Posts Tagged ‘capacitors’

4th of July week

Big photo album of last week with entirely too many frog pictures :P

Got into Chicago at about 8-something at night, leaving just enough time to grab some pizza and then go out with my brother Dave and his gf to see the new (Live Free Or) DIE HARD movie. This one was all about a bunch of eevil hackers causing mayhem, and true to form, this aspect of the movie was pure comedic (fools) gold, but other than that it was surprisingly good. (Dave grabbed the rest of the movies from a friend and we had an incremental* Die Hard marathon throughout the week.) After the movie we went driving around (yeah, we do that a lot); Dave showed us around the scariest, most ghetto trailer park he’d seen. I don’t think I saw a patch of grass/green in it anywhere, just solid blacktop. Another night we went driving out to various forgotten/deserted places, like old service roads leading to never-constructed construction sites and underneath interstate overpasses, as well as “offroading” in his ole 2WD Buick. Ok, so this was not technically off-road, but down an old and disused service road following along the I&M Canal, full of huge rocks, potholes and mud puddles that came up to about the bottom of the doors in some places. This was a little scary (in a ghett-o-mobile), but fun.

Monday, went to a graduation party for one of the “little Nandos” (not little anymore), which was mainly an excuse to eat brownies and drink, and get our pictures taken every 5 seconds by Matt’s gf, who is reportedly some flavor of professional photographer. (Other reported things I won’t get into here! ;-) Monday night we rounded up a small posse (or vice versa) to go out in the woods in a particular place and have a nice drunken** latenight bonfire. This started small, just whatever deadfall we could find nearby, until someone found a large plastic drum and decided to see how well it would burn. Opinions were somewhat divided on whether this was a good idea; Dave and someone else actually started walking the trail out back toward the car, not wanting any involvement. I figured as long as it was going to happen, might as well watch (and if nothing else, not leave the damn thing unattended). My guess on how high the flames would go was fairly accurate–about the equivalent of a 1-story building–which was apparently enough to arouse the attention of the local cops. As it was burning back down I get a call from Dave, who has by this time reached the end of the woods and the field leading to where we parked. “Dude, douse that fire and get your asses out here, the parking lot is swarming with cops!” When they came out, there were two squads circling the parking lot, almost leaving, then circling back again, and checking out the car. Dave and friend quickly hid in the bushes, warning us to keep hidden and not come out of the woods until the coast was clear. The cops followed the street back out, and as soon as they were out of line-of-sight we bolted for the car and got out of there.

Tuesday night, met up with Kristoff and his friend, and E* and a couple people she had with, downtown and caught the Chicago fireworks show by the lake. (Dave and his gf were also there somewhere, but we couldn’t get hold of them to meet up somewhere.) It was ridiculously packed. There were so many people in a small area that none of our phones worked, even the ones without dead batteries (a CDMA cell can only handle 64 simultaneous conversations per slice, which isn’t usually a problem since the slices are narrow). It was a hell of a show and set to music. The downpour expected that night waited until immediately after the show, at which point everyone scattered for drier places. Kristoff got separated in the crowd and we didn’t see him the rest of the night. Meanwhile, HAL was showing up at my folks’ house to crash for the night before hanging out tomorrow.

For the 4th, we all assembled at the cabin (Morris, IL) and had a nice BBQ and pool party. Just like last year, Kristoff brought a huge handle of Cap’n Morgan, we got nice and tipsy, and my cousins played homicide dunk with me in the deep end. Also in attendance were Dave’s gf, my (dad’s side) aunt and uncle too, Rubber Mel and his wife+kids, and my cousin Da*. We ended up staying pretty late…most of us left that night since HAL and Daves’s gf had to be headed home; Kristoff stayed ’til early the next morning to sleep it off. :P

Met up with J*, her bf and his live-in ex, and we grilled some meat. This guy was…interesting (you know…NASCAR type, hotdog neck), but if she’s happy with him, so am I.

Saturday, went back out to the cabin w/ the folks, prowled around in the woods a bit terrorizing the wildlife with my camera, munched on wild berries alongside the road, and went out fishing with me old man (haven’t done that in ages!). We caught a good sized handful of bluegill, cleaning them in the boathouse and dropping the heads/guts for the catfish that like to hang around down there. (We didn’t see any that day… otherwise there might be one of them in the freezer too :P)

Later that night, raced back to civilization just in time to head out and catch a midnight showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show with Da* and a couple of her friends. This was crazy. I dressed for the occasion a little bit, but Da* completely gayed me up (unbuttoning my shirt and knotting the tails, also exposing some hawt belly fur). Got a tongue in the ear from some guy. “Oh, don’t worry about him, he hits on everybody.” -Da* Anyway, for those who have never attended such a showing, it traditionally involves some people acting out the scenes, shouting their own lines back at the screen, throwing various things, etc. If you’re interested in the actual plot of the movie, I’d recommend seeing it on video first so you know what’s going on.

