Thursday, June 29, 2006

mo potato

Here's two of the potatoes that have sprouted well. Only one of the potatoes in the barrel is doing well so one of these may get transplanted.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

movie reviews

Night Watch: The first of a modern Russian vampire trilogy. Ages ago a virgin had a curse put on her. Wherever she went things went wrong and people died. But she also created the Others. There are good Others and bad Others. There was a great battle between the two, but they were evenly matched and would both be slaughtered so a truce was called. The good Others would be called the Night Watch and police the bad Others. The bad Others would be called the Day Watch and police the good others. Which side ya new Other joins is up to that person. There is a prophecy that there would one day be an Other more powerful than all Others and would end the balance and lead one to victory over the other.
Now there's a new cursed virgin that could destroy Moscow and the prophecied (sp?) Other has come.

The movie itself is pretty good, but not great. I like it for the subtitles. Get the DVD. On one side is the standard English, French, and Spanish dubbing and subtitles. On the other is the theatrical release in Russian with English subtitles. If someone is reading from a computer terminal the subtitles are typed in. When the bloodstarved vampire speaks it's in white, but turns red and drifts away like drops of blood in the water. If the subject being discussed is tossed around the words go with it. There's lots of neat tricks they use.

The second movie is out in Russia and coming to the US soon. The third movie is filming.

Doogle: A co-worker got this and loaned it to me. I'm sure the kids will love it. I rank it with Chicken Run.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Link to a blog that links to a blog of a podcast

I'd never heard of Sam Harris before, but I may get his book now.
The interview on the website below is just short of an hour long. In it Sam Harris asks people to be more intellectually critical of religious beliefs. That is, he wants the same level of critical thinking applied to people who say crackers become the body of Jesus and to people who think that the world is flat.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

puff... gasp...

This is not something I want to do on a regular basis.
Awhile back I built some shelves in my bedroom using only notches and pegs.

I made the shelves flush with the front of my closet so there'd be room behind it for storing tools and stuff. Yesterday I built a small tool bench back there and a rack on the wall to hang stuff. Then I started moving comic book boxes back there. I cleared off three sets of bookshelves, moved them upstairs, and refilled them. I still have another to go today as well as some modular all purpose shelving. Then I have to stack the computer museum in the far corner. Hopefully by tonight I'll be able to take apart the bed and put it up on end so I'll have room for more stuff.
Yes, I'll be moving the alarm clock downstairs. Anything I might need to wear over the next month has been removed from the closet and the closet stuffed with more comic books and other odds and ends. I'll be sleeping downstairs on the couch for the next week.

I had to pull up some of the carpet to make the boards fit behind the peg bookshelves. That extra centimeter made all the difference. As I feared, the floor is still the original 1890 flooring. No amount of buffing and polish will fix this. It has to be replaced. Why not just leave the carpet over it since it seems to be holding so nicely? Well, I don't have room for a vaccuum cleaner, other than my Roomba. I was planning on ripping the carpet off the stairs after the wall is fixed anyway. To properly insulate the attic crawlspace, which is too small to crawl in, I'll have to rip out the ceiling. Maybe then I can see whats wrong with the ducts. This weekend's rains have also shown me that my work on the roof did not patch the leaks. So this tells me that the problem is likely the mortar crumbling around the chimney. So I'll want to take the sheet rock off the north wall and assess the situation.

But the point that I started to make in the very first sentance is that I'll have to move everything that I'm putting in the bedroom down to the living room so I can work in the bedroom. The good news is that my computer room will have a whole door by then so I can let the breeze flow through the top floor better which will be nice for doing heavy work in July/August.

Saturday, June 24, 2006


I have three recipies.
Sure, I have recipe books and can work off the back of a box, but there are just three recipes that follow me around on assorted loose pieces of paper. My cousin Spencer invented white wheat bread (
for SaraLee, but I just have these three recipes. The problem is that I can never find them when I want them. Now that I'm compressing my worldly belongings into one room of my house they've surfaced again. So, for the sake of digital record I give you my three recipes.

