If that's not enough and you're into high-gain antennas, you can about triple the number of stations found by clicking the "Include Fringe Stations" radio button at the bottom of the listing.  (In this case, "fringe" refers to reception area, not content.  Too bad the latter isn't an option as well.)

Bonus: with a little more clicky, you can get oddly shaped station coverage maps, like this one:

What to clicky?  Clicky on the little yellow boxed 'i' next to the station, then click on the coverage map link(s).  There may be two, one for day, one for night.

Remember, the listings and coverage area maps only account for line-of-sight for FM and groundwave for AM.  Oddball tropospheric ducting can give greatly extended FM ranges occasionally and unpredictably, while night time skywave can more reliably extend AM ranges.

Good hunting.  You may find something interesting.  And if not interesting, perhaps at least unusual.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Gravel Grinder

More here.
Maybe oneofthesedays.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Batmobile's up for sale.

Details here.  Yes, it's the honest-to-Adam-West original.

Ah well, my outlandish car quota's already filled for this year.  At least, somewhere down under all the custom sheet metal an bondo, the Batmobile's really a Ford.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Good News: More Low Power FM Stations

Article over at Engadget.  Looks like the FCC is re-opening the window to allow more of these little jewels, and man do our nearly homogeneous airwaves need them.  More info over at the Prometheus Radio Project web site.

These stations work pretty well, judging from our local WQRZ-LP. Lots of local artists make it on there, plenty of community news, and, of course, up close and personal hurricane news.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Return to DeSoto

Say it with the reverb cranked up: Return to DeSoto..o..o..o.  Yeah, well, between business and health it-shews and all, I haven't been riding on the home trails since... March?  Has it really been that long?  Yeah, guess so.  Anyway, I made it out there today and here are the pics.

Obligatory bike-leaning-against-tree picture.  Of course the bike had to lean against the tree, hell that tree could've fallen down if left to its own devices!

The Golden Road (or something like that).

Gnarly old roots in the bottom of a little branch of Tuxachanie Creek.  Frankly, it was a lot darker, deeper, and mysterious looking in person.  So pedal yourself out there and see it with your own eyes.

Along the power line cut.  Kind of stark, with the sharp edge of the woods, browned-off grass, big fall clouds, and the power lines themselves.

And that was about it.  No shocking sights, no bone-crunching falls, no unique bicycling moments.  Just a good day in the woods, after far too many days out of the woods.

Saturday, December 1, 2012


Why not?

Ah, the miracle of soft plastic and velcro.  Always wanted to be a Bike Viking.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The trouble with integrating cars and user electronics.

In a nutshell, a good car will last 10+ years but a smartphone / gps / high-end stereo interface starts getting long in the tooth after 2.  Article at ITworld accompanied by assorted smartassery at Slashdot.

The solution in my latest car?  Basic AM/FM/CD stereo with an aux port, a la "earbud jack input."  An aux port is compatible with everything from the latest iPod down to an old cassette Walkman (yes, I have one, even use it occasionally), and it's a damn good bet that the aux port will continue to be compatible with just about everything for the next ten years.

Still need to get a smartphone though.  Maybe early next year.

BTW, kudos to Ford for putting out a damn fine radio in their '12 cars.  Even with that cute little 18" rubber ducky antenna, it pulls in FM like a champ and AM almost as well as my home shortwave set.  I'm betting there's a DSP chip in there somewhere, at least on the AM end.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Happy 70th, Jimi.

Today would've been Jimi Hendrix's 70th birthday.  What might have been, what might have been.

Good photo article over at CNN, go take a peek.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Rochelle Harper Band at The Ugly Pirate

Everything it sounds like it should be: music, beer, company.  Out in the parking lot (it's a small place), with propane heaters keeping everyone warm.

Just three workin' it last night: Derrel (back row, 2nd from left) on keyboard, Boz (front left), and of course Rochelle.
The world needs more of this kind of show.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Two steps toward a more boring world.

In recent, related reports from the BBC:
Japan's Ninjas Heading for Extinction
Somali Pirate Attacks Show Sharp Fall

Don't sweat it though, there is plenty of other good mischief to be had out there.  Here's a good start, but beyond that you'll have to go make your own.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

New Floors

Been offline for a few days, moving stuff out to have a flooring crew in. It was a raging pain in the rear, but the results are worth it.

Old carpet, grubby wear paths, beaten down pad, moldy smell, and dust-dust-dust.