Sunday… finally getting into that hardcore sleeping in habit, woke up after noon, loafed around, grabbed some food, and got to the airport for a 6:30pm flight. But there were some “technical difficulties” (broken plane) with the flight at the next gate that was leaving sooner, so they swapped (took ours) and sicced mechanics on the broken one. You can probably guess how this went. They announced we’d be delayed by “about 10 more minutes”, every 10 minutes, for the next several hours. Eventually they moved us to a different gate and put us on one of their “terminators” (no Aussie accents or liquid metal here; it’s just what they call the last plane in that ordinarily becomes next morning’s first plane out). By the time we landed in Boston, it was nearly 1am and the subway had stopped running, stranding a bunch of people including myself with no ride (my request for cab fare reimbursement is on its way).

* incremental mostly because us workin’ stiffs with normal hours have lost the capacity to stay up arbitrarily late, and were zonked out by not much after midnight :( I started regaining this ability just in time to go back to Boston.

** as drunk as people could get from the warm Bud Light someone brought, which is to say, not very.

Landmark navigation

Random thought of the day… for places like Boston, where street name signs are considered a luxury that should be cherished for their scarcity, Google Maps /etc. should perform an experiment wherein directions are given relative to landmarks instead of street names.


  • Turn right (90°) at the Shaw’s onto Walnut St. (0.4mi)
  • Turn hard left (140°) at the first street after the third traffic light, Elm St. (0.6mi)
  • Pass over 2 bridges, under 1 bridge, and a large graveyard on the right.
  • Turn right (45°) onto Undefined St., one street after the I-93 overpass and across from a Kappy’s liquor.

Then solicit feedback later on how many times the person got lost while following it, overall frustration level, etc. I think the results would be pretty interesting. (Or…predictable. I think addition of landmarks would blow the pants off the current system of street names and mile counts alone.) Not sure how much of an undertaking this would be (I don’t think the USGS/GIS has a database of sculptures and coordinates of big-box stores and local businesses), but counting streets and (possibly) stoplights ought to be fairly straightforward. (Calculating intersection angles should also be trivial using existing data.)

On a somewhat unrelated note, with thoughts of fun with Nintendo DS and a GPS receiver, today I came across this. Now everyone with a GPS capable of logging its position over time can upload this data after a drive to contribute to a free, publicly available and open-source street map database (i.e. Navteq without all the cost and licensing restrictions.) Currently you have to type in all the street names yourself, but I could see even the raw GPS results (hey, there is definitely a street here!) being useful for some applications.


So, apparently my bank has noticed that I’ve just transferred a huge hunk of money over to my checking account. Not a week later, I get this.

Yeah, I think they know what’s happening. Looking up this “circle gold” business, among its main selling points are ‘preferred’ rates on loans, and various amenities concerning home equity credit lines (you know, those things that come along with mortgages sometimes). One thing this superduper account does NOT provide is escape from Citizens Bank’s minimum balance requirement. No matter what precious metal account you have, if you don’t have $20,000 or more in your bank account (which I soon won’t!), they charge a maintenance fee of $20.00/mo. That’s more than the cost of basic cable, and worse than simply keeping your money in a tube sock under your mattress. Meanwhile, ING Direct sounds too good to be true (4+% APY, compared to the one-point-forget-it I’m getting now, and no minimum balance requirement), but several friends swear by it.

Yay Boston

“right this way to Riverway”

On fishing and catching

So, I just had an awesome conversation with this girl I met on POF. Smart, cute, geeky, isn’t into tall and muscular guys, likes to cook, likes to fish, and…single, and seems actually interested in me :-P How is this possible? From Equation 1*, we know that someone such as this does not actually exist: at least, there has to be some serious catch. But what is it? My first guess (by mad statisticry) would be some kind of serious, weapons-grade emotional baggage, but there are many other possibilities, such as:

Terminal Medical Condition (only a couple years to live)
An uncurable Venerial Disease
Has a Weenie
Hears Voices
Closet Lesbian
Adult Diapers
Severe Allergy to Everything, Including Me
Prehensile Tail
Psycho Stalker Ex (hey, what’s rustling under my bed?)
Very Severe OCD
Psychopathic and Good with Power Tools
…and Knows a Good Place to Bury the Body
…that she Engineered Herself for this Very Purpose
…and it’s Nearing Capacity
Likes the Taste of Human Blood
Severe Genetic Anomaly resulting in the Growth of Extra Limbs from Various Places, Random Fingernails Everywhere, Scales, Feathers, Etc.
Asymptomatic Ebola Carrier

Not that some of these haven’t stopped me before, but I don’t want to go in with any sort of unrealistic expectations ;-)

What do YOU think it is? The betting pool is now open!

