Saturday, October 31, 2009

Obligatory Halloween Post

From second grade on, I attended a Christian school. One of the numerous things that were different there was Halloween. The teachers and parents (outside of a single principal, one secretary, one bookkeeper and a seven-person board selected from parents of the students, there was no "school administration") ranged from ambiguous to opposed to the whole Halloween thing as traditionally celebrated here in the US. So instead we had some sort of harvest festival that was indistinguishable from a Halloween party at any other school apart from the range of costumes considered appropriate. And we would spend a bit of class time looking at the whole history around Halloween. So for 11 years in a row, I was taught, in greater depth each year, all about Halloween, meaning I probably know more about All Hallows' Even and All Hallows' than the average person. But if you are going to post an article on the internet, even on a known, fact-free place like Pat Robertson's CBN site I would think you would at least take five minutes to do a bit of research, even if only to skim the Wikipedia articles I linked to. It's not like they are hard to find or understand, and they would stop you from publishing drivel like this to the entire world in the name of evangelicalism:
The root word of Halloween is "hallow," which means "holy, consecrated and set apart for service." If this holiday is hallowed, whose service is it set apart for? The answer to that question is very easy—Lucifer's!

Yea. The answer is only easy for you, Ms. Daniels, because you don't concern yourself with reality. Something that becomes very apparent further down the article where you invent a factoid that I am certain we will see repeated uncritically by evangelicals all over the country:
...most of the candy sold during this season has been dedicated and prayed over by witches.

So there you have it; those bastards at M&M Mars are a bunch of devil worshipers that are trying to bring about the demon possession of all the children through candy.

To someone's credit, the article was pulled after more-pointed mocking than I have time for (like this and this). But one fact about the internet always seems to elude the religiously inclined: Once something is on the internet, it never goes away, thanks to the Google Wayback Machine. The time to think about the implications of what you are saying, not just to your target audience, but to all of the other 100's of millions of internet users, is before you publish. If evangelicalism plans to still exist in a century, then its members need to be at least as critical of Robertson et al., as they are of atheists. Remember, Jesus ate meals with sinners, prostitutes and tax collectors, while heaping scorn and verbal abuse on the first-century Pat Robertsons.

So, Happy Halloween! Now I'm off to eat all the leftover candy. Which, as we all know, is the real reason adults invented the thing.

He huffed and he puffed

and he is trying to blow the house down!

Wow --- I'm am so glad I was not planning on flying anyplace yesterday or today. Hopefully it calms down before my Mom and Aunt are due to fly in Monday night -- or they are in for a flight of their lifetime.

One positive thing -- the leaves will be easier to rake up. (If the wind does not change direction) Right now most of the yard is bare and the leaves are on the side of the yard next to the fence. (and I'm sure most blew into the neighbors yard which they won't be happy about unless they blew past him and down past the next neighbor and into the creek)

Why, Facebook?!?! Why?!?!

I think the development team at Facebook recently had a collective brain aneurysm. I've been on a number of development teams, so I know a little something about how to roll out software and especially about rolling out updates to existing software. The number one rule is don't break things. That seems to be pretty obvious, but I don't think the Web 2.0 programmer dudes understand it. Facebook, at its most basic, is about seeing status updates from a group of people that I selected. The new Facebook makes that at best a chore, and at worst impossible. I now have to sift through literally hundreds of "updates" that aren't. I honestly don't care which of the people on my friends list just friended someone I've never met in my life. I don't care who just became a fan of "Ice Cream" or "Pet Shop Boys" or "Humping My Pillow". And if all that wasn't bad enough, they seem to have broken the entire update display function. Sometimes I get a few updates that display automatically. Sometimes I have to hit the Home button. Sometimes I have to hit a random number in a little oval at the top of the screen. Sometimes I have to hit F5 to reload the whole mess. Sometimes I have to log completely out of Facebook, then log back in. Sometimes I have to do all of the above repeatedly with each action displaying a few new random status updates mixed in with ones that were already displayed. And then there are the people that Facebook just doesn't like, because no matter what you do, their status updates just don't show unless you go to their wall.

And what's with the Suggestions? This used to show me one or two people that were friends of friends that were not in my friends list. That was reasonable. Now it only shows me people that are already friends with suggestions I should give them on how to make their profile less lame ("Suggest a photo that doesn't make their ass look so fat"), or how they seem like friendless dorks and maybe I should help them out a little by sending a few suggestions their way. And what is the percent-active thing supposed to tell me other than not everyone in the universe has given up all productive activity and devoted 100% of their life to Facebook? Who, other than a complete attention whore, would want to be "100% active" on Facebook?

