Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Fuck Off Day: Congress

Congress has until midnight to work out a budget or I'm getting my hours cut. There's not even talks going on because the GOP won't even consider a plan that involves tax hikes. 
Sod off isn't appropriate here.


update: I finished wiring this up. Revised wiring diagrams can be found here.

I recently discovered the 4 way. Unfortunately, I mean the light switch instead of something more nudity based. And suddenly I'm wondering how many people it takes to go from a numbered amount of people (i.e. 3-some, 4-some, etc) to an orgy. Mind you, I still find a two-some pretty exotic. But do you have to lose count of the number of people? Does an orgy become a 20-way if someone does a head count... er, cranium count? Is this totally off topic? Yes it is.

If you're wiring up two switches for a light you need a couple of 3-way switches. For more switches you need a 4-way switch.

The way a 4-way switch works is that you have 4 wires attached much like you see in the picture below. There's really a 5th wire, but we're ignoring the ground wire for today's purposes. With the switch one way the current goes across like you see on the left. With the switch the other way, the current crosses over.

Norman's house had an arrangement with two switches and a light at the top of the stairs. We're rewiring that and adding another light down the hall from the first and a switch by that light. To do that we need to wire things up like you see below. 

This next bit shows all the possibly arrangements of these three switches. Green means lights on and red means lights off. So there's no way that I couldn't flip a switch and toggle the two lights in the hall at the top of the stairs. 

You can add a 4th switch by adding even more 4-way switches to the middle of the series of switches. You can have however many switches you want so long as the ones in the middle are all 4 way and 3 way switches cap the ends. Go ahead. Doodle it out. I dare you. 

And no lights go between switches without making things difficult. They all have to go on one side of the power supply or the other.

That seems perfectly simple enough, but what we seem to have already in place in the house is this. 

The power source is unknown. I've run a new for our lights, but the original power source is lost in limbo somewhere. From what I can see, there's a 3-way switch at the bottom of the stairs, and at the top is a 4-way that they're treating like a 3-way, with the 4th wire running off to power other parts of the house. But it doesn't cut off power to anything when the stair lights are on. So I'm really not sure what's going on. But I'm closer than I was two weeks ago.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Pressure treated

Home Depot had a clearance sale on girlfriends with crap jobs.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Friday Links: February 22

Lame week for links. Well there are children in Africa who don't have links at all! You'll click what you have and like it!

Netflix uses the Konami code to reset their software on most devices. [link]

Doctors tend to die differently. CPR is only successful 8% of the time. [link]

The Exxon Valdez was recently grounded for dismantling. [link]
Exxon still hasn't paid what the courts required of them for restitution of damages done to the livelyhood of the locals. 

Antidepressants make shrimp suicidal. [link]

What English sounds like to people who don't speak it. This song was written by Italians to sound like English being spoken by Americans. The lyrics are nonsense. [link]

A car got stuck at 125mph for an hour. [link]

Cats have always walked over our work. [link]

"Tattooing" apples. [link]

People coming home from a miserable trip on a broken down cruise ship suffered broken down busses and planes. [link]

FDA OKs artificial eyes. [link]

A 35 minute documentary about a drug that makes you act normal while making you completely suggestible. You'll do anything you're told.

More crows playing in the snow.

Patrick Stewart lost his hair when he was 19.

Sod Off Day: Violence Against Women Act

The Senate repassed the Violence Against Women Act last week. Here's the 22 people who voted against it. No surprise, 100% were Republicans.