* Brains x Beauty x Availability = Constant

Last week or so

So, the last week or so as promised:

Last weekend, had HAL from Indianer out here for a job interview at GJM’s (as of last week) ex-company, nothing definitive just yet, but everything sounds positive. We decided that when/if everything gets definitive, it would be cool to live together at the new place. We’re already talking about what kinds of servers to set up, and the joy that apparently is MythTV. Sunday we went out to grab a bite, and then on finishing realized, “hey, we’re pretty close to Davis”, so we got on the T, prowled through the Harvard science center (drat, the vintage scientific gear room was closed again), around the vicinity of MIT, then from there, along the Charles toward Boston proper. Then realized, “hey, we’re pretty close to JR’s place”, so I called up and see what they were up to there, and next thing you know, we’re all going out to the harbor islands. This was cool. Unfortunately I didn’t think to bring my camera (we were just going for a bite, remember :P) so phone-cam will have to do. We climbed around a fort for a bit, then walked all along the beach, played around in tide pools, and had a seal pup come right up to us on the beach and bask in the sun for a while. This was soo cute. Kind of unusual though, so I’m not sure if it was sick or just accustomed to humans. I ended up with one heck of a sunburn that soon turned into a good ol’ farmer’s tan.

Through the week, helping GJM move out and taking care of some housing stuff. Ok, so it’s officially happening. Thursday night I was idly poking around on Craigslist for powertools for my soon-to-be basement, and came across this strange, space-saving 3-in-1 rotating tool table for sale. It’s kind of like a vertically-oriented Lazy Susan for miter saws, drill presses, bench grinders, etc. Turn a handle and one tool pops to the top, with the other two are stowed beneath. This thing’s far too big to fit in my car, so I borrow my boss’s truck, grab some directions from Google Maps (tip: do not try this in New England) and proceed to get bass-ackwardly lost in the vicinity of Dorchester (Roslindale) at night. Finally get done with that stuff after 11 or so, leaving just enough time to pack, sleep a few hours and then bust ass for the airport.

The only direct flight out that morning left at 6:something AM (can’t get there by T, which starts running at 5:something) and its pricing had, shall we say, a high coefficient of ridiculosity, so I decided what the hell, I’ll take a chance on this one with a connection in Atlanta. Ah yeah, now I remember why I don’t do that. Every flight was 45 minutes or more late except the connecting flight, per Murphy’s Law 101. So this turned into six hours sitting around the Atlanta airport, thumb firmly up ass. It turns out the alternative may not have been much better; as we boarded (delayed), the 6am flight was still standing at the next gate, previously surrounded by not less than four fire trucks. Apparently there was a “strong smell of smoke” in the cabin before landing, so the fire crews went out to investigate, and apparently, after much dawdling around, couldn’t find anything wrong. It sounded like whoever was in change of getting them a new plane didn’t wanna, and was telling them to just keep using this one, smoke of unknown origin and all. The last thing I saw was the pilots had gotten out, walked the plank back to the terminal, and were personally laying down the law in front of a terminal full of passengers. “we’re going to be delayed a bit longer while we find a new aircraft, and talk to whoever we need to talk to to get it done… (explains smoke and everything) … we are NOT flying this plane!”

Actual 4th of July week stuff will be written up later, probably when I get back :P


Ah, ceiling, we meet again.

Details of the last couple weeks to follow when I can find time to write them.

In brief:

  • Trigger pulled. It’s officially too late to back out now. WTF am I smoking.
  • It sounds like HAL is, most likely, hired and moving out here. Quite possibly coming to live with me. It’ll be just like college all over again. Like college? WTF am I smoking.
  • I think I’m actually tired of beef. This is me we’re talking about here, so this is guaranteed to be temporary. But still. WTF am I smoking.



Quick update: HAL, a friend and former college roommate from Back Home (or close), is going to be in Boston this weekend for a job interview on Friday. I’d like to drag him around the city a bit and introduce him to my friends. What are people doing this weekend?

Looks like I have a very slight reprieve (Monday) to decide just what I’m doing about that whole homeowning thing; full-stop closing date would be july 18 at latest (rate lock expires).

