This Space for Rent

Aug 31, 2006

I can’t see any similarities here.

Compare our cat Leo (felis s. catus) ...

... to a couple of his cousins (felis s. lybica) 1000 times removed ...

When we got Leo and Mavis, I was struck by just how big Leo was compared to all of the other cats in the house, and just how long his legs are compared to, once again, all of the other cats in the house. I thought he might be about the same size as a wild cat, so I looked for some pictures of african and european wildcats (african because that's the likely ancester of all domestic cats, european because it's likely that there was some interbreeding there before his ancesters were dumped onto a ship and transported to North America.) It was kind of shocking to see that both of the new cats are so close to the appearance of their very distant ancesters; if it wasn't for the teeny detail that felis sylvestris doesn't exist in the Americas except as a migrant, and for the equally teeny detail that he is about as tame as a cat can be (he is right now curled up next to me dozing and occasionally stirring when he feels a need to be petted) I'd think that we was a real wild cat that somehow got into the city.

In any case, it's kind of spooky how, after so many generations of domestication, that he can still look so much like his wild relatives.

Aug 30, 2006

Trolley picture of the day (it was a long time ago, in a country far away from here)

A 900-series streetcar proceeds towards Canal Street from the trolley stop closest to where I lived in New Orleans (in a shotgun apartment on Chestnut Street; it may have been a long walk to the trolley stop, but aside from Portland this is the only city I've lived in where I was able to take a streetcar to do my regular routine, and I took full advantage of the opportunity.) It's obviously not a picture I took; it's a clipping from a Microsoft Earth birdseye taken sometime in the last decade, and it's been about 18 years since I moved out of New Orleans, and when I lived there all I had access to was film cameras, so I never actually took pictures of anything.

Railroad picture(s) of the day

A couple of days ago, I noticed that someone in a Yellow Menace backshop was helpfully labelling the parts of some of their C44s, so that railfans won't get confused about what part is what. They've also helpfully written the railroad name on the frame, in case the great big UNION PACIFIC up on the long hood is unreadable. It's interesting, in a "what will they outsource next?" sort of way, to see that the main beam of the lead truck claims to be made in the RSA instead of in the United States.

The next day, a pair of SW1500s or MP15s pulled a transfer freight out of the yard when I was over by the Toonerville Bridge, so I scampered up to the most dangerous part of the bridge and took a couple of pictures as they moved out of the yard.

Paying the CPC tithe

It's starting to look like the whole Canadian softwood "agreement" that the traitor Emerson pushed through is simply a way for Mini-Me to pay a half billion CA$ tithe directly to Maximum Leader Genius. And if the Canadian lumber industry doesn't go for it (as it appears they haven't, by enough of a margin so that the CPC can't just handwave themselves to a 95% buyin), the Canadian taxpayer (who is already enjoying the increased taxes that come with a Tory government) gets to pay for this tithe directly.

That's pretty impressive; Stephen Harper is explicitly making Canada into an fiefdom of the American Imperium, and the Canadian electorate isn't marching on Ottawa with torches? Did Mini-Me make a bet with the B*sh junta that he could debase Canada faster than the Evil Party debased the United States, or is this the payback for Evil Party assistance in the last election?

1 comment

Aug 29, 2006

It’s not OK.

(Image stolen from Wet Bank Guide)


Aug 28, 2006

August 28th? I wonder if anything happened on this day?

WWUS74 KLIX 281550

1011 AM CDT SUN AUG 28 2005











1011 AM CDT SUN AUG 28 2005

... no, I can't think of anything. Isn't there a birthday party or fundraiser that I'm due to attend?


Aug 27, 2006

A fire at night

Oxbow regional park is located down in the Sandy River gorge, so when darkness rolls in it rolls in really fast, which means that during this last weekend it was pretty much pitch black by 9pm, and the only large-scale amount of light we had was the camp bonfire. When the fire was at full blast, it just barely put out enough light to take acceptable pictures of it.

The dominos begin to fall

Russell just lost his first baby tooth.

Airplane picture of the day

PDX was routing arrivals in from the east all weekend, so that meant that every airplane coming into Portland from the south was routed over Oxbow Park at a fairly low altitude. It played hell with trying to take pictures of the night sky (not a terrifically successful activity with the slow lenses I have on the Pentax; a 45 second exposure is long enough so that the pesky planet rotates under me and makes every star into a somewhat wiggly streak with a bright landing-light shaped blur running a different direction across the negative) but it gave me plenty of opportunities to take airplane pictures during the day.

Why we went camping, in one easy picture

The advantage of carrying a telephoto lens is that I can sit well back in the shade and take pictures of the bears romping under the malign light of the sun.

