Sunday, August 28, 2011

garden fail

My garden is toast.

The heat has brutalized everything except the one happy, healthy
sunflower. I don't think I even planted that; must've been from a
visiting bird.

I think I am going to remove the fencing around it and let the chooks
eat up the random greenery (a few weeds).

written offline and synced later

Monday, July 25, 2011


Overheard in the lantern restoration hobby forums. It describes clueless sellers who think their mass-produced widget is valuable because they saw something vaguely like it on TV:

ARMPIT = Antiques Roadshow moron, price instantly tripled

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Another fine SUV driver

I don't know what it is in the psyche of aggressive idiots that makes
them choose SUVs, or if being in SUVs turns normal folk into aggressive

Consider the following: tooling along IH635 with traffic flow, which is
to say a little quicker than posted. A fine fellow in his fullsize SUV
pulls up behind me at approx. 1/2 vehicle length spacing and leaves it
there. Nice, yes? Can't see any part of his grille in the rearview,
only half the hood and his windshield.

We both exit to IH30 east and he maintains his following distance. As
we merge onto the (currently empty) highway he decides now is the time
to strike. Does he take either of the two completely unoccupied lanes
on the left or pass me on the right shoulder? Yes, my friends, he makes
a careening, wild, no-blinker pass on the right shoulder. Pick of the

And he was on the phone.


written offline and synced later

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

More offline fun with Thunderbird

Google Reader no longer works offline; they have dumped Gears but HTML5 is not yet up to speed.

Liferea looked perfect as it syncs with Reader but no longer can auth with google.

Thunderbird does a decent job even though it's not mentioned. Like all the other solutions I've tried it doesn't download the target page, only the text in the RSS itself. No pics or other attachments.

  1. export RSS list from Reader
  2. import into Thunderbird
  3. when going offline it automagically updates feed list
  4. read offline later; if I want to follow links or comment on something I email the article to myself using the Thunderbird Forward menu button and read it later.
Works fine.

Thunderbird is turning out to be a pretty good solution for folks too cheap/frugal to buy a mobile data connection.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


Although I tend to work solo overnight, there are brief periods of
overlap with other humans.

One of those overlaps sometimes includes a break period. A cow-orker
asked if I would like to play chess during this time.

I said I wouldn't /like/ to, but I would do so.

I have chess dyslexia. And I don't care for the game much. I can't
tell if there is a chicken/egg relationship there or not. I can't see N
moves into the future and I don't /care/ about N moves into the future.
You can see how this might affect ones gameplay.

Tonight during our inaugural game I figured it out; I dislike chess in
the same way I dislike office politics. I do this, trying to maneuver
them into doing that, which makes me do this and them do that. Arggghh!
Deeply annoying stuff.

I don't mind strategy, _per se_. I do have a plan in mind when storming
a field full of opponents in Halo. Do this to lure them out then kill
them. Protect oneself, pick weapons, and use resources wisely. Don't
know what the difference is between the two in my head but I certainly
feel different about chess and FPS games like Halo.

written offline and synced later

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

el cheapo PJ arrives

Got the projector. Took less than a week from paypal to Chinese seller to delivery via DHL. Double boxed and packed quite well:

Since we were in the middle of playing Halo when the other PJ died we picked up where we left off:

It was dusk outdoors and you can see light from the windows in the top of the pic.

Our first impressions of the hardware:
  • it's not a small projector but fits on the small table we were using before.
  • very effective "squirrel cage" type fan makes some noise but keeps temps very reasonable: 100F on the case and 130F exhaust. I do not worry about overheating.
  • no zoom, which we knew ahead of time. Have to move it forward/back
  • remote and buttons on pj are generic but useful. 2x/aaa required for remote. It's strong enough to bounce off the projection wall rather than point at the pj.
first impressions of the projected image:
  • it was rather harsh and washed out.
  • There are several different profiles: standard, movie, vivid, and user. Movie was considerably better and less intense so we started messing around with the user-definable setting. We ended up with:
Contrast: 40
Brightness: 40
Hue: 50
Sharpness: 40

At this setting I'd say the RCA/Svideo quality is about 90% that of the old PJ. The SVGA input is really good, and is at least as good as the old PJ.

Ran it for a few hours the first night: netflix DVD, netflix stream via wii, halo on xbox.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011



When your corporate blog article hits the "REACHED MAXIMUM NUMBER OF COMMENTS. NO MORE COMMENTS CAN BE POSTED" point (apparently 5,000 comments) that's either very good or very bad news. In this case it's bad news.

I am currently googling Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

beamer tragedy

A bit more info about our projector issue[s].

I mentioned before that the original (used) bulb finally died after about 5 yrs.

The projector (pj hereafter) was business-style pj that was produced around 2000. I bought it on eBay around 2005-2006 for $300. At the time new pj units were still hovering around $1000. I bought a replacement bulb for $150 at the same time, since bulbs were going for $180-200. That's the bulb I put in.

The bad news: the bulb I just installed died after a couple of months. :-( Either the bulb was damaged or there is a problem with the projector. The cost so far has been about $90/yr for 100" video.

