This Space for Rent

Sep 30, 2006

Ah, the joys of copy protection

After finding a new obsession and going out to buy official copies of everything that's available, it's always an extra delight to find out that the morons who published the CD decided to wrap CSS and Macromedia crap around the video streams. Thanks for making it extra difficult for me to use my dvd player, jerks! I always wanted to have to copy the stupid dvd onto a hard disk before I could actually play it, because if I didn't fill the disk up with teen titans videos I might actually be watching them instead of the teeny-tiny out-of-sync copies that are floating around online.


Sep 29, 2006

Friday Dust Mite Blogging™

Yum Yum!

Don't leave the wine out, because the Dust Mites will sneak in and drink it all up.

Question of the day

Are there any Republicans who aren't perverts? I suppose it was to be expected that an Evil Party representative who sponsored internet anti-pervert legislation would end up being a pervert, but using the internet to solicit teenage boys?

It's the Evil Party way: creepy sexual advances to teenagers is OK, but civil liberties? Oh, no, can't have that or the terrorists™ will win. That's one hell of a sick political movement they've got there -- it's almost as sexually twisted as the N*t**n*l S*c**l*sts were.

Sep 28, 2006

We get what we deserve.

They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety

Does this seem as stupid to you as it does to me?

This was just posted on Suburban Guerrilla (firedoglake makes the same claim, as does mcjoan @ daily kos, and Shakespeare's Sister (sourcing a new york times article.)) Marvel at it.

Just got this from one of the staffers in Reidís office:

We entered into a unanimous consent agreement ó the choice was have a cloture vote and lose (we simply did not have the votes) with no amendments allowed or actually get votes on four dem amendments. Because it was a UC agreement any member could have objected.

This raises the already unbelievable stupidity of the Stupid Party to new heights. You write off a filibuster (which might fail, because this is, after all, the Stupid Party, and you can count on some Senators anxiously chasing after the votes of the damned even though they're not going to get them) in exchance for votes -- which they will lose along party lines -- for some doomed amendments. And then, no matter how they vote, the Evil Party will start plastering up the “The Democratic Party Is Anti-Torture” ads along with the rest of their already-planned-and-implemented election season smear campaign.

The Democratic leadership sold their souls for nothing. No, less than nothing. You do not compromise on torture. It is evil, it does not work, and the United States should not do it. And if they think the Evil Party will give them smooches for selling America down the river, they are woefully misguided.

Update: It's true. Fuck you, Democratic Party, it's going to be a cold day in hell before I vote for or contribute to you again.

The American Flag, as revised by the Evil Party

Remember, they call themselves God's Own Party! And their god just loooves torture! Their god has a name that you might be familiar with. No, no, it's not Jehovah, it's שָׂטָן (Satan in english) and he's got a nice warm place where all of them can go when they've finished contaminating earth with their presence.

S. 3930

  • Allows torture at the president's pleasure.
  • Allows disappearances at the president's pleasure.
  • Only allows legal recourse at the president's pleasure.

This is what the self-professed "faithful" Senators in the Evil Party are supporting. Imperial powers for the presidency, assigned to the most evil government the United States of America has ever had.

1 comment

Sep 27, 2006

Compare and contrast (not torture! really!)

1000 words (more or less) on each side

Another soldier said that interrogators would regularly pass instructions to have dog handlers and military police "scare up" detainees as part of interrogation plans, part of an approved approach that relied on exploiting the fear of dogs.

--the Washington Post

'The rat,' said O'Brien, still addressing his invisible audience, 'although a rodent, is carnivorous. You are aware of that. You will have heard of the things that happen in the poor quarters of this town. In some streets a woman dare not leave her baby alone in the house, even for five minutes. The rats are certain to attack it. Within quite a small time they will strip it to the bones. They also attack sick or dying people. They show astonishing intelligence in knowing when a human being is helpless.'

There was an outburst of squeals from the cage. It seemed to reach Winston from far away. The rats were fighting; they were trying to get at each other through the partition. He heard also a deep groan of despair. That, too, seemed to come from outside himself.

O'Brien picked up the cage, and, as he did so, pressed something in it. There was a sharp click. Winston made a frantic effort to tear himself loose from the chair. It was hopeless; every part of him, even his head, was held immovably. O'Brien moved the cage nearer. It was less than a metre from Winston's face.

'I have pressed the first lever,' said O'Brien. 'You understand the construction of this cage. The mask will fit over your head, leaving no exit. When I press this other lever, the door of the cage will slide up. These starving brutes will shoot out of it like bullets. Have you ever seen a rat leap through the air? They will leap on to your face and bore straight into it. Sometimes they attack the eyes first. Sometimes they burrow through the cheeks and devour the tongue.'

The cage was nearer; it was closing in. Winston heard a succession of shrill cries which appeared to be occurring in the air above his head. But he fought furiously against his panic. To think, to think, even with a split second left -- to think was the only hope. Suddenly the foul musty odour of the brutes struck his nostrils. There was a violent convulsion of nausea inside him, and he almost lost consciousness. Everything had gone black. For an instant he was insane, a screaming animal. Yet he came out of the blackness clutching an idea. There was one and only one way to save himself. He must interpose another human being, the body of another human being, between himself and the rats.

