Jun 30, 2006
This evening, one of the hard disks on Pell started spitting out nice elaborate scsi errors about a block conveniently located in the middle of one of the disks.
Er, oops? This is very inconvenient, because, unlike all of my other servers, pell is a pure scsi setup (fast wide scsi, driven by a BusLogic flashpoint card that I got back in the old days when lnz (RIP) was writing the BusLogic (also RIP) flashpoint (also also RIP) device driver. Anyway, these disks are about 7 years old now and I'm not exactly sure where I could go to get new 4gb scsi disks that are reliable enough to run for 60,000 hours before they start to climb into the handbasket.
I suppose I could always spend $35 and buy a 160gb IDE drive, but I'm not sure how the 2.0.28+orc kernel that Pell is running would react when confronted with a disk that has a seriously NON-32bit geometry. Sigh. What a pain.
For recreation, Dust Mite does Jawa LARPing, as seen here in this picture of Dust Mite riding in our home-made
Either there aren't very many bees around this week or they've found better hunting grounds somewhere else, but in either case it's been pretty slim pickings around our house. All I saw today in the bee department was one fast-moving bumblebee that was flitting around fast enough so I couldn't easily get a picture of it.
Russell takes a little nap.
Jun 29, 2006
After arriving at the railroad yard early enough to find a good photo position down by the Lafayette Toonerville bridge, the yellow menace managed to spoil the view by moving a couple of trains into the west track of the mainline. First came what I guess was just another transfer run, which ran up out of the railroad yard, then ground to a stop completely blocking the mainline.
Here we come to spoil your view!
So, up I went onto the Toonerville bridge so I could get, well, some sort of a picture in case the always-late #507 should decide to show up. It didn't, of course, but a second yellow menace train pulled up on the northbound main, bottled in behind the transfer run.
The third engine here is an ex-SP SD-45, which has not yet been repainted into the dullest paint scheme in North America.
Yellow might be boring, but the SP paint scheme does not weather well.
I stuck around until around 6:15, but no passenger trains were to be seen. But to make up for it the railroad police were buzzing around like agitated honeybees, and taking a particular interest in anyone who was using the Toonerville bridge. Why? Well, a couple of days ago I saw a few City of Portland vehicles clustered around the west side of the bridge, and today when I was down there myself I noticed that the bridge had been slightly singed since the last time I'd gone down there.
Those black sections weren't there last week.
Railroad police have been extra paranoid (even for railroad police, who started out paranoid) ever since Osama's boys did their spectacularly successful act of self-immolation in 2001, and most of the cases where I've heard of them rounding up the usual suspects it seems like they're being just a little bit too paranoid. But, given that the Toonerville bridge is flimsy at the best of times, the newly charred Toonerville bridge is worthy of that little bit of extra attention to make sure that the local arsonists don't want to come back for another round of "make the bridge fall down and everybody laughs" (except the railroad. And the police. And the people who walk across the bridge. And the people who use the bridge for taking pictures from. And the people who don't like having arsonists in town.) The railroad police will probably never catch the bozos who tried to set this bridge on fire, but if they can discourage said bozos from coming back it's almost as good.
Indeed, the scandal-free streak has gone unbroken for more than three decades, said Norma Jane Sabiston, a political adviser to Mitch Landrieu and the former chief of staff for Mary Landrieu's Senate office, who spoke on behalf of both politicians.
Ms. Sabiston probably said this with a completely straight face. As a general rule, I disapprove of the sort of corruption that infests American politics, but Louisiana politics is so over the top that, why, yes, of course you'll boast about not having any scandals within your family for 30 years.
(via Your Right Hand Thief)
Of course Scalia, Thomas, and the newest bagman voted for imperial privilege, but it's still worth something that the Supreme Court decided that
Alternatively, the appeals court agreed with the Government that the
Conventions do not apply because Hamdan was captured during the war
with al Qaeda, which is not a Convention signatory, and that conflict
is distinct from the war with signatory Afghanistan. The Court need
not decide the merits of this argument because there is at least one
provision of the Geneva Conventions that applies here even if the
relevant conflict is not between signatories. Common Article 3, which
appears in all four Conventions, provides that, in a "conflict not of
an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High
Contracting Parties [i.e., signatories], each Party to the conflict shall
be bound to apply, as a minimum," certain provisions protecting "[p]ersons
... placed hors de combat by ... detention," including a prohibition
on "the passing of sentences ... without previous judgment ... by
a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees
... recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples." The D. C. Circuit
ruled Common Article 3 inapplicable to Hamdan because the conflict with
al Qaeda is international in scope and thus not a "conflict not of an
That reasoning is erroneous.
Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, (#05-184) 4.d.ii (page 6 of the pdf)
So it appears that according to US law (and not just the sort of common decency that has been bred out of the upper echelons of the Evil Party) the B*sh junta has been violating the Geneva Conventions by setting up all-american deathcamps.
Does proper protocol involve tarring and feathering Maximum Leader Genius and his slimy co-conspirators before or after they're impeached, convicted, and dragged out of washington in irons?
I wonder which Evil Party minions will be leaping forward to defend the Coward in Chief now that his right to issue lettres de cachet has been denied by the Supreme Court?
Jun 28, 2006
Today was not the best day to look at Eng!s; I got down to my usual bus transfer at 17th and Haig, and there was nothing there except for the (delayed) afternoon transfer job, led by GP38-2(?) #528 and a collection of SD40-2s. It had, according to the brakeman, been waiting for "a while", and by the time I left for the bus at 6:10, it had been waiting for an even longer while.
The one interesting thing I discovered today is that, at least around Portland, there are some UP trainmen who refer to locomotives as "motors". This is a terminology that I've not seen anyone use for diesels; I'm used to people calling electric locomotives motors, but not diesels.
The first finger to go got pinched while I was fixing the lawnmower. The second finger got pinched while I was dismantling a bamboo flooring display (the bamboo flooring was assembled into a 18x18 square, which was nailed and (badly) glued to a slab of homasite -- I was driving a wedge in to separate the two and the handle squashed my big finger into the homasite.) The third finger got nailed today when I was cleaning yard debris off the (collapsing, and covered with branches, weeds, and other junk) retaining wall at the back of the property and managed to disturb a yellowjacket nest. One yellowjacket managed to sting me, and it stung me through the glove I was wearing, and to add insult to injury it got me right on the tendon. I'd managed to avoid bee-stings for the first 45 years of my life, and I realize now that this was the right choice.
