Travels and Images
WEEK 52 2004
Sun- Mon- Tue- Wed- Thur- Fri- Sat- Next Week
Picture of the Week
Saturday 1 January
Saturday - Happy New Years!
Still raining and storming. No sailing. We watched some college bowl
games - I won one, my father the other. Well, actually the players did
the winning/losing. We just watched.
new years eve. I find that I don't have any big resolutions. In fact
none at all.
- pretty quiet around here. The tsunami is in all the news, as it
Here is a shot from Christmas day, of my fathers place, with
the yule log on teevee. It was a nice fire, and every once in a while
you'd see someone put another piece of wood on it, and stir it with a
poker. Sadly it went off the air abruptly at noon Christmas day,
replaced by some suggestive soft-porn lead-in to a WWF type show. It
was nice while
In the late morning my sisters arrived with niece in tow, for a nice
visit. With the nieces help I added some more lights to the outside of
the house, bringing the grand total to about 300. Some of the lights
about Frosty need replacing, but it's hard to find the specific 'big
bulb' used. Maybe we should just splurge and buy a new strand to tack
about his outline? Nah...too easy.
Ho Ho Ho.
This is interesting, a map of the
entire universe, using a logarithmic scale for the distances. It
apparently starts at the center of the Earth and goes outwards. Note
the green dots signifying satellites, how they cluster for
geosynchronous orbit, and just how dang
many there are. [via Geek
Why Jerry Pournelle's blog is
in my list.
From Chaos Manor, actually predates the word blog I believe, and
his web site dates back to 1998. I first ran across Pournelle as a
science fiction writer, then as a science fact writer, then as a
columnist on personal computers (even before the IBM PC existed), and
then learned of his varied associations with NASA, the military, SDI
and the DC-X and so on. A staunch conservative, old style Catholic,
Cold War warrior, well read, well educated and broadly acquainted with
science, history, and politics (check out his book list if you want to
feel ignorant). Outspoken and opinionated as well - you can hear him a
hundred feet away at science fiction conventions.
Pournelle's online web site is free (though you can subscribe if you
like) and is a mine of interesting facts, stories, opinion and people.
It broadly breaks down into a "view", a personal commentary page
updated regularly, and "mail" page, this from readers, which may be
about his "view" column or random letters from subscribers.. I don't go
there all the time, and certainly don't agree with all I read there,
usually enough to make you think, or at least say "huh?". It also
contains an archive of old articles and reports.
His 'Chaos Manor' column in the old Byte Magazine was one of my
favorites, and used the tag line: "I
do this stuff so you don't have to", generally when doing some
experimentation with software or PC hardware that was, as was almost
always the case, doomed or tortuously difficult.
Byte itself started off as a small rag, just a little better than a
mimeograph, that I would read at my junior college. As the personal
computer phenomenon exploded it got bigger, glossier and better
written. The ad pages soon outnumbered the actual 'content' pages but
that was OK, because they were fascinating for us geeks. Then, slowly,
the articles became more about using software and comparing features of
software packages. Articles on building and configuring your own
hardware became rare, articles on programming became fewer and fewer.
Eventually it was sold by it's owners to some other body that
apparently had no clue as to what they had bought, and it eventually
folded. Pournelle himself wrote:
I have learned
more about web site creation than I really wanted to. It all started
when CMP bought McGraw Hill’s computer magazines, including BYTE in the
United States. When we first learned this we thought it was a good
sign, but shortly afterward everyone was given two days notice, and
BYTE America was closed.
Unfortunately when Byte folded in the nineties my (rather pricey) subscription was
lost as well. There is an online version now, and his column is indeed
back there, but on principle I won't resubscribe - I feel that Byte, no
matter who the new owners are, owes me almost an entire years worth of
magazine or a return of the money I spent. I'll never collect, but
that's the way I feel.
29 December 2004
- more rain. It stopped overnight, and was absent until early evening,
with broken clouds that temped my father and I out and down to the
marina for a while, but there is a pretty good deluge going on again
My sisters and brother in law came over this evening. We all had a nice
visit, and I spend some time playing with my niece, who is at the
entertaining age of seven. Entertainment consisted of TiddlyWinks,
Dominoes, and Mousetrap - all on the living room floor. Which gets sort
of hard on my forty-something bones. Still, it's worth it.