The last couple days have been the Days from Hell. Maybe not the 7th circle of hell, reserved for child molesters and encyclopedia salesmen, but the more temperate outside fringe, where habitual porn surfers and serial jaywalkers are condemned to rig up micropower demos for energy harvesting applications (hardware and firmware) on zero notice, all the while being interrupted every 15 seconds to help them out with wiring, coding, come up with a reliable demo-quality adjustable disturbance source (Rezu! Yes, my company is now demoing cutting-edge research using vibrator parts), driver installs, fix the demos after they break them during while machining their enclosures, have long chats with customers, fish through email to forward some contacts to said customer, or immediately tackle some other subcrisis.

“Yeah, we need this stuff ready in like 3 days (1.5 of which are already taken up by your existing projects with immediate deadlines). We could have come to you with this last week, but, ah, didn’t. Did you used to have any plans tonight?”

Between all this stuff and 4am-still-staring-at-the-ceiling mortgage thought, I’m pretty fuckin’ beat.


Yeah, so I’m probably buying a house in a couple weeks.

“I…wait, what?”

Yeah, that’s what I said this morning too.

Anyway, as some of you know, one of my best friends in Boston, GJM, is pulling up anchor less than 2 weeks from now, moving to Tejas, and putting his place on the market. What was it…last week or so it feels like, I found out about the move for sure.

So he named a price, and I somewhat tentatively took it, saying “ok, lemme see if I can afford this” (talk to mortgage guy and see what my monthly cost will be, look at bank statements and current vs. expected expenses and see if the number in is bigger than the number out). Next thing I know I’ve coughed up 250 bones to a mortgage guy to lock in that day’s rate (they’re going crazy lately, in a bad way), and mortgage guy’s got an appraiser coming in, and I’ve got lawyers and inspectors on the phone. Meanwhile, mortgage guy has documents-to-sign 2-day-Fedexing to my office tomorrow (today), wanting a signed P&S (purchase and sales agreement) (being drafted now-ish, it sounds like) by Friday to get things rolling ASAP. Somewhere along the line I need to have a lawyer (who I don’t have yet) actually look at that stuff….you know, preferably before I sign it. It’s probably a good idea to let the appraisals and inspections complete BEFORE signing “I Do” as well. Sometimes processes with a known runtime can be paralleled as part of a Clever Optimization, but this is not one of those times.

This all is happening way too fast.

Now that I had time to put in a bit of research, even the buddy price looks a ways above market value. (bought at $x, selling at $x+$20k, meanwhile, the housing market in Suffolk County (mean valuations) has dropped by not less than $10k, if the graphs are to be believed.)

I like the idea of owning my own, single-family place. My own mini lab in the basement, my own backyard and garden, tighter control of who’s living there (I’d be renting out 2 bedrooms*, but for the love of Craigslist, no more StinkDudes), and only having to go through the whole messy process once (i.e. a clear migration path if I ever meet Ms. Right and that whole family thing happens). It’s a nice place, and in good shape. With two renters at >= $500 a month each, the total Poof Money** would be less than my current rent, even though the actual monthly payment will be huge (some of it’s going toward paying off the house). In any event though, I’ll be the bank’s bitch for the next 30 years.

You know what they say about trusting your gut? Right now my guts are going “OMGWTF, change!? Noooo! Go back to your room! Close the door! This is not happening!” Funny, that’s the same thing they said in the days and weeks leading up to my move to New England. I think I dropped a good 10 lbs in the process. I’ve learned not to really trust my guts for the most part, but be advised that they’re doing somersaults at the moment and telling me I’m a blistering idiot for considering a single-family at my age, income and level of romantic involvement (bachelor, 0th base), because a multi-family stack (even if a shithole) would turn a profit (this won’t), and I’m still going to have housemates. In effect I’ll be paying a lot more for effectively the same lifestyle I have now, but with the additional hassles of being a landlord, mowing lawns, shoveling snow, home repairs, and having to deal with it personally if someone trashes the place or some dispute breaks out.

If I back out within the next couple days I’m only out $250 for the mortgage/appraisal people, and probably some points on a friendship (going this far and then backing out). On or before Friday, it gets more serious than that.

What the hell do I do now.

* limited by a stinky Medford restriction on the number of unrelated people who can live together. That, and who would actually rent the tiny 4th bedroom, and whether 4 people would want to fight over a single bathroom.

** Poof Money: the amount that simply goes “poof!” at the end of the month. For the rental situation, this is rent. For homeowning, this is the property taxes, insurance and interest (not principal) on the mortgage, which alone I estimate at $1300-1600 a month, depending on the final size of the loan(s) I’d have to take out.

