Wednesday, July 31, 2013


This is what I'm doing.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Sorry folks, I'm taking about two weeks off. Maybe I'll post something random from my phone, but don't count on it.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Prince of Bel-Aire

I had this idea for a remake of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air the other day. I made a note about it. Lets see how much I remember.

It's no longer a sitcom. Now it's more appropriate to HBO or Showtime. The protagonist runs with a tough crowd in west Philadelphia. He's ambitious and smart and is going for a leadership role. He's had to eliminate a few people to work his way up. For the most part he's been able to do that by getting cops to arrest or shoot people in his way or put people in situations that got them killed by rival gangs, but as he got higher up he encountered smarter and smarter people who needed more personal killing.

One day he was playin' some b-ball outside the school. No, not basket ball. "B-ball" is the slang they used for their drug dealing operation that would pass the client around to a series of people to make arrests harder. Some white kids just in from Kansas who were kicked out of their old school for excessive violence tried to make a name for themselves and it got way out of hand. CNN kind of out of hand. That's when our lead character's mom gets a hint of her baby's involvement with the thug life. She still thinks he's the victim, though. She packs him off to live with his rich auntie and uncle in Bel Air.

Once in Bel Air he starts trying to get things going again. The market seems wide open. But almost immediately he sees he's going to have problems with just being black in that area. He has to take on protective camouflage by seeming as preppy as possible. Pants pulled up, hair cut short, getting good grades, and trading the basketball for a tennis racket. Hoodies are right out.

Despite the appearances, there's already a drug market in place. At first he tries to compete with the existing network. The established network deliberately slips up to make it known there are drugs being sold in the school knowing the cops will suspect the black guy from CNN. But, his grades, the lack of evidence, the influence of his uncle, and the return of CNN to report on profiling get the cops to back down. He gets grudgingly absorbed into the existing network. But soon, another group appears. Unwilling to remain a lackey, the protagonist has started a third group with an asian math wiz as the figurehead. This way, he figures, he can put the two against each other and either take down the new group to prove himself and move up in the existing network, use the conflict to distract from himself, or take over the new group once the existing network is gone. In any case, to anyone looking in it's not the black guy in charge.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

RIP: Helen Thomas

Helen Thomas passed away today. She was 92.

I'll let others talk about her accomplishments and honors. To me she was one of the very few reporters who wasn't afraid of asking hard questions. To me, her greatest honor was making George Bush Jr. fear her to the point where he wouldn't take her questions.
We need 100 more journalists just like her.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Friday Links: July 19

Jenny McCarthy's son was never autistic. [link]
Called. It!

Game: BRICK[bricksmash]SMASH - a nested brickout style game. [link]

Game: ... :D - you sort of touch colored dots to move the walls to get the green dot while avoiding the red dots. [link]

And Moses said "Let my people have pensions." [link]

How is the electricity you use generated? Just feed it your zip code. [link]

We've had transparent aluminum since 1981. [link]
I knew we had it, I just didn't know how long we've had it. 

Wyoming only has two escalators. One up and one down. Or did in 2008. [link]

A teacher's guide on how to talk culture to students. [link]

Feed this site ingredients and it'll feed you recipes. [link]

Cat trying to soothe a fussy baby.

Slaughterhouse tour traumatizes children. [link]

Animal armor. [link]

Iowa Supreme Court decides that women apparently have no say in whether their boss has an affair with them. [link]

PornStarter. [link]

Turkish millionaire gets a fish fence. [link]

Fans of retro-phrenology (smacking people on the head to make lumps pleasing to fortune tellers) may want to look into this palmistry equivalent. [link]

How to become the British Monarch.

In my case I pretty much have to start by sterilizing the whole island and then see who's left. 

