Friday, December 24, 2010

µReview: antiX linux

Over the past few weeks I've heard folks talking about a somewhat-lighter distro called antiX. Took it for a spin in virtualbox. Came up quickly with no drama.

RAM usage in the screenshot above is 96MB with the browser open to (accidentally typed the mobile version by habit).

I'm impressed with the snappiness and memory use of the livecd version. I didn't try to install it yet.

ISO, minimum ram, minimum HD, WM/DE
antix: 484MB, 128MB, 1.2GB, IceWM/Fluxbox
lubuntu: 546MB, 160MB, unknown, lxde
xubuntu: 726MB (!), 256MB, 2.0GB, xfce

I think this middleweight field is worth watching. I suspect the current economic environment will encourage people to get all the mileage they can out of previous-generation boxes. With middleweights like antiX you can "add lightness" without having to deal with the weirdness of puppy, dsl, tinycore, etc.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Review: jolicloud 1.1

I have heard several trusted sources (on TWIG, Android Central, etc) referring to Jolicloud. One even said Google should quit wasting resources on ChromeOS and just rebadge a tweaked Jolicloud.

I downloaded the .torrent and installed it in a virtualbox instance.

Initial thoughts:

  • 698MB? Really? Maybe my basis for comparison is wonky since I've been using small linuxen for a few years, but 698MB for a netbook OS seems excessive.
  • Torrent d/l is cool, but doesn't really seem to fit the target demographic.
  • live version is a bit wonky; can't do many things.
  • hangs for long periods in virtualbox: "initializing virtualbox driver" for several minutes during the install. Less of a problem once installed.
  • requires 2.4GB minimum to install. Yikes.
  • the integration with is interesting
  • the integration with facebook is frightening. I do NOT like this trend.
  • requires a net connection - everything is in the cloud as the name suggests
  • updates happened automagically. See screenshot below:

Didn't crop some of the screenshots, sorry. In case you're wondering the desktop behind the VM is the fluxbox window manager on xubuntu linux bones.

This type of greatly-simplified interface in the shot above was widely panned a few years ago when it was tried on Xandros:

Reminds me of how everyone mocked the tablet form factor until Saint Steve blessed the iPad. BTW, here's an iPad joke:

Q: how do you know if someone has an iPad?
A: they'll tell you.

True, and annoying.

This is what my little Eee notebook looks like these days. It's running Puppy 5.1.1, weighing in at ~130MB:

Monday, December 13, 2010

"may involve the use of explosives"

may involve the use of explosives and always occurs in a heavy industrial setting. A Class A or B CDL with HAZMAT is required, but can be obtained in the first sixty
days of employment during which time appropriate training will be provided. The job is physically demanding and requires being on 24 hour call. The job is in the field requiring work at all times of the day and in alltypes of weather.

Sweet baby Jebus. It's the landlocked analog of a crab fishing gig. If I were a younger and crazier man...

another interesting posting

A really specific/interesting set of requirements on this posting:

Requisition Number: URS51210
Interest Category: Environmental/Sciences

Interest Sub Category: Archaeology

Job Title: Archaeology Caddo Expert
Employment Category/Status: Part Time

Type of Position: Temporary

Country: U.S.

State/Province: Texas

City: Dallas

Minimum Requirements: Ph.D. in GeoArchaeology

15 years experience in the field of archaeology field work and research with an emphasis on Caddo culture.

Must have specific experience interpreting and analysis of all aspects of Native American artifacts, specifically related to the Caddo culture. Must be proficient in all aspects of Caddoan and adjacent cultural areas. Extensive experience in leading projects, both in the field and with the analysis and the preparation of report of findings. Must be proficient in technical archaeological writing.

Proficient in MS Word, MS Excel, ArcMap, Access, and SPSS.

Proficient in using total station, GPS receivers, and post processing software.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

from an actual job posting

Applicants must check your e-mail randomly for an assessment sent to you from [company]. The assessment will need to be completed as soon as possible in order to proceed to the next step.

Really? That's not a good sign.

Reminds me of an online test I took for a well-known telco with offices in Frisco. It was 40mins of massive multitasking. For example, do this math word problem while we barrage you with IMs and emails that scroll by. Oh, and you have to be able to recall the content of the IM/email minutes later.

Translation: we have a totally f&$%ed up work environment; wouldn't you like to work here?

Now, you'd think that a beggar couldn't be a chooser. But I've taken enough messed up jobs in my life to know a bad one when I see it.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Saying good night to a good dog

I would have thought this kind of thing would get easier with age.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

All (chook) cylinders firing

At, uhhh, 25 weeks the last bird came online with a small, light tan, roundish egg weighing a little less than 1.75 oz.

It's weird she was the last one to lay because she was the largest, plumpest, most hen-looking bird in the microflock. Goes to show what I know.

What is most amusing is her change in attitude. Previously she was fairly haughty around humans; now when she sees us coming she does the egg squat and waits for her back scratches. We dig in her back feathers a bit and then she ruffles her feathers and goes about her chooky business. It's pretty funny. Was it Hemingway who said we are all prisoners to our biology?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"Self-repair Manifesto"

Good stuff, found here.

{clickable thumbnail, durrr}

Thursday, November 4, 2010

2nd easter laying @ 23wks

Came home after work and found three eggs; this means the second easter egger pullet is now doing her part.

Her first egg is a slightly different color, perhaps a bit paler and bluer. It was 40.0g, which is USDA Peewee.

The biggest girl, a Rhode Island Red, is still not laying or squatting.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Mystery can

For years I have been begging vending machine operators to fill up one slot with random stuff and mark it "mystery", "random", or "guess". I in this morning's web browsing that somewhere someone finally did it.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

1st easter egger comes online

First egg from the nameless, spazzy EE. We call her "brown chicken".

Her first egg is quite small and weighed 40.2 grams. This makes it a USDA Peewee (seriously, that's an official size). Perfectly fine for a first effort from a non-production bird.

Broke some eggs to make a cheesecake and thought you might want to see the coloration of the inner and outer shell. The brown eggs are white shell with medium brown pigment layer on the outside. The slate green eggs are pale blue with a light brown pigment layer on the outside.

The outer pigment, if any, is laid down near the end of the cycle. In some breeds with very dark (chocolate) coloration it can actually smear or wash off a bit. This is not necessarily evidence of nefarious chromatic tampering.


Whenever I pick up eggs from the nesting boxes I always thank the birds. Sounds silly but I think St. Francis was on to something.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Denouncement. Subset == headstomping libertarian

Hey there, pal.

Permit me to suggest you need to spend some time reviewing the non-aggression principle. It's fundamental to Libertarian philosophy. The good news is you may find yourself with some extra time to catch up on said reading in the very near future.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Happy Birthday, planet Earth

You are apparently 6,014 yrs old today.

EE pullet doing "egg squat"

Birds are now at the 21 week mark.

Last week the smaller RIR started laying and she has produced an egg in the late morning for 8 straight days so far. Certainly more consistency than I expected.

This week the wilder of the EE pullets started doing the egg squat. This is a dropping-down movement maturing pullets do when approached by a rooster (or human).