Clean, new look.  With a little dust over on the right side, but the pic is from yesterday when the flooring crew hadn't quite finished all the rooms.

As I said, a raging pain in the rear but completely worth all of the time and effort.  Will have to get the Roomba acquainted with its new responsibilities in the very near future.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Can't hardly wait (to go country).

Driving into New Orleans last week, I was listening to WSM.  Another song started playing, and a few bars in I was thinking "I know that song... and it's.. not... country.  Mandolin... that should be an electric guitar."

Turns out it was a cover of The Replacement's "Can't Hardly Wait."  A punk/proto-alt song turned inside out and into country?  Sure, and it even worked pretty well.  Sorta freaked me out when I realized what the song was though.

Wish I knew who did that cover.  I'd buy it in a second.

ps 11/22: through the magic of iTunes search bar, the singer turns out to be Justing Townes Earle.

Maybe I'm reading too much into this.

But this is how a lot of public education – hell, most formal education – seems to work.

Or maybe it's just a funny cartoon.  From over at The Argyle Sweater.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Busy week, ordinary activities.

Busted a shifter on the road bike last week.  Folks, if at all possible when buying a new bike, don't go with a 105 group, go with the next model up in Ultegra.  My last set of Ultegra components was still going strong at 30,000 miles when I sold that bike, while this 105 shifter broke just shy of 10,000 miles.  The replacement will be Ultegra, naturally, but the cost of that one part is about half of what the next bike up the line would've been.

Anyway, that necessitated a drive to Biloxi last Saturday, which always turns into a half-day trip.  Another time sink.

The real news is that I'm getting the house re-floored in the next week, meaning I'm packing out everything this week.  Ugh, and my back hurts too.  Will post before and after pictures sometime next week.

Been riding the CX bike a lot, and getting some trails cleaned up over lunch out at work.  Think I'll just ride today though.

OK, busy weekend of packing coming up.  Will post pics later.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Waist says "NO!," mouth says "YES!"

Po-Boy Fest.  In New Orleans.  Next Sunday.  Gonna try to make it, but biking may get in the way.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Kind of Roman that way.

Over the course of an eventful life, new bits keep getting stuck onto my name: B.S., Ph.D., "The Insufferable" (as a prefix; it's a team name), and various nicknames, many of which aren't fit for this blog.  The Romans did a similar thing – if you headed up the legion that subdued Hoboken, you got "Hobokenus" formally tacked on.  Probably one hell of an honor when you get down to it, but after a while it got kind of cumbersome.  Wikipedia has an extensive article on their naming conventions, and how they changed over the thousand-plus years of the Republic and Empire.

Well, I seem to have acquired one more in the last week: KF5SQF.  Yes, I took and passed the ham exams up through General last Saturday.  Don't have any gear yet, but I'm carefully examining options there.  In the meantime, there are plenty of other projects around the house to work on.

But forget all that.  The weather's beautiful today, I'm going for a bike ride.

ps: and it was a really great ride!  Thirty miles on the CX bike along the seawall, over the bridge, around Pass Christian, and back.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Early Bike Trials

As seen here, filmed by Edison and now courtesy of the Darling Daughter.  If you look closely, the head tube badges might read "ACME."
Don't try this at home kids.  But if you must, remember: a top hat is not an adequate substitute for a real helmet.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

FYI: Fiscal Cliff Summary

Over at CNN.  I have to keep reminding myself of all this thing's implications, and the details are all at the link.  Mercifully devoid of partisan he-said she-said, it is as the saying goes just the fact ma'am.  Even though it was published back in August, unfortunately these grim facts have not changed one bit.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Sittin' around, watching the news roll in.

Listening to Last Radio Playing (that shortwave blues show, now down at 5070 kHz with the longer nights), occasionally checking election results on the web.  Johnny Lane's "Rack'em Up" playing, seems to fit the times.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

50th Anniversary Mustang Previews/Scoops

Ford's keeping a tight wrap on things, but naturally some stuff is going to leak.  Here are a couple of articles: mostly informed speculation & CGI, while the second one has are some actual photos of a testbed vehicle, which seems to be chopped 2013 version with some engineering mods.

We'll know for sure in a year and a half.