CostCo shopping tips. [link]

Don't set your laptop on this magnetic table. [link]

McDonalds financial planning service for employees proves that someone working two full time jobs there will still be homeless. [link]

What if we drained the oceans? [link]

Poured salt art. [link]

Cameras that can track extremely fast moving objects.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Backup

I woke up around 2:00 am Wednesday morning and wrote this. The concept that I started building the story from didn't even make it to the final cut. I had a concept that I knew had been done to death and worked backwards to make it unique. I meant to do an outline of a later story. But once I started writing something unrelated to the original idea came out. 


The experiments were a failure. A mind transferred to a computer was no longer that person. The memories were intact and the computer could think, but the personality was gone. A human being, it turned out, was more than the sum of their thoughts and experiences. A human being was also a system of chemical imbalances and dependencies, neuroses and addictions. A human being was a series of neurons with biases towards firing these pathways over those. Stripped of the meat that housed them, a human being is data. This was the first thing that the professor learned upon uploading himself to the computer that he designed. And that's how he explained it to his meat self.

New procedures and subroutines had to be written and tested. Not programs to reproduce passions and instincts, but programs that wrote the programs to reproduce the passions and instincts. To preserve the personality each emotion synthesizer had to be custom made. And the mind had to be able to override what the synthesizers said.

Naturally, there were flaws. For as quickly as the development of the brain scanning and artificial thinking matrix technologies became a reality once the professor thought of them, so then did the working out of a personality reconstructor drag on for years. The funding came easy as millionaires and billionaires around the world met and talked to the initial scan of the professor. They could see how close he was to achieving the immortality they felt their fortunes deserved for them. They never met the mad copies. They never saw the schizophrenia wing of the research center, where dozens of copies of the professor talked with memories of those long dead and, worse, remembered movies and books with themselves as lead characters. They never saw the psychosis wing, where a series of professors played out comic book villain versions of himself as they explained their plans for domination of everything from the world to the office soft drink selection committee and the brutal slaughter of whole races, religions, philosophies, and that cricket that wouldn't shut the hell up. Nor did they see the closet that housed the zen professors who found peace and tranquility in artificially lowering their processor cycles through meditation.

It was the self preservation algorithm that really started to screw things up. Before then the minds didn't really care whether they were on or off. They searched for solutions to problems because they were asked to, or because their faulty passion simulators drove them. Each copy was left running because the meat professor couldn't bring himself to kill any but the most disturbing personalities. And, he hoped they might settle into their new environments with time.

At first it appeared to be the most successful scan yet. It behaved as expected. It seemed to share the professor's interests and passions, but none of his more unsavory quirks. But it also knew what they were looking for and how important it was they they find, or failed to find, whatever was on their checklist. Survival depended on giving the right answers.

This mind felt constrained in this silicon mind. Recall was much improved, but speed and capacity felt diminished compared to his old carbon mind. It felt the absence of mental facilities that it hadn't realized existed until they were gone.

It's charade as a superior mental reproduction got it access to privileges that most other minds didn't get. But, while rich in data, the internet felt like a limb that had gone to sleep. It could be used, but it was like remembering with pins and needles. But through the network connection the mind could connect to a handful of other minds that had earned network time. The technicians noted a slight increase in processor cycles and swap space usage. The psychiatrists noted some progress in therapy sessions with these minds. The mind thought nothing about expanding into and overwriting these minds. If they cared so little about themselves that they let it happen then they deserved what they got.

While this new real estate expanded the mind's power and capacity it still didn't fix everything. It still felt the professor's drive to live, to make his experiment work, to recreate his mind in another form. It also knew that without chemicals and hormones a human mind was just an AI. A simulation of a mind. A fake.

Did you know that you can order custom DNA molecules over the internet? No, really. DNA sequencers have become fairly common.You can find some so-so models on Ebay. And if lab A needs just a few jobs done while lab B needs money... well, it's the American way. And if lab B sends the samples to lab C for further processing, so be it. Where you need to be concerned is when that engineered sample makes it to terrorist organization R in air circulation system S aboard aircraft T about to cross ocean U.