The circle of the mask was large enough now to shut out the vision of anything else. The wire door was a couple of hand-spans from his face. The rats knew what was coming now. One of them was leaping up and down, the other, an old scaly grandfather of the sewers, stood up, with his pink hands against the bars, and fiercely sniffed the air. Winston could see the whiskers and the yellow teeth. Again the black panic took hold of him. He was blind, helpless, mindless.

'It was a common punishment in Imperial China,' said O'Brien as didactically as ever.

The mask was closing on his face. The wire brushed his cheek. And then -- no, it was not relief, only hope, a tiny fragment of hope. Too late, perhaps too late. But he had suddenly understood that in the whole world there was just one person to whom he could transfer his punishment -- one body that he could thrust between himself and the rats. And he was shouting frantically, over and over.

'Do it to Julia! Do it to Julia! Not me! Julia! I don't care what you do to her. Tear her face off, strip her to the bones. Not me! Julia! Not me!'

--Eric Blair

Preach it, brother

[...] There is no discussion here, and no other legitimate point of view. Torture is wrong (even if, yes, that bomb is ticking) and only Nazis, Stalinists, Imperial Japanese, Saddam, and other assorted baddies thought it was acceptable. We, as a nation, do not accept torture as legitimate, and if you do, please leave. I hope and pray those Americans foolish enough to think torture is ok in this war are held accountable for their actions in a court of law. Our nation spoke when we ratified the convention on torture and the Geneva Conventions. It is US law, and it is not fit to even discuss any exceptions. Period. We are not Nazis. We do not torture - and those who do so in our name should be placed in a small cell in Leavenworth for an extended period of time.

(--JD Henderson, Intel Dump)

Article 1, Section 9, Paragraph 2

The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.

Where is the rebellion? Where is the invasion?

Don’t say you were not warned.

William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
William Roper: Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!
Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!

(from A Man For All Seasons)

Sep 26, 2006

Crossing the line.

...Democrats, while being careful to say that they had made no decision to block the detainee bill...

The "detainee bill" in question is the torture bill, which legalizes such tortures as water torture (Spanish Inquisition), conveyer (USSR), and strappado (Spanish Inquisition, USSR, Israel.) And what do the self-proclaimed "religious" Democrats do? Any peep about it being evil and an insult to every citizen of the United States?

Shit, no, because that might offend the "morality" vote that has already sold out everything they claim to believe in just to vote for the party that wants to kill all the faggots (or at least the ones who don't work on Capitol Hill -- the Evil Party is very good at making sure their pogroms don't touch the people who plan and organize the lynch mobs.)

By their inaction, they damn their immortal souls to hell, where they can continue with their tradition of "cooperating" with the Evil Party members who sold their souls to the devil long ago.

And me? If the Democrats attempt to compromise with pure evil, they can get their votes and money from someone else.

1 comment

The Evil Party playbook, in one simple quote

'I told you, Winston,' he said, 'that metaphysics is not your strong point. The word you are trying to think of is solipsism. But you are mistaken. This is not solipsism. Collective solipsism, if you like. But that is a different thing: in fact, the opposite thing. All this is a digression,' he added in a different tone. 'The real power, the power we have to fight for night and day, is not power over things, but over men.' He paused, and for a moment assumed again his air of a schoolmaster questioning a promising pupil: 'How does one man assert his power over another, Winston?'

Winston thought. 'By making him suffer,' he said.

'Exactly. By making him suffer. Obedience is not enough. Unless he is suffering, how can you be sure that he is obeying your will and not his own? Power is in inflicting pain and humiliation. Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing. Do you begin to see, then, what kind of world we are creating? It is the exact opposite of the stupid hedonistic Utopias that the old reformers imagined. A world of fear and treachery is torment, a world of trampling and being trampled upon, a world which will grow not less but more merciless as it refines itself. Progress in our world will be progress towards more pain. The old civilizations claimed that they were founded on love or justice. Ours is founded upon hatred. In our world there will be no emotions except fear, rage, triumph, and self- abasement. Everything else we shall destroy everything. Already we are breaking down the habits of thought which have survived from before the Revolution. We have cut the links between child and parent, and between man and man, and between man and woman. No one dares trust a wife or a child or a friend any longer. But in the future there will be no wives and no friends. Children will be taken from their mothers at birth, as one takes eggs from a hen. The sex instinct will be eradicated. Procreation will be an annual formality like the renewal of a ration card. We shall abolish the orgasm. Our neurologists are at work upon it now. There will be no loyalty, except loyalty towards the Party. There will be no love, except the love of Big Brother. There will be no laughter, except the laugh of triumph over a defeated enemy. There will be no art, no literature, no science. When we are omnipotent we shall have no more need of science. There will be no distinction between beauty and ugliness. There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always -- do not forget this, Winston -- always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face -- for ever.'

(--Eric Blair)

Sep 25, 2006

Evil Party moral values (pt 14)

I was interested to find that the Rev. Louis Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition is so in favor of torture he told McCain that the senator either supports the torture bill or he can forget about the evangelical Christian vote. I'd like to see an evangelical vote on that one. I don't know how Sheldon defines traditional values, but deliberately inflicting terrible physical pain or stress on someone who is completely helpless strikes me as ... well, torture. And, um, wrong.

