alaric: A Siberian tiger (White tiger)
Sunday, January 24th, 2010 12:54 pm

Yesterday (or perhaps Friday, or perhaps both), I went outside to fetch the mail, saw that the top of the trash cart was conformally coated with ice from gutter runoff again, and discovered that the continuing improvement in my knees is such that I could crescent-kick the cart free of ice.  (Yes, I may have done it two days in a row.  I'm not entirely certain at this point.)

Today, I think my right knee is telling me what while I can, this doesn't mean that I should unless I really need to...

alaric: Myself as Wolverine, complete with blades (Default)
Saturday, January 23rd, 2010 02:51 pm

[personal profile] cymru bought me more habaneros at the grocery store yesterday, because I used the last of the ones we had for a batch of Malayan red curry. I just cleaned, halved and de-seeded all the new habaneros and put them in a ziplock bag to freeze.

This is the point at which the prudent next step is to wash one's hands.

Me?  I licked my fingers and thumb.  :)

alaric: Myself as Wolverine, complete with blades (Default)
Tuesday, January 5th, 2010 09:22 am

Just sniffing the breeze ... I've been getting one holy hell of a lot of special offer promotions from Barnes & Noble lately.  The latest one, in today's mail, is 50% off all after-holiday merchandise (understandable) and all DVDs and Blu-Ray discs 3-for-2.  It makes me wonder:  Is B&N in trouble that they're not talking about publicly, and trying to whip up revenue any way they can?  Did their Christmas season sales fall far short of expectations because hardly anybody has spending money to spare?

We have $125 in B&N gift cards sitting here.  If B&N might be on shaky ground, I'm wondering whether we should use them now while we know we still can.  Has anyone heard anything...?

alaric: Myself as Wolverine, complete with blades (Wolverine)
Friday, January 1st, 2010 12:00 am

Dear 2009,

You are SO FIRED.

alaric: Front view of Caer Llewys (House)
Monday, December 14th, 2009 11:39 am

Last week, I got the snow tires swapped onto the Volvo, just after the first real snow of the winter.  This morning, [ profile] cymrullewes had her snow tires mounted and fitted to the Baby Benz, just in time to head off to Portland, Maine for the first actual job interview she's gotten in ten and a half months of job hunting since being laid off at the end of January.  Portland is further than she really wants to go for a job, and if she gets it we'll end up paying Maine state income tax, but a job is a job, and I don't think Maine's state income tax laws are quite as Byzantine (and certainly not as kleptocratic) as those of Massachusetts.

The temperature's actually risen noticeably above freezing for the first time in a week; it's over 37°F on the shady side of the house.  The snow melting off the trees out back sounds like heavy rain.  I'm hoping it'll warm enough, and for long enough, for the front and rear gutters to thaw.  (We turned on the power to the roof-edge heat cables last week, in the hope of preventing ice dams this winter, but unfortunately failed to notice that after the contractors doing the repair work on the house installed the cable along the north side of the roof, they helpfully unplugged BOTH sets of cables.  We didn't notice until Sunday that they were unplugged, so the gutters are now full of ice.)

alaric: Front view of Caer Llewys (House)
Saturday, November 7th, 2009 07:53 pm

I've been promising (on LJ, at least) a photopost for a while now about the Great Reconstruction.  Well, it kinda went on and on as we found more problems, and the number of photos grew and grew, and ... well, to cut a long story short, instead of making a massive journal photopost, I've put the story on our webserver instead.

You can find the whole saga, to date, here.

"To date"?  Well, yes.  We were hoping to have the floor of the rebuilt hallway re-tiled by now.  But that's another story.  The pages will get one final update when the floor is done.  Trust us.  Would we lie to you?

alaric: Myself as Wolverine, complete with blades (Default)
Monday, November 2nd, 2009 04:55 pm

The WSJ has a new opinion column by Peggy Noonan, and it's worth reading.

