Sunday, October 30, 2011

Dung-sniffing dogs

According to National Geographic the Javan rhino is now extinct in mainland Asia. A poacher shot the last one in Vietnam and they just found the corpse. There was a bullet in the leg and the horn was gone. Just the horn. How many green pinecones would I like to throw at that poacher? Well, since he has a gun maybe just one, but I'd throw it real hard and right at his head from up in a tree.

Getting angry doesn't really help me, though, so I'm finding some other emotion to apply to this story. Here's the part that made me laugh.
A more thorough survey involving dung-sniffing dogs in late 2009 and early 2010 turned up 22 fecal samples.
Dung-sniffing dogs? Aren't ALL dogs dung-sniffers? All the ones I've ever known sure were. I guess the training was just to teach them not to roll in it.

I watched this video and REALLY laughed. The dung-sniffing dog is a Labrador Retriever. That's PERFECT. That was the dog we had that liked dung the best. He was partial to otter dung. He would find some otter scat on the dam and he'd jump up in the air and flip over and land in it right on his back and squirm around so it got rubbed in REAL good. It was greasy and fishy and it took a lot of my mom's expensive shampoo to wash it out.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Look at the bones, man!

I'm back in my little house in the country trying to get settled back into hermit life. I am working on things in order of how much they bug me. The wobbly gate bothered me more than my computer arrangement so I started working on that before I emptied the kitchen cupboard to replace the UPS that seems to have had a battery failure in the hot summer.

I put in this 4x6 pressure treated ground contact rated post in 2004. I felt pretty confident I did my usual thorough job of it, but it became unstable a few years ago. I braced it in the closed direction but it would bend and let the gate drag when I opened it. I was blaming the moles that dug all around it. I tried putting more concrete around it but it didn't work. So while I was gone it got a lot worse. I resigned myself to just digging it up to repack it. 

But it turned out that wasn't it at all! It had just rotted in two! I DID do a good job setting that post. The bottom part was rock solid. It failed right at the point of maximum stress. I wonder if flexing the post made it open up and let water into the wood grain? It's an interesting failure mode. I hope that's it because I built my house with 4x4s buried just like that and I hope they aren't all going to do that. There's no live load on them though, not side to side. I hope they'll last about 40 years.

I dug it up a lot then tried to pull it out with my car. The tires wore little trenches in the dusty soil so I had to dig up the post some more, get it loose. 

Then my little front wheel drive car was able to pull it out of the hole for me.

What I learned: When you put a lot of concrete in a post hole it's a great idea to let it spread out at the top so you have something for a chain to get a purchase on later when you have to get it out. Everything has to be replaced one day.

I am not in shape for this kind of work anymore. It made me very tired so I had to stop at this point and go to Home Depot to see about getting more concrete and another post. That hole is so big already something larger is in order. An 8' long 6x6 is $18.97 and would stink up my car. I think I'll try to use the middle out of a longleaf tree instead. My uncle cut a tree into 7 1/2' lengths in my yard about 6 years ago. All the sap wood is burned off and it's just a large solid column of pitch pine now. (And it's way more than 6" in diameter. I'm expect it's going to make my galvanized pipe gate look like a joke.) I just have to figure out how to get it up my driveway and into that hole. I think leverage will be involved. And that chain.

Since I have no gate tonight I redeployed my guard rabbit. Some miscreants have been drinking Busch longnecks in my driveway (judging by the litter I collected) and must have knocked my rabbit off the post for fun. I got the masonry bit on the drill and made deeper holes in his concrete butt and used longer Tapcon screws to attach him to that scrap of Trex decking and then screwed it to the bracing post again with a 3" Deckmate screw. He should be good to go. Too bad it's only humorous and not dangerous. It amuses me to no end to have that rabbit up there with that pile of deer bones. I think the miscreants might not be Monty Python fans though.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Leaving Again

Bye little house! See you again in a few days! 3 hr drive to Jacksonville to return this truck, get on a plane, and be reunited with my trusty car in Austin. I'm coming back by the scenic route, if I can find one.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Back in Beachton, just one night

I made it back to Beachton today. It was raining all day long. A whole summer of drought so I had to just roll with it. The woods looked very nice, but not as flowery as they would've been if there hadn't been two months with no rain. 