It has three steps:
  1. get low, and (optionally) spread the wings a bit. Maybe 1".
  2. if touched more to the tail end than the head end, jack up the rear end (ie, present for mounting)
  3. afterwards, ruffle feathers using the same motion dogs use to shake off water. I assume this move is to get all feathers back into place after the rooster's interaction.
The most interesting thing is that not only is the full squat dance sequential, but so is the development of the dance. Our young pullets start with #1, then #1-2 a bit later, then #1-2-3 about a week before laying their first egg.

I tell you that to tell you this: went out this morning and our largest EE pullet did the whole 1-2-3 egg squat. She started 1 and 2 earlier this week. It's hilarious because she has been the most skittish of our birds: couldn't get near her since she's been about 3wks old. But now her hormones are cranking up and she's compelled to stop and accept physical interaction. I can just imagine her little pea-brain is saying "WHAT IS HAPPENING TO ME! WANT TO RUN! CAN'T RUN! WHY AM I DOING THIS? ARGGHHH!"

It's ok, bird. Adolescence is difficult, no matter the species. I'd show you my yearbook photos but you'd probably just poop on it.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

tech support hell

In my previous (pre-teaching) life I did technical support for about 15yrs. Long enough to see that sometimes situations can get hopelessly tangled and get worse from there.

Consider my experience today. Bought a refurb wifi extender to go in the back shed. This will provide better coverage in the back yard, but more importantly it will ensure a better signal for the video wificam that watches the back gate and alley.

  1. The unit works fine. Took some configuration gymnastics, but nothing that a tech dweeb couldn't fight through. It's working but in a suboptimal postion. The reason for this will become more clear in the next step.
  2. The device comes with two power adapters: one for mounting on the wall and one with a long cord for mounting elsewhere. Like in a windowsill away from the outlet, which is what I really want to do. Problem: the corded one will not power the device. Multimeter on the contacts shows no juice.
  3. I go online to get an RMA; it says for power adapter replacement they just ship; no crosship, no return. Problem: you can't get an RMA without a case number (ie, have to work with a tech first). Fine.
  4. I do an online chat, as I cannot always understand techies with heavy accents. Chat gets around that. Problem: chat support says my device is out of warranty. I looked down at the just-opened box and read the "90 day warranty" page on Linksys letterhead included in said box. No go. Call tech support. Fine.
  5. I call tech support and waited on hold. Got a pleasant tech. Gave her all information since they cannot see the info I put into the chat earlier (contact info, purchase info, model, serial, etc). Got 75% of the way through the call. Problem: I turned around to look at something on the unit, got tangled up in the headset wires and tore the mic wiring out of my headphones. I cursed. Totally my fault, which made me madder. Went to the geek store and got another set of headphones.
  6. Called tech support again, waited on hold again. Got a less pleasant but more savvy tech who figured out the problem immediately. Problem: tech says they can't ship just the power adapter, I have to return the whole thing. I protest, citing both the RMA page that specifically says they will ship the adapter seperately, and my reluctance to set up the danged expander again. Once was challenging; twice would be annoying. He says I can call customer service, but he will give me the case number I need for the online RMA. Fine.
  7. I plug in the case number into the RMA form and submit. Problem: it promptly craps the bed:

  8. Restart the browser and do it again. Problem: RMA stops in its tracks, displaying this popup about a backorder:

  9. The popup says "will ship" but does not give an RMA # and the page will no longer advance. I go to check on the RMA with the Status Checker to see if the RMA actually went through. Problem: you can't check status by any method other than RMA #, which was not shown on the page.

I'll watch for a while and see if it comes in the mail. If not I'll try to resubmit. If that doesn't work I'll see if I can buy a dead unit off eBay and take the power supply off that. Grrr.

My guess is that there are no seperate supplies, only the ones packaged with the extender. This would explain the 2nd reps inability to ship. I've seen that happen in the support world and it's not something the techs themselves can control.

Friday, October 15, 2010

First egg @ 20 weeks

First egg, found this afternoon after I got back from work.

This first effort is 2" x 1 5/8". It weighs 50.4 grams (1.78 oz), which makes it a "medium" egg according to the USDA. The math according to their formula works out like this:

Jumbo: 2.5 oz
Extra Large: 2.25 oz
Large: 2.0 oz
Medium: 1.75 oz
Small: 1.5 oz

My instinct is the RIR will start out with Medium and end up Large or slightly shy of Large. The EEs will likely start out Small and end up with Medium once they hit their stride.

I was feeling optimistic last week so I had already picked up this 25c egg-collecting basket from a thrift store in Plano. Baskets may look silly but experienced egg transporters know that eggs in hand, eggs in pocket, or eggs in pulled-up shirt will eventually result in tragedy.

It is common for egg production to be uneven in the beginning, so I'm not expecting much at this point.

Here are the suspects. It's got to be one of the Rhode Island Reds (pictured at rear) as they are the layers of brown eggs. The easter eggers (hogging the spotlight up front) will have blue and/or green eggs.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Even more MRI fun

Got a call from the VA asking me to come in again for more MRI action on the shoulder.

I am in the odd position of hoping this is due to image loss due to incompetence or carelessness, rather than some kind of alien life form or extra kidney hiding in the joint. I know the original MRI 'worked' because I visited with the tech afterwards. She reviews all the slices as they come out to make sure none need to be reshot.

I'm bringing earplugs this time.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

chickens at 19wks

This is the microflock at 19weeks.

You will notice that when given the opportunity to free range they stood in or around a pot of [petunias? periwinkles?].

One of the RIRs and one of the EEs are starting to get reddening combs and wattles. Traditional wisdom suggests those two will be the first to lay. I'm betting on the RIR since they were bred for egg production and the EEs were not. Could be as late as the end of the year, but my reasonable guess is T-giving. An egg by Nov 1 would be a nice present from the girls to show their gratitude for all the grub and roof over their pretty, empty little dinosaur heads but I'm not holding my breath.

I've transitioned them from starter crumbles to Layena pellets (Purina chicken chow), which they really like. And there's much less waste from the pellets since when they drop/spill/fling a pellet they can find it and eat it.

Monday, September 27, 2010

MRI fun (shoulder)

I tore up my right shoulder earlier in the year and it finally got bad enough a couple of months ago to go visit the VA orthopedics team.

My reading suggests rotator cuff.

Scheduled for an MRI on Sunday and got it done. I was surprised at how loud it was and how long it took. The tomb-like nature of the thing didn't bother me; I fell asleep a couple of times during the imaging.

When requesting the MRI, the Ortho said he'd call ASAP if there was an emergency, otherwise we'd talk about at a followup a coupla months into the future.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Tasker for Android

[This post is derived from an email I sent a friend who has an extraordinarily nimble technical mind. "Normals" can read along, too.]

If you haven't looked at Tasker, check it out. It's priced in Pounds; when I pulled the trigger the exchange rate made it ~$5.

Basically tasker it's a macro system that can automate most functionality of the [Android] phone. When any given macro exits the phone settings are reset to their original values unless you specifiy otherwise.

Examples from my own usage:

Silence during meetings: watch the Google calendar. When starting an appointment marked "Busy", turn phone to silent mode.

wifi battery conservation: even when wifi is turned off, scan briefly every X mins to check if near a specified wifi access point. If nearby, turn on wifi, connect, and turn on auto-sync. Disconnect when leaving the area.

Same for celltowers, gps, etc. Name your poison.