I can hardly wait to see what happens to the next finger.
No, no, it's not a Gerrymander, because the Supreme Court says it's not one. And, really, who are you going to believe? The Supreme Court or your lying eyes?
Remember, these are trained professionals with the highest ethical standards, so they wouldn't do anything like legalising gerrymandering just because it gives an electoral advantage to the Evil Party. So it's not a gerrymander, it's an, um, eagle. Yes, it's definitely an eagle, so that is what it must be. Eagles have teeth, don't they?
Jun 27, 2006
It was not 38°C this afternoon, so it was far more pleasant down at Brooklyn Yard. When I got there, nothing was visible except for the afternoon transfer job up to Albina yard, and I would have left except that I got into a conversation with the brakeman (a cool sunny afternoon -- 27°C is not normally what I'd consider to be cool, but it was really nice today -- makes the whole idea of standing around chatting by the railroad tracks seem like an absolutely splendid idea) and chatted until the first Amtrak train came by.
I was expecting it to be train #507, but, um, it wasn't. Instead of a F69 lugging a train of talgo cars, three Twinkies rolled around the curve, pulling the (two hours late, conveniently for me) Coast Starlight.
And as the Coast Starlight rolled by, the transfer freight started to move out, thus breaking off my conversation with the brakeman. So I headed over to the bus stop and went home to pick up about 5 tons of assorted yard debris from home.
When I have to drop checks off in my bank account, I take part of my lunchtime and walk over to the credit union. Usually I walk down first and cut across to the little park at the south end of SW 2nd (which is a sidewalk instead of a street, thanks to Portland going through a fit of Punic-war style urban renewal in the 1960s.) There's a small piazza here, containing a nice piece of sculpture (Leland #1, by Lee Kelly & Bonnie Bronson), and it makes the 4 block walk to the bank much more pleasant than just walking along Lincoln or (shudder) through the much-less pleasant ADP building plaza and along the Portland Motor Speedway (Arthur Street.)
Today, when I walked into the piazza, I spotted a swallowtail butterfly doing long lazy circles just east of the sculpture, and, not really expecting I'd get anything other than a little leopard-colo(u)red blob, yanked out the camera and tried to take some pictures.
Yes, this one is blurry, but the pictures get better.
To my intense delight, the swallowtail obligingly landed on the piazza, and stayed landed, even when I crouched down and inched so close to it that the camera started to have trouble focussing. It knew I was there, and worked it s way around to look at this funny human-shaped object with a black head and one large clicking glassy eye, but it apparently decided that a North American Lefty Trainspotter was not a threat to traditional butterfly values.
I don't usually carry my telephoto/macro lens with me (I carry the camera in my purse, so when I shovel too many things in there everything sort of rolls around and bumps into each other, and I worry that it would turn the optics into expensive sand. One of these days I do have to bite the bullet and sew a few camera pockets into my purse so the camera, lenses, and any computer junk I might want to carry can travel safely), so it was really an unexpected delight to get these pictures, and that the butterfly would stay still while I spent five minutes slowly inching towards it.
Eventually its self-preservation instinct clicked in (probably when I got the lens so close that it was bumping its wings against it) and it flew away, so I was able to continue to the bank and, eventually, to a place where I could get these pictures off the camera
Jun 26, 2006
And, no, I'm not going to stand around the railroad yard waiting for an Amtrak train to show up. And from the looks of it nobody else was willing to stand around the railroad yard; for the first time in a long time the only cars visible in the yard were the ones attached to the freight that was waiting for permission to transit east Portland.
Even the Eng!s looked like they were melting.
An empty yard is a well-run yard. Or maybe all the freight cars just melted?
I walked from 17th and Haig down to the mainline, walked south to Lafayette and the Toonerville bridge, took a couple of pictures from the bridge, then walked over to the next bus stop, and by the time I got there I was soaked with sweat. Ugh. I've been too long in this part of the world; I'm sweating more here than I ever did in New Orleans, and the sweat there had to fight its way past the 100% humidity before it could actually do anything.
Jun 25, 2006
- Remove the bushes some previous owner put there for "screening."
The only problem with getting rid of this 3m by 2m bush is that the little shed I'm going to put in the back corner will no longer be quite so tucked out of the way. But not having the big nasty bush there is worth it.
Jun 23, 2006
I'm building, with assistance from the bears, a little shed in the backyard as a practice building for the summer cottage I intend to build sometime soon (probably not this year, unless I win the lottery [maybe I should buy a ticket, just to increase my chances a little bit?]) and, after several months of accumulating building materials from various sources (including our regular trips to SCRAP), we finally cleared a corner of the yard and broke ground for the project.
I've decided to build a rubble trench foundation, so we're trying to get a foot deep foundation ring so we can fill it with gravel, put a concrete pad on top of it, then use concrete rubble to build up the foundation to a foot above ground (aka termite) level. The concrete slab at the back of the property holds a concrete rubble wall that's on our side of the property, so I may use it as part of the foundation of the shed.
There are still no actual plans for the shed, though I've got two of the ballon frame walls framed up and sitting in the garage (the shed will be approximately 50 square feet -- 6x8 feet inside, give or take 4 inches) and ready to be placed on the foundation as soon as we get the floor in.
Dust Mite supervises the excavations for the shed we're starting to build.
My sister in law Anna lives in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, and as a hobby kayaks around in the bayous near where she lives. She, sensibly, carries a camera, and occasionally gets the chance to take pictures of the local wildlife, which she then posts on her weblog.
Like, for instance, this picture of a blue heron launching itself from a piling. Yes, I'm sitting here gaping at this picture. I didn't know that herons just sort of toppled over forward to take off from a post, though I suppose it makes sense.
Today, when I did the now-traditional (everyone working down there must be thinking "there goes that crazy trainspotter again") #17/Eng!/#70 trip home from work, I got to Haig & 17th and didn't see a thing. After yesterday, and since every time I'd gone down in the past 10 days the yellow menace had started at least one train north around the time that Amtrak 507 came south, I was going to be a little suspicious, so I walked one block south and saw, lurking just behind the Lafayette Toonerville bridge, 4 C44s attached to a long train of container cars.