The little house was in very good shape for being closed up since January. There was hardly any dust or dead bugs. Just one scorpion in the kitchen sink strainer. I tried plugging in the modem and turning on the uninterruptible power supply on the network equipment and it didn't work. Tried my test phone and had no dial tone. Had to just leave it and get on with the unloading the truck while my friend was here to help. Got out plastic bins and boats and the bike in the shed then went to my mini warehouses and unloaded my bed and washer and dryer and the big chair. Then he went back to town and I commenced troubleshooting. First thing while it was still light was to check the well pump. I let water out of the tank until the pressure gauge was down to 25psi but the pump didn't come on. I took the cover off the relay and it was all spider webs and dirt dauber crud in there. I got a paint brush and dusted it off and it made a spark and a puff of smoke and burned off the corrosion and started running. 

Then I checked the phone network interface device with the test phone. Had dial tone there. Hmm, that meant it was in my wiring. Checked to see if there were any tooth marks on the wire under the house. Nope, looked good. Went inside and took the outlet down off the wall. It was sootier than it ought to be. I cut the wires back and reattached them. One was really blown clear in two. It might have been part of the lightning strike I found at Christmas last year. I didn't take that part off the wall then because it was still working. It must have corroded and stopped conducting since then. I don't leave the phone jack plugged in when I leave now. I have to work on my grounding. Phone and power are grounded about 100' apart. That's wrong. Anyway, I fixed it and now I have internet. I'm using my TV computer in the loft now and uploaded these photos from my phone.

The only other problem is the double pane plate glass window in my south wall seems to have a compromised seal and is pretty much ruined. It's really just an old mobile home quality sliding glass door I got from my grandparents when a tree fell on their sunroom. I used 4 of them for windows in my house. This is the only one that isn't holding up. My grandparents had their sunroom rebuilt with some awesome low-e plate glass windows. I think I'm going to sell something else so I can get a real glass company to come put one of those in here. Being in the south wall this is my biggest heat gain in the summer and cold spot in winter.

Monday, October 17, 2011

More states

Made it to Tallahassee. Florida is clearly the state most invested in tourism. They have the best highways and rest stops. Jets on sticks. Mississippi has a space center, but it isn't open on Monday. Alabama had their flags at half mast. For Dan Weldon I guess, the Indy race car driver who died this weekend. I liked comparing the picnic shelters in the different states.

Notes from the road

I made it to Slidell, LA last night and collapsed at the Hampton Inn.

Technical note: I confirmed that the TV here has HDMI in. My laptop-free traveling concept seems viable. I'm seriously considering making a case for my Mac Mini, keyboard and trackpad with cord storage. Beachton ________ Works needs a product page. That could be on it.

Cultural note: Texas near Beaumont reminds me of Ocala, FL. I do not understand redneck pride. I have a good friend from Beaumont so I don't think this is a universal affliction, just an unfortunate one.

Energy note: Gas stations cap purchases at $90 even if you use a debit card. $90 does not quite fill up this Uhaul.

Environmental note: Louisiana feels compelled to warn people about snakes and alligators but they don't say anything about the real bloodsucking swarms that get you the minute you exit your vehicle. Thanks to the Texas drought I had forgotten all about mosquitoes. But they do have a fish cleaning station at the rest stop. I had to cut myself an oak toothpick to eat my sardines because my implements are in my other bag I left in Austin to come on the next trip in my car. I had fun feeding the leftovers to blue crabs in that bayou. Then I washed the olive oil off my fingers in that nice stainless steel sink.

Interior design note: There's a conflict in nomenclature on the shower at the Hampton Inn. Go by the colors. The letters lie.

NPR note: I listened to the Wait Wait podcast with Patton Oswalt yesterday while I was driving and they asked him about processed food shapes. When they said Popeye's had chicken shaped like a spoon I was picturing something a lot less delicious looking, smoother, with a handle. The gas stations in Texas and Louisiana all have fried chicken chain restaurants combined with them. It actually seems more appropriate than a combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, but it wouldn't make a good Das Racist song.