Million $ Fudge
given to me by Janet Patterson
12 oz sweet choc.
12 oz semi-sweet choc.
4.5 cups sugar
1 large can evaporated milk
1.5 tbsp butter
1 pt marshmellow creme
2 cups of nuts

Shave or cut the chocolate in pieces. Cook sugar, milk, and salt for 6 minutes at boiling. You will have to watch to keep from scorching milk.
Place chocolate, marshmellow creme, butter, and nuts in large bowl and pour boiling mixture over them. Beat until all are melted and mixture is thick enough to pour into a buttered pan. Cut into pieces - will stay soft for a long time.

Deviled eggs
dictated over the phone by Mom
6 eggs
1/4 c mayo
1 tsp vinegar
1 tsp mustard
1/8 tsp salt
dash of pepper
sprinkle with paprika

Figure out the rest on your own

Make Ahead Lasagna
e-mailed from Mom which she got from a packet of McCormick Spagetti Sauce
Brown 1 lb ground beef; drain fat. Add sauce mix, 2 cans (6 oz.) tomato paste and 4.5 cups water. Cover and simmer 10 min. In a 13x9-inch baking dish, spread 1.5 cups sauce. Arrange a layer of uncooked lasagna noodles over sauce. Top with same sauce and half of 1 container (12 oz.) cottage cheese, half of one package (8 oz.) shredded Mozzarella cheese, and 3 tbs grated Parmesan cheese. Top with another layer of noodles, sauce and cheese. Cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight. Bake in 350 oven 45 minutes or until bubbly. Let stand for 15 minutes. Cut into squares and serve.

Mom's notes:
I usually add an egg to the cottage cheese and a handful of dried parsley flakes or 1/2 package of drained spinich. I could also see adding layers of zucchini or whatever. It's a very forgiving recipe. The standing time is important to keep it from being soupy. I have recently tried using two 8 in. square pans instead of the 13x9 and just breaking the lasagna noodles to fit. It worked fine. When you assemble the lasagna just squish it down when you have it all put together so that the noodles are covered. If it's too thick to squish, I just pour a little bit of water (a few tablespoons) around where it's needed until it will squish to cover the noodles.

My notes:
I've been known to half the meat and put half the sauce with it and the rest of thwe sauce with a can of spinich instead of the meat. Then make the two smaller pans of lasagna like Mom said. This is usually done for vegetarian guests.

Way to ruin my week, guys!

O.K. Deep breaths now. I can deal with this.
If you ever decide to use PODS or any of the other companies that bring you a box to store or move stuff make sure to follow behind them and check their work.
A POD was supposed to be delivered today. I'm moving out, people will be doing construction, a wall will be missing so that anyone and their dog can come in and take stuff - it's best for all if my stuff isn't here during all that. But 15 minutes before they show up I get a call asking if I got a permit.
"No," I say "the website said no permit was needed."
"The website lied."
Ok, if I had a driveway everything would be fine. If I didn't have that fence... or that tree, we could probably swing that, too. But I needed it put in the streetside parking. I roped it off, he had plenty of room, and then I got the call. No permit, no POD.
"Where do I get a permit?"
"The police should know who to talk to to get your permit."
Google was able to point me in the right direction. Deparment of Transportation could do it. But you have to call between 7 and 7 M-F otherwise you get emergency services.
Come monday I can call them up and ask what I need, get that, show up at the office, learn they lied to me, learn what ELSE I need, get that, return, rinse and repeat. And if I'm fast and the city bureaucracy moves swiftly I can get it in a day or two. Then I can call up PODS and schedule another delivery, block off the parking, move out, and still be ready to catch a plane by this time next saturday.
Pshaw! What am I smoking? The humidity and Citronella fumes are getting to me. Swiftly moving bureaucracy? Getting PODS to make a quick delivery? When I placed my order they were booked for two weeks. He said he's in DC all the time and might squeeze me in, but I heard the guy on his radio. The people in the office don't do friendly or cooperative. And you know I'd be doing all the moving in 90/90 heat/humidity. Ok, the heat was a given either way, but I had heat and a week before. Now I'd have heat and, in an ideal world, all of two days.

