Sunday, December 30, 2012

My Gun Control Idea

So here's my unattainable thought for how to get rid of a lot of assault rifles (which is a huge problem in the US).

Let's put human greed to work.

1. Make their sale illegal.

2. Offer a generous bounty on their return (more than their original cost.)

3. Don't require proof of ownership at the turn in.

My thought is that eventually outlaws will start stealing each other's rifles and turning them in.
There will be a slow attrition.  If it slows, raise the bounty.

Police and military ones would be specially marked so they can be spotted at turn in.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

That Word "Expert"

So I've been noticing over time that when I hear the word "expert" my skeptic filters instantly engage.

Not so much when watching TV, but more in person.

The word itself tells me nearly nothing about the person being described.  It tells me a lot about the person speaking.  It usually means that the speaker doesn't understand the subject that they are saying the other person is an "expert" at.  What they are in a sense saying is that "This person I am calling an expert knows way more about subject X than I do."

Also, the more a person knows about a subject the less they would say the word expert (if ever).  I am an IT person with 18 years of experience.  I am not an expert at all.  I am a generalist, but someone describing me might use other vocabulary.

One way to learn more about the "expert" knows to have the speaker tell you more.  "Could you describe what this person helped you do?"  Or just let them talk.  There is information in the details, but you have to go through a lot of superfluous words first.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Removing Mobile Email Signatures

iPhones and other mobile devices often by default put a "Sent from my Super Magic Device" in the signature. This is entirely optional, and you can change or remove it if you'd rather not be an advertising billboard.


  • Settings
  • Mail
  • Signature


Droid 4
  • Open the Email app
  • Menu Settings button
  • Settings
  • Select Account you want to change
  • Signature

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Downsides of Winter Camping

I love being out in the snow.  It's usually gorgeous and if you choose carefully falling down is not that painful.

If you have a shovel you can play house all you like.  You can build walls, a kitchen complete with a basic table or working surface, or a latrine.  You can even build a snow cave if you're feeling ambitious.

But there are some obvious downsides to snow

 - You need to have snow skills.  You should know how to use an ice axe and crampons.  In particular you need to be able to use an ice axe to help you stop ("self-arrest").  This can be done with a trekking pole but trekking poles were not designed for this and those who know how to do this already know about how to use an ice axe.
 - When the weather warms up it's hard to walk on
 - When it's not hard to walk on you might be on ice and that's slick and dangerous
 - The UV rays can cook your skin - You need to be wearing something or have way heavy duty sunscreen.
 - The UV rays can blind you if you lose your sunglasses and you're better off with special glacier glasses.
 - The winds can be decidedly less than fun
 - The weather can suddenly change, but that's true anytime
 - Winter equipment is heavier, more expensive, and there is more of it.
 And the most obvious and often most defeating
 - It gets cold at night

And if you're trying to climb a mountain
 - You often need to start hiking when it's the most cold because this is when the snow is solid and most climbable.  (Called an "alpine start.")

If you're in a 4 season tent and have a nice sleeping pad and bag it can actually be quite nice, but 4 season tents are heavier, more expensive ($450-$600), and get very hot during the day.

If you're climbing by yourself (which you really shouldn't do but you can in popular areas), then you're the only one toting that silly tent.  You could get a 1 person tent but that means you really like your solitude and two person tents are usually much more fun unless you have money to burn and buy both.

Fortunately these days the tents have gotten lighter.  This 2 person 4 season tent is only 5 pounds:

You can climb in the spring time with a 3 season tent if you have a good sleeping bag, but it means you are huddling quite a lot.  This last time I also optimistically went with an air mattress which was fabulous on dirt and an excellent conductor of cold especially when things got down to 20 degrees.  I left a day early.

So now I'm left with - how bad do I want to do this?  There are a whole world of ways to waste your time.

I am more draw these days to cross country skiing with fat (Randonee) skis and maybe do a hut tour as there are some nice Sierra huts.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Rehoming Sea Shells

Does everyone's parents keep weird stuff from their children's childhood?  For decades?

