Friday, July 27, 2007

Another Batch of Photos on Flickr

More photos. Sort of a grab bag this time around. A couple shots of a very faint rainbow in our Monsoon set. Our tarantula came back for a visit, only this time he was right next to our open door and a couple feet above where I keep my work shoes. I guarantee I shook them out the next morning before putting them on. There is also a set from Italian Night, which is Arcosanti's largest event of the year. We served dinner to around 400 people, gave them tours, a concert, and a light show. Debbie got a couple pictures of the foundry and me being a tour guide. There is also a new set for all the critters that keep crawling around this place. I included a couple bad photos of the centipede I had blogged about previously. They aren't very clear, but you get an idea of the size of this thing. There is also a couple photos of a giant black bug that invaded our room, and the tadpoles that have taken over one of the ponds here on site. The others all have gold fish in them that eat all the frog eggs, but this one is fish-less at the moment.

Interesting little story about the big black bug. Not the one in our room; that one came to a quick end at the business end of a shoe. But a couple days after those photos were taken, we were in another family's residence when another one just like the one in our room came out from under the couch. Understand, these things are four or five inches long, so this was no common scurrying little six-legger. This is a huge black bug strolling across the living room floor. It walks over to the door, then just stops and waits. The youngest son walks nonchalantly over to the door and opens it. The bug walks outside. Mom says, "Huh; guess he needed to go outside." I suppose when you are the mother of three boys between 7 and 13, this sort of thing is normal?

Thursday, July 26, 2007


It took over two weeks and not one, but two separate trips to both the physical Best Buy store and, but the Terabyte Laptop (tm) is a reality. As I type this, Microsoft Computer Management is formating my second 500 GB hard drive (29% complete, it you care). This will be a mirror for my first 500 GB hard drive. Total drive space reported by Computer Management: 1,080.3 MB. It is interesting to note that the total drive spaced attached to my PC is 1,160 MB; the rest just vaporizes due to how Windows handles large drives. Under Linux, the "missing" drive space becomes visible.

But in any case, I now have a laptop with over a full terabyte of formatted disk space. Sweet. My first PC came with an 4.77 MHz CPU, 512 KB RAM, dual 360 KB floppy disk drives, and CGA 4-color graphics rendered in shades of green on a monochrome monitor. There was no sound capability other than some beeps and boops from the PC speakers. Price tag: $3,000+ That was in 1983 or 1984. The laptop I am typing this on is so far beyond that, it seems like violence to the English language to call them both PC's. The cache space alone on one of my new hard drives is over 20 times the total on-line storage on my first PC. And it cost less than $1,000. I love Moore's Law. May it ever reign.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Fred again.

Of course, what he suggests has already been tried. Washington DC has a nearly all-black political leadership, school board, school administration, teaching staff, and student body combined with with one of the highest per-student funding levels in the nation. As noted here previously, all that combines to produce the worst schools in the nation. And we all know it's because us honkies are oppressin' 'em.


Monday, July 23, 2007

Speaking of Education....

OK, so I haven't actually posted anything about education in the last few days. But I have been thinking about it a great deal lately as one of the families here have decided to start homeschooling their eldest this fall. Someone else mentioned the Lays of Ancient Rome on Jerry Pournelle's site. I'm in the process of re-reading them for the nth time and still notice connections I hadn't made before. The oddest part of the experience is seeing lines coming out of the hero's mouth that would be right at home in any John Wayne movie. But Roman history is irrelevant to us because they are just a bunch of dead, white men.

Related to that, Scott Adams gives some free career advice. Now here is mine: don't get trapped into the whole "career" crap. I had one. It sucked. Now I don't have one. I'm happy for the first time in decades and the world goes on without me. The US economy hasn't noticed that my income has dropped to one fifth what it was a year ago. Walmart hasn't gone bankrupt and the Dow just stampeded into record territory. Do I have to say it again? Get small, get fast. When the bottom falls out (and it will) the less you have the better off you are.