The view north from here wasn't particularly good (there is a small grove of trees that blocks the view to the north, so if an Amtrak train showed up I'd have about a second for the Pentax to autofocus and get a picture before the train swept by to the south), and this train looked suspiciously like it was ready to go. So I decided that I would go down to the bridge and try to get my photos from there, and if the train started to move I'd be able to get up onto the bridge and have a fighting chance of getting a picture of the Amtrak train.
UP 5354, 5540, 9662,and 5427 getting ready to spoil the view.
As soon as I walked up to the foot of Lafayette street the train went *toot* and started to move northwards, stopping with 9662 parked right under the bridge. So up I went to get into a better position to take pictures. As you can probably tell, the Lafayette bridge is not what you'd call sturdy, and the whole damned bridge was shaking in unison with the diesel motors in the C44Ws. Now, I wanted a good picture, but I've got an attachment to solid ground that stays solid, not ground than jumps up and down at 300rpm, so I retreated to the end of the bridge. The view wasn't so good there, but it wasn't bouncing up and down like the center of that plate-girder span.
While I was sitting at the end of the bridge, this train started to move forward, creeping slowly out of the yard, so I stayed put to wait for the train to clear the bridge. This didn't work out as I'd planned; when there were still 5 cars blocking the view, Amtrak 507 blew around the curve and went whizzing by at track speed.
When I came down off the bridge, a couple of switch engines were moving forward to do some switching, so I got another street-level view before heading back to 17th street to catch the bus home.
Jun 22, 2006
The plan was good. Amtrak has a page that you can use to check for realtime (more or less) train arrivals and departures, so I was using it to watch train 507's traditionally late trip down towards Portland. When the train arrived at Vancouver, WA, it was running about 15 minutes late and the train status said it would be departing Portland Union Station at 5:35, so I scampered out the door at work and headed across the river on the #17 bus. When I arrived at Haig and 17th, a small problem presented itself -- there was a train switching on the yard lead and the northbound main, which (aside from one or two strategically placed flatcars), completely blocked the southbound main (where I was certain that #507 would comes sailing down in just a few minutes.)
This was not a catastrophic problem, because this *is* in the middle of Portland, Oregon, and there are ways to get around to the other side of the track without trespassing or otherwise endangering yourself. The most convenient crossing is a pedestrian overpass at Lafayette St (it's not the most reassuring bridge; it's mainly wood, and would be better located on the mainline of the Toonerville Trolley than as an overpass over one of the big N/S railroad lines on the west coast of the American Imperium) which is also conveniently a good place to (gingerly) stand and take photos. So, as the switchers pushed the (very long train) back and forth in the yard, I trotted over to this bridge and climbed up to the top to wait for the next F69 to come by.
As I waited, the string of cars pushed back into the yard, were attached to another dozen or so cars, and then pulled out of the yard, where they abruptly stopped, conveniently blocking the northbound main. Well, it was about 5:50 by now, so the Amtrak train was sure to arrive ANY TIME NOW, and since the southbound main wasn't occupied the yellow menace would certainly want to clear the Amtrak train out of the way so they could work around this inconveniently located switch job.
Imagine my surprise when I heard the muttering of diesel engines behind me and turned to see a train pulled by a C44AC and a couple of ob-SD40-2s running northbound up the previously-unoccupied southbound main.
This isn't good.
The situation got even more exciting when this train came to a complete stop, paused for about 10 minutes, then slowly crept off to the north.
At 6:20, I gave up the ghost and walked down to the bus stop, where I got the first pleasant surprise of the trainspotting day. Our car had been lightly crunched by somebody in a pickup truck, and had been in the shop getting a new hood, front bumper cover, and headlights (the insurance company got us a Pontiac Waterbuffalo as a temporary car, and you know, a pure internal combustion vehicle just isn't as zippy as something with a 30 shaft horsepower electric motor.) When I'd left for work that morning, we still had the Waterbuffalo, but as I sat there and waited for the bus I saw a little electric-blue Prius pop around the corner and come driving towards me, and as it got closer I realized that it was our electric-blue Prius with the best and the bears riding in it. I leapt up and down appropriately, hopped into the car, and instead of going home we all went up to Russell Street BBQ to celebrate having a proper automobile again.
And the Amtrak train I wanted to photograph? Well, according to the realtime departure page, it finally got out of Portland Union Station at 6:29PM, which was about the time I was hopping into the car for a nice round of smoked herbivore flesh.
An eastbound Gresham-Hillsboro train led by Bombardier/BN #114 crosses MLK at around 7:45 tonight.
Jun 21, 2006
Today was early and I hadn't much time to look at Engs!, so I only got pictures of another pair of SD40-2s waiting to pull a transfer freight to either Albina or the BN yard in Northwest Portland. A container train was getting ready to depart for points northward, but it didn't pop its nose into view until the #70 bus pulled up to the stop, so I didn't get any pictures of it.
And apparently I've been walking over to take pictures of the Engs! often enough so the people at the local warehouses are beginning to recognise me. (Perhaps it's the Groovy Girl zipper pull on my purse?) When I was sitting by the bus stop, someone from one of the warehouses came over to catch the bus to his home, and asked why I got off the bus, walked over to the railroad, walked back, and occasionally ran back. He was somewhat baffled by my "I like to take railroad pictures" comment.
Jun 20, 2006
I left work earlier today, so I missed out on the traditionally late Amtrak train 507, and only managed to catch the afternoon transfer freight (with SD40-2's 3672 and 3632) and a pair of switchers breaking up a train.
I squashed these pictures down a little bit so that the big versions won't be 2+mb each, but other than that these are the pictures just as they come from the camera. I don't really like GM locomotives (give me a nice curvy first-generation ALCO any day) but the SD40-2 is sort of growing on me with it's long end platforms (though that may be familiarity; there are a lot of SD40-2s running around, and it's about the only sort of distinctive engine that was running when I was trainspotting in the 1970s, but is still running today. Even the boring-as-paint-drying UP paint scheme can't completely spoil these engines.)
The American Imperium picks up someone on suspicion of being Islamic so that Maximum Leader Genius can say that his secret police have picked up yet another kingpin in the International Terrorist Conspiracy. And it turns out pretty quickly that this is not a kingpin, but instead just a mentally ill nobody who was nothing more than a secretary.