I was helping move my Mom into assisted living which mean going through a lot of stuff and sure enough there is the requisite one or two creepy boxes of stuff from when I was 10 or younger.  In said box was a plastic bag of sea shells with a note on it saying "Ellen's sea shells from St. Simon's Island (in Georgia).  While there was no date on it I haven't been to said Island to a long since sold (and now non-existent cottage) for well over 30 years.

So what do I do with a pile of sea shells?  There was a larger one that I abandoned on a rail at tourist laden Pier 39 in San Francisco (it was gone in minutes.)  But I also had a bunch of little tiny shells.

I could throw them away, but sea shells much like rocks are infinitely reusable.  There is always some wee sea creature looking for a home and anything that was once on them is long since dead so there's little risk of creating some pandemic ocean disease by carrying an East coast shell across the country and dropping it into the Pacific.

So I got my opportunity when I was at Pescadero Beach.  I hope some little critter had a nice home now.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Tracing Email Forgeries

Long and dull, but useful information:..

By now many folks know that emails claiming to be from Fed Ex, or UPS, or the postal service about deliveries are often scams.  But people often ask how do you tell for sure instead of just guessing?  

The way to tell is to look at the email’s “Full Headers.”  While such a display looks daunting there are particular details you are looking for and you can ignore a lot of the other detail.

What you are looking for is the often strangely formatted Received lines.  What you are interested in is what system sent me the email?  Did it really come from UPS or did it come from Moon-buk-tu?

Here is an example.  It claims to be from UPS about a delivery confirmation contained in an attachment.  First of all UPS doesn’t do that, so you know it’s not right from the start, but let’s continue.

Email gets handed off pony express style from one computer to another and there will be a Received line in the email for every “hop.”

Received: from ( [])
    by (8.13.8/8.13.4) with ESMTP id q8A9vW9W028734
    for ; Mon, 10 Sep 2012 02:57:35 -0700

 Received: from [] (
    by with esmtpa (Exim 4.69)
    (envelope-from )
    id 1MM3D6-6022ia-PI
    for; Mon, 10 Sep 2012 16:54:50 +0700
From: "UPS Quantum View"
Subject: Delivery Notification UPS Mon, 10 Sep 2012 16:54:50 +0700

Return-Path - this can be faked so ignore it.
Received lines go in reverse order so the last one to touch it is the one at the top and usually the one you want to look at.  You want to look for the name of your system that receives email for you.  In this case, I’m calling it  The top Received line is what sent it to mymailsystem.  That system claims to be, but look inside the parenthesis.  In an ESMTP Received line what is inside the parens is placed there by the email software and rarely is forged.  What is inside the parens is who really sent the message: which is a system in Indonesia.  UPS may be an international company, but I can assure you that a system of theirs whose job it is to send email is never going to look like this.  So we can safely conclude that it is a forgery.

The second received line is who sent it to indonesia which implies the Indonesian system may have been hacked/hijacked by a virus intended to send spams and scams.  This line is generated by Exim and I’m not as familiar with how those lines are formatted though I do know they are easiliy configurable and so I don’t trust them as much.  It is interesting that the parens only contain a “helo” which is what the system claims its name is to the mailer (listed as from Russia but very easily faked) and the ip address in the [] doesn’t match it.  The IP address is from Japan. (I checked with  
The implication is that the system is lying to the Indonesian system about where it is from.

Here is another example.
This claims to be from the ADP payroll system company.

That first glance a big clue: X-Mailer The Bat!
The Bat! is a mailer that is heavily used by spammers.
Return-Path is just whatever the spammer claimed to be

Return-Path: \ 
Received: from ([])
by (envelope-sender )
with ESMTP id q8ADQiYc012151; Mon, 10 Sep 2012 06:26:45 -0700  

Received: from [] (  
by with esmtpa (Exim 4.69) (envelope-from ) id 1MMCKK-1644oq-DH 
for; Mon, 10 Sep 2012 14:26:43 +0100
Date:     Mon, 10 Sep 2012 14:26:43 +0100
The Bat! (v2.04.7) Business

Looking at the first Received line, i find which is my example email system.  The system that sent it claims to be but, again, look inside the parens.  there is no name inside the parens so we have to do a little more work by using and it tells us this system is from Denmark which again is not an ADP system.

