Fri, Apr 15, 2011

misc Sorting with Extreme Prejudice

Posted at 12:00 am MDT to Miscellaneous

My brain chemistry went wonky again a few weeks ago, so I boosted the St John's Wort dosage again. As I stabilized, I found I could not stand some of the clutter in my house. Exposure to the craft guilds in the SCA has made me want to reactivate some old hobbies, and now that I have a life outside work, I want to be able to have people in my house.

I have replaced the futon mattress on the futon that serves as my livingroom couch.

I have finally, 25 years after buying this house, made arrangements to get rid of my old too-large dining room table and old hutch. A new China cupboard now holds and displays stuff that has been hidden until now. And once the old table actually leaves there should be space in the diningroom for both the new table and chairs and my big loom.

Moving the loom out of the hobby room will clear space for a couple of desperately needed additional bookcases, which should let me excavate the livingroom chair and side tables from the piles of books they are buried under.

As part of all this, I needed to excavate the old dining table, which was buried under papers and ... stuff, and I'm trying to clear anything that is not books and not hobby-related out of the hobbyroom.

The papers and stuff that were on the old diningroom table still need to be filed after a second pass of sorting and actual filing into folders, but last week about 40 gallons of papers and old magazines were put out for recycling. Everything is going into plastic bankers' boxes that will be both damp-proof and mouse proof, so they can go into the basement once the second pass is complete.

This evening I pulled some cardboard bankers' boxes out of the hobby-room that contained a lot of old papers that weren't fully filed. The papers still aren't completely sorted (and don't really need to be) but they are being consolidated. This evening I went through 3 bankers boxes and have one full plastic bankers box which can go into the basement and two cardboard boxes of stuff that will go out to the recycle bin.

I'm not sure how many boxes I still have to go through. There are about 9 more boxes in the hobby-room and its closet, but I think about half of those boxes actually have hobby-related stuff in them. The hobby supplies (and some old completed projects) will go into plastic bankers too, because they are translucent -- which will make it easier to find things -- and hopefully mouseproof. I'm even contemplating a revolutionary improvement: labels.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do with the empty cardboard bankers bozes. They are in very good condition. Just not suitable for my basement.

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Mon, Jan 17, 2011

travel 2010 Travel

Posted at 12:00 am MST to Travel

I took 4 trips in 2010 --

A two-week trip the last week of January and first week of February to San Diego on business. The woman next to me on the flight out was sick, and I caught her cold. I spent the middle weekend in the hotel being miserable instead of going to the zoo or museums as I originally planned.

Two 2-day business trips to San Diego, one in September, one in November when I traveled with the tail end of a cold I developed after

My long vacation -- an Insight Cruises/Scientific American cruise in the western Mediterranean. I flew to Geneva on October 24 and arrived home on November 8, and on November 12 I developed a horrible cold. (I had bad luck with health after traveling all year.) I'll be writing a long post about the cruise.

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misc 2010 Pets

Posted at 12:00 am MST to Miscellaneous

Early in the year, I noticed that Dinah Kitty was losing weight.

She got very cuddly after some oral surgery to remove a couple of abscessed teeth, but continued to lose weight. Eventually the vet identified a mass in her abdomen (I suspected things were bad when she started ignoring the catnip I offered her), and I put her on the equivalent of hospice care -- special treatment, and special easily digested.

The end came quickly: in a couple of days she went from bouncing around the house jumping and climbing on things to being so weak that standing and walking was an effort. So I took her to the vet's for the last time on August 3.

I knew that I would be away in October and November so I delayed getting a new cat.

The Saturday before Christmas, I went to Petsmart, where they have cats (and sometimes dogs) available for adoption from various shelters.

I brought home a one-year-old spayed female calico named Cassandra.

Cassandra on bedspread

Cassie Kitty is small cat: less than 9 pounds, and the vet says she will not grow larger. She has a tiny little squeaky meow that's barely audible, which is very refreshing after Dinah's Siamese yowl.

She is young and playful (she likes toys that roll or bounce, so she can chase them) but very polite and well socialized. She doesn't make messes. She clawed a chair a couple of times, but when I put a scratching post next to the chair, she took the hint and has been using the post ever since.

She is very snuggly: she is laying on my chest as I type this -- one advantage of such a small cat it that she fits places.

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exercise 2010 Health

Posted at 12:00 am MST to Exercise
        1. was an annoying year for health matters.