So what should the secret police do? Let him go? Bung him into jail for arranging travel for the wrong women and children?
Oh hahahahaha. Don't be silly. The fucking sociopathic scum who run this country called him "one of the top operatives plotting and planning death and destruction on the United States", so if the US let him go that would be admitting that B*sh isn't infallable. And that's not acceptable, because it would embarrass the Coward in Chief.
No, apparently B*sh felt it would be less embarrassing to torture, by presidential order, this lunatic until he said something that could produce a great flurry of secret policemen running around trying to look important, repeated until some other headline happened to distract attention from this mishap.
"I said he was important," Bush reportedly told Tenet at one of their daily meetings. "You're not going to let me lose face on this, are you?"
The pretense that the B*sh junta's vast abrogation of civil liberties was to "protect" the United States is all swept away now. The real reason is right there; we are losing our rights just to keep the goddamned emperor from losing face.
(links via Michael Froomkin)
The recently declassified November 2004 report on detainee abuse in Iraq contains the following items in close conjunction with each other on page 47.
- [elided] were blindfolded, sometimes with duct tape, for purposes of force protection and to prevent escape. These detaineeds were held in small cells measuring 20 inches (wide) x 4 feet (high) x 4 feet (deep), that loud music was played at a volume to prevent detainees from communicating with each other, and then [elided] was employed as a method of setting favorable conditions for interrogations.
- AR 190-8 requires detainees to be quartered in conditions providing ample light, space, and comfort.
The document also helpfully comments that the 20"x4'x4' cells did not provide room for the detainees to lie down or stand up, and later on considers that locking someone up in one of these for a two days is just fine.
Oh, yeah, the United States of America is certainly a shining example for the rest of the world (at least the parts of the world where the government tortures people.)
Jun 19, 2006
When Lindsey Graham (E-SC) claims that "Zarqawi's death was a sea change. We're now making some progress. If we do shows every Sunday talking about every mistake, we're going to lose this war." at the same time the US embassy in occupied Iraq is sending back memos that strongly imply that Iraq is so far gone that going to hell in a handbasket would be an improvement, you might sensibly assume that the Evil Party has completely lost touch with reality.
Well, no. Sure, the benign explanation for their reverse-midas touch is simply that they're a bunch of bloodthirsty delusional sadists whom the great despots of world history would feel somewhat uneasy about being around, but I don't think that's the correct explanation. Lindsey Graham mentioned something in Iraq, so you might think that he's talking about Iraq, but in reality Iraq doesn't matter to the thugs who run the United States. The people who run the United States don't really think that Iraq is a real place; it's simply a hot sandy trough where well-connected friends of the B*sh junta can bloat their bank accounts beyond the dreams of avarice.
No, the "war" they're talking about is their war against the pesky representative government in the United States, where if people keep talking about the torture, the government-approved atrocities, the death camps, and the slow but steady growth of Hobbesian states that spring up wherever Maximum Leader Genius sets his blood-soaked standard, it's possible that people will get so disgusted with the slaughter that they might throw the bums out before the Evil Party has finished infiltrating the Stupid Party. And that would be bad, because there are still hundreds of well-connected friends of the B*sh junta who don't have their tenth gold-filled swimming pools yet.
Just remember that as far as the Republican Party is concerned, the rest of the world doesn't exist, and it's all a battle for the hearts and nasty prejudices of the US electorate. When they talk about winning the war, their enemy is the American people.
(link to Lindsey Graham speech via Echidne of the Snakes)
While I was waiting for a train, I spotted a few honeybees working the clover along the railroad tracks. I didn't have my zoom lens handy, but why should that stop me?
Today, when I took the twice proven #17 bus over to Haig & 17th to catch the #70 home I wasn't expecting to see anything interesting, because I'd checked the Amtrak webpage and seen that train #507 was running about 20 minutes late, and would get to my transfer point 10 minutes before there was even the slightest chance of the train showing up.
Ho, ho, ho, more fool me.
When the bus started turning the corner from Powell to 17th, a short intermodal train popped out from between the small warehouses and offices which flank the
SPUP mainline, so I immediately scurried over to Haig and the railroad to see if anything Cascades-colored would pop out from the underbrush. There was nothing to be seen except for a couple of engines shuffling around a cut of cars (presumably for a transfer run up to the BN/SF yard in NW Portland?), and nothing to be heard but the distant hooting of train whistles as the intermodal freight transitted the east side warehouse district.
A difficult to get picture, because the trees in the foreground grew so close to the tracks so I had to crouch down and lean over to avoid trespassing.
The engines in the yard pushed back out of sight (and, due to the wind direction, out of sound), so I had to walk back down to 17th to listen for an Amtrak whistle, and then performed my now-traditional choreography of TOOT TOOOOOOOT TOOOT TOOOT, running back to the tracks, taking photos, and returning just in time to catch the bus.
Jun 18, 2006
350 photos of the Portland Pride parade, and I'm too exhausted to sort through them now.
Getting old is a real pain sometimes.
Jun 16, 2006
The savage Dust Mite stalks its prey.
I was planning on catching the #19 bus home when I left work today, but I just missed one, so I hopped on a #17 instead, figuring that I'd go across the river and transfer to a #70 at Milwaukie and Powell. But about halfway across the bridge, I realized that it was almost 18:00 and that it would be a shame to not even see if there was something interesting sitting at the north end of Brooklyn Yard.
Why, yes, there was.
I took a couple of quick pictures of 5251, then walked back down to wait for my #70 connection. I'd missed the 17:49 one, of course, but the 16:02 would be along any minute. But instead of the 16:02 bus, I heard a passenger Eng! going toot toot toooot toot TOOT TOOT TOOOOOT TOOT, scampered a block north on 17th, and saw Amtrak train 507 pop out between a couple of factory buildings.
(The second picture is a somewhat better picture of the F69, but there's this rather blatantly yellow car right below the engine. I could photoshop it out (the first of the pictures doesn't have a car sitting there) but it's kind of amusing to see the Eng! and the little yellow car stacked up like that.
If the bus had come by at this point, I would have been screwed, but no, the southbound cascade went by without any mass transit incidents and I was able to get a picture of the cab control car on the other end of the train before it vanished out of sight.
