Archive for November, 2006

Sub-optimal riding weather, and a new job

November 30, 2006 3 comments

On my last day at my job, it comes quittin’ time, and it’s omen weather: windy, dark and sleeting.  Well, home is only a little over a mile away.  If you’re ever in this situation, here’s a few pointers:

  • Wear a head cover under your helmet

  • Front and rear blinker lights and extra reflectors on your bike are a very good idea.  The reflector tape they put on semi-trucks is really good stuff and you can buy about a lifetime supply of it for fifteen bucks at a farm or truck supply.  Hardware stores don’t carry it.
  • Mountain bike is a better choice than any skinny-tired machine.  Make sure the cables and chain are well lubricated to avoid water jamming them up
  • Dress warmly; you don’t want to start shivering while you loosen up an ice-encrusted lock.
  • Watch out for uneven surfaces; they put side-thrust on your wheels and can cause you to slip
  • Corner slowly so your bike remains pretty much exactly upright
  • Paradoxically, busy streets are safer than sidewalks.  The street is salted so there isn’t much ice.  But when crossing empty parking lots, plan on riding slowly.
  • Avoid the proximity of very tall buildings; crosswinds are not helpful when riding on ice.

I got home just fine with only minimal slippage and no falls.  Tomorrow I start my “new” job.

I am going to miss everyone at my “old” job.  The department where I worked is known as the “Crazy schemes factory” and being tech support there is a gas.  We all exchanged jokes and insults, the boss congratulated me, one of my coworkers took me out to lunch.  It was about as nice a last day as I could possibly imagine.  What a wonderful bunch of friends.

My new job is also a great place with an even bigger cast of characters.  I have been working there half-time for the past couple years and now am going full-time.  My role will change considerably, with more emphasis on web development and multimedia.  Computer support will still be a part of it, though.  I wouldn’t know how to act if I didn’t get support calls.

I get to learn more about CSS, PHP, and databases including MySQL and Access.  I’m anxious to dive into those subjects because I’ve only had spare moments to look at them before now.  Also a possibility I can get some Visual Basic programming and certainly more on multimedia.  It’s like breaking through a wall and finding a whole room full of cool new stuff.

But I probably won’t ride to work tomorrow; several inches of snow predicted to say nothing of the ice accumulating on everything right now.  Maybe the streets will be all cleared up by next week.

UPDATE: couple hours later… the bit o’ sleet has turned into a full ice storm.  But the patter of ice hitting the roof is quieted by the thick layer that has accumulated there. Outside, tree branches are making familiar cracking noises; I should not be surprised for the power to go off this evening.

As Sgt. Esterhaus on Hill Street Blues used to say, “Let’s be careful out there.”

Categories: Personal

New citizenship test

November 30, 2006 5 comments

“Immigrant rights” groups are protesting as US unveils new citizenship test.  It will be less fact-based and more concept-based.  The new test will be “tried out on volunteers”.  Here are a few sample questions:

  • Why does the United States have three branches of government?

  • Name two rights that are only for US citizens
  • Name two cabinet-level positions
  • Name one important idea found in the Declaration of Independence
  • What does the Constitution do?

Just as a lark, I’d like to see all candidates for public office pass this test before being allowed on the ballot.  Oh, and all immigrants applying for citizenship, too.

Categories: Politics

“I give the directions around here.”

November 29, 2006 3 comments

Thinking about a Global Positioning System for your car?  Do you get a chuckle out of references to the movie, Deliverance?  NexTel has a commercial for you.

Maybe you had to have lived in the South to appreciate it…

Categories: Advertising, business

It’s some science thingie

November 28, 2006 2 comments

Acephalous is studying how links propagate across the web, or something.  The deal is, you put a link like the one above on YOUR blog for some reason and he tracks it with a script and writes up a paper that he’s presenting at a convention…  he’ll probably fold some of the data he collects into his dissertation, or into a really bitchin’ paper airplane at least.

Aw, hell, I don’t really know what it’s for, but all the cool kids are doing it.  Next up is jumping off a cliff together, I think.
(Via a dozen of the blogs on my blogroll, I think)  Here’s that link:

Categories: Blogging, Geeky

Get the popcorn

November 26, 2006 9 comments

One of the Answers In Genesis people has contacted PZ Myers asking for “an intelligent debate” over naturalism vs. creationism..  This isn’t just going into the lion’s den; it’s putting your head into the lion’s mouth and poking the big cat with a cattle prod.  Myers has asked his readers to hold back for a while and let the fellow have his say.

But the guy wanted no “childish attacks” so when he says something phenomenally stupid, we aren’t allowed to say so or he’ll pout.

Notice that I have removed Pharyngula from my list of daily favorites.  This is due to the fact that Myers regards ALL people of faith as idiots and says so, loudly, at every opportunity.  While I agree with him on many things, I think this is bad strategy and besides, I know many counterexamples.  Also, as a civil society we will be sharing the country with theists – a majority – for a long time.  Pharyngula is still linked in the side bar under ‘Science and skepticism’, though.  You don’t necessarily let an attack dog into your living room but there are times when they do come in handy and Myers is good to have around for people like this guy from AIG.

Categories: Science & Technology

Bound to learn the hard way

November 25, 2006 16 comments

I don’t know how guarding the natural environment got to be a “right-wing/left-wing” thing, but somehow it’s become “liberal” to advocate conservation.  Never mind the tremendous economic importance of topsoil, fish stocks, or a stable climate; you’re a ‘leftie’ and can be dismissed out of hand if you want to head off environmental catastophe.