This may be particularly important for folks that are too cheap frugal to have an unlimited dataplan.

To give you an idea how clever this stuff is: if you pick more than one location type Tasker starts with the lowest-power-consuming one. For example, a celltower + WAP requirement would use celltower first for a power-inexpensive sanity check to see if you are in the general
area, and only then trigger the battery-hogging wifi for fine-grained checks. So if you never get within celltower visibilty of the target the wifi check is never activated. Good stuff, Maynard.

Find missing phone: when receiving an SMS from a given number with a given string as the
message, turn on GPS, get a lock, and SMS back the coords, battery level, etc. This functionality is $99/yr for iPose users.

Podcast listening: when I connect with one of my named BT headsets it brings up an app that streams normal audio over BT. When I connect with a different, A2DP-enabled earpiece it dooesn't run that app because a2dp handles that duty.

Night mode: turn off wifi, bluetooth, and phone between 1-5am since I'm not going to answer
it anyway. Saves battery if I forget to cable it up for the night.

Power conservation: when on power cord turn on all the power-expensive toys you want;
bright screen, gps, wifi, 3g, whatever. Or maybe only turn them on
when the batt is fully charged, so you get fastest charge possible and then get the fun stuff.

Low battery: when below 20% battery, disable 3G and autosync, disable wifi+GPS,
turn screen to minimum, say the arbitrary words "arrrrghhhh, low on
battery!" or play a particular sound or whatever.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Denouncement. Subset == quaran burning preacher

I denounce distasteful, provocative hate speech like that of the Terry Jones. Burning anyone's scripture is a bad idea.

On a personal level it's rude.

On a national level we would be better served to ally ourselves with moderates of ALL faiths in order to strip mindshare from extremists (including Terry Jones).

Denouncement. Subset == motorcycle stunters

As a licensed motorcycle rider I denounce the idiots that endanger themselves and others on public roads.

The motorcycle community has a derisive term for this kind of rolling Darwin award winners: 'squids'.

Rent a track or a parking lot, Mensa boy.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Backyard Chickens at Dallas Green Festival

I noted over on MBTRT that the Dallas Green Fest is happening on Sept 18th.

I bring it up here on my personal blog because there will be a backyard chickens booth (display, information, chicken-ranching [sub]urbanites) there. It will be organized by Dan Probst of Bageniece Farms in Quinlan, Tx.

Dan himself will be splitting his time between the DGF and another event across town at North Haven Gardens:

11AM - 2PM • Backyard Chicken Sale Buy juvenile hens & ducks for your backyard flock
2PM • "Winterize" Your Backyard Hens by Dan Probst, Bageniece Farms. Keep your backyard flock safe this winter from the elements with expert tips from Dan Probst.

This means the folks manning the Festival booth will be more like neighbors than experts. This should be a comfortable, friendly way to see some breeds and talk to folks that keep backyard microflocks.

If you do see Dan at either place be sure to introduce yourself. He's a friendly guy and the hardest working guy in the DFW chicken business. There's a pic of him on the right in this picture so you know who to look for.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

chickens at 14 weeks

They look like chickens now, although they are not completely filled out. The good-natured little beasties and love to walk around scratching in the garden and back yard, eating bugs and leaves of grass.

Anybody want to take over/under on first egg? The ag numbers suggest 20-25 weeks, which would be late October or early November. Because of the brutality of the heat I wouldn't be surprised if point of lay was delayed significantly. Their bodies are driving the process and produce eggs (or not) as they see fit.

If we get an RIR egg by Thanksgiving and an EE egg by Christmas I'll be happy. The EEs will lag behind in time and volume because they were not bred for egg production.

If you are interested in learning more about backyard chickens I recommend the forum and the Bucky Buckaw podcast (RSS feed, kinda hard to find).

New RNs, New Teachers

This article is about nurses, but if you substitute "teachers" for "nurses" the pattern holds. I added the emphasis.

New RNs find job market tight
By Alison Young, USA TODAY
Even as a national nursing shortage looms, many newly graduated registered nurses can't find jobs because the recession has delayed retirement of experienced nurses, regulators and health care associations say.
An advisory for new grads published by the association warns that the market is "flooded" with experienced RNs who have come out of retirement, delayed retirement or gone from part-time to full-time employment because of the recession.
A June 2009 survey by the association of 2,112 spring RN graduates found 44% hadn't yet landed a nursing job.

Monday, August 23, 2010

How (not) to encourage drugs testing compliance

This post is not about my position on the drug war, which may or may not be guessable based on my libertarian tendencies.

This post is about employee drug testing. Employees generally don't like it, whether for tactical or philosophical reasons. So how do you decrease the pushback against drugs testing in the workplace?

By having the direct supervisor tested every time a reporting employee is tested. In the case of a new hire, the manager doing the hiring gets tested. Simple, no? It gets the company even more of whatever they are trying to get by drugs testing. It is leading by example. Management is not asking anything of the worker that they are not willing to do themselves.

The opposite case is hypocrisy: drugs testing is good for worker bees but not bigwigs.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

roller derby is not dead

Went to a roller derby last night, a bout put on by the Assassination City league. Went down at Dad's Broadway Skateland in Mesquite.
Disjointed observations follow. I'll highlight keywords so you can pick and choose through the mess.

There were many interesting things to note, but the most interesting was that the bout was sold out and the place was packed. Who knew?

The second most interesting thing was the good-naturedness of the crowd, which was a Good Thing given the sardine can levels of packedness in there and BYOB policy. It had to be at Fire Marshall maximum. It was crowded enough that I made special note of where the fire exits were. And it was freaking hot. Dress very comfortably and lightly.

I think that is the highest percentage of people with tattoos that I have seen in my life, including motorcycle bars. Even the children had those applique tattoos. How to put this... the crowd was post-rockabilly, post-goth, post-hairband, neo-burlesque/pinup scenesters run through a post-911, DIY, community gardening steampunk filter. Strange folks, and good folks I think. Like a parallel universe where carnies are friendly, funny and ironic rather than disturbing and on the lam for prior indiscretions.

The PA was stupidly, painfully loud and the MC loved to hear himself talk. The music wasn't too loud, just the incessant announcing. Luckily I am a dork and carry earplugs with me everywhere I go. It paid off this time; I would have left because of ear pain if I had no plugs.

A couple more observations, these focused on the skaters.
  • Sometimes you see sports/games where the players pantomime sportsmanship because the formal or societal rules say you have to. At the roller derby the skaters genuinely loved what they were doing and treated each other well. Aggression, yes, but good-natured and integral to the game. It reminds me of minor leagues games where both the players and the audience are there because they love it, not because of the money or the spectacle.
  • I think it is healthy to see women comfortable with their physical selves. I am tired of the "you must look this way" crap hawked by Cosmo, et al, for the benefit of clothesmakers and cosmetic companies. And tired of the neuroses this encourages. The skaters play with feminine imagery and roles rather than being enslaved to them. Grrrl power, indeed.

106.7FM, la bonita

It's worth a listen. Seems to be Spanish standards rather than Top 40 stuff. Definitely haven't heard any OOMP oomp OOMP oomp Tejano in there. No modern bachata or reggaeton*. I suspect it's what abuelo y abuela prefer.

My favorite is when it veers off into lounge/torch. When it's less successful it can be cheesey (though not obnoxious) pop.

