Sunday, February 28, 2016

Gravel, Ground

As previously pointed out, the first annual (I hope) Camp Shelby Gravel Grind was today. I did the 50 mile option, and I must say that it was about all that I could handle, maybe a tad more.  Several miles of gravel were loose like roller bearings, the climbs were killer steep, and the friend I was riding with had three flats before calling it a day and flagging the sag wagon.  Wouldn't have it any other way!  Well, except for the three flats/sag wagon part.  Will be back next year.  I rolled in well after the cut-off time to cheers and a hot bowl of chili.  A good end to a hard day on the CX bike.

Here are a couple of pictures:
Tanks.  I wonder which is heavier?

Meanwhile, down at the starting line...

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Movie Review: Spectre

This movie is pretty good, but not as good as it aspires to be.  Taking turns at giving brutal action and the surreal setting, it is a feast for the eyes and the gut.  I only wish it gave more thought to the brain.

Starting with the requisite slam-bang opener action, Bond is on the trail of a shadowy group that he can only guess about.  A posthumous message from the previous M gives him the clue he needs to begin unraveling the mystery.  Ultimately he does trace the group to its core and do what needs to be done – that always happens in a Bond movie, otherwise there would be no sequels.  In that sense the story is predictable.  What gives it its strength is the style with which Bond does his detective work.  It doesn't always make sense, but it is fun to watch.

The cast is impeccable, with Christopher Waltz's part as the head villain especially standing out.  He always plays the intelligent, purely evil – evil to the point of seeming charmingly innocent – character so well, and he is perfect here.  Also he has an amazing Evil Mastermind Desert Lair.   Just as the Bond Girl has an amazing Alpine Glass and Steel Clinic.  Both were stunning, but.... well, sort of high-profile.

Back to the story... Once again, MI6 is under threat and only an off-grid James Bond can bring it back from certain extinction.  Wait, didn't that just happen in the last Bond move?  Can't pull out that plot element too often, maybe every fifth film or so.  Too soon here.  Also, the plot elements don't always evolve naturally into the next scene.  The move ended up feeling like a series of set pieces that made sense in and of themselves, but were not tightly coupled enough to be a satisfying story.

But that's OK because it was still a lot of big glossy action-packed fun to watch.  It is not what it could have been had the story line been better, but it was good enough to advance the series.  Three out of Four Stars.

Friday, February 26, 2016

The Global Web of Caffine

Wake up!  Here's the story over at NPR.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Just a Nice Picture from Space

Remember when pictures like this were just paintings by guys like Bonestell?  Well, this is 2016.
From NASA's APOD site.  permalink

Yes, those are Russian spacecraft in the foreground hanging off the International Space Station.  It's OK, the Cold War's been over for 25 years.  While world peace(tm) has not exactly been reached and maintained, at least we're getting along well enough to do things like the ISS.

Imagine someone seeing this picture and reading this post 35 years ago.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The (online) Museum of HP Calculators

You either get it or you don't.  Go ahead and ENTER

If you don't get it, here's a two page tutorial on RPN.  Look, learning to use RPN (a) dead easy, and (b) akin to moving up to a well-built unix system after a serving hard time using MS-DOS on 5 1/2" floppies.  You don't even need to buy an expensive HP calculator anymore, there are emulator apps for smart phones available.  No, really, it is that good, and now it's even that inexpensive.

Monday, February 22, 2016

More Music

Following up on last weekend's I Fought the Law post, here are two protopunk classics:

Gravel Grind Update

This just in from the event organizers.  Even though you may not get a tee shirt, it's still not too late to get with this thing.  Now, the only remaining question... to camp or not?  Weather's going to be good, but probably not.  With only an hour and a half drive up, the time that would be spent breaking camp in the morning makes it about a wash, and I know which is easier.


