Archive for November, 2005


Experts: Introverted youth have deep roots for behavior

Old dudes with too much freetime on their hands

I spent a good portion of the day Saturday chasing around with GJM on the “Tour de Chooch”, in which all these dudes in MA arrange to have an open-house all on the same weekend to show off their insanely elaborate model railroad setups in their basements. Kinda like the canonical “teenaged hackers in their parents’ basements” image, except these guys are far from teenagers and all own their own basements. My grandpa was into model railroading, and I have fond memories of playing with the big O-scale set we’d put up around the Christmas tree every year when I was a young ‘un, but truth be told I’m not really into the hobby. Still, it was fun to cruise around for a day just to see the level of time, expense and effort these guys had put into it. At the very first house we stopped at, I was pretty much floored. It was a many-layered n-scale setup spanning hundreds of square feet, featuring a working ski lift, factories with wisps of colored cotton smoke pouring from the stacks, full-blown carnival scene with ferris wheel, and recessed multicolor lighting with which he could simulate the different lighting of various weather conditions and seasons. Over ten thousand trees alone underlined the years that had gone into the layout, which transitioned smoothly from a snowy alpine scene to green valleys to a sleepy Midwestern town to sheer rocky mountain cliffs with elaborate water features to an intricately-flowering marshland (including a beautifully-cascading waterfall in some kind of hard resin) to a busy Roaring 20s-esque cityscape.

We ended up going around to 3 different houses, with layouts of varying levels of complexity. There was an old guy at the first place (what am I saying? They were all old guys) who would start talking, I wasn’t sure to whom (and didn’t get over to find out; it was crowded there), and the sentence would start, but the 3rd word would repeat three times, and then the 5th and 6th might loop in sequence a couple times, then a few more, then the 2nd word again… People probably just assumed old and senile…I was thinking “wow, he talks the way I think.”

We spent some of the snowy car trip criticizing everyone else’s driving (first snowfall in about a month; yes, everyone does simultaneously forget how to drive), and with GJM teaching me a little more dirty Afrikaans (I can now go into a theoretical SA cathouse and specifically request skoon poes [“clean cunt”], as if such an animal would actually exist, or I would ever find myself voluntarily in a cathouse). Speaking of harmless anatomical references, not too long later GJM pointed out the huge sign of some guy hawking houses, or office space or something, by the name of Dick Lepine. I think he was amused that someone would put “Dick” in such big letters that close to the road, even before I pointed out that the poor dude’s last name was also an anagram for “penile”. All right, maybe my coffee was finally starting to kick in. I think we were in Groton… I was staring out the window mostly paying too much attention to street signs, and the word density thereof – DUNSTABLE ST followed by a FORE ST (indeed, couldn’t see it for the trees) followed by a KEYES… I was kind of thinking, “geez, whoever named the streets must be related to me too…”

Think I said the following at some point: “Dude, if I ever have this much free time on my hands, just put a bullet right here, right between the eyes. And use a silencer; I don’t like loud noises.” (Then again, maybe I was just jealous about the “free time” thing.)

First remote Thanksgiving, or, my week on Marion St.

I celebrated this Thanksgiving in Boston, away from my family for…I think, the first time ever. Blame a lack of priorities or planning or pretty much anything else, but the end result is about the same. For some reason the major holidays, rather than being times of joy and togetherness, have always just kind of bummed me out. Several of the major ones are concentrated toward the dark, wintery part of the year; maybe that is a contributing factor. Historically, my family has either (depending on which side you’re talking about) gone nuts obsessing over them, or kind of written them off as one of those annoying things people do from time to time.

Of my two best friends in Boston, one was on vacation for the week and the other was/is barely speaking to me, for reasons I still don’t comprehend. I tend to have a small number of close, true friends, and would much rather have this than a hundred people I only barely know, who would just as soon stab me in the back as speak to me if they thought it would get them a bit ahead in life. But not since my move to Boston has it really hit home how tenuous that scenario really is – how great and awful an impact on my life it would be, socially and otherwise, if something happened suddenly to even just a few key people. And as much as my species for the most part just tends to piss me off, it is inexplicably comforting to have other trusted people around sometimes. I tend to be extremely self-sufficient, tending not to need or seek help or advice from others…still, it’s sobering when you realize how close you are to having no one left to turn to if you ever needed to.