Why did they eliminate the New Requests box? Now when someone sends me an invite or friend request, the only way I can respond is to bring up the e-mail I get from Facebook and click on the link it provides. Otherwise, I have no idea how to get to the Requests screen. I'm sure if I poked around I could find some back-door way to get to that screen, but why should I have to? Having a link show up at the top of my Home page when I had outstanding requests was a perfectly adequate way to notify me and gave me an easy way to deal with it. Why that was removed or moved to some obscure corner is beyond me.

And whoever works on the Notifications pop-up needs to be horsewhipped. Showing me a list that is taller than my browser window without a scroll bar is just plain sloppy. If I had done something that stupid and shipped it to a customer, I'd have been fired on the spot.

Now I know there are people out there that will take me to task, saying things like "Yea, well just a couple years ago, there was no Facebook" like that is some sort of excuse for faceplanting a roll-out. I'm not complaining about the inevitable flaws of a brand new product. What has my panties in a bunch (and they're very pretty pink panties with lots of lace) is breaking features that already existed and already worked. That is nothing more than sloppy coding combined with lax or non-existent testing and a management team that has become too busy with their power lunches to mind the store.

This post will also mark a change in how things I post here will cross-post to Facebook. The standard way of accomplishing that just wasn't working for me. Both of our blog posts were showing up in my Facebook leading to all sorts of confusion, and the hatchet job Facebook did to our posts that contained anything other than plain text were just too painful for me to look at. So for now, I'll be cross-posting to Facebook by purely manual means.

And it's bed time.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Holy Crap!

Band geeks rockin' it:

Good and Hard

Jerry Pournelle posted his views of the latest health care "reform" bill. (He also gives a link to a really cool Power Point of views of earth from space.)

He summarizes thusly:
Americans get the government they really want, and they get it good and hard....


"A republic Ma'am, if you can keep it."

Apparently we won't.

And it appears that I will be forced to buy insurance out of my $0 per-year income. But don't call it a tax because The One promised to not raise my taxes, and the president and CEO of General Motors... er... The President of the United States would never lie, would he?

Feh. I know a couple guys in South Korea. Wonder if I could get a job there?


It was supposed to be in the 60's today, but it best hurry up if it's going to even get close to that. I had planned on working outside today, but looks like we'll be picking away at indoor projects.

Nothing really new to report other than we've started riding the bikes again. Not very far; just a bit over a mile to start out with, so we won't be riding the Ice Man anytime in the near future. But in any case, it sure is nice to be able to ride on flat, paved road instead of soft sand (Alden, Michigan) or near-vertical cliffs (Prescott, Arizona), and it feels great to do something outside, even in cold, cloudy, rainy Michigan.

In news that will shake the world to its very core, the Sun Defines the Climate. Wow! Who knew? Key observations:
...Over the past decade, global temperature on the Earth has not increased; global warming has ceased, and already there are signs of the future deep temperature drop....

...We should fear a deep temperature drop — not catastrophic global warming.... A deep temperature drop is a considerably greater threat to humanity than warming.

I'm betting this guy wasn't invited to Copenhagen.

I normally don't link to really long articles, but the talk, Deconstructing Global Warming, is important. And even though it is a 46-page PDF file, it has pretty pictures to keep the reader entertained along the way. Take an hour. It will be worth it.

That's all I have for today. I should probably get my butt in gear and get to work. Right after I have lunch. And maybe a nap. Then I'm all over this work stuff. Unless I sleep long enough that it's dinner time. Then tomorrow for sure.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

And Now for Some Ranting....

If the title doesn't make much sense, read the previous post.

So, I've mentioned before about feeling a vague guilt over having four processor cores that mostly sit idle. I've managed to sleep better by donating three of those cores to World Community Grid while "getting by" on a single core. Now I see that one company plans to have a 100-core CPU in a few months. Not that we're likely to ever see the thing in a Dell running Windows 7, but Intel is promising 80-core consumer CPU's in five years. So I guess I'll be donating 79 of those...

People wonder why our financial industry is such a mess. In an article about banks considering charging annual fees to people who don't use their credit cards enough and/or pay off their balance every month, we find this precious gem:
"There is a big segment of their population [banking customers] that they [the banks] will have never made money on, which is people who pay their bills on time every month," said Ben Woolsey, Director of Consumer Research at

So there it is, folks; in black and white. Banks have structured themselves so that the only way they make money is from loaning money to deadbeats. So the rest of us non-deadbeats are now going to either be charged an annual fee, or, if we cancel the credit card to protest the fee, we get our credit score shot to hell:
"They can either pay that fee or they can close the account, and if they have had the account for a while and they close it, they are potentially going to hurt their credit card score," said Woolsey.

