This Space for Rent

Nov 30, 2004


«The president will not address parliament in Ottawa, apparently because of the risk of being heckled.»

Decisions, decisions

The lamp I'm building from recycled bits from SCRAP and The Joinery is slowly moving forward. I've got enough stuff lying around to do a couple of lamps, so I've got the luxury of being able to prototype as I go.

I'm planning to stick with the wider top (which won't have that little piece of scrapwood on it when it's done; I've got a square glass tile that I'm going to fit into the hole that you can't see (because of the scrapwood), so light will come out of the top of the lamp as well as out of the sides) on this lamp, but I'm going to make a narrow base for a second lamp, so it will end up being a Bauhaus-style square box with glass sides and a power cord.

And then I've only got about 200 other little glass tiles to do something with.

Nov 29, 2004

It’s harder than it looks

Last friday, I was dragged out of work to go SCRAPping with the best and the bears. My first stop at SCRAP is always the corner where they keep the stacks of tile, because there is almost always something or another that can be used for a project. Last friday was no exception; there was a little plastic bin full of fused glass tile samples, and 4 sample folders of tiny glass tiles in many different colors and degrees of irridescence, all of which ended up being purchased and relocated to Chateau Chaos.

A bunch of the tiles were 3x5 samples, half frosted, half not. If you put them into a square frame with a nice wooden base and top, you'd have a nice table lamp. So we stopped at The Joinery on the way home to pick up another box of hardwood scraps (this time I got two boxes, just because you can never have too much walnut, cherry, and esoteric South American hardwoods that I'd like to pretend are from a sustainable harvest, but in reality are probably part of Brazil's clearcutting in the Amazon basin) and, when we got home, I sawed up some of the wood into lamp parts. On Sunday evening, I finally got around to gluing up some of the lamp parts; I carefully pulled out the heavy stone slab that I use as a level surface, glued and clamped the frame, and left it to dry overnight.

This afternoon, I pulled apart the clamps, only to discover that despite laying the pieces out of the level surface, and despire carefully using a rubber mallet to make sure all the joints lay flat, the stupid parts had glued together warped. Which, considering that the parts in question were the base of a lamp, wasn't exactly the desired effect. So out came the rubber mallet again, but to break the glue joints apart (hard work to do, but I finally broke everything apart without the wood splintering), so I could sand off excess glue, put on new glue, then clamp the whole thing up again, but this time pressed and clamped between two slabs of hardwood.

I can't wait to see what won't work with it this time.

More happy coincidences from Ohio

  1. The Terror! Alert!™ lockdown of the Warren County administration? Oh, that one was arranged before they even claimed there was going to be a Terror! Alert!.
  2. The Democratic candidate for Chief Justice got several hundred thousand more votes than a Democratic candidate for a somewhat more prominent office.

Those happy coincidences just keep piling up. The Coward in Chief must be the luckiest deserter who ever lived.

Nov 28, 2004

A monorail that’s not much more than US$10 million/mile.

Today, we were in Milwaukie for my father's 80th birthday party, and while we were there Russell decided he wanted to build something with the family L*g* blocks. So we built a monorail.

It's pretty simple to build a block monorail car, if you don't care about trivial things like curved track, power, a smooth ride, or carrying passengers.

Nov 27, 2004

Trainspotting in the countryside

Silas, the best, and I went out to Carlton to get a couple of cases of wine from our favorite defunct winery -- Lion Valley, which used to be out west of Forest Grove, OR. When the owner sold off his vineyards, he was left with about 20,000 bottles of wine, which he's been selling off bit by bit. We've got a lot of Lion Valley pinot at home, and we've been buying extra cases whenever we have some spare money for it. On the weekend after Thanksgiving, Lion Valley sets up camp in Carlton (right down the street from the very good, but unaffordable, Ken Wright Cellars) so we go down there to get a few cases.