The new economic statistics put growth at a healthy 3.5% for the third quarter.  We should be dancing in the streets.  No one is, because no one has any faith in these numbers.  Waves of money are sloshing through the system, creating a false rising tide that lifts all boats for the moment.  The tide will recede.  The boats aren't rising, they're bobbing, and will settle.  No one believes the bad time is over.  No one thinks we're entering a new age of abundance.  No one thinks it will ever be the same as before 2008.  Economists, statisticians, forecasters and market specialists will argue about what the new numbers mean, but no one believes them, either.  Among the things swept away in 2008 was public confidence in the experts.  The experts missed the crash.  They'll miss the meaning of this moment, too.

Noonan talks about two main issues in this column.  The first is that more and more people are tired of being told the same old "Jam tomorrow" promises, and just don't believe them any more.  In increasing numbers, the American people are realizing that there's no reason why what failed yesterday and the day before should work if tried again, unchanged, tomorrow.  People don't believe that Congress or the White House will fix the problem. They don't believe that the government knows how.  And they're right, because the government is too mired in business-as-usual to think outside the box.  No matter what promises are made in their campaigns, once they get ensconced inside the Beltway, it's the same old same old.

Noonan's other issue is another thing that an increasing number of Americans have caught on to, and that Congress hasn't.

We are governed at all levels by America's luckiest children, sons and daughters of the abundance, and they call themselves optimists but they're not optimists—they're unimaginative.  They don't have faith, they've just never been foreclosed on.  They are stupid and they are callous, and they don't mind it when people become disheartened.  They don't even notice.

And that's the real problem.  Capitol Hill is totally out of touch with America; and, as a general rule, Capitol Hill neither knows, nor cares.

alaric: Myself as Wolverine, complete with blades (Default)
Monday, November 2nd, 2009 12:32 pm

Many of us have been saying for a long time that Hollywood and the music industry aren't so much barking up the wrong tree about piracy, as barking at a lamp-post under the myopic delusion that it's a tree.  Baen Books found years ago that when you give people freebies to pique their interest, you sell more books.  Now the UK Daily mail reports on a study by British think-tank Demos, which finds that people who admit to downloading music via file-sharing services spend 75% more per year buying music CDs than those who claim they don't.

The survey also revealed nearly two thirds of file sharers said new and cheaper music services would encourage them to stop accessing illegal services.  It found that by lowering the price of music available online to 45p per track - compared to between 59p and 99p on iTunes - providers could expect to double interest in legal sales.

Eight-three [sic] per cent of people downloading music illegally said they buy more music as a result, while 42 per cent said they did so to 'try before you buy'.

Naturally, the UK government doesn't get it.  Neither does the music industry, yet.  But reports elsewhere (sorry, I don't have the links right now) suggest that the Hollywood movie industry is starting to figure out that the market has changed, and they need to embrace that change and adapt to it instead of trying to resist it and deny that anything has changed, the way the music business is doing.  Like it or not, though, the music business cannot put the genie back in the bottle.  Small bands everywhere have learned that they don't need the record companies, and many of them have learned that the record companies will cheat them any way they can.  But the record companies haven't learned yet that if they continue to view both music makers and music buyers as captive resources with nowhere else to go, who can therefore be exploited indefinitely, they're doomed.

alaric: Myself as Wolverine, complete with blades (Default)
Saturday, October 31st, 2009 10:29 pm

WASHINGTON, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- The Obama administration says it will continue its predecessor's policy of using state secrets authority to block disclosures about warrantless eavesdropping.

OK, so ... anyone out there still believe in Obama enough to try to spin this?

Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney Kevin Bankson told CNN Holder's move represented a continuation of Bush's policies and stands in sharp contrast to the promises of greater government transparency and accountability Obama made during his presidential campaign.

"It turns out that 'change we can believe in' hasn't really resulted in any change at all when it comes to government secrecy," he told the broadcaster.

But at least the Bush administration didn't make any empty boasts about being "the most open administration in history".

