WEEK 11 2010
Mon- Tue- Wed-
Picture of the Week
17 March 2002
Ago, This Week, 2002
Ago, This Week, 2003
Years Ago, this week, 2005
Ago, This Week, 2006
Ago, This Week, 2007
Ago, This Week, 2008
This Week, 2009
Saturday - still working in the yard. I
got the lawn tractor going - after almost replacing the battery when it
wouldn't take a charge. When I went to remove the battery I discovered
the battery connectors weren't even finger tight. After cleaning and
tightening they tractor started right up - it's probably been six
months since the last start. It's a little rough idling, some carb
cleaner in the gas probably wouldn't hurt.
But that right front tire is shot, cracked on the sidewall and will not
hold air for more than about 5 minutes. Also the blade in the deck on
the right side is so dull that it is rather more of a bullnose than a
edge and literally won't cut the grass on that side, leaving a rather
funky trail behind the mower.
Remembering that the local Sears carried the tires last year I went
down at lunch
to pick one up. No luck there - they don't stock them any more. You
have to go online to SearsDirect with the model number. They had
blades, but there were so many options that I decided to go home and
pull one, and get the model number off it directly.
So that was a waste of an hour and a gallon of gas.
Finished up the bulk of the back yard with the small mower...
On the way home from Sears I thought I'd make something
of the trip by dropping off a roll of B&W film at CVS on the way
home - but they don't develop B&W film any more, even though I
bought the film there, less
than six months ago. They said "Go to Walmart".
Walmart - the last refuge of the artistic & creative!
Book #15 was The
by John Scalzi. This was sort of a John Scalzi does Charles Stross
novelette - rather gloomy and short (136 pages). Well done though, the
characters rather better drawn than in Transitions.
- I fixed the string trimmer - had to go to two hardware stores to find
a new cartridge, but that's done. Nobody carries the Ryobi battery,
guess it'll have to be an online order. Also picked up a new blade for
the edger. Edged and trimmed in the front yard, put down some
anti-fungal and fertilizer. My shoulders ache.
I went with the cable modem option - it turns out that the Verizon Mifi
is $60/mo, not $30, . Also, the Verizon rep said, there isn't any tethering for the Android
from Verizon. He suggested the app store. Heh.
The alternate was a cable modem option on month-by-month, i.e.
contractless, for $25/mo.
So I picked up the modem (Time-Warner in Palmdale has an interesting
clientele-and-clerk set, it's like going to the DMV) and tested that it
works, Now I just have to figure out where to put it, and the wifi
router. There isn't a cable outlet where I'd like
to put it, unfortunately. The next best spot would be in the teevee
cabinet, but that means partial disassembly of the a/v setup, to get
behind the cabinet.
Book #14 was Transitions,
by Ian M. Banks. Eh. It is of the parallel
worlds/world-at-the-center-of-time type, and the protagonist is an
assassin. It is pretty blatantly anti-American and anti-capitalist, and
the characters are not particularly well realized. The villian in
particular is just a cardboard cutout, the the ending abrupt and
deus-ex-machina. There is a cardboard stock market trader as well, with
only the most tenuous connection to the rest of the book, apparently
put in just to show how shallow and evil capitalism is. Not really
Thursday 18 March
- finally got some lawn work done. Of course it turned out to be the
hottest and most windless day of the week
year. But the front lawn looks better - the back still needs a lot of
work. Both string trimmers are non-working, the 110V unit has a broken
part and the battery unit has a bad battery. I'll fix one or the other
I am thinking of getting a nice(r) telephoto zoom for the camera, in
preparation for the trip to Florida in May. For comparative purposes I
grabbed my Dad's old Canon AE-1 and looked at stuff through the
80-200mm Sigma zoom. It's shocking the difference the 200mm makes, even
in looking at birds 20' away. From taking up perhaps 5% of the screen a
finch suddenly is 4X larger.
The Digital Rebel Xt only has an 18-55mm on it - the stock kit lens.
The only real options would the 70-300mm f/4-5.6 USM IS lens
from Canon for about $550, and the EF 70-200mm f4L USM lens for
about $650 (Both are pricey for me, though professionals pay in the
thousands for lenses).
The first is longer, but it's also a plastic barrel and has some
quirks. The second has a shorter zoom, but it is of sturdy metal
construction and a member of the famed "L" glass series.
I'm inclining towards the 300mm lens. Firstly it's black, and isn't the
ostentatious white barrel of the L series. Which also makes it less of
a target for theft. Then too, it has image stabilization - that's what
the IS signifies. The L lens
doesn't, and in anything but direct sun lens shake will probably be an
issue hand held - and I don't like carting tripods around. And of
course the 300mm is 6X the magnification of the 55mm of the stock lens,
rather than the 4X the L series would give. And though the reviewers
rave about the L series sharpness several professionals said that it's
not really that big a difference - you get equivalent performance in
the real world, or if it's still a bit off just stop down the 300 a
I might mention, the birders on the photography forums sneer at a measely 300mm, it's
apparently the least one would use...