Looking for a buffet

Vultures (and a raven?) circling something tasty on the east bank of the Sandy River at Oxbow regional park.

Mount Hood Dusk

Mount Hood lurked ominously in the background as we proceeded east on i84 on Fridate evening. And then all of the clouds went *poof* and vanished for the bulk of the weekend.

Trolley pictures of the day

We went camping at Oxbow regional park this weekend, but returned early this morning (there's something about showers with hot water that gets very appealing after sleeping in the woods for two nights) and managed to get pictures of two trolleys while on the last stretch down the Banfield expressway.

Aug 25, 2006

Friday Dust Mite Blogging™

Dust Mite and Leo relax on the sofa.

The city at twilight

The Portland convention center just as the sun poked out from under the evening clouds.

Aug 24, 2006

Something old, something new, something yellow, something not yellow

When I came across the Ross Island bridge today, I saw what I thought was a locomotive headlight on the SPUP mainline through east Portland. I thought it might be an Amtrak train, so I wasn't particularly surprised when I reached Haig St. and found nothing except a pair of SD70Ms at the head of a train getting ready to move north.

I started to head south to the Toonerville bridge to see if there was anything interesting happening in the yard, but I thought I heard something other than the whine whinge whinge whine of the SD70s. I turned back around and listened very carefully, and heard a fairly subdued tooting coming from the direction of the 11th street crossing. This was worth a delay, so I set up a good photo spot and waited for whatever it was to come into view.

It wasn't Amtrak, but it was a brace of 4 BN/SF GP38-2s, pulling the afternoon transfer freight down to Brooklyn Yard. The first three GP38s were in the traditonal Burlington Northern forest green, but the last unit was in the new drug-induced orange scheme. And, judging from the way everything including the trucks was shining, this was #3126's first trip after coming out of the paint shop.

After the transfer freight clanked on by, I walked down to the Toonerville bridge and spotted another Yellow Menace freight parked in thre yard (a couple of SD40-2s and what was probably a tunnel motor, all in YM colors), but they were in a position which didn't leave much room for photography. And they were yellow, which doesn't have the thrill of spotting a set of BN locomotives, so I didn't go out of my way to find a good camera angle.

1 comment

Oh, no, there are too many planets!

So lets get rid of some of them!

The IAU has decided that 11+ are too many (Merc, Ven, Earth, Ceres, Jup, Sat, Ura, Nep, Plu, Xena, other Kuiper belt objects to be classified in a later draft), so Pluto, Ceres, Xena, and the approximately 6000 other planet-sized objects that clutter up the Kuiper belt are now going to be called "dwarf planets", leaving a grand total of eight planets sitting in the Executive Lounge.

I fully expect that Congress will propose and pass a bill making Pluto a planet again.

Aug 23, 2006

Big sky over Portland

Big Pink under a cloudy sky this evening.

A switch engine at speed

This MP15AC was parked at the south end of Brooklyn Yard as we zipped by on 99E.

Hey, someone replaced my little baby with a young man!

Russell at Russell Street BBQ tonight, at around 6:30pm. Despite being Just A Little Baby™, he's not that small any more.

Aug 22, 2006

I enthusiastically recommend this product or service

[The Grado sr60]

High-end gear is typically a waste of money (if you don't believe me, just look at some of the expensive stuff that's reviewed in Stereophile or The Absolute Sound), but it's not always so. The grado sr60 has been around for a decade or so (I vaguely remember it from when I still read Stereophile) and has gotten rave reviews from everyone who gets their hands on them; I finally snapped and spent the US$70 for them, and they'd be a steal at twice the price. Even with crappy amplification (the built-in sound on my Toshiba Tecra 8200) there are musical instruments! That are separate! That play individual notes! And don't drown out the more delicate sounds in the background!)

Oh, yes, I certainly recommend these headphones. But you'll have to get your own, because I will defend these to the death.

Getting tired of yellow diesels? Me too.

But, alas, that's about all that there is at Brooklyn Yard, now that Amtrak has moved their afternoon train back to 6:30.

Yellow Menace SD70m #4556 and SD40-2 #3492 wait for clearance to pull a container freight from Brooklyn Yard to points north.

The facial tic? It must be because I need to up my medication …

... because it can't be because I read about Tri-Met selling some absolutely prime real estate (at 18th and Salmon) to some scumsucking condo developers for the grand total of US$1.00. And, to add insult to injury, not only were they given that land, but they're now trying to stretch the city zoning laws so they can build a taller and more profitable building on that lot.

