Archive for November, 2006

Ooh, why didn’t I think of this before?

In the southwest suburbs’ local paper this week, there is a fullpage ad for a scam the EdenPURE 500 (R)(tm)(c)(processed cheese food), a space heater making all sorts of ridculous claims and using scare tactics to warn gullible readers away from those “other” space heaters. Did you know…

  • this special space heater uses a quartz element (like about 50% of all space heaters) to produce “infrared heat”, which is the safest form of heat (as opposed to, presumably, non-infrared sources of heat…?).
  • A furnace “generates a lot of dust due to the combustion.” (And here I’ve been blaming things like dead skin and clothing, when really, dust is in fact transmuted from an isolated exchanger’s hot air! But not EdenPURE’s hot air.)
  • this product will “make you healthier” because it does not reduce humidity or oxygen in the room (when you get sleepy wrapped up in a fuzzy blanket in front of another space heater, that’s because it’s burning up all your oxygen)
  • Many other portable heat sources “produce carbon monoxide, static cling, and some produce radiation.” (“Brr…honey, I think the space heater needs more plutonium.”) (Hopefully it’s not deadly infrared radiation, or dangerous electromagnetic radiation in the 400-700nm band emanating from the power-on indicator.)

It must be a profitable business seperating fools from their money. Why am I not in on this?

* * *

This weekend my folks handed me a carbon-monoxide detector from the cabin to fix (power supply crapped out). This got me thinking… Time was, the only detector a house had was a smoke detector. Then came radon gas detectors, and still more recently (within my lifetime, even) CO detectors. Now, don’t get me wrong, all of these are hazardous things in the right circumstances and concentrations, but why stop there? As modern houses become better-insulated and better at sealing out the outside wind and cold than the typical New England seive-with-a-roof, the situation screams with a need for additional safety detectors in these well-insulated coffins.

Enter Carbon Dioxide Detectors. With every breath, dangerous Carbon Dioxide is building up in your home. Every person and every pet you bring into your home increases the danger. What are you going to do, open all the windows and watch your gas bill rocket through the roof? No, friend, you need a CO2 detector. There could be a burgeoning CO2 detector market just waiting for the first high-profile death due to in-house CO2 poisoning to make the evening news. From there, national mandates for CO2 detectors in every home are an almost certainty*.

Profits from the CO2 Detector market can be used to fund the next generation of life-affirming safety innovations, namely, natural gas detectors. Similar in principle to the most common type of CO detector, a precious-metal catalyst in the CH4 detector would convert the natural gas (methane) molecules to a measurable electric current**.

The dangers of methane gas in the home are many. For one, it’s highly flammible. Have your attempts to light the stove ever resulted in flames? Regular viewers of Jackass will know that ALL sources of methane gas are a fire hazard. Fact: One Anna’s super burrito has nearly a thousand dietary calories, nearly enough energy to heat an Olympic swimming pool. The typical Anna’s customer is much smaller than an Olympic swimming pool and yet does not spontaneously combust. There is only one logical conclusion as to how all that excess energy is vented. These balls of concentrated danger could be set off by anything, such as proximity to a non-EdenPURE(r)(tm)(c)(etc) space heater. Some studies suggest that natural gas in the home may be responsible for extremely localized global warming. Are your children safe at night with all that highly combustible energy floating around?

With the soon-to-be-federally-mandated CH4 detector in every home, you will not need to worry! The detectors could be placed anywhere CH4 enters the house, such as stoves, ovens, dryers and your high-profile family flatulator’s favorite couch, using a sophisticated microprocessor to warn the household of the presence of a silent, but deadly, killer. Expect this innovative lifesaving technology in Q1 2008.

* and I will be rich, I tell ya! Rich!

** of course, we could just use a bigger element and catalyze all that fart gas directly into usable electricity, but that would require a bunch more palladium and eat away all of our profit margin.

The Talk

I’m back in Chicago for a long, much-needed Thanksgiving break. The other night my dad and I were relaxing shooting the bull, and the subject of my romantic life or lack thereof came up… and I ended up getting the talk. No, not that one…puberty was long ago. This was the “gee, son, it looks like you haven’t been with a girl for a while…just wanted to make sure you’re still, you know, interested in that sort of thing…” talk.

