Monday, August 31, 2009
A friend of mine got roped into a scam, and Amazon.com was an accomplice. DazzleWhite & CleanWhites offer these low cost "no-risk" free trials of their product. However, the fine print tells says you are going to be charged something like $250 if you do not cancel, and cancelling requires jumping through numerous hoops. Cancelling the order cost an her an hour and $15, with no assurance that she is shut of these guys.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Clarity in code and communication is of primary importance. I enjoy working with code. I like to think I can communicate with most people.
Once upon a time I had a friend in Houston who had a Weimaraner (dog). Nice dog, but he could be very tough/dense/stubborn. My friend literally had to hit him with a 2 by 4 to get his attention. (Anyway, that's what he told me. I don't recall ever seeing him hit the dog.) Anything less was just something to be ignored. There are people like that, and generally speaking you aren't allowed to hit them with 2 by 4's. These people can be very difficult to communicate with. Fortunately, they are few and far between.
Ordinary people are a joy to work with by comparison.
Designing and writing software requires a couple of special skills. One is to be able to construct a model of the program in your mind. The second is to be able to translate various components of this imaginary model into code that will perform required function. These two skills go hand in hand. One needs to understand how computers work (at least at some level) in order to figure out how to make them do what you want.
That is enough if you are working by yourself, but if you are part of a group effort, you need to be able to communicate with your fellows, and communicate effectively. Simply telling people in some cases is sufficient. Others need to have it repeated several times. Other people do better with written information, and some people do better with pictures.
On Line Applications
Some companies want you to apply on-line. Some of these applications are pretty straight forward, but some of them are getting to be onerous. Some places will parse your resume and figure out everything they need to know from that. Some places use tagged fields, so you can useGoogle's Autofill feature to fill them in.
But some of them ask you to fill in your employment history, your educational background, and your references. All my history is in my resume, that's why I wrote it. You want me to enter all my data in your data base for you? I don't think so. I'm sorry, that's a bit much, especially since I probably won't make the first cut anyway. (Pergiel? What kind of name is that? Next! (Okay, I'm being facetious here.))
And references? I will be happy to give you some references, but only after we have talked and you are considering hiring me. Then I will give you references. Not before.
Then there are passwords. Everybody wants you to pick a password for their site. I have one password I use for all these. I picked it out over a year ago and it has worked very well. Until today. OHSU won't allow passwords with double letters. What is the matter with these people? We really need someone to set some kind of standards for this kind of thing. Something that will log you into the net and automatically identify yourself to all these stupid sites that think they are something special. It's getting to be ridiculous.
We went through MSP (Minneapolis-St. Paul airport) when we flew to Iowa after Christmas, and I went through there again when I few to Columbus, Ohio, about a month ago. Both times I was struck by the apparent segregation of the races: all of the passengers were white, and all of the service personnel were black. There were a few exceptions, but they were rare.
Coffee Shop Encounter
I went into a coffee shop to buy a something to eat, like a scone or a bagel. It was crowded and I was standing a bit back from the counter. A young woman behind the counter smiled at me, made eye contact and gestured for me to come forward. I was surprised and pleased by this intimate gesture. I told her what I wanted, and she asked if I wanted anything else, like a cup of coffee or something. I said, no, just the roll would be fine. At that point the smile vanished and I became just one more customer. What puzzles me is why she put any effort into the sale at all. It was just a little weird, the way she appeared friendly, and suddenly retreated back into her drone persona. Does it make any difference to this story if she was black or white?
I rented a car at the Columbus airport. After taking care of business at the counter inside, I walked out to the garage to pick up my car. There was a young woman out there monitoring the situation. I talked to her briefly. I think she was Russian. She had an accent that sounded Russian to me. I wonder if I could tell a Russian accent from one from any of the other Eastern block countries. Or maybe it's because we get more immigrants from Russia than from any of those other places.
When I returned the car a young man met me to check in the car. He had a similar accent to the young woman I had spoken to earlier. Also from Russia? Tough gig, hanging out in a parking garage which is either boiling or freezing 6 months of the year. Nothing to do for long periods of time except wait for the next customer and all of sudden you have to make nice. And probably not making much more than minimum wage.
"Of course you might understand," said Sue, "but unless you've actually lived there- It's just that they have something like a mafia there, only it runs the whole country. If you belong to it you're absolutely safe, because it protects its own-"From The Return of Lieutenant Boruvka by Josef Skvorecky. "There" is Czechoslovakia, back in the bad old days.
"I meant it's a kind of mafia," said Sue. "That's what everyone calls it, although the official name for it is the Communist Party. Like the mafia, it's a law unto itself."
"Are the police on the take, the way they are in the States?"