Aargh. And I'll bet that the city is going to give them a nice toasty property tax break, so the upper-class "pioneers" who move into this condo won't have to pay more than US$500/year for their US$600,000 2br2ba flats.

I keep hearing "blah blah blah Portland is going to grow 100% in the next blah blah blah" and "blah blah blah we have to find room for blah blah blah" (thus the band of bland and depressing apartment blocks that ring the city and which are just inconvenient enough so that people won't ride mass transit), but if there's money to be made in those developments (which, obviously, there is, otherwise you wouldn't be seeing warehouse district condos being flipped for US$600,000 and up), there's no damn excuse for any city or county agency to grease the skids by giving the developers multi-million dollar gifts that are paid for out of the property taxes that everyone outside of these development areas pay.

In case you're asking, why, yes, I am angry about this. I pay US$3500/year in property tax for my 1909 craftsman house that backs up against a commercial block, so I don't feel that it's excessive that people who live in structures that cost an order of magnitude more per square foot should pay similar amounts. If you can afford to pay US$600,000 for a 2br2ba condo in the Pearl District or Homer's folly, then you can certainly pay the same rate of property tax that I (on my non-developable, unless I want to provoke a reassessment) pay on my property.

A public service announcement about music piracy

From Alfred Yankovic. Please, think of the poor swimming pools.

(via Michael Froomkin)

1 comment

Buzz buzz buzz goes the bumblebee, and whoosh goes the #19 bus

I was out at the bus stop waiting to go home for lunch today, when I got distracted by a yellowfaced bumblebee working one of the butterfly bushes that surrounds the bus stop. I'd pulled out the pentax and was leaning way in to take some extremely close pictures of the bee (a note to the wise: bumblebees don't like being bumped by camera lenses, and tend to fly about in an extremely menacing manner after being jostled off their flower) when I heard the rumble of a diesel behind me and turned around to see the #19 bus accelerating towards the 1st street intersection (and, needless to say, away from the bus stop, the butterfly bushes, the bumblebee, and me.)

1 comment

Lathe of Heaven envy, part N

The aerial tramway from OHSU to the OHSU private medical annex building continues towards completion. The guide cables have been thrown over the freeway, so it's not going to be very long before the load-bearing cables are put into place.

Aug 20, 2006

Fishy requisites

A sturgeon swims through the murk in the sturgeon pond at Bonneville Dam.

A flock of brook trout convert reflections in a fishpond into modern art.

Super-cute tooth decay inducing photoset of the day

Russell and Silas on our Saturday trip out to the waterfalls and Bonneville Dam.

1 comment

Aug 19, 2006

Saturday in railroad pictures

Two SD40-2's on an eastbound Yellow Menace train, as seen from the south side of the trout ponds at the Bonneville Dam fish hatchery

A couple of SD70m's pulling a container freight eastbound, as seen from the yard behind the gift/information shop at the Bonneville Dam fish hatchery

A westbound container freight whizzes by Horsetail Falls, pulled by another pair of SD70Ms. The pesky trees kept trying to get in the way, so I simply panned the camera while taking a continuous stream of pictures, then picked out the least-obscured one.

1 comment

This is just *so* wrong.

Which Teen Titans Character Are You?

You are most like Starfire. A bit clumsy and innocent, you're lucky you have friends or who knows what would happen to you. You are excessively happy which sometimes gets on others' nerves. You tend to be too polite for your own good sometimes which may be depicted as snobbish. You are very nice and compassionate but you aren't afraid to let others know when you're mad, it is more of a bodily sign mostly in the eyes. You love light and try to cheer up that one gloomy person but it is like night and day. You can't help it though. You tend to be a charity case and try to help others feel less gloomy and inadvertently make it worse. You are drawn to a certain person and you are a bit...well a tad and a bit eccentric and odd. But don't worry it's your quirks that people like about you!
Take this quiz!

Aug 18, 2006

Friday Dust Mite Blogging™

Still life with Dust Mite and domestic cat.

Aug 17, 2006

Yet another transfer freight

Today, the Brooklyn Yard to Albina transfer freight was parked far enough north on the mainline so I could get a slightly different view of it. The first picture (taken from the #70 bus) is only slightly spoiled by the teeny detail of a signal box and relay cabinet being right in front of the cab.