Security Theater


And yet, I have to strip to my jock to get on a plane because we all know that middle-aged, white, paunchy men blow hundreds of airplanes out of the sky every day.

Anyone want to bet that Phoenix isn't the only airport with holes like this?

Pournelle's Lesson for Today

I know I have posted this before, but as Samuel Johnson said, "We often need reminding even if we do not often need educating." I realized I hadn't thought of this in a while myself when I read it on Jerry's site:
Luke 10:38-42:

Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word.

But Martha was cumbered about with much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.

And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful; and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

The Sons of Martha
Rudyard Kipling

The Sons of Mary seldom bother,
for they have inherited that good part;
But the Sons of Martha favour their Mother
of the careful soul and the troubled heart.
And because she lost her temper once,
and because she was rude to the Lord her Guest,
Her Sons must wait upon Mary's Sons,
world without end, reprieve, or rest.

It is their care in all the ages
to take the buffet and cushion the shock.
It is their care that the gear engages;
it is their care that the switches lock.
It is their care that the wheels run truly;
it is their care to embark and entrain,
Tally, transport, and deliver duly
the Sons of Mary by land and main.

They say to mountains ``Be ye removèd.''
They say to the lesser floods ``Be dry.''
Under their rods are the rocks reprovèd---
they are not afraid of that which is high.
Then do the hill-tops shake to the summit---
then is the bed of the deep laid bare,
That the Sons of Mary may overcome it,
pleasantly sleeping and unaware.

They finger Death at their gloves' end
where they piece and repiece the living wires.
He rears against the gates they tend:
they feed him hungry behind their fires.
Early at dawn, ere men see clear,
they stumble into his terrible stall,
And hale him forth like a haltered steer,
and goad and turn him till evenfall.

To these from birth is Belief forbidden;
from these till death is Relief afar.
They are concerned with matters hidden---
under the earthline their altars are---
The secret fountains to follow up,
waters withdrawn to restore to the mouth,
And gather the floods as in a cup,
and pour them again at a city's drouth.

They do not preach that their God will rouse them
a little before the nuts work loose.
They do not preach that His Pity allows them
to drop their job when they damn-well choose.
As in the thronged and the lighted ways,
so in the dark and the desert they stand,
Wary and watchful all their days
that their brethren's ways may be long in the land.

Raise ye the stone or cleave the wood
to make a path more fair or flat;
Lo, it is black already with the blood
some Son of Martha spilled for that!
Not as a ladder from earth to Heaven,
not as a witness to any creed,
But simple service simply given
to his own kind in their common need.

And the Sons of Mary smile and are blessèd---
they know the Angels are on their side.
They know in them is the Grace confessèd,
and for them are the Mercies multiplied.
They sit at the feet---they hear the Word---
they see how truly the Promise runs.
They have cast their burden upon the Lord, and---
the Lord He lays it on Martha's Sons!
If you are a Son of Mary, snap out of your blessed sleep long enough to thank all the Sons of Martha around you.

Assignment: how does the above relate to this? Hint: Some of the work performed by Sons of Martha reaches across generations.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

What To Do With $27 Million

Well, you can provide clean drinking water for 900,000 people for their entire lives. Or you can build a faux natural history museum that espouses a position that is contrary to all evidence or common sense, and let 6,000 people a day, mostly children, die from a lack of clean drinking water.

Now, which do you suppose is the "Christian" thing to do? And which do you suppose those that consider themselves The Only True Christians (tm) actually did?

I hope Ken Ham and his supporters like it hot. If there is a god, they will spend eternity slowly dying of thirst.

"The walls between art and engineering exist only in our minds."