In January on a business trip to San Diego I caught a cold that left me with a cough that lasted into March.

I spent June coughing, too.

In late July my bad hip went out so thoroughly that it basically dislocated itself. I took a sick day from work because I could not move, and Nanette took me to her chiropractor. He put the hip back in and we set up additional appointments.

I started doing yoga regularly to strengthen the muscles that hold the hip in place.

After a few adjustment sessions, I tried lifting free weights. That was a mistake: I dislocated three ribs that had been displaced when I fell on some ice in 2003. The chiropractor put them back in (repeatedly), but they did not stay in position reliably for a few weeks. We determined that the problem was aggravated the adhesions that were generated in my right torso by the radiation treatments I received in 2005, and the chiropractor began breaking up the adhesions. Ouch.

In mid-August I stopped taking tamoxifen -- 5 years cancer free.

About the same time I bought a Nintendo Wii and Wii Fit Plus and began doing Wii Fit workouts along with my morning yoga sessions. I've lost about 15 pounds so far, despite also adding muscle mass, and my balance and stamina are improving.

By October the range of motion in my bad arm was improving, and I was thinking about non-boring ways to exercise and work that right shoulder. Archery was one of the few activities I enjoyed in high phys ed, and I actually own a bow that I purchased many years ago when I was a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism.

I went to a local archery pro-shop, bought some arrows and other gear and spent an hour on their indoor range. I ordered some additional gear on-line and also bought a target I can use to practice archery at home when the weather improves (and my aim improves -- as things are now, I'll be spending a lot of time chasing "gutterball" arrows).

When googling archery-related stuff, I learned that the local SCA group has a monthly archery practice. I decided to re-join. Membership could be useful if I get sent out of town again, too -- there are SCA groups everywhere, that may provide some social contacts that are not work related.

I also got a flu shot in October, because I was planning to be traveling to Europe at the end of the month.

November 12, a few days after I got back from Europe, I came down with a bad cold that lasted through a business trip to San Diego the following week. I had a horrible cough (again) until December 6.

I was reasonably healthy for a few days, so I was able to attend a Colorado Rational Users' Group meeting on December 9th, my company's holiday party on the 10th, my first SCA event on the 11th.

On the 12th I attended a concert and went to dinner with Nanette, but that evening my throat began to be sore and by the next day I had a ferocious sore throat and a fairly high fever. I took another sick day. Later in the week I went to the doctor and got some antibiotics. They seem to have cleared up whatever sinus or bronchial infection kept making the sore throats and coughs recur. By Christmas I was feeling reasonably healthy.

I hope 2011 will be a less annoying year.

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Mon, May 31, 2010

tech Kubuntu Network Edition

Posted at 12:00 am MDT to Technology

You know you are in the right career if you spend your day off doing the same kinds of things you do at work.

My Dell Mini with Ubuntu Moblin Remix is a slick little computer, and the OS
seems solid and w.ell integrated with the hardware(one advantage to buying
hardware and software together: all the drivers work. The user interface is
clean and legible and the features I used seemed to work well. However, I am not
the demographic this system is aimed at. (Geek women who hand-wire-wrapped
their first computer 30 years ago are a very small demographic, so there is very
little aimed at us.)

  • I never used any of the social networking features.
  • The email client was
    annoying -- it is a work in progress according to the developer's comments
    on-line, and may eventually have the features I want, but it isn't there yet. I
    ended up accessing my email through the web interfaces.
  • And, by design, Moblin does not support the use of a login screen or screen

The Moblin project has been absorbed by a competitor of Canonical (the makers of Ubuntu) and there have been no updates to Ubuntu Moblin Remix for a few weeks and no reports about future release versions, so it seems to be a closed project.

The current version of Ubuntu (Lucid Lynx, 10.4) which came out at the end of April includes two netbook variants: Ubuntu Netbook Edition (UNE), based on the Gnome desktop, and Kubuntu Netbook Edition (KNE), based on KDE (the K Desktop Environment).

I have always preferred KDE, and my favorite email client is part of the KDE ecosystem.

On Saturday I did a full backup of the Mini to my server. I haven't loaded any music onto it yet, so it was only about 6 and a half gigs, and the rsync did not take very long. While the backup was in progress, I downloaded the KNE Livedisk and burned it to a DVD (it was a CD image, but needed the larger CD size, and I did not have any in the house).