Think 770AM with a sabor picante and you're getting close. It's earned a place on my radio presets.

* which I actually like. I was sad when the infectious danceparty KKDL/KDL at this frequency was booted.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

PG digital proofreading sample

Covered with snow in autumn, winter, and spring, and plentifully
spattered with snow all summer long, the vast, bare granite masses,
from which, in fact, the Rocky Mountains got their name, are beautiful beyond description.
US Govt pamphlet: Rocky Mountain National Park (1937).

A few of the projects I have worked on have made their way through the entire process and now appear on Project Gutenberg. Geeky fun.

Monday, August 16, 2010

android adventures

I sold a couple of my WM smartphones on eBay to pay for a 1st-generation Android device, the original G1. Stop laughing.

Thumbnail: Android is awesome. Highly configurable/hackable. Plenty of free apps. Screen is beautiful. Awesome user community. Battery life is terrible.

On my love/hate relationship with Apple
Apple hardware is well-designed, but is not IMO suitable for power users. It's great for folks that want to do stuff but not understand how it works or venture off the official trail. I don't say this dismissively; that approach meets the needs of many people who have $ to spend. Using Apple is like wearing a great suit that gets you many compliments but you can never take off. (Exception: flashing rockbox firmware onto iPod is the best of both worlds).

I also find it annoying that good technology exists for years, then crApple* puts a slick design on it and the crowd goes wild. Then other companies knock off the crApple knock off.
Examples: smartphones, tablets, mp3 players.

iTunes is an abomination. I am pretty sure that iTunes use is a kind of litmus test for whether or not you will like The Apple Experience.

On this annoying swipe interface
Oh, Minority Report. How I hate you for those scenes with Tom Cruise manipulating/swiping/flicking data on a screen. That meme has positively infected high-end mobile devices. Arghhh. Cpu intensive, self-consciously blingy, and not terribly useful.

One of the nice things about Android is that the interface allows you to put things like nav dots on the screen to change homescreens more efficiently.

Android in general
I'm sold on Android. Good stuff. I even downloaded the SDK and look forward to compiling the 'hello, Android' app. :-P Will keep you posted. My understanding is that Android uses the Java language but not the official Sun/Java/Oracle libraries. The VM is different but I don't understand the significance of that yet.

I'd like to see less attention on bling and more on performance and battery life.

I think Android is pretty bad on Android in general. I don't think it's necessarily a function of my old G1.
Recalibrating the battery gauge may help somewhat.
Turning off unneeded services (wifi, gps, whatever) will help, as will dimming the screen backlight.
I do not pay for a data plan on my carrier so I use wifi; this probably makes matters worse.

I had gotten used to plugging in smartphones every 2 days or so to top off. Android requires a paradigm shift; if you are near a power source it is in your best interest to plug it in. A dock would be nice.

Android multitasks for real and does a good job of it.

Quasi-"Multitasking" on the iPhone is derided by many folks but I don't have a problem with it. Task switching plus limited background functionality is good enough for my purposes. It's basically what PalmOS did and it works fine. Should be easier on the batts, also.

Android apps and market
As of this writing the Market is populated enough with freeware that I unplugged my Treo 650 and cradle and put it away. I put the Dash phones up for auction without a moment's delay.

G1 specific
The G1 looks incredibly ugly in photos. In person it is only a bit ungainly. It is not aggressively ugly.

I don't use the trackball except in the Amon RA recovery image menus or to keep the screen active if I don't want it to time out (I use the 15sec backlight for batt purposes).

The hardware is minimal (528 MHz. 256 MB ROM, 192 MB RAM) so I needed either SD swap or compcache to run without lag. Currently using compcache.

The camera is pretty bad.

*crApple is a term used by Fab on the Linux Outlaws podcast, which was a tweak on his penchant for saying "it's crap!!!" about whatever he didn't like. Using it here for amusement rather than evaluative purposes.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

lawn mower adventures

I have been using a Scotts reel-type mower since we moved into this house.

  • Quiet! Can mow late or early without bothering anyone. Can listen to music on headphones at low levels
  • retro fun, simple, "good enough"
  • relatively cheap to buy and maintain
  • clean scissor-like snip, rather than blade whacking
  • similar to exercise!
  • the "green" angle is a welcome side effect.


  1. twigs will stop forward progress right now
  2. too-tall stalks (like 8" weeds) will usually bend under the reel rather than be snipped by it. Gotta bend over and pull them or break them off short.
  3. blade alignment takes some practice to learn

It's still my go-to mower. But I inherited a "needs help" electric lawnmower off Freecycle. The donor thought there was a problem with the motor as batts had been recently replaced.

I put it on a 24V BatteryMINDer smart charger I already owned to charge other 24v devices. The mower ran for about 2 mins. Hmmm.

I suspect a bad batt or at least uneven charging so I put each battery individually on a 12v BatteryTender which I got a garage sale in Heights for $5. Each battery charged seperately. The mower ran about 3 mins.

When I put the mower back on the BatteryMINDer this time it charged then indicated sulfation and began the desulfation cycle. This cyle ran about 2 days, reported ok again. While the batts got massaged I pulled the brushes and filed them a bit. Then the mower ran for the entire time required to mow the front yard. (I had already done the back yard with the reel). I don't know if it was due to desulfation, brushes, both, or neither. I'm betting on desulfation.

Put it back on the BatteryMINDer and it's been desulfating for 3 days. Hopefully the desulfation will help the batts limp along enough to do at least the front or back yard. I'd be ok with that.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Google voice + SIP = free phone

I have been using Google Voice with great success. My google number acts as a front end to my cell, pc, and any other lines I choose to associate with it. It is massively configurable and I'm still figuring it out.

Through lucky coincidence and my geek research habits, I am one of the minority who can get the most value out of Google Voice. Google Voice + Gizmo + [sip client] is a way to get a phone number and make outbound calls, inbound calls, and SMS from your PC for free. This is the functional equivilant of getting SkypeIn/SkypeOut/SkypeSMS for free instead of paying $80+/yr for it. And I think it's a better solution than the paid Skype product. And it's much better than paying for a landline.

A friend saw my setup and wanted to duplicate it. My reply was lengthy and oversimplified to the point of inaccuracy, but it might be a springboard for your own cheap VOIP ideas.

I don't think [routing Google Voice to your PC] is directly do-able at the moment, unless one already has a Gizmo/sipphone account.

First things:
* gizmo was a particular SIP provider. SIP is the main open source VOIP protocol, and is what the mighty Asterisk PBX servers use.

So far I have used the Ekiga and Twinkle SIP clients here on my box. I bounce between them.

* you can think of SIP as similar to Skype's functionality, only open source. It's not really accurate, but will help get the head wrapped around it. You do the same kinds of things with a free SIP client as you would do with Skype, except there are no easy SIP-Skype gateways. Skype definitely has the "mindshare".

* Google bought sipphone/grandcentral/gizmo.

* gizmo registrations are suspended, but they do have a "notify me" form for when it reopens


* Google voice DOES allow setting up a SIP account as a phone
* BUT it currently only allows Gizmo accounts

* until Google either reopens Gizmo registrations or allows non-gizmo SIP routing "the game is locked and nobody else can play."
I think if/when Google allows non-Gizmo SIP it will be a game-changer.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Water. Weatherford not has it.