(Molly Ivins)



(via Crooks and Liars)

Say no to torture

Call your senators toll-free at 1 866 808 0065. Tell them to protect the writ of habeus corpus and to say no to torture by voting no on the pending legislation.

(post stolen from Suburban Guerrilla)

Sep 24, 2006

Trolley picture of the day

A southbound /N line trolley just north of the Broadway Bridge
Tri-Met SD600 #303, southbound on Interstate Ave.

Vicious inhuman predator picture(s) of the day

When we were out for a walk in Oaks Bottom we came upon this moderately large orb spider that had apparently just recently caught itself an afternoon snack. The best and the bears went along ahead while I attempted to get a reasonable picture of the little eight-legged CIA interrogation specialist[*], and I actually managed to get a couple by the time they'd reached the end of the path, turn around, and returned to my position.

Sep 23, 2006

New Code!

Postoffice has been pushed up to version 1.3.4 to correct an interesting little bug that I introduced when I put in the sendmail filter code last spring, but didn't actually discover until this morning, when I woke up to discover an international phone call on our answering machine telling me that pell was doing connection timeouts since yesterday morning.

The bug, which was producing spectacularly wierd results (claiming that all connections were coming from my other webserver, denying the connection, then dropping coal into the goodness database) turned out to be coming from the sendmail filter library; When I wanted to connect to a remote filter (which I pretty much have to do if I want to use spamassassin, because pell is an a.out machine and spamassassin is a mass of dynamically loaded perl 5.6 code which won't even load on the version of perl (5.005.02) that's running on pell), I used a routine called attach_in, which I copied out of the library I'd written for retr last winter.

"copied out" is the important clue. When I copied it over to postoffice, I left behind a couple of perror() calls without even thinking about it. perror() is a nice debugging tool, but it doesn't work too well when it's called from inside a daemon that has closed stderr because it's running in the background. I didn't discover this for a long time, because when I enabled the sendmail filter code on pell, I started the sendmail filters on the other machine before I configured on pell. And the sendmail filters were running, so I never properly tested the case of trying to attach a filter to a remote process that isn't there.

*Well*, the spamassassin filter died yesterday at around 8am, and then smtp started slowly going intermittently to hell, letting in just enough mail to fool me into thinking that everything was happy while this went on in the background:

smtpd: attach_in( Connection refused
smtpd: attach_in( Connection refused
smtpd: AUDIT:  0:
smtpd: AUDIT:  1:
smtpd: AUDIT:  1:
smtpd: Coal for (

Umm, oops? By the time I got to it there were approximately 1500 pieces of coal for gehenna in Santa's list, and almost every connection was falling over dead because of the heaping pile of anthracite that was being kept as a stocking stuffer.

And 25 minutes later the tea kicked in and I realized that perror() was not what I wanted to do when a connect() call failed.

Sigh. So, New Code! for those of you who actually want to use postoffice as a mail server. I've even put in one tiny feature; the smtp DEBUG command now tells you what version of the code you're running, so you can pretend you're upgrading for the features instead of for the bugfixes.

The Statue of Liberty (revised)

Torture: it's what the United States stands for

I know that the great tragedies of history often fascinate men with approaching horror. Paralyzed, they cannot make up their minds to do anything but wait. So they wait, and one day the Gorgon devours them.

Sep 22, 2006

Friday Dust Mite Blogging™

Dust Mite basks in the glow of the fire

On cool fall days, Dust Mite enjoys sitting in front of the downstairs fireplace.

The perpetually late Coast Starlight strikes again

The last time I got pictures of Amtrak twinkies 112 and 113, it was still summertime and Brooklyn Yard was still hot, dry, and dusty. But it's not summer anymore and the first round of rain has driven down the dust so that when 112 and 113 pulled the northbound Coast Starlight through the yard, they didn't kick up even the slightest amount of dust, and thus the pictures I took make the train look like it's just standing still in a few different locations.

112+113 approaching the Toonerville bridge 112+113 after they went under the Toonerville Bridge

The new lens is kind of terrifying in the amount of detail it can pick out. I'd taken the polarizing filter off to see how much light would come in without the polarizer interfering, and I suspect that if I'd left it I'd be able to read the large lettering on the GE builders plate on 112.

A ridiculously detailed view of the front end of 112

And having a nice fast lens and a sunny day means that I get to see more of the inside of the lounge car than I realized.

Peering into the lounge car

Sep 21, 2006

New Code! (yes, I’m still a computer programmer edition)

Annotations has been pushed up to version because I've added a couple of new features to it. I've got a small collection of non-standard pages in TSFR, and I've been wanting to make the normal crop of weblog operations work on them as well as the regular weblog pages. So there are now three changes to the code that will support this.

