Saturday, July 22, 2006

On my way to Portland Again!

I'm lucky enough to get to come to Portland, Oregon for OSCON again this year. Last year's was a blast, and I'm looking forward to blogging both the geeky side (at my newish professional blog) and the adventurous, fun side here.

I'm trying to get a visit in with Van's Aircraft (I *SO* want an RV-10). I've got a hash to go to Monday night, if I can get a ride to/from it. I've got a car for a whole day so I can go explore (although I've been forbidden to go to (link) Bagby on my own). I sent a resume off to a hiring firm in Portland looking for a development team manager with Ruby on Rails experience. In short, there lots of non-OSCON related fun to be had!!


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Tilly and the Wall!

Hello, gentle reader. It's time for another in my very infrequent series of concert reports!!

Last night at Cat's Cradle I saw one of the best shows I've seen in a long time. Headliner band was Tilly and the Wall, and they were the biggest, happiest musical surprise I've had in a while. They've got great girl harmonies (from Neely and Kiana) like the Donna's, only more upbeat. They've got a tap-dance precussionists (Jamie) who must be seen (and heard) to be believed. The guitarist (Derek) added in a different vocal range (his solo vocals sound notably like Coner Oberst of Bright Eyes) and great guitar work. And the keyboard guy (Nick) played well and, despite his tendency to always stay out of the limelight, actually spoke on the mic long enough last night to get a beer. Good man. The start of their set was plagued with microphone and patch problems - I think they strung 3 new microphones and 4 new cables during the first 5 songs of their set. Kudos to Dan (their sound / tech guy) for handling it all so well. I won't do the set detail here, partly because I didn't know any of their songs well enough to id them during the show, but suffice to say that the place was pretty well packed with a happy crowd that was singing and dancing along and more thana few knew the words to all the songs. Great band. Go see them if you get the chance.

The mid-liner band in the show was DeVotchKa who played a high-energy set of quirky, international-inspired music. It's hard not to get at least a little cranked listening to their stuff, and they have the hottest sousaphone player I've ever seen. Their music is definately worth a listen. First opening band was David Dondero. I only caught the last few songs of his set, but he had good guitar talents and an expressive voice. His songs seemed a little gloomy and down, and I was a little disappointed when after he offered to play one more song, he picked up his stuff and left the stage.

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Sunday, May 28, 2006

Rebuilt a Carburetor

I have a 1995 Tomos Targa moped (like the one at the left, only mine is white with burgundy bits) that Kris bought me many years ago. I drove it work regularly for a while, then after I moved further away from work I parked it in the garden shed and have ignored it for more than a few years.

With gas prices hovering around $3 a gallon I got motivated to find a more economical way to get to work, so (with the prompting from Susie) it was time to revive the moped. I dug it out of the shed, washed the grime off, and started figuring out the mechanical problems.

I had to destroy the gas cap lock to get it off. It, and the inside top of the tank was pretty badly rusted. The 5 year old gas was the color of Coke. The carb was in as bad a shape as the tank. What gas was there had dried up over time and gummed up the works pretty severely. After a few hours of carb cleaner, lacquer thinner, acetone and elbow grease the carb is all clean and clear.

This is sort of a first - I've never redone a carburetor before and, despite me being paranoid about permanently breaking things, it went surprisingly well. Of course I don't know if it runs yet - time will tell after I get all the other stuff going - but I took on something that I had doubts about doing and did a pretty decent job at doing it.

Next projects on the moped are to acid etch the tank rust, and free up the reverse-kick starter. The gearbox oil is probably going to need changing too. This all wouldn't have been necessary if I'd either drained all the gas out before I stored is for such a long time or if I'd just start it and run it every few months.


Saturday, May 27, 2006

On being Baptist

I'm a self-proclaimed Christian-Deist (the Deist thing is a recent refinement from just "Christian" and I'm still grappling with what this means.). This being the case, it's been tough finding a church home that some part of didn't seem disconnected or awkward or just wrong. The music at this one would be great, but there'd be no freedom to think differently from the "right way"; this one had more freedom, but the people were aloof and there was no music program and, well the list goes on. I'd kind of accepted that I should find the best compromise of what I wanted and make the best of it. That said, it is with great surprise that I tell you that Susie and I just recently joined a Baptist church. After being ticked at the Southern Baptists (with their too-conservative ways and Jerry Fallwell and ) for so many years, I had written them off.