The Mini has a cool feature: at boot, on the screen, it says to hit F2 to change the settings or F12 to control the boot source. The message saves me from wondering which boot setting key is appropriate out of the half dozen or so that are used by different manufacturers. The separate boot source setting means I don't have to drill down through menus and make a permanent change. I can just change the boot source for the current boot.

The Live Disk booted and looked great, but could not load the WIFI driver. Checking on-line I found that this was a known problem: the Hardware Driver updater has problems pulling data from USB sources in the absence of a network connection. There were reported workarounds, and I had wired Ethernet available if i needed it, so I rebooted into the Livedisk and told it to install.

The installer offered a dual boot setup. So now I can switch back a forth between Moblin and KNE. I already know I will eventually switch to KNE completely, but I don't need to do it immediately. I'm not short of disk space on this box (yet).

Getting the WIFI driver loaded and working turned out to be a royal pain. The Hardware Driver Updater really doesn't like working without a network connection. Even copying the contents of the DVD onto the hard-drive to take the USB drivers out of the mix didn't help. (And being able to copy the DVD onto the HD shows the USB drivers were not a general problem.) I finally broke down, grabbed the Ethernet cable from my briefcase and plugged into my router.

The WIFI driver loaded but did not want to sync with my router. I downloaded and installed all of the latest updates over the wired connection. Still nothing. I swapped out NetworkManager for Wicd, which I use on the big laptop. Still nothing. (When I booted back to the Moblin side, it connected fine.) But after a couple of reboots it suddenly started connecting.

I suspect I should invest in a new router one of these days... the old one seems reluctant to sync and also doesn't support WPA as more recent models do. With a newer router, even Network Manager might work.

The new software is mostly fine, The netboook layout is spiffy, but I think they should have spent less time on eye-candy like making the icons run around the screen and more time on functionality like providing a menu editor.

There is also a weird pattern of changes not showing up until after a couple of reboots. I think some of the new widgets have a caching or syncing problem. Or maybe the whole environment does, considering the behavior when I was bringing up the WIFI.

The main software infrastructure change I made other than the NetworkManager/Wicd shift was to supplement PackageManager with Synaptic (from the Gnome space) for software updates/additions/removals. The Package Manager user interface is very annoying: it shows rather generic package descriptions in large clear type, and the actual package name in very tiny, faint grey type suitable for the bottom of a sleazy contract. And they aren't sorted sensibly. The Synaptic user interface is at least legible and alphabetical.

The Mini's screen is small but very clear. The Moblin interface was readable as configured out of the box, but I find myself tweaking the KDE font size from 7 points to 8 in many of the apps. I should probably make that change global and be done with it.

What happened when I started loading packages with Synaptic, and also outside the package management system is a saga in its own right.

Continued on next rock...

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Fri, May 21, 2010

recipes Lamb Fennel Stew

Posted at 12:00 am MDT to Recipes

Add to the crock pot

2 medium onions, chopped and sauteed until pale gold
1 pound small red potatoes, cut into quarters or sixths
1 pound baby carrots
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, quartered
1 baseball sized fennel bulb, chopped
1 pound lamb stew meat, coated with bisquick, 
   and browned in the skillet that was used for the onions
deglaze with sweet vermouth and a splash of Triple Sec, reduced
a small squeeze of anchovy paste
a very small squeeze of Sriracha hot sauce

Cook on low for about 8 hours, stirring occasionally.

Add a slurry of about 1/3 cup water and 2 1/2 Tb arrowroot.

Cook another 1/2 hour. Serve with more salt and fresh ground pepper.

The stew turned out very well, and the amounts of arrowroot and sriracha worked better than in the buffalo stew I made a couple of weeks ago.

I need to restock my vermouth -- the bottle was almost empty. That is part of why I added the Triple Sec. I had also found a recipe online that mixed the flavors of fennel, lamb and citrus, so it seemed like a good choice to give the gravy some complexity of flavor.

The anchovy paste also adds more complexity than just more salt would provide, even though there isn't enough of it to be tasted separately. (I think it also adds umami, like MSG).

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recipes Bob's Red Mill

Posted at 12:00 am MDT to Recipes

Hooray. I was at Whole Foods yesterday and discovered that Bob's Red Mill "Organically Grown & Certified Unbleached Flour" is pure flour, without malt.
Their regular Unbleached Flour has malt in it.