Good day gravel grinders! I wanted to email everyone with a little bit more information about the event. 
--As mentioned in the flyers and on the registration site, you will need a photo id, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance to get on base, and no weapons are allowed on base. Please remember this, Camp Shelby is an active military base and has rules about being allowed on base. You will enter through the SOUTH GATE off highway 49 and there are signs to get to the museum. Directions can be found at
--Hotels are available in Hattiesburg, some along the intersection of highway 49 and interstate 59, and others around the intersection of highway 98 and interstate 59. As far is which is closer, they are both about the same. Staying along highway 49 you can just head sound on 49 to the gate, staying along highway 98 you will want to go south on interstate 59 to the highway 98 east exit 59, then exit onto highway 49 south toward the MS gulf coast. 
--Camping, cottages and cabins are available at Paul B. Johnson state park which is very close to the Camp Shelby gates. Fees and rules are available at and information on booking is at  
--Registration/check in will start at 8:30am, day of registration is allowed, so if you know anyone who decides last minute to come ride, please bring them! The ride will start at 10:00am with the 50 mile riders in front and 25 behind. The 25 mile is a lolipop loop with an aid station that will be passed twice. The 50 mile is a loop with 2 aid stations along the way. Aid stations will have water, fruit and gels. There will be a course sweeper so if you have trouble someone will be coming along to help. 
--After the ride stick around for chili, chips and soft drinks. 
--Most important of all... have fun! This is a relaxing ride on some fantastic gravel roads.
Thank you all for registering and we will see you on Sunday!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

I can see doing this.

Italian coffee king Renato Bialetti buried in coffee pot, over at UPI.  There are many other  write-ups around the web if you really care to look, but this one photo from the funeral says it all.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Two versions of "I Fought the Law"

Was listening to some late-night shortwave last night when "I Fought the Law" came on, the Bobby Fuller Four version.  I don't know, it's pretty good in its own way, but the Clash cover is the one I know.  Guess that's more a function of when I grew up.  Anyway, here they both are, pick your poison:

Bobby Fuller Four                                       The Clash (live)

Friday, February 19, 2016

Movie Review: Deadpool

No wait, I'm not going to give a full review.  Here's what I thought of it: great fun, 3.25 stars out of 4.

Now, will you like it?  That depends a lot on you.  It's full of profanity-laced graphic cartoon violence, and that does not appeal to everyone.  Here are two reviewers who I regularly read and respect, one who loved the move (Reelviews), one who hated it (Flikfilospher).  Scroll down on the Reelviews review and there's the red-band trailer.  Watch that, it's an honest trailer, it's a fair sampling of the move.  If it appeals, then you'll like the move.  If it appalls, then you'd best not go.

Two more bonus reviews.  First from a friend who's a fan of the comic book source; he gives it a thumbs-up, said it's true to the source material.  Finally, there's the review over at Liberty mag, which sports the tagline Not for everyone – and that's OK.  Yeah, that's about right.  Watch the trailer, you'll know very quickly.

Anyway, I thought it was pretty damn good.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

New Willie Nelson Record, "Summertime"

On his latest album, Nelson dives deep into the Gershwin standards catalogue.  To a casual observer that would sound improbable, but he pulled off a similar feat 38 years ago on his perpetually-listenable album "Stardust."  Review and tracks over at NPR, so give it a test listen and see for yourself.  Pretty good stuff.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Mad Scientists Through the Ages

OK, we've had enough of this good science gravitational wave stuff.  Now for some bad science.  Here's a list of fifteen mad scientists spanning from ancient times through the 19th Century.

Now, I have seen plenty of enraged scientists and several slightly eccentric scientists, but those were more of personal affairs.  The quality of their research didn't suffer though the quantity occasionally might.  The classic weird old dude in a castle seems to be creature of the past, when proto-science was the best horse running.  One might mourn that the world is a less colorful place for the lack of true mad scientists, but honestly, the real stuff we're doing these days is far more interesting and arguably even more bizarre.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

More New Astronomy Coming: Webb Space Telescope

Slated to launch in 2018, Webb is the Hubble's replacement.  It is primarily an infrared telescope, which allows viewing of extremely red-shifted objects.  In other words, stuff really really far away.  Here's the Wikipedia article on this device.  Back to the Hubble comparisons, here are the relative sizes of the mirrors:
Between the Webb and LIGO, the 2020's are going to be boom times in astronomy.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Gravitational Wave & LIGO Follow-Up