Weatherford has zero water at the moment; at the time of the link above they had minimal flow. As of 6pm "all the taps in the city are dry" and "may be without water for an extended period of time."

So, how much water do you have in the house in case the normal water system is disrupted? Enough to get through a day? Two days? Three days? A useful rule of thumb is one gallon per person per day. That's enough to drink, cook, and do light hygiene like brushing teeth and doing moist cloth wipedowns until more water is available.

If you have no water preps, you can start simply and cheaply by rinsing out 2L soda bottles and storing tap water in them. Date them with a Sharpie so you know when to rotate/use/refill. Since I am a homebrewer I use brewing sanitizers to no-rinse the bottles, but that's likely overkill.

{edit s/burleson/weatherford/g}

"Opulence. I has it."

Best commercial I have seen in a long time. I won't spoil the delightful ending.

Here on youtube.

Monday, July 26, 2010

vertical tomatoes

I don't remember whether or not I shared this, but after a couple of years of sad garden results I finally tested the soil.  pH was neutral (very near 7), phosporous ok, potassium ok.  But nitrogen was so low as to be almost unmeasurable by the kit.  D'oh!

I have been laying on compost this summer, and will winter the chickens over the garden later this year.  Both of these should increase Nitrogen for next spring.

So I don't expect much from the garden this year.  But I did want to share my experiment with vertically growing tomatoes. Here's a bit of scribble I emailed to my father about the experiment:

I think it's a promising idea;  I got it from the Square Foot Gardening guy.  It's basically a way of increasing density in small plots.

When/if we get any fruit I'll support those vines with additional sisal.

Theoretical benefits:

  • Since they are vertically planted,  other/lower plants can be planted on the sun-side.
  • The majority of the plant is held up out of reach of ground-level bugs and standing birds.  I trimmed the leaves about 1' up to minimize rot/mildew from watering.
  • no rot induced by fruit laying on ground 
  • toms appear to enjoy growing vertically;  not bushy/hunchbacked like when I grew them in cages. They aren't hard-tied to the verticals at all;  just guided alongside the vertical with loose sisal loops.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Smartphone, again

You may remember (or have suppressed) my ancient smartphone geekout.

Since then I swapped to a WM Dash I got for $4 off eBay.  :-)  They thought it was dead but it just had an alarm bug which I fixed and patched.  The hardware is fantastic BUT:

  1. google Tasks cannot be synced yet.  Boo!  Tasks are essential to my PIM life.
  2. WM calendaring is awful on smartphones and Today screen hackery doesn't get me where I want to be.  PalmOS PIM handles this nicely.  Interestingly, the Calendar on the older Treo 600 is better (IMO) than that on the Treo 650.  {After writing that sentence I found freeware KSDatebook, which duplicates the functionality of the old 600 calendar.  Perfect.  Kerbillions of useful, free apps is one reason the old PalmOS rocked. "Yeah, there's a free app for that."}
So I am using the Treo 650 at the moment.  If Google ever publishes the Tasks API I might swing back to WM earlier. My old (pre-Dash) WM phones are sealed in bags in my bug out gear.  They have wifi and miniUSB charge ports, which makes them more useful in emergencies IMO.

tree down

Part of a tree is down in the back yard this AM. No damage at the moment.  Will post more as I get it figured out.


Ok, got it largely sorted out.  Redbud had some trunk rot, and half broke off.  I used my small electric chainsaw to hack up everything of appropriate size in order to make working room and get the limbs under COR 7' specs.

The fall didn't destroy anything, but the remaining trunk was revealed to be hollow and dead.  Called a couple of tree companies to come and estimate the rest of the removal of the 36' tree before something bad happens with the remainder of it.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

great weekend!

Visited a local poultry breeder just south of Quinlan.The wife took a liking to this turkey hen:

I liked the naked neck chicken in the lower left of this pic:

Yes, they're supposed to look like that.  They are heat-tolerant, good layers, and have good personalities.  Dear Wife says "no, too ugly."  :-(  Good thing she gave me a second chance when she met me...

On the way to Quinlan I saw my first Porsche Panamerica (turbo, even) in the wild.  It was interesting, not nearly the ugly beast the automotive critics have been whining about.  I rather liked it.

Sorry for the indistinct pic but he was making rapid progress in the left lane. I think this was on Hwy 80.

On the way back we swung north to Greenville where I bought my first new motorcycle and first new car.  The old city square appears to be dying off.  :-(

Then went and visited some small towns that feed Commuinity ISD:  Nevada, Josephine, Copeland.  Excellent night drive, but the rain and lack of lighting made it a bit stressful when facing oncoming.


Spent a bit of time with the chickens, who are developing into recognizable hens these days.  This pic is from a day or so earlier but they didn't change much in 48hrs.  :-)

This is them today enjoying a dustbath in a cool patch of dirt under the bushes:

No, they're not dead or injured.  Just piled up and playing in the dirt. 

Friday, June 25, 2010

water recapture for compost

In the spirit of "you got chocolate in my peanut butter", I submit the following:

  1. I have two AC units that both generate a good deal of water from condensation.  My old central air generates about 5gal/day, vented outside via PVC pipe in the style of the 1980s when it was installed.  There's also a window unit in the workshop that I keep barely turned on just to keep temps in there below 90F.  It generates about 1.5gal/day.
  2. My compost piles are quite dry.  I try to remember to water them from time to time but the heat has been incredible. 
So, now I put buckets under the drips and rehome the water to the compost piles.  I'm putting most of it around the periphery as that seems to the be the driest part when I restack piles.   I don't think I'm overwatering the piles because the heat is so bad, and because the piles are stacked in wire mesh cages.  Excess water should flow out the bottom or evaporate out the side.

The stack nearest the 5gal bucket gets a little a day then I dump the rest at the base of the trees in the front yard.  

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

first watermelon of the year

Ate my first melon of the season.  Ok, but not really good.  Haven't had a REALLY GOOD melon in about 3yrs.


BTW, if you ever wondered if chickens like watermelon rinds:

That's the pink and white innards chowed down until the green shows.

How to coach (I mean "teach") History in Texas

I run many canned searches each day.  This is how it came up this morning (note:  I was not searching for coaching in any way).

Teacher-Coach-Assistant Basketball-Social Studies Composite

Basketball-Social Studies Composite Location: Roosevelt HS REQUIRED CERTIFICATIONS: Social 

Teacher-Coach - Social Studies Composite/Ass. Football

High School Social Studies Composite Teacher, Softball/Volle...

School Social Studies Composite Teacher, Softball...

Teacher-Coach-Social Studies-Assistant Football

Social Studies Teacher/Coach

Social Studies Composite/Asst. Football & Basketball Coach (...

Teacher-Coach-Social Studies/Asst Girls Basketball-Softball-...

Teacher-Coach-Social Studies Comp./Head Softball Coach

I bring this up so folks getting into the field will see how it works.  When making life plans it's useful to have someone point out the hidden obstacles.

I will close with a quote from Bierce:
ACADEME, n.  An ancient school where morality and philosophy were taught.
ACADEMY, n.  [from ACADEME] A modern school where football is taught.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Not done with the DMN survey yet

This one is about the survey structure itself, not the content.