Blogger for iPhone note: These pictures come up in a completely random order. Consider it a game to match them to the notes. Actually, I bet it's not random. They are probably in order by size. First one to finish uploading wins.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Big Chair In a Little Truck

I'm heading out of Austin this morning with my truck full of plastic bins! I keep singing the DaVinci's Notebook song that goes "I suck, I suck, I move the big chair in the little truck." This truck is 3' shorter than the one I brought out here so I think it was a successful excursion to shed stuff and reorganize. I have one big chair in there and a small table and a bed. No other furniture. Just boats and a bike and a lot of stuff, a particularly apt name in this circumstance.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Invasive species increase because of 9/11

This article link tweeted by Carolyn Porco has made me even more upset than the AT&T DSL bill I got this morning. Apparently after 9/11 Homeland Security repurposed agricultural inspectors to look for people instead of pathogens. I've already dealt with AT&T and I don't think I can handle another blood pressure increase today. I'm not going to delve too deeply. I recommend you read the article.

I got as far as this and started yelling at the computer.
Homeland Security officials acknowledge making mistakes and say they are now working to step up agricultural inspections at border checkpoints, airports and seaports.

While not as dire as terrorism, the threat is considerable and hard to contain.
What?! Not as dire? It's a LOT MORE DIRE! Terrorists try to kill a few people and destroy some man made objects to make a idealogical point. Invasive species are here to DOMINATE AND DESTROY ENTIRE ECOSYSTEMS! Well, I mean they are just surviving and possibly thriving, but the way life works that has to potential to really upset the balance. Humans depend on balanced ecosystems so much they don't even know about them. Take them utterly for granted. They can understand suicide jetliners and collapsing skyscrapers but entire forests of dead trees apparently mean nothing to people. Look, we built that building and we bred those people. We can make more. The forest was not our doing and we cannot fix it. We can only try not to fuck it up. And we are not trying. We are failing. Humans fail. Lady Longleaf is getting tense.
One agriculture inspector who defied authority was demoted, despite being credited with saving California's citrus industry from the potentially devastating effects of canker.

While working at an international mail center outside San Francisco, the inspector found a package destined for Ventura labeled "books and chocolates." Inside were 350 citrus cuttings from Japan that were infested with canker, which has killed more than 2 million trees across Florida but does not exist in California.

He showed it to a supervisor, who, according to the Congressional Record, replied: "Look, we are here to protect the country from acts of terrorism. What do you expect me to do?"

The inspector sidestepped the supervisor and called the USDA. The resulting investigation ended with arrests and the incineration of 4,000 potentially infected trees that had been growing at an unregistered nursery in a prime citrus region.

But within a month, the whistleblower was demoted to search through the dirty laundry of passengers returning from foreign trips.
Yep, that sounds about right for a science-minded individual who does the right thing for the planet instead of the right thing for their limited self-interest. Hey, Whistleblower, what's your superhero like? Don't a lot of citrus trees have really nasty thorns? I'm thinking some sort of blow gun for your take-down weapon and maybe a thump upside the head with a well-thrown grapefruit for somebody that just needs a reality check.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Pileated Woodpecker Animated GIF

I wanted to learn another new thing this week so I decided to make an animated GIF. I hadn't made one since 1994. Now that they're making them with photos the possibilities are greatly expanded!

Finding the photos I took of this woodpecker a few years ago and exporting them from iPhoto and wasting time researching how to do it in Preview took longer than actually making it. Once I remembered the stupid App Store it was cake. I searched GIF, found a free app called GIFQuickMaker, and I was set. I dragged the files to the obvious place to drag them. Clicked the obvious button to move the images to the next step, easily tweaked the time for each image and made the animation.

These images were shot using my camera's 40 frames per second burst mode. The app wouldn't let me do 0.025 seconds per frame, 0.03 was the closest. But that's too fast! You can't see how his little top knot flicks forward. I slowed it down to 0.1 seconds per frame. In real life he hangs out a few seconds between pecks so I let the resting frames go for 0.3 seconds, less than reality, but we have such short attention spans now....

I tried to get it to load in my Google+ stream and it didn't animate. I'm trying it here instead.

I like it. This is how it looks at 0.03 seconds per frame, close to actual speed. Those jokers are fast aren't they?!