It's a pity one can't use the old FD lenses on the EF mounts, then I
wouldn't have to buy anything.
But then again, that old AE-1 with the metal telephoto zoom is heavy. Another good reason to go
for the plastic barrel!
Old age is catching up with me. I said last week that I hadn't liked
2008's #10, Fleet of Worlds, but my own
post of that time says different. Sigh.
Wednesday 17 March
- catching up on some bills, running about doing errands, finally made
an appointment with the tax people. They've moved again, third time in
about 6 years. Does that say good things or bad things about them? Are
they watching the bottom line like hawks - or failing miserably in
business and forced to cheaper locations? Now they are down in
Palmdale, in what sounds like a deserted business park. Hmmm.
You were probably thinking "He's
done talking about Byzantium, thank heavens, back to Cats and Aerospace!",
but no, wait, there's more!
The religious center of Byzantium were the monasteries on Mt. Athos.
These are actually kind of cool, but while covering this material in Sailing from Byzantium the author
rather casually notes that the canal dug
by Xerxes I in his attempted invasion of Greece, right across the
neck of the peninsula, was still there and still visible.
What? That was dug about 500 B.C.! Herodutus
wrote about it.
There is an overview on a website here,
and a closeup here,
though not too much is actually visible.
Pretty neat that there are still traces, 2,500 years later. There have
been several recent archaeological expeditions, but the results are
almost all behind journal paywalls. It's too bad, and a commentary on
modern science's "openness" that fifteen years later you have to pay to
see the results of these investigations, mostly publicly funded by the
taxpayers of Greece and England.
Ah well, here are what looks to be sonar reflections of the canal,
found on the Greek
web site (the web to Greece crawls),
and showing a trapezoidal channel buried some meters beneath the
current earth surface:
Old (well, ca. 1900, so not really) German Topographic Map
- I've been thinking of getting rid of my old data card plan - it's
been two years and I'm contractually free, free I say, free at last! Ahem.
I like it, it's been useful and I'm using it daily because I got rid of
my home DSL last year, but it's expensive. There are a some options-
Q: How important is the cap? I was thinking of getting rid of my teevee
and using Hulu and Netflix for my mass media needs. Stolen from
evdoinfo.com we have this table:
- Use the Verizon phone as a modem. Cost is $30/mo (if you do it
legally), and there is a 5GB cap & 2-yr contract.
- Get the Verizon Mifi 2220 access point. Cost is (suprise) $30/mo
and there is a (surprise!) 5 GB cap & 2-yr contract.
- Get the Time Warner Cable Internet, $25/mo and no (in practical
terms) cap. A 1-yr contract, may have to buy another service.
- DSL from Verizon...eh...been there, done that. I think it was
$40/mo, but that was bundled with a landline - extra cost there.
So, 8 hours of Netflix streaming, or about 25 hrs of Hulu-ish video.
That latter isn't too bad, actually, but the selection is a lot more
limited than Netflix.
- More cleaning up and putting away. There is just an incredible amount
of work to do around this house...
The birds seem to enjoy the new feeder - after a cautious pause of an
hour or two the avian squadrons are back. Oddly they are fearful of me, while ignoring the cats lurking
The new plastic feeder - not classy, but still appreciated!
Booked the flights. Saved $200 by not booking last Wednesday's tickets,
which I applied to a rental car. It's a remarkably tedious process,
working through the various options. Still, another chore finished.
- a nice quiet day. Not much going on.
My brother and I are planning to travel to Florida in May for the
launching. Not too many opportunities left to see the 4.5 million pound
system throwing itself into the sky!
I almost booked the flights last week,
but have been told that booking on Monday or Tuesday would save money.
We'll see - that's two months out, but prices will probably start to
rise after this.
I've been checking out a used Dell Inspiron 2500 laptop for a friend.
The hard drive is going bad, but I suspect I could get it to run long
enough to copy the 10GB Windows drive (WinMe, ugh) to another drive
(the old bag of frozen peas trick), but I don't have an external PATA
drive enclosure. I've a 20GB laptop PATA drive, but no way to get the
data onto it.
Probably the way to go is to use a Linux
Live CD and the dd command
(The copies of Partition Magic and Drive Copy that I own are pre-WinMe,
so they probably can't be used). I've booted the system with Puppy
Linux, and that works just fine. I've Live CD's for a couple of newer
full distributions, so that's cool.