The system that sent it to the Denmark system is which is a system in New Jersey and again not from Russia as it claimed to be.

This example is basic forged spam.  It claims to be a stock tip from Italy but is really from a system in Russia (.ru inside the parens) that has likely been broken into:

Received: from ( [])
    by (8.13.8/8.13.4) with SMTP id q88GA0nQ027380
    for ; Sat, 8 Sep 2012 09:10:04 -0700

from unknown (HELO ebd) ([])
    by with ESMTP; Sat, 8 Sep 2012 20:10:48 +0300

<001b01cd8ddc ab270="ab270" comp1ebd="comp1ebd" d1d0="d1d0">
From: "Keith Greer"
Subject: Stock To Watch!

While the email address ( is a forgery, the name of the Russian system ( has not been - it appears the same both inside and outside of the parens in the Received line.  On the second Received line you can see the system that sent the spam through the Russian one.  Its identity is more protected, but it is likely which is a system in Ann Arbor Michigan owned by Merit Network (who is a college), and I will send the full headers to the Merit Network abuse address which I’m hoping is  It's likely the Merit system has been broken into as well.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Memorizing Passwords and Other Important Stuff

My work has autogenerated passwords that change monthly.

For the most part, I just keep these in a mailbox folder that I refer to, but it saves me a couple of minutes if I just memorize the passwords that I use the most.

If you took piano lessons, or took biology or first aid, or even rock climbing classes you’ve no doubt been introduced to using words in a phrase to remind you of process (called a mnemonic device.)  The piano staff one of Every Good Boy Does Fine and FACE is here (though I must admit to wondering why you need a mnemonic for something that is alphabetical).:

For example: QPEN Query Paul about his Egyptian Name

But the more ridiculous a device is the more memorable it is
What’s even better if you can come up with a silly image.

if you have

then a great way to remember it is:  The Red Zebra

After 24 hours I couldn’t remember Query Paul Egyptian Name.  All I could remember was Query Paul, BUT I had no trouble remembering The Red Zebra.

So if a password is

then you can use
purple giraffes are for digging innate holes

This process works well for license plates too


5 women will have 5 to 8 tulips


6 accordians can toil 9 to 5

Of course the hazard of all this is if you do too good a job, you are stuck with brain cells that are forever occupied with this bit of information long after it isn’t relevant.  In this case, you can always repurpose it.  i use portions of old phone numbers as pin numbers

Saturday, September 08, 2012

A Writer in Training

So I've decided that for my second/retirement career (right now I'm a happy IT person right now and a non-professional dog trainer) is that I want to be a writer.

Writing has always been a part of my life (lit undergrad etc) and I never really realized I had much talent at it until email and the internet where I started writing a lot and people would complement me on it.  Over time I've finally come to realize that it might be something I could semi-seriously persue.

But I have a lot to learn.  I am a great expository writer and I write for work every day and I have two blogs also, but I would like to write fiction and I have limited experience in that.  The big thing is the entire art of storycraft and plots and creating a consistent, credible fictional world.  We all have a good idea of what makes a good story, but to actually create something that someone actually wants to read is a whole 'nuther universe.

So I've started going back over books I've read just to see how the story develops and it's been really interesting.  I'll have to add more to this over time, but things, in particular, I've noticed are.

The beginning drops you right in the middle of something and you are immediately busy trying to figure out what is going on.  Something like: "I ducked as the pig flew by and sailed into the dining room and then I noticed that ground squirrels were drinking whiskey and laughing."  Then the writer will give you more information while the character and you are trying to figure out what to do about the situation.

Another thing I've just noticed, and I'm not sure I quite understand the point of it is hint dropping that will be missed by 90% of first time readers.  "His stance was squared off and seemed vaguely similar to something that my father once did."  Then chapters later it turns out that this person is a missing son of said father.  What is the purpose of doing that?  I can see if it is intriguing, but most of new readers are going to miss the reference.