Anyway, my boss* invited me to Thanksgiving dinner with his family and some of their neighbors. I know, that probably sounds totally lame, but it was awesome. There was so much food, and it was terrific…the conversation was polite and civil, their kids were adorable, no yelling, insulting, crude sex talk and innuendos at the table**, cigarette smoke, nobody threw the turkey… Funny how sometimes the significance of something is carried on the backs of such little things, like the way people interacted with one another…positive energy, if such a thing can be measured.

After dinner (and probably too much red wine), I fell almost immediately into a nap (last time I did that, it wasn’t a particularly pleasant experience, but I’m not sure if I should document it) ’til about 1am, then tried to actually go to sleep and failed, and ended up talking to my brother online ’til about 5-something AM. Eventually went to bed/sleep, and not an hour later, about 6:20 AM I’m woken up by every smoke alarm in the house going off. If there’s one thing I associate with smoke alarms, it’s false alarms, so I dragged myself out of bed (clothes still on) and came out of my room to find and kill it. My mood kind of changed a little bit when I smelled the smoke drifting through the house, reeking of burning paper and oil. Then it was a beeline for the front door, or at least close enough to it to verify an unobstructed exit, then through the house looking for the fire. No fire per se, just a lot of stinky smoke… By this time my housemate Jay was awake and out of his room, the heating was shut off and I was relieved about not having to make an emergency gerbil-rescue run back upstairs***, and our landlord would be out that morning to look at the boiler (apparently, boilers get unhappy very quickly when they run out of water and the auto-shutoff mechanism fails). Needless to say though, not much more sleeping happened that morning.

I spent the Wednesday before, and indeed, most of the holiday weekend, with my buddy GJM just a few doors down from there. Between various home-improvement projects (me, being a stereotypical male? Hey…power tools rock. Besides, I might actually have a house / wife / etc. some day, and need to know this stuff :-) , nearly getting into a fistfight with a staff member at Lowe’s Home Improvement****, traipsing around the local northeast chasing a bunch of train nuts (to be documented), amateur plumbing and some tree transplanting (CM is awesome too, in the uncannily comfortable way), we got that whole quality-time thing licked (not to mention most of the Captain Morgan bottle. Probably not the best idea in conjunction with power tools, electric saws and fire [with or without meat cooking over it], but we still have all our fingers).

* it almost feels funny referring to an actually cool person as my boss, because that’s always struck me as being sort of a dirty word. Truth be told he isn’t very boss-like, at least in the stereotypical short dic(k)tator sense of the word.
** not that I have a problem usually with that…hell, I can be a real perv sometimes myself. But a family dinner gathering maybe isn’t the best place for it.
*** any firefighter will howl at you to NEVER NEVER even consider going back for something, but I know a few people who would all but kill me for not considering it, too.
**** more accurately, GJM nearly getting into a fistfight. But if he took a hit, I would have to jump in on principle alone. Good friends are hard to come by…and harder to keep.

Playlist Oracle memememememe

Instructions: Set music player to shuffle. Ask the following questions, and hit ‘next song’. The title of the song will be the answer to your question.

Question: What do you think of me, playlist?
Answer: Stabbing Westward- Save Yourself

Question: Will I have a happy life?
Answer: Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction – Elvis Died For You

…I guess that means yes? I never particularly cared for Elvis, anyway.

Question: What do my friends really think of me?
Answer: The Police – Russians

…I’m a commie bastard, beautiful. Thanks, friends.

Question: Do people secretly lust after me?
Answer: Dio with Yngwie Malmsteen – Dream On

…gee, thanks.

Question: What should I do with my life?
Answer: Members Of Mayday – Datapop

…I should spend more time on the computer?

Question: Why must life be so full of pain?
Answer: Eric Johnson – Cliffs of Dover

…if everyone else I knew jumped off of them, I guess I would too. And it would hurt like hell.

Question: How can I maximize my pleasure during sex?
Answer: Heart – Alone

…OK…that’s not even funny.