Not much I can think to say other than "Wow!" Take thirty seconds to watch this. The artist/engineer has a website here. I think "eccentric" may be a good term, although it's tough getting a handle on the man behind the machine translations into English. ("Hanging at his cord between to high buildings" is one example where the automated translation had a slight hiccup. But I suppose the point isn't that the bear doesn't dance well, but that it dances at all.)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Nearly a Week

Tomorrow will be the end of my first week in the foundry. So far, so good. I'm not having a problem with the heavy lifting and such. I've already been doing that since we arrived here. What is killing me is the assembly work; lots of bending and manipulating various gauges of copper wire to put in the clappers, build the hangers, etc., grinder and wire wheel work, and drill press work. Fingers, wrists, arms, shoulders, back; all sore from unfamiliar work. But every day gets easier and I'm a little less stiff when I get out of bed. I expect the worse is already over, and in a couple weeks, it will all be routine.

I won't be actually molding bells for a couple more weeks at least. In the meantime, I spend all morning on the grinder/wire wheel, then all afternoon on the drill press and putting the bells together. It is still rather easy to spot my bells; they are the ones with the malformed loops on top and crooked clappers. But they are getting better. My first attempt at assembly had everyone rolling on the ground; now it's just a stifled giggle and a "not bad."

I also had some more EWWWW GROSS! pictures. This time it was a giant desert centipede. It was only 6 or 7 inches long, not the foot-long they can get to. Way creepier than the tarantula. But I don't have any good pictures of it, because it had been captured in a clear plastic container. No matter what I did, the pictures only show my camera's reflection in the plastic instead of the centipede. In any case, the picture at the above link looks exactly like it and is approximately the same length.

Oh, and if you are interested, it was found cruising the women's bathroom, not outside like the tarantula. Anyone like to come out for a visit?

Monday, July 16, 2007

First Day in the Foundry

Today was my first day in the foundry. I've learned several important things already:

1. Bronze is heavy.
2. Molten bronze is really hot.
3. The little chunks of bronze that fly off the grinding wheel leave neat little holes in skin.
3. A wire wheel turning at several thousand rpm is an effective way to remove fingerprints.
4. Foundry sand gets everywhere.

So far, so good. Best of all, I don't have to worry about being accosted every time I walk out of our room to fix some problem, which more often than not is the result of either poor design, poor execution, or both. Now I just smile and tell them to call maintenance. Which is not me.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Worst Schools in the Country

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: If the moral defectives in Washington DC want me to give any credence to anything they say, then they can clean up their own back yard.

What frightens me is that it seems we are destined to turn 15% of the nation's economy over to these fools in the form of a national health care plan.

Douglas Adams on Intelligent Design

My favorite Douglas Adams quote:
This is rather as if you imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, 'This is an interesting world I find myself in - an interesting hole I find myself in - fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!' This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it's still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything's going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise.
Not that Intelligent Design will disappear any time soon as long as they have millions pouring in from Christian Reconstructionist Howard Ahmanson, but one can always dream. (You do know about these guys, right? The ones that want to take over our government, execute all the queers, Jews, Commies, and other undesirables? By stoning, of course.)

"It's alive!!! It's alive, it's alive, it's alive!"

I have sound on my laptop. I have no idea why. Of course, I have no idea why it ever stopped, so the symmetry of the universe is intact.

The time I've spent working with the various flavors of Ubuntu linux has been interesting. The Kubuntu installer ignores where you tell it to install and sticks you in an infinite loop until you let it have its way. Xubuntu seems to work the best, but the interface is pretty primitive. Ubuntu I haven't tried, but I've been told that ex-Windows users generally hate it. In any case, the emergency is over so I can take some time to play with all of them. I now have a 50G partition on the main drive of my laptop that is just for linux. None of this has changed my opinion of linux and unix in general; it is a guru full-employment product. I know a lot about systems, but unfortunately, all the wrong ones having spent my formative years on IBM mid-range systems (System 34/36/38/AS-400 for anyone who cares). So I missed to whole unix thing and now I find myself helpless. OS-X is a possibility, and it still may be the best option for me if I don't want to spend the rest of my life on the web trying to figure out what the hell a mount point is or why Xubuntu can't find USB drives or why Kubuntu thinks my Western Digital USB drive is a digital camera and keeps nattering at me to download my photos. But while Apple's DRM is less obnoxious than Microsoft's, it is still telling me what I can and cannot do with my own damn data. And Apple requires a full commitment, heart and soul to The Apple Way and all that implies. But I do have to give it to Apple; they have made a killer OS that is miles beyond anything coming out of Redmond.

