Sunday, March 31, 2013

Not an April Fools Day trick

I have to start by announcing that this isn't an April Fools trick. I have to say that because of the size of the news.

I'm moving to Baltimore.

We'd joked that I might do this after putting all this work into the houses I bought there. I'd think of them as mine and wouldn't be able to let them go. Then becoming a government employee cut my pay more than anyone expected. Once I realized there was a problem, my personal budget was slashed. Enough so that I've lost 18 lbs in the last 3 months.

A recent review of accounts has shown me that even if I hadn't bought the Baltimore houses I would be walking a fine financial line. So, much of what I like about my DC house couldn't be enjoyed.

There were plans to move me quickly back up the government financial scale, but then Congress happened. Now my already bad finances are probably going to be cut by another 20%. So my DC house would be threatened even if I didn't have the second loan.

And it seems unlikely my job will move back to DC. So ease of commuting isn't an answer. But it does suggest that I move to Frederick instead of Baltimore. I'd considered that back when Yummy found a church for sale up there.

So I'll move. Selling the DC house will give me enough to clear out my DC debt with enough to continue work on Annapolis Bog. Or tuck it away in other investments. Or pick another cheap house to work on. The important thing is that I'll have income instead of flit-by-in-a-mad-rush-come.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Friday Links: March 29

Damn you website! Go live already!

Squeeze your left thumb to kill your gag reflex. [link]

A quadrotor in a Faraday Cage flys between Tesla Coils.

Episode 1 of the New Aperture R&D series.

NASA can now grow goldfish meat in space. [link]
So far, nobody nervy enough to eat it.

25 food "hacks". [link]

Mr Rogers defending PBS to the Senate.

Lincoln had smallpox while giving The Gettysburg Address. [link]

Video games for animals. [link]
This is sort of a follow up to a link about the pig game I mentioned some time back. 

Game: Smelly - You've pooped your pants at work. Get out without anyone finding out. [link]

Video: Gay men will marry your girlfriends. [link]

New Doctor Who episodes start tomorrow! Here's a prequel.

Carmina Burana with new lyrics.

Analysis of a glass structure called Prince Rupert's Drop.

Holy shit, TLC! Something educational! Good for you!

Beaver dam stops diesel fuel leak from reaching the lake. Beavers are receiving treatment. [link]

It's been awhile since we had a good Minecraft post. Here's a Beetlejuice themed world.

Spot the Lego sculpture. [link]

The placebo effect applies to test taking, too. [link]

The Venn Diagram of Irrational Nonsense. [link]

Life in the (according to the Census) only gay free county in America. [link]

Graphine - the Super Supercapacitor [link]

A graphine variant of aerogel. [link]

The science of pet food. [link]

From the upcoming webcomics documentary "Stripped". [link]

Spiffy table. [link]

Game - Maze: feed it a website to roll a ball around. Mostly for smart phones. [link]

In some places piracy = equality. [link]

Cat games. [link]

Chocolate isn't really chocolate anymore. [link]

Notable parts of Obama's speech in Israel. [link]

Thursday, March 28, 2013

HUGE... tracts of land!

Here's what we found in the Baltimore houses last weekend.

In Annapolis Bog the contractors have cleared out everything but every third floor joist. This is to keep the walls from falling down and annoying the neighbors. But when they tried to build a platform on some of these joists so they could work on putting in new roof joists, the floor joists collapsed. So, new plan.

The basement floor turns out to only be two inches thick. A hole in the floor allowed the contractor to shove a three foot rod through it. The rod came back with two and a half feet of mud. The good news is the termites have drown. And the foundation is solid. It's just only under the walls. So the first thing we do after this initial construction is to smash the floor, beat it into the mud, build another floor on top of that. Does this sound like a Monty Python bit to anyone else?

I'm wondering what happens if we pump out the mud. Do I get a sub-basement? What if I put pontoons under there? When the oceans rise do I get a house boat?