Question: Will I ever have children?
Answer: The Who – Pinball Wizard

…hmm, deaf dumb and blind ones, that sure play a mean pinball?…

Question: Will I die happy?
Answer: Pet Shop Boys – It’s A Sin (Technopop remix)

…err, doesn’t really answer the question…(but trying to hint about where I’m going afterwards?)

Question: Can you give me some advice?
Answer: Belinda Carlisle – Circle in the Sand

…I should spend more (than zero) time at the beach. Or maybe talk to Sir Huzzah about that whole circle of protection thing…

Question: What do you think happiness is?
Answer: Ace of Base – Beautiful Life

…At least it didn’t say happiness is…being happy.

Question: What’s my favorite fetish?
Answer: Kansas – Carry On My Wayward Son

…Hey, that only happened once! And what happens at boy scout camp stays at boy scout camp! ;-)

“…and T* has never baked before.” – my mom, re(e)ferring to baking cookies…if only they knew…

More Xbox…!

This is the thread that never ends, it just goes on and on my friends… (for anyone who’s been living under a rock, the longest trail of backward references in the history of this bloggg begins here.

This week I received 4 urgent(-looking) letters from Wells Fargo, saying in turn that a) the fraud investigation for the old account has been closed (bet they didn’t even look for the guy); b) they caught and fixed the double-credit issue ranted about in my previous entry on this subject (alas, free $159 is back out of my pocket); c) I need to call them immediately about some urgent matter on my new account; d) my credit limit has been increased.

Anyway, the urgent matter (called back er…. a week or 2 after I got the letter, when I could be bothered to open it; hey, I was busy) was that they were crediting ~ $2 back to my account that they didn’t before…shipping charges or some nonsense. (Technically, based on what an hour of my time is billed at, it cost me more than that to pick up the phone and do all that talking ;) Incidentally, I found it really interesting that their response to a stolen account was to raise the limit and give some theoretical ne’er-do-well more to (try to) steal the next time around.

Throw a rock

into a pond and the ripples you produce will carry all the way to the edge, regardless of its size. Some of the energy will dissipate into the distant shore, given away as heat and sound from a collision that is never perfectly inelastic, but what’s left of that ripple will reflect, interacting with itself, and other ripples, and the complexities of the shoreline, until the next collision, and the process repeats. That ripple will still be measurable, on some level, a year from now. Some would say that the universe will end before it disappears completely.

One stone.

This week

monday: Out of the blue “WTF?!” condition…not documenting publicly since it involves a good friend and some possibly private stuff.

tuesday: “Need a valve actuator PID controller with 100ms settling time* for this project you’ve never heard of before, even though we’ve been working on it for $bignum time now, and have known we needed a controller for probably longer than that…anyway, figured we should probably tell you about it now since the project ends this month….so, by the end of next week, yeah, that’d be great…”

wednesday: “Need a shippable prototype of the TAPE electronics, full repeatability characterization, a few more lab prototypes just for good measure, how about next week? Yeah, that’d be great…”

thursday: IPF prototype thingymabob device works-works-works, so Je* schedules a demonstration for tomorrow. Just to make sure everything will run smoothly, we test-test-test, making sure everything’s perfect and all the specs are met. It runs 30 seconds (doesn’t sound like much, but that’s way longer than it’s designed to go in one burst) with all the settings maxed out, just beautifully. There are tears in our eyes.

Met up that evening for a first date with LJ**, where all my best-laid dinner plans were foiled by long waits. (I mean, who all decides Thursday evening is when all of Boston should be out on the town at once? Honestly.) Typically awkward first-date thing, we’re both a little too quiet maybe, but at least nobody ditched or showed up wielding chainsaws or anything. Just kind of…meh.

friday: “I smoke two FETs in the morning, I smoke two FETs at night. I smoke two FETs in the afternoon, it makes the lab all bright. I smoke two FETs on demo day, and two the night before. I smoke two FETs before I smoke two FETs, and then I smoke two more…”

Grr. How come stuff always works just fine until you schedule a demo of it? We charge up the battery overnight and run it once before the demo, only 10 seconds, just to be sure there are no surprises. Let it cool off for a couple minutes, run it again…


IPF demo postponed indefinitely… There are tears in our eyes again, but for different reasons. Prototype’s power section continues to blow up one or the other pair of MOSFETs repeatedly and without warning throughout the day, and we have no idea why. Je* is heading out bright and early Monday morning to show the prototype off to a bunch of really important dudes, so this is kinda trouble.