Speaking of USB hard drives, I picked up a new toy while we were kicking around in town Wednesday for dentist and doctor appointments. Bob Thompson mentioned that Antec, who makes some of the best computer cases in the industry, recently began shipping an external hard drive enclosure that makes any internal SATA drive into a USB 2.0 drive. Well I now have one with a 500GB Seagate drive spinning away inside it. It is the backup point for my massive xcopy jobs that take a snapshot of my entire Documents and Settings folder on the laptop and my entire Western Digital USB drive, and a home for my movie rips. I mentioned a while back we drank the red Kool-Aid and signed up for Netflix's one-movie-at-a-time, unlimited-movies-a-month option. To speed turn-around, as soon as a movie shows up in the mail, I have been ripping it to the laptop's internal 100GB drive and sending it back the next morning. Then we watch it whenever we get A Round Toit (tm). It didn't take long at 6-7GB per movie to deplete the laptop's hard drive. So I now have a laptop with a total of 660GB of hard drive space (100GB internal, 60GB Western Digital, 500GB Seagate/Antec). This weekend, I'm going back to Best Buy to pick up a second enclosure and 500GB Seagate, so I will have more than one terabyte of online storage for my laptop.

(And in case you think this retched excess, 500GB is only about 70-75 movies, or about one year of movie rentals at our current pace, and the second 500GB drive will be a mirror for the first. I know of nothing else that I can back up that much data to other than another hard drive. I could go to tape backup, but I've never had any luck with PC-connected tape drives.)


This is classic geek, all the way.

Gotta get me one of those....

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

More Windows vs. Linux Issues

I swore many years ago that Win2K would be the last Microsoft product I would own. Then the Big Move came. If Debbie was to continue her employment as an outside agent she had to have a computer with WinXP. No other option was supported by the IS department. So off we go to Best Buy to pick up a cheap laptop with WinXP Pro (Toshiba Satellite). Debbie ended up employed out here and dropped her affiliation with the travel agency back in Michigan, leaving us with a somewhat-unwanted WinXP laptop. But it just worked.

At least until a couple weeks ago.

I have no idea what created the problem, or even if it has only a single cause. But our computer has become increasingly unstable with periodic crashes of Windows Explorer, software refusing to load unless we reboot first, error messages from XP complaining about applications that aren't even running, etc.

But the latest is the killer: we lost all audio. The software runs like there is no problem, but nothing we can think to do will cause a sound to come out of our PC. This is all audio from all applications including Windows system sounds. Neither the internal sound card and integrated speakers nor the USB dongle that allows us to connect the laptop to our stereo will utter the merest of a peep, pop, or click.

So I'm back shopping around the Linux world. Again. Everyone swears that Ubuntu is Just Like Windows and while the setup requires some technical skill, the day-to-day operation is as easy or easier than Windows. Of course these same people swore the same thing about Xandros, which was about 90% true. The problem is that last 10%; it contained two of the five functions I use a PC for (watching/ripping DVD's and listening to/ripping CD's; the other functions are web use with full support for AJAX and other Web 2.0 content, pulling photos from my digital camera, editing them, and posting them on Flickr). Then Xandros seems to have gone to the dark side.

So now I'm looking at the different flavors of Ubuntu. Xubuntu is very lightweight but seems to have a primitive interface. I'm also concerned about what is left out. Kubuntu is supposed to be the preferred home for ex-Windows users. The nice thing is that I can download ISO images for the Live CD of each version, boot my laptop from the CD, and poke around a bit without committing to a full install. I've already tried Xubuntu, and will take a look at Kubuntu tonight assuming the IS gods cast a smile my way.