"No, not exactly. The police are just extremely well paid, better than most people, and have all kinds of bonuses and privileges. They obey orders. Occasionally one faction of the mafia- I mean the Party- uses the police to get rid of another which is losing ground. Once they even hanged twelve of them, all at once-"
I picked this one up because it looked like a light murder mystery, it's only 159 pages long, but the plot keeps going in circles and I have become completely confused. I will probably have to read it again just so I can get it straight in my head.
Someday I will learn enough html to indent paragraphs. Right now it appears you have to get into the header for the whole page, which I am not willing fool with.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Friday, August 28, 2009
Kind of cool, but full of "current scientific thinking". I read somewhere that some scientists had postulated that the universe could not be infinite because if it was, then the night sky would be white from the infinite number of stars. I am not sure I buy that argument. Each star only gives off so much light, and the farther you get from that star the fainter that light becomes until you are only getting an occasional photon from that particular star. So we are down to an infinite number of stars divided by a fixed amount of light times an infinite distance. Whose infinity is bigger?
And then there is the business of the speed of light. Popular science flacks like to trot out that old saw about how "nothing can go faster than the speed of light", but that is a crock. There is no absolute velocity. There is no fixed point in the universe against which to measure your speed, so there is no way to tell what your absolute velocity is. It's all relative. All we can measure is our velocity relative to other objects, and our velocity compared to some distant astronomical objects appears to be much higher than the speed of light. The velocity of light relative to any fixed object is always the same: 186,000 miles per second. It does not matter how fast two objects are travelling relative to one another. If one directs a beam of light to the other and both measure the speed of light, it will be the same. This is what Michelson & Morley figured out a hundred years ago. On the other hand, you may have a hard time convincing the two parties that it is indeed the same beam of light because the frequency (or color) of the light will appear to be different to these two guys. That is how radar speed guns (used by the police) work: they mix the reflected radar signal with their outgoing signal and if the reflecting object is moving (like a car speeding down the road), these two signal will interfere with each other and produce a third wave at a much lower frequency that can easily be measured. This is where they get the speed measurement.
I don't like the Big Bang theory, it smells too much like creationism. "And the lord said let there be light, and there was light". Besides it's just a theory about what happened umpteen billion years ago, and like who was around back then who could verify our hypothesis one way or the other? Likewise, dark matter sounds a bit feeble, though there could be a large number of black holes lurking out there, throwing confusion into the calculations.
And then there is the red shift of light from distant stars and galaxies. "Scientists" tell us that is because the universe is expanding and everything is flying apart. What if that is not the case? What if the light is just getting old and slow? I mean it has travelled a long way, for a really long time. And light is basically a disturbance of the all pervasive electromagnetic field. Maybe when you get a few, or a few million, light years away from a star, the field gets weaker/stronger, or otherwise changes, and it changes the light that comes through it.
I find all this speculation about the origin, size and age of the universe just so much blather. It's really big and we haven't discovered the end of it. Whenever we look harder or deeper, we find more. That's nice. Let's send somebody out there to take a look, see if there really is anything out there or not. Maybe the universe is just a giant hollow ball filled with glowing lights, kind of like the Truman Show.
I saw this picture on a brochure that was lying on the kitchen counter today. I saw the woman's expression and I said whoa! What is she so pissed about? I'm not quite sure what's going on. Most women in ads appear to be cheerful and/or relaxed. Not so this gal. Expressions on the faces of models at fashion shows are also pretty off-putting, if not downright hostile. What's going on here?
The other is three bars of metal linked together with no springs. When I picked it up the first time I thought it was broken. It was not readily apparent how it works.
Even when I put it in the clamping configuration it didn't make sense. What is holding the pieces in place?
Turns out it is the rubber tip on the end of the screw pushing sideways on the curved piece that goes against the back of the neck. Very clever, Mr. Shubb.
- all the variables are single letters,
- all extra spaces and newlines have been removed,
- all unnecessary parentheses have been removed.
Using a couple of different text editors I expanded it enough that I could start to see some kind of structure to it, but due to the complex expressions and the lack of parentheses it is still incomprehensible. To do any more with it I would have to look up the rules of precedence and then go in and insert the appropriate parentheses.
They made a big deal about rules of precedence when I was studying Computer Science back at the University, but it is one of those arcane subjects that can really screw you up if you happen to make even a single error in the order of evaluation. Computer programs can be complicated enough even in their clearest and simplest expression. Adding assumptions about rules of precedence just makes things that much more complex. I mean it's easy enough to avoid these kind of problems: just use parentheses.