OK, now back to packing.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Occupy Wall Street Needs More Plastic Bins

When I graduated from Georgia Tech in 1989 former UN Ambassador Andrew Young gave the graduation speech. I don't remember anything he said except, "You are now in the top 1% of the world population." And I had this tremendous sinking feeling. Great. That's fucking great. 99% of the world population is what? Less educated than me? Less capable? Less responsible? What does this mean? I have to take care of them now? I distinctly got the feeling that's what he was saying. It was up to us to be responsible for the other 99%. Like their parents or bosses.

So I guess that's related to this 99% campaign and the Occupy Wall Street protests. People telling their stories of woe as they try to convince Wall Street's 1% to... well they haven't decided, but they're organized as hell and they aren't going to take it anymore. They're going to camp out on Wall Street until they come up with some demands and then they demand them? I'm a little fuzzy on the plan. (Here's the website.)

Andy Young put me the 1% in 1989, but I'm pretty sure I'm not anymore. It could be that in the last 22 years it's become 99.4% and .6% and I fall in the rounding error. I definitely identify with the people occupying Wall Street, not the bankers. But I am incapable of participating in that kind of activity. I watched a video on that website and I got twitchy just imagining what it would be like to be in those crowds. It was nononono cat all over again. Their event planning skills are amazing though. I'm very impressed. But they have smokers there! I can't be around tobacco smoke. I will have to support them through in my own idiom -- something totally solo.

The protestors seem to be pretty sure about what they don't like but I think they're having a hard time coming up with any solutions. I made a little video about my personal solution for unemployment, bankruptcy, lack of health care, and the other myriad complications of modern life. I'm abandoning Austin to move back to my tiny house in the woods to be a hermit and here's how I cope with that transition. Plastic bins.

Steve Jobs

I was cried a little bit last night when I heard Steve Jobs died. I was sad when I read that he tried a naturopathic diet instead of having his tumor removed early. I mean, I might avoid surgery because I don't have money for it, but I think he probably could write a check for that. I didn't really know what to say about him though. I'm sure he had good and bad qualities. I appreciate that he stuck up for good design even if it costs more, if that's what he did.

There is a lot of sentimental stuff going around and I don't really go for that. But Randall Munroe's gif made me laugh. Eternal flame.

There's always the hope that if you sit and watch for long enough,
the beachball will vanish and the thing it interrupted will return.
UPDATE: Stephen Fry wrote about Steve Jobs and said just what I suspected was true. This is spot on.
I cannot claim he was a friend but over thirty year or so years I bumped into him from time to time and he was always warm, charming, funny and easy to talk to, yet I know... that he was a fearsome boss, often a tempestuous mixture of martinet, tyrant, bully and sulky child. His perfectionism, the absolute conviction and certainty in the rightness of his opinions... must have maddened his colleagues. But the charisma, passion, delight in detail, excitement and belief in the creation of a new future – the sheer magnetic force of the man made his many faults a forgivable and almost loveable part of his mystique and greatness.
The quality I especially revered in him was his refusal to show contempt for his customers by fobbing them off with something that was “good enough”. Whether it was the packaging, the cabling, the use of screen space, the human interfaces, the colours, the flow, the feel, the graphical or textural features, everything had to be improved upon and improved upon.... It had to feel good in the hand, look good to the eye and it had to change things. It changed things because it made users want to use the devices as they had never been used before. 
I use devices as other people don't. It is important to me what my computers look like from the back. I got an iMac for my tiny house in Beachton because I only have a 19" wide counter to work on. The back of the computer is right over the space where I prepare food. I can't have a bunch of wires there. I spin the computer around to do my YouYube workout videos on the kitchen mat, the only place big enough to do a sit-up. Here in Austin I put the computer on a table at the end of the bed. I have a chair to work in then I spin the monitor around to watch streaming video in bed when it's time to relax. No other TV or computer manufacturer seems to give a damn about what their product looks like from the back. People try to tell me I can get a TV so big for so little blah blah blah. I don't care. Besides, the idea of this gave me good material. My toast at my sister's wedding started "Beverly, your wedding on the beach was lovely. You looked really great from behind."