As I started to walk back to the bus stop, the UP Eng! from scene 1 blew its horn and started running north (presumably on the way back to Albina yard in North Portland), and as I reached the stop the #70 bus popped around the corner and picked me up right on time.
I'll have to start using the #17/#70 every evening (or at least until I get bored of C44Ws and F69s)
Jun 15, 2006
Once again, I took the #17 bus across the river and got off at the stop by the north end of Brooklyn Yard to see if anything interesting was about to happen. I'd been bashing on a new Linux kernel all day, so I was running late and I got off at the Haig & 17th stop at ~5:50pm. There was something there; a string of yellow horde engines being switched from the mainline into the yard, which were worth being photographed before they moved back out of sight into the yard.
After these engines disappeared, I looked at my watch and saw it was about 6pm. I wasn't hearing any Amtrak-ish whistles, so I walked over to the bus stop to see when the next bus was due. It said it was due at about 6:05, so I was thinking that I should just stop and wait for the bus when I heard an enthusiastic TOOT TOOT TOOOOOOOOT TOOOT and the rumble of a late-model EMD engine accellerating a train. I bolted across 17th and ran down Haig until I reached the (ex-)railroad crossing, just in time to see Amtrak train 507 come hurling around the corner as fast as its little feetsies could carry it.
I'd been playing around with shutter speeds, so the poor Pentax was having trouble properly focussing on the fast-moving eng. After a couple of red-box-but-no beeps, I flipped the camera to manual focus and got a string of fast-moving green blurs until the engine went flying past me, and then, by pure blind luck, it was close enough so that I couldn't focus as fast as it was moving and thus ended up with a photo that was actually (mostly) focused despite not looking like it while I was taking the picture.
... if the puppet government in Iraq promises an amnesty to anyone who lays down their arms and promises not to fight against the so-called government. If that government is going to have a lifespan of more than 15 minutes past the point where the American Imperium loses interest and wanders away to play with some other shiny little bauble, it's important to make it look like you're an actual government instead of being just a sockpuppet.
And, to give the people in charge of the Evil Party some credit, it's good to not immediately say "No, we will not permit Iraq to do this" when the news gets out that "anyone" includes the rebels who have been enthusiastically killing off American soldiers. Iraq is, at least in the speeches Maximum Leader Genius has been giving, an independent country that can set its own laws.
But it's doesn't seem like it's such a great idea for Evil Party senators to fall over themselves trying to support this plan. It might be good policy, but we are still at war there and American soldiers are still being killed.
I guess the Democrats got out of the door first with the "Oh, this is a SUCKY HORRIBLE PLAN and we CANNOT ALLOW IT!" speeches, so the Evil Party had to take the opposite position, never mind that it's 180 degrees from their traditional "Neca eos omnes. Deus suos agnoset" platform (to say nothing of the long-running conservative hissy fit about The! Nerve! of normalising relationships with Vietnam after they had the temerity to defeat us in a war.)
About the only way it makes sense is if you assume that the Evil Party has been a little bit too enthusiastically wapping each other over their heads with the STUPID STICK (™ talk.bizarre), since, as they've been cheerfully saying for the past quarter century, the Evil Party isn't the party of appeasement, and saying "great! go ahead! no problem!" is walking kind of close to, um, appeasement.
... as long as you don't get sick and require immediate attention, that is.
Emergency medical care in the United States is on the verge of collapse, with the nation's declining number of emergency rooms dangerously overcrowded and often unable to provide the expertise needed to treat seriously ill people in a safe and efficient manner.
(The Washington Post, via Suburban Guerrilla)
In the past few years, our family has spent more time than we care to think about going to various emergency rooms around Portland. With one exception (I am susceptable to labyrithitis, and the first time I got it I ended up getting so dizzy I collapsed, puking, on the floor and the best called 911 when I couldn't get up. Emergency rooms are really fast when the ambulance crew wheels someone in on a stretcher) each trip ended up with us cooling our heels in the emergency room for hours before the doctors would deal with the intussusception, burned hands, split chin, or mysterious dizziness and numbness which could have been (but fortunately was not) a stroke. And in the case of the intussusception, we actually had to leave the hospital ER and go to our regular doctor who said "yup, intussusception" and got us an appointment in the intestinal X-ray unit of one of the local hospitals, where, for only US$3000, they pumped the bear full of marker to find and untelescope the blockage. And for each of these emergency room visits (including the one we ended up walking out on so we could go see our regular doctor instead) we got charged at least US$500 for "emergency room services", which then mysteriously became "out of network" visits, which was sort of bizarre because they were Providence hospitals and we had Providence insurance.
And we have money, and could pay for all of this. But not enough money to get into the goddamn medical boutiques that the best healthcare system in the whole wide world™ is now offering to people who are willing to spend US$40,000/year for their health insurance.
Now, if we lived in the formerly communist bloc country to the north, this wouldn't happen because the government (still, but Mini-Me will soon put an end to THAT embarrassment) pays for healthcare, so you don't have a large chunk of the population stuck with having to go to the ER for any sort of illness. Sure, there'd be a waiting list for nosejobs, but for the things that might actually kill you you won't have to wait in line behind terrified and exhausted parents who couldn't afford a doctor's visit and have brought their now-deathly-ill children in to see what's wrong with them.
And they pay 10% of their GDP on healthcare! And the average Canadian lifespan is only 1 year better than the average US lifespan. And they've got first-world child mortality rates instead of our third-world child mortality rates.
But there's a waiting list for nosejobs! And that's the most important thing about healthcare.
The nerve of Ana Marie Cox, saying such rude things about the Yearly Kos attendees like:
Of course, the bloggers of Yearly Kos have a ways to go before they are either as feted (or as fetid) as they believe mainstream journalists to be. And as seriously as they seemed to take the conference, they don't take themselves as seriously as mainstream journalists do, either. On the conference's last day, someone brought an industrial roll of aluminum foil and dozens of attendees spent the afternoon walking around in elaborate tin-foil hats. If Judy Miller of the New York Times had thought to pack along a similar prop when she was embedded in Iraq — or practiced a similar sort of skepticism about her sources and her reporterly ego — perhaps the mainstream media wouldn't be as reliable a punchline at these gatherings today.