Can someone explain to me why in frackin' hell closing a credit card account, regardless of how long you have had it open, has anything other than a positive effect on your credit score? Talk about a system guaranteed to auger in. Holy crap.

In case anyone missed the memo, print news seems to be in a bit of trouble. This is a list of the top 25 newspapers in the nation and the percentage that their circulation has declined since last year. The only paper not showing a decline didn't have a circulation number from last year to calculate a decline from. More people watch news on the TV as of right now, but that may change if the network news shows keep screwing up in the race to be the first to break a story. I know my news feeds are highly biased towards my personal world view and my personal interests, but I would still argue that is better than the crap on any cable news channel or the local broadcast stations' half-hour infomercials with brief interruptions for incorrect weather forecasts and high school football highlights.

Here's a good question: Where are the Hurricanes, Mr. Gore? The predictions for this hurricane season was 7, with 3 being "major" storms (or 8 with 2 "major" storms, depending on who did the predicting). With the hurricane season about to wrap up, we have had exactly zero.



And the polar bears are thriving. And the rising ocean levels have yet to devour our coastal cities because they're not (rising, that is). I believe the rules say three strikes and your out, Mr. Gore.

And speaking of lowering CO2 emissions, the only practical way of doing that without reverting to the stone age is to use nuclear reactors to generate electricity. The US has managed to regulate the entire industry out of existence, but luckily for humanity, that hasn't stopped other nations from picking up the slack:
Japan's major nuclear reactor manufacturers have begun developing small nuclear power systems for both developed and emerging countries, a report said on Saturday.

As I understand it, these are basically plug-in replacements for conventional coal- and natural gas-fired boilers. In goes the nuke, away goes the CO2. No need to starve half the population of the earth. Of course getting rid of half the people is the real goal, which is why Al Gore and the Screaming Greenies (which would be an awesome name for a rock band) will never go for it. As I said, luckily for humanity, there are places other than the US.

And we've had another Friday, so of course, more banks have been forced to close, bringing the total for 2009 to 106. We seem to be making a good run at the all-time record of 181, set back in 1992. We've already set a record for the dollar amounts involved in those 106 failures.

And that's probably enough ranting for one day.

Catching Up

Got to having so much fun catching up on all the stuff we couldn't get to over dial-up, we forgot to blog. Not much to report anyway, other than more of what we've been reporting for the last few months. Neither of us has a paying job yet, although hints and vague "maybe's" continue to trickle in. As much as I hate to think about it, we may end up being here for the winter and that nasty snow stuff ya'll seem to enjoy so much. Other than that, we continue to plug away on the basement project. The last of the drywall is painted as of a couple hours ago. We still have the block walls that have been prep'ed and primed, but not painted yet, but those will go pretty fast once we get at it. All our stuff is blocking the way right now, so that will wait until everything else is done. In the meantime, we will finish up insulating one small area, then that will get primed and painted, then we start hanging doors and trimming out windows. That will likely keep us busy for the rest of the time we are here.

One of the things I've been busy with that's not basement related, is uploading all the photos we've taken over the last three months to our Flickr page:

Pictures from a couple of Ashton's football games.
A few of Debbie's mom's yard.
Some pictures of my parents yard.
The annual Frost reunion.
Dave's birthday cake (Dave managed to avoid the camera).
Birch Run Homecoming.
Fall colors around Birch Run.
Fall colors around northern Michigan.
And last but not least, photos of the progress on the basement project.

At a glance, here is a "before" picture which was actually after we had taken down the old paneling, filled a 30-yard dumpster, and sprayed, scrubbed and squeegee'ed the floor:


and this is the same area of the basement now:



So, progress of a sorts.

I have a bunch of stuff to link to, but I'll put it into a separate post to make it easy on those who would rather skip the ranting.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Somebody somewhere did something last night because our DSL is almost running at its advertised rate of 1.5Mbps instead of about 20% of that. It ain't cable. It ain't even good DSL. But I'll sure as heck take it. We can actually watch YouTube videos now!! We'll never be productive again!! Woohoo!!

Now we just have to get all the neighbors to sign up and mention us as their referrer so we can get a discount on the monthly rate.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Near-Perfect Day

I decided to take the day completely off. It's only the second time I've done that since we got here nearly two months ago (not counting the half-dozen days we spent up north visiting and such). Many of the things on the to-do list have been needing to be done for a decade or several, so one day isn't going to hurt anything. And it was everything that one expects from a day off.

And maybe someone can explain why I'm working harder and longer hours now that I'm unemployed than I ever did when I had a job?