Geoengineering - Know know know know know

Geoengineering research is necessary. It is essential for scientists to convince themselves how horribly one bunch of meddlers can screw up the planet for the rest of the planet if they start messing with it. The scientists need to be convinced scientifically so they can convince non-scientists with whatever it is that makes those idiots believe anything. I don't know, boobs with a head on top that talks in small words on the right cable news channel. A reality TV show called "AtmosFear" where people try to see how long they can hold their breath.

I got a link to a Guardian article this morning titled "Big names behind US push for geoengineering" and my instinct reaction was "No no no no no no." I realized I was like that cat in the video that went around this week. It was clearly a cat in much distress and it made me very uncomfortable but it made over a million people laugh hysterically. People are sick in the head.

Are these twisted people going to think it's funny when some ill-informed self-centered asshole decides to fertilize the ocean with iron and then billions of fish die from the toxins released by the bloom of a different kind of phytoplankton than the one they MEANT to fertilize? When somebody sprays the sky with crystals and it rains down in another country and makes all their wheat taste like onions?

My opinion about geoengineering is the same as remediation. Consider the impact of how they earned the money that they want to spend on the project. Is it a good way to transfer ill-gotten gains to scientists like me that need jobs taking samples and writing reports? If you like how that math works out, maybe I'm ok with it. But usually I say "Don't pick at it." Waiting for nature to put back something people screwed up might take longer, but for some systems gradual change is best. If somebody drives their superyacht into a coral reef, sure, make the owner pay a marine engineering company to go put a bandage on it and finance monitoring the natural recovery. Hurricanes break coral reefs too. What happens if somebody stops those from happening? (The Guardian story says somebody is working on that.) I think diversity depends on parts of the reef breaking off and growing back. And I think diversity is good. I would like better data to back up my feeling though, and one way to get people with money to pay for research is to let them break stuff then punish them with fines.

My super empathetic reaction to any suggestion to modify natural systems is to put myself in the place of every organism and mineral in that system. I usually feel it is going to be distinctly not better for some creature. It's a food web, water cycle, etc. Interdependencies are immense. We don't know. We don't even have our best people on it. The typical human reference frame where "better" is defined as "better for the humans with the most money and influence" makes me extremely uncomfortable. Like the cat. So stop it. Just stop what you're doing that makes the cat do that. If you're working on finding out what makes the cat do that so you can tell everybody so they never do it to another cat, maybe it's ok. But hurry up. It's not funny, it's mean.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Oh, Siri, you sound familiar.....

I got email from Apple with a link to a video about the new phone. Good video.

About 6 hours ago I saw this Tweet from Bill Amend.
Is the Siri voice in the iPhone 4s the same as the female voice in this? If so, pretty funny coincidence.

OK, it is TOTALLY the same voice. That's so awesome!

But you know what?

I don't care.

The New iPhone 4s -- I'll take one

I followed the live tweets of the Apple announcement of the new iPhone. Here's the comparison of all three versions they sell/give away now. The new one has a faster processor to make some of the more demanding software work. They never give specs on the radios in these things but I expect they've tweaked them a bit. I hope so. Not sure it matters on the low-tech tower in Beachton. I think it's only EDGE, not equipped to take advantage of the new high speed packet data stuff.

I'm confused why the new phone battery has 2 hours more talk time but 100 hours less standby time than the old ones. That makes no sense. I really couldn't care less about the talk time. Actually 8 days is plenty of standby time. There's no such thing as a standby day anyway. I run my battery below 1/2 capacity every day by using it for data. If I can't plug my phone in once a day then something extremely exciting is happening and I probably need to talk on the phone instead of just having it idle. Even when I lose power, which happens a lot in the country, I can charge the phone off one of my uninterruptible power supplies and stay continuously connected.

I was planning to go get a new battery in my phone before I moved away from the Apple store. There's not a Apple Genius Bar within 200 miles of Beachton. I guess I might as well just get a new phone instead and sell my iPhone 4. The 4s has better video camera resolution than my Casio EX-FH20. Now I just have to get something to hold the phone on the tripod.

I'm completely unexcited by the iOS5 announcements. Siri the Assistant you can talk to? This is not something a hermit needs. An app that prints and mails a physical greeting card? That's grotesque. Greeting cards are like Jehovah's Witnesses. You have to be polite when they show up at your house, but really I just wish they would cease to exist. I don't like that callous feeling I get when I immediately throw them away.