To get from Portland to Carlton, we need to take highway 99W, which more or less parallels the ex SP Red Electric line from Portland to McMinnville. We've been up and down that road quite a bit (and it gets grosser every year; Oregon's urban growth boundaries are somewhat porous, and the developers who build at the edges of that boundary are not cursed by the ravages of having any sort of taste or artistic sensibilities) and, until today, have never seen a train moving on the Red Electric line.

When you turn off 99W onto Oregon 240(W), you cross the Red Electric line almost immediately. I had my camera ready, just in case, and when we crossed the line I did my usual look one way, then the other. Looking west, there was nothing, but when I looked back to the east I saw the headlight of a P&W train. A quick right turn, down a block, another right turn, then we were at the next railroad crossing, and the P&W train was right there:

Nov 26, 2004

Playing hooky

I was dragged out of work today so I could go with the best and the bears to SCRAP to pick out yet more shiny things to use to make pretty things around the house.

On the way back, we detoured through downtown and ended up following a Gresham-bound trolley over the Steel Bridge.

Nov 25, 2004


After having thanksgiving dinner (#383 in a series) at my parents house, we returned home, as usual, via the Eng!s in the Milwaukie industrial park. I took a few pictures of the EPT shops as we went through the industrial park. These picture were taken via the advanced photographic technique known as roll down the window, stick my arm out, then start clicking away.

From the street south of the EPT shops, it still looks just like the side-of-the-road interurban it used to be.

After the Portland Traction shops at East Portland were abandoned, the new owners built new shops at the end of the mainline in Milwaukie. They are just a boring old pole building, but the east side of the building is made up to look sort of like an SP depot.

At the end of a line of dead locomotive (including EPT #100) is an old GE 70-ton locomotive, painted as SP 5100. I don't know if it operates, or if EPT even owns it (I suspect it is an EPT locomotive; that railroad has many more engines than it needs to pull trains), but it looks like it just came off the erecting floor and was immediately parked in the deadline.

New Code!

Postoffice has been upgraded to version 1.1.0. This release fixes one annoying bug (Postoffice wasn't dealing properly with smtp servers returning 4xx connection messages) and changes all of the mail programs so they always read the file /etc/ to set options.

I've discovered that it won't work properly on recent versions of R*dh*t Linux, because they ship gdbm, which doesn't have a good ndbm compatability layer (the function calls appear to be there, but there's no ndbm header file and you need to know the MaGiC cOnStAnTs to enable those headers) and because, in the grand tradition of Linux, gl*bc uses a slightly different networking interface than libc does. Guess who doesn't use gl*bc?

The next Postoffice release will hopefully work properly on commercial Linux, instead of just working on Mastodon, FreeBSD and NetBSD. But that's a bridge I've yet to burn.

Nov 24, 2004

It’s not like Disney, so it would never fly in the United States

A full-sized replica of the Listowel & Ballybunion Railway has been built (for values of built that mean 500 meters of line) in Listowel, Republic of Ireland. It's a monorail, but not as we know it; before the advent of the Alweg-style rubber-tired monorails (like the one in Seattle, which is going to be ripped down so the monorail loons can replace it with a not quite compatable straddle monorail) most of the designs for monorails (at least the ones I've seen) used steel wheels on steel rails, the way G-d intended railroads to be.

Image copied from the L&B Rwy's photo page

The L&B Rwy was never a great financial success (not because it was a monorail; Ireland used to be littered with various narrow gauge railways that were only barely profitable at the best of times) and it folded pretty much immediately after (most of) the island got their independence from the UK, but from a modellers viewpoint it would be pretty cool. I'm thinking of modelling it (Russell wants a model monorail), but not as a steam monorail; I'm imagining it as a monorail interurban, with boxcab locomotives, double-decker interurban cars (like the cars that ran on the Feurs-PanissiŤres railway in France), and a small fleet of hopper cars and gondolas. It would run mainly on the ground, of course, but there would be viaducts and cuts to bring the interurban over or under roads. It wouldn't use overhead wire; it would get electricity from a thirdsecond rail that would sit halfway between the running rail (at the top of the A-frame) and the balancing rails.