Anyway, I spent a couple of hours fooling around with this program (you can see the results here), and I can see that putting in parentheses to clarify the ridiculously long expressions is going to take several more hours. And then there is the testing that would need to be done to verify that whatever changes I made to the program did not actually change it's behavior. So it's going on the back burner. Maybe I'll look into it again someday, but probably not.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Your registration form is like an obstacle course. It didn't like the period in my user name, but there was no information telling me that, I had to deduce it from experimentation. Every time it rejected me, I had to re-entry almost all of the information, including the bot-detection phrase. I suspect that I am still not registered because I have not yet received my confirmation e-mail. All this hassle just to tell you I really dislike the opening sentence in "Man-Of-Steel Mentality Helps Guys Heal Faster"
(He doesn't ask for directions after repeatedly taking wrong turns, ...).This is a common complaint of women, but that's what they like to do about problems: they like to talk about them, even if it doesn't get them a solution. I used to stop and ask for directions but I gave it up after running into too many people who had no idea where they were, much less where anything else is. I am tired of hearing people complaining about how men don't like to ask for directions. I don't ask for directions because it doesn't work and it takes time. You want to waste your time asking for directions, go for it, but don't continue to promote this fallacy that asking for directions is the logical thing to do, cause it ain't.
That's what I get for following a link from Dustbury.
The annual incidence of traumatic brain injuries in the United States is greater than that of all cancers, Good writes in his study, and men account for three-quarters of such injuries. The number will increase if the Iraq war continues, he said.
Good and his colleagues examined a group of middle-aged rural white men who had experienced traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries. The scientists state that traumatic brain injury is the most common injury experienced by U.S. troops serving in Iraq.
Then today the answer just popped into my head: financing. None of those cars sitting on those dealers lots have been paid for, they have all been shipped to the dealers on credit. A thousand cars at ten grand a piece is ten million dollars. Interest on that is roughly a million dollars a year. If you have 500 dealers sitting on a dozen cars each that can mount up to serious money. Admittedly, it's not billions of dollars, but when times are tight, you've got to watch every million.
I heard at lunch today that one of our local GM dealers, Carr Chevrolet, actually uses their own money to pay for the cars they get from GM. They are a fairly large dealership I imagine they sell a fair number of cars, and since they are paying cash they probably get a pretty good deal from GM.
Disclaimer: All the information in this post is based on rumor and innuendo and should be taken with a large grain of salt, along with a large margarita.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Of course, I wouldn't actually want something like that for my house. My house is already overflowing with fancy gadgets, so many that even with a mean-time-between-failure of ten years, it seems like something breaks every blamed day.
But for some kind of commercial establishment, where you would have to pay someone to go around and open or close all the windows, it might be a worthwhile kind of thing.
But lets go one step father. Lets include shades and storm shutters with window, all powered, all remote control. Install the window and you are done, no drapes or shades required. No nailing up plywood when the hurricane comes to visit. No closing the storm shutters when you close up the house to leave for vacation.
Of course, shutters and blinds don't give you the same ambiance that drapes and curtains do, but they are a lot less hassle to install and maintain.
Monday, August 24, 2009
"Some people are born to standards, some people achieve standards, and some people have standards thrust upon them.",paraphrasing a quotation about greatness from Shakespeare's play "Twelfth Night".
Saturday, August 22, 2009
"Say hello To My Little Friend"Al Pacino as Tony Montana in "Scarface". This just popped into my head and has been rattling around for the better part of day. Of course you have to say it with a fake accent, so "little" comes out as "leetle". I think I heard someone else say it while I was flipping channels on the TV.
This movie came out in 19-freaking-83. I probably took my wife-to-be to see it before we were married. Geez, time flies when you're having fun.
Friday, August 21, 2009
At 47 I am still getting myself into stupid situations.Tina hatched a plan to take her family to Las Vegas for a weekend. I said, "sure."
She said, with so many people it would be cheaper to drive. I said, "makes sense."
Thus, bit by bit, and being fully cognizant every step of the way, I committed myself to a 12 hour drive across the Mojave desert, in August, to spend the weekend with a bunch of quibblers.
Sort of a "camel's nose under the tent" scenario, similar to the one which resulted in me getting married.
Moreover, my roulette system, heretofore solid gold, proved to have flaws. I attribute this to a six-sigma event, similar to the one that took down Long Term Capital Management.
But I'm happy to report that the Japanese minivan performed flawlessly, charging through the 110 degree desert and over mountains with six passengers, AC on full blast, without complaint, and still managing 23 mpg. Incredible.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
The reunion and the visit with Andy went well, and then I drove to Michigan to see Mike. I arrived on a Saturday evening. Sunday afternoon we went for bike ride into downtown. On the way back I stop to rest for a minute and Mike starts giving me a bad time, he runs through his rant, and then he rides off. Not only am I tired, now I am depressed. I resolve to pack and leave as soon as I get back to the house. I am tired when I finally get back and think I will just take a short nap before I go. Mike brings me a sandwich and apologizes, and I think, okay, I can stay on.