I love my old man, but sometimes he pisses me off.


Fuck. I think I’ve slept a total of 14h this entire week. Which is usually more than enough to keep me out of bizarre mental states, but in general, me + extreme sleep deprivation = unpleasant.

Getting all my work shizzle together before my trip back to chicago this+next week. Today I have…

Recoded the electronic flashbang’s firmware to detect several potentially catastrophic hardware faults, such as lamp failure, undercurrent / current sense failure amd lamp pre-ignition, and safely handle them should they ever occur (last thing we need is a device designed as an intrinsically safe weapon-replacement melting down into hot slag in the user’s hand);

Written unattented fatigue-test routines for same;

Taught GG how to switch different testmodes in and out of the code and reprogram the prototypes;

Researched high-speed wireless data acquisition for helicopter blade testing;

Prepared an Oh Shit Kit for the testing nextnext Tues. in CT. (you know, “Oh shit, we need some quick ‘n dirty signal filtering” … “Oh shit… our wire harness is two inches too short” … “Oh shit…DAQ systems designed by Canadians expect the entire datastream backward-endian?” … “*bang* Oh shit, there had better be a spare in that bag or we’re in big fucking trouble” …)

Fully documented and integrated my spin-stand controller hardware in a way that even Mechies can (hopefully) use it without my supervision ;)

Almost blew it up! (grr, still can’t let those Mechies near it)

On the way home I found a plant/tree abandoned for the trashman on my street, and gave it a good home.

In a newly-met friend’s tradition of giving Everything a name… I think it looks like a Bart :-)

And nothing lasts forever, even cold november rain

This Sunday I found myself at the MIT fields in the middle of a downpour, watching a bunch of older guys re-live their glory days with an all-out game of rugby, tackling the shit out of each other. The game was arranged for TvS’s very-belated 50th birthday…there was at least one guy out there who had to be at least 60, and a bunch of young ringers. Some of the wives were on the sidelines, cringing every time their own went down in a pile of bodies and failed to immediately resurface.

AL snapped one of the important ligaments in his good knee (was in last year or so for ACL surgery on the other one)… LCL, or whichever one it is that keeps a knee joint from squishing around side to side. GJM presented today with a 3x swollen thumb and palm-attached-to-thumb, and grossed me out by pushing the internally-leaked blood around in it. A young kid stood too close to the sidelines and got creamed. There were some miscellaneous scrapes and bruises, and a nasty bloody cleat-in-the-eye. Afterward, we all went to the Asgard to warm up with a few cold ones. It was packed with TvS’s friends and fellow players, and then it kind of all made sense. He said this was one of the best days of his life.

* * *

Tonight I found out that one of my little cousins has an inoperable brain tumor. Her parents have known about it for some time, but didn’t tell anyone in the family about it until recently, when symptoms became somewhat evident on their own. Instant message is not the best way to hear something like this… but I can fully understand and respect the decision to keep it quiet for so long. I couldn’t imagine the alternative, growing up with all of your relatives thinking “don’t get too attached” in the backs of their minds whenever they interacted with you.

I don’t know what happens next.

I need a spillproof keyboard

Overheard on LJ::Grammargasm

Someone said, in response to the election results, “Bush is a sitting duck at this point.”

They meant lame duck. But I think it’s funnier the first way.

To which someone replied:

[…] And yeah, don’t call him a duck while Cheney’s around.

On tow trucks, Medford MA, and crooked dealings therewith

After allowing myself my one day to stay in and be a code monkey, I came out of my house this morning around 9:30 to find the street eerily empty. Sometime between yesterday and today, Medford’s famous No-Notice Street Sweeping was scheduled for my area. How this works is, sometime on an arbitrarily-selected Sunday afternoon, No Parking notices appear on telephone poles along the street. Any cars still there by early AM Monday get towed, ostensibly for the City to clean the streets. That is to say, if you decide to exercise your right to spend Sunday indoors, and thereby miss the 12-hours’ notice, you’re likely to be walking to work the next day*.