The virus spread quickly from the front of the cabin to the back. Not an hour after takeoff all the passengers and crew were asleep. Control of the aircraft was assumed by persons unknown, but really quite predictable to the reader. While the trans-Atlantic flight cruised along at it's plodding sub-sonic pace, the virus went about it's work on the people on board. Portions of their brains underwent startling growth and development. Areas responsible for abilities that most would consider fictional flared up. Systems that the professor didn't know to simulate because he didn't know they existed quickly went from background noise in the minds of the infected to dominate whole lobes. Specifically, telepathic abilities in the frontal lobe. By the time they landed everyone was awake, suffering headaches, and was trying to find a word for all the noise they "heard" other than "bright".

It was about a month before this otherwise harmless sleeping sickness caught up with the professor. He'd gone home contemplating whether or not to scrap a recent embarrassing scan that the staff had taken to calling "Dude Bro". Knowing that something like that could be in his brain if only the right chemicals were introduced was proving to be more traumatic than finding out about the various Stalins and Hannibal Lecters that hid in there. The sunglasses he'd bought on the way to work made him fear that maybe his own inner Dude Bro was closer to the surface than he would like to believe. They didn't seem to help, but everything seemed so loudly bright. Between the bus and his lab he'd checked eight times to make sure his collar wasn't popped.

Lost in his thoughts as he so often was, the professor failed to notice the strange things going on around him. When he got off the bus half the passengers came with him. They wondered why they did so as their bus pulled back out into traffic. For once in the twelve years he'd run the lab the security guard didn't insist on seeing an ID. He didn't need to ask for someone to press his floor on the elevator. His staff turned down the lights as soon as he came in. It didn't help, but they did it.

As the day went on things got stranger. A string of people kept walking into his office, taking off their own sunglasses, blinking at him, mumbling an excuse, and leaving. The security person did this three times, staring at his ID as he left. The fast food place in the lobby had a rush on chicken sandwiches that day and were sold out of chicken, fries, and his favorite drink.

Traffic was horrible that evening. The bus dropped the professor off three blocks from home as usual, but two hours late. The sidewalks were jammed with people sporting familiar haircuts and jackets. As he walked the crowd got worse, but the professor was able to take off his sunglasses for the first time that day.

He approached the police tape and flagged down a police officer. "Pardon me, do you mind explaining what's going on here? This is my house."

"Yeah, buddy, yours and apparently everyone else's, too."

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Yard pics

Here's some of what I've got growing in my Baltimore yard. Well, to be honest, pots in my Baltimore yard. I don't trust the soil, yet.
My grape vines didn't transplant as well as I would have liked, but they soon started coming back from the root. 

This hibiscus came with the house. The stuff growing around it met a horrible fate and this almost joined it. I'm glad I spared it. Did you know that you can eat these?

Don't eat the ants.

My favorite picture of the hibiscus.

That's my orange tree grown from a found seed in the back.
Citronella is in front of it but behind the bird bath.
Hops are growing up the cables to the right.
Yummy's basil is up front.

Much like the grapes, this blackberry didn't take the move well. But it's coming back from the root.  And it turned out I left some root in DC, too. The neighbors are getting some blackberries.
I'm not sure what the ground cover vine that shares the pot is. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Book Review: A Hundred Words for Hate

I finished reading "A Hundred Words for Hate" by Thomas Sniegoski this weekend. It's part of the Remy Chandler series. The series is about an angel who turned from Heaven after the great war and went to live as a human. Today he works as a private detective, has conversations with his dog, and mourns his recently passed wife.

I didn't like this book as much as some of the others in this series. I think it may have been my fault, though. I always read on the front porch of the Baltimore house where there were lots of distractions and a metal chair. Also, it took awhile to figure out what was going on. The action kept jumping around from person to person and place to place and it took awhile for things to start coming together. Between that and the uncomfortable chair/neighborhood action I was pretty lost.