The next morning though he is on me again, not for what I am doing, but simply for what I am thinking. That tears it. I refrain from making any response because A) it would have been a rude remark, and B) it would have just fueled the fire. I throw my clothes in my bag and leave.
The interesting part in all this is that it only took a minute or two of Mike's tirade (five minutes if you count both incidents) before I was ready to vacate the premises. Funny how a few little remarks can have such a strong effect. That fact that we have history may have laid the ground work for this incident, but I don't think so.
I have tried arguing with people before, and it generally does not work. Each becomes more entrenched in their position and continues to yell louder until it escalates into a fight or they both run out of steam.
I read something once about how with some families, the members of the family should live in different states and write letters to each other once a year, and with some families, they should live in different states and write letters to each other and then tear them up. I wonder if they were talking about us.
I was talking to an old classmate from high school yesterday, and she told me she had a similar experience when she first went to dinner with her husband's family. She thought they were hostile and fighting. After a few years she realized that was not the case, they just said what was on their minds. My classmate tells me that her family buried their feelings and let them stew so that a chance remark might fester for years before being drug out and used to batter the offender.
Then today I read this in Carolyn Hax's advice column (the link will want you to register):
Q: ... Any words of wisdom?It's all very well to tell the occasional little white lie to avoid hurting someones feelings, but to be forever biting your tongue can turn your insides into a stew of angry emotions. Say what you mean, mean what you say. Good advice, but sometimes hard to follow, especially if you weren't brought up that way.
A: No, just words of disgust. If she won't say what she means, then that's her problem. If you won't say what you mean, then that's your problem. If neither one of you has the nerve to say what you mean to the other, then I can see why you're so hot to get away: You're in hell.
As for my wife and I, we manage to communicate in spite of our intrinsic differences.
The one concept I haven't been able to argue with is tone. I recognize that different electric guitars sound different, and the difference comes mainly from the pickups. I have not sat down and tried to distingush between different but similar pickups, so at this point I am taking his word for it. And it is his money after all. Hopefully he is learning something real from all this experimentation, and not just following the latest hype from whatever forums he is reading.
The guy who was selling the guitar let him try it out with his amp. It was one I had never heard of or seen before. I liked the name so much ("Atomic Space Tone")I had to take a picture. I also like the violet pilot light. Click to embiggen.
My son brought this home from college and we watched it last night. It's a French black & white crime film made in 1962. The title, we are informed, refers both to a type of hat and to a snitch: a police informer. (Google's language tools fail to translate the title.) From the beginning things are a little confused. The protagonist (Maurice) shoots and kills a man who is supposed to be his friend. Another man (Silien) who is supposed to be his friend, but is suspected of being a police informer, ties up and beats Maurice's girlfriend in order to get some information from her. This makes Silien look very guilty, from the gangster's point of view. But then he goes through a bunch of contortions that make you wonder just whose side he's on. At the end of the movie my son and I disagreed. Possibly he picked up something that implicated the girlfriend that I missed, or maybe Silien's explanation of all his activities towards the end of the movie really did make sense. I was sure he was rotten, so his explanation made no sense to me. Perhaps if he was true to his gang, it would make sense. Anyway, it's a French film so at the end everyone dies.
The gangsters drove a new Chevrolet Impala and a Ford Galaxy convertible. Enormous cars compared to the tiny Citroen 2CV's you see parked along the street. Ross tells me that the director was famous for wearing a cowboy hat and driving a big ol' Cadillac in Paris.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
There are a couple of factors in opposition. One is that Adsense ads only pay if you click on them. Here they are taking up valuable screen space and they aren't paying? They should be paying just for being there! (I have to admit it was not my idea, I picked it up somewhere on the net.) Of course Google provides the website for free, so it's pretty amazing that they don't require ads in the first place.
The second is how much revenue would it generate? I only get about 100 hits a day, and most of them seem to be people trolling for pictures. There are apparently very few actual readers. (Count yourself in the elite if you are reading this.) Allowing ads on my blog is going to need to generate at least $100 a month in order to assuage my guilt for subjecting what few readers I have to *urk* advertising.
On the other hand, all those people who only come for the pictures, maybe they should be subjected to ads, heathens that they are.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Went down to the local "farmer's market" this morning to pick up some fruit and donuts (Donuts? I didn't know they grew donuts on farms), and I ran into this wild marching band. Never seen anything like it, and they were making some good music, too. The video doesn't really do them justice.
I am not impressed with Blogger's video capabilities. I tried to upload this clip (a whole minute of video), but given all the time in the world, it never finished. It's only 120KB. This time I used YouTube and it worked just fine.