Aug 16, 2006

It must be election season (pt 2)

Weigh the evidence

  1. The British haven't actually charged the alleged terrorists.
  2. The "interrogation" where the details of the amazing binary liquid explosion plot were revealed to the shell-like ears of British intelligence? It was done in Pakistan, where "interrogation" usually means "torture".
  3. No bombs have been found.
  4. No airplane tickets were found.
  5. Some of the alleged terrorists didn't have passports (you used to be able to get a US passport PDQ if there was an corporate or family emergency that required overseas travel RIGHT NOW, but I suspect that "we need to fly halfway to the United States!" is not the sort of emergency that will cause the passport official to stamp "URGENT" on your application, particularly when the floral bundle of MI5, MI6, and Scotland Yard are all keeping tabs on you.)
The Evil Party and their lapdogs will lie about anything, including whether the sun will rise in the east.

This would certainly explain why the Terror! Alert!™ rating stayed contentedly at yellow. If there was no plot, there'd be no reason to worry about bumping up the threat level until a politically advantagous moment.

1 comment

Aug 15, 2006

That doesn’t look particularly healthy

When I was coming back home on the bus this afternoon, I saw a small cloud of black smoke rising above the north end of Brooklyn Yard. I expected that I would see a geep or a SD40-2 switching, but when I got off the bus and crossed over to the yard, all I saw was a trio of C44Ws parked on the mainline, waiting for a green signal, with the third unit spitting out an cloud of smoke that a 251-powered locomotive would be proud of.

lights on, but not moving Not an Alco

When I got closer, the third engine didn't sound particularly healthy. It kept making thum-thum-thum-rattle-rattle-thum-thum noises, as if a piston had come loose and was sort of rattling around inside the cylinder. Since I'm not a railroad employee, it's thankfully not my problem, and I suspect that even if the #5510 rolls belly up that the two lead engines can get the train over the line to Albina yard.

Aug 13, 2006

A walk through gentrification ground zero

I was in North Portland yesterday afternoon, and I took a couple of minutes to walk around and take pictures of some houses on a block where the engines of upper class anti-flight are working overtime. The houses range from ratty old 4-square buildings to neatly kept up by the owners who had lived there for the past 40 years to scarily refurnished and filled with wealthier families that recently moved in.

Aug 12, 2006

Two degrees of separation from Me to Marilyn Manson

The best's father is dating a woman whos daughter is dating Mr. Manson's cousin, as I discovered today when I was there for dinner and made a crack about a proper Irish marriage in regards to Mr. Manson's recent wedding, which I only mentioned because the newpaper clipping was sitting on tb'sfgfdbf's fridge.

It's not as wierd as the three degrees of separation between me and Maximum Leader Genius, but it's wierd enough for military use.

You may cue "It's a small world after all" and fire when ready.

Aug 11, 2006

Friday Dust Mite Blogging™, Hon.

BERGERS!  Yum! Yum!

The best's father is visiting from Baltimore, and he brought, by request, a few packages of Bergers chocolate cookies (a treat that's rated as highly as Cheerwine and Zapps Potato Chips), which we have been systematically chomping our way through. Dust Mite is not missing out on them either, and squeezes into the almost empty package to get that last remaining chocolate cookie-bomb.

Railroad picture of the day

A pair of light engines head north to Albina Yard
A pair of light engines pass a parked train as they head north out of Brooklyn Yard on the way to Albina Yard.

A total eclipse of the uncanny valley.

I blame Patrick Neilsen Hayden, for posting about the music video made up for Total Eclipse of the Heart (the song was written by Jim Steinman, performed by Bonnie Tyler, and made immortal by one of the best drug rock videos that came out of the 1980s.) The posting pointed out a remix music video that was done with snippets from the Teen Titans anime; the post that this particular article linked to pointed at Yet Another remix video that was done with what appears to be cut scenes from the Kingdom Hearts PS/2 game.

Now, I'm a luddite, so I'd never seen the Teen Titans anime, and since I've never had a PS/2 I've never been seduced into playing Kingdom Hearts, but I had my own prejudices before I watched these videos; Mitch Clem did a KH2 based cartoon a while back, and when I read about KH2 I developed an intense lust to play the game, but I knew that the Teen Titans were based on the regular old comic book Titans, which at least to my mind translated to the traditional comic book "all the girls are sex on wheels, and dressed to show it; all the men are sort of boring triangular blocks".

Oh, ho, no no no, I was wrong.

The Teen Titans video (which is a pretty slick propaganda piece for Robin/Starfire shippers) is stunning. Starfire, unlike the horrible way she's drawn in the "grown up" comic books, is not sex on wheels (the illustrators, in a fit of common sense, seem to have decided on more sensible costuming (well, for an anime) and less hormone-driven bodies, so the characters are skinny big-headed big-eyed cartoons.) But she, and the rest of the characters, move gracefully, and are drawn expressively, to the point where they almost seem like real people.

