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Journal: Even Caffeine Is Failing Me Now 1

Journal by ackthpt

Who wants post caffeine withdrawals? Not me. So I drink watered down coffee. It only takes a small amount of caffeine to kick-start someone, anything after that is wasted and makes coming down off it that much more regrettable. I also like to sleep at night, not twitch and throw all my covers on the floor.

I'm tired. Bone tired. Caffeine can't do anything about that. Need to hit the hay earlier. Stop eating junk, too.

Gonna be a challenge though. Got an Android tablet today. Want to try all sorts of fun stuff. Install Apache and PHP on it. See if I can make it wireless server. That'd be killer fun.

Ah. But need sleep.

Decisions. Decisions.

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Journal: Trapezium 6

Journal by ackthpt

[Here's a 2nd try, as the first attempt evidently went to bit heaven.]

Saturnday night I went out with other Santa Cruz Astronomy Club members to the Bonny Doon airfield. I live about 15 miles from the site and was a bit put off when upon unpacking found the power cord had left its storage compartment on my portable power pack. I'd been there before, leaving it home, but this time it appears well and truly lost. (Sunday I picked up a new cord at Radio Shack and used a tie-strip to secure it to the eq. mount.)

So muscling the LXD-75 10 inch SNT around was the order of the night. Not terrible, but it meant no tracking, which is the feature I depend upon most. Around midnight Orion cleared the trees and I swung the tube over to examine the Orion Nebula (M42), in Orion's sword. It's one of my favourite sights and this evening would be one of the best for viewing.

Early on I could easily make out the four brightest stars in Trapesium and continued to check up as Orion progressed higher. About 1:00 AM I was easily able to make out five stars, by 1:30 AM I was able to clearly see six, which is the full known compliment of blue stars in that stellar nursery. Cue massive geek astronomical excitement!

After a bit I swung the scope over to Fornax and Eridanus to scan for galaxies, which were in abundance. About 2:00 AM I was still wide awake, thanks to my 1L Sigg full of green tea, but knew I'd need to head home eventually or be the worse for it while unpacking and transporting all this wonderful dead weight back into the house. After returning home I was still pretty awake and enthusiastic enough to plan my viewing for the next week while downing some soup.

Sunday proved to be a difficult adjustment, even with the extra hour to sleep in.

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Journal: Whine Country Safari

Journal by ackthpt

I've been living in California for just over 10 years. Prior to moving here I visited friends, Mark T. (game designer/producer who lived in Sacremento for a while before moving to the bay area then back to the midwest) and Paul Z. (Stanford grad and worked in silicon valley for a variety of network companies) and got a little look at the Napa county scene.

After moving to California in 1997 I made a few trips up to Napa and one Sonoma visit with Paul. On these trips we visited well known and lesser well known wineries. Generally the more 'successful' turned me off with all the clothing, kitsch and food related items they carried, along with some prices which defied my taste for their wines.

I'm no wine connoisseur, I simply know what I like and don't like. I have found inexpensive wines in the past I liked fine. They usually came from unpretentious rustic wine tasting rooms. I took a trip through the Russian River wine country on Sunday and revisited some of these places I had in the past to see what they had and if I could score a couple bottles of something decent for not much scratch. Shock. Rochioli, which has IMHO a good chardonnay which was $11 or $12 a bottle last time through was now up to $30 a bottle and had a book on the counter showing how fabulously their wines had been received at the White House. Oof. Time to go.

Around the corner is Hop Kiln, which had some decent reds the last time I visited was now selling all the merchandise lamented above and their wines had also gone up a lot. Bye.

Next to last visit of the day was Ridge/Lytton Springs. Reknowned for their Zinfandels, I recalled a couple very good bottles several years ago and thought we might visit their rustic steel pole barn, which was inhabited by several large wooden fermenters and a number of cats. Shock. All new building, fancy stuff all around. The Zins were still good, still reasonably priced, but it's obvious success has hit these places. Further someone mentioned how good a year it is supposed to be fore Pinot Noir. I don't know Pinot Noir from Guinness, but evidently the film Sideways branded the variety a hot property and novuea riche (or wannabes) were swarming around looking for it.