Oh, sorry, she was insulting Judy "Queen of Iraq" Miller here. Perhaps the mortal insult was when Ms Cox wasn't suitably respectful of Mark Warner when she said:
The first one was about whether Warner was correct in asserting that Iran is a greater threat to our national security than Pakistan. A better question might have been, how valuable is the opinion on such matters when it comes from a one-term governor of Virginia?
Since you know that we've been doing so well with appointing inexperienced ex-governors to the White House in the past few years. But some of the Big Names in the liberal political weblog world support Warner, so that makes him completely different from the last inexperienced governor who got into the White House (and who is fanatically supported by a slightly different political weblog world.)
Aaarrgh. This "offensive" Time article (which has all of the big dogs in the liberal political weblog world rushing to apply the scarlet phrase "NOT WITH THE PROGRAM" on her lapel) is, well, only offensive if you're drinking from the same well of blind obedience that the conservatives have been drinking from for at least the past quarter of a century. If I want this sort of obedience, I'll read the National Review or any of the big (snicker) libertarian rags (because, really, if you want to see the end result of the "my tribe rules!" mentality, there's nothing better than seeing a libertarian supporting torture, ubiquitous surveillance, and massive government payouts to campaign supporters.)
And people wonder where the DLC came from. Once you start throwing stones at opinion writers for not being suitably respectful of the anointed leadership, it's not too far from believing that power is its own reward.
Jun 14, 2006
Irfan Skiljan has put real image rotation into his Irfanview image viewing program. This is intensely useful; I was using Photoshop and the GIMP for doing image rotation, and now I can do that without firing up either of the swiss army battleships. (And since Irfanview already has a magic [red eye reduction] button, it means that I basically don't have to use the GIMP or Photoshop for anything other than the .1% of my photos that are almost completely fubarred.)
Russell graduated from kindergarden today (Me: "12 years to go!" R: "You always say that!")
I’ve just not had the sort of mental energy that’s needed to
comment on politics, and also before I do that I need to modify
to have subject areas so people can look at posts on one topic without
needing to see posts on other topics. There are some people who
don’t think that railfanning should go on a (snort) Serious Political
Weblog and there are people who don’t want to clutter up their railfan
reading with political discussions. So I need to make it possible for
people to look at http://weblog.pell.portland.or.us/~orc/railroad
or http://weblog.pell.portland.or.us/~orc/politics without
needing to see the other stuff. And I need to do it in the
one true programming language
(or, heh, FORTRAN – Laugh while you can,
monkeyboy), which requires a little more mental effort than I appear to
be capable of this month.
Photos, on the other hand, require absolutely no mental energy,
because I’ve set the Pentax up to save them as jpegs, and thus I don’t
do any postprocessing aside from cropping the image to fit. So it’s
another round of cute baby pictures and locomotives for the entire bar.
Jun 13, 2006
If you want a language that doesn't believe in type checking at all, except
when it does, try Python. Don't just toss it casually aside for the bizarre
indentation-based syntax when there's so much else broken about it.
(Peter Corlett, commenting on language design.)
As the days get longer, I've taken to switching to the #70 bus at Milwaukie and Powell so I can go down 17th (and by Brooklyn yard) and see if anything interesting is happening in the railroad department. Today, I heard a single "Toot" when I was waiting for the #70 bus, so I instead hopped on a #17 and rode it one stop (conveniently next to the north throat of Brooklyn yard.) This container train was waiting there, but nothing else was in sight, and even though I waited 15 minutes just in case (and heard occasional "Toots" from what I can only guess were Eng!s moving around the yard), nothing else came into view.
Locomotive horns were blowing when I got off the bus down by home, so I presume the evening rush of Amtrak+transfer freights was waiting for me to get out of sight before they all went swooshing on by. One of these days I'm going to snap and buy a scanner so I can actually go down to the yard when a train is moving.
The "El Torito" self-booting CD-rom spec, when talking about the format of the superblock and root directory on a el-torito CD, mentions briefly that all numbers in the spec will be in hexidecimal (the traditional 'h' suffix and 0x prefixes are apparently too difficult to read, because one's a Unixism and the other is not) and means it; Later in the document they talk about "800 byte sectors" and "20 byte directory entries", which led to intense confusion until I realized that these aren't the 800 bytes I've been looking for.
So I wonder if the people who wrote this spec grew up using base 16, or if this is just some sort of subtle copy protection scheme meant to massively confuse people who have to write programs that check a cd for bootability. Or maybe it's the revenge of mainframe programmers who miss their lovely 3270 terminals and want to make the PC world pay for their sins.
When I started programming in a real programming language, I'd declare main() as
Several years later, after *NS* "standardized" the language (there were only a few bizarre standardizations that they did; the one that was most startling was inventing '##' for token pasting, and I got used to that before the C++ fundamentalists took over the ANSI C standards committee) I started to use the ANSI-preferred style for main():
main(int argc, char **argv)
which may not be any more expressive, but at least it's more compact, and in a world that contains professional compiler writers (there is at least one "C" compiler out there that will have a shrieking hissy fit if you give it a function prototype and then a K&R function declaration) it cuts down on the number of #ifdef ANAL_COMPULSIVE_COMPILER's in your code.
More recently (and I'm sure it has nothing to do with the C99 "C standard" (now with 99% more incompatable extensions!) that the C++ fundamentalists have foisted on the world) I've found that I tend to declare main() as
just to see how hysterial gcc becomes when it's confronted with my code.
I don't do this for any of my portable code, of course;
float main(int argc, char **argv)
is good enough, and it even compiles when people attempt to build my C code with a C++ compiler.
Jun 12, 2006
Jun 11, 2006
This funny looking bumblebee (or fly?) was riding on the excursion train this afternoon. This is as big as the picture gets, because (a) I didn't have my macro lens on the camera and (b) the person who it was riding on shooed it away about 20 seconds after this picture. Whatever it was it was a fairly large insect.
The preschool that Silas attends had their graduation potluck tonight, and the preschool board arranged with the Washington Park Zoo to bring down some of their cuter animals and insects for people to look at, pet. and photograph.
On May 20, 1956, the SP&S carefully cleaned and polished their class E-1 #700 and put it at the head of a special train from Portland to Wishram and back as the official end of steam on the Northwest's Own Railroad. This past weekend, the Pacific Railroad Preservation Society, the (railfan) operator of the remaining bits of Portland Traction, and Oaks Park got together to commemorate this last run by running excursion trains from Oaks Park (where the 700 sat for 20-odd years after being pulled from the scrapline to match the Union Pacific's gift of their #197 [this is also how Portland got their GS-4]) down [almost] to OMSI and back.