After talking to the contractor some more he informs me that if the physical laws of the universe allow everything to fit in my bedroom I can move everything valuable in there and lock that. Well I say "foo" to your physical laws! "FOO" I say! I have the death warrant in three lesser physical dimensions and a few fines that need paid in this one.


Thursday, June 22, 2006


Mom found this website ( several years ago and I've been wanting to do the potato barrel thing ever since. Just scroll down a little ways, it's there.
So I got a barrel to do this a month or so back. The plan was throw in rotting vegetation, dirt, worms, etc and let it slowly build up as I cut the lawn and what not. But instead the cute girl next door was planting flowers that day so I helped her and we wound up throwing a lot more dead plants in there than I planned. So I had a full barrel that is slowly settling.
A neighbor threw out a refrigerator and left a quarter bag of potatoes in it. They were in good shape and a few were sprouting so I grabbed them. A few I left on a counter, a few I threw in the barrel, one I dropped on the front lawn, and one I stuck in with a section of transplanted prickly pear in a large pot. The one in the large pot stuck up a few shoots a couple days ago - two along the potato and one several inches away. So I checked the one on the ground. It was trying to take root so I moved it to another pot out back. I would have left it, but I didn't want to dig up my front yard to get at the potatoes.
The ones in the barrel were sending out some roots, but they weren't as happy as the ones in the front. Possibly because they were buried and possibly because I was keeping the lid on the barrel for reasons that made sense at the time but seem pretty stupid now. But they're unburied and the lid is off so I'll keep updating the notes about their progress.
I'll try to remember to take my camera home and take some pictures.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

movie review: Behind the Wall of Sleep

There's a reason you don't see many Lovecraft movies. When one of the central characters in each story is madness it's hard to make a movie that makes sense. This movie takes a good crack at it.
The film looks like it was a low budget film because it was. It looks like you'd expect to see at any number of local film festivals. And that look adds to the movie. The actors in the bad wigs because the story requires them to be people wearing bad wigs.

The story takes place ~100 years ago in an insane asylum in the appalacians. Larry (as in "this is my other brother Darryl") plays a guy from a local village of people who have been inbreeding since they got over here along with early colonists. Larry killed a guy, or at least was covered in a LOT of the dead guy's blood, so he's put in the asylum. In the asylum we have the director and the county ... what? psychiatric surgeon? struggling for power. In the basement in an intern getting his jollies by performing electrical experiments on the pleasure centers of some woman's brain.
Once Larry gets admitted everyone wants to cut him open and study the undeveloped fetus he has growing out of his back. Particularly the intern who realizes that the fetus is more intelligent than the hillbilly. There's a few spontaneous bloody messes and then we learn what's really going on with Larry.

It's a good rental. I probably shouldn't have bought it. It's all Lovecraft all the way.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

book review: Golden Fleece

I just finished reading "Golden Fleece" by Robert J Sawyer. As with everything from Sawyer, I highly recommend it.
It's set on a colony ship, an arcology, heading for a distant planet. As the book begins the artificial intelligence that runs the ship is murdering one of the crew. Many people believe that it was suicide since the dead woman's husband had left her for another woman a few months before. But that husband keeps finding pieces that don't fit. The book covers the husband's investigation, the ship trying to keep whatever secret it felt worth killing for, and, to a lesser degree, the strain this puts on his relationship with the new woman.

You wanna know how it ends? Check the comments.