Also, “Hey, we just found this thingy for sale online that compiles LABVIEW programs so that they can run on that DSP-thingy you’ve been painstakingly coding on since last year. I bet it will run way faster than hand-optimized C, and then we can design all our filters in LABVIEW! Oh BTW, that needs to be working by next week….”

saturday: Up at the buttcrack of dawn to set out for Jaffrey, NH on a camping trip with some of the work crew. Alternatively, a drinking trip that also happened to involve camping. Bright and early we set off up Mt. Monadnock…it was a warm, beautiful and nearly cloudless day. Going up, it almost felt like deja vu…I could vividly remember last year’s trip to the same place, as if it happened the day before. I didn’t even take many pictures, because everything looked so eerily unchanged from the last time. I would be standing in a particular spot framing a shot, then realize I had already taken this exact picture, from the exact spot, a year ago. Even the lighting was identical; I was struck by the way the sunlight reflected off of a particular, dense array of already leafless twigs, just as it “always” had. It kind of made me stop and notice that in many ways, not much in my life in general has really changed since a year ago today. Kind of humbling; makes me feel as though I haven’t really been applying myself to anything important and meaningful of late… just kind of falling into the same daily grind.

Anyway, the trip turned out to be a lot of fun. My calves were rather tender the next day, probably from being “on the brakes” the whole way down waiting for people :) …by near the bottom of the mt., my leg muscles were getting prone to going unstable (oscillatory) in certain positions. After all that, fire and food all day; I somehow regained my “hollow-legged eating machine” reputation all over again (hey guys, I didn’t even eat that much). I could go on all day, but what happens in Jaffrey stays in Jaffrey, especially now that my bloggg has a cult following around the ol’ workplace (or maybe not really, but hey, I can be paranoid)….you don’t get to hear about all the gossip, embarrassing stories, work-related ranting, or who spooned who in The Rod’s tent; sorry :-)

sunday: Arrrrggghhhh….is it morning, already? Got home around noonish, immediately took an aspirin and crashed on my bed for a few hours, still smelling strongly of campfire. Woke up just in time to take a long shower and head off to see Bauhaus play the Orpheum. Awesome! I think I wasn’t paying that much attention to fashion when I woke up though, and came a little under/over/mis-dressed (meaning, reflecting too many photons) for the occasion. They did a cover of Ziggy Stardust that would have had K* creaming his jeans.

monday: 9:45am: “Yeah, I had a great time on our date, but you’re too young and too skinny. I should have realized that a couple weeks ago at Toast. Sorry.” -LJ

10:30am: “Yyyyyeah, we just bought that wankview labview cross-compiler-ma-dealy, only $3,995***. Do you know anything about it? Oh, documentation? Oh, I figured we would buy it first, then worry about seeing if it would actually work for our application, because hey, we’re on a schedule here.”

5:15pm: “OK, this demo is supposed to make the DSP board generate a sine wave…wait, where is it?” -J
“See those little spikes on the scope every so often? Zoom in on one…keep zooming…more….more…” -me
(zooming in) -J
“There you go, 512 samples of a sine wave” -me
“…but what’s all this empty space in between?” -J
“That’s where it’s computing the next 512 samples…” -me

Later on, went over to GJM’s house, where GJM and I reacquainted ourselves with the Cap’n (ahh, memoriesmemories…), then picked up some power tools and got the heavy swinging-trapdoor-and-ladder-to-the-attic-assembly almost installed.

tuesday: “Heyyyy…how’s that actuator controller looking?” -AL
“Working on it right now…just got the parts in, stole a spare processor board from TAPE, and just finishing up the DAC code now.” -me
“That’s great…hey, apparently we need a resolution of 5 microinches…can it do that?” -AL
“…microinch…?” -me
(a decimal point and zeroes start filling across my whiteboard, and eventually a 5 appears at the end of them) -AL
“Umm…” -me
“So, for the laser displacement sensor****, you’ll probably want to add some kind of a filter…when we were trying it on the valve, the output value had about a millimeter of jitter on it, and some kind of drift like this…” -AL

* “…I figure you could just reuse the code and design from the (other project) actuator (with the 2-minute settling time), right?”