Only one, but he has to be motivated. When we had this house built, the builder gave us the option of having the ceiling over the stairs be a flat continuation of the ceiling over the upstairs hall, or it could be at an angle maintaining a constant height over the stairs. I had visions of a slanted ceiling interfering with the moving of large pieces of furniture, so I opted for the flat ceiling. But now every time that the hall light burns out we have an exercise in scaffold building. My friend Glenn actually came up with the solution which starts with a small extension ladder (silver) sitting on the stairs and leaning against the far wall. Then we put a plank (red) from about the fourth step down from the top over to the extension ladder. Lastly is the (wooden) step ladder resting on the plank and wedged between the two walls. It feels a little precarious, but it works well enough.
I settle on having my knife and keys in the same pocket, and the camera gets a pocket all to itself. This makes the access to my knife and keys a little more awkward, but not much, and the camera is reasonably safe and easy to reach.
So I am thinking about this and my mind wanders as it often does, and I start wondering about handguns and how I could carry it. If I was going to carry a handgun, I would want a pocket pistol, but I have already run out of pockets, so I might need a vest or jacket to get some more pockets. Or I would have give up my camera. Bah.
But what about women? Women seem to prefer purses to pockets, so maybe what we need is a purse with a built in holster, a concealed carry purse, as it were. Then I thought I'll bet somebody has already thought of it, and sure enough Google found a whole bunch. So much for that bright idea.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Wikipedia has an enlightening blurb. Essentially "quick" meant living, and so we get the line in the Apostle's Creed:
The application to gunfighting comes from a book by Louis L'Amour (or maybe an even earlier book by Ellery Queen), which was made into a movie in 1987 with Sam Elliot, and later remade with Sharon Stone, purtiest gunfighter this side of the Mississippi. What's the deal with Sharon Stone anyway? A few (several? many?) years ago she was queen of Hollywood, then she kind of fell off the map.
The legend on the right hand side of the chart labels the red line as "Rate of Pay", and the blue line as "Actual Work Performed".
I have recently come to the conclusion that your pay grade is directly proportional to the amount of bullshit you have to put up with in your job. (Yes, I know, I am a slow learner.) The lower your pay grade, the less BS you have to put up with. Yes, I know when you are at the bottom of the heap, the amount of BS may seem like a lot, but it only gets worse as your pay goes up. The problem is that dealing with things is relatively simple, and things do not actually pay you. People pay you, and people are complicated and difficult.
I saw a show on PBS that followed some students through medical school. One of the students was a guy who was kind of late coming to the medicine. He had had a number of jobs before he decided to become a doctor. While he was in school he was a member of a group of students that would have a weekly meeting to discuss various things that had come up during the week. From his point of view, the hardest thing for him to learn was how to deal with statements from other students that he flat out knew to be wrong. His first instinct was to call them idiots, but he learned that the appropriate response was to say something along the lines of "that's an interesting idea".
It's all very well to do the actual work, but someone has to decide what work is to be done, and that cannot be done in a vacuum, you have to talk to other people to find out what they want and/or need, and most importantly, what they are actually willing to pay for. And that can be a time consuming and onerous process, and it does not qualify as actual work, because no goods are actually produced.
Friday, August 14, 2009
Watching him drive it looks like no big deal, but when I got ahold of the wheel I found it a little difficult. I had a devil of a time just getting the boat pointed in the right direction, and when I did, it was a real trick to keep it pointed there.
After a while I did get the hang of it, but it was all I could do to keep the boat pointed straight on. I had to pick a point to steer for and focus on that point to the exclusion of all else. Looking around for any reason was out of the question. Take my eyes off the target point and the boat falls off the track. By remaining focused on the target point and reacting to any slight sideways motion of the bow with a couple of spokes of the wheel, I was able to maintain our heading.
Tedious and tiring. I finally figured out that it was kind of like balancing a broom stick on end in the palm of your hand. As long as you concentrate and keep making small compensating movements, you can keep the broomstick upright, but look away for a moment and it is almost surely going to fall. That's what steering this boat was like.
Now I am trying to figure out how to remedy this problem. I have several ideas, but they would all take some expense and some effort to implement, and I really don't know if any of them would work, much less which one would work best. If you have ideas, drop me a line. I'd like to hear them.