The very cheapest I can find bulbs (actually lamp modules) for it now is about $130, or about $100 if I disassemble the old module and put in a new bulb proper.

The quality of this projector is not HD; it's in the range of what are now called "game" projectors for non-HD game consoles. The native resolution is roughly S-Video although it can scale from component and SVGA inputs. And that's just fine with us. We don't have any HD / Bluray gear to pump into it, anyhow. Well, the MythTV box captures HD but it's in the other room.

New game-quality pj are in the $200 range now, and lamp technology has changed in some cases. Some use LEDs for 20k hours running time, and others use simpler metal halide lamps that cost about $30, and are rated for 6000 hrs. I think we are going the latter route.

Will keep you posted.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

good day sunshine

I have been researching small solar setups, of the type that feed a
couple 12v deep cycle batteries. I am interested in using a small panel
to charge and maintain a deep cycle battery in my camper shell.

The most interesting piece has been the charge controllers, the piece
that takes the varied level of power from the solar photovoltaic panels
(PV hereafter) and keep the batts optimally charged.

Both the inputs and outputs can be complex. Output is generally
three-stage charging: bulk (80% charge, acceptance (remaining 20%), and
float cycles (maintenance). That's interesting enough.

The input is somewhere between interesting and fascinating. The main
things to understand are:
1. depending on charge phase, the controller needs to put out 14.8vdc
at the most.
2. PV panels don't output 12v; the basic ones put out something like
18V max and many are much higher. This allows enough headroom for poor
solar condtions to still yield nominal 12vdc.
3. wattage ratings are given at highest power output, say 17.5vd x
2.58a = ~50 watts.

So, if the max you can use is 14.8v at the controller that would be
38.13 watts. Leaving a good bit (over 20%) on the table. Normal
controllers do this, effectively necking output from the PV to the
required voltage.

Another, more complex (and $$$) MPPT-type controller sweeps the panel's
output looking for maximum power. It does a DC-DC conversion dow to the
desired 14.8vdc (in our example); during this conversion the excess
voltage is yield as extra amperage. The output is very close to the
PV's rated output, minus about 5% losses incurred in the DC-DC conversion.

Under average conditions the MPPT controller yields about 10% more
power. In certain conditions it can yield 30% more. In rare conditions
when the PV is underperforming and PV output voltage is closer than 5%
to the very close to the required voltage* it can actually be less

The question in my mind is this: is the better controller worth 3x the
price. The difference is about $100. Can I imagine a situation where
having 30% more power would be worth $100. Yeah. So I'm leanintg that
way. And the better controller would be usable with better gear later on.

I may grab a PV and see what kind of real-world vdc I'm getting from it.
If I rarely dip below 15.58vdc I may save up for the better controller.
Really cheap, basic controllers (not the one's we are discussing) are
available for $15, and could be used later for backup.

phase one: get deep cycle battery. build small junction box for
accessories (fan, laptop charger, phone chargers, LED lights). Set up
AC charging regime. Test accessories.

phase two: get PV panel, mount on camper shell. Measure real-world
output in volts. Make decision on controller.

phase three: install conrtoller

A final thought for those unmoved by solar: there are home setups where
you can take as much power from the PV as needed for your battery bank
and put the rest into your wall socke. This is called "grid tie".
The extra voltage is the remainder is inverted to 110v and plugs into
your wall socket like any other plug. The inverter reads wall
voltage/hertz and outputs what the wall wants. Since the inverter
matches what the wall is putting out if the wall power is lost the
inversion stops.

Might be 20w, might be 200w but the power is being put to use instead of
wasted. Think about the positive input on the grid if everyone did that...

* needing 14.8v, getting 15.54

posted by email

Friday, June 17, 2011

battery assault

A coupla years ago I scored a 24v B&D electric mower off freecycle. I
normally use a reel mower but the electric is useful at times:

* can collect clippings to alter the green:brown ratio in my compost piles.
* can mow down tall stragglers in the yard the reel mower pushes over.

The electric has never been 100%; the donor said he put fresh batts in
it but I suspected them and the braindead charger that comes with. He
suspected the motor's brushes so I pulled them and touched them up with
a file.

I finally bought some replacement 18A 12v for the mower; they are wired
in serial when installed. Before installing them I charged each
seperately with a Battery Tender Plus 12v unit so they would be closely
mated, voltage-wise. Then I connected them and installed them in the
mower. I put them on the all-singing, all-dancing 24v BatterMINDer
charger (queue angelic voices) until I could test drive it.

Mowed some deep grass in the alleyway since everything was short.
Worked great. Composted the clippings and back on the 24v charger it
went. I feel good about this.

written offline and synced later

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sign of the economic times

I'm still getting rejection letters from job I applied to in January or even earlier. Most say "sorry, we picked somebody else" but some say "sorry, our funding went away" or similar.

I think this means companies are either being very picky (because of the long delay, not because they didn't pick me :-) or are dealing with intermittent hiring freezes.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Super 8

Went to see Super 8 at the Galaxy drive in.