Talking to my father this evening he mentioned coming into New York
Harbor when on convoy duty in the North Atlantic. The harbor was
controlled by the Naval Harbor Authority, HAU-1, stationed at the base
of the Statue of Liberty, and with the signal lights up in the statue
itself. They would say where to go and where to anchor. It took me a
moment to digest this.
"The glowing eyes of the Statue of
Liberty told you what to do?"
He hemmed and hawed, but basically had to admit this was true.
"And did the glowing eyes ever
disagree with the voices in your head?"
I received no satisfactory answer to this question, but feel I should
mention that he was eventually transferred to the Pacific theater.
Why Slashdot is on my list.
Someone recently asked "What
is wrong with UNIX?" over there, and got a slew of answers.
Typically the Slashdot format is a article, then a bunch of posts by
readers, in a threaded format, replying to the article. There is a
'karma' option that keeps track of who has posted what, and allows a
grading of the commenters remarks. There are probably a dozen or so
articles a day, and the archives are extensive. Generally the topics
are computer or science related, though there is enough oddball stuff
to keep you amused.
Reading through the
threads for this post I ended up, if not wiser, at least amused.
precise and technical:
- IEEE and Posix, X/Open,
etc. provide a basis for standardizing UNIX interfaces, but adherence
tends to be spotty
- Difficult to implement a
- XPG3 aside, a de facto "common
API" has never really been acheived
snide and superior:
you fail to realize is that Linux doesn't exist for newbies to
switch off of Windows. It's not there to "Fight The Power."
an Operating System. Some people enjoy using it. I do; I love the
things I can do with my unix boxes so easily that come so difficult on
other systems (Windows.)
You can use it if you want to.
so many great people working on making it better, easier, etc, that in
the end it MAY very well be just as easy to handle as Windows. It's not
there yet. What's the rush? So you can install it easier before you
know the system?
Certainly this component of Linux needs rewritten. Firstly, it is far
too difficult to maneuver your ship with the gravity the way it is, and
secondly, the bullets go too slowly. Thirdly, it isn't intuitive what
the different colored blobs are; its easy to forget what is energy and
what is a mine, or something like that.
I would suggest to the KSpaceDuel team that they meet with the
KAsteroids team to discuss usability issues. There should also be a cap
on how fast you can go, since it is possible to speed up so fast that
your spacecraft appears to be moving very slowly (sort of like a tire
the news continues to come in about the scope of the Asian tsunami.
What a terrible thing.
It continues to rain here in northern California. It is also pouring in
the southern portion of the state. Lot's of flooding of streets and
highways, tree's down, snow in the mountains and such. They have
evacuated the canyon where the mudslides killed so many last year.
Okay, that's interesting. INSERT --> HORIZONTAL LINE in Mozilla
Composer 1.7.3 now inserts a horizontal line with exactly the same
width, 25%, that I last used. One of these days I'll move over to real
blogging software. I'll have a blogroll and everything. Sitemeter.
Status in the blog ecosystem, fame and fortune.
Or maybe not. For now: some blogs that I look at. Some are odd, some
have off days, some I don't agree with on many things. But I generally
find myself going back to read them - YMMV ( Your Mileage May Vary ).
A problem: a lot of the science/space/computer stuff overlaps. So
that column is bigger than the others. Bah.
doing a bit of work. The office at my father's is warm enough, and so
far, dry. My feet are a bit cool - but it's raining steadily and the
air is a bit damp.
I got a Gmail invite today - a 1Gbyte mail account. So far Yahoo! mail
more or less kept up with my needs, but only if I don't save my 'sent'
email. We'll see what gmail has to offer. I think they reserve the
right to poke through your email and harvest stuff like email
which is kind of low. Maybe I could encrypt stuff first? That's a lot
of work. I'll have to read up on what is going on before that. Of
have another personal mail account that isn't particularly useful
because the big ISP's are blocking the mail port. So, the server
account + two yahoo accounts + gmail would make
4 mail accounts. Ackkkk.
Now playing on RadioParadise: "Thousand Dollar Car". Heh. Spot on. I
owned a lot
of cars, free to $300, before graduating from college. The equivalent
of a thousand dollar car twenty years ago. Actually better,
perhaps, as before all the smog laws came along the used cars market
had better cars in it.