I was raised in a begnign, middle-class Baptist church, and generally, because of my parent's low level of involvement in the church, I never saw the operational side of Baptism. I went primarily to Sunday school, and did youth group stuff, but seldom went to actual Sunday services and had no clue about how the church was run. It was only in the last 10 years did I really start to get a handle on how Baptists differ from Methodists, Presbyterian and Catholics. Baptists seem unique in that they have a bottom-up governance system. That is, each church is entitled to establish their own beliefs. There are lots of conservative Baptist churches out there that adhere closely to the Southern Baptist guidelines. But not every Baptist church does. Thanks to Kris (my lovely ex-wife) and Jim, we found one that very happily doesn't.

Watts Street Baptist Church is that place. They've got a great community of folks who are very accepting, and open to discussions about (literally!) everything, even when your views don't necessarily match those of the majority. The music program rocks, with everything from great sacred music to spirituals to more contemporary pieces. The outreach opportunities range from intra-church to neighborhood, city, national and international. Ways to get involved are too numerous to list. Kids opportunity abound. The congregation is warm and accepting and made us feel instantly at home. It's gay and lesbian friendly in a way that I didn't think was possible for a Baptist church. Wednesday-night suppers are a great chance to eat and socialize with folks on a more casual basis that you typically see them on Sundays, with some great program times afterwards. Lifting a quote from their home page:
Watts Street Baptist Church is an inclusive ecumenical congregation uniting prayer, learning, and social justice in the context of a vibrant community.
That sums them up perfectly. It's great to be home.

(Coming soon, I'll cover the passionate, democratic process that was our first congrational meeting.)


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Monday, May 15, 2006

Family Oral History

On the tails of reading about Robert Scoble's family tragedy, I ran across this site:
Family Oral History Using Digital Tools. This is one of those things I've been meaning to do for forever, but Mother's Day and Robert's stories have prompted me into action on. I'll keep you all posted on the results of my efforts.


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Geek speech

I am a geek. This morning I turned that theme into a 6 minute 9 second icebreaker talk before my local Toastmasters club. Remarkably enough, I think I did a pretty good job with it. Of course, I was jittery and nervous as it was my first speech, and of course I talked WAY too fast. But feedback was positive, and since I'm my own worse critic by far, I think it went alright.

Monday, March 27, 2006


Please please please (!) go check out dooce, It's a blog by a married mother of a 2-year old, where she, in her words: "talks a lot about poop, boobs, my dog, and my daughter." It's a very entertaining read, and some of the best writing I've read on a blog in a long time.



Sunday, March 19, 2006

Harry Potter and the Trainer of Dire

I ran across this at Creating Passionate Users, and got such a kick out of it. It's a little discussion of training methods using Harry Potter and Legos as a conduit. The IT Training Doctor: Harry Potter and the Trainer of Dire is definitely worth a read!


Monday, February 20, 2006

Mmm.... Chocolate

I found this excellent little write-up about a guy named Alasdair and his chocolate tasting adventures. He's got some interesting and educational stuff to say about the current state of the chocolate industry and what's perceived as "good" these days. Definitely worth a read.



Sunday, February 12, 2006

More MythTV Goodness

Weekend geek project accomplished? Check!

This weekend I spent some time upgrading the house MythTV box. I pulled the old WinTV card that had been my only tuner card and installed a Hauppage PVR-500. Yes, it's got a MCE (Media Center Edition) designation, but it works fine in linux. PVR-500 short notes: dual tv tuners w/ dbx stereo, dual hardware-based mpg2 encoders, fm radio tuner, and a $140 price tag. It took way longer than I thought it would to wrangle the ivtv drivers to play nicely with the rest of my system. A HowTo at and another specifically geared towards a knopmyth install were a huge help. If it helps, I ended up happily running with firmware 0x02050032 if that helps anyone at all.