Anyway, more when I know more.

Meanwhile, over at Redmond, Microsoft seems to not be doing well without Bill at the controls. Vista was years late, shipped stripped of its most-touted features, and now even the most die-hard Microsoft users are telling people to wait for SP-1, which will be out sometime next year. If the Linux camp can improve as much in the next 12 months as it has in the last 12, will anyone bother?

First Post from the New Me

Like most people on the internet, I accumulate identities the way a Louisiana windshield accumulates bug guts. Through some accident of history (or, more likely my increasing forgetfulness) I wound up with two Google ID's; one that owns this site, and a different one that contains pretty much the rest of my life. As Google takes over more and more of the universe, this split personality has been getting progressively more irritating until I finally decided to take action. I have now invited myself to be a contributor to my own blog. No one should notice any difference, which is certainly no guarantee there won't be. But the process was somewhat disturbing in retrospect:

1. Log into Google/Blogger as me.
2. Invite my other me to be a contributor.
3. Log into Yahoo! Mail as my other-other me to acknowledge my invitation to myself.
4. Realize I'm still logged into Google as me.
5. Log me out of Google.
6. Log my other me into Google.
7. Acknowledge my invitation to myself to post on my own blog.
8. Log back out of Google as my other me and back into Google as me.
9. Go into the Blogger administrative tools to give my other me admin rights to my own blog.
10. Sit quietly for 10 minutes so my head doesn't explode.

Am I the only one having these issues?

Sunday, July 08, 2007


A friend came to visit last night while we were sitting outside. The monsoon had knocked out the power, so a group of residents were hanging around behind our residence trying to cool off. Someone happened to look up the wall we were leaning against and noticed something hairy. Given that we have a lot of Italians around here, that wasn't too surprising, but it had too many legs.

This is the third tarantula we've seen here, but it was also the largest one. It still isn't a big one, but big enough. Debbie also got to see her first scorpion last night. I run across them every day handling building materials and such at work, but before last night, all Debbie has seen was a couple smashed ones on the sidewalks.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

I See Stupid People

When a stupid person is doing something he knows is stupid, he will always, always, insist that he is just following orders.

I've been saying for years that moral defectives and morons run our public schools. This is just one more example. Why would any parent with any concern about the well-being of their children put them in the charge of people like this? And if you tell me your public school doesn't subscribe to such stupidity, my response is that you are simply uninformed.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Freaking Out

I just read on Wil Wheaton's blog that he was in Stand by Me. I never knew that. I've seen that movie about a dozen times, as well as every episode of ST-TNG at least as many times, and never connected geeky little Wesley Crusher with geeky little Gordie.

And according to his mini-bio on IMDB, he was in one of those Bill Cosby Jell-O Pudding Pops commercials. And his parents names' are Rick and Debbie.

OK, now all the hair on the back of my neck is standing up. Too weird.

A Fourth of July Message

OK, so I'm 24 hours late. Sue me.

Good luck and good night, indeed.

Publishing in 2007

I just stumbled across I'm sure this is old news to a lot of people, but I found it very interesting in two senses. First, it is interesting as in exciting. A cheap way for anyone to self-publish most anything without a sizable investment in potential paperweights (everything is print-on-demand). I see this site and others like it as a huge benefit to schools publishing yearbooks, for example. I was on the yearbook staff my junior and senior years in high school. Something like this would have saved untold hours of work, saved the school hundreds of dollars, and resulted in a far better product.

I also find it interesting as in the Chinese curse. Editors and publishers serve a valuable filtering function. If you want to see what the world of the written word looks like without that filter, spend some time on Blogger. I think it is safe to say that the quality of the writing is somewhat... er... uneven. But all I waste on Blogger is my time. On, I'd be wasting my time and my money to find out that a really interesting-sounding author is a worse writer than the typical middle-school blogger. Yes, it is true that the publishing industry misuses its filter function to suppress dissenting viewpoints, without which a republic cannot survive. But a lot of what lands on an editors desk just plain sucks. I suspect some time on would easily confirm that statement.