But most of what comes next is not going to sound like the product of a happy day. Because it's pretty grim out there, and not just for us and our constant striking out on the job front. I'll start off with part of Jerry Pournelle's view from today:
Obama's pay czar has determined pay scales for some of the officials in some of the banks and investment houses. Everything for the state. Nothing against the state. Nothing outside the state. It is certainly change you can believe in. And quite popular....

Wage controls continue. The war on the Chamber of Commerce continues. It's all pretty reminiscent of other times and places where it all turned out badly.

And today's Wall Street Journal has an op-ed by former Senator Bob Dole on Bosnia. Dole thinks we need to assert more leadership since Bosnia appears to be nearing collapse under the tender mercies of the European Union. Dole was the only man Clinton could beat in 1996, but it was his turn to run and he insisted on his droits d' signeur. He has learned nothing and forgotten nothing, and I fear he is far too typical of the Country Club Republicans, who have never learned that the United States should avoid entangling alliances and not be concerned with territorial disputes in Europe. Bosnia is a European problem. Leave it to the Europeans. The Bosnia mess was never our mess, and Clinton's intervention didn't help the US in any discernible way. One of the fruits of US intervention in Bosnia was rapidly deteriorating relations with the then-nascent post USSR Russia, to no US advantage anyone can name.

The United States seems to work best when governed by a center-right coalition; it would work even better if there were two center-right coalitions contending for power. Alas I see few signs of any political party representing those views. I don't expect to see the kind of government I want, which involves local control over most domestic issues and far less Federal intervention in local and state affairs; but it would be useful to see contending parties who simply want to govern, not transform the country into something it never was and never should be. Even if we could afford it I do not think it would be a good thing for the US to become Sweden (and as I watch Sweden under diversity, one wonders if Sweden can stay Sweden, but that's another story). The Democratic Party doesn't want to govern, it wants to remake us; while the Country Club Republicans seem clueless when they aren't facilitating the ravenous wolves that go about seeking whom they will devour; nor do they have any notion of American national interests.

For a very long time we have sown the wind. Now we reap. And up pops Bob Dole reminding us of a place we have not sown recently. Halloween indeed.

Our domestic political situation becomes more grim by the day. Meanwhile our president works the late-night talk show circuit like he's still campaigning for the Democratic nomination.

Speaking of sowing the wind, the anti-vaccination movement is seeing some success. At least, success at what I assume is the goal of the movement; bringing back deadly childhood diseases that have been virtually unknown outside the third world for several generations. Western civilization has collectively gone mad, and our children are paying the price.

I don't often read Peggy Noonan, but I may have to start. The peaceful transition of power that our nation has experienced numerous times in its history is as unique as it is fragile. It is based on the simple premise that loosing an election will not result in the loss of life or liberty. That is something that certain loud-mouthed segments on both sides of the political spectrum need to keep in mind. But equally important is the flip side of that; what Noonan calls in her most recent WSJ column, owning the presidency. In other words, stop blaming your predecessor and take responsibility for the nation you were entrusted to lead. The thrust of the article is that it is time and past time for Obama to quit talking about what he "inherited" and start taking responsibility for what he has done, or not done, to fix it. Instead, we have the perpetual campaign on late night television. Ye flippin' gods.

Speaking of what Obama has done, it seems that true to predictions, he has managed to get yet-another bubble going fueled by easy money. We are a long way from a boom cycle, but we are still looking, in my ever-so-humble opinion, at a double dip because the central banks have put themselves in an untenable position:
Our present situation can give rise to two scenarios – or some combination of the two. The first is that central banks start exiting at some point in 2010, triggering another fall in the prices of risky assets. In the UK, for example, any return to a normal monetary policy will almost inevitably imply another fall in the housing market, which is currently propped up by ultra-cheap mortgages.

Alternatively, central banks might prioritize financial stability over price stability and keep the monetary floodgates open for as long as possible. This, I believe, would cause the mother of all financial market crises – a bond market crash – to be followed by depression and deflation.

In other words, it's bad news no matter how we go forward from here. And the more that is done to keep several decades of chickens from coming home to roost, the more chickens there will be. (I'm not sure that was the best way so say that, but it's late.) This isn't over. Not by a long shot.

And to end on a somewhat comedic note, someone takes the time to see how the lead global cooling denier has fared in his predictions:
While doing research 12 or 13 years ago, I met Jim Hansen, the scientist who in 1988 predicted the greenhouse effect before Congress. I went over to the window with him and looked out on Broadway in New York City and said, “If what you’re saying about the greenhouse effect is true, is anything going to look different down there in 20 years?” He looked for a while and was quiet and didn’t say anything for a couple seconds. Then he said, “Well, there will be more traffic.” I, of course, didn’t think he heard the question right. Then he explained, “The West Side Highway [which runs along the Hudson River] will be under water.