Republican.  Democrat.  It makes no damned difference.  Both are rotten to the core, united by their love of power.  There is no "lesser evil" on Capitol Hill.  There is only the same evil wearing two different faces.  They play different favorites; but they both play favorites.  They take different special interests' money; but they're both owned body and soul by special interests.  They go after different Constitutional and civil rights first; but they both attack and undermine Constitutional and civil rights. They sometimes tell the voters different lies; but they are both cut from the same pack of habitual liars.  Only when both parties' followers learn that, will there be any chance of changing it.

alaric: Myself as Wolverine, complete with blades (Default)
Saturday, October 31st, 2009 04:40 pm

This article by Bill Gurley talks about how Google has disrupted the turn-by-turn navigation market by offering turn-by-turn map data "less than free" with every Android OS copy, now that Google Maps is based entirely on Google's own mapping data.  Not only do they not charge for the map data, but if you use it and their mapping API, they give you ad revenue splits.  This announcement from Google immediately knocked a big chunk off the values of both NavTeq and Tele Atlas, previously the only two sources of turn-by-turn map data.  TomTom's stock dropped 16% after Google's announcement, and Garmin's dropped 21%; between the two of them, they own the majority of the GPS navigation market in the US, particularly after Magellan got bought out.  (I found it surprisingly difficult to find current hard numbers, but it looks like as of the end of 2Q2008, Garmin owned 55% of the US GPS market, with TomTom in second place with 18%.  In Europe, the situation is reversed, with TomTom at 38% of the Eurpoean market and Garmin in second place with 19% as of 2007.)  When you're selling GPS navigation capability based on map data that you're charged a hefty fee for the use of, it's pretty hard to compete with GPS navigation based on map data that you're paid to use.

There's an interesting side effect to all this, too.

Let's recap a little.  Google used to use both NavTeq and Tele Atlas.  But in late July 2007, TomTom bought TeleAtlas, and less than three months later, Nokia bought NavTeq.  That put the writing on the wall for turn-by-turn navigation.  A year later, Google dropped NavTeq, keeping Tele Atlas after a negotiation for looser license terms; and just over two weeks ago now, Google dropped Tele Atlas as well, cut over entirely to its own mapping databases, and made its announcement.

Now, when we moved here, it didn't take us too long to notice that the map data for our neighboorhood was wrong. Streets shown as connecting on the map don't, and the map shows streets that don't exist.  This probably comes from the long-standing practice of commercial mapmakers of introducing deliberate errors into their maps in order to be able to detect and prosecute unauthorized copying.  If you can show in court that a competitor's map faithfully reproduces intentional errors that you have placed in your maps, it makes a strong argument that they simply copied your maps.  Of course, it's bad news for you if you, as a map user, are relying upon that section of the map.

Well, we tried to report the errors on the map.  It took considerable hunting by several different people, one of them a Google employee at the time, to find a place to submit an error report to NavTeq.  I even submitted, along with it, a digitally corrected version of that section of the map.  Not only did NavTeq not correct the error, they never even responded.  More recently — after, I now know, Google dropped NavTeq and began using only Tele Atlas — we noticed that the map had changed, but was still wrong, although the major error had changed — the non-existent connection between Cheshire Circle and Briarcliff Road was gone, but Briarcliff now trailed off to the south instead of running westward.

So, after finding out the news of Google's switchover, I just looked again at the map of our area.  And it's now almost entirely correct.  There's only one error remaining ... and there's a link to report errors, right there on the map.

I'd say this change at Google Maps is going to end up a clear win for mapping users.

alaric: A mon made from torii gates (Wisdom/Zen)
Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009 09:55 pm

I keep hearing people saying, thank god for this, thank god for that.  But you know what? If I actually believed that there was a god who is actually responsible for good things happening enough to deserve thanks for them, then I'd be left with no choice but to get totally mediaeval on his ass for all the bad shit that, by extension, he must be allowing to happen.

alaric: Myself as Wolverine, complete with blades (Default)
Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009 08:46 am

Well, Dave Freer's pets, actually.

SF writer Dave Freer ([ profile] davefreer) is, unwillingly but out of necessity, emigrating from South Africa to Australia, and needs help to take his rescued animals with him.  He's not looking for a handout; he wants to raise the money via work-for-hire.  Those who donate get an ongoing e-copy of his current work Save the Dragons, and a hardcover copy of the book when it's done.