** luckily this proto-relationship failed, otherwise this whole initials thing would start to get confusing fast for the people on LiveJournal.

*** that’s only one order of magnitude more than the board itself.

**** which will be the feedback source we use to tell when we’re within 5 microinches of the target deflection…

Category: Things I could have believed more wholeheartedly last week

“Don’t sweat the small stuff. More than that – don’t even sweat the big stuff. Because life can only kill you once, and the fact that you’re still around to sweat stuff means it missed. So nyarrr.” -me

“There is nothing more satisfying than having someone take a shot at you, and miss.” -Murphy



Rain fade

Spending way too long this evening twiddling around with NetStumbler and my wifi antenna trying to (re-)pick up a signal from a neighbor’s house, maybe because it rained this evening, or maybe because the people who actually own those signals are walking around in their houses and inadvertently interfering with them, or…wait, it’s because our ongoing internet saga is still ongoing, because Comcast can’t simply change the name on the bill. All we wanted was to change the name the bills are addressed to so that they actually get delivered to us, not our landlord, but apparently this involves cancelling the old account, (disconnecting the cable?), shipping back the modem, creating a new account, (reconnecting the cable?), getting the modem sent back to us. With luck they’ll realize they’re sending out a disconnect-guy and a reconnect-guy, get smart and collapse these into a “don’t send a guy out” guy (knowing my luck though, they’ll get out of sequence such that the reconnect-guy gets there first, sees our cable is already live and goes home, then the disconnect-guy comes…) Anyway, they’re sending a self-install guy out on Tues. to hand us the self-install kit and, presumably, go home. It would be funny to just leave the old modem connected and blinking on the nice live cable and point self-install guy to it when he asks to see where I’ll be self-installing the modem he hands me, pointing out the idiocy of this whole scenario, but (again, the my-luck thing) he’ll probably just not give us the modem for the new account and we’ll get socked with two ridiculous not-returned-equipment charges (for this one, not returned because duh, you need a cable modem to use cable internet, and ultimately for the one self-install guy didn’t give us because he saw we already had one). (Either I’m being overly cynical here, or I know the bureaucratic idiocy of companies all too well; you are free to take your pick.)

Today after the aforementioned lab-trekking and before the aforementioned car-dropping (see previous entry), I was at No*’s house and we watched The Net…I forgot how bad that movie was, in the amusing sense of bad (since we actually know stuff about computers, movies involving “hackers” kind of just end up being all comedies). Or mostly I paid too much attention to the redgreenblueredgreenblueredgreenblue of the DLP projector painting each frame one color at a time, and the rainbow frames happened to integrate into The Net as long as my eyes and/or the scene didn’t move too quickly. One of those little blessings/curses of being me is that I notice everything; my attention is kind of everywhere all at once, at seemingly hundreds of samples each second. Usually it just ends up being more “stuff” than I can process, but a side effect is that I think I pick up subtleties, those little touches (or lack thereof) that a lot of people wouldn’t. Figuring out what they mean (if anything), though, that’s another matter.

Addendum to previous entry (more like a kick in the piel..)

I’m “with wheels” for two whole days and already having to do the Please Don’t Tow Me Shuffle. I just returned from leaving my car at work because tomorrow my area (or all of Medford?) is having a pop street sweeping; the notices appeared, as far as I know, sometime today. I first saw them when I left my house today to take the TrashAmp to my lab at work and filch parts finally fix it up. Because everyone goes to the electronics lab on sunday afternoons, right? Good, because if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have seen the surprise notices because the next time I left the house today was after dark (which is no later than about 5pm these days)…I would have been spending tomorrow calling up the big three impound lots Medford racketeers has agreements with to find out which one had my car.

There’s no reason in hell why the city should feel that <= 24h notice is sufficient, given that you're "allowed" to park in one spot (where not metered, restricted, permit...) for 48h consecutively. Theoretically one should be able to actually leave said car unattended for that entire length of time, rather than have to poll the street at the 24th hour to check for impending doom. America has really been lax on the whole revolting thing lately, but when it does happen, it won't be touched off by abortion or stem cells or questionable elections. I think it'll be the petty bullshit like this that will serve as the catalyst.