But your precious ‘free market’ is no good when there’s no fish to sell, when kids are dying of asthma in your cities, or when your cities are underwater, or when our nation’s enemies are funded by our addiction to the oil that they have under their sands. 

Take ‘bottom-trawling’ – please.  In this method, a 5-ton steel plate is dragged across the ocean floor to act as a moving anchor for an enormous net that sweeps the sea clean.  Not only does it leave behind only empty water, it mangles the sea floor that shelters the food and reproduction chain for the very fish it is catching.

This is a criminally stupid and short-sighted practice, but United Nations negotiations on fisheries have failed again to ban it.  Heavens!  You wouldn’t want to interfere with the ‘free market’! 

The ‘conservative’ approach seems to be to deny that anything bad could ever happen.  What, exactly, are conservatives conserving? 

I heard about “Black Friday”

November 24, 2006 3 comments

The Friday after Thanksgiving is supposedly “Black Friday” when retailers sell so much stuff that it puts them in the black for the year.  Shoppers wait in line from the wee hours of the morning to get stuff they don’t need at faaaannnn-TABulous prices!

I stayed home.

Mostly I just took it easy, did some reading.  Recabled my bike because the brakes were sticking (corrosion on the cables).  Modern bike cables are not supposed to need lubrication because of the Teflon lining of the cable housing – don’t believe it.  By working a Teflon gel into the cable itself, I can make it repel water so it doesn’t corrode even on nasty, salty, slushy streets.  Then the brakes and shifters work smoothly.  But since the bike was new in April I hadn’t done that yet.

Also washed and waxed my car for the winter.  MrsDoF’s car has that newfangled “clearcoat” paint that doesn’t really need waxing.  Not so, my Beetle (which will be 40 in January).  It has the old-fashion, primitive enamel-type paint that needs waxing or the corrosive dirt and salt will eat away at it.  I used a “wax” containing Teflon, which was not available in car waxes in 1967.  Winter weather is apparently a flourocarbon thing.

I could do these things because today was about 65 degrees, sunny and clear – really springlike except the leaves have already fallen off the trees and long since been mulched.  A much better day, I feel certain, than dealing with crowds in stores.

Oh, if you are out shopping, and you want to buy a digital camera, here’s a good discussion about new digicams over at SEB.  Well worth the read, and besides you can admire Les’ fancy hat.

*Check out Pete over at Terminal Ward’s experience in a Black Friday line

Categories: Personal

Happy Thanksgiving!  The day to come out

November 22, 2006 5 comments

How nice it is for everyone to hit the road and join their families around a dinner table for some togetherness!  And if a zillion cartoons along this theme are any indication, this is the day to “come out” on various things.  Well everybody’s in one place and in a neurological stupor from tryptophan (abundant in turkey); you won’t get a better chance!

“Mom, dad, brother and sister, I am…”  (pick one or more) – gay, -straight, -atheist, -Catholic, -a Martian, -a Democrat, -a Green, -a Republican, -changing my major to basket weaving, -other (please specify)”

And a note to everybody else around the table, if a family member opens up something new to you, try to set aside your immediate reaction for a few days.  Remember you always loved the other family member before, even if you didn’t understand them.  Let it sink in; do some research and find out what it’s all about.

Nahh, on second thought, that doesn’t make a very funny cartoon.  Family member says anything that strikes you wrong, even though they’ve probably been rehearsing it for years because they obviously care very much about their relationship to you, just blow up and say the first thing that pops into your head.

There!  :coolsmirk:  That’s my helpful Public Service Announcement for the year.

Categories: Humor, observations

Charlie Rangel volunteering your kids

November 21, 2006 2 comments

Congressman Charlie Rangel is stepping up the heat on his call for a renewal of the draft.  His reasoning, if you call it that:

“There’s no question in my mind that this president and this administration would never have invaded Iraq, especially on the flimsy evidence that was presented to the Congress, if indeed we had a draft and members of Congress and the administration thought their kids in their communities would be placed in harm’s way,” said Rangel, a Korean War veteran.

Charlie, if you want to get people involved, forget blackmail, forget threatening to enslave their children in warfare.  If you really want to get their attention, pass a constitutional amendment for a balanced federal budget.  Make the government stop whipping out the plastic to go to war; let the tax bill reflect the cost of war, right now. 

The advantage of this approach is it would get the attention of rich people (and congressmen), whose children normally find some way to weasel out of a draft. 

If we’re really threatened and we need to defend ourselves, people will ante up.  But if it’s another one of these corporate-stroking foreign adventures started on lies and sustained by “in for a penny,” no politician in the country would sign off on it. 

Either that, or congressmen are our new front-line troops.  I’d go for that.

Categories: Politics

Bush finally goes to Vietnam, now that it’s safe

November 21, 2006 2 comments

I was going to write a long-winded boring post on how our frat-boy-in-chief finally got up the nerve to go to Vietnam as long as he could ride a pimped-out 747 and bring a small army to defend him, but that pretty much sums up how I feel about it.

I would have tried to get out of going to Vietnam too – it was a pointless conflict – but then I wouldn’t be strutting around decades later talking like mister tough-guy when the most dangerous thing I had ever done was get too drunk to remember what I did the previous night back in college.

UPDATE:  Keith Olberman on the lessons of Vietnam probably won’t be to everyone’s liking, but I pretty much agree with it.  That conflict – and the safe, comfortable self-serving politicians who persisted in it – made a mockery of the bravery and blood of the soldiers we needlessly sent there. 

Categories: Politics