Meanwhile, over at Norman's House, we spent much of the weekend on electrical work. We found where the power for most of the top floor came up through the kitchen walls, the bathroom wall. We tried to run new wire the same way, but failed. Still, the old shitty wire is gone, and I was all set to run a new line up near the front of the house.

Where that line was going was to an overloaded box near the skylight. I'd already built a floor up there from used 1x3s, so I climbed up into the skylight, curled up in a ball, and played with wires while Yummy took apart the bathroom light switch and told me what wires she saw going where.

That was for the second circuit I ran. The first circuit finally got something attached to it. Norman's bedroom has a light with a pull chain. No switch at all. Yummy had been working on removing the lath from the hallway ceiling which made it easier to run wire, but not easier to get where I needed to be. So I had to crawl along on my back (easier than on my belly) until the roof joists touched my chest. Then a bit further so I could roll over. Here's where the light was hooked up. Old fabric covered wires had run from the previously mentioned overloaded box to this light and then on to other lights. Since I'd already disconnected them from the box and removed the light from the bedroom, I could just yank them and shove new wires through the ceiling. Then, back in the open hallway, I ran wires down to a switch I'd put by the door. Voila, the house has a significant technology upgrade!

Note: run power to the switch before it goes to the light. This ensures that when the light is off it really doesn't have power.

Yummy got a lot of lath off the ceiling and walls. Then she started stripping wallpaper from the plaster so we can patch the plaster wall this weekend. It's much easier to describe than what I did, but I think hers was more work. Both of us were glad to let the other person do what they were doing.

Soon I'll get to finish the 3 switch/2 light circuit I talked about a few weeks ago.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Book Review: Illegal Alien

This weekend I tore through "Illegal Alien" by Robert J Sawyer. Sawyer is one of those authors where I can recommend absolutely everything they've done. This one is no exception.

An alien craft comes to Earth, orbits once inside the atmosphere, and lands in the ocean. Their ship was damaged and they need some help repairing it. In exchange, we get any technology that's developed in the process of making the damaged part. But it's going to take us two years to get the job finished. In the meantime there's some disused dorms at a major university that can serve as their home on Earth.

Originally, we only met the one alien. As emissary we chose sort of a southern, good ol' boy version of Carl Sagan who stays in the dorms with them when not filming his TV series. After a year and change the emissary turns up dead. His leg sliced off, ribs torn open, and body parts missing. Since most of the aliens were at a lecture and security was tight around the building, the main suspect is that first alien who landed in the ocean.

The DA wants to run for Governor so he's pushing the case. The federal government wants the case dismissed because they want good relations with the aliens. Being an election year, they can't really interfere with a murder trial at the state level. But a leading civil rights lawyer can take the trial in exchange for a small percentage of the profits from any tech developed from the alien tech.

Amid all this they have to deal with people who think the aliens are devils and black preachers who insist that the death penalty be pursued for the alien to show that black murders aren't treated worse than aliens.

It's a good book that flowed well, read easy, and was engaging enough to keep me up late reading it.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Walls are for people with something to hide

When the bathroom wall has holes in it, new house rules must be established.
Rule #1 - don't point cameras through the holes!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Friday Links: March 22

A petition to get CNN to apologize for sympathizing with the Steubenville rapists. [link]

5 landscapes that will kill you. [link]

4 things politicians don't understand about the poor. [link]

35 show that apparently nobody watches. [link]

An article by the guy who hacked Donkey Kong so his daughter could play as the girl. [link]
I just wanna know how he got the data off and back on to the game cartridge.

Frogs see photons. [link]
I can't recall if I posted this, but I just now read it, so here it is again.

Story: An Extraordinary Case - a woman trying not to get pregnant in a super fertile world. [link]

An informant in The Vatican. [link]

80% of homophobes are aroused by gay sex. [link]

You dispose of Bibles by burying them. [link]
You dispose of flags by cutting them up and burning them. 