The Kingdom Hearts video, on the other hand, is unsettling. They are still cartoon characters, but the human characters (I think this video is for Sora/Kairi shippers, because it does seem to spend an inordinate time on the two of them) are just a little too realistic, because they look like they're molded from animate plastic, and it's kind of creepy. (Donald Duck and Goofy, now there's nothing real like them, so it doesn't matter than they're injection-molded animate plastic.)

This is, apparently, a well known phenomena. Clive Thompson wrote about it in Wired about a year ago, and basically the argument is that as things get more real, you can't fill in the gaps and thus the unreal parts become painfully obvious (things like the wrinkle-free skins of the KH characters. Sure, Robin and Starfire are flat cartoon cutouts, but you expect that a cartoonish character will look cartoonish, and then you can fill in the humanity from the expressiveness of their eyes, faces, and movement. Sora, well, if you get too close there's just noting you can expect except humanity, and it's not there.)

It's not just anime, either. There are online comics which have gone from a pleasantly abstract sketchiness to attempting to make themselves more realistic, and it's not a particularly appealing sight. The comic strip Questionable Content has done that; Jeph Jacques started with a very minimalist drawing style, then slowly changed to a more detailed style which certainly is more detailed, but which is, at least for me, just annoying (I have good experimental evidence that boys have lips in real life, but not in this strip; the girl-lips here, on the other hand, appear to be MORE REAL than the rest of the comic. I dunno. I just treat Questionable Content like Playboy now; I try to ignore the art and concentrate on the dialogue, which, in a sign that there is a G-d, is maintaining the level of 20-something angst and Faye-rage which attracted me to the comic in the first place.)

Aug 10, 2006

It must be election season

  1. B*sh knew about it for "several days"
  2. Tony Bliar's government has been "tracking the situation for several months"

And only now, after arresting the 20 or so self-admitted muslims that are accused of being part of the plot, do they bother to bump up the Terror! Alert!™ level to red? (after which Maximum Leader Genius flew off to a fundraiser, because some things are just more important than a claim that an attack on the American Imperium is imminent.)

Call me skeptical, but I don't think these fucking Terror! Alert!™ ratings are worth shit. You'd think that it might be worthwhile bumping up the rating while the plot is brewing, just in case some wiseguy decides to hurry himself into paradise by blowing up an airplane while MI5 is still wiretapping and gathering evidence, but, no, it appears that another band of fundamentalist nutcases have been wandering around untouched while the Terror! Alert!™ stayed contentedly at yellow.

(hat tip to Pen and Sword)

Aug 09, 2006

Which is smarter; the cat or the firewood?

I'd bet on the firewood.

A few days at Brooklyn Yard

I managed to talk briefly with a trainman today, and he claimed that the absolute lack of action at Brooklyn Yard was not because the Yellow Menace had gotten its act together, but that there'd been a train wreck in southern Oregon which had cut down on the amount of interstate traffic coming up from That Paradise That Is California. In any case, there's certainly been more traffic when I've gone by the yards in the afternoon (not a lot of traffic, but usually one or two trains parked and occasionally one on the move) this week.

On Monday, there was one train on the move; When I got off the #17 bus, I looked up and down 17th Ave to see if any traffic was coming before I crossed the street, and just as I looked north I saw two twinkies pop into sight on the Powell Street bridge. Where was my camera? In my purse. But I was able to yank it out and turn it on before the train reached Haig St, but, alas, I was still on the west side of the street, so the #70 bus pulled out into traffic and blocked my view just as the twinkies popped back into sight.

two superliner cars
Whoopee! It's a Superliner!

On Tuesday, there was no Amtrak trains to be seen, but there was a Yellow Menace freight parked on the northbound main, waiting for clearance to proceed towards Albina yard on the north side of town. I waited a while, but it just sat there and burbled to itself.

waiting for a green signal

Today, there wasn't even a train; a single unit was sitting on the yard lead waiting for clearance to run north. I decided that the poor windows machine in the library wasn't using enough cpu cycles, so I set the camera up to save images in raw mode instead of lightly compressed jpg and fired away.

UP 3939 waits for clearance at the north end of Brooklyn Yard
UP 3939 leaves Brooklyn Yard

I see, to my dismay, that the Pentax appears to be doing some colo(u)r correction on the images when it writes them as jpegs. If I had a (much) faster machine to do image mangling with, I'd save all my images in raw mode and mangle the colors by hand, but Irfanview doesn't deal at all well with PEF (Pentax raw format) files when it's only on a 1ghz P3.

Aug 08, 2006

Frontiers of web design.