Wanna confuse a handyman? Show him how a wall on the second floor is sinking without causing the ceiling below to bow.

my house

My house will be a disaster soon. More so than it is just having me live in it. The brick wall that makes up the back of my house was crumbling, the renovations before I moved in were less than worthless, termites have moved in, and there's no insulation other than brick. I could have gone the cheap and easy route and patched it up enough to last a few more years. But I want it done right. I don't want to worry about what's going on inside the wall.
Contracts have been signed, a storage POD ( will be delivered next saturday so I can start moving out... did I mention I have to move out while they're working? And I'll have to start writing checks in a few hours.
The new wall will be made of 2x6s with a brick facade. Crawlspace access will be added, as will a door on the second floor to allow me to later add a deck. The eventual deck will have a spiral stair leading to the roof.
The workers have orders to leave the wall open. Once the workers have cleared out I'll have to redrill holes for the phone/DSL line and I'll try to get a phone installed on the first floor this time. I'll also install an antenna on the roof and run it downstairs.
Then the wall gets filled with insulating foam. I like BioBase 501 ( but TigerFoam ( also appeals to me since it seems to be designed specifically for the do-it-yourselfer. I plan to hit the underside of the roof at the same time.
Then the wall covering. I looked at all the nifty stuff I mentioned in the previous entry, but again, I want to know what's going on inside the wall. I want detachable wall panels. So I'm going to try to get the printing plates from the Borden Institute's (where I work) next book, cover them with old newspaper and wallpaper paste, paint them with one of those nice paints that don't outgas for a year, and then cover that with a sealer, then hang those on the wall. Anytime my paranoia gets the better of me I just unscrew the wall and see how dry and termite free my wall is.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Home materials

I hit the National Building Museum to see their Green House exhibit. Here are my notes.
More on the exhibit and the contents here.

It's a spray in insulating foam. I'm gonna use some in my house. I'm still trying to figure out which one I like. These are the leading contenders.

insulating concrete forms
They're concrete forms made from styrofoam. Build your house out of this stuff and then fill it with cement. (

Dakota Burl agricultural waste composite boards
It's made from wheat straw and sunflower seeds and a variety of other material that farmers might throw away.

Built by a company called 3-Form (
"ecoresin™ is made from spectar PETG co-polyester resin with 40% post-industrial recycled content," In English that means that it's a transparent polymer in which you can embed pretty much anything you want. I've seen their beargrass samples in person a few times but they have lots of other options, too. (

Innovations in Wallcoverings inc
They make a variety of interesting wall coverings.

Cement based countertops (

Innvironments Eco-suede
Innvironments is the company and Eco-suede seems to be wallpaper without the toxic fumes of vinyl, but all the benefits. (

The sites are under construction ( but they sell some wood products that I considered for the wall.

Brasilia wood composite decking - by Trex Company Inc(
Trex makes decking. The particular variety they had at the show was the Brasilia wood composite.

From the bottom up, this is what they had for their green roof. You put plants on your roof to insulate the roof, process the rain water, and cool the neighborhood.
Monolithic Membrane6125-ev roofing membrane
Hydroflex 30 protection course and Root Stop root barrier
Dow styrofoam insulation
moisture retention mat
Gardendrain and Floradrain drainage layers
Systemfilter filter fabric

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


Well that didn't work.
I got the stud finder and it picked an area of wall that it liked. I drilled in and found something oddly soft. I screwed in the hook, gave it a tug, and it came out just a bit. No good.
I got a light and looked in the hole. It looked like I hit the edge of the stud. So I moved up and to the right and drilled again. This was more solid and seemed to work ok until I actually put some weight on the hammock. Then it tore out.

Other options remaining.
1) Drill into known brick and hope that holds.
2) Engineer a new stand that involves lots of blocks of wood and many screws and a ridiculous level of over-engineering.
3) Crack open the ceiling and lift the carpet sooner than expected and fix a wooden beam to them.
4) Put the hammock away until I can get a deck built.
5) Give up on the hammock and get one of these. Dehumidify AND get me clean drinking water.

Monday, June 12, 2006

This hammock feels like ground

Well, my hammock stand served me well these many days, but it's given up. I need a proper hammock stand or a place in the wall to sink the eye loop. It occurs to me that the window must have a board running along it. I'd definately have to move the bookshelf that attacked me and I'll still have to worry if it'll hit the window.
There may be more than that one stud in that wall. I'll hunt down the stud finder tomorrow and see. Failure there means hitting the hardware store for a drill bit that can eat into the brick.
For now, I return to the bed and an open window or three.