Go here for all the details and to help out.

alaric: Frowning avatar (Pissed off)
Friday, August 28th, 2009 10:49 am

Yesterday was ... an eventful day.  Not in a good way.

Let's start with the Silly Goose's loft bed, which we got off Craigslist (or maybe Freecycle) last ... fall, I think.  Nice full-size mahogany loft bed frame; she'd been asking for a loft bed for some time.  But it turns out to have some transverse stiffness issues (as in the end frames were coming apart because they were held together only by dowels).  I researched the problem some, and concluded that the best fix was to put some 5-16/18 machine screws through the corner posts into barrel nuts in the end beams to tie the end frames tightly together.

The barrel nuts, I could find easily.  But the bolts were another story.  Have you tried to buy 6" 5/16-18 machine screws in a US hardware store lately?  You can't.  They're a slow-selling item, so they don't carry them at all.  If you manage to find them at all, they'll be slotted round head.  (Why anyone still uses slotted-head screws for any job bigger than glasses frames is beyond me.)  I managed to find 5" ones online ... in stainless steel at $5.80 each.  The hell you say.

Finally, last week, my father managed to find a box of 6", 5/16-18, countersink Philips head machine screws at Fasteners Inc. in Pasco, Washington.  I rejoiced, and went out to buy the 24 barrel nuts the job would need.  Lowes Hardware only had 13.  I asked them to order more.  They said they would.  Yesterday, with the bolts sitting on my workbench, I went back to get the rest of the barrel nuts I needed.  They hadn't ordered them.  I called Home Depot in Tilton.  The hardware department guy there wasn't entirely sure what I meant, but was pretty sure he'd never seen any such thing in the store.

If hardware stores continue phasing out their slowest-selling items, pretty soon the only things you're going to be able to buy at harware stores are light bulbs, duct tape and drywall screws.  And then people will fix everything with duct tape and drywall screws because there'll be nothing else they can buy.

(OK, so I'm exaggerating a little there.  But the principle stands.)

But that wasn't the biggest fun of the day.  Oh, not by a long way.  You see, we discovered earlier this month that our front porch needs work.  [ profile] freetrav commented that it felt spongy, and lifting up a couple of the no-longer-attached tiles, we found that the plywood substrate under them was rotten.  So the front porch went on the fix-it list.  Yesterday, [personal profile] cymru and I having discussed various options for rebuilding, we picked up the tiles and tore up the rotten plywood to see what lay below.  We were hoping to find a little bit of 2x4 framing over the top of the concrete slaw, in which case the fix would have been dead easy:  tear out the framing and lay 2"-thick concrete cobble pavers directly on the slab.  (Well, OK, over a little mortar to hold them in place.)

What we actually found under the three layers of rotten plywood was floor joists and a yawning hole directly down into the crawlspace.  Worse, one of the floor joists is also rotten, because no attempt whatsoever had been made to seal the porch against rainwater aside from the layer of tile on the surface.  There wasn't even a plastic or Tyvek moisture-barrier layer bbetween the plywood and the joists.  Worse yet, the rot has spread in past the front door and is into the entry hall floor, and possibly into the floor of Pirate's bedroom on the other side of the wall.  And worst of all, it was obvious that within the last two or three years at most — which is to say, shortly before we bought the house — someone had discovered the rot, and instead of repairing it, had just roughly shored the ends of the joists up from below as a temporary fix, and then tacked styrofoam sheet insulation in place to conceal the problem.  So a $75-$100 "tear out and repave" job has just turned into a $4000-$5000 "call in a contractor to rebuild the entire front entryway and porch" job.

Fortunately, our neighbor across the street is a building contractor.  We already have the wheels in motion to get the job done through his brother's construction company.  For now, we have a couple of pieces of plywood covering the hole and some heavy plastic sheet across the top of that to keep any rain out.