I hated this survey.  I actually yelled at the screen a few times while taking it.  It was full of suck.  Let me count the ways:

  1. Flash is slow and unnecessary.   Stop it.
  2. Don't make us fill out 48 (4x12, not joking) panels from scratch.  Use defaults from the previous page and let us fine tune them as we go.  
  3. Don't put the "stop and come back later" button in the default Submit location, particularly if you can't Back to the previous page.  I had to go back to the original email invite 3x.  Grrr!
Piece of crap.   Piece of crap.  Piece of crap.

DMN survey is not good news

Looks like folks that are registered on got a survey invite:

The Dallas Morning News and would like to invite you to participate in a survey that will help our writers and editors learn about your opinions on digital media and the news. If you participate, you will help us provide better news and information through both traditional and new personal digital products. All answers will be treated as strictly confidential

It would be in poor taste to publish all the details, but overall the survey suggests that DMN is so freaking out of touch with the online audience that they couldn't "find their ass with both hands", as my father used to say.

Behold the lunacy:

  • All subscription options involved a contract of some kind.  A contract.  A committment. Really?  
  • All subscription prices were based on particular subject areas (shopping, entertainment, etc) which are bought separately, at jaw dropping prices you will see next
  • All subscriptions per subject area were $1-$6 per month, up to a max of $20.  That's up to $240/yr!  Ha ha ha ha ha! Yer killin' me!  hahhaha!  That's a good one!
My professional opinion:  someone/everyone is smoking crack at DMN.

My unsolicited advice to DMN
The cost:  You might get $20/yr for all content combined out of some people.  You definitely aren't going to get $20/month in your wildest, most unrealistic, incestuous/inbred boardroom strategy sessions.    If you could make that $10/yr for all content folks might consider that a good deal and might do it just to support their hometown paper.[0]  For $240/yr you can get low-end internet feed.  THE ENTIRE INTERNET, not DMN.

Rewarding print subscribers:  If there is any kind of paywall, the online content really should be free to anyone who is still has one of the dead tree edition subs.

Rewarding crowdsources:   if you start a paywall, you BETTER be giving free access to your citizen contributors like Destiny and others who are doing your freaking job for free.   Pay attention:  if you charge us and don't give contributors access for free, then your contributors will monetize their own blogs instead and let the free market teach you a painful lesson.  

The contract:  Don't do that.

ex-DTH subscriber
daily reader

[0] regardless what they did to the DTH in the past.  Bastids. v

Monday, June 14, 2010

my nonexistent pressure cooker

I bought a Presto 8qt pressure cooker (model 0128204) off Amazon a couple of years ago and was looking for regulators and other parts for it.  Apparently that model number is a figment of my imagination even though it is stamped in the aluminum pot.  As of this writing there were three (3) google hits that positively listed that model number, and none had parts.

So I called Presto and asked about it. The rep seemed to sidestep the issue a bit, but when I asked if the listed 0128202 used the same gasket, overpressure relief and regulator she said it did.  She also advised the only regulator for this unit is 15#.  I would like to have a 5# and 10# for it like I do for my 22qt Mirro canner.  10# would be a bit gentler on my agar media, I suspect.

Posting this bit of trivia here so some other lost soul with a 0128204 wouldn't have to duplicate the effort.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Transition to the tractor

Chickens are a month old today, and it's warmer outside than it is inside the brooder. Over the past week I put them in the tractor for increasing amounts of time, up to 8hrs. They are much bigger, and are starting to pick up chicken proportions. At this point they are bigger than pigions but a bit smaller than the giant crows I've seen this year. They'll end up around 6# or so. In the pic one of the RIRs is pecking at a piece of corncob to get the little edible bits out.

Thursday night we put them out but they were scared and cried. We picked them up around 1am and put them back in the brooder.

Friday we put them in the brooder all day and they all went to sleep around 10pm. They went upstairs to the nesting area around midnight. They peeped quietly a bit then fell asleep.

Today (Saturday) we moved the tractor a few feet to expose a fresh bit of chicken-yard interface. This evening they nested by sundown. I left them a little 25w "nightlight" to calm them. They need it less and less but I want the transition to outdoor life to be as easy as possible.

They roost a bit but end up sleeping on flat surfaces. At some point they will start to roost more as we used the recommended 2" width, sanded the edges to make them comfy, and made them a bit higher than the nesting area.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

scope of war

"There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket."
Attributed to General Smedley Butler, USMC

What some call isolationism, others call tending one's own garden first.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

teaching, tilting at windmills

Introspection and explanation.

It's been a year and a half since I left a corporate/technical job to pursue teaching. My timing turned out to be quite bad; the economy immediately tanked and the teaching market constricted mightily. School districts like Richardson have quit accepting applications altogether from alternative certification folks like me unless one is in a high needs area (Math, Science). I'm not. And I can't get into a high needs area without getting a certificate in my non-high needs area first. This in spite of recent findings that there is no particular edge that traditional hires bring to the table.

I promise this isn't a whine or a complaint. My mood is one of acceptance and reality. A new alt cert applicant asked me the other day if the job market was depressing or scary. "No," I replied, "depressing and scary was about a year ago." I should point out that she asked me this during a 30-hr block of Saturday classes I'm having to retake for TEA because I didn't get the internship before the 18-month limit timed out. And I wasn't the only one like that in the classroom.

I tell you that to tell you this: I just filled out my first application for a non-teaching job. The market may pick up soon but subbing doesn't pay enough to keep me from burning through my resources: savings, checking, retirement, eBay/craiglist-able nonessentials and credit line. Subbing every single day (no days off, no cancellations, fully booked) yields a max of about $16k/yr. I figured I'd sub until I got a teaching job or ran out of resources, whichever came first.

If I do not get a teaching job for the Fall it's safe to say it's over. Neither the mortgage holder nor student loan officer will accept good intentions or dreams in lieu of cash, and I don't blame them. I gave the public school system first right of refusal and they exercised it. Fair enough. But I do feel a tiny bit like a fellow who had his proposal turned down on the jumbotron at the ballpark, or a volunteer the Peace Corps wouldn't accept.

I continue to email, hobnob, apply to ISD websites, look at 40+ ISD/charter/private school job listing pages each day but it appears the die has been cast. I'll keep trying to get a teaching position right up to the point I get hired to do something else.

Edited to add: even if I get a non-teaching job I'll continue to teach on my own time and my own dime. It's a vocation, and finds its way to the surface like St Francis preaching to the birds. Maybe I'll teach the chickens in the backyard.

Anyone getting grounds from Starbucks?

Apparently some Starbucks locations will give away used coffee grounds for composters.

Anyone tried this at Richardson locations? I generate my own coffee grounds each day :-) but it might be useful for others.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Seriously? Graham cracker looting?

Yes, that appears to be the case.

If we are willing to commit theft on so petty a scale I am pretty sure Dallas would look like a 3rd-world postapocalyptic madhouse if any major disasters occurred here. Plan accordingly.

A more strident Libertarian than myself would use this opportunity to reflect on how nanny state paternalism encourages the devolution of character.

"Do not sell your honor so cheaply."

Monday, May 31, 2010

the Archers

The Archers (BBC) is radio's longest-running serial of all time.

Although I have a fondness for (and massive collection of) Old Time Radio shows I had shunned serials thinking all were the quality of TV soap operas.

