sailing the NorSea


WEEK 12 2013

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Picture of the Week


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First Post, 17 March 2002
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Saturday 23 March 2013
Saturday - Another calm in the morning & windy as all get out in the afternoon type of day. And another perfectly clear in the morning and hazy overcast in the evening day. Well, so it goes.

Doing various small errands and chores around the house. Mowed the lawns. I still need to weed-n-feed and to edge. I also need to turn over the planters, and turn in the extra potting soil I bought the other day. One of the upstairs commodes has a bad fill valve, I bought another to replace that.

And the garage is still a major disaster area (FEMA is now refusing to send teams in, after losing contact with the first two sorties).

Book #11 was Midst Toil and Tribulation, by David Weber. This is the fifth or six book in the Safehold series. I've long since given up buying them, but read them when they turn up at the library.

Friday 22 March 2013
Friday - Not much going on. Warmer than it has been, and until mid afternoon relatively windless. I took a little walk before lunch (only 3 miles, since 5 bothered me last week). By mid-afternoon the wind was picking up, probably into the 30mph range, and was still blowing strong when I went to bed.

My lawns are starting to grow. I'll have to mow and edge them tomorrow.

Which means going and getting some gas for the mowers, since I used the last of the portable gas can for a car that was out of gas last winter. Well, not actually out of gas but so low on gas that when parked on an incline the fuel intake was uncovered.

NASA has shut down the NTRS, their official site that publishes all the NASA and NACA technical reports that they generate.  The speculation is that there might be secret information on the site. Which seems unlikely, but it's definitely shut down.

Possibly related: a Chinese national that had NASA access was arrested and removed from a plane about to take off the other day, and a statement made that various countries citizens (Iran, China, etc) would not be allowed onto NASA campuses. Huh? Why were they allowed access in the first place?

The stupidity of NASA's IT policies never fails to amaze. It was bad when I was there and the reports I hear suggest it is even worse now.

Well, that didn't take long: Cyprus Officially Passes Capital Controls into Law.

In other economic news, Venezuela continues to collapse. They elected a communist because they had disparity, now they have ... nothing.

Friday Cat Photo
riley and ipad
Objective C(at)

Thursday 21 March 2013

Thursday - Windy again. But the clouds are starting to clear, which is nice. Of course, now it's a half moon, so any views of the comet will have to compete with the stray moonlight.

Most of my trees have blossomed, the peach, the Asian pear, and the big apple tree in the west yard. The one next to the peach hasn't, and I should probably put some coddle moth traps out. It may be too late already though. The fruitful mulberry is also budding. I should cut it down, it's too close to the wall.

In other news the lawn(s) finally needs mowing. It's been a few months, but the warmth and intermittent rains have started it growing again.

Capital Flight.

I remain interested in the Cyprus debacle. It's probably the biggest fiscal screwup in the EU right now, and the most poorly handled. The government still hasn't allowed the banks to re-open. Eventually they will have to, and then I believe under EU law the depositors can withdraw and put their money anywhere they want. And what sane person would leave it in a Cyprus bank if they don't have to? Right now they are discussing a "progressive" tax, rather than the initial flat tax, but it isn't going to reassure anyone. If they don't do something the EU (Germany, with Merkel up for re-election) won't bail them out.

 Even if the government stages some sort of "capital control" effort, people can generally avoid it.

One of Nevil Shute's books, Trustee From the Tool Room, deals with people buying diamonds and then smuggling them out of England after post WWII capital controls were instituted. John Vigor writes in Small Boat to Freedom of putting all his money into gold coins and taking it out of South Africa, when that country didn't allow it.

Once people think it moral and proper to start avoiding the eye and grasp of the government thief, things can go downhill rapidly. One of the problems with Greece is the black market & economy, which some put at about 50% of the GDP. Untaxed, unregulated. Once a mattress stuffed with paper bills or gold coins under the fireplace becomes more reasonable than a bank the economy is going to tank. Once people start buying real property rather than leave money in the bank to be confiscated, the economy will have little or no capital to loan, to start new business, to tide over a business hitting a rough patch.

If Cyprus does get away with the tax, then the other Mediterranean PIIGS will undoubtedly eventually try to emulate them. Which means depositors in those countries, now looking ahead, will also start moving their money out of Greek, Portuguese, Spanish and Italian banks. German & Scandinavian banks will prosper from all that money coming in though, so maybe Merkel is just planning ahead. She may end up Chancellor for Life.

Wednesday 20 March 2013

Wednesday  - This was the Spring Equinox, when I like to get out and take a picture of the Sun rising or settings. Sadly it was overcast all day, no pictures worth taking.

I'm tying to get back into the flow of iOS programming, but it's been oddly difficult. I keep getting distracted by various things, and being fairly unproductive when I do get a few hours free to concentrate. Ah well, perseverance is a virtue, slow and steady wins the race, etc, etc.

A friend had received a Nook HD for a Christmas present, and she came over and I gave her lessons in how to use it for email, web browsing, and Facebook.  Not all of it sank in, so she wants to come by tomorrow, which is fine.

Tuesday  19 March 2013
Tuesday - Not much to say, working on this and that.