Das Blinkenlichten

[Clicky here for big photo album]

Heh, yeah, a little late writing this one. I was meaning to write this up…like, a couple months ago, right after the “public beta”, but didn’t get around to it.

So some friends and I had tickets to the Boston leg of the VNV Nation Judgment tour, April 18. Of course no electronica concert is complete without things that blink and blue LEDs, handheld spinny balls, etc. So my friend JR and I hacked together a wearable demo of Das Blinkenlichten, triggered by a microphone and envelope detector, which she wanted to wear at the show.

At probably midnight the night before, assembly was finished. I only had a handful of working nodes (or ones I thought were working…); she made wrist and neck bands out of some flexible clear rubbery sheeting we found in the lab, mounted LED nodes into each piece, and ran a long wire for each terminating in a 3-pin header. Two on each wristband and 3 on the neck; they looked good. The controller was stuffed into an acrylic folding case that once housed some free electronics samples, but was just the right depth (with some coaxing) to accommodate a 9V battery.

Next question…how are we getting a package of nearly naked electronics…with a microphone…through security at a concert where they’re confiscating recording devices…in Boston. It doesn’t even have somebody on it giving the finger.

Sure enough, at the doors security pulls me aside and wants to know what this electronics package is. One asks (jokingly), “That’s not a bomb, is it?” …the other, maybe not getting the joke, replies straight faced that it’s too small to be a bomb. I was eventually let through with my hoax device bag intact, though the mini-screwdriver set (for adjusting the gain pots) was confiscated as Sharp Objects. (Had to track down a security guy and got them back upon leaving.)

Read on, and on and on and on…

Hey, hey, hey, I’m quilty / And you’re quilty too

Yes, another toilet related, potty post :-P. Some time ago I mentioned my housemates and their toilet paper management strategies (or lack thereof). Today, I found out just how deep the rabbit hole goes! Sometime Sunday or so, I finished the (quilted) roll downstairs and, ever conscientious, went back upstairs to fetch a replacement, only to discover that we are again down to zero spare rolls. In a pinch (no pun intended), I restocked it with my Nose Blowin’ Roll* from my room, taken from that last big brick I bought. That batch was of about average quality…not the el-cheapo commercial single-ply sandpaper**, but the way these housemates go through the stuff and don’t replace it, I also didn’t splurge on the fancy, quilted scented flavored floral-patterned fluffy puff stuff either.

Today I go in there to find my downstairs housemate has actually removed this roll, planted it on the upstairs toilet tank and replaced it with a quilted roll from his secret stash. I guess it’s marginally excusable since he has a girlfriend that comes over, but I think now I’ve seen everything!

* ok, I suppose that sort of makes me a TP hoarder too…but my hoard is limited to a single, publicly viewable roll that’s just there for practical nose-honking purposes.

** TP aimed at the commercial or public facility market, with brand names such as “Executive Choice”, featuring a box with a fat red checkmark in it (like something you might see on an expense report spreadsheet) as a logo. As executives are often graded on bottom-line performance, not the public’s posterior happiness, this sounds to me like a similar warning label to “Contractor Grade” on hardware store products such as duct tape and garbage bags, selling at half the price of the regular ones. Might as well just market this under the brand name Lowest Bidder(tm) and be done with it. (If the guy coming to work on your house shows up with Contractor Grade anything, you might want to invest in some smoke alarms.)

Wicked Smaht idea of the day – re: sucky office suites


So I’m at the office writing up some BS in MS Word and I’ve just typed “(blah blah blah) as shown in Figure…”, because I’m about to refer to a figure. Now to make a crossreference. I select crossreference, the window pops up and defaults to “Table”. WTF? With a modern computer’s gigahertz of processing at its disposal, is it really so hard to recognize that the last six letters I typed were F-I-G-U-R-E, and do something remotely smart with this information?

Beyond that, I should be able to define, and store in my template, a list of standard crossreference-able items (Figure, Table, Section, Task, Claim, etc.). Then, every time I type something in a paragraph that matches one of these patterns ( e.g. “Figure 1”), it should turn gray and (if it exists) automatically become a cross-reference to that item. Alternatively, I should be able to right-click on the “Figure 1” I just typed and select ‘AutoCrossreference’. Or simply type Figure, right-click on it and have a popup box of Figures (and of course, NOT Tables, Claims, etc.) appear.