Of course we had to ride the train. It wasn't as easy as we originally thought, because (a) somebody backed their truck into our car and (b) the bears decided that they did not want any part of those icky steam engines. But we persevered, and finally convinced them that we should ride the train this afternoon.
We showed up down at Oaks Park at about 2:00pm. No train was in sight, but the PRPA people there assured us that the 700 would be back in "10 or 15 minutes". We waited. And waited. Not 10 minutes, not 15 minutes, but 45 minutes before the 700 poked its snoot around the corner and steamed slowly up to the Oaks Park halt.
(Once we were actually on the train, the bears became much more enthusiastic about the whole trip, even though Russell had to be convinced to not ride in the cupola of the caboose this time around (we rode in the cupola on Earth Day and Gorgerail, and for the rest of us twice was enough.)
As I mentioned before, it was difficult to find a place to do the traditional 3/4ths view of the Eng!, but that didn't stop me from taking buckets of pictures and weeding out a few good ones:
Going around the curve where the 700 and the 4449 derailed when pulling a Holiday Express train last winter.
A view of the Eng! after we got off and were heading (more or less) back to our Prius.
They stopped the Eng! right on top of one of the bridges that Portland Traction put in so people could access the trails running through Oaks Bottom, so when I went under the bridge to get a 3/4'th view from the other side, the 700 was right there above me.
We went down to Oaks Park today for the 50th anniversary of the SP&S farewell to steam. The 700 was doing a push-pull train from Oaks Park down to the bizarre track jog just south of OMSI, so, of course, we rode it (after a long wait for the 2pm train, which didn't leave the Oaks Park station until around 3:05.)
I took a few pictures of the eng as it was coming and going, most of indifferent quality (it's hard to get that 3/4ths wedge shot that railfan magazines love when you're either (a) on a bicycle trail that used to be Portland Traction's #1 track and the train is on the #2 track, or (b) when you're riding on the train and it goes around one of the two curves on the line), so I've picked this one as the best of a bad lot until I have a chance to sort through the pictures at a more leisurely rate.
Just as an operational aside, there's something seriously wrong with the world when you're riding on a train pulled by an as-modern-as-it-comes North American steam locomotive, and little children on their princess sparklepony bicycles are passing you.
Jun 10, 2006
... I will decree that all vehicles on the imperial highways will have their bumpers set at a standard height, so that when someone in a truck decides to back up without checking to see if the Royal Automobile is behind them, they'll run into the Royal Bumper instead of sailing gaily over it and crunching the Royal Engine Compartment.
Fortunately, the truck driver's insurance will pay for this woeful lack of standardization (to the tune of US$2000. Ouchie.)
Two pictures from winter and spring, pulled off the best's camera when retrieving a crash photo.
A train on the Hillsboro-Gresham interurban pauses to pick up passengers at 11th and Yamhill in downtown Portland (December 2005)
Russell pets Mavis and Leo
Jun 09, 2006
While the cats eat supper,
Dust Mite hangs out in the Cat Cave.
At work, I've got a project to try and figure out whether the nice people at R*dh*t have managed to get their new version of the ex-Sistina LVM software to actually, um, work. Yesterday, I decided to try and download the latest version of CentOS (It's like R*dH*t, but you don't pay US$1500 for their GPLed software, so I can install it at work without having to first blow away the RHEL3 machine I use for kernel and distribution development) so I could load it on one of the local machines and see if LVM is working again. This morning, I came in and the download was finished (we have a 6-700 person office here, and have what appears to be a single T-1 line going from here to the rest of the world. It's kind of slow), so I burned Centos 4.3 onto a stack of CDroms and headed off for the sacrificial test machine.
Um, er, no. The sacrificial machine (an IBM x206/xSeries 206m/system x 2060/whatever IBM is calling it today) comes with a nice Adaptec 9405 serial scsi driver, which, despite being a year old, isn't actually supported on the CentOS boot CD. Um, okay (It's not supported on RHEL3 either, but RHEL3 is oldoldold for Open Source®™© software and Adaptec is being a meany for shipping hardware (the thrice-damned a320 fakeraid controller) with proprietary drivers and technical documentation, so there's no point in backporting drivers for disk controllers from the 800 tonne gorilla of the SCSI-and-related-friends world), this is distressing, but it's not the end of the world because I've got access to an ancient C*mp*q (actually Digital, but we got the hardware after Digital was borged) P2/733 server which I've loaded older versions of Centos 4 on.
This will be easy, right?
Um, no, not exactly. Apparently the little 14" VGA monitor that we've got attached to this C*mp*q doesn't respond properly to the VGA identification handshake and returns a garbage resolution line. And the P*th*n installer that Centos uses doesn't like it when a VGA identification line doesn't make sense, and rather than doing the old fashioned approach of discarding it and either (a) asking you about the resolution or (b) reverting to a text-based installation, it instead abends and kills the entire install process.
I know there must be some machines that you can run Centos 4 on, because otherwise how would the developers actually develop their software, but between distribution flakiness (can't run Centos on modern IBM servers, can't run Centos on ancient DEC/C*mp*q servers) and kernel flakiness (I've got a PII/900 laptop at home that kernel panics when I try to run a Centos 4 install on it) I'm damned if I can figure out what sort of hardware I can use to actually run this software.
Jun 08, 2006
They killed the stupid "no inheritance taxes for the super-rich!" bill. Amazing. Someone must have knocked old Grover over the head and tossed him into the soundproof room down at the Old Glibertarian Rest Home and Insane Asylum, then sat down with the Evil Party caucus and pointed out to them that letting the super-rich not pay any taxes at all is not likely to maintain goodwill with the paid-minimum-wage-but-still-paying-20%-taxes people who carry elections for them.
This is the first thing I've seen this year that makes me think that the 2006 midterm elections might not end up with the same sort of interesting results that the last three elections gave the United States. If the Evil Party won't vote more tax breaks for the Hilton, Walton, and Nordstrom families this means there must be some really interesting (and by really interesting, I mean horrifying if you're an Evil Party supporter) poll numbers coming out of the GOP's internal polling organization.