Of course there's still the problem of switches. Monorails are pretty sucky when it comes to switches. The L&B Rwy used pieces of curved track on a turntable for switches, but that's a kind of terrible solution. Lartigue monorails use steel rails, so I could probably build railroad-style stub switches that take advantage of the flexibility of steel (probably as a hinged bridge structure with rollers on intermediate piers. With lightweight equipment, this might actually work.

1 comment

From the pot calling the kettle black department

The B*sh junta is whining about the legitimacy of the election in the Ukraine, which was won by someone they don't approve of . And by a 3% margin in the popular vote, too.

Imagine that. One would think that the B*sh junta would think that 3% would be a wonderful margin; it's a lot better than -0.5%, after all, and if -0.5% is a mandate, then 3% is, by definition, an absolute rout of your opposition.

What's all the fuss?

Nov 23, 2004

A little rain never stopped my picture-taking

It was raining tonight, so I put the camera on full-auto and took a couple of snapshots in random directions, just to see what the flash would capture.

I'm not exactly sure what those big light blossoms are; I'm guessing that they're raindrops that are close enough so that the camera can't focus, but I'd not be surprised if they were dust on the camera lens.

Nov 22, 2004

Photos coming and going

I rode the #70 bus up to Milwaukie & Powell this morning, and was looking out for locomotives as the bus passed Brooklyn Yard. Just north of the Tri-Met busbarn, I saw a freight parked on (and blocked by) the other side of the PG&E materials yard -- I armed the camera, held it as close to the top of the bus as I could, and started clicking away like mad. Most of the pictures were not worth keeping, but I got one almost perfect (if you ignore the clipped nose and the angle of the camera[fixed with gimp 2.0]) shot of a UP engine with the full American Flag treatment.

On the way back from work, I flipped the camera to manual operation and played around with some of the camera settings to see how well pictures would turn out at night.

When doing slow exposures, it's pretty much impossible to keep the camera steady even when I'm propping it against a lightpole. The moon is not, despite photographic evidence, actually egg-shaped.

And you may not be able to tell when it's daylight, but the Big Yellow House is actually very yellow. When you prop open the shutter for a second, the yellow tends to leap out at you.

Nov 21, 2004

ObHeh: Heh

(from Oliver Willis)

What is it?

This is a monitor stand for my flat panel monitor at work. I work in cubeland, so I'm stuck with unadjustable tables and unadjustable chairs (there are adjustable chairs at work, but none of them give me the option of locking the mechanism so they won't recline. I hate reclining chairs when I'm trying to program, because I tend to slouch and the chair just collapses backwards on me. So I'm using a regular old 4-footed non-rolly metal chair instead), all of which are designed for programmers who are approximately 5'4" tall. And all of the standard adjustable things are designed for people who are smaller than that and need to have things made even shorter.

One of the first things I did when I got my job was to buy a second SGI 1600SW monitor, attach it to my workstation, and take the somewhat clunkier Acer FP855 display in to work to replace the horrid 17" CRT that they'd put on my desk. It was too short, so I've piled up piles of notebooks and boxes of printer paper to get the monitor up to a better height. This works okay, but it's kind of ugly; This weekend, I pulled some sticks of black walnut wood out of the scrapbox (The Joinery -- a local furniture shop -- sells boxes of scrap hardwood, and I picked up a box last year) and spent about 4 hours putting this little hardwood monitor stand together. It's not what you'd call professional by any meaningful definition of the word, but it's pretty when it's all sanded and oiled.

The slots in the side? I'm also building a little drawer to put into it, and that will get done sometime around the time I finish with the kitchen counter.

Nov 20, 2004

The values party in action.