1. John Barrasso (R-WY)
2. Roy Blunt (R-MO)
3. John Boozman (R-AR)
4. Tom Coburn (R-OK)
5. John Cornyn (R-TX)
6. Mike Enzi (R-WY)
7. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
8. Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
9. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
10. Jim Inhofe (R-OK)
11. Mike Johanns (R-NE)
12. Ron Johnson (R-WI)
13. Mike Lee (R-UT)
14. Ted Cruz (R-TX)
15. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
16. Rand Paul (R-KY)
17. Jim Risch (R-ID)
18. Pat Roberts (R-KS)
19. Marco Rubio (R-FL)
20. Tim Scott (R-SC)
21. Jeff Sessions (R-AL)
22. John Thune (R-SD)

Right now it looks like John Boehner won't even let it come up for a vote in the House.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Book review: The Homebrewer's Garden

I haven't mentioned that I've gotten into home brewing. It's the sort of thing that needs pictures and they're all on the wrong cameras. This weekend Yummy and I were picking up the supplies for our third batch. In the book section at Maryland Homebrew Yummy found The Homebrewer's Garden. Yummy is a gardener and I'm a home brewer so this book is just up our alley.

The first section talks about hops, how to grow it, and when to harvest it. I've got hops growing up the front of my house. This summer will be it's third year. I'm gonna try moving it to somewhere it gets less barbecued and hopefully it'll yield fruit this year. Now I have a better idea what to look for.

The next section is the one that really interested us. Its a list of herbs and spices and other plants that you might be able grow or forage and shove in a brew. Many of which can be used to replace hops completely. More than just listing plants and telling you what areas they grow well, this book also gives you some useful notes as to how much to use and when to use it for what effect. Lots of things can be added in secondary fermentation to add a certain odor. Many things are more effective when dry than fresh. Other things never dry well. Some things we'd been considering because we'd never seen it done before and we got a recommended dosage. And in the descriptions we got ideas for some other brews.

So Yummy is going to start a bunch of things this spring and see what we can use as we level up and start making some more original recipes. I'll see about posting results of our first brews and whatever we plant in the spring.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A drunk driving hazard

Seen in a drugs and alcohol safety quiz taken recently.
I wouldn't have thought of the third one as a drunk driving hazard. Driving while drunk, sure. Drunk dialing an ex, yep. Driving while on the phone, totally. All three together seems weird.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Friday Links: February 15

An abandoned Star Wars set from The Phantom Menace is now the home to a handful of squatters.

Defamation of pit bulls. [link]

Coffee foam art. [link]

A planing competition.

Burrowing owls.

Sir Patrick Stewart talking about domestic abuse in his own home growing up.

Spiderman appearance in old X-Men movie.

Employers should try to accomodate employees' scheduling needs. It shouldn't, however, be a demanded right. [link]

Mosquitoes survive rain by riding the droplets. [link]

An illustrated story of a Hiroshima survivor. [link]

Animations of blast force from the Tunguska impact. [link]
Try not to think about what's buzzing the Earth this afternoon.

Gold veins comes from bacteria deposits, not (just) geological activity. [link]
Can I borrow some? I have a few hundred CDs that I'd like to get the gold out of. 

Laws needed as robots improve. [link]

Zombie attack in Montana.

Mario Brothers/Ghostbusters crossover.

McDonalds is applying for it's own internet domain suffix. [link]

Litter plugs: Garbage where it shouldn't be, but may not actually be littering. [link]

19 maps to put the United States in perspective. [link]

If only I lived in the same town where I worked... [link]
...then I'd still be driving my Segway.

A kid to developed a new way of detecting certain cancers. [link]

A movie by CleverBot.

The Lorax being projected into falling snow.

Aerogel: A super lightweight insulation developed by NASA to catch particles blowing off of comets. I saw it being used for window insulation in a Solar Decathlon house.

The adventures of Florida Man. [link]

The man who shot Bin Laden struggles to make ends meet. [link]

Why Popes resign. [link]

Drag lines around on a globe and watch them change on a map. [line]
The math required really messed with my head back in Fortran.

What Netflix learns from it's viewers. [link]

50 states with equal populations. [link]
Wichita has enough issues. Don't lump them in with Oklahoma!