Here's an informative article over at the Christian Science Monitor: Why This Gravitational Wave Finding is Such a Huge Deal.  Read the whole thing, but here are the punch lines:
  1. Einstein was right, gravitational waves really do exist.  We sort of knew this already, through indirect observation of the orbital decay of binary neutron stars.  But it is awfully nice to observe these directly.  Now the subject is 100% nailed down.
  2. For the first time, black holes have been directly observed.  You can't see them with light, but now we can directly "see" them by the gravitational waves they radiate.
  3. Now for the important part, so pay attention: Think of all the new and interesting science we can do through this way of seeing out into the universe.  That's the real story here.  This is the equivalent of the first telescope being pointed out at the planets and stars.  Something unexpected is sure to pop up, and in unexpectedness there is discovery, new knowledge, and maybe even a path to some wisdom.
Bonus link: the Wikipedia entry on LIGO.  You ought to go skim that article too.
Image shamelessly stolen from the linked article.

That is all for today.

Might be doing better than stocks these days...

Ten Best Car Investments over at Fox.

"But honey, it's an investment!"

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Gravitational Waves, So What?

The big So What explained over at  Whatever the announcement today brings, there's the background.

Meanwhile, over at NASA's APOD site:

ps: And they found them!  Well, at least to five sigmas.  (5!!!!!  That's 1 part in 1.7 million.)    Good to have that one in the bag.
Science.  Damn straight.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Two Quick Ham Resource Notes

Another interesting blog, Adventures in Amateur Radio.

Something I've been meaning to look into: how to properly adjust RF gain.  The blog seems mostly abandoned, but it has a few useful tidbits here and there.

That is all.  Back to your regularly scheduled web surfing.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Star Wars / Calvin & Hobbes Mash-Up

Ok, these links are entirely spoiler-riffic.  The teaser image below isn't, but you don't want to go any farther.   If you haven't seen the movie yet, stop right now, do not click through.  You have been warned.

OK, here are the links:    one    two


Monday, February 8, 2016

Gravitational Wave Announcement Thursday

Go read about it over at  Don't look at me to explain, I have no background in these things.  I do hope that it's a positive, unambiguous result though.

Fine Tuning Your Coffee

As seen in this article sent by the Darling Daughter.  All pretty basic stuff, and it all adds up.  Get it wrong and the results are unpleasant, but fortunately it's difficult to get it wrong.
"Laboratory grade"?  Nah, this is way better.  At my lab, lab grade coffee means two hour old Folgers brewed from a plastic can that's been open for a week.  Any port in a storm.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Times for Some Blues

Not "time to play some blues," it's "times the blues comes on shortwave."  Mostly as a note to self, here are the current showtimes for Last Radio Playing, pulled from the pdf listing at WWCR's web site.  All times are U.S. Central.  Schedules change, days get longer, frequencies get higher.  Unfortunately the Tuesday evening show is gone.
  • 1:00 am Saturday, 4.840 MHz
  • 1:00 am Saturday, 3.215  (yes, same time slot, different transmitter)
  • 2:00 pm Saturday, 12.160
  • 6:00 pm Friday, 5.890
  • 7:00 pm Friday, 4.840 (just on the first Friday each month)
Makes it easier to find "that ol' devil music" scattered amongst all the preaching.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Here's an Interesting Ham Blog

Right here: M0JCQ's Ham Blog.  Based in the UK, the usual topics revolve around hiking with lightweight ham radio set-ups.  More specifically, reports from Summits on the Air activations (lots of those), reduced power operations, PSK-31 hints, all those sort of things that make trail-weight radio operations worthwhile.

While you can go to the main link above, these three in particular got my attention: Top 10 Reasons to Take Ham Radio Portable, PSK-31 Tips for Beginners, and a Yaesu 817ND vs. Elecraft KX3 comparison review.  The guy does a nice job of showcasing the active, practical, outdoors side of ham radio.

Hm, I really do like those little FT-817 radios, but on the whole I'm glad to have an FT-857D with 20x the output power.  I can always turn it down, but it's nice to have the option to turn it up on RF-noisy days.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Upcoming Gravel Grind

At Camp Shelby, just south of Hattiesburg. | Web (well, Facebook) Site | More Info |
Looks interesting.  Probably make this one.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Monday, February 1, 2016

Gravity Waves – Explained!

And in an understandable manner too, and why we should care at all.  Over at PhD Comics.