I’ve been in a pissy mood for a while. I guess it just kind of happens from time to time, for reasons not entirely known. It’s that state of bored and aimless, non-productive, irritable and wanting to stay in bed avoiding people. Probably more of a random-emotional-state thing, but here are some specific things that pissed me off lately:

Getting out of the shower, toweling off and discovering that StinkDude has decided to use MY GODDAMN TOWEL to wipe off all the Brillo dust after shaving his head, and now I look like a Chia pet. Gawd, I hope that was only head hair. Had to shower all over again, and pull an old towel out of my dirty laundry pile.

Finding that one or more housemates (quite possibly the same) has been using my toiletries, including, but not limited to, toothpaste, Axe spray deodorant, and my electric shaver. Again, hopefully on head-hair only.

General state of not getting jack shit worth of actual Work done at work (you know, on the projects I actually manage and such) because every 5 minutes, someone is coming in to ask stupid computer questions or have me put out some fire or another. Right now it’s another proposal round anyway, so nobody’s getting jack shit done, and I don’t have any hours on proposal-writing, other-peoples’-proposals proofreading, spare router fixing, production router fixing, computer fixing, project server reinstalling, intern babysitting, Senior Engineer babysitting, mechie intern babysitting, parts ordering, Project Review viewgraph making, stupid customer question answering, Commercialization Strategy bullshitting, strategic partner meeting, NDA signing, purchase order raising, or other-peoples’-experiments jerry rigging.

My web host sent out an email yesterday morning saying my account (and thousands of other customers just like it) was hacked thanks to a security flaw in their web panel. I guess I should be glad that they actually admitted it, rather than quietly reload everything from last week’s backup tapes and claim a disk crashed or something. Still, that meant being up til 4am yesterday changing passwords, cleaning out all the spam and exploit links the h4x0r inserted into my files, and performing a complete audit of the account to make sure all of them were gotten. In the course of investigating the breach, I found the h4x0r’s site containing a 4MB zipfile of credit card numbers and keylogger results triggered by certain banking sites I’d never heard of, e.g. (only found this out after downloading and opening it). Not sure what to do with this, since it was on a Russian site (I don’t speak Russian) and their enforcement against this sort of activity seems to be rather…lax. Need sleep…

One of my best buddies in Boston is pulling up stakes and leaving town, moving to Texas at the end of the month.

One of my housemates is leaving at the end of June, too…since the leases aren’t up until August, he has to find a replacement. Tonight my landlord calls up pissing and moaning, saying that a prospective tenant was in today, but apparently disappeared after making some comments about the place’s cleanliness. Now, we ain’t running a hospital or anything here, but the place is in pretty decent shape – certainly cleaner than when I moved in, and we’re making specific efforts to keep the common areas tidy. Anyway, here he calls trying to get me to authorize bringing a maid service in, and splitting the cost among us. Yeah, of course I can authorize something like that without talking first (I was on the road, on the way to dinner plans) to any of the other people living here that would be footing this bill. Nevermind that if I’m going to have someone moving in with me, I might actually like to meet this person first, unlike the last two new members here (a random Tufts stoner and StinkDude). I get the feeling that putting on a false air of immaculacy to get neatniks in here is just going to cause trouble down the road; besides the correlation I’ve tended to notice between neatnikicity and other forms of neurosis, our existing crew is probably not that compatible with neatniks. Might as well bring in a couple militant vegans while you’re at it (hide the two grills sitting out back for a day). I don’t even want to think about the fur that’s going to fly when said neatnik finds StinkDude borrowing his toothbrush (ok, slightly exaggerating…I sincerely hope…).


Looks like I have a new project for next week, once this weeks messy proposals nastiness is out of the way. A staffer at a Russian ISP tipped me off to an old malware company learning a new trick, with essentially a distributed, keyboard-watching spy network turning your typos into gold in the form of misspelled domain registrations leading to portal-potties full of ad-trash. First step is figuring out their program’s nuisance-grade request obfuscation (calling it “encryption” would be like calling a McDonald’s trainee a chef, but I haven’t gotten around to decoding it yet); next step is flooding it with statistically significant bogus requests and seeing if they take the bait. Third step, as you know, is profit! publishing the findings for peer-review, and retaining a lawyer*.

PS. VMWare Player kicks ass. This is free (as in beer) virtual machine software that runs on Windoze, Linux and probably a couple others. Free as in catch did you say? Of course there is a catch: it won’t let you create your own virtual machine images (officially…), only download and run pre-made ones. However, here is also a great article on creating your own custom images using QEmu, an open-source virtualization program that can write image files in VMWare player’s format. The easiest way to set up a dodgy-software sandbox is create a blank IDE (or SCSI, etc.) drive image using Qemu, start it inside VMWare Player, pop in your favorite** OS install CD, and close VMWare & make a copy of the image files when the OS finishes installing. Viola, you now have a perpetually clean OS copy to run dangerous crap on! When finished, simply close VMWare again and overwrite the now dirty copy with your saved clean one.

