Thursday, October 30, 2014

Nerd Sniping

The term popped up on xkcd:
The answer btw is 4/pi - 1/2.  You can get it either analytically or numerically.

Then this popped up on SMBC today:
Sometimes work feels like this.

Next question: replace each of the resistors in the xkcd problem with a 1pF capacitor and a 1uH inductor, wired in series.  What will be the resulting impedance, as a function of input frequency?

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Friday, October 24, 2014



Tomorrow's payday, and I've already ripped through the two week's check paying bills this evening.  Meh, it's good to have the fiscal underbrush cleared out.

Then tomorrow I've got to find the local DMV to renew my driver's license.  Look online?  Hah, three different commercial sites point toward three different locations, one of which I know is closed.  Official state site information?  Double Hah: 404 Page Not Found.

I'll just start at the County tax office building (one of the on-line purported sites) and work it from there.


postscript: After a mis-step of trying the County tax office I was re-directed to The Kiln, where... the whole thing took maybe 15 minutes, even counting sorting out a decades-old snag in record keeping.  The genuinely friendly and efficient clerk worked through the problem, kept a smile on her face, and even wished me a happy birthday when all was done.  Wow, are those "worse than the DMV" jokes out of date.  Plus, I'm good to go for the next eight years on this DL.  It was a small thing, but it was a good way to start the day.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Shortwave News Broadcaster for the US

Goes on the air at 00:00 UTC 1 November – that's 7pm Halloween evening for us in the CDT zone.  Looks interesting!  Here's their web site, here's The SWLing Post's write-up about them.

I'm excited that there may soon be some content on the SW bands beyond good blues music, religious screamers, Cuban propaganda, and the like.  On the other hand... I hope it's not some thinly-veiled version of the just-mentioned fare.  The overall track record for commercial SW has been pretty dismal to date.  Let's see if somebody can make it work this time.

In the meantime, I'll say that this looks to be a serious effort, and will definitely be listening in on their inaugural broadcast.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Movie Review: Fury

Short form: War is hell.  This point is repeatedly shown not told.

A bit longer: This film is every bit as brutal and intense as Black Hawk Down, but because it centers on a single tank crew, it is far more personal.  WWII is drawing to a close – it's April already, meaning that there's less than a month to go – and in the words of the tank commander "It will end.  Soon.  But before it does, a lot more people gotta die."  There are no great philosophical points made by this movie.  It simply shows that war is hard, gut-wrenching, dirty work.  It shows things as they're finally coming to a head at the very end of the European war, when it's down to battle-scarred American veterans grinding through fanatical German SS who are hell-bent on a suicidal last stand.  There're also a fair number of views of civilians, some innocent, some not so much, caught in the cross-fire.  The total effect is one of fatalism, weariness, cold competence, and determination to finish the job.  There's no thought of victory parades for these men, no waving flags, no dreams of a post-war good life, no grateful nation.  The war is still on, nothing else matters, and there are no thoughts past surviving the current day.

There are two film-related notes that stand out here.  First, the acting is all top-knotch.  Even crazy little Shia LaBeof pulls off his character as a Bible-thumping gunner with aplomb.  If you want more casting details, go look them up over at Rotten Tomatoes.  Secondly, war movies always seem to have a guy thrown into the middle of things who doesn't belong there.  For examples, recall the reporter character in Das Boot, or the translator in Saving Private Ryan.  They come off as wimpy and in the way, but I think that film-school types put them in as someone they believe that the audience can relate to.  Mostly though, they just come off as Hollywood idiots plonked into situations that, in real life, would devour them within hours.  In this movie though, the fish-out-of-water learns to swim, and damn fast and well.  That was a welcome relief from the usual potboiler war movie character.

Hmm, let's add one more film-related note: the technical aspects and the special effects in this film are stunning.  The care that went into them is a clear cut above most war movies.  I won't belabor this last point, but the painstaking work put into the details is a powerful part of the movie, and has to be seen to be appreciated.  If you go, pay attention to these details, it will pay dividends.

Bottom line number review: 3.5 out of 4 stars.  This is a thoroughly riveting movie that drives home a simple message: War is hell.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

New (Old) Music Find

Look, I'm not pitching punk rock and hellbilly music to go over to the big band sound, but I know a good thing when I hear it.  There's a recently re-formatted radio station down in Sarasota that's pretty much all big band and swing all the time, and it's pretty good.  Introducing:
Here, listen to their liner song while you read on.
It's easy to receive this station up in Apalachicola, and eastward to Panacea, but it starts getting a little dicey by the time you get over to Gulf County.  Well hell, they've only got 300 Watts output.  I can just about transmit that much from my own back yard.  Still, thanks to the miracle of over-salt-water groundwave propagation, that tiny signal reaches Franklin and Wakulla Counties just fine:
Sarasota Calling!  In a tiny, tiny, 300 Watt voice.

If you're outside their walkie-talkie range, you can always stream them live through their basic but functional web site: 

I know, I know, AM radio sounds like crap.  But as with WSM's proto- and classic country music, big band sounds best on its original medium.  It's reminiscent of the Academy of Ancient Music's quest to play baroque and classical on period-correct instruments.  It comes out better, somehow, despite the limitations.

Anyway, when you get over to the eastern Panhandle, give WTMY 1280 AM a try.  It is a treat, and a welcome occasional break from this.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Want a cookie?

From over at last Sunday's Foxtrot.  Click to embiggen so that you can read some of the code snippets.  "The wise coder uses comments."  Or was that "commons"?  True either way.

I for one am glad that "foxtrot" appears twice in my ham call sign.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Just off the Road

...and I've got very little to show but a dirty castnet and a half-drained bottle of rye.  Here, have some Dropkick Murphies: Cadence to Arms while you read the rest of the post.

Did beat the bad weather home though, that is definitely a good thing.

About the trip to Apalach... Blues in the Lot went off well.  The Shop, The Apalach Sponge Company, Reel Memories, and Downtown Books were all there and holding forth.  Still unpacking, more later.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

So you missed yesterday's eclipse?

Yeah, me too.  Rough week, I wasn't about to drag ass out of bed early for a fairly common astronomical event.  Fortunately, the folks at NASA maintain a web site full of cool daily pictures:
You can get the captions from the original post here, and here's the general site link to get you daily fix of astro-awesomeness.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Wild Horses at the Trails Today

Engines not shown.

On a side note, this low-carb stuff is working.  Four hours and 32 miles on the trail today – the equivalent of a metric century road ride – on nothing more than water and stored body fat.  Plenty of energy, no fatigue, and most definitely no bonk.  It's like magic.  A month ago I never would have believed it to be possible.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Don't Be So Anti-

"What If?" fields the question

The answer, as you might guess, is pretty brutal.
No, don't wait.  Scamper your hyperlinked self over to "What If?" and find the answers.