Monday, November 30, 2015

This is Your Brain on Grad School

From xkcd:

You know who you are.  You also know that you have been warned.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Stupid Medium Wave Tricks

So the other night, a ham buddy and I were talking on 2 meter VHF, chewing over some technical issues.  We were using minimum power, about 5 watts, because we live only about a quarter mile from each other.  In the course of things, I mentioned that I'd been playing around on the 160 meter band, he said that his main antenna might be able to tune that low, one thing led to another, and before it was over we were conversing on 153 meters at all of 2.4 wavelengths' distance.  For reference, that's about like using walkie-talkies at the dinner table to ask to pass the salt.  A single Watt on each end was more than enough power.

I guess it was primarily a ground wave path, although both antennas are horizontally polarized.  There is a railroad embankment between our two houses, so line-of-sight isn't generally possible.  OTOH, 160 meter band wavelengths don't really notice a small railroad embankment.

This exercise reminded me of a late Cold War era communication system, the Ground Wave Emergency Network (GWEN; here's the Wikipedia article).  The idea was that, following a nuclear war, the ionosphere might be looking a tad ragged around the edges and it would be great to have a backup system that instead relied on ground waves, hence the name.  Inevitably there were problems, but it is interesting from both a technical and historical footnote perspective.

Back to last Tuesday's exercise.  Yes, 2 meters is a much more suitable band for this sort of thing.  It is good for line-of-sight paths, and doesn't get in your neighbor's Wheaties two states over the way 160 meters can.  But there is a lot to be said for trying "stupid stuff that everybody knows won't work" from time to time.  You never know what you'll find.  In this case, a rock-solid comms link reminiscent of an old Cold War method.  Not really good for anything – if I need to borrow a pair of lead shorts,  I suppose that I could just as easily walk over and ask directly.  But it was technically interesting, and a good time was had by all.

Not In My Back Yard, but not in the usual NIMBY sense.  No, really, I don't have one of these in my back yard.  I only wish that I did.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Black Friday Commentary

Tuesday is the 1st.  It can wait.

Well Of Course

Of course the Crusaders fought off the Elder Things while the Saracens held back the horror of Cthulhu.  As seen in this series of genuine simulated Medieval paintings.
Some future historians – possibly not of this Earth – will be very, very confused by all this.
Hat tip to The Unwanted Blog for pointing out this imaginative series.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

Roast beef, red wine, chased by Irish whisky.  *burp*  Good nap.  Happy Thanksgiving – a wish for all, but also a statement of fact.

More tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Truth About Turkeys

And the truth about their pardons.  Interesting how these small traditions get started, and it's equally interesting how the origins of this one were beginning to get lost in the mists of time.  How many other warm-and-fuzzy traditions had similar, harmlessly goofy starts?

Come on people, this is just an agricultural product.  Once again, we shall indulge in roast beast in this household, sans the "one or two sliced white onions" of course.  It's better for all concerned.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Michio Kaku on Art Bell Tonight

Ought to be interesting.  You can get it on 5085 shortwave, or just stream it from the web site.  But really, try to get it on shortwave.  The late night weirdness just comes out better when it's bounced off the ionosphere.  Kaku is one of the more straight-up guests, but you can always count on the last-hour callers to bring the weird.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Meanwhile, down at Oak Street...

Today was the 9th Edition of the Oak Street Po-Boy Fest over in New Orleans.  Here's a street scene (not my snapshot):
It got even more crowded, and was pretty much a big happy mob by 2pm.  Luckily we arrived just after 12pm so the lines weren't too long.  I guess we ate at... five?  six? different places, usually splitting a small size so the we could keep on sampling.  Most memorable was a sort of Thai duck barbecue with cilantro and Siracha sauce.  After that... oysters and bacon.  And char-grilled oysters on the half-shell.  There were several others, but it blurs together.

Here are some articles from the Times-Picayune: a general write-up, and this year's winners.  And of course, many, many pictures.  See that blue sky in the picture above?  Perfect sweater weather, it could not have been any better for this sort of event.

Then it was off for coffee and more coffee to wash a way the sleepies before the drive home.

Another Fine ACME Product

OK, this is an intentionally destructive test to wring out the engine shard containment parts.  Still impressive, in that humorously catastrophic way.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Dirt Rag / Bicycle Times Surveys: Win Free Stuff!

Helmet give-away here.

DR Mega Sweeps, featuring a $3500 mountain bike.  Oh yeah.

BT Mega Sweeps, with a $700 folder 'round town bike.  Hmmm, I could make use of that too.

Obligatory bright images of The Goodies:

Click on any to embiggen.

I still want a Retro Encabulator, but they don't seem to be giving one of those away.