1/3 of all sex offenders are children. [link]

The drummer of the fictional band "Gorillaz" is an X-man. [link]

Google now allows you to search for animated gifs. [link]

A bridge blowing up set to the Blue Danube.

Doctor Who returns March 30. No link necessary.

Prop Wars - what if your collectable movie props worked?

Wooden marble machines. [link]

An Oreo gun.

Was the destruction of the Death Star an inside job?

Besides all the other problems [link], in the new Sim City game you can destroy other players' cities. Permanently. [link]

Modern Republican values. [link]
This kind of shit is part of why I don't think most people who identify as Republican are really Republicans.

Another asteroid mining venture. [link]

How "You Bet Your Life" archive footage was kept from the fire. [link]

How "hackers" use your computer to spy on you. [link]

Evidence of heart disease found in 5000 year old bodies. [link]

Prison tourists act as prisoners. [link]

Dingus Rand Paul introduces bill declaring fetuses to be people starting at conception. [link]

Lyndon Johnson's White House tapes show that Nixon sabotaged Vietnam peace negotiations. [link]

A boxer was being taunted on Twitter so he went to the kid's house. [link]

How many steps a day do you take and how many should you? [link]

America's digital defensive and offensive force becomes better defined. [link]

The future of wearable tech. [link]

Volvo's new pedestrian detecting system. [link]

Global temperature records extended back an extra 2500 years and 10,000 years.

Santa Fe city leaders want to allow same sex marriages, but the county leaders won't let them. [link]

I've been saying "I told you so" for 10 years. [link]

Pictures of tunnels being built under New York. [link]

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Cracker Jack

The neighborhood around our Baltimore houses is full of stray cats. Apparently that's one of the things Westport is really known for. Yummy has taken to feeding the cats. Many of them have been spayed or neutered. You can tell because the tip of one ear gets removed so they know not to try to refix already sterile cats.

A couple of the cats are really friendly. The one that Yummy has named Crackerjack (or just Jack) is extremely friendly. It likes to crawl up on her shoulders and lie down. Last Friday I was trying to get some work done on the front porch when Jack came along, tested to see how friendly I was, and then crawled up in my lap. After a few minutes of petting and head rubs it fell asleep.

That night I left the chair on the front porch. Jack slept in it.

Are you seeing this? What kind of stray cat does this!?

Time to catch some sleep.

It turns out that Jack belonged to someone who lived a couple of houses down from Norman's House. When that guy got sick and had to move out the cat was left behind. And it desperately wants someone to let it be a house cat again. 

Anyone want a young, fixed, friendly, mellow cat?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Lift and tote

We had a dumpster party this weekend. If you haven't heard of a dumpster party, and there's absolutely no reason that you should have, it's where you have some friends over and fill up a dumpster.

I'd gone permit hunting the Monday before. In Washington, DC I'd be able to get some signs from the police to put on posts and trees saying "emergency no parking". Anyone who parked there could be ticketed or towed. No such luck in Baltimore, where even basic street cleaning is a luxury we don't have. No, you can have the police block the street off for you, or you can try your luck. It's advised you get three friends with vehicles to park there and you all clear out when the dumpster arrives. On Friday morning I had me, my car, and a lightly populated neighborhood on my side. And a little bit of me going up to people and saying "there's a dumpster coming. Could you park somewhere else?"

On Saturday Yummy and I got up and got on the job early. Two of the expected four friends who said they'd come showed up later. Technically, it was the friends that came and the family that bailed.

The demolished room upstairs and a pile of bags in the basement were full of plaster that had been knocked off of walls and ceilings. The bags were barely filled but weighed in the general neighborhood of 50 lbs each. Some more, some less. Then there was the wood panelling. It splintered nicely for easy moving and simple jamming into the carpet. Then there was the basement debris that Norman had collected. Yummy and I had sorted through that back in October or so and bagged up much of it. Those six bags made a huge difference to the basement and we were just getting started.