Hospitals can't tell you what a new hip costs. [link]

What to do if you find a duffel bag of drugs in your back yard. [link]

The complete HP Lovecraft for your eReader. [link]
Have I posted this before or was that another author?

Satellite photos of an American drone base in Saudi Arabia. [link]

Game: Killbot - you're a killer robot that's escaping from it's factory and collecting stars for some reason. [link]

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Chrome Task Manager

If you surf like me you have dozens of browser windows and tabs open at the same time. This can eat your memory and leave you with little to anything productive with. I originally used the Activity Monitor on the Mac to shut down memory hogging pages. The pages would remain open and remember where they were supposed to go, but the contents would go away until I hit reload. But it wouldn't tell me which page I was killing. I just had to cross my fingers and hope that it wasn't one I was using.

Several months back I found out about the Task Manager built into the Chrome web browser. You can find it by either going to Window>Task Manager or going to the button with the three horizontal lines to the right of the address bar, clicking Tools>Task Manager. Then sort the contents by Memory. Now you can see what pages are memory hogs and kill them until you're ready to finish looking at that page. I can leave tabs open for weeks until I find the time to read that article. I'm often surprised at how apparently simple pages are sucking down hundreds of megabytes of memory. Now you can be too.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


I've seen a recent increase in posts about the friend zone. Probably due to Valentine's Day pending. Sometimes the woman gets blamed because she gripes about how she can't find good guys when there's one right there that she refuses to date. Sometimes the guy gets blamed because he should have let her know up front that he wants her. Less often the guy gets yelled at for only being a nice guy in order to get her to sleep with him and then stopping when she won't date him.

I want to address one of the unmentioned scenarios. Some guys don't fall for someone right away. Some guys need time to get to know the person first. One night stands are out of the question because that guy needs months, not minutes to connect with a woman. So by the time he's thinking of her romantically she's got him locked away in the friend zone. I know I can't work in the current dating climate where the woman assumes you're not interested in her if you haven't had sex by the third date.

Why does it take so long to make that connection? Sometimes it's because his heart dominates his hormones. That is unless she's actually naked and rubbing on him. I had a woman pin me to the wall with her hips and read my homework in a dirty manner and I still missed the clue. She was such a flirt with everyone that I didn't take her seriously when she flirted with me. When she told me she was actually interested she was already with someone else.

Sometimes it takes months to bring the emotional walls down. Years of humiliation and rejection have left an otherwise confident man a quivering mass of psychological goo when there's a woman of interest. And it may not even be humiliation of the guy. Even the rumor that I was interested in a girl between 6th and 12th grades brought down such teasing and abuse down on her that the best way to show my affection for a girl was to stay well away from her. Mind you, getting that kind of reaction even when you're not interested is humiliation by itself.

It can take the guy months of hanging out with a woman to view her romantically. Sometimes there's emotional damage to overcome before he can trust her enough to look at her that way. Sometimes he's looking for love and a connection instead of just lust. But the first reaction isn't "dude, I'd totally bang you" which is, apparently, the appropriate reaction for any woman that you may, someday, possibly want to date.

Then, when the guy discovers he likes her, works up the nerve to ask her out, and gets rejected he may turn hostile. It doesn't mean he was only being nice to get on her good side. It means he's been hurt. Again. He's lashing out. And she knows she hurt him. She gets upset that he's upset at her. She wasn't leading him on or anything. Don't be mad at her for not returning your feelings. She's yelling at him for only pretending to be nice because she feels he's blaming her. The reactions on both sides are out of line, but understandable.

Luckily, I'm dating someone now and don't have to worry about it anymore.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Old wiring

We spent this past weekend at Norman's House, a recent acquisition that we plan to rent out after some modest renovation. The good news is that the house isn't haunted. The bad news is that the wiring covers multiple generations. At least some of the wiring is covered in plastic instead of fabric. That makes me happy. Most, but not all, of the wiring coming from the circuit breaker is plastic coated and colored somehow. By the time it reaches the second floor the only plastic stuff is from where someone decided "You know what this room needs? A light switch!" and added one. 