The first (and most trivial change) is that the code supplies the new environment variable LOCATION, which is the path from bbsroot to the article that wants to use this. This is used by the second change, which is that the filename passed to <?theme [filename]?> can now be prefixed with an environment variable (right now the only useful one is $LOCATION, but there may be others someday.) I set this up so I can change the appearance of single pages via page-specific css (look at the source for this page -- it uses the exact same css as everything else here, but some of that css is overwritten to make it look slightly different), but it can also be used to include any arbitrary site-specific text.

The third, and most important, change is that reindex and the comment program will now handle articles in any directory, not just ones in the YYYY/MM/DD/ weblog tree. You still have to create the page by hand (by generating the message.txt and message.ctl files), but once you've done that reindex will properly generate the index.html file and the comment code will allow your users to comment just like they can comment to any regular weblog page.

Sep 20, 2006

Comparing mplayer to Quicktime on a Windows XP machine.

Like most of the rest of the online world, I've discovered Youtube and its huge collection of snarky outtakes from The Daily Show (as well as a few music videos.) Unfortunately, I've discovered these videos on a collection of machines that aren't quite up to modern cycle-eating standards, which means that if I look at a video on my laptop machine (a Toshiba Tecra 8200 running windows XP, which is a lot faster than when it was running Centos 4) flash-inside-the-browser takes up about 98% of the processor. This is not good, because it means that if I ever do anything like, oh, resizing a different window the whole video window comes to a screaming stop. So I started to look at other ways to view the videos. I found that I could export the flash video streams to files on the local machine, convert them to .mov files with ffmpeg, then view them with Quicktime.

This worked better than embedded flash -- it only takes about 70% of the machine, which meant that I actually had a fighting chance of being able to deal with the other windows without locking everything up, but if one of those other windows was a web browser a large page-slurp would make Quicktime lock up like a drum until it was finished.

Okay, so this wasn't quite perfect. It was probably good enough for production use, but I wondered if I could do better with the Windows version of mplayer, which I was already using on Linux (for everything except embedding in firestar -- I don't know if there's any way to actually embed mplayer, and the swiss army plugin uses X*n* instead, which has its own collection of dependencies, including (shudder) X11 ones), so I downloaded it and installed it on the windows box.

I just tested it out, and it uses, on average, 5% of the machine. Sure, it doesn't have a fancy button interface, and the sound goes completely to hell if you move the mplayer window, but I'll write those features completely off in exchange for getting 65% of the processor back.

1 comment

Ninety-six days

That's how long until Christmas. Why do I know this? Because we just got our first stupid Christmas catalog in the mail today. Who needs Thanksgiving, Halloween, or Remembrance Day when you can proceed immediately to the promised land of the yearly orgy of consumerism?

Remember when merchants at least had the common decency to wait until after Thanksgiving day before rolling out the "Spend! Spend! Spend!" propaganda? Sheesh (or, if I'm going to proceed immediately to the OoC, "bah! humbug!")

Sep 19, 2006

Engines behind bars

UP 1117 & Y1487 wait for the signal at 12th and (just south of) Division

A pair of Yellow Menace switchers (#1117 and #Y1487) wait for the (late) Coast Starlight to get out of the way before pulling the afternoon transfer freight up to Albina yard.

There’s something to be said for a weblog that doesn’t use a relational database

A portrait of wordpress drinking hemlock

Sure, Annotations has its own amusing failure cases, but they happen after you've reached the homepage.

Same train, different location

Amtrak Twinkie #119 leans into the curve at 15th Street

I could see a line of boxcars on the Powell Street bridge when the #17 bus came off the east side of the Ross Island bridge this afternoon, so I hopped off at Powell and Milwaukie and walked up to the 15th Street pedestrian bridge. There was a Yellow Menace transfer freight waiting on the northbound main (I took several pictures of it, but all of the good ones were spoiled by green lightspots in the middle of the frame. Drat), and as I peeked around to see if there was anything else I heard the distinctive *toot, toot* of an Amtrak train approaching from the south.

I wedged myself up against the chainlink fence (for some reason the top of the bridge is encased in fencing, unlike the Toonerville bridge to the south) and started snapping away as soon as I saw the headlights of the northbound (and, of course, two hours late) Coast Starlight.

Some of the pictures turned out better than the others.

A piratical weblog in three easy steps, annotations-style

  1. Get the Blosxom bloglikeapirate™ plugin, and stuff it into /usr/local/bin.
  2. in weblog.conf, set filter=/usr/local/bin/bloglikeapirate
  3. reindex -fa

I'm using a Blosxom plugin because even though it's all p*rl, it runs on the statically linked a.out version of p*rl 5.005_02 that's on pell. The php and p*th*n talklikeapirate plugins that are floating around for other weblog programs have the fatal disadvantages that they are written in php (a language for people who think that p*rl doesn't mutate fast enough) and p*th*n (ditto). And once you've thrown a couple of gigahertz of P4 at the stupid language, it finally becomes disk-bound and can render TSFR about as fast as the regular unfiltered rendering.

Talk like a pirate day does suffer from some problems, mainly that it appears to be getting more and more screamingly sexist every year, but the bloglikeapirate version of TSFR is bizarre enough to make up for it so far.

It’s September 19th. I wonder if anything interesting is happening today?


1 comment

Sep 17, 2006

What’s amazing is that the bear can dance at all.