Good movie that reminds us a blockbuster doesn't have to be stupid.

And, oh yea: Best. Train crash. Ever.

JJ Abrams is a master. Crowd actually clapped and cheered at the end.

PS: watch the credits.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Snyder's sea salt and cracked pepper pretzel pieces

Found a bag at Big Lots, which likely means it was a market test that

1. 'pieces' = broken parts we wanted to use somehow
2. tastes just like croutons
3. fantastic

written offline and synced later

Friday, June 10, 2011

chicken attack

Well, attack ON chickens.

Last night the wife heard wild bocking noises and went out to find a cat
trying to get at the chickens through the chicken wire. No blood, but
the cat got a small clump of feathers pulled through the wire.

Suspect is a black cat with white feet. No collar. Looks like I'm
going to have to rent another live trap from the Richardson pound...

emailed in

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Night Shift

Some thoughts about the new job. If they make even less sense than
usual it's because they're all written around 2am for reasons that will
be shown below.

This job is strange. I think it is most similar to working in a network
operations center (NOC) only with things and people rather than data.
It's 95% visual, with maybe a couple of phonecalls per shift. It's also
95% transparent to the public. Nearly everything done on the job
(keyboard, mouse, etc) is published in near-real time. A minute or two
delay while servers sync up, maybe. If I write a sticky note and put it
on a co-worker's monitor that's about the only thing that's not directly
or indirectly visible, and there are times when you might see that, too.
Told you it was strange.

-= timeshift =-
First things first. This is a night job. I go to work in the evening
and come home the next morning and go to sleep. I've been doing it for
a few weeks now and my body is almost used to it.

Working nights is not hard, though it /is/ weird. Transitioning to
nights was brutal, however. The first week felt like impending death,
like a continual hangover without the headache.

commute is generally better
outdoor temps are generally lower; I can walk outside on my lunch
it is very quiet. For 80% of my workweek I am the only worker
time off is very productive (see below)

The timeshift takes some adaptation. I brew a pot of coffee and bring
it with me in a big, industrial 1960s Uno-Vac steel thermos. I think
you could beat a shark to death with it if you had to.

Days off for nightshift people can go one of two ways:
1. try to keep a normal-to-others schedule. This allows for fragments
of Normal Life at the cost of continual walking death fatigue.
Basically it's changing body clocks 2x/week. Uh, no.

2. keep your working schedule. This means stay up all night on your
days off and sleep during the day as "normal". This is the approach I
have taken. Being up all night when the world sleeps feels like
time-expansion. The night lasts forever. I can get more done in one
night than in a week of normal free time.

-= 4x10 =-

This is my first experience working 10hrs x 4 days. The main benefit
would appear to be three days off in a row, but IMO the benefit is in
the 20% reduction in commuting (time, direct expenses like gas, and
indirect expenses like wear-and-tear).

-= Offline =-

Many employers let you check your email from time to time. Not so at
this gig. Fair enough, I get it. But there's not even a standalone
machine where you can check it during lunch/breaks.

If I had excess cash I'd probably buy a data plan for my android phone
and be done with it. But I don't. Subbing clobbered my savings and
credit card balances so it will be a few more years of intentional
frugality to get the debt monster back under control with my
regular-but-modest paycheck.

So I bring the Eee netbook for lunchtime email duties. I use
Thunderbird (mail client by Mozilla) for its robust offline abilities,
syncing the mail right before I leave for work and again when I get
home. It's not a total replacement for online email but most of it can
be read and deleted or replied to and synced later. Some of it contains
links or photos that need a net connection to see properly; I move
those to a Gmail folder called "offline" which I look at when I am online.

Theoretically HTML5 will get us offline gmail. Had that with Gears
until google took it offline (ha!) during the transition period.

I also figured out how to email blog entries like this one. The upside
is I can make blog posts for free during lunch. The downside is I don't
see a way to add labels, I can't see my past entries to remember WTH
I've rambled on about before, and I can't easily make links I don't have
memorized. But it works.

posted by offline email

mail to blog gateway

Apparently will let you set up an email/blog gateway.
We're about to find out...

Friday, May 20, 2011

Optimizing podcast playback on Optimus

I ran CyanogenMod Froyo 2.2.1 on my old G1 but am trying to keep the vanilla 2.2 on the Optimus T.

The only thing I miss is the CM hack that allows you to do a no-look skip to the next track by holding the VOL UP button even when the screen is locked. I have reclaimed 90% of the CM podcast goodness using $3 of android apps.

ButtonRemapper (~$1) will remap your hard buttons to your liking. I remapped my completely-unused Search hard button to be Next Track. Works great.

WidgetLocker (~$2) replaces your lockscreen and lets you put widgets there. This way you can interact with the widgets without having to unlock the phone. I put the Music app widget on there so I can start/stop music from the lockscreen. If I had another hard button I wasn't using I'd map it to Pause so I could do that no-look, too.