Then there is the fictional world you build, and you have to understand that readers are going to be comparing your world to other authors.

I'm reading Deborah Harknesses A Discovery of Witches where she has Vampires, Witches, Demons and Humans.  I am a devoted fan of Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden and I can't help but compare the two, and sometimes I feel like Harkness is directly addressing the issue.  For example, when a vampire explains to the main character (a witch) that he doesn't need a specific invitation to cross a threshold. In Butcher's world he would, and my in-house Buffy the Vampire Slayer expert says that in Buffy's world they also would need an invitation.  You could probably write a whole essay comparing all the vampire worlds on this issue (including Anne Rice's and Bram Stoker's)

This is one thing I really like about Science Fiction.  You get to make the rules.  Detailed, reality based, fictional books like the ones that Daniel Silva writes are so perilous because if you get one detail wrong it jars many readers and they really don't like it.  In Science Fiction and Fantasy as long as you are consistent in the world you create you're ok.

More as I learn more.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Missing My Dad on the John Muir Trail

So we're getting ready for a week on the North part of the John Muir Trail in the Sierras and only now with in a few days of leaving am I really missing my Dad.  He loved the Sierras and even though he was always calling the JMT a freeway, I know that he would be completely curious and asking me endless questions about the trip and the process of getting ready for it.  He's not just on my shoulder, he's right beside me saying "Have you thought about X or Y or how about Q?"  

The biggest thing for him would be his concern about the small issue of a storm in November of 2011 blowing down 700 trees with great many of them blocking the trail.  It has just (and I mean like a few days ago) been cleared to where we're going.  This would then send him off talking about all the tree work he's done in his life as we used to have an orchard.  Then he'd no doubt be reminded of when they pulled out a grapefruit tree stump using an Alfa Romeo.

Then he'd segway back to one of our Sierra  trips where he let a very young me talk him into taking a short cut and we wound up spending the night on a mountain side.  I still think the shortcut made sense (kinda, sorta), but I had little appreciation on how up things can be in the mountains and how much shrubery like Manzanita and Cat Claw can slow you down especially when you're small.

But irritating as he could be, and as much time I spent answering his endless questions, I mostly just miss him.  I know that I'm going to be hearing his voice the whole trip and that's ok. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Is that a Real Lake?

One thing that I've often wondered when I've seen a lake is: Is it a "real" lake or is it a human made reservoir?

From the ground unless you already know, it's kind of hard to tell sometimes.

From the air and especially from Google Maps it gets much more obvious.

Natural lakes have rounded edges and look like they belong there.   This is Consultation Lake in the Mt. Whitney area in the Sierra Nevada.  Rivers enter and leave much the same way they came.  This particular lake was covered in snow when its satellite photo was taken so this is the map view.

Lakes created by dams have that stopped up bathroom drain look about them

This is O.H. Ives Lake in East Texas that I have only seen from a plane.

The fastest way for me to tell from the air is to look for that tell-tale straight line which is the dam.
This are some local resevoirs near me.  Briones and San Pablo:

Looking closer you can see the flat lines where the dams are located:

 Another way to tell a fake lake is to look at where you see where a river should be.
In the O.H Ives Lake pictured above, you can see two rivers streaming in, but only a ghost of one on the other side and sure enough that is where the dam is,  Zooming in on ghost river you can see a discontinuity that is the dam.

Another example is Red Bluff Resevoir:

Big River going in an just a trickle at the bottom.  Zooming in you see:

Some are harder to spot but you can using the same technique.
This is Shasta Lake in California.  It definitely has that plugged drain look about it.

There are several rivers so it takes some looking around to spot the affected river.
Looking on the West side there is a candidate on the bottom left:

And zooming in your see the dam:

But sometimes even natural lakes have human intervention.

Lake Tahoe is a gorgeous natural lake (

But even it has a dam where they can control the lake's level. I couldn't see it myself, but the Wiki page says it's in Tahoe City and on closer inspection in that area you can see it:

So now you have something to obsess over when you're looking out  a plane window.  Of course most people just enjoy the scenery or read a book.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

"Reno-Tahoe" Has No Meaning

On the raiio, I've hear over and over again about a million dollars of advertising about "Reno-Tahoe" and it's such a marketing ploy.  If you drive way past Tahoe into Nevada you come to Reno which is fine.  But they have been trying so hard to pair the names as if they go together.  They really don't.