*for when theirs inevitably find out that said findings have been published, and raises a hissy. Or, move to Finland and simply thumb nose at malware vendor…

** as measured by the remaining thickness of the install CD (you reinstalled Windows HOW many times? Gosh, you must love it!).

Toilettesitz nicht fuer gewerken bei das dumbkopfen

Found this on ye olde slashdot today:
The Social Norm of Leaving the Toilet Seat Down: A Game Theoretic Analysis

Nothing I haven’t said before of course, but their version invokes game theory and your calculator.

Now, I have some questions:
1) Does anyone actually make a big issue of toilet seat state (i.e. the yelling factor)?
2) Isn’t it the slightest bit incongruous in our modern era of equality (post-1920) to specifically impose one over another?
3) Do people actually “fall in”? (or for the man-specific case, pee in pitch darkness without first checking the state of the seat and/or lid and make a huge mess?)
3a) Is this due to inability to work a terlet seat, or inablility to work a light switch?

Please advise…

Notes on Windows 2000 Server Edition…

Windows should not be used for servers. End of discussion.
OSes which have a Registry should not be used for servers.
OSes which can only be configured through a GUI should not be used for servers.

Three guesses why I didn’t get jack done today, why the entire office has no website or email, and what I’ll likely be doing tomorrow.

Leadership in educashun

Maybe their leadership was working too hard to go to school…

MA’s haunted house law

Digging for an alleged MA/Medford statute that forbids renting out rooms in a single-family dwelling, and (unrelatedly) more than three unrelated people from living together, I came across this one. Apparently if a house is believed to be haunted, you don’t have to tell potential tenants/buyers that unless they ask.

/me breaks out his infrared lens and mass spectre-ometer

Cars with Stupid Smarts

Note to self: Never buy a modern car unless you can disable all the “smarts” in a sneaky enough way as to not void the warranty. I’m sure the engineers who build in said “smarts” have the best of intentions, but it doesn’t do much good for confidence when a large, dangerous piece of machinery under your control is continually second-guessing you. My rental in MD had several of these traits, which did a great job of making me glad my own car (’96 vintage) is smart enough to play dumb.

Here are some specific stupid smarts I never want to see in a vehicle:

  • Window-Knows-Best
  • Ok, you’re the driver, master of this metal beast, doing 85 down 95 and you want to open your window a crack – just a crack – to get some air, without turning your drive into an impromptu wind tunnel test. So you ever so briefly tap the window-down button and ZZZZZT! It gets a mind of its own, zips all the way to the bottom and blows all your important papers out the window. Not an electrical fault; they’re actually designing ’em that way now. Seriously, wtf?

  • Car alarm with an attachment disorder
  • The purpose of a car alarm is to keep thieves–as in real ones–out of your vehicle. The alarm should not go off when you validly unlock the vehicle first, using its own key, then open the door. If keys are no longer considered a strong enough form of authentication, they shouldn’t unlock the door in the first place, let alone start the vehicle. The rental did exactly this, including right at the entrance to a secure facility, which I was sure would bring beefy coppers running. I figured out eventually that if I only ever locked or unlocked it with the keyless entry fob, it wouldn’t alarm when opened. (Since in my 8+ years of driving, I’ve only ever owned cars that you unlock with a key, that’s kind of the habit I’m in.)

    Now, I’m sure there’s some “system” to these newer, nondeterministic styles of car alarms, but I certainly don’t have the time or give-a-shit to psychoanalyze each manufacturer’s alarm engineer and work out just what the hell he was thinking. I think some have operation that’s dependent on which method you used to lock the door most recently (power lock button, manual lock button, key, or keyfob lock button), forcing you to remember which you used each time and use the exact same procedure to unlock when you return. Some, like my old man’s ‘Vette, punish you for using the keyfob button to lock (alarm sets if the fob is used, not if the switch is used), and some the exact other way around. I think some just alarm randomly because they like the attention.

    (For this particular car, opening the door – alarm or not – also caused the hazard blinkers to sometimes, but not always, turn on and blink until the key was inserted. I still have no idea what the triggering factor(s) for that were.)