The little bluetooth-badged droid up there is the BTmono ($1) widget for routing audio over a regular mono BT earpiece. I started using that after the author of BT Super Mono decided he didn't need to make his menus fit on screens anymore. He says this is because he only has hi-res screen Android devices to test with now. My responses to that are:

  1. emulator in the SDK
  2. stop hardcoding things like that. You introduced the problem for no good reason. Android allows you to let the device handle the display of such things.
Here's what it looks like now:

Thursday, May 19, 2011

paid good money for that

So I was searching for "ugliest car" for some reason, and this paid advertisement was displayed on the top:

Thursday, April 28, 2011


Our projector[0] lamp died after about 5 yrs of use. Bought it used, so who knows how much was on it in the first place. I've got a replacement bulb already in waiting and will let you know how that goes. And, yes, the bulbs are $$$.

We were watching ep9 of The Tudors[1] at the time.

[0] "beamer" in the UK and the Continent, according to Linux Outlaws
[1] netflix + wii

Saturday, April 23, 2011

chickpeas are planted

Report card on the pre-sprouted chickpeas:

Of 6 attempted,
2 made strong, 4" seedlings. Planted those today.
2 made weak, 1" seedlings. Composted.
2 did not come up. Composted.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


I finished my last day teaching yesterday. Walked the halls and said goodbye to some teachers and support folk who stick out as exceptionally devoted and talented.

Turned in my sub paperwork to the front office and headed out the door. It was close, but I got past all the kids in front of the school before I choked up. I was thankful for the sunglasses and for my parking spot way across the lot. Drove to the ISD offices and turned in my badge[s].

I've said before that this feeling reminds me of asking someone to marry you and they say 'no'. Future plans dissolve like smoke wisps and it feels like I'll be limping with an emotional stonebruise for a while. But life goes on. Keep breathing in and out and meet each day as it comes.

I am spending this weekend organizing and cleaning. I start a new job (and what feels like a new life) on Monday.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

survey: the autoblog podcast

"What do you like least about this show?"

Dan's incessant interruptions. If this is going to be The Dan Rant Show, let us know.

Seriously, if he wants to talk 100% of the time he needs his own d*mn podcast. Somebody needs to cut his microphone and ONLY turn it on when they want his input. He is incapable of letting other hosts finish their thoughts. If you don't believe me, pick ANY episode and listen for 60 seconds.

Dan is to Autoblog Podcast as Dvorak is to This Week in Tech.

callbacks, pt2

As I mentioned earlier, I've been interviewing.

The position I really wanted never did make a 2nd interview but they make an offer. :-) I accepted, and I start next week.

It's not in teaching but I'd seen the writing on the wall already anyhow. I'd already doubled-, tripled-, and quadrupled-down on teaching. To continue down that road would require quintupling-down (working several more weeks without pay) and sextupling-down (re-taking more altcert coursework which 'expired') with no guarantee of work on the other side.

Anyhow. Everyone I've met at the new job is interesting, competent, and friendly. I'll do my best to be a productive member of the new team.

Once I turn in my school badge I'll probably make a few posts over on MBTRT with my thoughts on the education market, alternative certification, substitute teaching, and the State of the Classroom in elementary, junior high, and high schools around town.

Monday, April 11, 2011

nice garbanzos

I sprouted some chickpeas (garbanzo "beans") and will try to get some 4" seedlings out of them. If they grow I'll drop them in the garden and see what happens. I will try some no-soaks, too, as that appears to be the preferred method.

More about growing chickpeas.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

half day == playtime in the garden

I had a half day off, so I slapped on some old shorts and planted the 2nd wave of seedlings in the garden.

I also started a 3rd wave of things that either need to be started cyclically for continual harvest (lettuce) and things that did not germinate well the first time (beets, radish, corn, carrot).

I don't know if I mentioned I'm also sprouting some seed stock left over from 2010. At this point there appears to be no difference in sprouting rate, growth rate, overall vigor, etc, between last year's seed stock and current.

These seeds are the first I've started in the sifted soil produced by the compost pile. Each container has a layer of vermiculite in the bottom, a thin layer of the soil, seed, then more soil.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

puppy linux update

Here's a screenshot of my little Eee 900 running Puppy Linux (LUcid PUppy 5.2.5) I upgraded to earlier today. It's hella fast on Puppy, even with a lowly 1gHz Celeron hamster running in there.

It's a free, modern, fully functional operating system that's about 1/20th the size of Windoze. (current .iso is ~130MB)

The stock LuPu 5.2.5 desktop stuff is openbox + fbpanel + conky + ROX-filer --pinboard.

long day, and it's only 3pm

I think I'm gonna go take a nap.

I planted another round of seedlings:
  • bell peppers, scrounged last year from peppers we ate. No idea what these will do.
  • tomatoes, three varieties. One leftover heirloom breed from last year, and two hybrids.
  • squash, two varieties
  • cucumbers, two varieties
  • more lettuce
  • corn
  • I forget the rest but it's on my garden planning sheet
Following the SFG model the tall/vertical/viney stuff is furthest away from the sun with shorter stuff in front of it. Alternated species instead of planting near each other to limit disease and bugs.