Left of the Dial

The Replacements put out the song Left of the Dial nearly thirty years ago (studio & live versions, lyrics here with some rumors as to their meaning).  More than anything else, this semi-love song seems to be about calling a girl in another band on pay phones and never quite being able to connect in the same town at the same time.  It has a great tone of "I'd be all wistful about this, but I'm too damn busy.  Will try again later." If you remember them, pay phones always had the handset hanging left of the dial.  Picked up with the left, did the coins and dial with the right.

With a title like this though, you can imagine that the phrase has taken on various liberal connotations, mostly around political radio shows and college radio.  OK, that's an obvious connection, and a catchy descriptive phrase.

But if you know this blog, you know this post can't stop here.  Listening to the song back in the day, when my stereo tuner had a slide rule scale marked off AM/FM, I always wondered "what the hell would I hear if I could just keep tuning this AM dial to the left?"  I mean, we know what's left of the FM dial (i.e., at lower frequencies): AM radio.  (Yes, that's correct, Rush Limbaugh (on AM radio) is to the left of NPR (on FM).)  But what is out there to the left of the AM dial?

The one word answer is Longwave.  What's it used for?  In Europe and north Africa, there's some broadcasting in part of the band, but there's not a lot of useable space there.  Here's a list of stations.  They're supposedly receivable in the U.S., but it takes a serious antenna, hundreds of feet long.  In North America, it's used for aircraft navigation beacons, some time signals, submarine coms, and LowFER experimental/hobby radio.

As some of you know, I recently spent some serious time on the sofa healing from my latest misadventures.  Out of sheer boredom and in possession of a compact radio that can pick up longwave, I dug around to hear what I could find.  Some awful racket around 300 kHz, probably a data transmission.  Lots of clear air.  Then suddenly at 221 kHz  '.... ...    .... ...   .... ...    .... ...'  ???  Translate... "HS    HS    HS    HS" in Morse code.  Huh.  So... type "HS 221 khz radio" into the search bar, and out pops a nav beacon listing page, complete with lat long coords.  Haul those coords back up to the search bar, and out comes.....

About 20 miles away and yeah, looks like a radio beacon station to me.  Didn't even have to drive up to there to check it out.

So back to the question, just what is left of the dial?  Apart from beacon stations in places like the outskirts of Kiln MS, not a hell of a lot.

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.

Friday, September 28, 2012

'69 Mustang Brochure

Over at Retronaut.
Tambourine sold separately.  Zooey Deschanel's whacky aunt not included.

Wake me up on Wednesday the 7th.

Obama vs. Romney video game.
Just go watch.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What the heck was REM singing about?

A bunch of gibberish, mostly dummy lyrics evidently.  Still it was fun listening for a lot of years.  Here's a site at a long-defunct poetry webzine that takes a flying guess at what some of the phrases meant, arranged by studio album and song.  (Don't panic, some of the pages are just plain missing.  As I said, long-defunct.)  Mostly pretty obvious stuff (some of it annoyingly obvious) but a few of the more obscure sayings are explained.
It's fall.  I listen to REM a lot in the fall, can't really say why.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Today's "Big World Click & Drag" XKCD

If it was... a little much to click and drag through, here's a zoomable version.

Afternote: at that scale, the entire width of the drawing is comparable to the first leg of the Tuxachanie Trail, from Hwy 49 to Airey Lake.  If you've hiked that, it does put it into perspective.

More positive news on robotics.

An easy to program, practical robot for small industrial applications over at Technology Review.  Naturally, from one of the founders of iRobot.  As I've said (or at least implied) in several recent posts (Roomba, warp drive, and a few other posts lately), now we're getting somewhere.
Goofy eyes, but according to the article they actually have a function so go read the article.

Talk Like a Pirate Day

Just in case ye forgot.  Here be more info.
In case yer rusty, catch up here.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Ten Years of Roomba

Article over at Mashable.
Amazing devices, finally got one myself a couple of weeks ago.  Here's a video of a Roomba like mine over at the manufacturer's web site.  Yes, it really does work.  Yes, it is a genuine labor- and hassle-saving device.  Yes, it really can get into a lot of places, including under beds.  And more importantly, it can find its way back out.  And even if it can't quite reach, entropy will eventually take care of that hidden dirt, as we've discussed previously.  I hit the start button on the way out the door in the morning, and when I get home it's sitting back at its recharging station, waiting patiently with a full charge and a binload of dirt.  No, it doesn't have any trouble navigating my house, all on its own and automatically.  The only hitch so far is that it sometimes high-centers on my easy chair's tapered legs, maybe one time out of five.
Yes, it has dramatically upped the level of cleanliness in my house.  Almost a cliche by now, but as so many other new Roomba owners have said: What took me so long?
The new models just came out last month, so street price is still full MSRP.  But Bed Bath & Beyond will give you a 20% off coupon if you go over to their site and give them your spam-bucket email address.