Right Jimbo. That's exactly what happened. Question; twenty years after these bozos started trying to scare the crap out of everyone for fun and profit, has anything happened the way they said it would?

OK; enough for one night. I need to make a backup and get to bed.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Some Joy

We had a visit from an AT&T dude today out doing still-more of the the dirty work for Starnet. I've still not quite figured out why I'm paying these guys. So far, all they've done is mail a DSL modem to the house and made two service calls to AT&T, who, as far as I can tell, are the ones actually doing all the work. After telling Debbie's mom that it was impossible to run DSL this far from the switch, which is why I'm a Starnet customer instead of an AT&T customer. Anyway, I guess I should start a DSL service. I could run the whole thing right here from Debbie's mom's basement with nothing more than internet access and a phone. The end of the story is that a loose wire was shorting out against another person's phone line about a half mile from here. Once that was fixed and filters were installed on every phone, DSL fired right up and we can now talk on the phone without both parties having to scream at each other. This has probably been going on for a long time and the DSL just made it painfully obvious. There have always been gremlins in the phones here and even dial-up was problematic.

So it only took a week, but we're finally up and running at a decent speed. The last step was to get all the computers to share the internet connection. Debbie's laptop wasn't any problem; wifi is built in. It took about two minutes to get it connected to the wireless router built into the DSL modem and sharing her mom's printer. However, my PC is a tower and doesn't have wireless. Originally, I had planned to run Cat5 from the basement to the upstairs room where the modem is located and jack into one of its four ports. I always prefer a wire to wireless; just one less thing to worry about. But with us moving so much and the probability that we will be renters for the foreseeable future, I decided to go wireless. While we were out running errands this morning, I picked up a Linksys Wireless-G USB Adapter. Like all good electronics, there is absolutely nothing to report: Pop in the CD, click, click, click, plug the wireless adapter into a USB port when the install routine tells you to, click, click, enter password, click, done. Five more clicks and I was sharing Debbie's mom's printer as well. Total time: less than five minutes. So now I can sit on my comfy couch and surf on my 42" monitor and not be in anyone's way. Of course, that means that I had to go through the whole download/install/reboot/rinse-and-repeat routine on a second PC (we've been using Debbie's laptop in hotels and other wifi hotspots since we left Arizona, so it's stayed more-or-less up to date). That seems to have run its course as of about an hour ago.

On a completely different subject, I'm seeing more and more crap on Facebook about the flu vaccine causing everything from complete paralysis to chronic halitosis. The H1N1 was rushed into production without being tested, all vaccines are a plot by the government to give your kids autism, all you have to do is trust God and the immune system He gave you, blah, blah, blah. All sorts of cranks and jackasses claiming to be doctors stating how they're not letting their kids get their flu shot this year. I've avoided saying anything because there are others who can say it much better than I can. But as you may have already caught on, I'm saying something now.

First, the world is full of attention whores who will do or say anything to get other people to pay attention to them. There are any number of "war heroes" out there with very entertaining stories of battles that the Army has no record of, fought in places that US troops have never been deployed to, in units no one in the military have ever heard of. Some of these people have written books, been on TV and have friends in the highest offices of the land. Some have even told the stories so often that they can pass polygraphs. They are still liars. Anyone with ten bucks (the cost of a domain from GoDaddy) and an internet connection can become anyone they want to be; doctor, nurse, world-famous virologist, cripple, widow, parent who has recently lost a son or daughter. Some have pretended to be teen-age girls dying of cancer. Some have concocted wild stories about diseases they have which in reality don't exist. Why? Because they are attention whores. People who are not attention whores are easy prey to those who are because we can see no logical reason why someone would do such a thing, especially if they are not making money off it in some way. As recently as ten years ago, attention whores had to be really good to reach an audience of any size. Now any blow-hard with an internet connection and a free YouTube account can reach millions of people in a matter of hours. Conclusion: just in case anyone missed the memo, when someone says "I saw it on the internet, so it must be true," they are being sarcastic.

Second, just to get this one out of the way: back when trusting in God and our immune system was the only option, people lived on average to about 30. If you have a flush toilet in your house and wash your hands with soap after you use it, you are not trusting in God and your immune system. You are depending on the ingenuity of men. End of discussion.

Third, I spent twelve years working in two different hospitals and heard all sorts of complete rubbish from various members of the medical staff. Being a nurse does not necessarily make someone any more knowledgeable about vaccine safety than you or me or the guy that delivers my pizza. In fact, if the guy delivering my pizza is a post-grad working on a degree in virology, he likely knows a great deal more on the subject than any nurse. And most doctors; see next point.