What you see below is what I've figured out about the wiring upstairs. Black lines are all upstairs. Red lines are in the basement. Pinkish lines are there, but not really important to the task at hand. Remember, these old wires are single wires, not the bundles of 3 or more you can expect, today. 

I don't know where the power is coming from! Two wires go into the wall from the basement and probably go to that switch at the bottom of the stairs. But only one wire comes out. THAT'S NOT HOW ELECTRICITY WORKS!!! Maybe in the back of the house? But... then what's going on with the two switches and the hall light? And, really, that needs to be a three-way switch with one at the bottom of the stairs, one at the top, and one at the far end of the hallway.

I'm getting close to just saying "gee, that's interesting. Now it all needs to go away and something sensible take it's place." I'm only being held back by the fear of mystery wires coming up with unexpected loads in unwanted places. Most of the work needs to be done between the roof and second floor ceilings. The diagram reflects lights in the front half of the house. Beyond that I need the skinny, 12 year old version of myself to crawl back there.

Anyone know of a particularly nifty circuit panel? This one is of a brand known for not flipping when it should. That's kind of the opposite of the problem we've been having, but whatever. The company has been out of business for awhile now. And I've seen some nifty light up panels with LEDs and stuff in recent years. No idea how to find them, though. "Awesome staircases" is a productive search. "Awesome electrical circuit panels"... less so.

Monday, February 11, 2013

How refrigerators work

I've tried explaining to myself and others how refrigerators work before. I kinda understood. I get the bit about using freon to absorb the heat on the inside and shed the heat on the outside. And I knew there was some compression involved. I wasn't sure how that worked though.

Also known - asteroids heat up on atmospheric entry due to atmospheric compression.

I finally started making some connections after exchanging some e-mails with the XKCD guy. He didn't really explain it, but in trying to phrase my follow up question it started to click. Here's what I've got.

Hot air (or other objects) expands. Cold air (see previous parenthesis) contracts. Well established back in science class. Heat goes in and it gets bigger. Cold goes in and it gets smaller. But cold doesn't really go in. We just make it easier for heat to come out.

So, take a quantity of air and compress it. Being forced to contract, the air gets colder. It's heat must be shed so the container gets warm. In the case of an asteroid, the air can't move out of the way fast enough, it gets compressed, and sheds it's heat into the asteroid.

Take a can of compressed air and fire it at something. That something tends to get cold. As the air  comes out it expands it wants it's heat back. It's heat was stolen when it was put into that can. You thought it forgot about that? All those years, locked away in a cell, it's been planning... plotting it's revenge. It wants it's heat back! And it doesn't want to hear about how you used it to start that diner outside of Boston!

I may be drifting from my point a bit.

The air pulls the heat from it's surroundings. So the hand, the electronics, the guy you're having an air can war with, get colder and can get condensation or even frost.

So what does this have to do with the refrigerator? Well, whatever is being pumped through the tubes decompresses in the tubes inside the fridge. It needs heat for this so that heat is pulled out of the fridge and the food. It then gets pumped to tubes outside the fridge where pumps smoosh it all back into a tight space so it sheds the heat into the kitchen.

Air or water or something else could be used, but someone did research that found that freon was pretty good at being expanded and contracted a lot and pushing heat energy around. It's also really good at destroying ozone.

This seems sound to me, but I admit I have trouble figuring out good ideas from bad sometimes.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Friday Links: February 8

Movie directing bear.

Acting like Superman can make you behave more like Superman. [link]

Gangnam Style flip book. [link]

Find Momo the dog in these pictures. [link]

Huh. Those galaxies shouldn't be moving like that. [link]

Game: Mercator Puzzle - where do these countries go on a skewed Mercator map? [link]

Women can carry injured soldiers just fine. [link]

The meanings behind some nursery rhymes. [link]
Some of the meanings are just rubbish. Not sure why they bothered to include them.