Did I mention having to buy a new wireless access point? The old one had been getting worse and worse. I could stabilize it a bit by setting it on a block of blue ice, but finally even that no longer worked. I thought I had a new one in a box, but it turned out to be the old unit that I'd had before this current unit (and WEP only). So I went out and bought a new one. It's been an expensive ides of March, computer-equipment-wise. Nothing crazy, all stuff I need, but still.

This current unit includes a USB port, so that you can connect an external drive to it, accessible from both Mac and Windows. It seems to work, I stuck a thumb drive in there and they both seem able to see it. I suppose you could attach a great big drive, terabytes, if you wanted. 

Book #10 was The Magicians Nephew, by C.S. Lewis.  This is really more of a novelette, setting the stage for the later Narnia series. It's definitely written at a YA level. Lewis actually wrote the stories in non-chronological order, so this might be considered, in modern parlance, a prequel, coming before The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. I'd never read it before, but some of the scenes seemed oddly familiar. I finally realized that these scenes were replicated in Grossman's The Magicians and The Magician King (#116 and #117 respectively, in 2011), a homage to Lewis.

Monday  18 March 2012
Monday - Back in town. It was a bit windy, not as bad as Sunday evening. I mostly just spent it working on some computer stuff. In the evening, oddly, I got calls from four separate people. Usually it's zero...

Since the one evening last week I've been unable to get out and take another comet picture. It's been hazy, overcast, blowing at 30mph, and so on, then I've been out of town. I'd like to get out with my tripod and external time lapse controller and the camera set up for astrophotography, but haven't had a chance. But the news from the work front isn't so good, so I may have plenty of free time in the evenings.

Last Wednesday I broke down and bought a larger monitor. The monitor I've been using was a 21" Acer, and just wasn't cutting it, my eyes were watery and unable to focus at the end of a day of use. When I was at Costco getting my tires rotated on the Explorer I saw a nice Samsung 27" on sale for $230 and bought that (after checking the price versus Amazon). It's clearly a business expense, and I dearly needed it. I had planned to get one after finishing the first app, but it makes more sense this way I suppose.

It's nice not to have to have the monitor resting at the forward edge of the desk, and leaning forward to squint at Excel and Xcode pages despite that. Now I can sit back and type. The last time I was able to do that was when I had a huge CAD monitor at my desk at NASA in 2003.

In world news: Friday the government of Cyprus announced that they were going to raid depositor's bank accounts for cash over the weekend. By Sunday they were already backpedaling on that. It's hard to imagine a worse move, if they wanted to trash confidence in their banks they couldn't have done better. Supposedly Cyprus is a laundry for Russian mobsters, so perhaps they thought they (the mobsters) wouldn't complain? But, then, why trash the small depositors?

In at least one place I've seen mention that Russia was trying to lease offshore oil/gas field from Cyprus, and base their naval fleet there, which means this bank stuff could all be some sort of weird stratagem. Who knows?

Sunday  17 March 2012
Sunday - Another beautiful San Diego Day, and also St. Patrick's day! When I had some spare time this weekend I have been sitting by the pool and reading, and therefore finally finished another book.

Book #9 was Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, by Lois McMaster Bujold. This was light science fiction, more a Georgian Romance In Space than hard SF, but amusing enough for casual reading.

I attempted to put a pigtail on the pool cover switch, but corrosion, lack of proper tools, and time kept me from finishing that. Since the solar water heating system is leaking on the roof the pool is still un-swimmable, so a delay until next visit is OK. I left the pool cover motor breaker off at the house, just in case.

We did install insulation on the hot water pipes, and turned off the water softening unit, and cleaned up various little issues around the house.

One outstanding issue was poor wifi connectivity downstairs. It was adequate for surfing the net, but not for Netflix streaming. My friends mother had a second router, a nice Linksys N900 that was advertised as being capable of used as a repeater/bridge. And reading the manual, I determined that was true - as long as you turned off the WPA security! Which makes it useless, unless you want your network accessible from anyone in the neighborhood.

I thought of running about 100' of Ethernet cable in the house, but it might present a bit of a tripping hazard for older people. If I wanted to drill holes in the wall (and if I had a drill with me, which I didn't) it'd be about a 45' run.

After a bit of thinking I suggested we try one of the house Ethernet-over-powerline systems that are available. So we made a trip to Frys, picked up a pair of transceivers, and tried it. The sales clerk Jose was honest and mentioned that they sometimes don't work if the circuits use different breakers, but these actually worked pretty darn well. Netflix streams easily, with perhaps one hiccup in a half hour. Since it was completely unwatchable before this turns out to be a satisfactory solution!

At about 2pm we headed back to Lancaster. Traffic was moderate, heavier than on Thursday night, but not awful. There was one damn fool that passed, over a double yellow line, against traffic (us) on Hwy-138 but generally things were OK. It was nice to get back home in the AV, where it was blowing sand at 35mph across the road in the east valley! Riley was happy to see me, and I was happy to see that the internal house temperature was OK, after a couple of days of nearly 90F outside.

Way back in 2002 this blog's first week included a picture of comet Ikeya-Zhang taken from the west Antelope Valley, so to celebrate this, the 11th Anniversary Week, nature has lined up another comet. I give you Picture of the Week, this time comet PANSTARRS (aka C/2011 L4)!

Picture of the Week
Comet PANSTARRS, March 2013, Antelope Valley 
Photo Notes: Comet PANSTARRS C/2011 L4 from the west Antelope Valley, March 2013.

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