(link via Atrios)
Jun 07, 2006
I occasionally look through the railroad pictures on railroadforums.com, looking to see if there are any new pictures of electric Engs! in the barren diesel-ridden wasteland that is post-privatisation Brazilian railroading. Today, I was browsing through and up popped this sad picture of Russia #6451, titled "resting in a scrapyard." Now, I don't speak portugese (my knowledge of latin is 20 years and about a millenium away from being good enough to understand it), but I do recognise the word museu, which may mean, even in the chaotic world of railway preservation, that the offending Russia may be headed for a museum.
I'll cross my fingers that it is. I would rather that Fepasa still existed and was still running the Russias and V8s in revenue service, but failing that this would be the 4th (of 20) 750 that avoided the cutter's torch.
-- picture by pedrop at railroadforums.com
Jun 06, 2006
Portland Clackamas Tribune has another article about the state of the local mass (and occasionally rapid) transit provider, where it points out that despite the teeny details that
- gasoline is cozying up to US$3.05/gallon, and
- all the rush-hour trains and busses are full to the brim (I've experienced this myself; a couple of months ago it was possible to get on the 8:43am bus to downtown Portland and get a whole seat to myself, but not any more)
Ridership on the busses and trains appears to have plateaued.
Even discounting any anti-city editorial biases in the PT, the management of Tri-Met doesn't come off as particularly well-wrapped here. At one point in the article Tri-Met's GM claims that the ridership is "inelastic", so fare increases won't scare people off the busses. Um, right. I don't know about you, but I'm of the firm belief that if you organize a transit system so that the only people who will ride the busses are people who don't have any choice, you've completely lost track of your business.
Most people have access to automobiles. You might not be able to serve everyone by bus or trolley, but you want to make the ride comfortable enough so that people will choose to use the bus, and you don't do that by flippantly assuming that the people on the bus are only there because they have no choice.
I'm in the boat where the bus is by far the best choice for me; it takes me 9-15 minutes to get downtown on the bus, and it drops me off 350 feet from my desk. If I was to drive downtown, I'd have to pay US$10k for a used EV, it would take me 6-12 minutes to get downtown, and I'd be 600 feet from my desk.
There's not much of a choice there, but if I have to be a standee from Milwaukie and Bybee to work all the time (and a few of the bus drivers in the morning are amazingly nasty to standee riders) tossing US$10K (Plus US$6-700/year for insurance plus however much I'd have to pay notEnron for electricity) into the deep hole known as an automobile starts to seem pretty appealing.
I can see (I can't sympathise; Tri-Met doesn't have Owl service on any of their bus or trolley routes, and, damnit, Owl service is one of those things you just have to have to run a proper transit company) why you'd want to trim back the early morning and late night runs, because not too many people ride then. But I can't see pulling busses out of the schedule during peak hours when you're looking for cost savings; it strikes me that this would be the time where your busses would actually make some money, so trimming that service is just waving goodbye to profits.
Sure, you could probably pack in more riders if you put in more trolley lines, but the only feasable way of putting in trolley lines these days is for the city to do it because if the Federal government gets involved, it means that the big federal contractors who are currently misplacing tens of billions of dollars in our imperial overreach in the near east will also get involved, which means that you'll end up paying US$100 million/mile for a simple trolley line (actually about US$50 million/mile for the trolley line, and another US$50 million/mile for "administration fees." It's funny how the downtown circulator trolley didn't have to pay that sort of money for these "essential" administration fees) and the City of Portland doesn't have anything near the sort of money that it would take to replace the now-demolished 42" gauge trolley network.
Perhaps a network of trolley busses? The feds might actually pay for them (after all, there's good money in outsourcing stringing trolley wire) and then all you need to worry about is electricity rate extortion from not-Enron, which might be bad but it's not as bad as the steady price increases for diesel fuel.
Jun 04, 2006
I asked the bears if they'd prefer a mountain cabin or a seaside cabin. Since the memories of digging on the beach were fresh in their minds, they said (of course) that they wanted a seaside cabin.
Now, you're not likely to find affordable land for cabins along the Oregon coast (I suppose I could step around the ancien régime amendment by buying land with a cabin, then demolishing the cabin and building one of my own, but that's just a little bit wasteful) so I did some brief MLS searches.
Looking at real estate is always interesting these days. Sure, there's some cheap land when you get > 15 kilometers away from the coast, but if you're looking at < 500 meters from an accessable beach and within 3 hours drive of Little Beirut, it gets ridiculous. US$300,000 for a "distant beach view" ? Aaaaiiieeee!
I suspect what I'll do is get some land along the I-5 corridor in Washington, then spend some money bringing in a few truckloads of sand and painting a "pretend this is the ocean" mural on the wall of the house. It might not be tremendously convincing, but it won't require selling our existing house to underwrite it.
One of these fingernails is not like the others.
Jun 02, 2006
It's amazing; no sooner does the city knuckle under and promise to toss a few more millions onto the (now approximately 400% above the initial budget, thanks to a few tiny revisions to the original plan) OHSU Lathe of Heavenish aerial tramway than the lower station structure just sort of pops up out of nowhere.
I am still unsure why the city of Portland should be spending a dime of money on a private tramway that's designed to do nothing except carry OHSU staff and customers from one OHSU building to another, and I would rather the city spend that US$7 million or so on, oh, maybe extending the trolley line through Homer's wonderland so that the people that live there might actually be able to get out without causing traffic jams, but I'm not a city official and don't have do deal with the nonstop whining coming from rich people demanding more government entitlements.
If Portland can get out from under this stupid tramway without spending more than US$10 million, perhaps it will be a lesson about paying better attention to requirement creep after you've signed off on a project. Perhaps the next time around they'll fire the differently competent project manager when the first 100% budget overrun is proposed?
When we came back from the Oregon coast on monday night, we hit the farmland east of Forest Grove when the sun was low enough to cast good shadows, but not quite so low to be blocked by that pesky coast range. This photo was lightly mangled with the gimp, so all of the exif data is lost, but the picture was taken with my Pentax, at f4.5 & 1/10th second shutter (and ~55mpg, but that's not a camera setting.)
Dust Mite plots world domination (or poses for vacation snapshots) in front of the Octopus Tree at Cape Meares