The Archers is topical, well-written and -acted, and each daily episode is about 10mins long. It's delightful and available as a podcast at the link above. I've been listening for about a year.

Here's an intro for newbs.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

First video of chicks

Chicks in the tractor for a visit. My first attempt to crudely edit video, so don't laugh. Or at least don't point.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

WWI poster: "Uncle Sam Expects You To Keep Hens and Raise Chickens"

Uncle Sam Expects You To Keep Hens and Raise Chickens

Two Hens in the Back Yard for Each Person in the House Will Keep a Family In Fresh Eggs.

EVEN the smallest back yard has room for a flock large enough to supply the house with eggs. The cost of maintaining such a flock is small. Table and kitchen waste provide much of the feed for the hens. They require little attention — only a few minutes a day.

An interested child, old enough to take a little responsibility, can care for a few fowls as well as a grown person.

Every back yard in the United States should contribute its share to a bumper crop of poultry and eggs in 1918.

In Time of Peace a Profitable Recreation
In Time of War a Patriotic Duty.

For information about methods of back-yard Poultry Keeping suited to your location write your state agricultural college or United States Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Two weeks with the chickens

Guess whut? Chicken butt. (over there in the pic). First day out on a short, enclosed foraging expedition. Peck, scratch, run.

The birds are larger and starting to get feathers on their neck and back.

They scratch in the shredded paper bedding and try to take "dust baths" in it.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Painted the tractor

Sunday: Got the two hinged doors on the nesting end (egg access and food/water access doors). Painted white.

Installed a primitive roost a few inches higher than the nesting area; my understanding is that is what they like.

Monday: got most of the chicken wire up; the end you see here in the pics is still un-covered (pic was after painting but before chicken wire).

Thursday, May 20, 2010

One week with chickens

Chickens have been here a full week.

In this shot you can see the shoulderblade feathers coming in, and the tail feathers. Easiest to see on the leftmost bird.

Before you ask: Dear Wife was experimenting with fingernail polish colors on her day off. The other hand and fingers are different. She reports that working with opaque colors is difficult...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

C plus six - shoulder feathers

The birds are now developing featherbuds at their shoulder blades. They like to fly-hop onto anything, including hands.

The jump-flying takes them about 8" up now, so we put chickenwire over the brooder. If one jumped out of the brooder and off the counter the dog would surely eat them up.

At right: Dear Wife holding the lighter EE, who is looking around for a way to escape.

raw milk

I think (as do most libertarians) that adult humans should be able to choose whatever foodstuffs (or drugs, or whatever) they put into their body.

Want raw milk or raw milk cheeses? Go for it. Do the homework, know the risks, enjoy the benefits.

Check out what is reputed to be the FDA's response to a lawsuit:

"There is no absolute right to consume or feed children any particular food." [p. 25]

"There is no 'deeply rooted' historical tradition of unfettered access to foods of all kinds." [p. 26]

"Plaintiffs' assertion of a 'fundamental right to their own bodily and physical health, which includes what foods they do and do not choose to consume for themselves and their families' is similarly unavailing because plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to obtain any food they wish." [p. 26]

"There is no fundamental right to freedom of contract." [p. 27]

I don't drink raw milk (or haven't since I was a boy on a farm), but the FDA's position here is egregious.

A different internet

The 'net today is substantially different now than it was in the mid-90s when I started making my living at ISPs.

There have been many important changes but the decline of Usenet (nntp) is the one that hits hardest for me.

I have long been a proponent of newsgroup-based community conversation rather than web forums. But the NNTP servers are simply going away; major ISPs took their servers down and the froup members are abandoning the service and not being replaced by others.

Perhaps it is an elitist position, but the early net with clueful users and open SMTP relays was delicious and heady. Now it is click-and-drool. Army of Lusers used to be pejorative; now it is the new normal.

It's ok. On the whole the new 'net is what it should be, I think.

Monday, May 17, 2010

C plus four - bedding

In this pic you can see the paper towel overlay is gone, and they are directly on shredded paper bedding. Under the shred is solid newspaper to facilitated daily cleanout (roll it up, take it to the compost).

The chicks appear to like sleeping in the paper "grass" (see pic on right). They scratch more, which is fun for both them and us. The darker EE is the queen of scratch so far; she'll scratch food away then not be able to find it again. :-)

They do pull at the paper but do not appear to eat it.

The chicks have more pronounced wing feathers, and you can start to see slim tail feather stalks filling in. The have started flapping their wings when they run.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

first draft: chicken tractor

A chicken tractor is a movable coop that is open to the ground.
This lets the chickens do a bit of "free ranging" on bugs and vegetation and retreat back upstairs to roost and nest.

Ours will be called The Chicken Hut, after the great fried chicken place that used to be SW of Coit/SpringValley. We loved the guy that ran it; it's a taqueria now.

This one is pretty normal, other than my shockingly poor carpentry skills. It was built mainly out of scrap and stuff people have given me over time. Still to do: back egg harvesting door and food/water provisioning door. Painting. Putting up the chicken wire. Setting up nest boxes. Luckily I have about 5 weeks before the birds are ready to move outdoors.

It is different in a couple of ways, mainly having to do with my concern about Texas heat.
  1. The area behind the nesting area will have a netted vent up high to let heat out and increase ventilation.
  2. 6" roof overhang on that end to keep weather out of the vent
  3. The insides of the roof are lined with some radiant barrier I inherited in a friend's move.
  4. More covered area to provide shade.
Hopefully these minor changes will minimized heat stress on the birds. My backyard is mostly shady but I still want to keep 'em as cool as possible.

C plus three - tails

Greater definition on wing feathers, and their tail feathers started appearing yesterday. Still fluffy but definitely sticking out.

That's the Dear Wife's hand in the brooder. We are handling/holding the chicks every day to check for pasty butt and get them used to human contact.

When you pick them up they peep like mad but when you put them back down they'll sit in your hand like nothing happened. Sometimes you have to give them a pretty good nudge to get them to hop down.

Elevated the feed/water about .75" as they are taller now.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

C plus two - feathers

I swear they are visibly larger. You can also see feathers starting to develop on their wingtips.

They are starting to sleep further away from each other so I'll drop the heat a degree or two.

Friday, May 14, 2010

C plus one.

All peeps made it through the night; they look happy and healthy.

A closer shot of Rhode Island Reds (left, and sleepy in the background) and an Easter Egger (right). It's hard to see but the 4th peeper, the other EE, is drinking water behind the right-hand bird. Count the feet.

Changed the paper towel superstrate and tossed the poopy paper in the compost bin. The towel is there for the first few days to help the chicks stand easily while their leg parts finish forming and to help them discriminate between feed and bedding. The substrate is shredded paper. Shreds are something of a minority position in the backyard chicken world, commonly used by folks who compost and have access to large amounts of shredded paper. We'll see how it goes. Can always go to wood chips if shreds fail.

Fresh food and water; sanitized the containers with brewing sanitizer (star-san in a spray bottle).

Thursday, May 13, 2010

C minus zero - chicks arrive

Picked up what appear to be two rhode island red (RIR) and two "Ameraucana" chicks from Roach feed. The latter are almost certainly Easter Eggers (EE hereafter) but Ideal sells them as Ameraucanas anyhow. It's a common misnomer. Both EEs do appear to have muffs starting; only one has slate-colored legs. The other has flesh-colored legs.