Here's the map.

When you are in Reno you might very well be thinking of Tahoe, BUT when you are in Tahoe you are so NOT thinking of Reno, in fact you're not thinking of the closer Carson City.  If you need to go to a city to go shopping, you go to Truckee.  If you want to go gambling, you go down the South Lake Tahoe.  What is Reno trying to pull?  Is all this advertising helping? It just seems surreal and artificial.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Writing Angst

Here I am doing it again: I am stressing about not easily being able to write fiction.

This is a joke as the very first thing I ever did was tell stories to myself at night.
It was because I had crushes on people I couldn’t have so I would create life and death settings where we were thrown together where I could say how I felt - mostly because they were dying.  I did died occasionally too, but mostly them because if I died it was most inconvenient to telling the story.

Let’s just say the Hunger Games strikes a chord.  I could have written it if doing so had even crossed my mind as something that would remotely appeal to anyone else.

I think I need to treat this like learning anything else.  Break it down into doable chunks, but it’s more a matter of figuring out the chunks.  I can come up with characters, but the overall story structure is something I am not practiced in.

But stressing about it is completely silly and just giving me a reason to beat myself up.  Stop worrying about it and just write stuff.  Bits and pieces is fine.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Writing Fiction vs. Blogging: Completely Different

I'm (casually) trying to learn storycraft and fiction writing, and I'm completely fascinated how different writing fiction is vs. blogging.  The philosophical approaches are vastly different in a way.  A blogger writes down their thoughs quite soon after they think of them and pretty soon after that publishes them.  A fiction writer on the other hand, will spend weeks, months, years working out a story and that story may not ever get printed if they can't find a publisher.  Plus they don't breathe a word about it for fear that someone else will print the idea first, and also publishers often won't touch something that has been printed before even if it's just the internet.

This secrecy drives blogger types like me nuts.  As I work out my ideas I'd love to show the process publicly as I think that would be extremely cool.  The problem is that I don't have a lot of ideas in the fiction realm and, unlike blogging, they're kind of hard to come up with.  As a result, if I were to do this I would have to come up with a throwaway example, or one that is just given away on the web as a way to show what I can do. 

All this while my really cool idea just sits there begging to be free.  Argh.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Backpacking is No Longer about Pain

I know I've written about this in terms of boots, but makers of backpacks have made incredible strides in backpack comfort.  I'm on my third backpack (forth if you count the external frame one) and I'm worn out pretty much none of them.  What I have learned over time is that they are in order of decreasing discomfort to use the double negative that I'm kinda fond of.

Not only that, these days backpack manufacturers have created a sizing system so that you now have the equivalent of a shoe size.  Now I can walk into any outdoors store and ask about backpacks that fit a size 15.5 (inches I believe).  If your equipment is more than 2 or 3 years old, seriously consider taking a closer look at the new stuff.  Backpacking gear is not that expensive, and your body will thank you.

You also owe it to yourself to have your pack fitted to you by a knowledgeable person which should mean an employee of a reputable outdoors store and not a Significant Other (hearkening back to Snowboarding: Domestic Discord).  You do not want your S.O. to be blamed for any soreness.  There are a lot of fitting details and variables and getting it right can make a real difference in pain free or real pain.

Brain Health: Do Tasks the Hard Way

So according to some recent studies (here's one: doing something that is difficult is actually good for your brain.  Examples they use are using your non-dominate hand, or reading or writing upside down, or physical things like jogging backwards.  I've also heard that working on learning a new language or a musical instrument are very good.  You brain has to develop new pathways.

I'm finding this whole thing very intriguing.  It means that you can try to do something just on the basis that it's difficult.  Personally I would need more motivation than that, but it really does take you off the hook in terms of having to be good at something.  You don't have to be perfect at it you just have to be willing to work at it.  That's very freeing.  Work at it just because it's hard.

