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.