Tore down one of my composting bins for delivery to the (very kind and lovely) MIL. Will throw that in the truck next time we go to see her. Chickens were Big Helpers, which is to say they stood on top of the pile and kicked it everywhere but where you wanted it. They got pretty brave working around the hoe.

Tore down an active pile and sifted the compost before restacking/wetting the remaining big stuff. The filtered/finished compost was fine and clean-smelling, though both are difficult to judge from this pic. About 20# worth.

I learned this sifting trick from composting master Rob. I might make a two-tiered autosifter like he built. Maybe chicken wire for sifting the big stuff and hardware cloth or something for the smaller stuff?

Lucid Puppy 5.2.5
Upgraded the eee netbook to puppy 5.2.5.

Grocery shopping

Trip to Aldi. Completely full basket was less than $90. Put the groceries in the back of the truck (on the cargo platform I cobbled together quickly) and it worked out great.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

ATT/Tmo = do not want

I've used T-Mobile for for years and have received excellent value for money.

The best way to understand this merger is this quote originally from the WSJ:

"T-Mobile has long been an antagonist to AT&T and chief rival Verizon Wireless, offering low prices that kept pressure on rates."

So, if your competitor bugs you by giving customers a lower-cost option, just buy the competitor. Doesn't bode well.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Cycles of life

No, not cycles of light, you Tron freakazoids.*

A few things happening this week which remind me of the ebb and flow of life:

First, moonzilla. That was awesome.

Second, finally got some seedlings in the ground. More in the greenhouse getting their first true leaves. We had some short, spindly wire fencing that the chickens have been unwilling to jump over so lined the garden area with that. Not convinced it's chickenproof but they don't seem willing to hop over the last few weeks it's been up.

Third, one of our hens ("Orange Chicken") had poop stuck in her butt feathers and down. Dear Wife held her still while I used the waterhose to soften and help remove the accumulation. Bird did great right until the end of the operation when she got a little annoyed at being held so long. Dinosaur growly noises...

The hen's vent was fine, not irritated or anything but she looked funny while she was drying off. She looked great after she dried.

Fourth, I traded my motorcycle for a small pickup truck. That was the bike I rode to Destiny's BD a couple of years ago. Took the truck down to Keller's for a shakedown cruise. Cheeseburgers, o-rings, a longneck and a lemonade. It's good to have a truck again. It's been a while. I feel more truck-related posts coming on.

Do I miss the bike? Sure. Did I need it? No.

Once I got the truck inspected (took a bit of mech work, but not bad) I sold my old commuter car which had been really good to me since I bought it in 2005. Total time from posting craigslist ad to cash-in-pocket: 1hr, 52mins. Thanks, internet!

* and I say that with love.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Gardening 2011

Finally started some seeds this week. Depending on whose last-frost predictor you follow this means I'm about 3-4weeks late on lettuce, peppers, and tomato. Oh well; I've been exceptionally busy with the job searching/interviewing and something had to give.

This is how I organize the seeds. Some kind of aluminum & glass specimen containers I got cheap in bulk off eBay. They appeal to the science geek in me and work well. I have been storing them at room temp but will likely start storing them at 40F (ie, in the fridge).

I'm going to change my Google Calendar for gardening to include reminders so I'll be less likely to drop the ball. Even with the late start I predict an improvement over last year's garden due to:

  1. return to hybrids. Heritage varieties really didn't work well in my poorly-conditioned garden. Might try them again next year.
  2. chicken poop composted in the Fall and directly deposited in the Winter. This should help my nitrogen situation.
I did have some leftover hybrids seeds from last year. I started some with the new stuff this year. I'll consider it a bonus if the come up (because old) or do anything useful (as described above).

Chickens are "big helpers" when working in the garden, which is to say they want to get under your feet and investigate everything.

There were times when I was turning the garden today (see below) when they would get lifted up a bit by the shovel. Standing a little too close, birds?

The garden is small so I turned it by hand with a shovel. The chickens will break up the larger clods.

They were attacking the dirt right up to the moment I turned on the camera and they ran away. I think the sound of the lens motor spooked them.

Also moved the chicken tractor so they had to run in there and get reaquainted with it.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Core subject vs. Football

It's Texas. You're probably not operating under any delusions, but just in case you're wondering whether core subjects or football is #winning:

REQUIRED CERTIFICATIONS: Social Studies From Grade:8 To Grade:12
POSITION: Social Studies Teacher (8-12) / Assistant Football Coach
JOB DESCRIPTION: Position Summary Provide students with appropriate learning activities and experiences in the core academic subject area assigned to help them fulfill their potential for intellectual, emotional, physical, and social growth. Enable students to develop competencies and skills to function successfully in society. Employment preference given to candidates with high school coaching experience.

APPLY TO: Complete on-line application and address questions to: Mr. [redacted], Athletic Director, [redacted] ISD, [redacted]

Yes, direct your questions about this academic, TAKS-tested core subject to the Athletic Director. Nice.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Dear Ron Paul

I agree with almost all of your platform. We start from the same first principles and end up at many of the same conclusions. I have displayed your bumpersticker and yardsign.