Yeah, I’ve ranted this before.**

Anyway, I ran to where I parked early Sunday morning to find, oh say could I see by the dawn’s early light, that my car was still there. How I dodged the bullet this time, I don’t know. Last times around, the tow trucks were already rolling on Princeton St. by 8am. (The time before last, I got there just in the nick of time; they were picking them off sequentially, and mine was three cars away from the tow truck. An older neighbor was actually going door-to-door waking people up to warn them.)

This time I got curious, thinking “Surely these street sweeping dealies must be publicly well-documented somewhere, and I just didn’t get the memo.” Like, the intarweb maybe. A good-faith search reveals the following:

The City of Medford doesn’t have a website, or domain, in the * hierarchy.
But they do have one at, which says there are to be street sweepings four times per year (I’ve counted one), with a tentative schedule subject to change at any time.
And there is a Street Sweeping Schedule (.pdf), tentative dates and streets notwithstanding.
But it’s over six months out of date (Spring ’06).

Not helpful.

Interestingly, although an excellent revenue generator for the City of Medford, the twice-ish-annual street cleaning doesn’t seem to do much to keep the screws and nails out of my tires.

* not to mention paying wads of cash to get it back from someone’s impound lot, as well a ticket to the city directly. Not to accuse anyone of corruption or anything, but to get a car back from a City towing is on the order of $90, not counting any tickets tacked on. When I had my car towed legitimately for a bad starter, the fee was $35.

** ultimately, a point will be reached where future entries in this blog will consist entirely of meta-entries backreferencing combinations of previous entries. Eventually, all possible meta-entries will also have been written, and I can just post the final all-tying-together meta-meta-entry and mark the whole thing readonly…

Sunday is code monkey day

+5 Ward against Distraction
For the next 24 hours, target ally is equipped with a Ward against Distractions while coding. While so equipped, target is immune from interruptions arising from social responsibilities and has a 50% chance to “block” LJ, instant messages and lengthy going-nowhere phone calls.

A man can dream, can’t he?

Anyway, I haven’t written here in a while. Mostly busy with a work project, and outside of that, being a lazy bum. is now up at its final(?) location, none of that Web Site Overnight managed crap, and forums whipped into shape. (Now to just beat some sense into a Flash designer, until he is a non-Flash designer ;-) This is a project aimed at promoting a Renewable Energy Minimum Standard for new construction projects over $500k. Still very much a work-in-progress at this point; the numbers, feasibility, etc., still need some discussion and tweaking before it comes within stick-poking distance of actual legislation. Took care of some cexxy site/forums stuff, including an ex-questionable-software-company whining about people still considering them questionable (will wait and see if they threaten lawyers), and getting back to the governmental 3-letter agency looking into a malware company long overdue for quality time in Federal PMITA Prison (although what they usually get is a slap on the wrist fine in exchange for empty promises not to do it again).

Saturday, rounded up a posse, headed to Midwest Grill and consumed a week’s worth of protein in a day. And about half a skewer worth of chicken hearts. GJM had to disappear early, but everyone else stuck around, and we ended up with more people than car. The idea of putting SA in my full-of-crap trunk for a few blocks was not well-received, so he got crammed instead onto JR’s lap and we did the clown-car thing until the corner before the police station (where the clown-car thing is not well-received). Afterward, we all made our way back to LE and crew’s place, hung out, played Blokus* and some DS Mario. This is fun, I should hang out with people more often. (And, you know, figure out how to talk to them and stuff.)

Sunday, barricaded myself in my room and decided I was going to write an actually finished version of USBPoker and release it. Actually, the idea was to have it done as part of the test suite for the ending-Wednesday USB-hardware work project, but in retrospect that wasn’t going to happen (nor is it a particularly good idea to give a real live customer something written only a couple days before). All that aside though, in reality the world must have been aware that I was trying to do something productive, because both my phone and AIM client wouldn’t stop (figuratively speaking) ringing.

* if I ever actually wrote that LJ memespread alarm widget, it would be going off now.