We elected to search for one of Paul's favourites, Rochambeau and found an empty lot. Looks like they're going to put in a spiff new tasting room etc. We'll see. Last visit on the road was Rabbit Ridge which featured some very good moderately priced wines. I wish them success, with moderation ;-)

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Journal: Viral behaviour of Ideas and Deja Foobar 2

Journal by ackthpt

On Feb 14, 2002, to the best of my knowledge (and Google searching at the time) I coined the following from the All Your Base meme:

Rose are red
Violet are blue
All my base
Are belong to you

A variation I could find I had posted on the occasion of Rob Malda proposing in a most geekish fashion, using his own /. web site.

Now it seems to be everywhere, even on shirts at thinkgeek.com (I didn't think to submit it to them so haven't seen a penny of that.)

About 4 years ago I adopted my current sig.

A feeling of having made the same mistake before: Deja Foobar

It was common to refer to a programming error as a foobar in one place I worked, as they were usually the result of testing, rather than the older acronym fubar which I felt carried a stronger definition of erring.

The sig actually was born when I was reminiscing about Deja News, perhaps due to Google's revival of the Deja archives for Google Groups and coined the term deja foobar without particularly attaching it to anything. Eventually I would associate the term with the feeling of making the feeling of repeating programming mistake. And wanting a new, more original sig for my slashdot account made it such.

This is more easy to track than the AYB poem. I was almost immediately set upon by people pointing out I had it wrong and it should be fubar. As the original meaning was rather private I didn't care and shrugged off these "correction attempts" over the years. I recently wondered if anyone had picked up the sig and posted it anywhere.

Shock.

Indeed it has been, spelled foobar and fubar. Some others have even gone so far as to use it in their sig as well. The number of matches is surprising and shows how far an original idea spreads. Both are found with the core idea of 'feeling of having made the same mistake before' Interesting. I should probably post it to thinkgeek.com before someone else nicks it. :o)

Google results for
Deja Foobar
Deja Fubar

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Journal: Proto Boards!

Journal by ackthpt

So this MIT student walks through Logan (Boston, MA area) airfield terminal with a Proto Board on her jumper and the cops jump Her. Many that's lame, as lame as the half a fibre drum of nail trimmers I saw at an airport a few years ago. It doesn't smell like explosive, does it? I bet terrorists just laugh themselves sick at how jumpy they've made everyone. Like the british security agents who slaughtered the brazilian electrician.

Got me thinking about Proto Boards though. I was just thinking about getting a tiny one yesterday. I'm converting a webcam to an astro-imaging camera, by changing colour CCD to B/W CCD and adding some solid-state cooling to it. I've got a circuit board to make, but a small Proto Board would probably work as well and give me some flexibility the soldered PCB wouldn't. I'll have to see what sizes I can find.

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Journal: ITLAPD as it were

Journal by ackthpt

A funny old fing. I got into the pirate character for all of my posts on the 19th of Sept., "arrrs" here, "avasts" there and such. A bit of mental gymnastics trying to fit it all together and try to contribute to discussion.

Oddly, most of my posts which were modded were modded Funny, not insightful or informative or even interesting. Oh a point here or there, but still 80%+ funny, though the content wasn't meant to be. I'm sure it'll all come out in a month when someone metamods these things and thinks 'wtf!?!' since they probably won't make the International Talk Like a Pirate Day connection.