Fourth, even if someone is an actual practicing physician (see point number one), that still doesn't mean a great deal. Like many fields, the domain of knowledge that we call "medicine" has become so large that no one person can be an expert in "medicine." Like everyone else, they specialize. Asking a GP or OB for an opinion about flu vaccines is like asking an aerospace engineer his opinion of a new design for deep-sea submersibles. Sure, the common language used across disciplines may give our hapless aerospace engineer a bit of an advantage over the average lay person when it comes to understanding the basic issues, but that hardly qualifies him to go on Fox News spouting off about the "dangerously inadequate" work of the deep-sea submersible guys.

Finally, just look around and use your head for five seconds. Is the rate of infant mortality higher, lower, or about the same as it was 500 years ago? Do people have longer, shorter, or about the same life-spans as they did 500 years ago? Are living conditions better, worse, or about the same as they were 500 years ago? Which of the following do you think is most responsible for these benefits to society: medical science, homeopathy, or prayer circles? When I was in high school, someone living 100 years was unique enough to warrant at least a sizable article in the newspaper, and on a slow news day, maybe even be a human interest story on the eleven-o'clock news. (These were the days when the eleven-o'clock news was more than commercials for erectile dysfunction pills briefly interrupted by inaccurate weather forecasts and a high school football highlight reel.) Now such an event is barely noticed by the person's family. To repeat: Use your head! We didn't get from half-starved goat-herder with a 30-year life expectancy to where we are now by magic.

And I've probably pissed off enough people for one day, so I'll shut up and go to bed.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Joy is Somewhat Tempered

We have high-ish speed internet (1.5Mbps), but it seems to go out a lot. Plus, the line filters basically change the high-frequency interference on the phones to a low-frequency hum that does a pretty good job of masking whatever it is the person on the other end of the line is saying. So if you call Debbie's mom's house, expect to yell and repeat yourself a lot. Given the for-crap customer service I've had so far, I expect our shiny new DSL provider to be no help whatsoever. I haven't tested the through-put so far (every minute we've had connectivity has been spent downloading endless updates to the two computers we currently have attached to the internet), but I won't be surprised to find that to be somewhat less than the advertised rate. I suspect the problem is the filters are likely the cheapest crap Starnet could find. Or there are issues with the interior wiring in the house. Or there is a problem with the DSL modem. Or there is a problem with the equipment installed at the switch. Or AT&T is sabotaging competing DSL companies using their wires in the hopes of driving us to them (something the tech that came to the house all but confessed was standard AT&T policy).


I'm sure tomorrow will be another day of wasted time on the phone trying to sort this out.

"Another one bites the dust..."

With sincerest apologies to Queen:

It's Friday (ok, ok; we were out of town on Friday and I'm still catching up; sue me), so it must mean another bank failure. That brings the total to 99 for the year. Best part of the article is, as always, near the bottom:
The number of banks on the FDIC's confidential "problem list" jumped to 416 at the end of June from 305 in the first quarter. That's the most since June 1994. About 13 percent of banks on the list generally end up failing, according to the FDIC.

So if no other banks are put on the FDIC's "problem list", we can expect somewhere around 150 bank failures for the year.

I see green shoots....

Friday, October 16, 2009

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Winter Comes Early

Tell us something we didn't already know:
While early autumn snowstorms aren’t uncommon in US weather history, they tend to be quick affairs that melt off quickly in a day or two. This however is a bit different in that we have a significant portion of the northern Midwest plains and northern Rockies are snow covered and it is not quickly dissipating, in fact it is increasing.

Hope everybody has some really tall boots.

More Green Shoots

The last three months were the worst in history for foreclosures. Best part?
The foreclosure crisis may not diminish anytime soon. "The fastest growing area is in the 180 days late-plus category, the most seriously delinquent borrowers," Sharga said. "It's going to be a lingering problem"....

"It's hard to envision [the banks] putting millions on properties up for sale and cratering prices," he said. "Recovery will be slow and gradual. I don't see home prices getting much better until 2013."

"Lingering" is a nice way to put it.

High (-ish) Speed Internet

We have a sort-of high-speed internet connection; 1.5Mbps through Star Net Wireless. Not the sharpest tools in the shed, nor do humans ever answer their phones, nor will you get the equipment when promised, nor will the instructions that come with it be correct, nor will the first person that tries to answer your questions be aware of, well, of anything. But eventually, you will get a high (-ish) speed connection. Now if we could find filters that work instead of the ones that were sent with the DSL modem, all would be well. Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know which ones are actually made dog crap until you bite into them. Or something like that. It's been a while since I watched that movie.