Here's my beef
It is one thing to accept campaign contributions then drop out.
It is another thing altogether to ask those contributors for money AGAIN. What, in your words or demeanor, indicate you'd be willing to press the issue this time? What has changed?

Never thought I'd be quoting Bush, but: "Fool me once; shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again."

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Have had two "second interview" meets this week, so we're still moving ahead. My first choice hasn't set up a 2nd yet, but it's more of a bureaucracy so I'm being patient.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

wii, netflix

The Wii interface to netflix is "pretty cool" as Miley Cyrus might say. There is room for improvement:

  • make the subtitle toggle available from within the stream
  • separate the pause/play and timeline controls a bit. I accidentally moved along the timeline a couple of times when trying to pause playback.
  • Allow a "mark watched" flag. If you don't watch a show through all the credits it believes (correctly) you didn't finish it, but this leaves detritus in the UI ("resume this show", etc).
I continue to be surprised at the quality of the stream, even on my cheapest-tier-possible cable inet.

I marked a stream I watched one star out of five (it SUCKED). Netflix followed up with a 2-second question about the streams visual quality. Nice! They are making sure I didn't downrate the show because of the stream instead of the content. Very smart.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Cancelled directv

Pulled the satellite and serial cables so DTV couldn't send anyone down the line. Then called up and Precious walked me through the process with little fanfare. She did try to do the Retention Schtick: $50/mo instead of my current $72-something.

Nope. I did note, while I was online, that my service hasn't changed but the cost went up 12.5% (from $64 to $72) in the last 12mons alone. Nice.

To keep the DTivo from recording blankness and confusing the Now Playing screen, I cleared all the Wishlist and Season Pass entries. Turned off Suggestions and it clobbered all recorded Suggestions. Note to onlookers: if you want to keep your Suggestions, don't turn them off until you are done with them. No big loss, but interesting.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

directv out, netflix back in

DirecTV is $75/mo, so they go BYE-BYE after this weekend. It was a pleasant coincidence that one of the premium channels is having a free preview* this weekend. So I added those channels and kept the dual-tuner DirecTivo humming snagging movies. Tomorrow I'll disconnect the dish and quasi-landline** and call up to cancel.

We had Netflix before but wasn't using it much so we cancelled a few years back. They kept begging us to come back (free month), so I eyeballed how to stream 'flix to the Wii. Worked fine, as you can see in the inset pic.***

We were happy with the setup, so re-subbed with the the streaming+1dvd plan ($9.99/mo). Our approach is:

1. to pull down streaming content
2. check RPL for DVDs
3. use the Netflix mailed DVDs to fill in gaps from #1 and #2.

Bottom line: $65/mo savings over our current situation, with access to things like Mad Men on DVD.****

The mythbox is still cranking away recording broadcast tv. I set up His, Hers, and Both recording groups so we easily see what it's recorded for what audience.

Edited to add: we basically stopped going to the movies a few years ago. People are idiots in public. I have no desire to pay $20 to listen to cellphones ring and the unsocialized yell at each other. So we pop our own popcorn and watch movies on the wall. The projector was about $500 used off eBay 8 yrs ago and the bulb is still holding out. Does double duty for xbox/wii action. Awwww yeahhhhhh buddeeeeeeee...

* we don't have any pay channels, just basic stuff + locals.

** No landline, but I'm running the DirecTivo daily call through the mythtv box via serial cable. Werd.

*** LCD projector shooting on the wall. Didn't even move stuff out of the way because it was a test run. Still daylight outside, and windows open. The image as you see it is about 8' X 6'. Shot was from a season three ep of Drawn Together. Drawn is like South Park, only funny. If you have a high tolerance for offensive humor you'd probably like Archer. And why isn't Aisha Tyler a superstar? She's 12 kinds of awesome.

**** this makes the Dear Wife very happy

Thursday, February 24, 2011

soft shoe

Sorry for the long time away. Been handling stuff on the home front.

After months of "no thanks" letters (and a kerbillion applications that went into the Great Beyond with no response at all) I have four job interviews within a 7-day period.

I don't know if this a fluke or businesses forecasting an increase in demand. Either way, I'll take the interviews. If nothing else it's an opportunity to put on the song-and-dance in front of an employer. Gotta be grateful for small things.

None of these jobs are in education (in any normal sense); even before the recent ISD Budget Apocalypse the writing was on the wall for me. The planned massive layoffs made me face the fact there is almost zero chance for an new alt-cert social studies teacher to gain a foothold. Could I still get a teaching position? Yeah. And I might win the lottery, and monkeys might fly out my butt. It's time to plan for a future outside the classroom.

In the Real World my family has to eat and we have to pay to live somewhere. I have been applying to positions all along, but I took each of the ISD snow days and spent 8hrs/day applying to non-teaching positions. Thus the non-teaching interviews.