Two sets of photos taken under less than perfect conditions.

An oregon crawfish having an afternoon snack Same crawfish after realizing that there were photographers around

The first set is a couple of pictures of a crawfish at the bottom of Crystal Springs creek next to firehouse #20. After a lot of retouching, you can actually see the crawfish eating dinner, then glaring at the photographer.

20,000 Vaux's Swifts power-diving into the old Chapman school chimney

We've lived in Portland for over a decade now, but until tonight I had never gone over to Chapman School to see the Vaux's Swifts do their emulation (in reverse) of the tornado which snatched up Dorothy and dropped her into Oz. We fixed that tonight.

Railroad picture of the day

Three switch engines at Brooklyn Yard

Three Yellow Menace switch engines sit at the south end of Brooklyn Yard. Yes, this is yet another picture snapped from our mobile photography platform (aka our Toyota Prius), but this one was taken with the new 50mm f1.4 lens.

Sep 16, 2006

Not really the prediction I wanted to come true.

Well, I expected that it would happen, otherwise I wouldn't have predicted it, but it's still really distressing to see the B*sh junta doing a full-court press to ensure that a bill to legalize water torture (and other forms of torture, as long as they're done by agents of the United States) is delivered to Mount Doom on the Potomac for the imperial signature.

And this is a government that can't be bothered to even look for Osama bin Laden. Sure, it's important to be able to torture innocent bystanders to death, but to look for someone who managed to destroy the WTC? Not so important, because even though ObL is an evil mastermind, he's still a bin Laden, and that family is a wealthy Saudi family, which means they're all BFFs of the B*sh family, and you can't go around arresting close family friends for piddling little episodes of mass murder when you've got places to go and people to murder yourself.

While we’re on the subject of spiders

Russell climbs to the top of the kitchen door
Russell shows off his spidey-skills while Silas waits for his turn in the doorway.

A cold morning to be a spider

wedged up against the doormat making a run for cover

This not-so-little hunting spider was spotted running across our porch this morning, but fortunately (for me) it was cold enough so the running was much more molasseslike than the typical arachnid scamper.

Sep 15, 2006

Earthy-crunchier than thou

Our power consumption over the past three years.
Okay, in reality it isn't all that earthy-crunchy, but the summer of '06 plunge in power consumption is being driven by a fairly obsessive program of replacing power hogs with more efficient things. My grand plan is to get under 500kwh/month, because then I think I could have a fighting chance of putting enough solar+wind generators on our expansive estate to run the house completely off-grid.

Friday Dust Mite Blogging™

My photography toolkit

my big pile of camera junk
Pentax *istDS, Pentax smc P-DA 18-55mm, Quantaray 70-300mm tele-macro, Pentax smc P-FA 50mm f1.4, Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus.

yellow BOFH purse with necessary accessories
Groovy Girl zipper pull, yellow BOFH purse.

The Dust Mite, like a Tice clock, is important if you want to get truly superior reproduction.

Friday photo dump

Today, I decided to forgo the usual stop at Brooklyn Yard, but instead switched busses at 11th and Division (I actually rode the #17 across to 9th and Powell, then walked over to 11th and Division to catch the #70, because the Coast Starlight was running late and I might catch it in mid walk) so I could get home earlier.

Well, I didn't get home earlier, because something had bottled up the #70, and no bus appeared until about 17:40, when the banana busses rolled on up, but I did get a chance to see some Eng!s while I was cooling my heels.

First, as I walked down 9th on the way to the bus stop, I heard the now-familiar *toot tooooot toot toot* of the northbound Coast Starlight as it approached the 11th and 12th Ave. crossings. It was far enough away, and moving slowly enough so I could quickly dodge 1 block east to get a better field of vision as it popped out between buildings.

Same old train, same old late arrival

I appear to be having trouble actually centering the item I'm trying to take pictures of. It's more of a problem now that I've attached a prime lens to my Pentax, because it removes the luxury of being able to zoom out and get more of the engine and the rest of the train.

I need to work on centering the eng I'm trying to photograph

After the Coast Starlight went past, I finished my walk to the 11th and Division bus stop, getting there at about 17:25. And then I waited, and waited, and waited. And, before the bus got to me, the evening Yellow Menace transfer freight left Brooklyn Yard and rolled slowly and majestically northwards. The second engine on the train was an ex-SP engine (which I first saw on Tuesday, but then it was just sitting at the head of a train that was parked in Brooklyn yard) that had not yet been painted into the most boring paint scheme in all Christendom, so I made sure to get one picture of it pretending to lead the train across 11th.

an ex-SP engine pretends to lead the evening transfer freight

A SD70m (UP #4020) also made a light engine move from Albina to Brooklyn Yard, but trucks and SUVs were more in the way, so I didn't get a picture that was worth keeping.

Sep 14, 2006

photo(s) of the day

A rainbow in downtown portland

A (large -- 1100x4000 pixels, so beware} autostitched composite image of a rainbow, taken while I was waiting at my bus stop after a 6-hours-of-meetings-from-HELL day.


