Thursday, January 29, 2015

Running Again.

First time in two and a half months that (in order) my bones didn't go *crunch*crunch* when breathing, it didn't feel like Iron Man had just given me a pat on the shoulder, it wasn't freezing-ass cold outside, I didn't have a cold, or it wasn't raining.

Two wheezing miles, down to the beach and back.  It wasn't biking, but it was still wonderful.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Doesn't sound like any kind of science I ever heard of.

Full article is over at NPR (link), but here's the gist of it:
Faced with difficulties in applying fundamental theories to the observed Universe, some researchers called for a change in how theoretical physics is done.  They began to argue – explicitly – that if a theory is sufficiently elegant and explanatory, it need not be tested experimentally.
To which I can only reply: You get back in there and come up with some concrete, falsifiable predictions that can be measured in this universe as we currently understand it.  Otherwise, it's not physics, it's not even a theory.  At best... interesting preliminary calculations.  Concentrate on connecting this body of work back to something observable.  Or keep plowing ahead, hoping that someday something observable will be show up.  (There is a certain heroic, possibly tragic aspect to this approach, so long as the quest for a concrete prediction is not forgotten.)  Or, shelve it next to other promising lines of research that didn't pan out.  It wouldn't be the first time that good scientists have had to do this.  But put aside this "we don't have to make observations" nonsense. 

For a longer, more nuanced discussion, here is the original article in Nature.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Reviewing the Hubble Telescope's Accomplishments

When dragged out over a quarter-century, starting off with a slightly defective main mirror, it's easy to become blasé about what the HST has accomplished.  But when you put it all together in one easily accessible article, huh, wow!  Link to article at  Definitely worth a few minutes of your day.

They just keep going, going off into the deep, deep distance...

In particular, the Deep Field images and their implications are almost beyond words.  "Hey, let's look off into nothingness, in particular the most nothing nothingness we can find.  Just to see what shows up.  If anything.  C'mon, it'll be cool."  Oh, there was something there alright.

More, and also accessible, information at Wikipedia.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Rescued Film Project rescues...

Thirty one rolls of film from a American soldier, evidently in England, during World War II.  Here's a link to the story at Messy Nessy, and a link to the Rescued Film Project's main page.  Definitely worth looking around.  This is one of the most amazing things I've seen on the web in... well, in a good while.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Today's Good News

X-ray showed that the collarbone's knitting properly.  Just really getting going on this, but it is showing definite signs of forming up into solid bone.  That is one huge relief.  As far as everyday getting around, the shoulder's doing fine.  However, the doctor does want me to give it another month before resuming full activities.  *whew*  Plenty of low-impact stuff to do in the meantime.

Paleo Boy

To keep the blubber and asthma at bay, sometime you've got to do what you've got to do.  From this:

To this:

Take-out from The Lunch Box, as fine a po-boy as can be had anywhere.  Not to be confused with the pale imitation in California.  (A salmon po-boy?  Really?  Bwahahaha.  I doubt they even serve it with any kind of hot sauce.)  It does hurt to throw that good bread away, but it doesn't hurt as much as not breathing.

On a marginally related note, for our poor malnourished readers who can't get real po-boys but are forced to make do with some unholy concoction known as a "submarine sandwich," The Argyle Sweater had this cartoon today:
Well, I guess it beats eating a salmon po-boy.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

More than you probably wanted to know about Sriracha sauce

None of the info's bad, it's just a lot of info about a favorite hot sauce, along with a nice little 3+ minute mini-documentary.  Link.  Kinda interesting.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Just Across the Street...

... from some people I knew in Tallahassee:
Yet Another Frank Lloyd Wright house.

Seems that there's a movement to spiff up and open the Lewis's house, as seen in an article over at dwell.  Small world.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Looking Bad for RadioShack

As a follow-on to last fall's blog post on the matter, it is looking like RadioShack is facing the end of the line.  Here's an article over at CNN.  Also, there's rumor that Sprint may be getting in a buy-out bid.  Finally, in their usual behind-the-times eight-years-too-late way, even the CEO of RS can't figure out why they're still in business.