Here's a little sneakily added bylaw to the big omnibus spending bill the Evil Party is trying to pass: «Hereinafter, notwithstanding any other provision of law governing the disclosure of income tax returns or return information, upon written request of the Chairman of the House or Senate Committee on Appropriations, the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service shall allow agents designated by such Chairman access to Internal Revenue Service facilities and any tax returns or return information contained therein.»

I'd love to hear the excuse for this whopping big authorization for pilfering records. I suspect I know the reason why they tried to do this, but I'd prefer to hear the excuses directly from the Evil Party.

(from Josh Marshall)

Nov 19, 2004


There's an article in Salon magazine about skybusses, aka Personal Rapid Transit, which is a old way of combining all the bad properties of automobiles with all the bad properties of mass transit. For the people who don't know what skybusses are, they're computer driven automobiles that run on an elevated track ; you have to get on them at a station, but you can program them to drive to the station you want to go to without stopping on the way. Sounds like a good idea, doesn't it? The advantage of an automobile without having to actually drive, so who wouldn't like it?

Just for myself (and I am a long-time mass transit bigot who does not drive), I can think of a few reasons not to like it:

  1. If I'm going to drive an automobile, why not drive a conventional one? Skybusses run on dedicated guideways, so you're limited to where the guideways go. A regular automobile, as the auto uber alles contingent never stops bleating about, has a much larger network of guideways and can even occasionally travel off-guideway.
  2. Since they're single-occupancy vehicles, they're going to run headon into the feature known as congestion. And, unfortunately, one of the selling points for skybusses is that they're elevated railroads, which means that to add capacity you need to add more elevated railroad track. People don't really like elevated railroads, so I don't think that would fly very far.
  3. What about rush hour? In the mornings, you're going to use a lot of vehicles to get people into town and out. With automobiles, there are parking lots; they're already bought and paid for. I guess you could build special parking lots ("yards" is another name for them) or you could hope for some sort of reverse commute, but you're still looking at storing or moving a lot of empty vehicles.
  4. The advertisements for skybusses claim that they'll cost US$10 million/mile. I don't believe them; a trolley line using conventional railroad technology only rarely costs as little as US$10 million/mile, and the other so-called futuristic transit scheme (monorails) has been seeing 6x cost overruns on what has been promoted as a US$25 million/mile scheme.
  5. People have an amazing tolerance for filth in their private automobiles. They do not have such tolerance for filth in vehicles they hire from other people. Cleaning busses and trams is expensive and slow; I find it hard to believe that it's any cheaper and faster to clean 30x as many skybusses.
  6. The advertisements show spindly viaducts with the little tiny cars running on them. In reality, the viaducts aren't quite as frail as advertised. It's not a complete showstopper (highway viaducts and bridges are much more offensive), but people don't like elevated railways.

I'm not a transportation engineer. Some transportation engineers aren't impressed with skybusses either, but even if you ignore them the claims by the promoters are so extravagant that they set off my bogosity meter. And it doesn't help that the Salon article is sponsored by an automobile manufacturer.

Nov 18, 2004

Project of the week

This toyshelf was made from scrapwood from several sources: planks off scavenged pallets and a plywood back that used to be part of a mirror in our house (this mirror was covering a nice frosted glass window in our upstairs bathroom.)

The most expensive part of this project was the paint, which cost about US$4.00. It took me about 2 hours to assemble the bookshelf, and then four days to apply three coats of paint.

Because it's made from recycled wood, it's not the most polished bit of work. The shelves are all warped and the surface of the wood is all wavy from when it was run through the gangsaw at the mill. But Hunter Green paint hides a multitude of sins, and it is going into a 4-year-old's bedroom, so the imperfections in the material will soon be hidden behind a wall of Baby Destruction™.

Russell likes it, and that's the important thing.

Now aren’t you glad that the Evil Party fixed this election?

They're planning on making the next tax giveaway revenue neutral by abolishing the deduction for state and local taxes. Oh, yeah, and abolishing the tax deduction for employer-provided health insurance.