California Bob writes:
An article about how people overestimate their self-control when in a satiated, 'cold state' (opposite of the "gripped by impulse" state).... raises some interesting questions. We're always critiquing other people, "why don't they just; why can't they just...." Turns out our advice to ourselves isn't even constant from one moment to the next, for example, when we are a buoyant optimist vs. a depressed realist.If we can't relate to our own selves from situation to situation, how can we hope to relate to others?' ...In addition, he added, the study results suggest people often can't predict how they will react in a given situation."It's not just about eating and addiction, but the 'cold self' has a really hard time understanding what you're capable of, for example, in a moment of despair, in a moment of rage," Nordgren said. '
I heard (read?) a story one time about some guys on a ship that sank out from under them. I think it was in the North Atlantic, but it could have been farther South. The Northern Atlantic is too cold for anyone to survive very long in the water (see "Titanic"). It may have been during WWII, but then again, maybe not. Does not really matter to the story. Anyway, these guys were on a ship, the ship sinks, they don't have any lifeboats, so they are in the water just trying to stay afloat. They had gotten a message off before they went down, so another ship might be coming to their rescue. Might be. Might take a while. So there they are a dozen or twenty guys floating in the water, waiting. They are there for a while. Hours pass. People start dropping off, they just give up, or get worn out, can't stay afloat any longer, slip beneath the waves and drown. Hours pass. More people disappear. Eventually after some infinitely long period of time a ship appears and pulls the survivors from the sea. The ones who are left are the old guys. All the young guys gave up and drowned.
That's my story about enthusiasm and endurance.
Then there was a comment made by Lucky Jack Aubrey (from Patrick O'Brian's series of sea stories) disparaging enthusiasms in general. He was referring what we now call fads. I looked for the quote, but I could not find it.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Oh, there are a few sites that I use regularly, like my bank, Wikipedia, Merriam-Webster's dictionary, and there are a few blogs I keep track of, but I just don't have time to go back and re-visit most sites, no matter how compelling they are.
So why keep bookmarks? Seems kind of pointless. One of these days I may just clear them all out.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
I am thinking there is something wrong with this picture, but I can't quite figure it out. TSA evidently let her dog through security, and I can see that, it's not like he is going to explode, at least not with deadly force. I suppose if it was a trained killer (!?) it could be used like a knife (take this plane to Miami or Fifi will bite your nose off!). And the woman sounded like the grandmotherly type, but the ones who look the least suspicious are the ones you have to watch.
Anyway, it all boiled down to whether the lady had a receipt showing she had paid the $100 to allow her to take the dog on the plane. She's digging around looking for this magically slip of paper and I'm thinking this is nuts. The plane probably burned $100 worth of fuel just sitting on the ramp waiting for this to be resolved. Me thinks the flight attendant had too much coffee.
On another note, I saw this sign on a door in a terminal somewhere:
I don't quite know what to make of this. Somehow I don't think it's a good idea, but hey, the TSA knows what is best for us, right?
They confiscated my pocket knife in Columbus. It was old, and raggedy, but still useful, and it was mine. I could have gone back and mailed it (for $12) or checked it as luggage (!?). Could I check a knife all by itself? And if I could, would I have had to pay the $15 fee for a checked bag? I knew I had a new one sitting at home, so I let them keep it.
I put it in my suit case for the flight to Ohio, but coming back I forgot about it until it was too late. I wonder what they do with all the stuff they confiscate? I left a set of keys at security once when I was seeing my kids off. When I came back through a few minutes later, the guard opened up a drawer with a zillion keys in it. So I imagine they confiscate a lot of stuff.
Then there was the loud flight attendant. She is giving us the standard safety spiel at the beginning of the flight and she is REALLY loud. I have to plug my ears with my fingers until she is done. I see her walking down the aisle later on, handing out peanuts or some such, and the nitwit is wearing bright yellow, foam earplugs! Some people.
I was riding in the car-car with my daughter the other day (not the SUV car, or the truck car, the car-car). She was driving and I was sitting in the passenger seat. I had my elbow on the window sill and my hand on the edge of the roof and she inadvertently pushed the up button for my window. It jammed my arm pretty good before I squawked, she let up, and the window stopped.
So then I got to thinking about the one-touch-up power window on the Honda. They must have some kind of sensor in there that will halt the window if it somehow gets blocked, otherwise I think we would have been hearing about lawsuits. The simplest sensor to implement would be one that would measure the current that the motor is drawing. If something is blocking the window, the motor would slow down and presumably draw more current, which could trigger a cut off switch.
Volkswagen used something similar a long time ago on their old bug. They had a diagnostic instrument that would hook up to their car with a cable and they claimed to be able to measure all kinds of things with it, including the compression in all the cylinders. At the time I was flat out astounded, because the only way I knew to check the compression was to take out the spark plug, plug in a compression gauge and then crank the engine. And then you had to repeat it for each cylinder in the engine.
Volkswagen's explanation was that they measured the current draw of the starter while it was cranking the engine over. As each piston came up to the top of it's compression stroke, the resistance to turning would increase and the current draw of the motor would go up.