If you're interested in the results of the Lieberman vs. Lamont race, well, you're not the only one. And it turns out that the State of Connecticut doesn't bother to cache their election results page, but just does a database query every time someone hits that web page.


An unexpected error has occurred on this page.The system administrators have been notified.

The error occurred in:
Error Message:
A Crystal Reports job failed because a free license could not be obtained in the time allocated. More licenses can be purchased direct from Crystal Decisions or through the Crystal Decisions Online Store.
Error Stack:
A Crystal Reports job failed because a free license could not be obtained in the time allocated. More licenses can be purchased direct from Crystal Decisions or through the Crystal Decisions Online Store.
at .I(String , EngineExceptionErrorID )
at CheckLicenseStatus()
at CrystalDecisions.CrystalReports.Engine.ReportDocument.Load(String reportName, OpenReportMethod openMethod, Int16 parentJob)
at CrystalDecisions.CrystalReports.Engine.ReportClass.Load(String reportName, OpenReportMethod openMethod, Int16 parentJob)
at CrystalDecisions.CrystalReports.Engine.ReportDocument.(()
at CrystalDecisions.CrystalReports.Engine.ReportDocument.5()
at CrystalDecisions.CrystalReports.Engine.ReportDocument.get_PrintOptions()
at Sots.WebModules.MaintManager.Web.USSenCountyView.InitializeComponent()
at Sots.WebModules.MaintManager.Web.USSenCountyView.OnInit(EventArgs e)
at System.Web.UI.Control.InitRecursive(Control namingContainer)
at System.Web.UI.Page.ProcessRequestMain()

Should I start screaming about denial of service attacks, or just point and laugh? (And, regarding "The system administrators have been notified.", do you think that this Crystal Reports program is sending a notification every time the page fails to load?)

1 comment

Aug 07, 2006

Preach it, brother

The empire is stretched too thin, and the breaking point is near. The elites know this, which is why they are pillaging and hollowing out the corporate and government treasuries they control, hoarding everything they can before the collapse.

(Dave Pollard, via Kevin Carson)

Aug 06, 2006

Building a prototype house (pt 3)

I had a couple of hours this weekend, so I cut the timbers for the sill of the prototype house, then set up a temporary foundation and set up the wall frames so that the best and the bears could see approximately how big the shed will be when it's assembled. I had to use a temporary foundation because there's a rosemary bush sitting right where I want to put one of the actual foundation blocks, and that needs to be moved before I set down the real foundation.

Why I don’t have “railroad picture of the day” every day

a blurry picture of two Yellow Peril switch engines

The south end of the ex-SP yard is not the easiest place for trainspotting, so most of the Eng!s I spot are spotted at speed as we go north or south in the obPrius (or, at a great distance, as I go north or south on the #70 bus.)

Oh, yeah, now this is trustworthy information.

A United Nations report, dated July 18, said there was “no doubt” that a huge shipment of smuggled uranium 238, uncovered by customs officials in Tanzania, was transported from the Lubumbashi mines in the Congo.

I believe that I've already seen the documentation for this uranium shipment, even though they'd sneakily crossed out "the Congo" and replaced it with "Nigeria" to trick the fifth-column leftists in the United States. The actual documents are lying around somewhere here, probably close to my deed for the Manhattan Bridge.

(link via Suburban Guerrilla)

Aug 05, 2006

Comparing a Macintel to a PC

I've been borrowing my mother's Macintel notebook so I can try it out. The main things I do with a laptop are to run fireklumpen and run telnet sessions to PROPER computers (Mastodon linux, and I occasionally telnet to *BSD and commercial Linux boxes for sysadmin and work reasons), so it doesn't really matter if I'm running Microsoft Windows or MacOS, so this gives me a good chance to actually compare the hardware I'm running on. The Macintel box is, not surprisingly, wicked fast (which makes the periodic vanishing cursor episodes particularly puzzling), but the keyboard and pointer layout on it sucks dead bunnies through a straw. I'm used to laptops that have got a full complement of arrows and home/pgup/pgdown/end keys (it would be better if waterbuffalo had vi keybindings, but bulk move commands are good no matter how they're done), but the Macintel box has only got arrow keys, and you get to shift them if you want the others. This is a lot more annoying than I thought it would be, and if it wasn't for having to constantly drag my finger across a touchpad it would really drive me nuts. The touchpad on the mac is, um, kind of frustrating, because it doesn't take much to go skittering off the edge of the pad (and there's no good feedback when the pointer has gone off to do the great vanishing act) and because my mother would complain if I walked to the center of the Sellwood bridge and committed this offense to ergonomics to the briny deep.