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Journal: Wind Scorpions/Sun Spiders 2

Journal by ackthpt
Climbing the stairs at work I spy what looks like a VERY large spider, stranded between steps. I prod it with a pen and it proves to be very quick and agile, capable of leaping several inches. I empty a water bottle and catch it in the bottle. It's clearly pissed and adopts a threatening stance safely behind a few mills of plastic. It looks like it has 10 legs and has a pair of beaks rather than the usual aparatus. I quick search on google for 'spider 10 legs' brings up some promising results, family solifugid - commonly called Sun Spiders/Wind Scorpions. A little reading yields the information this is no true spider, but is an arachnid, somewhere between spiders and scorpions. After a bit more searching I find this site which is a pretty good read. I work in an area which is near-desert so this shouldn't be too surprising, but it's a new creature to me. About 20 years go, living in Michigan, which is frozen about half the year, I found something else which was quite a surprise, climing the wall of the bath, a pseudoscorpion. Tiny, but unmistakeable pincers. Neat stuff.
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Journal: Well, Dang! 1

Journal by ackthpt
Years ago I adopted the stance that "everyone has to be somewhere", when confronting a coincidence or chance meeting.

Robert Heinlein, an author I admired for a few of his works I read in high school, SIASL not among those, actually lived near where I do now. He and his wife had a house up Bonny Doon Road, near Santa Cruz, from 1967 to 1987. I've ridden past it countless times on my bicycle and never knew it. I suppose what's also an interesting coincidence is that as a member of the Santa Cruz Astronomy Club, I set up my telescope in a private airfield not far from that very house and marvel at the heavens not unlike I did his science fiction.

It's just kinda neat. That's all.

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Journal: 4 Times the Light 3

Journal by ackthpt

The ETX125 has got a workout already this year. Several times in the morning I've hauled it out before sunrise for a peek at Jupiter and I've gone up to the old airfield for a dew-shortened viewing. Also, set it up on a street corner downtown, where about 100 people viewed either Saturn or a portion of the Orion Nebula (M42) which was visible in city light.

Now I move up to a 10" newtonian, with 4 times the amount of light. It's a beast and I'll have to build a cradle to haul the OTA around it. The tripod alone is about 30 pounds, plus there are three 10 pound counterweights.

The ETX will still get around, thanks to its portability and quick setup, where the newtonian will be for those outings for which I have sufficient time, energy and desire for.

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Journal: Hardware Failure 1

Journal by ackthpt
After two years of struggle with my ATI RADEON AIW Pro 9800 video card, the fanciest features of which I've never got to use, it flaked out in a new direction. Vertical bars mapped from obviously in-use memory. I have all the up-to-date drivers and have even monkeyed with the AGP voltage, upping it to 1.7v and still it goes nuts from time to time.

Meanwhile my reading lamp has flaked out and isn't working and seems to be a wiring problem. Also, the left turn signal on my pickup is continuing to make the point there are more intermittancies in the wiring, after finding a faulty ground on a cross threaded stud for things, including the wipers.

Must be gremlins.

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Journal: Another 35 Km 1

Journal by ackthpt
Fog was heavy in the morning, traffic slow and I passed at least one accident. Stupid the way people drive in pea-soup without headlights. On the way home it was fog again, not as thick, but enough to slow traffic. It was clear around home and I'd actually made the return commute in fair time, with a quick change I could get a bike ride in.

I changed and was in full kit, with arm and leg warmers and out the door by eleven after six, not too shabby. The start of the ride went smoothly, escaping city traffic to the entrance of North Rodeo Gulch and I motor up the lower grades comfortably, getting legs and all else warmed up for the task ahead. I used to call this climb the Col du Merde, because the last steep bit was all suffering. It's about 9 Km to the first real percentages, just enough to warm up for some real work. I'm out of the saddle a bit and turning the pedals smoothly, wind in my face and the odd small fly in my eye or mouth, I spit them out and take a drink from my water bottle -- or bidon, recalling the road ahead and which gear to be in, depending on how I feel. I'm in the big ring and feeling strong. I'm in the small ring when the road turns more steeply upward.

The first turn isn't the steepest but it's the worst, in the transition from moderate to higher grades it's mostly mental, convince myself it's hard and it is. It climbs a short ways and becomes moderate again, just before a turn with a fifteen percent grade, it's short but can hurt if I've overcooked myself getting there. I drive up the middle of the road to where it flattens a bit again, sit down and take another sip of water, the last grade is coming and it's tough, it's where I know my form, good or bad. I push my pace and hit it at about ninety percent effort and roll up well. I approach a gated driveway where there's sometimes a dog. The dog isn't there, but it usually worries me because it barks, it's never chased, but I don't know it won't ever. It's much harder to outrun anything going uphill, particularly when you've been climbing for a while.