My current example is of course an odd one.  My dogs like herding stock, and herding is very difficult.  If you though dog agility was hard, try it with all of the obstacles moving.  It's brain bendingly difficult, but the challenge is fantastic and you learn new observation skills and you learn how to make efficient choices on what to watch and how carefully.

It also means that I should really consider going back to guitar playing or staying involved in some way.  Songwriting and story creation are very difficult and frustrating for me but it's probably something I should persue.  Struggle is good.

Eat Before You Exercise

A while back I wrote To Run Further - Fill the Tank First.

Today I was on a training climb that was intended to be a shake down of a new backpack and my experience is still the same.  An hour before, I ate lunch a veggie burger patty, and tortellini pasta.  I did a 1300' climb with a 30 pound pack pushing pretty hard.  I didn't eat at all during the climb.  I had plenty of energy and did not bonk at all which would often happen under the same circumstances.

 I haven't tried this at altitude or over a longer period of time.
Altitude is especially tricky as altitude depresses appetite for me at least (others too).  I've been reading (kinda sorta) that there really is something to "carb loading," but that more has to do with eating a lot of carbs the night before but that you can store extra energy in your muscles for a little while.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Mighty Haddorff Vertichord Piano

Some years ago my mom gave me the family piano when they moved to Seattle.  I actually don't remember how it got here - their movers must have dropped it off.  She had told me that someone told me that it was unique (vaguely implying valuable).  I finally checked into it.  The reason the Haddorff Vertichord is special is that it was a fantastic design error:

The one thing I don't understand is that I'm comparing the Vertichord's string layout to another upright and they actually look pretty similar.  This is mine.

And here is one from

Theirs look even more vertical.
 But the poster is right it doesn't stay in tune for very long.  Fortunately unlike the poster's experience there aren't any glue failures in this one.  Although having said that I just checked and only 3 keys are out of tune and it's been a few months.

A plus side is that after I had one tuner out, I figured out how to tune it. (and yes, those short strings are a pain), and we use it to practice on and Terri's band uses it to rehearse with, so it actually does get played.

Regardless I am getting tired of its fussiness and and just about ready to buy a new piano sounding weighted keyboard (no room for a grand piano and we're not good enough players to really appreciate it.

Monday, May 14, 2012

I Miss Dodgeball

Dodgeball.  That word alone makes a legion of people shudder.  It seems as it any number of people who were forced to play it in school have horror stories about it.

I walked my dog past the local elementary school and they were playing a game where you threw bean bags at the other team, but the object wasn't to hit them.  You wanted the bag to hit the ground (a la Baseball I think.)  It still resulted in what appeared to be complete mayhem due to multiple bean bags in play, but I'm quite sure the injury rate is much lower, (save for the fact that they're playing on asphalt.)

But all I could think about was how I kinda miss the, oh-so not PC, near bloodsport of Dodgeball (or Nationball when it was on a Basketball court instead of a circle.)  I and a female neighbor of a similar build and age were chatting about how it was an excellent way to get back at boys that had been tormenting you.  Even though I didn't think about it then, dodgeball was definitely a time to settle scores.

There actually is a National Amateur Dodgeball Association and you can get an official ball here: Wonder if old scores are still settled there.

Make Your own Switchbacks

When you're out of a trail on a hill the trail will often turn into switchbacks to make the climb easier.  When you're on a snow slope it's common to traverse across it back and forth essentially making your own switchbacks.

Where I live there are various trails that area actually bulldozer created wide, steep fireroads.  How do people climb these things?  By going straight up them and breathing (gasping) real hard and stopping a lot.  The other day I started zig-zagging up one.  Suddenly all the effort went away.  I was even able to work a rest step in by accident.  It was so easy and I got up that hill in 90 degree heat without nearly dying.  Seems so simple, but it was quite a revelation.  Or course no one else was doing it and that surprised me as I was the only one to be able to ascend with any consistency and I wasn't dying at the top either.  It was really straightforward, but you do have to get past the feeling ridiculous part, but there isn't anyone there to impress save for the fact that you are not collapsed in a pile..