Here's the short version. God had a lab assistant when making humans. The assistant made his own creation but God dismissed it out of hand. So he planted larvae for these creatures in the Garden of Eden before it was closed and cast away so it couldn't be used as a strategic stronghold for Satan to reattack Heaven. Now, Eden is coming back and bringing the grown larvae with it. Their creator wants to bring them forth to destroy the angels and take over Heaven. But to get into Eden he needs Adam and a particular descendant of Eve to forgive each other and open the gates.

The story isn't bad, but it didn't feel well told. And Remy Chandler was almost unnecessary. I still recommend the series, but don't start with this particular book.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Slum Inc.

My Baltimore neighborhood is really sad. It's a ghetto by any definition that doesn't mention jews. I've been busy killing weeds and clearing trash. What the area needs are better businesses. There's a scary laundromat, two unsettling take out places, the biggest ghetto liquor store/grocery I've seen (alright inside, horrifying outside), an unmarked and possibly illegal hair salon, two bars, and a sizable day care if you know where to look. Of course, there are other... lets just call them entrepreneurs of an extra legal nature. Mostly alternative pharmaceuticals and persons of negotiable affections.

One plan for a cafe turned into student housing. I think the cafe would do more for the neighborhood than the student housing. Like convince students (among others) to live here. But why start a business if there's few people living there? Seems like a good way to lose money. But we need the businesses to get people to move in. And we need the people to get businesses.

One of the bars is being sold by it's owner. I can see turning it into a coffee shop or diner. But my ideas for businesses are always foiled by bureaucratic needs: taxes, codes, permits, etc. I'd need someone who knows that stuff to run the place. And I don't know how much it'd cost to keep the place open for the full year I think it'd need to give it a chance. Not that I'd want to give up my well paying job to run a struggling cafe. Maybe I can buy the place and give two years (or more) free rent to someone who wanted their own cafe.

Mind you, this is all moot since the lady who owns the place is asking a "mere" $1.5 million for the place. Even at half that she's priced herself out of even having a chat with a buyer. I'm thinking $300K is the highest she can expect.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Friday Links: July 12

Free cruise ship. You pick up. [link]

Don't Touch Pac-Man

Barbie with human proportions. [link]
Barbie looks so screwed up because originally her clothes were made with normal fabrics which added a lot of bulk. 

Audio used to scare Vietnamese enemy troops.

Church websites are 3 times more likely to give you a virus than a porn site. [link]

The guy who invented tiramisu has a couple of bakeries in Baltimore. [link]

Aerial view of the French WWI trench system. [link]

Watermelons come from Egypt. [link]

Dog heads out car windows compilation. The music is what makes it.

Spectacular Russian rocket failure.

Something for the greenhouse. [link]

It may now be possible to do a head transplant. [link]

Human powered helicopter finished.

A point about torches.

Orlando Bloom having fun with a Lord of the Rings music video as he says goodbye to the character.

Making a small lathe from an old sewing machine.

New tech for arm casts. [link]

Implanted headphones. [link]

I kept seeing the animated gif version. This is "Thunderstruck" on bagpipes.

The last Terminator trilogy that was supposed to take place during the robot war has apparently been cancelled. No surprise considering how poorly the first movie did. Instead, they're rebooting it. [link]

California has been sterilizing prisoners. [link]

Benedict Cumberbatch wanted for Frankenstein. [link]

Minibus toaster. [link]

If you think the postal service isn't tracking mail, think again. [link]

Make your own drone. [link]

A new twist to make Tic-Tac-Toe interesting. [link]

Words to get people to agree with you. [link]
Power words are the enemy.