Piele and wiele, reunited at last

Woo, I have my car back. Note to self: Never get it fixed at the dealer again. Unless they’re making starters out of solid gold now, I just got a screwin’.

What I’m thinking now…. Home Depot run! My shopping list is as follows:

Large metal pins + cotter pins + plastic rolly apparatus (don’t know how to describe it; I’ll know ’em when I see ’em) to finally assemble the new free futon in our living room I got from GJM with some parts missing;

Dirt, and hanging pots for all my hanging plants that currently aren’t;

Thick silver chain for purely decorative purposes;



Plexiglass (if they even carry it);

Anything else I can think of. Anyone else in the Boston area craving hardware? Let me know and we’ll organize a trip :)

Pictures of p1r8ed plants…

Everyone does one of these totally annoying posts where they post some meaningless triviata of their life with (poorly-composed, blurry,) huge pictures that take forever to render. So…. The plants in my room / office, and where they came from :-) With very few exceptions, all of these are pirated from somewhere.

I don’t know what this is exactly… grown from a cutting of a plant that accompanied my Grandma N’s funeral (sophomore year of college). There was a tag on the original naming it a ‘Covette’ (I’d smell a trademark suit, but this has less wheels) and actually claiming a US patent on it (blood = boil boil boil), although I’ve seen this type of plant all over the place.

Not actually growing right now :-) But they’re pretty and they brighten up my room…it could use a little brightening this time of year. (yes, I’m a dude, and I like flowers. Deal.) The one on the left is a gift from a very good friend in Boston. My mom painted the one on the right long ago, found it during some basement cleaning and was going to throw it out. (The partially visible bumper sticker was IIRC found on the sidewalk near Davis Square…actually, I think J.R. found it and stuck it to my butt!)

Golden Pothos, or Devil’s Ivy(?), or whatever these are called…one hanging from each of my windows, a third greening up my office a bit. Housemate E.R. left them when I took over his room.

(Left) A small bunch of ferns taken from the woods at the cabin in Morris, IL. It’s kind of like (literally) having a little piece of home in my apartment.

(Right) No idea what this is. A little sprig of something found neglected and rootless at my folks’ place near Chicago, brought here and rooted.

(Top / left) I’m told this is a Wandering Jew. Rooted from a little sprig found in the bottom of a shopping cart at Shaw’s one day. One is a cutting from the other; a third is currently wandering all over J.R.’s windowsill.

(Right) Home De(s)pot is a hardware store. Especially in the middle of winter, where they got the idea to start trying to offer a plant selection is beyond me. This spider plant is the 2nd generation of a small spiderling “liberated” from a sickly plant under bad (mercury vapor?) shop/gym lighting. Again, the ‘Big Brother’ of this one is at J.R.’s house trying to make the windowsill disappear.

Mimosa, aka sensitive plant, aaka shame plant (I guess because it “hangs its head in shame” when touched). If any of the leaf trigger hairs are touched, or heat is applied, the leaves rapidly fold up and sometimes the entire cluster droops toward the ground. They re-open after a few minutes. (Here is a video of one of these in action.) Grown from seeds I field-collected while on vacation in Hawaii, where it grows everywhere and is kind of considered a nuisance plant.
I moved it from my desk to the windowsill not only for light, but also because my officemates can’t resist coming over and poking at it ~ 10 times a day. (Also why I don’t keep any venus flytraps at the office.)

Naughty aloes. Nauuuughty! Seriously, there used to be only one in each pot. Now they’ve gone and overpopulated, and it looks like they’re trying to escape. I suspect they get up and walk around the room when I’m not looking. One is from a tiny 1″ sprig from a plant that “came with the house” (looked like it had been watered maybe once a year), the other was a defunct-looking brown thing J.R. gave me (I think it was with an “I bet you can’t make this green again!” dare). Yes, it’s growing in half a soda bottle because I ran out of pots.

Unknown waxy-leafed, viney thing. A cutting from a plant my Grandma G gave me years ago…the original is still living in ‘my room’ in Chicagoland (if anyone there is actually watering it!). Every couple years they produce clusters of small, white waxy flowers. They don’t look like much at all, but you can smell them 3 houses away. Pleasant in very small concentrations…but just plain overpowering when you’re in the same room with it (white and pink and yellow…texture of ribbons overlaid with the compoundly-serrated edge of a saw that really means business).