Plus you're happier when you get up to where you are going.

I am Plot Impaired

I like to write, and I can create small character vignettes about nearly everything.  I also can write dialog without issue.  So why is it the idea of creating a story with an actually plot makes me completely freeze up?  Eeek, I don't know how to do that.  Yet that can't be true.  I've read 100s of stories and I know what makes them good and not so good.

Person Q is a [such and such job] and yearns for [some goal] but [something] is standing in the way.  How Q overcomes the obstacles is a Story.  This is not Nuclear Physics ya know?  And there I stand not moving until the oncoming car runs me over.

Though I can go on and on about what it's like just standing there.  Maybe I should just go back to eavesdropping in public places--a great source of weird ideas.  Especially on people having cell phone conversations with lettuce.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Blogs as Resumes? Hardly.

Linkedin just sent out a missive saying how you can use your personal blog as a sort of resume.    This blog mostly shows how easily distractable I can be, and my dog's blog shows how obsessive I can be.  I'm not sure either would be good job hunting material though I don't hide them or deny their existence.  They both show that I can write and have the will to stick with it, but defining just what "it" is can be a challenge.  Perhaps glorious determination to research and to think outloud about silly things.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Ducks "Flying"

I live by the water and we have a lot of beautiful, graceful water fowl.  Most notably the amazing  Canadian Geese (who live here year round it appears), the Western Grebe, the Cormorants,  and even the Seagulls.  And then we also have the Ducks.

The Ducks are usually migratory and think it's perfectly fine to plop down in the middle of a busy parking lot for a nice rest.  They seem so puzzled when one of us humans gets out of the car to shoo them over to the side.  But what I love about the Ducks the most is just how distinctive their flying "style" is.  You can spot a Duck even in low light because of it.  Their wings are flapping very fast and the body language is almost as if they're shouting OMG Look!  I'm Flying!  Wow.  FlapFlapFlapFlap.

How they manage to migrate anywhere is just a little amazing to me as they appear to be the definition of using entirely too much energy to fly.  Maybe we have to shoo them out of the parking lot because they really are that tired.

Writers Without Boundaries

I'm considering taking a fiction writing class as while I'm happy to write about most anything, actual story construction is a whole different talent that I very much admire and want to learn.  In my search, I am finding that as Hollywood and Movie Studios know, writers need a construct to work with in otherwise they just run amuck--especially if they don't know anything about web design. Take this page for example: 

There are just simply TOO MANY WORDS.  Good web and graphic design is much more about the placement of words and images in a pleasing way that communicates effectively.  What is wrong here is someone desperately trying to squeeze in as much information as possible, but good design is just as much about white space as words and pictures.  What needs to happen is to present something like a succinct and eye catching table of contents and push the information down to different pages.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Happy Suicidal Angry Birds

Why are the Angry Birds so happy to be suicidal?  They rejoice in it.  Probably because they have that cartoon can’t die sort of ethic.  They go smash and poof and reappear.  I admire that.  It’s completely Wiley E. Coyote inspired even if they are Finnish.  Do you wish we all were like that?  Our enthusiasm for life would be unmatched and it would really take the motivation out of war

Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Effort of Managing Personal Debt

I recently finally paid off my Student Loan debt.  When interest rates plummeted the first time a few years ago, Sallie Mae could not compete so I took a chance and started passing it around to whatever credit card companies were offering the best deals.

Cruising through my Google Docs for a different reason I came across a payoff plan that I had created.  The amount of effort that I put into managing the debt was impressive and I feel slightly guilty about deleting a spreadsheet that I had put so much time and thought into though now it is happily irrelevant.

I hated (still hate) being billed excessively and I became a fine print expert.  I think this is one reason I started enjoying carefully reading the bad home mortgage refi deals that came in the mail pre-2008 housing crash.  But it is so nice not having that burden of potentially expensive debt anymore, and really brings home how crushing excessive debt is for those who have entirely too much of it.

Now onto paying off the car and figuring out how to own the house sooner.  Both are much more enjoyable.