*Update: MacRumors summary: Oh yeah, I forgot "Find My Friends." Hermit. No friends. Useless. Although I could apply for a grant to duct tape iPhones to the tortoises in my woods and collect some cool data on them for science.

Update: I'm not eligible to upgrade until November 25. I think I'll wait. If I get a 4s now it would be $500 instead of $200. I tried the preorder from the Apple Store app on my iPhone 4 to find this out. It was very easy. "Switch out this phone?" Verify the last 4 digits of your social security number and billing zip code. Pick your messaging plan (these changed. Unlimited $20 and pay per message at the ridiculous rate of $0.20 per text and $0.30 for media messages). And then it showed me $499.00. Check out? Um, no.

I went to twitter and found a macrumors link to a story about preorders and it had a link to check your upgrade eligibility. That link told me Nov 25 is my upgrade eligibility date. I renewed my contract on the first day of iPhone 4 sales so I guess a lot of people have that same renewal date.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Testing new Blogger App

OK! I downloaded Google's new free iPhone app for Blogger. This is me trying it out. DSL is out so I'm trying to see what I can do with a bluetooth keyboard on the iPhone. I had to come upstairs and plug the phone into the Mac Mini to charge it up. It looks pretty funny. Let's try that picture thing again. OK, neat, I can access the photos in my iPhone photo library. I took a picture with my other camera and put it on the Mini and then synced it to the iPhone with iTunes. I can't tell where it's putting the pictures. They're down in a box at the bottom of this window.

It has the same issue as my instant messenger app -- it leaves the space for the iPhone keyboard at the bottom blank because I'm using the external keyboard instead of letting me use that whole space for text. Wish I knew what all this wasted space was for. Now the white space has moved to the bottom. Under the icons. I took a screen shot and added that to the photos section and now it has moved back up. Who tests this stuff? I can't believe I can't get a job when I can find this many feature problems in such a short time.

What's this crosshairs icon do? Oh, it wants to use my current location. No thanks!

I'm going to hit Publish and see what happens.

Update: 8:45 pm local time. Finally had a nice talk to an AT&T Technician in San Francisco. I took a screenshot about 5 minutes before he picked up just because I couldn't believe how long I'd been on hold. I've used 30% of my cell phone minutes talking to AT&T DSL this month. According to the notes on my account a technician came out today and replaced some wires outside and closed the ticket without ever telling me I could stop waiting for him. Also it didn't fix my DSL. The tech on the phone reset my connection from his end, but it didn't work. My DSL is still out and no chance of recovery before Monday. 

So here's the good news. I saw my next door neighbor outside when I was anxiously looking down the street for the AT&T truck and asked him if he was having trouble with his DSL. He said he has Uverse and it's fine. I told him my dilemma and that since I was moving out in two weeks anyway I felt like just canceling my service. Because if that rat that's dead in the walls bit through my phone line inside they're going to charge me $110 just for figuring it out. "I should just cancel it and use your wifi until I move out!" I joked. About 5 minutes later he and his wife rang my doorbell. She said she was sorry to hear I couldn't get a job and have to move. She wanted to know what kind of work I do in case she could think of anything. And he had written their wifi password on a piece of paper for me in case I got fed up with the technician. Isn't that sweet? What a nice gesture. I consider it 100% neighborly and don't think it has anything to do with the fact that he works for AT&T. He doesn't have any more confidence in them than I do. "Watch him call at 7:45," he said. Yeah, how about just not at all. Monday I'm canceling my account. 

Also that Blogger app is kind of nice for adding photos from the iPhone. It just puts them in random order. I moved it by editing in the regular blogger browser interface. But it saves me loading it into iPhoto then exporting it.

Can you blog from an iPhone?

My AT&T DSL is out again. I figured out how to connect my bluetooth keyboard to my iPhone and now I want to see how hard it is to do a blog entry from the web version of blogger. The mobile version is great for reading, but frankly this is pretty not great. Let's see if I can get a picture added.

It appears to not work.

Does anybody know of a app for this? Maybe Safari just isn't the tool for the job. Would sure be nice to be able to use this instead of a laptop!