I decided a few months ago during a reinstall to use Centos as the base for the Myth install. I wanted something that wouldn't age out from under me and become unsupported as my FC2 install had done, and Centos promised the long-term version stability of the Red Hat Enterprise products without the support options or the cost. Other than the fact that there's not a lot of docs out the with Centos-specific instructions on how to do things, it's been great. Ok, not having v4l as a standard kernel module pushed me off towards the centosplus repository, but that's been good so far.

Task #2 was adding 250G of additional space to the LV set that /home lives on. That doubled the space for MythTV recordings. Of course, it also doubles the failure rate, but all th music and picures live on back-ups anyway. Worse-case I'll have to reinstall the os and MythTV, and download or re-record all the shows that we've got stashed on there. That was amazingly easy to do. Repartition the volume as linux lvm, prepare it as lvm volume, add it to the volume set, expand the logical volume, and resize2fs the filesystem out to use all the new space.

As I was fetching links and checking urls to write this, I discovered that version 0.19 of MythTV had been released earlier today, so that's been downloaded and is compiling as I write. I'll post back with news of my success, or of the new and exciting things that I've learned getting it all to work.


Monday, February 06, 2006

E-mails and egos

E-mails and egos: "Justin Kruger, PhD, and his colleague Nicholas Epley, PhD, of the University of Chicago, have published research that helps explain why electronic misunderstandings occur so frequently. In a study in the December Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Vol. 89, No. 5, pages 925-936), they find that people overestimate both their ability to convey their intended tone-be it sarcastic, serious or funny-when they send an e-mail, as well as their ability to correctly interpret the tone of messages others send to them."

A good read, and definitely something to keep in mind.


Super Bowl XL Commercials on Google Video

Super Bowl XL Commercials on Google Video
I love Google more and more. They've collected all the commercials from the Supebowl into one convenient place for easy viewing. Beacause, you know, the commercials are really the only reason to watch.


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Saturday, February 04, 2006

And then there were three...

We came home last night to find a happy cat waiting to get outside to use the pine straw, half an hour later he's uncharacteristically flopped next to his food bowl waiting for dinner and panting like crazy. This is so uncaracteristic of Mickey that we crated him up and off we went to the emergency vet, the same one we dealt with Luna with only six or seven weeks ago. They whisked him off to the back, took an amazingly quick look at him (I guess when a diagnosis is this solid and obvious it doesn't take long at all) and told us the prognosis: congestive heart failure and the related pulmonary edema, along with an acute thrombosis blocking bloodflow to his rear limbs. Treatment at this stage is difficult, and rarely effective for very long. So we made the always difficult decision to put him to sleep. They gave the shot while we were cuddling him and talking to him, and it was much like luna - one second they're there, the next they're not. I've done this for more than my share of animals recently.

He arrived in 2000, littermates with Minnie. He was always the big, gangling cat, seeming built like a basketball player (tough to imagine in a cat, I know, but just think very long legs.) He was the ham of the bunch, and was always ready with a dramatic flop to announce his intentions to receive some tummy love. Among the four, he was the get-along-with-everyone character, who bridged the divide and happily coexisted with both Minnie and the two marriage-induced arrivals: Sammy and JoyJoy. Now those three will have to work out the power structures all over again. He was the office cat, having taken over the study since the renovation. The picture was taken one day when he curled up for a nap on the opened scanner. (It's a cat scan!) He had a serious affinity for desk chairs, anything paper, piles of clean laundry, and high-denier nylon luggage. And he had the absolute loudest purr I've ever heard from a cat. And I'm really going to miss him.

Bye, Mickey.


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Thursday, January 19, 2006


Iraqi Invasion: A Text Misadventure
Revision 88 / Serial number 54892

Oval Office
You are standing inside a White House, having just been elected to the presidency of the United States. You knew Scalia would pull through for you.

There is a large desk here, along with a few chairs and couches. The presidential seal is in the middle of the room and there is a full-length mirror upon the wall.

What do you want to do now?

You are not able to do that, yet.

Self-reflection is not your strong suit.

It's not that kind of seal.

They are two several chairs arranged around the center of the room, along with two couches. Under one couch you find Clinton's shoes.

