Sailing Hummingbird feeder
Travels and Images

WEEK 52 2004

Last Week- Sun- Mon- Tue- Wed- Thur- Fri- Sat- Next Week

Picture of the Week


Lancaster Weather NOAA
Lancaster WeatherUnderground

A Year Ago, This Week Two Years Ago, this week

Weekly Picture Archive
christmas cattreechristmas treetreechristmas cat

Saturday 1 January 2005

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.

Friday 31 December 2004
Friday - new years eve. I find that I don't have any big resolutions. In fact none at all.

Thursday 30 December 2004
Thursday - pretty quiet around here. The tsunami is in all the news, as it should be.

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 it lasted.

xmas fireplace

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.

christmas lights

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 Press]

Why Jerry Pournelle's blog is in my list.

The View 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, but it's 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:


Column 215

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.

Wednesday 29 December 2004
Wednesday - 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 now.

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.

Some were precise and technical:

Some were snide and superior:
What 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."

It's 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. There's 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?

Some were Entertaining:


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 in motion).

Tuesday 28 December 2004

Tuesday - 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 ).

Science/Computer/Space Related:
Jerry Pournelle's View from Chaos Manor
Robert B. Thompson's Daynotes
Rand Simberg's Transterrestrial Musings
Jay Manifold's Voyage to Arcturus
NASA Watch
General Opinion/Law/Economics:
Glenn Reynold's Instapundit
The Volokh Conspiracy
Asymmetrical Information
Knowledge Problem

Astronomy Picture of the Day
Steve's Digicam's
Chris Muir's Day by Day
Howard Tayler's Schlock Mercenary
Stephan Pastis's Pearls Before Swine
Scott Adam's Dilbert
James Lilek's Bleat
Chicago Boyz
Steven den Beste's USS Clueless
Sheila O'Malley's Ramblings
Feasts of Oddball Links:
Paul Hsieh's Geek Press
Ghost of a Flea
Exclamation Mark

A problem: a lot of the science/space/computer stuff overlaps. So that column is bigger than the others. Bah.

Monday 27 December 2004
Monday - 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 has 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 addresses, 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 course, I 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.

Sunday 26 December 2004
Sunday - 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 purposes 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:
  1. 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.
  2. Kneel and run out the clock. No chance of score, but also none of a fumble, or of injury to your players.
  3. Run up the middle. No chance of score, definite chance of fumble and a chance of injury.
Erikson took the third option. Totally pointless.

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 :-(

Saturday 25 December 2004

Friday 24 December 2004

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, perhaps."

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."

a little bird

Thursday 23 December  2004

Thursday - 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 beautiful, find 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:

christmas list

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 doesn't have picture of the cover for this book, so:

The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag
There's no date on the paperback, but the price of $1.50 puts it back a bit...

Wednesday 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 this fight.

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 link.

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 wish me "Merry Christmas". Of course they (the clerks) are probably all temps, absolutely 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, (on blogspot, 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 million 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 delays.

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 21 December 2004
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.

show of task manager
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...

picture of task manager
Task Manager screenshot - enough RAM.

Monday 20 December 2004

Monday - my shopping is almost done. I've never set foot in a "Hello Kitty" 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 good.

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]

Sunday 19 December 2004

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 right."

And I have to say that "No sane man cares about such things" makes me feel better about my complete ignorance of actual english grammar.

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."

Oh well.

Picture of the Week

time exposure, 2004 av fair

Photo Notes: The 2004 County Fair, a long exposure shot.

Last Week- Sun- Mon- Tue- Wed- Thur- Fri- Sat- Next Week