Life goes on.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

2nd impression, LG 509 Optimus T

The bluetooth is incredibly solid. If I leave the phone centrally located I can listen to BT audio all across my house. Strongest BT I've experienced.

VNC Server works great on android. :-) The blurred widget is Pure Calendar. Cheap, and interfaces nicely with the free Dato GTasks app.

Battery life is vastly improved by underclocking with SetCPU. Performance unaffected. The phone spends about 85% of ticks at 122mHz, and 10% at (max) 600mHz. Before at the 12hr mark the phone would be about 60%; now it's 90%.

Lurv. This is a great platform on great hardware.

Friday, February 11, 2011

First impressions: LG 509 (Optimus T)

As I mentioned before, my G1 is getting very stressed out with all I'm asking it to do. Not angry birds or anything like that, just some practical multitasking.

The Optimus reports 205MB completely free RAM and another 95MB accessible if needed (non-critical app memory). This is huge, huge, HUGE for me. No stuttering, no hangs, just multitasking goodness. I am a happy boy.

Although I do not really care about cosmetics, it is definitely a better-looking handset than the G1.

Better battery life so far, although this may just be my imagination.
{Update: not my imagination. Optimus lost less than 10% overnight; the G1 lost 25-40% in the same time period.}

Will post more as my familiarity increases.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

More thoughts on Diamondcard SIP/VOIP, and phone service in general

I logged in to check my balance on Diamondcard today. Haven't looked at it in a while since I've been using Google Voice for my VOIP needs, since that solution is (currently) free rather than 1.6 cents/minute. So my balance sits on Diamondcard awaiting the moment Google pulls the free rug out from under us.

I was wandering through the Diamondcard site and re-read something I had seen before:

Diamondcard contributes, promotes and supports the following open source projects: Ekiga, Twinkle, Asterisk, FreeSWITCH, OpenSIPS, WikiPBX, Podwiki, FreeRADIUS, Linux, FreeBSD, Apache, Perl, Python, GNU arch. Our entire platform is built using these great tools.

Diamondcard funds Twinkle and Ekiga projects. The more calls you make with Ekiga and Twinkle softphones using Diamondcard, the more money donated to these projects. 10% of every recharge or online shop purchase is donated to these open source developers.

Diamondcard handles this kind of thing well. They put up detailed instructions how to use FOSS (like Ekiga and Twinkle) with their service, and donate back to the kinds of projects that they use or who send customers their way.

My current setup is that Voice rings both my TMO line (Android phone) and Ekiga on the desktop, set up to listen for Gizmo calls. Works fine.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Hitting the wall with the G1

I think I could continue to use the G1 for a long while if it had more RAM.[0] The CPU is fine at 528mHz, the screen size is fine. The formfactor is dated but fine. The battery life is adequate if I exercise good charging discipline.

I've shoehorned froyo 2.2.1 onto it in the form of Cyanogenmod, and also used the 14MB of newly-freed RAM hack, which, IIRC, freed up some memory previously consumed by non-optimized radio code. I stuffed a Class 6 microSD in there and devoted some of it to a Linux swap partition which is mounted from the terminal. It works, but the poor phone is creaking.

What I need:
  1. 512MB RAM
  2. more battery life (one of the newer, larger lithium batts like in the G2)
  3. either vanilla Android, a tastefully vendor-modified Android (yeah, right) or the ability to slam in a custom ROM of my choosing.

What I would like:
  1. A bit more flash memory space for custom ROMS, in case I want them.
  2. A bit more flash memory space for apps; currently running 15 apps in my maxxed-out G1, and that is including things like update Gmail, Google Voice, Google Sky.
  3. Comes stock with a modern Android like Froyo, or will get it OTA without hackery.
  4. dock
  5. miniUSB connector, quite out of style these days. I don't like those tight-fitting microUSB connectors. Ick.
  6. Lose the trackball. I keep hitting it accidentally.
  7. Physically kb, maybe. Up in the air on this one.
  8. LED flash for phonepics.

Things I don't care about:
  1. faster CPU
  2. bigger, better screen
  3. pretty / fancy
  4. HD video or 92-kerbillion pixel photos. I usually crank down phonepics to 640x480 in the config anyhow.
My options
My first instinct was to try to secure a used Nexus One, which was at the time the One True Google phone. Specs are what I want (except the faster-than-I-need 1gHz CPU) but it has such cult status that used ones are going for $300+.

So I started googling android 512MB RAM and started stumbling across some promising hardware. The one I settled on was the LG Optimus T, an unlockable GSM phone. It's been getting good press (including a top 5 best phone list from Cnet), and several reviewers point out that while it competes in the android low end market (on price), it is no slouch. They are going for ~$150 on eBay.
  1. 512MB RAM. Yay! Over 2x what's on the G1, and same as the Nexus One.
  2. 512MB flash storage, ~170MB accessible by user. Again, over 2x what's on the G1 and very close to the 512MB, ~190MB on the Nexus One.
  3. lost that trackball. Yay!
  4. Stock with 2.2, OTA to 2.2.1 and allegedly to 2.3 Gingerbread.
  5. downside: no physical kb; guess I'll have to learn swype. No LED flash. Volume buttons are supposed to be hard to find without looking.