When I first read that, I thought they were insane. They were presupposing a lot of things, like the starter was in good shape, the gears driving the crank were in good shape, the engine itself was not suffering from worn or damaged components that were creating excess drag. But then I realized they were starting with a new car, where all the components are in good shape, not a worn out, beat-to-death junker like I was in the habit of dealing with. I think that was my first inkling that one doesn't have to spend your life repairing other people's old junk.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
A couple of weeks ago I'm sitting on the deck of "Meantime Girl" with my nephew waiting for Andy to finish cooking lunch. He's the Captain and Chief bottle washer, so it's his job. I'm on vacation so I take some pictures. I spent considerable time yesterday trying to paste these photos together to make a panoramic view of the marina using good ol' Paint. It didn't turn out too bad, but it was obviously a hack job. The lines between adjacent photos were painfully obvious.
Eventually I decided to look on the net for something that would do the job for me and I right away I came across Autostitch. Download & unzip and it's ready to go. A couple of clicks and presto! A finely made panoramic view! It couldn't have been easier.
Okay, now we have a really big picture, how can we put it on the web? That seems to be a bit of a trick. I dinked around for a while, but did not find anything (anything free anyway) that would do the trick. But maybe I'm just not holding my mouth right.
I did find Panoguide, which will display your panoramic images for you, so I uploaded mine.
Besides a panoramic viewer, I also need a program that will scale the finished image. At full scale it's really too big to display on the screen, and Panoguides viewer does not seem to handle scaling well. I wanted the image to span the whole width of the screen, but I wanted to limit the height, so more of the image would be visible, and it would not appear grainy.
Autostitch did a remarkable job of merging the photos, though I did discover one glitch in the canopy of the pontoon boat on the far right side of the image.
Monday, August 10, 2009
Bridge in action:
We went up the river about five or six miles and found a little inlet to hide out it. We turned off the motor and I took a nap. When I woke up we were up against the shore. Andy told me we had drifted up and down the river a couple of hundred yards in each direction. The current wasn't very strong where we were, and the breeze was blowing upstream, so the current would carry us down, and then the breeze would blow us back up.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
It's on Sinclair near Morse Road, in between a "Motel 6" and an "America's Best Value Inn", where I spent my last night. I don't know about it being a "Best Value", though it was cheaper than "The Place" in Newark ($53 versus $80). The thing I really noticed was the carpets. The carpet at "The Place" actually felt clean enough to walk on it barefoot. The carpet at the "Best Value" place turned the soles of my feet black. Didn't feel none too clean either.
How did they ever build such an elaborate building?
Boy, did that bring back memories. I knew a guy who got locked up there many years ago. I stopped in to visit once. Went up the stairs to his floor, and at the landing there was a grill-like door. It was locked. Three or four feet farther in there was another door. As I recall, both doors had bars, like you would expect in a jail, but at least one of them was covered with a couple layers of different size mesh. The biggest opening would accommodate a pencil. I heard a story that a visitor had managed to smuggle some smokes into the jail by putting them inside straws and then hooking the straws together, end-to-end, by slipping the end of one straw inside the end of the next. By this method he was able to create a pole about four feet long that he was able to feed through the screen to his partner on the inside. What won't those kids think of next?
Kind of reminds me of something out of Harry Potter, except the sun is shining. I wonder what kind of stone is black, and whether the choice was intentional? Probably. Did not find anything on the net.
Saturday, August 8, 2009
Meanwhile at home they were having a heat wave. Temperatures got up to 105 for a while. Glad I wasn't here.
There were a couple of things I noticed while driving through the Midwest. There were the things you kind of expect, like lots of fields and farms, and the land is basically flat from here to forever. But then there were things that stuck out as being really different, and one of these was the huge lawns of green grass.
Oregon has these land use laws, which basically means they are trying to contain urban sprawl, which means that houses in the city have tiny lots and tiny lawns. Outside of town it is fields. Grass is grown as a crop. You just don't see endless vistas of mown grass.
Another thing you see is elaborate masonry buildings in downtown areas, both commercial and government structures. And churches, big churches with huge spires. Even small towns will have 3 or 4 of these huge edifices.
Outside of the cities, traffic on the freeways is almost sparse. You drive for hours, okay a quarter of an hour, without running into a situation where you need to slow down. Highways fell into four categories:
- Good, smooth roads.
- Older concrete roads in good condition, but with the bump, bump, bump of expansion joints.
- Roads in bad shape.
- Roads under construction.
* I'm sure this is a quote from some movie, but I only found one reference that claimed it was from "Breakfast at Tiffany's", so I don't know.
Friday, August 7, 2009
We press the GO button and here's Hancock (Will Smith) on the big screen. Cool! But what's this? There is some kind of distortion going on. It looks like we are watching the scene through wavy glass. People's heads get wider and narrower. Maybe it's some special effect the movie makers put in to give it that spacey effect. Except it never goes away. Usually when you have some kind of effect like that, it is because someone is taking drugs, or their mind is otherwise clouded. Eventually their mind clears, and the funny effects go away. Did not happen.