I crested the mountain with speed and power to spare, just in time to catch the dying embers of the day. Fog or marine layer often make for dramatic colors as is the case. Amber, magenta and silver, in streaks and ribbons fading into an inverted sea of azure.

I turn on the LED bike light and head down the dark back side. Nothing like fresh blacktop with no lines or markers in the dark. The descent on Mountain View is fast and bumpy and I try to remember where the particularly rough bits are. Rounding a curve a pickup comes up in the middle of the road and I nearly buy it into an eight foot ditch, but again skirt danger and make the way to Branciforte for the dash back to town. There's a 60's hotrod behind me grumbling about being behind a bicycle, but that's only because they caught up at the stop sign, on these roads a car like that couldn't follow a good cyclist and through the pitch I had flown.

I turn left and the car finally growls past me onto the darkening road. Out here the asphalt is pretty beat, tirebiter holes dot the shoulder of the road and I take it easy covering the stretch, a good time to check the light and catch a drink. Back on good pavement I wind it up and jet along the winding road toward town. Muscles not quite aching, lungs not quite burning, just below the threshold of pain and moving at an exhillerating pace. Swift, strong and sure, I carve through turns and over rises, a roller coaster has nothing on this thrill ride. One last gradient I strain up, maintaining velocity, catching the top as my quads protest in full flame then rocket down towards the stop as pedestrians dash across the road ahead with flashlights. What are they doing? Must be some pre-Halloween ritual or secret society thing. It takes all kinds to make Santa Cruz, as the bumper stickers say, "Keep Santa Cruz Weird"

Getting back into town is cause for more caution than required on the backroads, there are cars here, piloted by people who are in a rush to get somewhere. Home, store, bar, club meeting, running around with flashlights, whatever their mind is on and not some dude on a bicycle they have to grudgingly share the road with, trying not to hit, even if he's going the speed limit and obeying all the traffic signals. I usually take the lightest travelled route to the coast. Soquel at this hour and with this traffic is, in my humble opinion, asking for a trip to the the emergency room, court and months, if not years of physical therapy. I opt for Seabright and wind it up, going at the same rate as traffic. People seem eager to pass me, even though there's clearly a car just ahead of me and they'll have to wait at the same yellow, now red traffic light, for the full rotation anyway. Seems a few drivers like to get bicycles behind them and out of mind.

Across Murray I'm out of busy traffic I can take it easy again. The goal is not to get home in a sweat, that's what climbing the mountain and tearing down Branciforte are about, this part is about warming down and getting home in once piece. I leisurely coast around the harbor and onto the cliff drive, it's cake from here. Only one pickup on the road and they turn off and I can enjoy the luxury of the full street, noodling along and looking at the lights along the Monterey Bay. Stars are out and surfers are pretty much all home by now, Pleasure Point has a few dog walkers and others like me taking in the twilight.

Along Opal Cliff a figure with a shopping bag staggers in the middle of the road under a streetlight. I give her most of the road while passing. She calls out, "Please, sir!" in a pleading european voice. I slow and turn back, "Which way to 41st Avenue?" A moments thought, I know the roads well and were they go, but have difficulty remembering names, even a main artery which I go along on a daily basis. "It's back that way, toward the stop and go right, it is the quickest way there." A thank you and we're both on our way again. If I had my mountain bike I'd have offered her a ride, but the road bike isn't cut out for that duty and I'm not sure I have the skill to take a passenger while clipped in.

An hour and forty minutes later I roll down the alley behind home, unclip my left shoe, pull up behind my filthy pickup, dismount and stretch. I'm looking forward to a warm shower and dinner, I hope there's some warm water left, the kids in the back apartment are swimming in the shower again. Singing Culture Club and other hits from the eighties. They seem odd to say the least, but I wish they'd take it easy on the water.