A guy I'm gonna call Metal Mike stopped by, grabbed some metal out of the dumpster and asked if we had any more. He went away with drop ceiling frames, pipes, aluminum siding, and a window air conditioner that was likely older than me and heavier, too. I've got his number so he can come back for new stuff and the bucket of metal I have at my house.

Since things were going so well, we started some new demolition. The living room ceiling came down. So did the upstairs hallway. Then all that had to be bagged and hauled out. And we had to clean up so that Yummy and I, who treat this place as our weekend house, could walk around freely. One cleans that level of debris with a snow shovel. And, you know, when carpet gets saturated with enough dust it becomes fairly easy to sweep. Like, with a broom. The dust is still there, but the pebbles and gravel go away.

Then we sat around in pain for awhile.

Sunday was slower. A few bags from Saturday night's clean up had to go out. And there was more in the basement to sort out. We found some lovely hardware for Yummy to clean up and reuse. Lots of tools. Some Christmas ornaments we plan to close up in walls just to freak someone out in a few decades. Paint and chemicals galore. We've got a wing dedicated to those now. They'll all be gone at the next city hazardous waste disposal day. Some wood and some concrete and a bit of sweeping and we've got ourselves a basement again!

We raked the street (no street cleaners, remember). We pulled weeds and picked up some garbage from the alley. We're going hard core on that in mid-April. The whole damn neighborhood!

Finally, we went back inside and started on the bathroom. The tin ceiling gets to stay, but the rest has to go. Wood paneling covers the upper half of the room while the lower half has textured cardboard covered with paint. And then plaster and lath under most of that. The lath is still in place, but the rest went in the dumpster. It wasn't easy. There's a toilet, bathtub, sink, and radiator that all had objections to us taking the moulding, covers, and plaster.

Next week we're going hard core on the electrical and plumbing!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


These books sum up the things I'm working on.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Friday Links: March 15

Lame week for links.

The only realistic way left to save the lions is to put a wall around them. [link]

Can I just get this as a computer desk? [link]

Trained military dolphins go AWOL. [link]

Bit mamma jamma mosquitoes expected in Florida this summer. [link]

NASA solved the problem of illegible, vibrating screens by making the picture refresh refresh rate match the vibrations. [link]

Game: Grow Maze - the latest game in the Grow series. [game]

If you need more then go check out Freeman's Mind. [link]
It was recommended to me several times, but I only recently watched it. It's someone playing the game "Half Life" and narrating what the silent main character is thinking. ]

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Sod Off Wednesday: Apple

I'm learning Objective C for work. It's the programming language used for programming iPads, Pods, and Phones.

Apple has done me some favors. I got Xcode for free to do the programming. And I'm learning the language by watching a Stanford professor through iTunes U. So thank you, Apple for that.

I've finished my second program. The first was "Hello, World" through a different teacher. This one is a game called Matchismo. And I can't put it on the office iPad to show it around or let the management in Texas have a look at my progress. More accurately, I can, but it'll cost me $99.

It seems unlikely the government will pay the fee. We're in economic meltdown. I'm not paying. I already bought my textbooks and they've cut my pay to Ramen wages (after bills). And they're threatening to cut 20% more because Republicans are dicks.

Hopefully, when I have one of the apps that I'm working towards we can find the money.

Bird music

I have three birds in my house. Gandolf the african gray you already know. The other two are Yummy's green cheeked conures named Oliver "Ollie" Queen and Rose "Rosie" Tyler.

Gandolf likes her radio. She'll actually say "what's up the radio". She used to say "what's on the radio", but got "what's up, Gandolf" mixed in there. So I got this small, old radio. Old enough that when the power comes back on after a power failure the radio turns back on. And I got a battery powered light switch that I could mount on her cage. No she turns her radio on and off when she wants to instead of asking me.