Homeless guy and his cat. [link]

Strange inventions. [link]

Songs written about their record labels. [link]

American carbon emission are actually falling. [link]

How to find a stolen car. [link]

AIDS resistance through constant exposure. [link]

360° volcano flyover video. [link]

How to provoke mild interest in your cat for a few minutes.

Dinosaurs had appropriately sized fleas. [link]

Bobby Jindal says the smartest thing from a Republican mouth in decades. [link]

Al Capone came up with milk bottle dating. [link]

Things are getting better for the really poor. [link]

Jeremy Clarkson designed a new "world's tiniest car". It has issues if you want to go in real traffic. [link]

Several old flying cars. [link]

Idaho Senator has introduced legislation requiring all Idaho high school students to read "Atlas Shrugged". [link]

How Coke makes orange juice. [link]

Hacked video games in Nairobi. [link]

Disney has plans for stand alone Star Wars movies besides continuing the saga. Here's one of their planned movies. [link]

New proposed federal marijuana legalization. [link]

Webcam for space stuff. [link]
Tune in Thursday Friday afternoon to watch the asteroid that's zipping inside geosynchronous orbit. 

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Sod Off Mac and Cheese

Being back on a budget diet has brought mac and cheese back into my life. The first stuff I picked up came with pre-made cheese sauce. No having to mix milk and butter with a strange yellow powder. So much easier, right? Yes. But it tastes like ass. Obviously you don't have to add all of the sauce to the pasta. But figuring out how much to use is like trying to find the right temperature in the shower. Between boiling and freezing is about 0.25° of just right. Similarly, mac and cheese with pre-made sauce has a very fine line between pasta that once heard his uncle tell of cheese sauce and pasta with ass. The problem being that, unlike a shower, once you've gone too far you can't come back. It's lame... lame... lame... lame... ass... more ass... additional ass... rap video.

So sod off Kraft. I'm only going to eat this other stuff that's also by Kraft.

Note: any mac and cheese from Whole Foods is 100% pure rectum.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Ben's Chili Bowl

In the past I've been somewhat critical of the chili at Ben's Chili Bowl. I changed my mind the other day.

For those of you who don't know, Ben's Chili Bowl is a historical restaurant here in Washington, DC. It boasts everyone from Martin Luther King, Jr, Bill Cosby, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway, Nat King Cole, Redd Foxx, Dick Gregory, Donny Hathaway, Roy Ayers, Chris Tucker, Bono, Ted Koppel, President Obama, and untold numbers of politicians from America and overseas. It was a popular hub of activity during the civil rights movement. After MLK got assassinated Ben's got permission to stay open past curfew to feed the cops, firemen, and peaceful black activists. During the bad times that followed, police used the upstairs to monitor area drug dealers. I don't know where I'd heard of it, but it was one of two DC restaurants that I knew about when I moved here. Not by name, but by appearance.

I tried eating there a few times over the years. I found the chili to taste burnt and usually gave me a stomach ache. But, when my brother was here last week he had to eat there. It was really crazy cold while he was here. So, naturally, chili was needed. And, I have to admit, it was pretty good. Since Ben's death a couple of years ago his sons have opened up Ben's Next Door for more formal dining. I'm guessing they may have tweeked the chili recipe, too. I like it a lot more and, finances willing, I'll eat there more often.

Monday, February 04, 2013


I've been called tight with money. My grandparents on both sides of my family had farms that managed to survive the Great Depression and Dust Bowl. You can't do that while being free with your money. And you could see that mindset in them clear to their final days. Grammie had money, but she insisted we rent out the farm house so she'd have money to cover assisted living. Grandma did much the same thing. Every two years she'd buy a new car, always the same car, but that was her one frivolous expense. When cleaning out her house we kept finding rolls of cash and cans of coins stuffed in the backs of closets and the bottoms of boxes.