I think I may celebrate by making a cake this weekend.

I have used King Arthur wheat flours for years for baking, but I have used other Bob's Red Mill products.

Corn meal occasionally.

Whole grain 'Creamy wheat' whenever I can find it -- my local Whole Foods doesn't stock it, but the big store in Boulder does.

Some others -- I think the arrowroot in my canister was Bob's. Their products are sold in bags, and I tend to transfer them into canisters and jars once the packages have been opened.

I have always been pleased by the quality of Bob's Red Mill Products. I'll be on the look out for more things to try. I clearly need them to stay in business.

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Fri, May 07, 2010

weather May Snow

Posted at 12:00 am MDT to Weather

This spring is just ridiculous. I awakened this morning to find snow on the ground... again... on May 7. It's just a dusting, mostly on the grass and such, with the driveway just wet, but the plants and critters cannot be happy about this.

The radio is reporting lots of rollover accidents, so I guess the roads are icy, not just wet.

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tech Daisy Chain

Posted at 12:00 am MDT to Technology

Tomorrow I fly to Minneapolis to attend my niece's wedding. It would be nice to have my GPS refreshed so that I can get from the airport to the hotel.

To refresh the GPS I have to use a Windows image, even though the TomTom GPS uses Linux internally. Their update toolif not available on Linux.

I have 2 vmware Windows images on my main laptop Ykchaua. I upgraded Ykchaua to Kubuntu 10.4 earlier this week, and downloaded the patch to allow vmware to run on the new OS version. The patch applied smoothly, but I could not bring up the console for the guest images in my browser. Googling indicated the problem is that the 10.4 upgrade also included an upgrade of Firefox to 3.6, which the vmware console plugin doesn't support yet. I tried downgrading Firefox, without much luck.

Fortunately, I have two other machines in the house that can run browsers. I haven't upgraded the browser on my server in a long time, so it should still work with vmware. And a couple of weeks ago I bought a Dell Mini running the Ubuntu Mobin package at the 9.10 level.

The Moblin browser is not exactly Firefox, but it is based on it. It turns out that it is close enough to FireFox 3.5 that I was able to use the Mini as the console to access the Windows images on the big laptop. I was able to refresh the GPS with the TomTom plugged into the big laptop and the TomTom Home app displaying on the Mini's browser.

This is a big relief.

However... this was a much bigger hassle than it would be if TomTom or VMWare or both were more reasonable about supporting Linux. I'm going to Europe for a couple of weeks in the fall, and will not have a Windows machine with me (that's what the Mini is for). If there is a TomTom competitor that will refresh via Linux, I may invest in one. (My Palm Pre has GPS functions, but I don't think it has coverage in Europe).

And I'm going to look into VMWare's competitors, too. I would hate to have to rebuild my images from scratch, but there may be ways to migrate the data from one virtual system to another. I have used VMWare for years (I was a paying customer until they changed their feature mix so that the free server was better suited to my needs), but I have had enough of being semi-supported.

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Sat, May 01, 2010

recipes Buffalo Mushroom Stew

Posted at 12:00 am MDT to Recipes

This week I made a stew in the crockpot that came out pretty well, although what Whole Foods sells as buffalo stew meat is actually too lean to stand up to a long simmer. You really want something with a little fat and connective tissue.

2 medium onions, 
     sliced thin and sauteed in extra virgin olive oil until beginning to brown
1 pound buffalo chunks browned in the skillet after the onions were removed
1 bottle of red wine from a 4-pack reduced in the skillet after the meat was removed
1 pound 'Baby Bella' mushrooms
1 pound baby carrots
1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 celery heart, chopped
Worchestershire sauce-- maybe a tablespoon
Sriracha chili sauce 

Added at the end:
4 Tbs arrowroot 

I used arrowroot instead of the cornstarch because it is supposed to stand up to acids (like the wine and sriracha) better. And also handle being froen and reheated better. It probably could do with less (or a little more water).

I was a little worried that I might have overdone the sriracha, but it worked out very well: the stew is tangy rather than 'hot'.

I was very happy with how this stew turned out. It needs a little more salt, but that is easy to add at serving time.

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Thu, Apr 29, 2010

weather Precip

Posted at 12:00 am MDT to Weather

This has been a strange couple of weeks for weather. We seem to be in a pattern of a couple of nice, warm days followed by a couple of cold wet ones.