I take my kit in the shower with me, giving it a rinse or good cleaning, depending upon expected need for cleanliness and hang it in the doorways to dry. In my place upstairs looks like open air closets for cycling apparel -- hangers covered with socks, gloves, shorts, jerseys and all -- I'm not proud.

I sit down at the computer with a bowl of minestrone, pita bread and some Trader Joe's Spicy Hommus and check the latest news, what's up on slashdot then cruise over to homestarrunner and read some Strong Bad email. He's funny. Strong Bad, yeah, I should rename that mountain Mt. St. Rongbad, that'd be good. Something to smile in humor about when slogging up the more difficult grades.

It's been a good evening and I turn in early. My faithful steed parked by my bed -- I check the tires quick and they're still fine. It's a good feeling to get in a ride before the weekend. This was for myself and to keep in form. Saturday and Sunday are another matter, those are unspoken races where the strong survive. I'll be there. I'll be ready. I turn out the light and I'm asleep almost as soon as I close my eyes.

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Journal: Astronomical Sightings

Journal by ackthpt
Bent the bank account to my will and bought a Meade ETX-125EC. It sat indoors for a month while clouds obscured pretty much everything. On Feb. 8, I dragged it down to the local pub and waited for the sun to set while tipping a couple pints. First sighting was Saturn, viewed more from a pole the rings were brilliant and visible around the planet. It looked like a big comic eye staring back. Pretty cool. Then Mars, a big orange spot, and Venus a bright blurry spot. Eventually Jupiter rose and I saw the four galillean moons and could make out 5 distinct bands, a real treat. Next came the moon and a look at craters and mare. All this time dozens of people came by and looked through the scope and were dazzled. It was a pretty fun outting and now I'm thinking where to go next. Obviously I need to go to a Star Party, but I'm interested in snapping some pics for my website, so a camera adapter is called for. They seem pricey for what you get. I'm still shopping around.

A good site for Astronomy and Meade ETX scopes is Weasner's Mighty ETX Site There are recent pictures posted, too. Neat stuff.

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Journal: The Matrix Reloaded

Journal by ackthpt
I should have checked out The Matrix and watched it before seeing this film, however, as an author books in a series pointed out, each installment should be able to stand on its own. TMR stands on its own, weird story which smells like it should be shallow behind special effects; good special effects, though fight scenes got tedious (ah, they're fighting, a good opportunity to nip out for a pee); chase scene was OK; characters and acting were at least much better than tiresome B5, DS9, Star Trek anything, but the sunglasses I forget the point of, was there one(?) same for all that action in a long coat, riiiight.

I couldn't help but think the point of the whole sequence was to meet Colonel Sanders. The architect struck me as someone who might offer Neo a bucket of fried chicken parts at any moment.

All in all, it was above average, but far from the best I've seen. Trailers before the film suggest few interesting films on tap for this summer. May have to resort to watching some old classics on DVD, as too many look like the same old Attitude, Preposterous story and Overuse of SFX conglomerations which mark the limitations of Hollywood imagination.

Toys

Journal: Confessions of a Neo Geo Cache Addict 2

Journal by ackthpt
Less than a week after my first GeoCache outing my friend (he whom talked me into grabbing the eTrex and joining him and his son in the hills) has a Magellan SporTrak on order, to be delivered today, and I've ordered labels for creating GeoCaches and some Travel Bugs. The bug has not only bitten, but the teeth have sunk in deep. Summer will be a series of weekends plodding fireroads, tramping through thickets and mazes of twisty little passages-all alike.

Our initial caches (we plant) will be close to home, but I already have begun planning a cache deep in a southwestern US desert.

I've got my trusty eTrex on my hip, batteries charged and it's about 2 PM on Friday. Two more hours then I'm outta here.

Calvin was right, there's treasure everywhere.

It is surely a great calamity for a human being to have no obsessions. - Robert Bly

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