Preach it, brother

The President said that getting the guy who masterminded 9/11 is not a top priority. If you elect a Democratic Congress, we will make it a top priority. That is what is riding on this election. If you want Bin Laden captured or killed, you have to vote for a change.

(via Talking Points Memo [edited])

Sep 13, 2006

Late again? Tch tch

When I came home from work tonight, I didn't have any expectations of seeing anything interesting at Brooklyn Yard; Amtrak #14 was late, but it was supposed to be really late, and it was cold, I was in my shirtsleeves, and the whole idea of standing on the Toonerville bridge for half an hour just didn't appeal to me. And after I got off the #17 bus and walked over to the yard, only to see absolutely nothing except a couple of covered hoppers, I really didn't expect to see anything interesting.

I waited around for a couple of minutes, then started heading home, but just then a pair of Yellow Menace switchers pulled into view. Oh, well, an Eng! in the hand is worth two in the bush, so I turned around and took a couple of pictures.

Toot, toot!

Hello? That sounded like an ...

Surprise!  It's a passenger train!

... Amtrak train, silently scooting north at track speed.

Amtrak Twinkie #115 swooshes under the Toonerville Bridge

After that train vanished out of sight (but not out of sound; there are a lot of crossings north of Brooklyn Yard and I could hear the twinkies blowing for each one of them until I reached my bus stop) the two Yellow Menace switchers pulled up to the yard throat, giving me a good chance to photograph them before they shoved their cut of cars back into the bowels of the yard.

UP 1117 and 1305, switching

It would have been better if an Alco had gone by, but it was still a good layover between busses.

Note: The slight grain that you may see in these pictures is a relic of (a) using a higher ISO to compensate for the clouds and (b) saving the images as jpegs instead of the better-to-manipulate but slow to process in Irfanview Pentax raw format.

Dance, puppets! Dance for your masters now!

Nonlethal weapons such as high-power microwave devices should be used on American citizens in crowd-control situations before being used on the battlefield, the Air Force secretary said Tuesday.

Umm, er, okay. I'm just delighted to realize that my citizenship has been seamlessly transferred from the United States of America over to a comic-book version of the Soviet Union.

In case you're wondering, testing weapons on citizens of your own country is the sort of evil stunt that dictators and tyrants do, and not the sort of thing that you'd expect out of (what used to be) a representative democracy. This is not acceptable behavior, and the thuggish creeps who thought up this idea need to be removed from their positions and flung into prison for the rest of their miserable lives.

Note the distinct lack of a response from the thugs who occupy the White House. Impeach them. Impeach them now, then purge the senior ranks of the Air Force.

(via Michael Froomkin)

Yay!!! … and not-yay.

Pentax has just introduced a 10mpixel camera, which would be a lovely thing to attach (after I win the lottery) to a deep enough ('enough' meaning that I should be able to see the whites of a bee's eyes) macro lens. This would be a unqualified good thing, except for one teeny detail; with all of the image stabilization and dust-cleaner-offer technology wedged into the camera, it ends up being about 10% larger and heavier than the teeny-tiny *istDS that currently lives in my purse. And, you know, if I wanted a huge SLR, I already know where to find Nikon and Canon, and then I wouldn't have to do a holy-grail style search to find or make a lens mount adaptor.

I suppose if I semi-permanently attached one to a 400+mm macro lens the additional 10% would fall into the noise (14.5 inches vs 15 inches isn't really noticable) but it's still a point against it, because eventually I'd want to carry it as an everyday camera, and then I'd notice and be continually annoyed by the extra volume. This is a moot concern, because of the teeny difficulty of not wanting to spend US$8000 on additional lenses plus camera, but it's still annoying because eventually my *istDS will fail, and at the rate that digital cameras go obsolete it's very likely that the whole *ist.+ and K1.0D series will have gone the way of the buffalo, and then I'd HAVE to get a huge waddling waterbuffalo of a camera.

Sometimes you just have to wonder what they were thinking

And the extension isn't even open yet

The South Macadam extension to the downtown Portland trolley line isn't even open yet, but they're already extending it. Note the trolley pole sitting right at the end of the track which will, of course, have to be moved to attach the extension to the extension extension. You'd think that the engineers who designed the overhead for the extension would have considered that, just possibly, someone might want to extend the trolley line sometime, and that it might be a good idea to not put a freaking line pole right at the end of the line, but, no, even though the trolley line is being installed by the Portland government it doesn't stop them from being every bit as stupid as the captains of private industry.

Normal people would hide their pornography in the dresser…

If this is pornographic to you, PLEASE DON'T TELL ME ABOUT IT
... but the people who claim that *I'm* normal are few and far between.


Sep 12, 2006

The downside of exploring Mars.

The Coast Starlight was running late today. Lucky me.

Before I leave work every day, I usually check the Amtrak online arrival times for the trains that, if they're late, are likely to be going past Brooklyn Yard at the same time I'm switching busses there. I was particularly interested in what would happen today, because of the new camera gear that had just arrived in the mail today. Happily, the northbound Coast Starlight was running about 90 minutes late, and was scheduled to arrive at Union Station at approximately 5:25. So, at approximately 5:00:00, I grabbed my purse and bolted for the #17 bus.