Andy starts playing with the remote control. There is a control that affects the overall picture, things like aspect ratio. Some of the settings change the size and/or proportions of the image on the screen, some of them don't. But some of the settings produce the wavy glass effect, and some of them don't. So now the wavy glass effect is gone.
As for the movie, it was entertaining, and some of the special effects were cool. The concept of the homeless, alcoholic superhero was novel, but nothing to write home about.
Andy & Nick & I took his boat out one day and it worked just fine. The next day we want to go out again and this time it's being cranky. It starts fine, but it won't go above 1000 RPM and it just doesn't sound right. We open the hatch and look at it, but there are no obvious problems.
We talk about it and decide like it's not getting enough fuel, so we pop the clip off the pump's built in filter. The filter element sits on top of the pump inside a metal can. When we open it we find that there is almost no fuel inside. I would think that by pumping gasoline through this filter, eventually all the air and/or vapor would be flushed out and the filter housing would be full of fuel. But it is almost completely empty. This leads me to believe that perhaps the pump has gone bad.
The engine has almost 2,000 hours on it, so it's conceivable that the fuel pump is worn out. It's right out there in the open so we take it off and go visit the auto parts stores. Prices range from $90 at Carquest (can have it here tomorrow) to $145 at the Mercury dealer who has one in stock. The Mercury dealer suggests we check the points, so Andy drops $20 for points, rotor and condenser. We stop at the last auto parts store (Autozone) to see what they have to say and they have a fuel pump test kit they will lend us with a $150 deposit. Now is a good time to have to credit.
We install the points and put the pump back in and hook up the fuel pressure gauge. The engine starts and now it gets up to 1500 RPM, but it's still not right. The fuel pressure gauge barely gets off the peg. It is showing 6 PSI on a gauge that goes to 100. What is going on here? We call it a day and go home to eat dinner. I still think it's the fuel pump, but I had a bad experience with a fuel pump once and so my thinking is muddy, and wrong.
A check with the all knowing internet reveals that old style mechanical pumps deliver between 4 and 10 PSI, so our reading of 6 PSI is right on. The gauge is designed to handle modern fuel injection systems, which operate at much higher pressures. Don't let your equipment lead you astray.
Andy goes down to the boat in the morning and takes off the air cleaner to check on the carburetor. The choke is stuck closed. He unsticks it just by moving it manually and the motor starts and runs fine. After all this is over he recalls that there is a big aerosol can of carburetor cleaner that came with the boat. Think maybe this has been a recurring problem?
I requested a full size car when I arranged for a rental with Dollar Rent A Car. I had 1500 miles of driving to do and I wanted a little cush. I didn't want to spend three long days riding in a little buzz box. It was only a couple of bucks more per day than a smaller car, and this trip was already costing over a grand, so what's a couple more bucks?
I was expecting a Chrysler or some other American car, so I was a little surprised when it turned out to be a Honda. It did it's job very well, transported me to Iowa, Michigan and back to Ohio on four tanks of gas (counting the one it came with). Cruised at 80 MPH without complaining. There were a few unusual things I noticed.
- The radio scan feature would turn down the volume just before it left one station, and then would turn it back up as soon as it located the next one.
- The same lever is used for the gas tank flap release and the trunk release, push down for one, pull up for the other.
- If you don't put on your safety belt, it doesn't start chiming right away, but after a few seconds it chimes a few times, but then it shuts up for few seconds, and then it repeats. It doesn't just hammer away at you. It gives you time to make it right.
- The driver's window opens completely with one touch of the button. No surprise there, but it also closes with one touch. A nice feature, one that I haven't seen before. What I would really like would be a switch to open or close all the windows at once.
Steering with your knee and/or leg is problematic. I am cruising down the highway and I need both hands to open a bottle of water. Normally I can fold my leg up and hold the wheel in place with my knee. With this car, the wheel is so high that my knee can barely reach the wheel, which makes steering very precarious. A little motion of my knee results in a big motion of the wheel and causes the car to swerve badly. Not good. It took some getting used to.
I paid for the first tank of gas when I rented the car. I knew I was going to be using more than one tank of gas, and the price was reasonable, $2.50 a gallon or some such. Trying to find a gas station in a strange town so you can fill the tank before you return the car when you are trying to catch a flight can be a miserable experience. I've done it a couple of times and I don't enjoy it at all. And it's all so you can avoid the exorbitant fees they charge for gasoline when you return the car. Actually, I don't know that what they charge for gasoline when you return the car is any different than when you rent it. The price used to be exorbitant, like twice the going rate. So now I have been conditioned and now I buy the tank of gas up front and returning the car is a simple, tensionless experience.