[0] not the internal space for system or apps, but the actual memory in which apps run.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

chickens made it through the night

All present, and combs and feet looked good this A.M.

Went out to give them some fresh/warm water (hanging feeder finally froze last night) and some extra scratch for caloric boost. No one wanted to come out of the tractor and I don't blame them. Brrrrr....

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

From Pantera to chickens

Here's a story about Phil Anselmo, formerly of Pantera, turning his life around. Luverly pics of his chickens.

I'm tellin' ya, they're therapeutic.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Texas shortfalls and my reality

The shortfalls in the Texas budget directly affects all ISDs, which directly affects those of us doing our best to secure our first teaching jobs.

I haven't given up, but at some point a man has to start thinking in terms of an exit strategy. Maybe IT in an ISD? Since I'm already fingerprinted/backgrounded and employed by a couple of districts I'm hoping that makes me an easier hire than average Joe off the street.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Tweaks and new procedures

It is common to post one's New Year's resolutions but I will try something different. I will post some things I changed in 2010 that seem to be working out.

Google Chrome
I tried to go Chrome earlier, but the absence of two plugins (since developed, see below) allowed me to make the change. Multimedia is better on my linux boxen than with FF.

Stripping out javascript
I went to blogtalkradio to download an episode of a show, and there were javascript elements inlined from sixteen seperate domains. Seriously?

Block this crap (and allow exactly what you want) with Noscript for FF or NotScripts for Chrome.

Page hacking with Greasemonkey
Your favorite pages the way you want them. The analog for Chrome is tampermonkey. Get some.

Dunno about you, but I am trying to track way to many things at once. I was originally using tab group functionality in FF/Chrome to eyeball sites and check for changes, but Reader does this for you using RSS. Track blogs, craigslist searches, whatever. Greatness.

CR-V3 battery pack
I had a decent prior-generation Pentax digital camera with a weird quirk; the minimum voltage requirements were quite high. This meant it would not always work normally on NiMH batts. It sat around for about two years until I saw a reference to a lithium pack shaped like two AA that fits right in there. Got it for $6 (shipped!) off eBay and the little cam is hummin'. It's just perfect now. I'm so grateful.

DE Wetshaving
Sounds more exotic than it is. Basically it means using a double-edged safety razor like your grandparents did. I had some 50s and 60s Gillette DE razors in the house but didn't really know how to use them correctly. I liked them but didn't love them. Enter the shave den forum. Here are the basics that really helped me:

  • take your time
  • remove beard bit-by-bit instead of all at once. This gradual process is called using "beard reduction passes"
  • no pressure; let the weight of the razor provide all the necessary contact force. Seriously.
  • work the shaving soap in a seperate lathering bowl; it takes about 60secs of whisk-like motion
The payoff is a morning shave that is actually enjoyable. Not joking: I actually look forward to shaving.

Probably the best-known player in the microlending/microcredit arena. I add capital when I can, and roll over paid-off loans back into new ones.

Just like the process mentioned above makes shaving enjoyable, Kiva makes me more eager to share what I have. I fuh-reaking detest begging and storefront bell-ringing, but actively look forward to that time of the month when repaid Kiva funds hit my account and I can re-loan them.

Yardbirds eat bugs, provide hours of amusement, create fertilizer, and lay eggs. Perfection.

I edit documents in Google's cloud rather than on my machine for the most part. Doesn't work for everything but works for most things.

Google Voice
Same for Google Voice. Really helps me take control of my mobile phone.

That's it for now.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

This is how we roll on NYE

This is how we celebrate NYE at the maushaus:

Put the chickens to bed with a bit of extra scratch to ward off the cold. Dragged the chimenea into the middle of the yard and stocked it with chunks of wood from my father's land. (I was helping him stack some firewood and we'd throw the broken chunks and pieces/parts into the trunk of my car). Perfect night for it: ground damp, air cold, wind almost still.

Sat in front of the fire and stayed toasty as midnight approached and the temps dropped. I drank a homebrewed hefeweizen and Dear Wife and I talked for a few hours. Timed the fire stoking so that by midnight it would be just about done.
While the fire was still going strong we cooked some Jiffy Pop over the exhaust stack of the chimenea. We found that if you hover the Pop about 3" above the hot chimney it will be about right. Worked fine; 1 unpopped kernel and 3 partially-burned kernels. I will warn that the package warns specifically against this kind of off-label use of Jiffy Pop. You Have Been Warned.

Not much celebratory gunfire this year, for which I am grateful. A few rounds from what sounded like the Bowser / Belt Line area and maybe a few more from due east. Some fireworks complaints called in over the police radio but I didn't hear anyone complain of gunfire. Only saw one large bottlerocket type firework in our area.

After midnight we check to see the fire was out, then preheated the electric blanket. As Samuel Pepys would say: "And so to bed."

I hope everyone has a good 2011.