  • Auto-locking doors
  • Which brings me to another one in the same vein, doors that lock themselves, whether anyone is inside or not. Even if the car knows the keys are not on the driver but in fact in the ignition with the engine running. My uncle had this happen on one memorable occasion with a Buick Skylark. We were meeting up for a nice family-reunion dinner at this lodge, so he pulls up right in front and gets out to help my grandma inside, leaving the engine idling because he’ll only be a minute. The moment all doors were shut, however, the car locked itself. There he is with a running car stranded in the fire lane. At that moment the vehicle was destined for a date with wirecutters to fix this design flaw, but not without a date with the locksmith first.

    (As an aside, compounding this idiotic misfeature is the trend toward manual lock buttons that slide all the way down into the door when locked–probably to make it harder to jigger open with a coathanger–but also making it difficult or impossible to exit the vehicle if the electrical system fails, the way it might during a fiery head-on or a close encounter with a body of water.)

    For my rental this week (and hopefully industry-wide), the schmarts folks have relented, at least somewhat: the doors only auto-locked once the vehicle exceeded about 15mph (albeit with the disappearing lock levers mentioned above). Perhaps some previous-gen autolock trapped keys and a baby in a car during a heatwave, resulting in a death while waiting for the locksmith and a subsequent lawsuit, ultimately sparing future motorists from this particular flavor of idiocy.

  • Semiautomatic shifters
  • This could take a bit of explaining. There once were two types of transmission: automatic and manual (stick). Now, for the BMW owners who will mostly use it for transporting groceries and kids to soccer practice, but still fancy themselves performance drivers (waiting to drop the hammer on that 17 year old in his mom’s minivan, boy did he have it coming), there are a few different variants of auto-manual hybrid. Some are a mostly-auto that can be “bumped” up and down for those times when one really needs to show the Audi next lane over who’s boss; at the other end of the spectrum are those that, most of the time, look and feel like a real stick shift. But if it doesn’t like the way you’re shifting, it will go ahead and do it for you. Many 6-speed manuals have some built-in nannyware to select the next gear for you, physically locking out the one you actually wanted. (Depending on speed, throttle position, engine temp and probably the phase of the moon, these will “skip-shift”, locking out 2nd and 3rd gear so you have to shift from 1st directly to 4th. Do a quick poke for skip-shift and the entire result set will consist of products, services and instructions on how to GET RID OF THIS STUPID FEATURE. That should tell you something.)

    (Note: Bureaucrats own most of the blame for this one, not auto manufacturers directly: per the Energy Tax Act of 1978, “performance” vehicles (lower city gas mileage than the average grocery-getter for equivalent weight) are often saddled with a Gas Guzzler tax, but adding a skip-shift feature lets them off the hook. Note this only applies to sportscars; light trucks (read: SUVs) are specifically excluded and can guzzle all they like penalty-free.)

  • “Smart” (timered) dome/headlights/radio
  • The #1 cause of a dead car battery is leaving the headlights or dome light on overnight. This is one of those mistakes most motorists make exactly once.

    The first place I saw timered “courtesy” lighting was my folks’ 93 Nissan minivan. Upon exiting the vehicle, rather than turn off once all the doors shut, the interior lights stay full-on for a preprogrammed 15 seconds, then perform a slow and dramatic fade-out as if for Act 1 at the Dashboard Orpheum. Or not, depending on the positions of two independent 3-way switches for the front and rear dome lights.

    By now (see previous examples), you’ve learned to distrust all these “smart” behaviors as cases of defective by design, behaving as they do, sometimes in one way, sometimes in another, with seemingly no rhyme or reason. So when you turn off the headlights but they don’t shut off, or you take the keys out but the radio stays on (shutting off only the moment all doors are closed again, like an acoustic analogue of the refrigerator light), or you close and lock it only to notice that the interior lights are still on, this does not exactly instill confidence (rather, visions of jumper cables might start dancing in your head). So the driver accustomed to stupid smarts feels obligated to watch and wait to make sure that all the lights and gizmos actually do turn off after the manufacturer’s various courtesy timers for each gizmo expire.

But for shit drivers… the SMART feature I want:
You know how for obnoxious jerks, AIM has a warn button? Cars should have a paintball button.

And I thought couples in my tent sounded icky…

Had JK from work follow me home yesterday to borrow my tent for this weekend. So we’re on the couch shooting the shit for a minute, when all of the sudden…yyyyeah, holy loud moaning housemate sex one room over Batman. I didn’t know my housemate’s girl was a moaner :-P I guess that’s (per Murphy’s Law 101*) one of those things you only find out when you have guests over.

* sign it will be One of Those Mornings: “did you know coffee creamer and orange juice come in EXACTLY the same kind of waxed cardboard jug?” -me, at yesterday’s staff meeting