Anyway, the next step is updating the anti-virus on Debbie's mom's PC and setting all the software on it to start automatically checking for updates. That will likely involve many hours of downloads, installs, reboots, rinse and repeat, given that this PC has been frozen in time for years. Then I have to decide if I'm going to drill holes in the floor and run network cable to the basement, or if I will be buying some sort of wireless adapter/router/whatever. Maybe I'll research that while all the downloads and updates are happening. Any suggestions are welcome. I also need to get the wireless print server out and see if I can get that running so we can stop burning up all Debbie's mom's ink in her printer. Probably not tonight; as I recall from the last time I set that thing up, it is a royal pain in the butt to get it working.

So expect to see more here. Well, not right away; we're going up to see the fam for a few days and look into some possible paying work for moi. But when we get back Monday or Tuesday, I'll start being more consistent about posting here.

And only 14 minutes left on the first of many mega-downloads....

Monday, October 12, 2009

Update and Some Random

Debbie is back in Michigan; still nothing solid other than a solid "No" from Mickey. We've shifted everything out of the last room in the basement to be redone and I got a solid start on peeling the loose paper today before my fingers gave out. We should have that done tomorrow and the drywall repair work done. It will take two days to do the plastering, then several days for that to dry completely. We plan to be out of town for the weekend, so the timing should be just about right. When we get back, we should be able to prime and paint in the same day. Then we can finally shift everything into its final place and stop moving the same stuff over and over.

Over the weekend, we were able to clear the rest of the stuff out of the garage and into the basement. For the first time since we arrived, Debbie's mom can park in her garage again. That was starting to bug me a little, so I'm glad we could get that done while she's off visiting family in Connecticut. It's looking more and more likely that we'll be here for a bit, so we are trying to get out of the way as much as possible.

We seem to have some movement on the DSL front. We are supposed to receive a DSL modem tomorrow with instructions and the service should be turned on Wednesday or Thursday. I'll believe it when I'm surfing at something other than 40Kbps. I'm sure there will be a snag somewhere. And HP called to say they are sending a replacement video card for our PC. The new one should be here Thursday and none too soon. The cooling fan on our current video card is starting to sound more like a garbage disposal every day.

I bumped into a few things today while doing the usual back-and-forth with HP support. Harvard students are whining that they will no longer have free hot breakfast in their dorms. These are the future Masters of the Universe that will no doubt figure out a way to screw up even more badly than the current crop who nearly destroyed the world's economy: "Students generally feel that if you come to Harvard, for what you’re paying, you should probably have the right to a hot breakfast." I'll accept that as long as I have the "right" to pimp-slap whiny Harvard bastards.

And the BBC asks, "What happened to global warming?" Good question. Maybe we should invest all those 10's of millions spent on global conferences on actually understanding how the freaking climate works before we destroy the western economy trying to "fix" it. Every climate model predicted ever-higher temperatures. Not a single one even hinted at a decade-plus cooling period (which looks to continue; our temps have been 10-20 degrees F below average for a couple weeks now). Personally, I feel that's because politics and greed determined the results, the models were built to only spit out those results, and anyone who dared create a model that disagreed would find their funding suddenly disappearing. But I'm a suspicious sort. A less suspicious person would conclude that at this stage, spending money on reducing the uncertainties is a better way to go rather than spending money on "cures" that have about as much chance of making things worse as making things better. Geeks can read this to get an idea of how things ought to be proceeding. Won't happen, of course. Instead, the West will self-destruct and China will become dominant for the next couple centuries.

And a very insightful article on why it is nearly impossible for a legislator to actually know what they are voting for. Of course, that wasn't the intention of the author, but it is the only intelligent reading possible. It is also a good explanation of how congressional staffers on the payroll of major corporations and non-profits are able to sneak all sorts of crap into bills without any member of Congress being aware that it is in there. Then the lawyers and judges "interpret" the law in ways that defy all rational thought (ADA being a recent example). Whatever sort of health care "reform" happens, understand that large insurance carriers will benefit, large health care providers will benefit, large pharmaceutical companies will benefit. You will get screwed, hard and fast, all the while being told how it's all for your own good. There isn't much that is sure in this life, but that is a sure thing.

And on that pleasant note, I shall go to bed and fall into a deep, blissful sleep in the full and certain knowledge that my over-lords in Washington DC are looking out for my best interests.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

St Pete's

While I was here I decided to per sue another lead with AAA. I looked up the phone number and called the St Petersburg FL office to see if they had a travel agent opening. I had seen it listed on, but Robi (manager of Carrollwood office) did not know if St Pete was hiring or not. She gave me the manager's email and told me she was out of the office for 7-10 days.