A few (hot/green?) pepper plants eeeking out an existence in my room, where the lighting is terrible. They also came from J.R., who had so many of them she was giving them away on LJ. (The directions said to let the entire pot sprout, then thin the herd down to about 3 or 4 plants. The herd was at least 20. Pull them out and… just throw them away to die? Noooo!…) Now that it’s… November, one plant now shows the very beginnings of a pepper on it.

Drosera capensis, a.k.a. sundew, a carnivorous plant with leaves lined with small sticky hairs that trap small insects. Not pirated! Gotten from Cook’s Carnivorous Plants. One (pre-potted, in a little mini-terrarium) croaked immediately; the other (bare-root, planted by me in a cut-in-half soda bottle with a baggie over it, that I expected to croak immediately) is doing fine.

Nepenthes ventricosa, a tropical pitcher plant native to Asia. Also from Cook’s. The pitchers are those big lumpy things, of course…the bottom of each pitcher fills with a sweet, but digestive “nectar” bugs can’t resist, and become a source of nutrients for the plant. (From what I’ve read, the whole process is surprisingly humane…the juice contains an anesthetic that puts the insect to sleep quickly, which also keeps the pitchers from being damaged by lengthy escape attempts.) Currently, this plant lives in a makeshift terrarium made from a 3L soda bottle (sparing no expense…Shaw’s brand fruit punch, because that and a few others are the only things they sell in 3L bottles), but I have a plan in the indeterminate future to build an actual climate-controlled plexiglass terrarium.

Unknown ferny things. The top one I picked up on vacation in the Northeast last August, and brought home in a little baggie. The other two were pots that I had seeds or something planted in at one time, put a bag over them and kind of forgot about them for a long time after nothing grew. When re-discovered in my room, they had ferns (or the beginnings thereof) growing in them.

The Plant That Took Over The World! I think officially this is called Mother of a Thousand. It’s indestructible. This one is a sprig J.R. found…6 months?…after moving to her new place, all shriveled up in a box somewhere, and stuck in dirt. They just keep getting taller and wider, and once they hit a certain size, new plants begin to form ON THE LEAVES, at each little jagged edge. Then the new plants, with little proto-roots already formed, drop off the leaf by the dozens and start growing like weeds on whatever they land on – you have to be careful not to put other plants too close, because their pots will soon be overrun with these things. J.R. found one growing inside the moist little center of a pineapple plant. I have one of those growing downstairs too, and it’s getting to be fairly big, but I’m too lazy to go down and photograph it now that it’s getting all dark out.

Feeeeeeed me Seymour! My venus flytraps, also a gift from from J.R. (well, now we know who the plant lovers around Boston-land are ;) This is actually an old picture, showing their “autumn” (low to the ground) leaves; in the spring the traps stand skyward on long slender leaves. But right now they’re going into winter dormancy and aren’t very picture-worthy. I have to keep all the carnivores safely out of reach of people so that they don’t get immediately destroyed by careless poking and prodding.

PS. If anyone reading this would like to pirate a few of these themselves, reply below and I’ll make you a cutting (for those things that can be propagated from cuttings). Note though, the carnivores in particular are annoyingly difficult to propagate (and no, I don’t do tissue-culture in my kitchen), so you might be on a pretty long waiting list for them :)

It’s been said…

“A woman commits to a man hoping that he will change. A man commits to a woman hoping that she won’t.”

If only it actually worked that way.

[11:11] K*: We talked on the phone and everything was going great,
[11:11] K*: Then I told her about my work, and she said sure
[11:12] K*: When I told her about an engineer that took a year on a circuit board.
[11:12] K*: Mine has been fucekd up for about two weeks.
[11:12]K*: Then she clammed up

There’s no swimming in the heavy water, no singing in the acid rain… red alert, red alert

I think I figured out why I don’t drink the water at work much. It doesn’t taste like water. Actually, it doesn’t taste like anything. It’s diet water, if there is such a thing. Regular old municipal water, but run through a crazy reverse osmosis, oxygenating, ozonating contraption that brings the dissolved solids down to about 10 parts per million (yes, somebody measured). It’s really sad that the thought of bottling tap water from home to bring to the office has actually crossed my mind.