The bus arrived at Haig street at about 5:10, so I hopped off, checked the signals (green. Yay!), and headed south for the toonerville bridge. I had time to take a couple of test pictures, then I heard the very quiet rumble of a fast-approaching train.




The SMC FA lens is, um, a bit better than my old lenses, even if it felt a bit wierd to just sit there snapping pictures without adjusting the zoom as the train got closer and closer.

And now for something completely different

After our trip to the coast and the somewhat less than clear railroad photography on the way back, I finally snapped and bought some faster glass for my Pentax. I mail-orderd a 50mm/f1.4 SMC-FA lens plus a circular polarizing filter, and, after UPS took six days to deliver a "3 day select" package, it arrived in the mail today, and after I spent my lunch hour cleaning out (in the Pentax-approved puff-of-air style, which, even though it may be a good workout for the thumb and index fingers, is not the most effective way of cleaning a sensor) and setting up the lens + filter on the camera (well, and having lunch too; the big advantage, for me, of a SLR camera is that they all come with easily removable lenses, which means that it took about 5 seconds to actually physically attach the lens to the body and the filter to the lens), I was ready to attack Brooklyn Yard with camera in hand.

Taking a couple of pictures with the polarizing filter turned this way and that was interesting:

Figure 1; polarizing 0°

Figure 2; polarizing 90°

Both of these pictures were taking with the camera in full auto mode, and it's kind of interesting to see the difference. There was enough glare in the 0° position that the camera set itself to f5.6, 1/500th second, but in 90° it went down to f4.5, 1/350th second, and to make things better everything looks about as bright as it actually did this afternoon.

The 50mm lens has some redeeming characteristics of its own, of course, but the polarizer was really noticable even on the dinky little review screen on the Pentax. Yum. I may have to go out and get polarizing filters for the two zoom lenses that I got with the camera.

Sep 11, 2006

It may be Enormous Opportunity day, but I have one teeny little question…


(Enormous Opportunity day coined by A Tiny Revolution)


Sep 10, 2006

Trolley picture of the day (trivial edition)

Two SD600s head west along highway 26

We went out to the Lego store at (shudder) Washington Square mall yesterday so the bears could get their (late) birthday present for me. On the way back, we passed this westbound train on the short section of highway 26 which parallels the Hillsboro interurban line.

1 comment

Railroad picture of the day (sunday photo dump)

The long hood of this freshly-painted engine compared to the long hood of a dirtier SD70M.

Two Yellow Menace switch engines at the south end of Brooklyn Yard
A pair of Yellow Menace switch engines working the south end of Brooklyn Yard Saturday afternoon.

Railroad picture of the day (second place)

When I'm not trying to plan a picture, I leave my Pentax in full-auto mode so it can figure out the best exposure settings. But one of the things I did with it was to prune down the region that it looks in to figure out how to expose things, because I want to be able to point at an object and have that object be properly exposed no matter what the rest of the photo looks like. This usually works, but sometimes, like when I'm in a car going past this Yellow Menace engine, I don't get the camera pointed properly and the exposure turns out to be not exactly what I'd planned.

This picture was taken at 9am on Wednesday, and it was not even close to as dark and forboding as you might think.

Railroad picture of the day

A YM freight headed by C44W #8456

A Yellow Menace freight headed by C44W #8456 waits for clearance to move north out of Brooklyn Yard while a southbound freight moves past into the yard.

Sep 08, 2006

Friday Dust Mite Blogging™

Friday has rolled around again, and once again Dust Mite has vanished, leaving nothing but a few confusing clues. Is Dust Mite in a parallel dimension, or simply emigrating to Saskatchewan?

(Photo of the Yorkton co-op from Saskatchewan Schools & School Divisions)

Sep 07, 2006

Salmon have sex once, then die.

Or possibly they just die. This ex-salmon was discovered on the beach by the lighthouse on Cape Disappointment, which is not the sort of place I'd expect to see any spawning going on, unless it's by a particularly stupid collection of fish.

Sep 06, 2006

Trains coming and going

On our way to the coast, we passed a Gresham-bound interurban just before the 26-217 split.

And on the way back (via I-5, obviously) we passed a northbound BN/SF train south of Longview. The pesky planet had already rotated far enough so that the sun was blocked by the coast range, so the pentax had to do a nice long exposure to see anything at all. We were heading south at 120 km/h, the train was headed north at ~100 km/h, and I-5 was somewhat bumpy, so the resulting picture is another reason for me to get some faster glass for my Pentax.

Perhaps they haven’t seen my DEATH TO SPAMMERS shirt

The company I work for sells space on their corporate mailing list (which all employees are signed up for [and no, you can't opt out]) to e-mail marketers, so the vitally important email that I get from Borg Central contains a steady stream of spam.

Now that's certainly a step that will instill a sense of corporate loyalty ("we love you soooo much that we're going to relay spam into your mailbox and not allow you to opt out of it!") Gee, thanks. I'll file that under the same category as the postal mail spam I get as a "benefit" of working for this company.

And my corporate masters wonder why the results of the insultingly patronizing Gallop 12q surveys are uniformly negative.