Mozilla Composer has issues with HTML properties. It won't put a border
around pictures. It won't change a horizontal line's width to 25%. I
can (and do) go in and fix it by editing the source file, but honestly,
Netscape Composer works better. Bah.
Boxing Day, in many countries. But not in the USA. Here we box our
presents before we open them.
Maybe they do more returns in Britain?
This is the last week of the year, and it's an extended week for the
of this blog. I just can't bring myself to create a "Week 53". Which
gets me off the hook of deciding on a 'Picture of the Week' as well.
We watched the San Francisco FortyNiners lose, again. They managed to
avoid a shutout, somehow. Probably because Buffalo put in the second
and third stringers for the second half. The SF coaching was bad, bad,
bad... Let's say that you are the coach and your team is down roughly
20:0 at halftime, six seconds left. Do you:
Erikson took the third option. Totally pointless.
- Go for it and throw the length of the field. You may score, but
there is a small chance of an interception and run back.
- Kneel and run out the clock. No chance of score, but also none of
a fumble, or of injury to your players.
- Run up the middle. No chance of score, definite chance of fumble
and a chance of injury.
The stands at Candlestick were half empty. I've never seen that before. I went to a
game once, years ago, when they were still playing in Golden Gate Park.
My Uncle Bud took us I believe. Being young I hadn't a clue as to what
football was about, but I still remember going. Odd thing, memory.
In other news, New England won, which will cost me a quarter :-(
- MERRY CHRISTMAS.
Friday 24 December
Friday - on the road
again. Rather than actual new content ( it
is 4 am, after all ) I'll just recycle:
A quote from myself, from Christmas week 2002:
"I still see myself as an easy going
kid sometimes, but it's apparent that I am occasionally seen by others
as a bit critical and a tad opinionated. A touch irritable on occasion,
And another quote, from Christmas week 2003:
"I can remember, when younger, being
confused at the idea of an
observatory without telescopes. Now I understand much better - some
people back then, just as today, had the irresistible urge to stand
around in the dark, shivering. Some things never change."
- I dropped off some of my presents last night. A few left to leave,
then I head north early tomorrow. Light blogging in all probability,
for the next few days.
One of my gifts was a sports jersey, which I bought at a shop in the
mall. The person I was with started giggling for some reason, and after
we left I asked her why.
"Did you see the pasty faced guy that
went by us three or four times?"
"No." My mind was on the clerk
and getting back my credit card, sadly depleted by the overpriced
'official logo' item.
"He had a Laker's negligee clutched in
his hand. And a big smile. He thinks he's going to impress his lady on
Christmas. Poor guy."
Women, who spend inordinate amounts of time making themselves
it insulting that men would buy sexy nightclothes for them. I've noted
this before, and wouldn't have given it a second thought except for
someone's shopping list that I found while shopping in Target the next
day. I had glanced down, saw a POSTIT note, and picked it up thinking
I'd dropped my own list. I hadn't, but had to chuckle when I read it.
Note item #3:
So, is it a gal planning a special night for her guy, or a guy planning
trouble for himself? I suspect the latter.
I mentioned this book last week. It's no big deal, but Amazon.com
doesn't have picture of the cover for this book, so:
There's no date on the paperback, but the price of $1.50 puts it back a
22 December 2004
Wednesday - I did my Christmas cards last
night, and finished wrapping presents. It took a while. I've been
slacking off on the Christmas cards, either busy being too blue or too
busy in the last couple of years. This year I tried to get to it
earlier, but I'm afraid that most will arrive late.
Lilek: If I were a dyslexic atheist I’d say I don’t have a god in
Lilek wrote a post the other day, musing on the disappearance of
the word Christmas from Christmas. It's become the Holiday Season
rather than the Christmas Season, and stores and businesses are
deleting God from the holiday, and so on. Nothing really new there,
people have noted this for years. Then some other guy attacks him
position, saying that he is wrong, that people do indeed still say
Merry Christmas. To which Lileks replies, at length, today. See the
My own take is that this Wolcott person is just trying to drum up
visitors to his own web site by dissing the big guys.