Ah well…at least my Nepenthes likes the stuff.

Stuff… Apples, squirrels, ponies…

Saudi Arabian blog burning for bits ‘n giggles

I should have been sleeping, and was probably intending to bloggg something or other Friday night, but ended up staying up way too late becoming an expert on XMLRPC vulnerabilities instead. Damn script kiddies. Sadly, every one of us who doesn’t devote his/her life to rolling their own everything from scratch (who, me, have a life? Surprised hell outta me too.) is at the mercy of third-party coders and the trust that can be placed in their work.

The first time I’d ever discovered a web ‘property’ of mine had been broken into (phpBB, way back in the day), I couldn’t sleep that night. I was up ’til 4am grinding my teeth, the logfiles and anything else within reach figuring out what happened and recovering everything. This time around, it almost felt mundane. I started the logs downloading, threw up a quick “returning soon” page and went to sleep. That ain’t right.

Anyway, the vulnerability allowed writing crap into the home directory of the vulnerable file, but not e.g. rooting the server, so the logs told everything…lame kiddie from a Saudi Arabian IP block.

(Whis[k)ey] // Apples…how do ya like them apples? // everything old is new again // everything new is old again

Went out to Toast with J.R.; I finally wore the Duct Tape Man outfit in actual public before retiring it for good (with a spanking new Duct Tape Cape), J.R. came as a mad scientist researching ways to make cabbage plants express THC. (No*, the Fairy Gothmother, couldn’t stay out late that night.) Per my usual in mass social situations, I was kind of lost and alternated between dancing poorly to 80s music (and sweating [the DTM outfit is hot in not just the figurative biological sense]) and leaning aimlessly against a wall.

Through some strange fluke, a girl leaned over and started talking to me, asking about the outfit. She had a key around her neck, and her friend sitting next to her had a big whisk (egg beater) dangling from hers. Together, they were whiskey. Even if I’m probably the only person in the world who would find that funny, I found it funny :-) * So anyway, we got to talking…

Woohoo, I scored. I guess people have different definitions of scoring…I got a kiss and a number (email address…for me that counts as a number); for me that counts as scoring. I’d like to think this kiss /* bliss (sorta?) */ [_state] will last longer than my last, but my experience is that the odds of scoring a subsequent date with any girl roughly follow e^-kt, where k is some arbitrary constant pulled out of my ass. We shall see…

And J.R. won a pair of Bauhaus tix. Nice!

Squirrel on!

Sunday afternoon we played seperate-the-rat-cells-from-the-bottle-they-grew-on, and spin-the-rat-cells-until-they-make-a-nice-big-clump, and a few other games involving rat cells, and then we went squirrel fishing in Boston Common. I’ll explain that in a separate entry** when I have copies of the pictures/videos; it’s incredibly cute (and/or hilarious, depending on your take on things).

Pegasus, the flying cotton pony

Iterating through some aisles at a CVS with J.R. (hey, I thought we were just here for NutRageous bars), the (approximately) following conversation came up:

(passing through the tampon aisle) “Hey Tim, need any tampons?” -JR
“Um…do they burn?” -me
“I think so.” -JR
“…will they fit the tailpipe of a car?” -me

(Silence, followed by uncontrollable laughter at the mental image of flaming tampons being fired out of the backs of moving vehicles)

* at the way-early hallowe’en party I mentioned a week or two ago, there was a guy dressed up as a giant can of Play-Doh. His buddy, if he didn’t wuss out at the last minute, was supposed to come as Plato, the philosopher, making Plato and Play-Doh.

** I know, officially this thing is written by me for me, but now google and teh intire intarweb are watching :-) I want that entry to be easily searchable.

Halloween pics @ work

Will document the weekend once I’m actually home, because that might take a little while. In the meantime…

I still recall the taste of your tears…

Me with the Osbournes

Group photo of all my work-people

All the pictures

These (of all the work people) will only be online for a few days, so look at ’em fast! When they aren’t anymore, I’ll put local copies of the good ones here. If nothing else, at least see Jared’s rendition of a Southwest Airlines pilot and Conor being…Conor.