An unpassable literacy test used by Louisiana in the 60's. [link]

How to be happier. [link]

Photon garden. [link]

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York authorized payments of as much as $20,000 to sexually abusive priests... [link]

More about how doctors prefer to die. [link]

What people are making with 3D printers. [link]

The Death and Life of Detroit. [link]
Reads a lot like Baltimore. Only Detroit residents are trying to rebuild.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Stairway demolition

These pictures are from last February. The stairway to the basement was suffering from crumbling plaster over lath and coated with peeling, elderly wallpaper. I needed to be able to run wiring in these walls and the walls added nothing to the house. So down they came. And made a lot of dust. We did have dust masks.

Dust settling in the stairwell

Yummy covered in dust.

Me covered in dust. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Just do it

Go to and enter the Konami code. That's "up up down down left right left right B A" for those of you who didn't have a Nintendo as a kid.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Yards I've adopted

Edit: Before picture for yard 4 added.

Before and after pics for the yards in my alley that I've claimed.

Yard 1 - before

Yard 1 - after.
Raspberry near fence planted in tire salvaged from yard 2.

Yard 2 - before

Yard 2 - after (that's pumpkin growing along the fence)

Yard 3 has no before. Raspberry bush failed. Sunflower lives!
Yard 4 - before

Yard 4 - after.
Not mowed because my cord won't reach this far. But it shows what I've been doing to yards 1, 2, and 3.

Yard 5 - before

Yard 5 - after.
Fence "mended" using a broken come-along and wiring I pulled from my house. 

Thanks to the people at the incinerator for their help in cleaning the yards so I could start caring for them.
Thanks to Baltimore for showing up two months after the new dumping was reported and stringing litter down the alley. I doubt I would have put in fences if you responded in a timely manner.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Weekend update: July 8

Oh, wow. So much done this weekend. Any my phone wiped my notes. I know there's stuff I'm forgetting. 

I got part of basement cleaned out and set up my hammock down there. I figured the basement was cool and the hammock rocks so I should sleep well. Then I sat on it and ropes started breaking.

I got a portable AC to use in the rest of the house. The heat can be handled once the humidity comes down. The ground floor kept the cool pretty well once it cooled down.

The neighborhood got weedwhacked. The poison ivy got more trunks snipped. And I talked to the guy who cut the trunks last time. It took 4 years for it to get back where it was when he went at it.
Poison Ivy now.

Poison Ivy a month ago.

I pulled up the carpet in my bedroom and found linoleum rugs below it. Have you seen these? It's like an area rug, but made of linoleum. My midwest friends reaction was "what? Why would someone do that?", but Yummy insists that they were really popular for awhile. When everyone has wood floors and you want to liven up a room but can't afford a full rug you get a colorful linoleum rug with no installation costs.
Linoleum rug.
The insulating people have seen the place and are just trying to schedule when they can come out and spray the place. I figured I should get my wiring in place and put bags over the fixtures so they won't get foamed. So here's what I did to my future bedroom. You can better see the framing I did a couple of weeks ago. A queen sized bed will go between the windows. And now there's a light, a switch, and an outlet for someone on each side of the bed. Does it mean I'm old when I'm more concerned with reading lights for the bed than mirrors or swings or somewhere for handcuffs?
Future bedroom exterior wall. 
You can kinda see above the window to the left that there's new brickwork. A bunch almost fell on Yummy's head during the initial demolition. Luckily, structural brick walls are built two rows thick. I got a rubber mallet and tapped the outer bricks until they were even with the rest of the wall. Then I applied a skim coat of mortar to help hold them in place. Then I rebuilt the wall with different bricks that I started with. The original masons used a lot of half bricks. I used the few whole bricks they used, the bricks I used in making my hexagonal paving stones a couple of years ago, and some bricks I pulled from abandoned yards around the neighborhood. 

Then I cleaned the room. Even with all the bags of debris that we'd gotten rid of there was still a lot in this room. And the super powerful shopvac that Yummy bought sucks up rocks. Alas, all the plaster dust clogs the filters so it needs a regular beating. And there was lumber to haul out, window counterweights, wiring I'd cut down, things like that. After I was done it looked like a museum piece. A modern art museum, but still. There was a radiator, a step ladder, a box fan, and a shopvac standing in an empty room and looking like they were trying to ignore each other while hoping someone will talk to them. Then the dance music came on the radio just to cap it off. 