On one hand, I'm going to miss the old RatShack.  On the other, (a) it'll be a good going out of business sale, and (b) maybe this'll be more of a reboot than a liquidation, and we'll actually have a decent descendant of the current dinosaur.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

J-Pole & SlimJIM Antenna Tab Clearing

First, the Wikipedia short write-ups:     J-pole     slim JIM
Don't want to read all that?  Here's the short version.  Both are variants of a half-wave antenna that has the crucial features of being fed from the bottom end and not needing any kind of ground plane.  This makes them physically convenient to mount, either from the lower end atop a mast, or from the upper end hanging from a support.  Relevant propagation features of the two are their respective take-off angles, somewhere in the range of 20 and 8 degrees.  The former is nearly ideal for skywave insertion, while the latter is well-suited for local line-of-sight paths.  The basic design is popular and of practical size starting in the neighborhood of 10 meters at ~24', up into the VHF range, with a 2 meter antenna totaling ~5'.  At lower frequencies than 10 meters, their size becomes increasingly impractical.  Unless of course, you just want to hang it out the back end of a Zeppelin, the use for which it was originally invented.

Back to the tab clearing.  Here are some designs for the 2m band that I've recently constructed and/or used:
- A good basic easy one, built out of 450 Ohm window line.  This is ideal as a roll-up go-bag antenna, for outdoor activities or for running from hurricanes.  It can take at least 65 Watts input, maybe more.
- A similar design, but built out of 300 Ohm TV twin-lead.  Much harder to construct due to the smaller width and relative fragility of the twin-lead.  The design page states that it's good for up to 10 Watts.
- The Jurassic Duck, a bike antenna made out of 300 Ohm twin lead and a length of CPVC pipe.  Mine's built, and waiting until I can ride a bike again to test.  Construction note: leave the radiator end (i.e., the top) about 8" longer than specified at the design page and trim down to adjust SWR.  I cut mine to the length in the plans and had to solder on extra sections of wire, a slightly more difficult proposition.  No matter, it works in the end and all of the messiness is conveniently hidden in the CPVC pipe.
- Here's a guy who'll build you a very nice roll-up slim JIM out of 450 Ohm line at a reasonable price.
- And here's the guy's answer to putting one of his antennas on a bike, ATV, pack, etc.
- Finally, here's a guy who makes damn nice copper pipe J-poles, slim JIMs, etc. in a variety of configurations for a variety of bands.  Mine's still holding up like new, and easily reaches the 25 miles to the Biloxi repeater.

300 or 450 Ohm line?  In general, 450's bigger, thicker, tougher, easier to handle, easier to solder, and will carry at least 6.5x the power.  Unless you really have an overriding reason to choose 300 – and the Jurassic Duck antenna is the only good reason that I can see – go with the 450.  At $0.40 a foot for the 450 stuff, even free 300 isn't worth the hassle.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Buy This House

Not mine, the Big Sis's.  Here's the photo tour. 

The Big Cave

*snerk*  Today's comic from over at The Argyle Sweater.

If you're reading this some years from now (or perhaps just need a reminder tap from a clue-by-four), it pertains to The Interview.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Punk Musicians to the Art Rescue

Seems that they found some seriously expensive painting that had been recently stolen sitting out on a sidewalk in New Orleans, decided to get them to their rightful owner via the police.  Full story at the BBC.

Sometimes the good guys win and things work out.  Can't really say that it's my taste in art, but I'm not in any way one to critique this stuff.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Only Funny Because the Truth Stings

From over at Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal <permalink>:

Really, would this be any worse than what we have going now? 