And the cold is serious: this morning is the fourth time in the last week and a half that there has been visible snow on the ground at my house. This is unusual for this late in the season. May Day is the day after tomorrow.

Fortunately, it has not been serious snow. Last week at this time we were getting massive amounts of rain -- multiple inches over the course of just a couple of days, which is also quite unusual -- which finished up with an inch of snow on Friday afternoon.

That's the greatest snow accumulation I've seen this month, and I am very glad that most of that precipitation was rain not snow. Heavy rain tends to make my basement a little wet in a couple of spots, but at least it doesn't need to be shoveled.

The other snow-falls have just been dustings: very pretty because the snow sticks to everything, but also quick to melt at this time of year.

It's just weird to see snow on the ground so late in the season. I've got birds building a nest on top of the breaker box on my front front porch, and I don't blame them for wanting to be under the shelter of the porch roof.

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Sun, Apr 18, 2010

tech Bisquick

Posted at 12:00 am MDT to Technology

It turns out that all readily available unbleached flour in this country had malt in it. And with the other things I'm allergic to mostly removed from my diet,I'm really noticing the effects of the malt.

I switched my my sourdough starter to pure wholewheat via aerial contamination: mixture of wholewheat flour and water in one open bowl, well fed starter in another open bowl, stir both vigorously and leave them in the enclosed space of my microwave for a couple of days. The new starter rises, but not strongly... I may look for a true wholewheat starter on-line and in the meantime I may add baker's yeast to my batches of bread to get a better rise than the sourdough can provide alone.

And for brunch today I'm going to make Bisquick waffles (just like Mom used to make). I was reading labels in Costco the other week and discovered that Bisquick, being all industrial, uses chemical vitamins for enrichment, not the more 'natural' barley malt. It does have some dextrose init, but I hope that will be chemically pure enough that I won;t react to it.

Maybe at some point I can figure out how to use the Bisquick in an actual cake and other baked goods that I don't want to use wholewheat flour in: it should be a reasonable approximation in any recipe that calls for chemical leaveners. According to wikipedia, "One cup of Bisquick can be substituted by a mix of the following ingredients: 1 c flour, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tbsp oil or melted butter." So I will need to adjust recipes accordingly.

My waffles may be like Mom's, but my syrup will be real. One advantage of shopping at Costco -- you can get industrial quatities of real maple syrup at reasonable prices. I also have a jar of Canadian maple syrup from our sales manager, who lives and works in Canada, and gave maple syrup as Christmas presents this year.

Mom never bought real maple syrup. She bought this maple flavoring stuff called Mapleine and mixed it into a sugar syrup. One of the first things I did when I got my own place and started cooking for myself was start buying real maple syrup.

I don't remember if Grampa used real syrup when he made pancakes for us. If so, that would be part of what made them so wonderful. I'm pretty sure he did not use Bisquick, though -- Grampa had worked as a cook in a lumber camp when he was a young man in Canada. That would be nearly a hundred years ago now. And Bisquick wasn't sold until the 30s, probably 10 to 20 years after he left the woods.

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Wed, Apr 14, 2010

misc Post Office Avoidance Followup

Posted at 12:00 am MDT to Miscellaneous

The payment finally hit the account yesterday, Tuesday. Ten days after it was mailed.

And I made my bottled water payment by phone, and my trash payment on-line this month.

I think the post office is doomed... paper processing is just too slow and unpredictable.

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travel Frontier Animals

Posted at 12:00 am MDT to Travel

Frontier Airlines merged with a couple of other small carriers last year, and there has been some question as to what name and insignia the combined entity would use. Yesterday they announced that the combined company will be Frontier, and they are keeping the tail animals, and even adding more of them.

This makes sense: established non-human spokescritters are extremely valuable, and it would be a waste to just discard them. (Not that I would be surprised by management doing something that stupid: big corporations are mind-boggling sometimes.)

I like the the animals - they give Frontier more personality than other airlines, and some ability to lauch at themselves (itself?). They haven't just been used for advertising. Quite often the crew welcomes or thanks the passengers on behalf of the animal (Jack the Rabbit, or whoever) on the tail of that particular plane, so the planes gain personality, too.

The airline employees like the animals too. A couple of weeks ago, while the decision was being made, Frontier pilots and other employees organized a 'keep the animals' rally in downtown Denver.