We could have done without this problem.  But at least we discovered it before somebody went through the floor of the porch.

alaric: Frowning avatar (Pissed off)
Friday, July 31st, 2009 02:30 pm

Yesterday, in addition to usual stuff around the house, I took my new (and newly sharpened) mattock out into the front yard and dug up the azalea root system from hell that I broke my WW2 entrenching tool on last weekend.  Then, a bit later, I put boots on, took the Fiskars Brush Hook of Doom that [personal profile] perspicuity gave me, and chopped out the extensive patch of rhododendron that [profile] cymrullewes had decided Had To Go from the top of the driveway.  (The roots still need digging out.  Man, that stuff is pernicious.  ...No offense, Pernicious.)  Then later on again, I got a third coat of polyurethane stain/finish onto the main deck rail.

Productive, sure.  But today my left foot hurts so much I can hardly walk.

This gets so frustrating.  The knowledge that I’ll be mostly chairbound the next day is just one more obstacle in the way of getting so many things done.

Still, most of today has been pouring rain, so at least the ground where the rhododendron was should be nice and soft when I go back out on the weekend to start digging the roots up.

alaric: A mon made from torii gates (Wisdom/Zen)
Tuesday, July 28th, 2009 09:39 am

Still making with the upper-body workout before my morning cappucino.  I’m up to 50 reps on many of the exercises now, and in particular I’m now finishing up with 120 full-speed karate punches in one minute, still with the 3lb hand weights.  I think I need to switch to heavier hand weights. 5lb should be about right for now.

This morning, just as I was finishing up the speed punches, I had a Mr. Sandoval moment, which inspired me to finish up with a good sharp “KIAI!” on the final punch.  Thus startling everyone in the house and [profile] cymrullewes who was halfway out of the driveway taking Wen the Eternally Surprised to her summer reading program...

(Mr. Sandoval was one of the instructors at the bok-fu dojo I used to study at.  He was Samoan, and used to punch through five concrete blocks back-to-back.  Well, actually, I take that back: he didn’t so much punch through as just sort of casually push his hand through them.)

alaric: Myself as Wolverine, complete with blades (Wolverine)
Monday, June 29th, 2009 04:34 pm

Keeping up with the while-waiting-for-cappucino regimen fairly well.  I’m missing a few days, true, but that’s mostly when I go a day without making a cappucino.  I’m up to 40 reps now on most of the free weight exercises, and I’m doing 50 reps on all the blocks and 100 karate punches.  Pirate tries sometimes to copy the blocks, but her form is way loose and she can’t manage it with the hand weights.  Goose likes to think she Knows Kung Fu (</keanu>), but can’t actually be bothered to practice them with me, with or without hand weights.

alaric: Extremely silly photo (Goonish)
Friday, June 26th, 2009 10:12 pm

<[ profile] paulesyllabic> *snerk* ref:fark(“The Army sniffer dog who swallowed a Taliban bomb... and SURVIVED. Your dog does not want an IED”);

<[ profile] paulesyllabic> comment: “Arf..arf..arf. BOOOM! @$)(^%*^###/No Terrier.”

alaric: Myself as Wolverine, complete with blades (Wolverine)
Monday, June 22nd, 2009 03:27 pm

I fire up the Gaggia espresso machine to make myself a cappucino.

Having run the shot, I open the prohibition cabinet and grab the bottle of Isle of Jura to spike my coffee, it being a cold and grey day.

As I uncork the bottle, the skirl of the pipes comes from babylon5 in the other room as ddj cues up the Massed Bands, Pipes and Drums of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines and the Black Watch, playing Morag of Dunvegan...

alaric: Myself as Wolverine, complete with blades (Wolverine)
Monday, June 22nd, 2009 03:02 pm

The Silly Goose had a friend over recently, and a friend of theirs didn’t have a Facebook page, so they set one up for him.

I do not have a Facebook page.

I do not have a MySpace page.

Nor will I ever.

If you see any page on FaceBook or MySpace purporting to be me,


That is all.

alaric: Myself as Wolverine, complete with blades (Wolverine)
Friday, June 19th, 2009 05:20 pm

Trouble-free so far.  No bleeding to speak of, no pain to speak of.  The dentist offered me a prescription for narcotic painkillers, but I declined because I didn’t figure I’d need them.  I was right; I haven’t needed any pain meds at all.