My green bean plants were slouching so I looked under the leaves to see why. It's because they're being weighed down by bean pods. I picked and ate a few and showed the neighbor kids what green beans are and that they're good to eat. OK, one I had to convince that the beans aren't like mint. Mint leaves you chew and spit out. Beans you swallow.
I got out the edible plants book and had a good look at my mustard plant. It puts out what looks like tiny green beans. If you take them, dry them, and dig out the seeds I'm told it makes for a good spicy mustard. But that takes work. So I ate a couple and gave a few to the neighbor kids. Then I had to fend them off so that they wouldn't eat the ones that weren't ready yet.

After my rear wall is fixed and I move back in I'm gonna try to start a small hydroponics area. Look for a posting about the various kinds of hydroponics systems available in the next week or so.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Movie review: Cars

If you've seen the trailers then you know the basic plot. It's an old one that's been done to death. Big city so-and-so with everything in the world gets stuck out in the middle of nowhere for a week or two and he discovers all that was missing in life.
I saw the early trailers and was not at all impressed. The later trailers made it look better, but still I felt that Pixar had finally flubbed it. I should have known better than to doubt Pixar. With them it's not about the celebrity voices or the digital technology. With them it's all about the story. The others forget that most of the time.
Disney hasn't put out a good story since... well, it's been awhile. The contract with Pixar ending, Disney tried to do their own digital movie - Chicken Run. After seeing how poorly that did they turned to the heads of Pixar and then Disney, the all time cartoon master, paid the heads of Pixar to take over Disney. Disney knew when they were licked. They made Steve Jobs the majority stock holder, put Pixars head movie guy in charge of the whole animation department, and threw lots of money at them. It wasn't "we're buying you" it was "please take over".

Anyway, Cars, it's a great movie. I'll have to get the DVD just to catch all the little jokes they threw in. Be sure to sit all the way through the credits.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

And we're off

My house was built in 1890. The most recent refurbishment was 2004.
Ok, it wasn't so much a refurbishment as a "just slap some sheetrock over it and hope it holds until it's sold. This includes termite damage, water damage, and brickwork that desperately needs to be repointed or replaced. The various termite inspectors and handymen who have come through the house since I moved in said that I was right to do my own inspection. The only way to find something was wrong was to rip out the walls.
So about a month ago I did that. I'd been meaning to, but something motivated me to do it RIGHT NOW.
See, the back wall of the house is brick covered in cement. But the cement had pulled away and even broken off in a few places. The refurbishment involved replacing where it had come off, but not where it had come loose. Then they cemented around the hole for the window and put in the window. In that order. So when water got under the loose cement it was channeled straight into the kitchen. Last summer I got out there and broke up that cement channel and caulked around the window. But a month ago I discovered that there were other places the water was getting through, hitting the edge of the window, and then using the angle bracket lining the area above the window to channel the water across the whole window. I had a lovely waterfall with lots of water damage and all kinds of termite damage. The waterfall was what prompted me to rip out the wall.
I talked to the neighbors to get a handyman who they trusted. He said he could repoint the brick and fix the whole thing cheap and easy and give me a 1 year guarantee.
"No." I said. "I could repoint the brick. I want the wall replaced."
"You know what that's gonna cost."
"I have an idea. You'll have to give me the exact numbers."
"You'll have to move out while the wall is gone."
"That's my problem."
See, there's two layers of brick. The outer layer looks good except for the mortar like beach sand. The inner layer is crumbling and has large gaps in it. It stops short of the window by about a foot. Besides it's 115 year old wall that has served well up until now. And he can only guarantee me 1 year if he takes the easy route.
The plan is to move me out, he takes down the wall, builds a wall of 2x6es in it's place and puts up a brick facade. I'll put some good insulation in, run some wires, install a roof antenna, and get a telephone downstairs. He'll leave a hole for crawl space access and put a door up on the second floor so I'll eventually be able to add a deck up there.