The EEs are the stripey ones in the pic and the reds are the pale orangey ones. The EEs were first to find the feed bowl and seem to be a bit more active. The RIRs seem like normal, curious, exploring chicks.

In this pic I went to take the shot and the EE went slingshotting off to check out something terrifically interesting about 8" away.

They piled up a bit at 94F, so I cranked it to 96F and they are more evenly distributed now.

Friday, May 7, 2010

decent music on KXT 91.7FM

First website ad I've ever clicked on; it was for KXT 91.7FM.

Been listening a bit for the last week or so. The website says:
KERA's public music station features acoustic, alt-country, indie rock, alternative and world music.
It reminds me of the music used to play in the early 90s before they took my pledge money and dumped music the next freaking day. I don't have very good luck with this kind of thing. I pledged to KETR who promptly dumped Joe Frank and radio drama and went all freaking bluegrass the next week.

Podcasts are going to kill NPR, anyhow. I'd much rather pay $5/podcast/year to support a handful of public radio podcasts (Left Right and Center, Planet Money, It's all Politics, etc) and let the rest collapse under its own weight.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

customer email lists done right

Got this email today:

BMW Motorcycles would like to send you our monthly BMW Motorrad USA email newsletter. This newsletter features video links and exclusive content showcasing our motorcycles, race events, and more!

We acquired your email address via a BMW Motorrad contest entry form or on-line BMW registration within the last 36 months. However, we value your privacy and are writing now to ask your permission before we add you to our e-list. Be assured that at any time you can easily remove yourself from the list via click links at the bottom of every email. Thanks in advance for your interest in BMW. Please click one of these two links:
Add me to the list No thanks, please remove me

Nicely handled, Bay-em-vay. I opted in.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

fireflies, spring 2010

first firefly of the season out on our back porch tonite, all by his lonesome...

Earlier in the evening I strung up the sisal for the vertical produce to train on.

Monday, May 3, 2010

brooder dry run

Set up the brooder last night with the hardware and floor material in it. Stabilized at 94F the first try! (90-95F is the target).

Sunday, May 2, 2010

planning for chicks

I have mentioned before my backburner thoughts about building a chicken tractor.
This weekend I mentioned it go my MIL; she liked the idea. I checked COR laws; legal as long as there is no noise or smell problems.

So then I went garage saling a few houses down and an older gentlemen was manning the garage.

Me: is this.... a chicken feeder?
He: Yes.
Me: (sensing a planetary realignment) How much do you want for it?
He: Oh, I dunno. 25 cents.
Me: Deal.

Gulp. All these pieces have been floating around in my head and now they all aligned and locked together like those falling shapes in Tetris. Memories of feeding chickens and cleaning the coop as a boy in east tx.

Armed with 25 cents worth of chicken feeder, I went back and fleshed out some of the research I started doing a couple of years ago: The City Chicken, Backyard Chickens forum, the chicken chooser, etc.

Hopped down to Roach Feed and Seed to get some supplies to get a brooder set up and temps predictable before the chicks start to arrive in a couple of weeks. Pictured are a feeder with mason jar threads, waterer with mason jar threads, some chick feed and watersoluable antibiotics for the chicks during their first few weeks. Not pictured: brooding heat lamp fixture and bulb, brooding container.

We are thinking a handful of chicks, maybe two Rhode Island Reds and a Barred Rock, or an Ameraucana or an Buff Orpington.

messing with the garden

This weekend I

  • weeded
  • harvested an onion to put in some green beans
  • planted two more tomato plants that had been slow to sprout
  • planted two bell pepper seedlings (scrounged)
  • started more lettuce seedlings
I also am sprouting some beans since the ones I planted didn't show. :-( Will plant them after they sprout. Late start, but also sprouting squash and zukes.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Bird: brown thrasher

Saw a weird pale brown bird in the yard today, aggressively throwing leaves around. He had a longish, slightly curved bill.

I think it was a brown thrush.

Img from wikipedia.

Monday, April 26, 2010

USPS animal rescue stamps

Got a heads up about some new stamps:

Starting April 30th you can buy stamps at the post office that help to
buy food for shelter pets. You can pre-order them online. I think this
would be a great thing to spread around. Could you please forward to
your contacts?
The way I do the math it appears that there is no additional cost for the stamps, but Ellen DeGeneres' Halo will donate funds for each sale. So maybe you want to do it to feed sheltered animals, or maybe you want to do it so it hits Ellen in the pocketbook. Either way, it seems to be a win for the animals.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Review: aldi's

I went to the grand opening on monday but we couldn't buy anything then. Slagel, Townshend, and a couple other local bigwigs were there IIRC.

Went back today to spend some of the household grocery budget. Bought a few things (maria cookies, some of those little faux filet mignon, some tp, etc, but the place was so hammered with people blocking the aisles that it wasn't much fun. Aldi's really needs those small carts like Central Market.

Staff was pleasant and some of the prices were sub-walmart aggressive. The rest were roughly on par with WM. I think I would like to have an Aldi's within walking distance.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Review: Orville Redenbacher cheddar cheese popcorn

Yesterday I received in the mail a sample of Orville Redenbacher cheddar cheese microwave popcorn.

I test drove it last night while watching the dvd of Up in the Air from the RPL.

My experience: the smell is odd and a bit offputting. The flavor is ok, no problems there. The cheesey oil drips all over and leaves orange blotches all over.

Verdict: I'd eat it again if someone else popped it, but I don't want to clean up after it. I do not I think I would buy it.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Payoff: Seeds for Summit

Sat up a card table on Sat morning and gave away the seedlings I raised for this purpose.

Didn't get them all given away, but I did meet five neighbors. That's the real payoff.

Bonus: washed the dog in the front yard. Why do some dogs hate baths during the event but are so happy afterward? Gallop, gallop, gallop...


Just heard the rumbling of Texas Stadium imploding two cities away. Sounded like deep thunder rolls.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Denouncement. Subset == concealed carry permit holder

As a Tx concealed handgun license holder, I denounce Charles Alan Wilson, the licensee who made violent threats against Sen. Murray.

First: license holders have a higher standard to uphold. His belligerent and illegal behavior reflects poorly on the rest of us license holders.

Second: I have preached here again and again about civility over belligerence. This current mood of threat and FUD is counterproductive and unethical.

Jury duty, lawn duty

Got my first Richardson juror notice, and dutifully motored up there. 8 cases did not go to trial, and the other was a no-show. So we were immediately released.

Went back home and did some lawn work:
  • adjusted the reel mower
  • mowed the lawn
  • trimmed with trimmer.
  • raked up leaves from street; put in compost bin
  • raked up that tree snot stuff that looks like sphagnum moss, put in compost bin
That's all. Gonna take a shower now.

Doctorow: "Why I won't buy an iPad (and think you shouldn't, either)"

From this article:

The model of interaction with the iPad is to be a "consumer," what William Gibson memorably described as "something the size of a baby hippo, the color of a week-old boiled potato, that lives by itself, in the dark, in a double-wide on the outskirts of Topeka. It's covered with eyes and it sweats constantly. The sweat runs into those eyes and makes them sting. It has no mouth... no genitals, and can only express its mute extremes of murderous rage and infantile desire by changing the channels on a universal remote."