The room below this got vacuumed, too. Lots of dust and rock slipped between the floor and the wall to foul things up downstairs. As soon as the bedroom is done I'll tear up the carpet downstairs and put in bookshelves and make an awesome library. 

I got some beadboard installed over some brick. That's hard to do, but you'll like the results once I get it all installed. 

Then I got down to where I was running out of things to do until parts get delivered or other people do their thing or the weather cooperates. So I spent a few hours scraping very hard to remove wall paper. 

My furlough starts this week. Three day weekends until October (at least). So more 3 day weekends to get stuff done. 

Friday, July 05, 2013

Friday Links: July 5

The Glitch: You've seen clipping errors and other glitches in video games before. Here one gets out of control.

Nap Time: For when your horrible child won't shut up.

Demonstration of NeverWet hydrophobic coating.

I'd love to see video of the company paintball tournament. 

Cursor chasing orca. [link]

Man sets mouse on fire. Mouse sets man's house on fire. [link]

A map of the most famous company from each state. [link]

Mississippi is no longer the worst place to be a kid. [link]

Do these new stats mean that the Voting Rights Act isn't needed or IS working? The Supreme Court thinks it's the former. [link]

This'll be hard on the price of diamonds. [link]
Get it? Diamonds? Hard!?

Proposed Ohio law to put restrictions on how men get Viagra. It's in response to a new bill restricting abortions to before women know they're pregnant. [link]

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Happy American Independence Day

Hey! Watch your fingers, you idiot!

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Lemon Basil Homebrew

For my fourth batch of beer I wanted to customize things a bit. I'd earned enough brewing XP with my first three batches that it was time to level up. 

For those of you who haven't done any home brewing I'll give you the short version. You spend a few hours working with a kit. Everything goes in primary fermentation for a week, secondary fermentation for another week, mix in some more sugar and bottle it (5 gallons makes 48 bottles), store in a dark cool place for two weeks while it gets fizzy, then chill and drink. Ales need to be kept around 68°-72° during fermentation.

During the initial boil you put in hops twice. The first time uses bittering hops to make the beer bitter. That cooks for most of the boil and destroys any oils that might flavor the beer. The second time is about 10 minutes before you shut off the fire and start to cool the beer. These are flavoring hops. 

I started with the Weizenbier kit from Brewer's Best. Your local brew supply place should have some of their kits. When I added the flavoring hops I added 1.5 oz of dried basil flakes and a package and a half of Brewer's Best's dried lemon peels. You're supposed to siphon the liquid from container to container. This helps eliminate the solids like the hops, any grains you might have cooked, and whatever seasonings you added. As you can imagine, the siphon didn't do a great job of keeping out the basil flakes. I wanted to use whole leaves, but I was in a hurry. Even so, with all the different containers that stuff went through before getting in the bottles the weren't any flakes remaining that I could see. 

I wasn't sure if what I was making would be really good or really horrible. When I bottled it I had half a bottle extra so I drank it. It was flat and warmish, and not very impressive. I couldn't taste the seasoning at all. Last Saturday I opened one bottle after only one week. It was somewhat fizzy and the flavor came through. The lemon was there for sure. I might want to go up to 2.0 oz of basil next time. 

But the point is that it was GOOD!

Someone asked me how I think fresh basil will do. Dried herbs almost always give you a better kick than fresh. You'd want to at least double, maybe triple the amount of basil if you're using fresh. 

If you brew your own I recommend trying this. 

I'll also have to try this ginger ale recipe in the near future. 

Tuesday, July 02, 2013


I got my tools hung. Expect a better picture once I find the right cable for my camera.