I say "we're off" because I've ordered a POD. It'll show up on the 24th and I'll have a week to load it up. Then Gandolf and I skip town and leave them to their work. The problem is that their work will last 2.5-3 weeks my trip back to Kansas will only be a week. So I'll be camping out in the office for the remaining time and my parrot will be camping with me.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Rain Barrel

It's raining outside so I'm going to talk about my new rain barrel.
I hated gardening when I was back in Kansas. Just a big area of dirt/mud full of weeds and bugs out in the heat and the sun. Now that I'm in the city I have all sorts of plants. I keep planting whatever seeds I get from apples, pears, lemons, and some select things I want from the hardware store. I have a prickly pear that I got as a gift a few years back and had to be expanded into a new pot this year. I have spearment that I transplanted from my old apartment. And my non-edible item is some hen and chicks I got from Grandma's yard.
I think the key is that everything is in a pot so I can move it around and don't actually have to get in the dirt. But, being in pots they run out of water faster than they would in the soil. And around July-August they're gonna BAKE. Last year I'd come home every day and have to throw around a few gallons of water so the leaves would uncurl.

This year I installed a rain barrel in the back yard. You can go for the professional varieties shown here ( ) but I'm cheap so I built my own.
I got a 44 gallon trash can from Home Depot, got a garden hose... thingy (goes on the side of the house to attach a hose to), something to screw on the back of the attachment, and a bunch of caulk. A few inches from the bottom of the barrel, as low as possible but high enough to get a pitcher under it, I cut a hole and put the hose attachermabob through. Put on a generous amount of caulk and attach the bit that screws on to make sure the spout can't be pulled out. Then cut a hole in the lid and reroute the drainpipe into the top of the barrel. For mine the hole and the rerouting tube are a perfect fit. Others put a screen over the hole and just let the water run in. This helps catch debris and keep out bugs. My primary concern is the bugs. I've got enough mosquitos without giving them a breeding pond.
The barrel filled up fast with my tiny little roof. I really should have 2 or 3 daisy chained together so the runoff from one fills the next.

But now I have free water for my plants and take some pressure off the residential water filtration system.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The End of the Hammock Struggle?

Screws. Wonderful things, are they not? A few slightly bent screws, leftover from when I fixed the front door, applied where the nails came out and suddenly there's no squeeking or popping from the hammock stand and the whole thing hangs a few inches higher. I'll try to post a sketch of the design.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

There's a reason the bed is still there.

As I got in the "extra nails" I mentioned before came loose and the stand fell over on me.
Second time in as many weeks that my furniture has attacked me.

The Great Hammock Project

I finally found a place in DC that both claimed to have hammocks AND carried hammocks. It was on the very edge of how far I might make it with my Segway and return and that's if I wanted to try to manage a hammock box of unknown size and drive. The alternative was to go to the nearest Metro stop and hike just over a mile of unknown territory and then back. What would be worse? Making the trip and walking back empty handed or making the trip and walking back lugging a box? I figure, eh, one way or the other it'll made a story to tell.
I hike in, get a nice cotton rope hammock and hike back out. Get home, and my drill is still at work. Go to work monday, bring back the drill, go to buy a drill bit and find the hardware store around the corner decided to close an hour early. I don't blame them it's not like anyone goes there. I'm sure they're a front for something else.
Hike clear down to the P st hardware store and get the drill. (And visit the place in the previous entry.) I get home, drill the hole in the wall, and the screw goes in with no problem. There. One half of a hammock.
Now, the bedroom is 10ft x 12ft. Not big enough to run the hammock in either direction. It has to go diagonally. Only the one wall has studs. The other are sheetrock over brick. So I have to built half of a hammock rack.
My initial design was brilliant. It broke down easy for storage over the winter. Too bad it didn't stay together. Sure, once I sunk in a few extra nails it did, but does that really count? So, with a few extra nails it works great as long as you don't put any weight on it. So I get another board, and use it as a prop. One end goes against the ceiling and the other on the heel of the stand. Except it's already late and the board is exactly the right length to go floor to ceiling. So to make it work the stand has to be a foot or so from the corner. It sags enough to rest me back on the bed. So still no benefit.
I just now took enough off the bottom of the bracing board to get the stand back in the corner. The hammock hangs a bit higher but my butt still hits the bed. And when I get on and off it creaks and groans as the board rub together.
I may redesign the stand again. But I don't think I'll get much better unless I go ahead and rib out the ceiling and carpet and build the brace into the house. Or, you know, finally get a drill for the brick.