Here it comes, shaped like a big hockey stick sweeping down out of Canada to drive a puck of ice into the Gulf Coast:

Take cover!  The Iceman cometh, and this time he's wearing a hockey mask.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

On Programming

From The Master himself:
Premature optimization is the root of all evil. – D.E. Knuth
Oh man, is that ever true.  I've been making intermittent efforts for about three months to modify/re-purpose a program I wrote about eight years ago.  Essentially it's just an averaging and re-binning code, nothing outlandish, but it's thoroughly bedded down with several other models for its I/O, and it has all been heavily optimized.  I mean, the original is as tight of code as I've ever written, and now eight years later... some of the subtleties escape me.  Only a small mod was now needed, just a slightly different averaging algorithm, and several of the other types of averaging had to be omitted.  But things had finally gotten to the point where I was about to pitch it all and start over on a fresh copy yesterday when I found the loose end of the yarnball and started gently pulling, and by early afternoon today I had a working program.

So for the next couple of days I'll bask in the glow of Having Made It Work Yet Again, before it's back to the gray salt mines of sorting out the next problem.  Pfft.  It's why they pay me the big bucks.

Monday, January 5, 2015

About to Cool Off

Hmm, looks like a low in the mid-20's Thursday night:

Yes, winter's definitely here.  Look at that little lobe of cooler green snicking down onto the coast right here for Mississippi.  We're forecast to be the coldest place on the entire Gulf.  You people from north of I-10 please take your damn weather back up where it belongs.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Full Wolf Moon Tonight

Sounds pretty ominous, but it's just the first full moon in January.  Read about it here over at The Old Farmer's Almanac's web site.  (Does that also sound weird, or what?)  Really, it's just a name.

On a side note, man, I am really craving a good rare steak for some reason today.  Maybe for supper, once the moon gets up I'll go find something.

Book Discussion: Marie Laveau, Voudou Priestess

First things first: the full title is "A New Orleans Voudou Priestess: The Legend and Reality of Marie Laveau."  But that wouldn't all fit in the blog title line, so here we go.

The author, Carolyn Morrow Long, does a fine job of digging through historical records and separating the hype from the facts.  In the end, she finds that there isn't much there.  Most of the lurid mythology swirling around Laveau originated in late 19th Century yellow journalism and early 20th Century sensationalism.  If anything, Laveau seems to have only done a little charm-making as a side business, and perhaps held some fairly high-test out-of-church prayer meetings.  But in the conclusion of the book, Long tells the real truth, not so much about Laveau but about her chroniclers:
What we can piece together from the published sources and oral histories is a silhouette of Marie Laveau, her mere outline, lacking all the detail and color of a real portrait.  Tantalizingly incomplete, she is perhaps even more magnetic than she would be if fully known.  Her enigma tempts us to shape her to our will, and her image has evolved over time in response to the shifting prejudices, fantasies, and desires of those who look for her.  As a mirror, Marie tells us more about the era from which she is observed than she does about herself.  She remains untouched and unknown, secure in her enduring aura of mystery.  [emphasis added]
Wow.  What a great book, and what a great job Long did in tracking down all of the major legends, tracking down the actual facts, laying it all out, then (finally!) summarizing only what is known – in a very spare five pages.  I added the bold emphasis in the quoted paragraph, because it is this tendency to distort Laveau by one's own biases that has given rise to her legend.  Honestly, this book is more of a historical slice of New Orleans than a work on either Laveau or Voudou.  Don't let that stop you, it's a great mystery read. (Thanks, V.)

Finally, a post like this wouldn't be any good without the obligatory links to:
the book itself at Amazon
the Wikipedia page on Laveau
and to the page on New Orlean Voudou, which seems to be pretty weak coffee in comparison to the Haitian variety.

2015 Re-Start

Hmmm, this will never do:

Much better:

Now, two more weeks until the ortho-doc takes a similar look at input-end of the steering equation.  Hopefully no torque wrenches will be required there.

That was one hell of a crash.