I wonder what animals I will ride with when I travel to my neice's wedding next month?

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Sat, Apr 10, 2010

misc Post Office Avoidance

Posted at 12:00 am MDT to Miscellaneous

Why the post office is dying...

I pay almost all of my bills on-line. The exceptions are miscellaneous things like some magazine subscriptions, and the trash and bottled-water companies, whose on-line payment mechanisms are primitive. Though I've actually been making phone payments to the water and trash companies as often as not in recent months.

I do not have any accounts set to autopsy except a transfer to my investment account that means savings come out first thing every month. Bills get paid with me looking at the bills and balances in the various accounts and explicitly choosing when the money gets transferred. I pay most of my bills on paydays or as soon afterward as the bill arrives, and most automated payments won't synchronize with biweekly paychecks.

This month I had a CD that was going to roll over into basically no interest, so I decided to use the money to pay down credit cards. I put a chunk of it into the Visa I have through the same credit union, Elevations, that held the CD. That was a normal on-line transaction.

I wanted the rest of the money to go toward paying down a Visa at my other credit union, Bellco, which has a branch near my business's office, 25 minutes away from my house, but I am working from home these days and had no other errands to run in that direction.

Transferring the money on-line is possible, but carries a fee. It was also surprisingly slow the last time I tried it, though that was a few years ago and things may have improved.

I still get paper bills and statements for most of my accounts -- Elevations, with the newest accounts, is the exception in being all electronic. The paper statement for the Bellco Visa card came in at about the time the CD matured at Elevations, so I decided to write a paper check for the payment.

I think that is likely to be the last check I write for a major bill that could affect my credit rating. Next year I will even see if there is an on-line option for paying my property taxes.

I mailed the check last Saturday, seven days ago. As of this morning, seven days later, neither of the on-line balances (checking account at Elevations, Visa account at Bellco) reflects the transaction. Even allowing for the fact that the payment address for Bellco Visa is in Florida (which seems odd for a Colorado credit union) this seems excessively slow.

I had already made an on-line payment for the month for the Bellco Visa -- and the due date is not until the 22nd in any case -- but if this was my regular monthly payment that I had mailed one full week before the due date, I would be screwed at this point.

This delay is probably not the post office's fault: I was underwhelmed by Bellco's handling of the car loan and home equity loan I had with them a few years ago. Credit unions are supposed to be less rapacious than commercial banks, but Bellco seems to share the bankers' tendency toward 'mistakes' and delays that will allow them to rack up fees. They are advertising loans constantly on the radio these days, which I can't help thinking is a bad sign.

But I am being trained very thoroughly to avoid entrusting my finances to the post office and paper payments. The forever stamps I bought at Costco last year are going to last a loooong time at this rate.

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Mon, Mar 15, 2010

misc Uncle Tom's Leg

Posted at 12:00 am MDT to Miscellaneous

I just got some bad news. My Uncle Tom (the one who survived falling off that roof a few years ago) has been in the hospital more or less since Valentine's Day. He had fallen or injured his leg somehow while on a visit to my cousin Tom, near Albany.

Uncle Tom's legs have deteriorated badly because of diabetic neuropathy, and a week or so ago the doctors had to amputate his left leg below the knee. Not a trivial occurrence for anyone, especially a man in his late 80s who suffered a major trauma a few years ago.

Tom had left the hospital, but then went back in yesterday with chest pains. I hope this turns out to not be very serious.

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Sat, Mar 13, 2010

tech Phone Lines

Posted at 12:00 am MST to Technology

Last Thursday (a week ago) I had another bogus 911 call. Fortunately, it was at 9:00PM instead of 3:00AM. On Friday I got a followup call from the 911 center admins about the address problem with the previous call, and was able to assure them that the address problem had been fixed. We chatted a little about the fact that GPS units can't find my house, and I explained some of the history of the addressing up here on the mesa.

I also got a call from Qwest saying that they would send out a technician, and on Monday he appeared. He said that my line that was making the bogus 911 calls was bad. Also that my other line. which carries my DSL, was even worse. He said there was nothing he could do about it and he would put in a call to their cable department.

On Tuesday a tech from the cable department came out and decided that my underground phone cable from my house to the nearest phone company box needed to be replaced. He put in a temporary line that just goes along the top of the ground. He said the trenchers would put it underground within 30 days...