Once I get the deck and stairs to the roof I'll get a proper frame and move the hammock up there. Mosquitos don't go up there so I should be able to sleep at least until sunrise.


I had to pop out for a new drill bit yesterday. On the way I saw a sign for some new "green" store that just opened down a street that nobody seems to walk down. So I hunt the place down and check the place out. At first it seems to be just fair trade tea and natural cotton and some nice hemp shirt that they want to charge way too much for. Then I get to the back room.
The back room was about fabrics and goods. The back room was about construction and eco-friendly housing materials. Soy based expanding foam insulation, cork and bamboo flooring, a variety of recycled countertops, tankless water heaters, light tubes to draw light from outside, and much more.

They had the SoyTherm insulation as seen here (
I'm also looking at BioBase 501 (do your own search).

They had several kinds of tankless water heaters, but the big ads were for Rheem's stuff. (
Apparently the US is about the only place left where they use hot water tanks. While the city sterilizes the water as best they can some bacteria survive and they love the nice warm water in a hot water tank. It's more sanitary to use the tankless system and it takes up less space.

And installed instead of ductwork they had DuctSox ( Instead of big heavy metal with lots of scrap to throw out when you're done you get a box and hang this big long hose. When the AC comes on the hose inflates.
It was pretty cool to watch it inflate when the AC came on.

If you happen to be in the DC area and want to hit the shop go to Church St between 14th and 15th NW.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

book review

I've also been reading Robert Asprin. So far I've read Myth Conceptions, Another Fine Myth, Myth Directions and Hit or Myth. They're candy, really. Very light reading. Appropriate for middle to high school age readers. At least where I think that age level should be reading. Most of the kids at that age in my neighborhood would think these books too thick. They'd fall just below the Xanth series of books.
What we have is a magician training his apprentice. The apprentice wants to be a thief. To prove that the training is going somewhere the magician summons a demon (a.k.a. dimension traveler). The "demon" is a magician from another dimension. Both magicians like to summon each other to show off their skills. They also like to play pranks on each other. The summoning magician, in this case, has stripped the demon of his magical abilities.
Then an assassin comes in and kills the summoning magician.
So the demon take the apprentice under his wing and they go off to stop the wizard who ordered the hit and save the world.

So that's the basic premise of all the books. The apprentice and the magician with no powers getting themselves into all kinds of goofy situations and conning their way back out.

book review

Robert J Sawyer is one of my favorite modern authors. His primary subjects center around putting human minds in computers or developing artificial intelligences, the social and theological ramifications thereof, and first contact situations.
The book that got me hooked on him was Calculating God. It's part first contact situation and part theological debate.

I just finished Factoring Humanity. A signal from Alpha Centauri has been coming for ~10 years. The first bit was understandable, but the rest seems to be gibberish.
The woman who figures out what the signal means and builds the device separated from her husband shortly after their first daughter committed suicide. In the beginning of the story the younger daughter accuses the father of molesting her and her sister.
The husband has developed a pretty slick AI, but it's not quite where he wants it yet.
The story follows the thread of the AI's search for it's own humanity, the device from the stars, and the quest to prove or disprove the husband's guilt.

It's not on part with Rob's other stuff, but it's still pretty good and has won a few awards.

An Inconvenient Truth

One of the biggest problems with trying to explain global warming is trying to explain things to people who don't have the 10+ year history of paying attention to this stuff. They don't read from scientific journals or have any idea the ppm of CO2 and methane in the air compared to 25, 50, or 100 years ago. They don't know how those readings from 100, 1000, or 1,000,000 years ago are come by. They insist that global warming is just a natural cycle even though the natural warming takes place over several tens of thousands of years instead of over 50 years.