You are unable to fill Clinton's shoes.

I about fell out of my chair reading this. It's the Bush presidency in the form of a Zork-esque transcript. The full thing can be read over at defective yeti. Give it a shot - it's an absolute hoot! I originally found this over at boingboing.


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

How to eat sushi

This is a very instructional video on how to eat sushi. It has details that I'll bet even the most devout sushi connoisseur didn't know.

I think I know what I'm having for lunch today.


(Found here.)

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And now, your moment of zen...

It's the Falling Sand Game. Draw lines, plant plants, divert the sand around. It's amazingly addictive.


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Monday, January 16, 2006

Hooray for Maryland! (I think...)

This morning at Yahoo! News I found an article that made me happy. The state of Maryland has passed a law that employers of over 10,000 state residents are now required to spend a minimum of 8% of their income (or was it revenues?) on employee health care coverage. That sounds like a pretty broad law, does it not? That's what I thought. However it turns out that (guess who?) WalMart is the only employer in the state that meets that size requirement that's not already spending that magic 8%. Yet another reason that WalMart is an evil company and why "Everyday low prices!" has its cost in the community. And that, my dear readers, is a cost I'm not willing to pay. I have actively boycotted WalMart for a couple of years now (the number of times I've caved and had to run in for something I can count on one hand), and will continue to do so.

The 'I think...' part of the header comes from the slippery slope that is single-company-targeted legislation. On one hand if WalMart would just do the right thing (tm) this wouldn't be an issue, but on the other, I don't really like the idea of state legislatures targeting one company with a particular law. It seems sorta like Gov't micromanagement. So which is the lesser of the evils?


Sunday, January 15, 2006

The Cow Game

The Cow Game is a great time waster. It's in German, but you don't really need the instructions to figure out how to play it. The big hit in our house is the the little swinging udders in the victory dance.


Saturday, January 14, 2006

SWH3 600th Hash

SWH3's 600th Hash is today!! Woot!! It's a little cold and windy for my tastes, but hey, it January in NC.... whaddayawant?




Friday, January 13, 2006

Fun Jobs!

It's a hell of a long shot, but I'm trying to get a mental-health sabbatical to go work for the Mouse. I want to burn all my available vacation (55 days, I think?) to go be Cruise Staff on the Disney Magic. The Cruise Staff are the crazy, loud people who jump around and yell and lead the deck parties, run the game shows, lead on-ship activities, call bingo, and in general make sure that everyone on board is having fun and has plenty of cool stuff to do. This job would be sooo much fun and be such a great break from 15+ years of computing.

So many things have to happen just so for me to actually pull this off. I started with my dear darling Susie and Bonnie, who consented for me to go off and do this wild hare idea. Then I went to SixthStar entertainment, the folks who do hiring and staffing for DCL. A brief email exchange taught me that this *was* possible, but the position I wanted was only available as a 4-month contract. Duke has limits on how much vacation one can take off in a year, so I'd have to get the 4 months split across a new-year boundary, which means Thanksgiving, Christmas, Anniversary, New Years and my Birthday would all be spent on-ship, away from my family. I talked to my director about it (he's a Brit and exceptionally cool, and damn smart as well), and he didn't say no. His words were that there were a lot of details (ie. all the HR stuff) to work out with my direct manager to make it happen.

So, although it's not a done deal, it's made it much, much further than I ever thought it would. I'll keep pushing, and talking to people, and see if I can make this happen.



I hate blog posts about blog posting, as it seems just like so much self-important navel-gazing to me, but here I am doing that exact thing. I've been paralyzed for a while on posting, because I have no clear idea of what I want this blog to be. Is is a personal diary for sharing with friends and family? Is it my soapbox to shout about what's right and wrong with the world? Is it a creative writing outlet? Do I want it discovered and read by the world? Do I care if someone finds it in 10 years when I'm running for public office? The truth is, I don't know. That is, I have no good clear answers for those questions. So, I'm throwing those blog meta-questions out there and getting back to writing. It's gonna be what it is. Read it if you want. Comment if you want (please!). I don't have a reason other than I want to do it. Enjoy.