I was pleased and surprised to get a call from the trenchers on Wednesday: they would send out someone to mark the underground powerlines and such on Thursday or Friday and plan to do actual work next week, weather permitting.

On Friday the marking was done.

And next week I should have a new underground phone cable.

I'm glad I repaired my decks and roof last fall instead of getting the patio paved: I think the new cable will go under the area that would have been paved. Now if I get the pavers put in this summer they will go over a good cable.

While my external phone lines are being upgraded, I should see about getting my interior lines upgraded (though not by Qwest). I'm pretty sure the interior line between the phone company box on the outside of the house and the DSL modem is mediocre at best.

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misc Split-sexed Birds

Posted at 12:00 am MST to Miscellaneous

There is a very cool article about sex determination in birds at Living the Scientific Life, incluing a picture of a chicken that is a hen on one side and a rooster on the other. Birds sex works way different from mammals.

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Fri, Feb 19, 2010

misc Kitty Dentist

Posted at 12:00 am MST to Miscellaneous

Dinah has been leaving food in her dish and losing weight. Last week I took her to the regular vet for her annual checkup and rabies shot and she checked out OK for liver function, and a little borderline for renal function (not bad for a 14 year old cat). The vet said her gums looked inflamed and I've noticed that she seemed to be trying to chew on one side, so today she went to the kitty Dentist. here isn't a full-time dentist at the vet clinic I go to: he's only there on Thursday. (I assume he works at other clinics other days of the week.) So today was the first available day after her lab results came back last week.

It's been a long time since Dinah had any dental work done: cat dentistry is done under full anesthesia, so it is a big deal, and expensive. She spent all day at the clinic, and is still acting a little odd. But she is eating some kibble I soaked in warm water, which is impressive. Besides a clean and checkup, she had two abscessed teeth pulled and some periodontic work.

There was also some re-sculpting of a tooth: they had to pull her right upper canine, so the dentist blunted the lower tooth so she won't be constantly stabbing herself in the upper lip.

In a little while I will try to give her the antibiotics and painkillers. The painkillers just need to go into the mouth, but the antibiotics need to go down the throat. At least the meds are all liquid: I'm not sure I would want to try pilling a cat who has a sore mouth.

Modern technology is amazing. Because everything is done digitally, not with film, they gave me a whole sheaf of paperwork about the work that was done, including before and after close-up photos of kitty teeth, and the x-rays they took. And the kitty version of the standard diagram of upper and lower teeth, with annotations -- I guess some things are a constant in dentistry, regardless of the species of the patient. There is even a whole series of x-rays taken during the removal and restructuring of the fang: they put some artificial bone into the socket (which is proportionately very large) so the jaw won't collapse from the absence of the tooth root.

There was a note on the paperwork that Dinah was a very good kitty today. Actually, I've had good luck with all my cats and never had one like some you hear about where the vets and technicians deserve hazard pay.

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Thu, Feb 18, 2010

misc Broken 911

Posted at 12:00 am MST to Miscellaneous

This morning I was awakened at 3:05am by the response to a 911 call I did not make.

I am actually glad for whatever glitch generated the call.

They said that the call actually came in at 2:45 and it took them 20 minutes to find my house because their display showed the address as 6969 Marshall -- an address that has not existed in this millennium, since the county invalidated it in 1999.

I sent the phone company a copy of the Boulder Land Use notice that changed the address in 1999, a few days after I received the notice, so they have had 11 years to update their records.

I was unable to get back to sleep, I was so annoyed that after 11 years Qwest still hasn't got their records updated consistently.

Having Qwest repair guys be unable to find the place because half the time their records show a non-existent address has been annoying and inconvenient. Having the 911 records wrong could be life-threatening.

So far this morning I have emailed

Qwest (the telephone company)
Boulder County Sheriff's Office
Boulder County Land Use
Boulder Daily Camera (our local paper)
Colorado Public Utilities Commission

In the email to Boulder County Land Use, I also complained about the fact that GPS units and on-line maps can't find my house. Their Geographical Information Service may not be able to do anything about that, but they probably come closest to being responsible for such things.

In the emails to the PUC and Daily Camera, I mentioned that X-Cel also had the address records screwed up at least as recently as 2008.

I don't really expect much to come of this, though it would be nice to get the 911 response fixed in case I ever have a real emergency.