The movie An Inconvenient Truth should help them if they'll just go see it.
It's much of what we expect from the trailers. Much of it is the a collection of well presented photos, charts, studies, and cartoons that have been seen elsewhere. But since Al Gore is who he is he's been able to get certain data and government studies declassified. He's had access to some scientists that don't focus on addressing the world at large.

Great movie. Take your kids, your parents, take your neighbors.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Rough Science

There is only one reality show worth watching. Rough Science.
In Rough Science a group of real scientists are dropped off in the middle of nowhere and given tasks to perform and a deadline to meet. There's no getting voted off or gossiping about who is sleeping with who or any of that rubbish. There's not even a prize beyond their pay check.

Seasons 3 and 4 on DVD

Quest for Hammocks

I'm looking for a hammock. I want to use the air conditioner as little as possible and with the humidity around here during the summer the worst part is lying on a mattress. What ever part of me is facing the mattress is hot and miserable while the parts that aren't are coping with the heat. So I figure I'll lose the mattress completely.
Online there are plenty of places to buy hammocks, but I really need to touch one before I buy it. One of my neighbors recommended a sporting goods store in Bethesda. Modello's or something like that. So I checked that out, found nothing, and wandered around the area checking out if any of the other bazillion stores in that area had anything useful. They didn't.

"Yeah, great story, Doug. "

Ok, I'm telling you all this to explain this next site. takes Google Maps ( and allows you to mark out paths. Sometimes, the computer comes up with less than ideal maps mapquest. This lets you draw your own. When company came to town we used it to show how far we'd walked on our daily tourist march.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have another lead on a hammock out on the far end of Connecticut Ave.

Thursday, June 01, 2006


I was gonna wait for awhile before I got into the principles of Dougintology, but Scott Adams' blog was about people who think their god talks to them. So here we are - Prayer.

The standard Christian idea of God is an all powerful being who has a plan for us all. That is, everything that happens is according to plan. This seed sprouts while that one rots... the plan. This person gets a safe dropped on him while that person finds a free bag of money in the now broken safe... the plan.
Most people who pray do so because they want something from God. They want to do well on a test, they want traffic to open up so they can get home, they want a pony, etc. Most prayers are all gimme-gimme. This, to me, is incredibly arrogant. God is supposed to say "Well, I HAD this whole elaborate scheme to control the fate of the universe and guide it to my one devine goal. But you know what? I'm gonna throw all that out so you can get that one last Snickers bar."

I know, there's a formula for prayer that some faiths give.
1) Tell God what a spiffy fella he is. (apparently the almighty needs constant reassurance)
2) Thank God for all he's given you. (a thank you note is always appreciated)
3) Ask that he keep up the good work.
4) Amen.

I really have nothing against that formula. I think you're talking to yourself, but that's me.

While I do think you're talking to yourself I don't think prayer is worthless. It requires you to step back from whatever stress you're suffering in your life, calm down, and focus on something else. Just de-stress a bit. The more you do it the longer you'll live.
It's better than stopping and counting to 10 but not on the same level as meditation.
If the cause of the stress is something you can't do anything about ask God to handle it. While this doesn't improve the situation it serves as a way of admitting that problem is beyond your control so you'll be able to move on and stop trying to control the uncontrollable.
Prayer can also be a sounding board to which you can explain your problems to your thumbs and by explaining them see your solution. I prefer to use e-mail. I write to the guys to ask their help with a batch of code and 75% of the time the message is never sent because I found the solution while writing the message.

Would God give you an answer? I don't think so. If you get an answer the first response should be to check your medication. Beyond that you need to ask why it is that God always agrees with you. Nobody ever says "Personally, I'm against abortion, but God came to me and said it's ok. I still think abortion is murder, but hey, who if God says it's not I can't argue."

Assuming that God really has decided to talk to you, you then have to decide whether or not God actually LIKES you.
God wasn't a big fan of Joan of Arc. He told her to go off and lead an army against the British. They set her on fire. Gee, thanks, God.
"Go spread my word." Does he really want you going out and telling the world "God spoke to me. He said he wants all the green M&Ms." or does he want you to spend your remaining days in a padded room?
God created the platypus so he's not above a good practical joke now and then.