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Euro: Where being too Polite is a Huge Risk

Only This American Life and Planet Money can make economics fascinating.  In particular, they are geniuses at bringing the involved personalities to life.  It's like the disaster movie where everything comes down to the choices of just a few characters.

They explained the American Housing Crisis and I can now explain what a Credit Default Swap is in some detail.  But in this show about the European Debt Crisis and how the Euro is in real danger:

What I find fascinating is that one reason it came about was that the other countries chose not to question the Greek deficit numbers which were later found to be false by a factor of TWO.  The reasons were that (a) everyone, especially Germany, really wanted the Euro to happen and (b) it was just impolite to say "We just don't believe your numbers."

WHAT?!  Multiibillion [insert monetary unit of your choice] decision and you're worried about offending someone?

I don't think that would have happened in the US.  The US Housing crisis was all about greed, law breaking, hiding the truth even to your customers, and betting against the very economic system you depend on.

The Greeks lied.  It sounds like they may not have meant to (some Greek-German cultural differences in play here), but they certainly slanted the truth and it took a new Greek government to come clean about it 10 years into this mess.  And the shoot-the-messenger old-guard Greek statisticians are actually trying to prosecute those involved with estimating the real amount of the Greek deficit.

The US is slowly recovering from its economic tailspin, but if Greece sinks the Euro then we all could be in a world of trouble.  They were saying that a strong nation in a group can bring all of them up, but a weak one can bring them all down.

Staying tuned...

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Smart Phone, Dumb Battery

[There is an update at the end.]

So I finally got a smart phone because it made sense for me to have one professionally despite the annoying monthly cost. (I'm one of those I.T. people),  I must admit that I love having a small computer with an internet connection right in my hand whenever I want.  It's way cool.  I can be in a lengthy presentation and don't have to be away from work email.

But what I'm not happy at all about is the smartphone's battery is lucky to make it through the day and only if I turn it off part of the time.  Dumbphone will last for 3 days.

I still have dumbphone and have completely mixed feelings about giving up on it.  I sometimes go into the wilderness and for safety want to have a working phone with me.  I think if I get into the habit of turning the phone off in that situation it will work, but the thought of having the phone just completely die is very unsettling.

I could just get an additional dumbphone and have it be a pay-as-you-go phone (my dumbphone is ancient and needs to be replaced though it has outlived two younger phones).  T-Mobile has a great deal where you pay $100 for 1000 minutes, but T-Mobile doesn't have the best reception in my area.  I switched to Verizon for their great reception, but their pay-as-you-go deals are not good deals.

There is also a Motorola device that holds two charges which sounds intriguing and would be cheaper than carrying a second phone.

But I think I need to buck up and at least take the leap and stop paying contract prices for two phones.

A friend of mine who keeps up with these things tells me there are 100 companies working on this battery issue as it affects everyone with a smartphone and that's a lot of irritation.

In the meantime I get to get used to charging my phone every night.

So after that bit of whining I came across Battery Defender.
I was dubious at first but let it install.

What it does it that it puts a lot of unused applications to sleep (and I had already disabled or uninstalled several of them too.)  As a result I now have a phone that can easily go two days which is much more livable.

Monday, January 30, 2012

To Run Further, Fill the Tank First

I've been doing treadmill running for over a year now.  I've been slowly getting better at it, but my progress has been glacial.  I see these sofa-to-marathon training plans and I just laugh.  That may be for other people, but not me.  My feet will start to drag or my pulse used to go way high and I would have to stop.

Once in a while I would be able to go further that I normally could do and was thinking that it was because of the time of day.  Usually I run after work, but once in a while I would do it on a weekend mid-morning and I would do better then.  Finally, finally I realized it was because I had eaten beforehand and not just a handful of skittles, but an actual light meal about an hour before like one of those mini burritos or similar.

I feel so silly that it took me this long to figure it out.  Fill the tank first before you exercise, and give the food time to get into your system.   Obviously, carbs help a lot, but I'm not entirely sure it has to be that specific though I haven't tried not eating carbs.

Anyway, if I eat beforehand I can run around 50% further which is a nice non-glacial result.