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Mon, Dec 07, 2009

media Alice

Posted at 12:00 am MST to Media

The people who did the "Tinman" take-off on the Wizard of OZ have a new miniseries showing on Syfy based on the Lewis Carroll Alice books.

The first half is showing today and repeated tomorrow, followed by the second episode.

This is not a low budget show: the cast includes Tim Curry, Colm Meany, Harry Dean Stanton, Matt Frewer and Kathy Bates.

The story line is interesting and the visual effects are decent.

I'm definitely watching the second half, tomorrow.

And I want to dig out my DVDs of Tinman and rewatch it.

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Fri, Dec 04, 2009

weather Block Heater

Posted at 12:00 am MST to Weather

Yesterday was very cold and snowy. Last night the temperature dipped to 0 Fahrenheit, and this morning my foxy little car (now officially named Reynard) was very cranky about starting.

Tonight is supposed to be very cold again, so this evening I plugged Reynard in -- I had a block heater installed last summer after I bought him. It's a lot cheaper to invest in a block heater than to build a garage to shelter the car from the cold and wind on this ridge.

I have had block heaters in some previous vehicles, and liked them. Besides making the car easy to start on cold mornings, the warm engine starts giving heat to the cabin and defrosters a lot faster.

A trick I have used in vehicles without block heaters is to buy one of those utility lights that consist of a wire cage around a light bulb. Placing a hundred watt bulb into the engine compartment over night, preferably near the battery, can make a big difference on a cold morning.

There is a battery heater available for the Forester. I don't think I need both the battery heater and block heater, and chose the block heater because I like the extra heat it makes available for the driver. If I were going up into the ski areas, I might consider adding the battery heater, but I would need to rig a way to plug both heaters in.

Corporate housing for any gig in a really cold climate should include covered parking, so I really only need the heater here.

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weather New Slider

Posted at 12:00 am MST to Weather

Wow! The new sliding doors between my bedroom and the deck are impressive. It's 0 Fahrenheit out and I just stood next to the sliding doors, and might as well have been standing next to the solid wall. There was NO chill coming through the door or its frame. There is no wind to speak of tonight, which might make a difference, but this is still very impressive.

Standing next to the new basement doors I can feel a little chill -- they aren't as heavily insulated. But they are still a vast improvement, partly due to being installed and caulked properly, which the previous dorrs were not.

This is excellent.

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Thu, Nov 26, 2009

tech Stuffing for Breakfast

Posted at 12:00 am MST to Technology

It's national appliance-using day

So far today, I have baked squash and pumpkins, and pureed the pumpkins (food processor), roasted potatoes, made my usual stuffing (stand mixer and food grinder), put the turkey in to roast in my fancy oven (I'm using Alton Brown's recipe, same as last year) and made stuffed celery.

Later today, I may make some pumpkin pies and some eggnog (which will use the blender).

The dishwasher is on it's third load, and I've washed a bunch of stuff in the sink...

I ate some of the stuffing mixture -- bread, ground cooked meats and veggies, and broth -- for breakfast. The rest of the stuffing is baking in a corningware next to the turkey.

Ounce for ounce, I think the most expensive item on my menu today is the stuffed celery I'm nibbling on as an appetizer. I was able to find goat cream-cheese this year but it costs about five times as much as cow cream cheese. But having proper stuffed celery makes it feel like Thanksgiving.

Soon I will take the turkey and stuffing out of the oven, make gravy, and reheat the potatoes and squash.

Then I will eat. Lots.

Spending a day cooking makes a nice change. I've been on a paying gig since last Wednesday and also worked on some computer side projects, so this has been a very busy week.

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Thu, Nov 12, 2009

tech Reconnecting ClearQuest to DB2 after changes

Posted at 12:00 am MST to Technology

When changing the password of the DB2 database itself (as set in the CQ Maintenance tool), it is not enough to create a Connection in the Maintenance Tool that uses the correct password. Even though the Connnection succeeds, the other CQ
tools will not be able to access the database, and the connection will act as if the new password value is not sticking.

After creating the connection successfully in the Maintenance tool, Select Schema Repository->Update->Current Connection and set the new password again, then apply the changes. At this point the schema repository will be accessible using the ClearQuest Designer tools.

Then update the user database(s) if the password changes affect them too. The usual Database->Update User Database Properties tool in the Designer seems to be effective once the schema repository is connecting properly.

This update requirement is documented for Options changes. It just isn't clear in the IBM docs that it applies to password changes, too.

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