Eat Your Bacon Anyway


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

New Rockwell Retro Encabulator

Oh man, got to pitch for one of these in the next capital upgrade cycle.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Now Coffee's Good for You – Again

Following last summer's report that coffee's bad for you, we now have a new paper out stating that it's good for you.  Paper here, synopsis at NPR here.  Hell, go have some while you read the punch line from the abstract:

Conclusions — Higher consumption of total coffee, caffeinated coffee, and decaffeinated coffee was associated with lower risk of total mortality.
Works for me. 
Well, as I said back in July, MDs are so cute when they're trying to do research.  It's like watching a box of puppies scrambling all over each other to get at a scooby snack.

Thursday is World Toilet Day

As seen in this photoessay at Reuters.  No, I'm not reproducing the pictures here, you can click through yourself and see what it's all about.

Considering the state of the world at the moment, I'll say that this is a most appropriate day to mark.

Good News, Everybody!

The guy who had the heart attack on the trail Sunday is expected to make a full recovery!  (No, not me, nor anybody in Sunday's picture.  It was the cameraman.)

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Just Before Deer Season...

Season Listings here.  Looks like today was the last shot, er, chance to go mountain biking before deer season begins in earnest.  Yes, yes, there are all kinds of primitive weapons and youth seasons, but the numbers of people aren't out there for those.  "Gun and Dog" season is the start of the heavy stay-out-of-the-woods stuff.  But it's only for a couple of weeks.

Anyway, here's a group shot, er, photo from this morning's ride:
Yes, that's someone with a bright blue cyclocross bike, and just to the right of him is a guy on an Ellsworth downhill bike.  We cater to all types, but it's rare that you see a CX and a DH being ridden successfully together.

Also note the stylish, seasonal attire sported by three smart riders.  That fashionable orange hue can be your too, for a big $14 in the deer killin' section of Wal-Mart.  Starting, oh, about now, don't leave the trailhead without it.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Everything is NOT Broken

After last year's collarbone disaster, I am happy to report that on today's mountain bike ride exactly nothing got broken.  Here, enjoy some theme music.  Did all the trails, and Briar Patch and Bailout twice.

And here's an interesting view of things on one of the trails.  It's got almost nothing to do with today's ride, but it is on the same trails and fun to watch.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Heady Lamar's 101st

As celebrated by Google:
In case you missed it on today's search page.

Time-Lapse Assembly of the ISS

As animated over at APOD.  Busy folks.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Seafood Festival, 2015 Edition

Just back in town from a trip over to Apalachicola for the Florida Seafood Festival.  I'm sure some pictures will trickle in from friends and family over the next week or so, but I don't have any at the moment.  In the meantime, here's a bullet list of the highlights: 
  • 1am arrival, a six hour after-work drive.  That works a maximum of once per week.
  • A quick check-in with all the shops (here, here, and here; oh and here) in my building downtown.  Everything's cool.
  • Lunch at Dolores' Sweet Shop.  Greek salads all around!
  • Quick trip to consult with a friend on an RF transmission problem.
  • Nap.  (see first item)
  • Backyard get-together featuring cheap rye whisky, very good cigars, and flawless oysters from Allen Seafood.
  • Parade.  Sort of saw a lot of it, mostly caught up with old friends.
  • Lunch of gumbo at 13 Mile Seafood's retail shop.  Day-yum!
  • A quick turn through the main festival booths.  Didn't get much, just a truck window decal proclaiming "Mullet Life."
  • More visits with old friends.
  • Beers at the Oyster City Brewing Company.  Had their Red Snapper IPA for the first time, very good stuff.
  • Another backyard/beachfront get-together, this time featuring a bonfire and smoked mullet dip.  Oh yeah!
  • Minor furniture re-arranging, packing out, saying of good-byes.
  • The heaviest rain hit before I'd left the city limits.  It only got better from there on the drive home.  An easy six hours.
Good weekend.  More later.  I am sure that I left out something more than the pictures.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Just That Easy

...and with inverse-matching invasion stripes too:
Not actual car, but close enough for a blog pic.  Mine doesn't have leather seats.

Video of how to install.  Trivial, no tools needed, so simple even a Camaro owner could do it.  It's mostly an appearance thing, but it has a nice feel.  I'm looking forward all the more to the next opportunity to wind things out.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Six Inconvenient Loose Ends in Physics

Colorfully listed as "zombie physics" just in time for a Halloween article,  here is a list with brief explanations of six things in physics that one would hope would be explained by now but aren't.  Huh.  The one that bothers me most is the fluctuation of Big G.  Well, in mystery there is research, and these "zombies" are the life blood of physics.
Obligatory graphic pinched from the article.