And I have to agree with Lileks, despite having had several clerks
me "Merry Christmas". Of course they (the clerks) are probably all
secure in their jobs until December 24th. Barnes&Noble actually had
a (admittedly small) sign on a table near the entrance with "Merry
Christmas" on it, but the store music was some sort of alternative
acoustic scottish. I thought that it sounded like Christmas music at
times, but my date didn't think so. We forgot to check what was playing
when we went through the checkout counter.
Shopping report: Target was quiet at 9 am. Barnes&Noble was quiet
at 5:00pm, busy at
7:00pm. Best Buy, next door, was insanely busy with incredibly long
lines at 7:00pm.
Over at A.E.Brain,
for Friday 17 December 2004), there is a post and some pictures on the
remarkable new Millau Bridge in France. It's a remarkable structure - I
believe there was a Discovery Channel special on it a while back.
For those of us with roots in the San Francisco Bay area the cost, $523
dollars, is even more remarkable. Due to earthquake
requirements the eastern span of the Bay Bridge needs to be replaced.
The State of California requested proposals for a cable stayed 1600 ft
span, and the costs are going through the roof.
Delays and cost overruns have
bedeviled the project. After Bay Area politicians bickered and then
finally approved a design for the new bridge, the cost was estimated at
$1.3 billion. In spring 2001, Caltrans acknowledged that the cost had
risen to $2.6 billion
because of bad estimates and escalating costs during the design-caused
There are other estimates now, some in the $5 Billion
dollar range, though it is unclear as to whether other projects in the
bay area are being lumped into that estimate.
I asked an experienced civil engineer of my acquaintace about this. He
smiled, shrugged, and said "either incompetence, corruption, or both".
Tuesday - today is the winter solstice,
the shortest day of the year. And here I thought the feeling of just not enough time in the day was
due to all the rushing about looking for last minute presents.
I started a large job today. How large? Well, the gigabyte of ram I had
in the P4 3.2Ghz wasn't enough - if you look at the picture below
you'll see the CPU load is ragged and a low 13% as the system pages out
to the hard drive, and that the system memory monitor shows 1.35GB
being used - the extra 3.5 being 'virtual memory' on the hard drive, a
million times slower to access than the RAM.
Task Manager screenshot - not enough RAM
I robbed the 2.8Ghz box of 512MB RAM and that helped a lot: the system
is running at 100% and the ram allocation is well below the 1.5GB the
box now has. As shown below the system utilization is now a square wave
and will probably remain so for several days as the job runs...
Task Manager screenshot - enough RAM.
20 December 2004
Monday - my shopping is almost done. I've
never set foot in a "Hello
store before this. I survived, but expect an uneasy sleep tonight. My
shopping is nearly done - just a couple of small items left. Mostly I
am concentrating on the kids this year. I did pull out my box of
christmas cards and discovered that there were only four left in the box. Sheesh.
I wrote a bit about the use of dirigibles and aerostats, back in October. An
obstacle to their use has been something termed "the giggle factor".
People just don't take the idea seriously. Here is an article at
Defensetech on the subject of airship uses and technology, with a
lot of links.
I notice that the musical theme to a Dell Computers advertisement on
teevee is that from the "Charlie Brown" specials. Shultz is gone now, I
guess his descendants sold out for (more) money.
I saw some trailers
for a new Clive Cussler movie: Sahara
- though I can't remember the details of the book it is based on. No
need, they'll certainly change them for the movie anyway. Something
about digging up an American Civil War loaded with gold, in the african
desert. Pitt and Giordano, the fictional hero's who work for the
fictional NUMA, don't look
anything like I imagine them, but what the heck, it may turn out to be
In the real world of NOAA,
an article about underwater
wrecks off of Hawaii.
There are both naval and aviation wrecks undersea - a japanese mini-sub
and a Mars flying boat, and some interesting pictures. [via Croanaca.com]
Sunday 19 December
Sunday - Heh. Found a blog by someone
who apparently teaches english overseas, in various foreign countries.
How can one not like someone who entitles a post "Your child is an illiterate cabbage"?
My favorite line:
"There is nothing wrong with
most of these kids that a prolonged and merciless beating wouldn't put
And I have to say that "No sane man cares about such things"
makes me feel better about my complete ignorance of actual english
Apparently the author
of Earthsea felt about the same
as I did about the movie. Though apparently her feelings were that
there weren't enough people with differently colored skin in it.
"It's like casting Eminem as Jim
in Huckleberry Finn."