Having said all that, I just bought a book from I know the author and his work from other sources (Flickr), so I feel reasonably safe that I didn't just throw $25 down a rat hole.

May we live in interesting times.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

From Pool Boy to Bell Boy

On July 16, I start working in the foundry making bronze bells. And just in time. I expect the next seven work days to be the longest I have ever endured. Either it's just the heat, or there is a small group of people here that are just trying to piss me off. I was going to work in bakery tonight doing some painting so it wouldn't have to be closed tomorrow, but the manager pissed me off so bad that I'm not going to bother. Tomorrow I only work a half-day in maintenance because I do tours in the afternoon, and Friday I'll be in the foundry for my orientation day (basically wandering around in the foundry watching other people work). So maybe I'll get to it before I leave maintenance, maybe I won't. Right now I could care less if it ever gets done. I have other projects that are more important anyway, so I will be spending my time in maintenance working on those.

Once I'm in the foundry, I will be going to work, then going straight to my apartment. I am now here for one reason and one reason only; learn how to do stuff I would never have a chance to learn any other way. Once I have milked this place for all I can, we leave.

Jerry Pournelle invented what he calls Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy:

In any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people: those who work to further the actual goals of the organization, and those who work for the organization itself. Examples in education would be teachers who work and sacrifice to teach children, vs. union representative who work to protect any teacher including the most incompetent. The Iron Law states that in all cases, the second type of person will always gain control of the organization, and will always write the rules under which the organization functions.

The stated goal of Arcosanti is to build a test arcology for 5,000 residents. Those who share that goal, assuming they ever existed, seem to be very thin on the ground and are completely missing from the ranks of anyone who makes decisions. This place is a lot like a certain Baptist church in northern Michigan I could name, including the group of key participants who publicly state that they will leave if the organization ever grows much above 100.

"'Bout Time, Ya Bum"

I finally got it into gear and got Tristan's open house pictures on our Flickr page.

Hey; I might be slow, but I'm... er... OK, fine. I'm just slow.

Addressing the Hard Questions

Here is a basic outline of a 25-sermon series. No tilting at straw men. No circular logic. No arguments from authority. No argumentum ad hominem. Honestly engage those you disagree with rather than dismissing them out of hand because their conclusions make you or your congregation uncomfortable. If anyone wants to take this on, be prepared for a couple year's worth of reading just to cover the sources used by the author.

Any takers?

The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.

— Mark Twain


Happy 4th to everyone!

We are going to try to find the place where they do fireworks tonite in Prescott Valley -- it will be interesting to see fireworks out here -- not over water and with the mountains/mesas in the background. We are hoping they don't cancel them due to very high fire danger. We haven't had any rain to speak of for a very long time.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Beware of Red Shirts

Every Trekkie knows that a red shirt is the kiss of death. Wil Wheaton pulls some red shirt stats from Wikipedia. I agree with one of Wil's commentors; 74 red-shirt deaths feels too low. It seems like red shirts dropped like flies. Of course the most popular reruns are probably the episodes with one or more red-shirt deaths.

(And just to point out the obvious: if you know what I'm talking about, you are dangerously close to being a geek. If you can quote the entire scene the quote in Wil's blog post title comes from, you are a geek.)

(And yes, I can.)

What We Know, What We Don't Know.

Uncle Al has called for the end of distorting and making up facts to supports ones position. Tell you what, Al; you go first.

And yet another example of how vast our ignorance of the climate is. But we must Do Something, even if Something is financially ruinous and does little or nothing to fix a problem that may not even exist.

It's for the children, you know.

The Plague of Diversity

Fred notices it. So does at least one black woman.

But diversity is a great thing, at least according to our over-lords. For some reason, I'm not entirely convinced, but saying so would earn me the dreaded "racist" label.