As it is I'm back to using my mighty Toshiba Tecra 8200, which runs at about 1/8th the speed of the Intel Core Duo in the Macintel, but which has a keyboard and pointer layout that does not make me want to commit computer carnage.

Aug 04, 2006

Oh my god.

Every summer, about the time when sensible people stop looking for houses to buy, the local housebuilders and development get together and have a mega-house exhibition called the "street of dreams". It is, as you can expect, over the top and as boring as watching paint dry all at the same time; a half dozen or so houses, each over 6000 square feet, all stuffed full of brand-name appliances and dozens of nasty focus-group tested features, and designed in a way that would cause your sense of taste to run, whimpering, for the exit.

This year is no exception; as usual, the houses are so expensive that they couldn't actually hire a talented architect, so what you have is the usual array of dormers, extra roofs, and, most importantly, a great big three or four car garage right up in front, so that anyone who visits your palatial house-of-crap must walk by the stables before they can go in the front door. And when you step inside, you get such features as his-and-her bathrooms in the master suite (plus a breakfast/coffee bar, so you don't have to walk 100 feet down to the kitchen and fire up your Viking®™© space-heater.) And, yes, every bedroom has a bathroom. And there are extra bathrooms for visitors. But most importantly, some of these houses have (and I'm not making this up), "man caves", which are an entire floor of the house set aside for every stupid stereotypical "man" behavior, from cigar rooms to sports rooms (with 4 televisions! And a bar for each chair, so you don't have to heave your fat butt up out of the chair when you want to go get another Bud!)

I suspect I'll never be rich enough to afford a house like one of these, and all I can say is thank G-d for that. For the US$2.5 million that they ask for one of these waterbuffalo, I could afford a house in a good part of town, a camp in the mountains, AND a beach cabin. And I'd not have to deal with the shame of living in a house with a "man cave" in it.

Friday Dust Mite Blogging™

Dust Mites, despite their best efforts, do not exactly exude an air of effortless style when they dress up.

Aug 03, 2006

Trolley picture of the day

The best took a picture of an eastbound train coming down from the Steel Bridge this evening. It was dark, so her Nikon took a nice slow picture and ended up with this action shot.

Annoying MacOS feature of the day

When I'm running moonfrog on my mother's Macintel notebook, the cursor has this annoying habit of just vanishing for several seconds, then popping back into existance as if nothing had ever gone wrong. I could see this not being good for the long-term survival of a Macintel machine.

Railroad picture of the day

Two Yellow Menace GP38-2s switch a train of container cars

I didn't stop at Brooklyn Yard for too long today, but I was there long enough to see a train pulled by a pair of Yellow Menace GP38-2s pull out of the yard and head northwards. (And, while I was waiting at the bus stop, I got to see that entire train turn around and back down into the yard after getting as far north as the Portland Traction interchange. I presume the Albina Yard dispatcher realized there wasn't anywhere to actually put this train and phoned in an "Aaack! Retreat! Retreat!" order.)

The joy of accounting

Congress has written its own accounting rules — which would be illegal for a corporation to use because they ignore important costs such as the growing expense of retirement benefits for civil servants and military personnel.

That's the polite way to put it. The impolite way to put it is that the federal deficit that the Evil Party is whooping it up over (we're only US$318 billion in the red this year, hurrah!) is a pack of lies, and if the government used accounting rules that would not get them arrested for fraud, the deficit is actually, um, US$760 billion. And the debt is equally exciting: US$3500 billion.

But do not fret; there's a silver lining for Evil Party followers here. It turns out that if you use legal accounting rules, the Clinton era surpluses (US$560 billion) in the 1997-2000 era were actually a US$484 billion debt, leaving only US$2416 billion of the US$2.9 trillion deficit that the US government chalked up in the last decade the responsibility of the self-proclaimed "grown up" B*sh junta and their ethics-free minions in Congress.

And what's the yearly US federal budget these days? US$2400 billion, or almost 2/3rds of the US debt. If the US government was an interurban line, the creditors would be out on the line pulling down the overhead to salvage the copper wire. Bravo, Evil Party, bravo! You've got the economic sense of my pet cat!

(via USA  Today)

Aug 02, 2006

The Revenge Of The Deck

When we dismantled the hideous deck, I attempted to sort out and keep as much of the non-rotten and non-nailed-into-oblivion wood as I could. Two of the non-rotten pieces of wood were a pair of ~14-15 foot long 4x6 beams that, in a previous life, had been two of the joists holding the horrible deck up. Since I hadn't any need for them, they got shuffled down to the bottom of the (allegedly properly stickered) pile of deckwood, and stayed there until today when I pulled them out so I could make them into the foundation ring for the prototype house.