Progress toward a real, functioning warp drive?

For once, the answer is actually yes.  Story over at Discovery News.
Mind you, this is exactly Step Two of about a 100,000 step process (Alcubierre having made Step One in 1994), all of which could wind up being along a scientific and engineering dead-end path.
But dammit, they're trying.  And they're getting somewhere.  White and his people at NASA Johnson are now working on a table-top, baby-step experiment.  And we may all live to see this amount to something.  How cool is that?
Best news I've seen in a while.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Hamburger or Hot Dog?

Hamburger or hot dog?  No, those are the only choices on the menu.  Well, there are those other things, but they’re weird and nobody ever picks them.  But really, normal people wonder how they got on the menu at all, and decent people would certainly never waste their meal on one of them.

The preceding paragraph sounds kind of narrow minded, doesn’t it?  As much as I may like the occasional hamburger or hot dog, I like a lot of other things too.  Well I don’t get political at all on this blog ever, but today I want to point out that there are other choices on this year’s presidential ballot.

What?!?  And waste my vote?”  Well sunshine, I hate be the one to tell you, but according to recent polls ( in 27 of the States the direction of their Electoral Collage votes are already locked down tight, and in another 14 states there isn’t much question as to where their Electoral votes are going either.  So relax.  For individuals in non-swing states (such as Mississippi or Massachusetts) it doesn't matter how we vote in the general election.  Our electoral votes are going for one of the Big Two, period, and you already know which one.*  Therefore most of us are free to vote for any other candidates with no electoral repercussions, and hopefully send some message to the major parties.  (That is, if you want to send some message.  I don’t know, maybe you don’t.  In that case, enjoy your hamburger or hot dog.)

So what are the other choices?  According to Wikipedia the major third parties are (in the order presented) are the Libertarian, Green, and Constitution Parties.  “Major third party” being defined as non-hotdog/hamburger and having an independent state organization in the majority of states.  Here’s the list of everybody else.

If that was TLDR, John Stossel gives five minute interviews with three third party candidates (again, in the order presented, I'm trying to stay neutral here): Constitution, Libertarian, and Socialist.  Don’t ask me where the Green candidate was, or how a non-major third party got on Stossel’s guest list.  I’m just throwing out what he presented.  If you want more, there’s always Wikipedia.

Anyway, think outside the box this year.  A lot of people aren’t happy with the Republican and Democratic candidates, but are afraid of letting the Really Bad Other Guy win.  And if you live in a swing state you might give some consideration to that voting-from-fear argument.  But the majority of us can turn the Electoral College to our advantage, and vote for who we really want while not having to worry about wasting our vote or tipping the election in a bad direction.

*Maine and Nebraska do allow their electors to split between the two major party candidates by Congressional district, but even there you probably know where your district stands.  Same working rules, just a finer granularity.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

It's like Kafka wrote a Lovecraft story.

The appeal of old computer games, explained over at SMBC.
Don't look now, but there's an @ blocking your doorway.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Here Be Dragons

Well, at least one.
R/C, breathes fire and everything.  Huh.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

End of Summer

Boundary of the first cold front of the fall passing through Bay St. Louis:
About two weeks ahead of usual, but none too soon.  The break from the heat and sticky is always welcome.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Isaac Returns

Ugh, won't this stuff ever stop raining down?  Got pounded with rain off and on last night through this morning, as some remnants from Hurricane Isaac rocketed back south to give us one more roughing-up.
Read about it at Jeff Masters' blog over at weather underground, and watch an animated loop of vorticity from University of Wisconsin showing how the storm progressed, split, and re-formed.  And now, re-named 90L, it's trying to spin up again over the warm Gulf waters.  Ugh.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Fourth Ward Cleaver, September Edition

Is up.  Or at least, getting onto its feet gradually.

The Cooldown?

This weekend?  From over at Intellicast:
Maybe.  We'll see.  Besides, it's a four day week so we're 20% of the way there for free already.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Three Days of Issac

Pretty much had to stay inside the whole time, but it was OK.  No damage, only a few limbs down in the yard.  Overall, pretty uneventful.