Setting the radio involved me going through stations until she started flapping her wings at me. We landed on a 70's station. Technically, she'd prefer more 60's music. She's a Beatles fan. But for the most part she's happy with what she has.

I mention this because I just found out what kind of music Rosie likes. She's an aggressive little thing. Ollie is happy to chill and snuggle on a person. Rosie challenges everyone and likes to bite. During the station's "90's at Noon" segment they had some Metallica playing. Besides shaking her head up and down like she does when challenging me, Rosie also started walking and making a creaking squeek with each head bang. So the aggressive birdie is a metal head.


Monday, March 11, 2013

Annapolis Bog (after)

Remember my post about the huge mold growing in one of my houses? It's kinda tough to make out, but this is what the inside of that house looks like now. Nothing but a few old beams left to hold up the walls. New beams are piled up on the floor.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Friday Links: March 8

RunPee:  A program to let you know when a movie is getting slow enough so you can go pee without missing anything. [link]

The origins of 10 insults. [link]

Despite home brewers and micro breweries there's a battle going on for global beer domination. [link]

Pictures from the White House renovations in the 1950's. [link]
You mean they had a chance to fix it and chose to geek it gaudy?

The race to make brain controlled exoskeletons. [link]

Here's a waste of money. A tiny library with a $20K router. [link]

Dozens of large US companies to support gay marriage before the Supreme Court. [link]

The NFL isn't one of them. [link]

Game: Steampunk Tower: defend your steampunk tower from steampunk baddies. [link]

The first radio transmission from an airship said “Roy, come and get this goddam cat!” [link]

George R. R. Martin reads nursery rhymes.

James Franco on Stephen Colbert.

How to fuck with your cat.

Russian ice caves. [link]

How to stop those Duke boys from tearing around Hazzard County. [link]

A promising movie that got stolen from it's writer/director. [link]
You thought I was talking about the Fox version of Dune, didn't you.

Zerg Rush Chess (also known as Horde Chess or Dunsany's Chess). [link]

"Head Like a Hole" lyrics with "Call Me Maybe" tune. [link]

Woman shot in a robbery 30 years ago finally dies of her wound. Coroner rules it a homicide. [link]

A rat king is several rats with their tails tied together. What is it called when they get their brains tied together? [link] [link 2]
I think it's best called from far, far away.

Baaaaaahn Jovi's "Living on a Prayer".

Trash droids to go with your Roomba. [link]

You don't visit Beijing for the view. [link]

Following it's Jeopardy win, Watson goes looking for a real job. [link]

The robot donkey/dog/thing is now throwing cinderblocks around!

Sitting is the new smoking? [link]
I work at a computer all day. Fuck standing.

Programming greats talk about their first programs. Then they talk other programming stuff.

I'm learning Objective C. There's no way I could have learned this the way people of my age group learned BASIC. Programming is too different, today.

3D printed car. [link]

Things Yummy will want to turn into wallpaper. [link]

Every corporate website ever. [link]

Companies that share their resources with other companies. [link]

Get to know your local politics. [link]

Matt Groening's work for Apple. [link]

Moshpit simulator. [link]

CO2 level increase at the second highest in known history. [link]

Floorplans of TV homes. [link]

Another story of a woman in the military dealing with being raped by fellow soldiers. [link]

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Book Review: Starbound

For quite awhile I got my reading done in restaurants and on the subway. Life has changed enough that there's very little of either going on. So it's been awhile since I finished a book. One that I didn't like much was ruined in the beer spill. I'd already tossed it aside, though. Through good old fashioned sitting around and reading, I've just finished "Starbound" by Joe Haldeman.