Apparently, one of the joists did not think that it should have been stored in next summer's project, so it's been spending the last 7 years slowly warping and cupping. Little does it realize that I'm calling the shed the "prototype house" because it is a prototype, and if the foundation wants to be bent it will simply be research for the cracked and irregular garage foundation.

Oh, my goodness

It's probably a good thing that I never actually saw the B-52s live when they were young, because I would have dropped everything and gone to NYC to become a Ricky Wilson fanboy. The surviving members of the B52s are, even in their declining years, still babes, but oh my goodness he was a pretty young thing (swoons)

Aug 01, 2006


I've borrowed my mother's MacIntel laptop to try it out, and I've gotta say that given the choice between a trackball, a twiddle stick, or a touchpad that the touchpad (particularly the one on the MacIntel) comes in a long ways back from a trackball or touchpad. But, aside from that annoying feature, the MacIntel laptops are certainly fast little puppies (fast enough so that firing up firesomething doesn't immediately hurl the machine into thrash) and if I won the lottery it would be a shoo-in replacement for the used toshiba with a broken battery that I use now.

Slumming it at US$500,000/year

On the weblog Making Light, there's a discussion about scary monthly budgets, based on a discussion in a (presumably upper-class) NYC parenting mailing list where someone asked if someone would work if their MOTAS had a US$5,000,000 trust fund (probably US$250,000 yearly income after taxes (if any; the B*sh government has been very kind to people who don't have to work for a living, and states don't have nearly the sort of taxing authority that the Federal Government has.)) Not surprisingly, there are people who, with a straight face, claim that there is no way they can survive on only US$250,000 a year, and one of these people even nicely lists their monthly budget (US$7,000 rent, US$1,000 babysitter, US$2000 eating out, US$500 utilities, US$2,000 travel, US$1,000 clothes, US$1,000 walking around money. A skeptical person might add these items up and come up with a yearly budget of US$175,000, which leaves US$75,000 slop, but perhaps the ivy league schools have been tolerant of poor study habits from well-connected alumni admissions.)

Even accepting all of the monthly costs as gospel (US$7000 for a Manhattan apartment seems too distressingly possible if you haven't grandfathered your way into a rent-controlled flat, and I've watched my household expenses expand and contract (with very little change in my lifestyle, except for the source of my now-continuous stress illnesses.) to pretty neatly consume my entire income, whether it be the family high point of US$250,000 or low point of US$35,000 (unemployment plus pulls from Roth IRAs during the two and a half years I was on the dole thanks to the B*sh depression at the start of the century.) When someone claims that, oh, they "cahn't live on less than US$bignum", my mental reply is "oh, of course you can. Your pathetic whining is just because you've lived a sheltered life." The only thing I'd worry about in their situation is that they're paying US$7,000 rent and if they don't have wealthy family to fall back on they'd bottom out without being able to saw off their house and retrench.

Personally, my break-even point for a trust fund would be considerably lower than US$5,000,000. I suspect that I could continue to live at my current lifestyle with a trustfund that's 1/10th of that. My income would plunge, of course (US$25,000 to US$35,000/year), but I wouldn't have to tuck money away for retirement purposes and I could immediately roll my existing retirement fund into paying off the overvalued boatanchor that I currently reside in (or, better yet, selling it and moving to a country that has a functional health-care system. The USA is pretty much a suckers bet if you're getting old; the only hope I could have of leaving this mortal coil with trust fund intact would be if I fell over dead by age 50 and lowered the family health insurance premiums as a result. Now, if I keep working for a living it's pretty likely that I will fall over dead by age 50 -- my body is starting to give me a pretty disgruntled running commentary regarding stress, plumbing, and long-term tenancy for otherwise harmless upper respiratory tract diseases -- but if I did have the trustfund the "YOU MUST WORK OR YOU WILL DIE" stress would "poof" go away rather like a Mac turning off.) But certainly in the short term a "dinky little" US$25000-35000 income, as horribly tiny as it seems now, would seem like christmas and new years every time I opened up an envelope containing a dividend check, dropped it into the bank, and then went back to doing the {carpentry|computer case|pottery|painting|model railroad} project I was working on.

(Sure, if I dumped the house I could probably get that US$500,000, but (a) the house needs some work to appeal to modern tastes, (b) the housing bubble does not seem to be going as gangbusters as it was a few months ago, (c) we'd still need to find a place to live, which would make that US$500,000 evaporate just like magic, and (d) just like moving to Canada, selling Chateau Chaos requires a unanimous vote of the Chateau Chaos Governing Board.)