Monday, August 27, 2012


Drive it like a lunatic (which I strongly advocate), and it drinks gas like you'd expect.  Acceleration never comes for free.  It can't.  To first order acceleration is proportional to power, which is – again to first order – proportional to fuel burn rate.  But once this object is up to speed, it's just a matter of keeping up with friction, the mechanical and aerodynamic losses inherent in anything barreling down the road.  Minimizing those losses is where engineering comes in.  And some very good engineering goes into modern cars.
On this weekend's run over to Florida, it averaged 30.4mpg on I-10.  On an empty stretch of 55mph road where I was keeping things dialed back to a mere 65mph, this jumped to 34mph.  Playing around on backroads closer to home it's getting more like 15mpg, but that's just for having fun.
BTW, some guys from Ford were able to pull off 48.5mpg.  That was on a closed track and they weren't having to deal with RVs clogging traffic.
For all of that, it still has punch.  Just... not in overdrive.  Downshift and take the tach up above 3k, and it has way more snap than its early 70's counterpart.  (Believe me, I've wrung out both.  Though my brothers never saw that.)  Of course, then it's drinking gas like it's 28 cents a gallon all over again, as physics dictates that it must.  No free lunches.
The bottom line is that cars like this give options.  Cruise for cheap, or accelerate out of some idiot's way for the price of a tad more fuel.  (Cheaper than a new fender.)  Or just accelerate for the hell of it.  Which I strongly advocate.
I do love this 21st century engineering.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Hurricane Forecast Sites

Possibly unpleasant, but important:

Weather Underground

National Hurricane Center

(Widely spaced links for tablet touchscreen use.)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Roving rover roves.

Curiosity takes a spin on Mars, completes short test drive.  This is even better than the last post.
Just go read.  While listening to Rovers by MOAM?

Yeah, I get what he's talking about.

Imagine what that guy could do reviewing Timber Beast.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Oak Mountain rocks.

And you can see why/them here.  About seven minutes.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Word for this evening: Actinic

ac.tin.ic [adj]:
(of light or lighting) able to cause photochemical reactions, as in photography, through having significant short wavelength or ultraviolet component.
- relating to or caused by such light: actinic degradation
Example: "As I reached for the back door key to head out for an evening run, an actinic lightning flash from the direction of the beach made me reconsider."

Bummer.  And I was so stoked to run.

Let it always be known that I did my part in this.

Which professions drink the most coffee?  Scientists of course.
But you probably already knew that.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

I ride my bicycle, 1 = 1, and that is that.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend who I've ridden bikes with for 15+ years but who has been recently busy with family matters emailed and asked how the training was going.  It was a friendly question, he basically meant "how's the riding going?" in his usual style, but it made me ponder just why the hell I'm always riding, even through mid-August in the heat and bugs at the Gulf coast end of the MS-LA border.  I'm certainly not training for anything particular.  Which made me think of this story:
A Zen proverb about bicycling:

A Zen teacher saw five of his students returning from the market, riding their bicycles.  When they arrived at the monastery and dismounted their bicycles, the teacher asked the students, "Why are you riding your bicycles?"

The first student said, "It is the bicycle that is carrying the sack of potatoes.  I am glad that my back has escaped the pain of bearing the weight"

The teacher was glad and said, "You are a smart boy.  When you become old you will be saved of a hunch back unlike me."

The second student had a different answer.  “I love to have my eyes over the trees and the sprawling fields as I go riding," he said.  The teacher commented, "You have your eyes open and you see the world."

The third student came up with yet a different answer and said, "When I ride I am content to chant 'nam myoho renge kyo.'"

The teacher spoke these words of appreciation, "Your mind will roll with ease like a newly trued wheel."

The fourth student said, "Riding my bicycle I live in perfect harmony of things."  The pleased teacher said, "You are actually riding the golden path of non-harming or non-violence."

The fifth student said, "I ride my bicycle to ride my bicycle."

The teacher walked up to him and sat at his feet and said, "I am your disciple!"
I have no idea where it came from, it's been floating around for at least 15 years.  I first came across it in Zap Espinoza's column in the semi-late Mountain Bike magazine.  (Semi-late?  It's been folded in as part of Bicycling magazine.)  The above version was shamelessly cut and pasted from this site.
Anyway, that last student's answer as good a reason as any to ride, and probably the closest to why I do.  Why do you ride?