My parents aren't as bad, but they keep an eye on their money, invest wisely, and live simply. Living on a farm does help since you can hold on to scrap wood and metal without being called a hoarder. If you saw my house you'd see that I could totally use a barn.

My current job has allowed me to live less cheaply than I find advisable. It pays well enough that I could eat out most days, see movies whenever, and still pack away a good amount of money. But a few months back I took out a second loan. The first was for my mortgage. The second was for the purchase and repair of a couple of houses in Baltimore. And I could afford it. Then the government cut my pay significantly when I switched from a contract employee to a government employee. It took me a couple of months, but I did see that my bank account was heading the wrong direction.

I changed my spending habits immediately. I went back to my college eating habits. I contacted the charities I give to and started trying to end my monthly contributions. I tried to cut my phone bill (I can save $50/month, but Yummy would then have to pay an extra $100). I considered cutting off my internet, but that would significantly increase my fuel and car repair expenses since I'd have to go to work every day. I'll be stopping my homemade beer making until I can get positive numbers again. The video game store will miss me. The book store will miss me, too, but I have a few years of reading left to me even if I were to retire today.

I have enough tucked here and there that I can go on for awhile spending like I was. But I think that at this time next month I'll be coming out ahead again.

In the meantime, we're making progress on Norman's House again. Some more money has to go into it, but it should be mostly our own labor. Hopefully, we'll be putting it up for rent in a few months and it can start handling it's own debt load. The Annapolis Bog, alas, won't be able to do that for a few years. But once the current work is done I'll have a storage locker the size of... a barn!

My parents have told me they're willing to help out, but I'm trying to avoid that unless it's really necessary. Even with my cut pay I'm making enough that I should be able to pay all my own bills. I'm just annoyed that I won't be able to help out if my brother goes for his much needed bigger farm equipment in the next few months.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Friday Links: February 1

Game: Fractured - a short game where the gaming screen has been broken into pieces. You must navigate the character around to his poetry speaking ghost mother despite. [link]
If you can't see the "Play Now" button try this. [link]

Some women can see more colors. [link]

Glenn Beck has been playing too much Bioshock when what he needs is electroshock. [link]

Mars may have tectonic plates. [link]

Cool Things to Find: a Mars Rover take on "Dumb Ways to Die".

Coffee and mold. [link]

Benedict Cumberbatch got kidnapped... briefly. [link]

Tractor beam technology scales up from molecules to the merely microscopic. [link]

Boy saves sister from a moose using World of Warcraft skills. [link]
A moose once bit my sister.

Ozzy Osborne is a freak. Even on a genetic level. [link]

In a surprising twist, laboratory mice didn't get cancer. Instead they got younger. [link]

Bacteria and viruses make us sick. But other things can make them sick. I knew about bacteriophages. Virophages are relatively new. [link]

Cheerios really are full of iron!

Johnny Depp doesn't watch his own movies.

Castles for sale. [link]

Prohibited license plates. [link]
I haven't read it yet because it's crazy long, but I've heard good things.

Goat cheese burns. A truckload of it closes tunnels. [link]

Building a moon landing practice field. [link]

Theists ask me, “If there’s no god, what would stop me from raping and killing everyone I want to.” My answer is always: “I, myself, have raped and killed everyone I want to ... and the number for both is zero.” [link]

A child who plays with the beasts of Africa. [link]

Women being allowed into combat is technical correction making policy match reality. [link]

What causes things to smell? [link]

A Russian family with no outside contact for 40 years. [link]

Ultimate Tag. [link]

Fox News ratings hitting record lows. [link]

Five things politicians aren't likely to admit to. [link]

The Washington Post's "Truth Teller" software (beta). [link]

Tentacle plunger! [link]

Apparently J.J. Abrams now has control of Star Trek AND Star Wars. [find your own link]

How Newegg took down a major patent troll. [link]

A lion vs a remote controlled car.