Whomever answered the St Pete's main line told me that they were indeed looking for a travel agent since they had one leaving and her last day is tomorrow. I verified the address I found in google and thanked God that it was late working day for them. I got directions (via google maps again) and headed over. Found the place okay (well .... after a slight detour on the wrong road!), filled the application and such and turned in with my current resume. The receptionist said she would give it to the manager tomorrow afternoon when she was back in. she just back or leaving soon or did Robi give me wrong info? Oh well. Another attempt at a job!

No free Disney passes :-(

Sorry all that were pulling for me to get the job at Disney World res center ----
I did not get the job.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Disney World job?!

I'm back in Florida again. I have an interview tomorrow for a position at the Walt Disney Reservation Center in Tampa. I applied online on 9/30, got a call Tues (10/6) -- passed that and got set up for an in person interview process for Thurs (10/8). Wow --- good thing I can come and go at a drop of a pin.

I also found online tonight another position with Disney --- at the cruise line reservation center --- I may ask about that tomorrow if I can. Any job with Disney would be great --- I'm sure. I think Ric and I were both excited to hear about this interview. We are ready to work for the "happiest place on earth!"

Tuesday, October 06, 2009


Total visits for September were slightly better than last month (199), but still off from our long-term average. Again, with only a few updates a week instead of several a day, that's understandable. Until we have an always-on connection on our own computer, posting will remain somewhat sparse. This month is also somewhat distorted by the whole accessing-the-web-via-a-borrowed-PC thing: our machines are set up to not be recorded in our site stats, while the borrowed machine obviously is not. So the numbers for XP and Firefox 3.5 will be slightly elevated over what they would otherwise be.

Anyway, without further ado:

XP - 80.4%
Vista - 12.1%
Other - 3.0%
Mac - 1.5%
NT - 1.5%
Linux - 1.5%

That gives Microsoft 94% on the OS front. And while my site may just not attract the "right" kind of people or something, it's gotta sting when your OS ties with NT and gets beat out by Other. Just sayin'.

Firefox 3.5 - 42.7%
IE 7 - 28.1%
IE8 - 11.1%
Firefox 3.0 - 5.5%
Chrome - 3.0%
IE6 - 3.0%
Other - 5.5%

Microsoft looks a lot less dominant on the browser front than it does in OS's, and continues a slow-but-steady decline. Personally, IE8 isn't a half-bad browser other than taking twice as long to load a page, but I still use Firefox even with its dated look-and-feel because it's fast and I know about vulnerabilities with hours of their discovery with patches not taking much longer.

All done playing with numbers.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Still Waiting

When the Florida thing fell through, I immediately contacted the broker dude about getting Megapath on the stick with this DSL thing they claim they can do. Of course, not a peep from Megapath. Which most likely means that some sales dude promised something that the hardware dudes can't deliver. Wednesday morning will have been one week; if I don't hear anything by then, we'll be going with Hughsnet. The speed is actually better than what Megapath was offering for the same money and installation is cheaper. The only problem with satellite is the latency issue (everything has to travel up to geo-stationary and back; about 45,000 miles round trip) and weather interruptions (which, contrary to the cable TV ads, are rare). Even then, still better than dial-up.

Speaking of waiting, we're pretty much at a stand-still in the basement until the plumber dudes show up again. They had to come back out anyway because we had to take Debbie's mom over to Menards to pick out a new toilet to replace a very old one that basically fell apart when the plumber dude touched it. It was turquoise (which tells you how old it is), so no great loss to the world of bathroom fixtures. But now one of the toilets they thought they had fixed is still leaking, or maybe started leaking from somewhere else. Anyway, we can't shift stuff from the last room that needs to be peeled/patched/plastered/primed/painted until they get back here because where we were planning on shifting it to is exactly where the plumber dudes need to get to fix the leak. But we are mostly done with everything else and have started setting up a little living area for ourselves in one room, and actually got the water bed frame put together in the room we plan to use as a bedroom. A "California king" mattress is due to be delivered Monday or Tuesday (more waiting) which will pretty much make that room into a usable bedroom.

We were hoping to get outside and do some yard stuff and get things ready for winter, but after not raining for the first month we were here, it looks like Michigan is making up for lost time. So more waiting. Of course, just as I typed that, the sun poked through a hole in the clouds, so we may still get some time in the sun. Which is good; we've been in the basement so much, we're starting to look like those lizards cavers find with no eyes and transparent skin.

So the bottom line is that we're still waiting. Just waiting....