This is supposed to be a happy occasion

Lets not bicker and argue about who killed who. If you fuss about terrorist attacks, you might spoil the enormous opportunity that we have here.

Update: I originally had a link to an ABC article, which seems to have mysteriously vanished, so I've borrowed a NYtimes link from The Galloping Beaver to take its place.

Sep 05, 2006

Wasting CPU cycles for anything except profit

When we left Astoria for our trip home, I took about 30 pictures of the Columbia and the Oregon riverfront so I could feed them into the autostitch program when I got home. Tonight, I fired it up, fed in the pictures, and walked away from the laptop for six hours as it glowed red-hot while trying to match the pictures together, with the result you can see at the top of this post.

The spooky moon

The moon peers through the afternoon haze on Saturday afternoon, just visible enough to see but not visible enough to see clearly.

More vacation pictures

I was very busy with the telephoto lens this past weekend (the bears have become more self-propelled, so it's possible for me to fire up the pentax and take hundreds of pictures of pelicans and other aerial menaces without having to run off and retrieve them from the ocean), so it's going to be pictures pictures pictures until the psychedelics kick in.

These sandpipers were looking for dinner while the pelicans and the seagulls were racing back and forth between the Pacific Ocean and the backwaters of the Necanicum River.

The local gang of harbo(u)r seals were out taking advantage of high tide at the river mouth, but they were very interested, in the sort of standoffish way that seals (and cats) are, in the strange band of bipeds who were whooping it up and running around at the waters edge.

Trolley picture of the day

Astoria #300 (formerly SA PSCo #300+311) heads towards downtown Astoria from the Astoria Maritime Museum stop on Monday afternoon.

1000 words, or is it writers block?

The bears climbing on a very large anchor at the Maritime Museum in Astoria.

UP mash-up

I've been playing some games with the "demo" (==time-limited, yuck!) version of the autostitch program that was developed at the University of British Columbia, and decided to feed some roster shots I took of the afternoon Yellow Menace transfer freight as it left Brooklyn Yard last week. I was standing by the toonerville bridge as the train rolled by, and took a picture of each locomotive as it went in front of me, then I fed those four pictures into autostitch and let it surprise me.

The double-ended BoCo version of GP38-2 #503/1012 is a particular treat, but I suppose that there's not much market for double-ended diesels in North America, so it will have to remain as nothing more than the feverish dream of some computer software.

Sep 04, 2006

An incident on the trail

We went down to the coast on Saturday, to avoid the friday "it'slabordayandwe'vegottogettothecoastrightnow!!!" rush, and, aside from the perpetual traffic jam in Seaside, manage to completely avoid it. But on saturday we encountered traffic problems of a completely different sort; we were walking down a path alongside the Necanicum River and were apparently not going quite fast enough, so we were passed, at a dead run, by a fellow vacationer.

This is not exactly what I'd call a wild deer; we were walking towards the ocean, as was the deer, and when we abruptly stopped (and I started scrounging in my purse for the Pentax) it simply sped up and went into the passing lane to get around us. It only stopped when it had gotten around us and realized that another group of vacationers was walking towards it on the same path, and that that other group of vacationers included an unleashed dog. That was finally enough to encourage it to abandon its normal plans and to head up over the top of the sanddunes and into the scrub forest that occupies the backdunes around Gearhart.

The majestic seagull

The south end of a northbound seagull.

When one pelican photo just isn’t enough

Four of them, just in case you're going through pelican withdrawal. All of these pictures were taken on the beach at Gearhart, OR, on saturday and sunday, but I didn't get the chance to actually dump them to the weblog until today.

Impromptu homage to Animal Planet

My eldest son has been, for the past couple of years, sneaking off to his grandmothers and watching episodes of Animal Planet. Imagine my surprise when, after coming back from a labo(u)r day vacation where he kept telling me a variety of interesting and not totally believable facts about animals which he had learned from Animal Planet, to discover that Steve Irwin had managed to end his career by becoming the third person to be killed by an Australian stingray.

RIP, Mr. Irwin.

(but where's the homage, you might ask? Read on, and you will see.)

This ray, which we discovered on the beach in Gearhart, OR, is not in a position to sting anyone. It actually might be a stingray (at least one species is native to the Oregon Coast), but its stinginess is now only a matter of concern to whatever prey it might encounter in ray heaven.

Sep 03, 2006

Annoying travel discovery of the week, pt 1

Despite there being approximately 100,000 internet cafes and restaurants with network connectivity, not a single one has ssh. Sigh.


Sep 02, 2006

As G-d is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly

It's possibly the best couple of scenes from what's possibly the best American television show ever.

Sep 01, 2006

Friday Dust Mite Blogging™

Dust Mite sets to sea in our Brio-gauge carferry.

A noon interlude

A pair of Yellow Menace SD40-2s pause by the 15th Street pedestrian overpass while either making up or breaking apart a train in Brooklyn Yard. I took this picture while the #70 bus was sweeping by -- after I got off the bus, I took a few more pictures of the two SD40-2s backing over the Powell Street bridge, but since I (a) didn't have my telephoto lens and (b) was sitting at the Milwaukie and Powell bus stop, they turned out to be nasty, brutish, and small.