You'll want to have read "Marsbound" first. It's not strictly necessary, but it's advisable, and, for the most part, a better book. In "Marsbound" we follow a family to the Mars colony that includes the first children on Mars. The daughter sort of forces another intelligence on the planet to reveal itself. They're not Martians, though. They were put on Mars to observe early humans on the behalf of another alien race. While the humans and the "martians" get along well enough, another observer out near Jupiter has judged the humans and marked them for death before taking off for the home world. Luckily, the martians help protect Earth from the destruction attempt.

In this book a ship with a crew made up of humans from Earth and Mars and a couple of martians are heading for the star system that the judgmental alien headed for. They're going with a message of peace since they know they can't stand for an instant against the aliens. Much of the book covers the interaction of the crew and wondering what's going to happen when they reach the aliens. Instead they're met by an emissary, their trip accelerated, and a brief history of the aliens spelled out. Then stuff gets exciting.

Some books have a great first chapter that sells you on reading the rest of the book. This book ends in a spectacular manner. It has it's slow points, but the author compensates for that by having the book change narrators regularly. And it's never as slow or as dull as that one the beer got. And the ending has you coming away with "WOAH! What a book!" Maybe that's to leave that impression so you'll recommend the book. Maybe it's so you'll rush out and get the next book in this series, "Earthbound". It works either way. I do plan to get a copy of "Earthbound" when it comes out in paperback.

If you've not read anything by Joe Haldeman before, I suggest you start with "The Forever War". My brother found the copy I got for Dad in his pickup and it started him on a fresh reading kick.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

standing in the yuck

See this?

And this?

It's what you get from standing around in places like this.

Well,standing around and swinging a pry bar.

Monday, March 04, 2013

No, officer, that's just how my car smells

I mentioned recently bought that I've gotten into home brewing. I'd started a Witbier about 2 weeks ago. We were brewing at the Baltimore house and letting it ferment at my place in DC where I could control the temperature. Last weekend we'd gotten the 5 gallons in a secondary fermentation tank (a glass carboy) and I was taking it home in the back of my Prius. Somewhere along the way it fell over. Not an easy task for something that wide and heavy. But by the time I knew there was a problem I'd lost 4 gallons. Some pooled in the wheel well. Some pooled in the battery well. And some found its way into the fuse block(?) where it corroded the heck out of things. The car was still drivable, but the dashboard lit up like a Christmas Tree. Check hybrid system. Check PCS. Check Cruise Control. All that checking came to $1100 and change.

One problem remains. The car smells like beer. Or bread. And the odds are good that it will smell that way for the rest of it's life. I can never be pulled over again. The cop will never believe I haven't been drinking.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Friday Links: March 1

Game: Netbots - Connect the tiny robots in the assigned shapes to save the lab. [link]

What to do with a sign when your business closes. [link]

Storyboards for "Alien". [link]

How to shake hands with POWER! [link]

I'm growing a beard again. Here's why it's awesome. [link]

Mario Bros as a modern first person game.

Zepplin/Beatles mix - Whole Lotta Helter Skelter.

Good answers to interview questions from big companies. [link]

The story of a man who vanished in the middle of a race. [link]

Less than helpful tips for giving speeches. [link]

Good news! There's a meeting at the White House today to talk about the problem they were supposed to solve by yesterday. Meanwhile, here's a short list of things that have just started breaking down. [link]

Places to take your used gum. [link]

72 year old modern humans have the same life expectancy as a 30 year old "cave" man. [link]

What kind of military awards do drone pilots deserve? [link]
Along the same lines, if corporations are people do they deserve medals for military contributions?

An article about the 3D pen that I've been seeing so many gifs about. [link]

Tattoo shop application. [link]

Trippy RGB art. [link]

An Oreo separating machine. The machine is interesting, but I love the guy's sense of humor. [link]

The pros and cons of being pretty. [link]

Scientifically accurate Spiderman. [link]

The ice water weight loss plan. [link]

This is how the world will end. Not with a bang, but with a slurp. [link]

The saddest map of America. [link]

A bad time for an Antarctic expedition. [link]