So I'd end up paying about $20,000 a year more in taxes and health insurance just so some poor struggling billionaire could pay nothing.

This is, um, even better than I'd ever imagined. That distant sizzling sound you hear is my blood slowly beginning to boil, so pay no attention to it.

Nov 17, 2004

Call their bluff

The Evil Party, in their typical moderate fashion, is threatening to abolish the filibuster rule if the Democratic Party ever bothers to filibuster any of the evil thugs that the Evil Party nominates to run the Fourth Reich. If the Coward in Chief is going to send out his apparachiks to make these sorts of threats, why, the Democratic Party has a pretty clear path. Filibuster them all; G-d will know his own, and let the treasonous scum in the Evil Party make it painfully obvious that they're converting the United States into a fascist dictatorship.

After all, what's there to lose? The thin film of credibility Maximum Leader Genius might get by being able to walk over the prostrate bodies of his foes?

Fun with cameras (pt 2)

Autofocus camera + moving bus + dirty bus windows + cloudy day = well, not art, but it's a different view of the alley that I've taken so many Eng! photos from.

Nov 16, 2004

They can run, but they can ’t hide

After the Evil Party "won" the election (close enough to a real win; when you can get +3 million from the bigot vote, the teeny detail of thousands of lucky electoral concidences is somewhat overshadowed), the self-proclaimed followers of Our Father Who Puts The Boot In™ came boiling out of the woodwork, doing their little charismatic victory dances and demanding their pound of flesh right now!, over and over and over again.

A few days passed, a few scalps were taken (in the case of that self-proclaimed "moderate" Pennsylvania senator, I'd say it wasn't his scalp that was taken, but a couple of somethings located rather lower on his body), and all of a sudden a steady stream of Evil Party hacks started to say "why are you nasty liberals trying to say that the homophobes and Dominionists won the election for us? Everybody knows that they don't vote for the Evil Party and you're just being mean to us by claiming that they did." Really. You don't say. So the charismatic victory dances are simply a figment of our antiquated reality-based worldview?

Uh, no. Nice try, though. You don't get to only get away being the pro-torture party, you also get to keep the bigots, the thieves, and the sociopaths. They're sitting outside, and they want their treats. And they want them now.

I'll be sitting up here in my blue county, ready to give the thumbs down. Have fun! Please forget to write!

Fun with cameras

Even though daylight savings time is in place (and thus there's no more daylight), I'm still taking my camera to and from work. Tonight, I heard an Amtrak train whistling for the 12th Avenue crossing, and I tried to take a picture of the train streaking by in the dark. Naturally, it didn't work, but I'd turned off the flash so the camera would take a longer exposure, and this gave me an idea:

Not that this is anything revolutionary in the photography world, but it's still fun to reinvent the wheel.

Nov 15, 2004


On Saturday, the mouth with ears found and killed a mouse, then spent the next couple of hours sitting in front of the side basement door, waiting for a little something to pop up.

This evening, I came home from work, and went upstairs to try and finish helping a friend debug a nasty mssql+odbc+php4 website problem, and halfway up the stairs what should I find but a dead mouse. Amazingly, it turns out that hunting and killing fuzzy duck fingerpuppets is actually good for something.

Perhaps this is what's making the stupid cat throw up approximately a dozen times a day.

Nov 12, 2004

Three days, three trains, one set of trucks

This was from a week or so ago; The best was going as far as Powell and Milwaukie, so I hitched a ride with her. When we reached the intersection, a train was blocking 12th, so I got out and started taking pictures.

These trucks look like they might be high-speed trucks. After I took the picture, the semi carrying them turned down towards Brooklyn Yard,so may have been delivering them to the roundhouse-of-old-railroad-equipment.

Two separate trains came through in a matter of about five minutes while I was waiting for the bus this afternoon.

So, tell me, why does the Democratic Leadership Council still exist?

They've got a weblog (no, I'm not going to link to it; you'll see me linking to Instabozo before I link to these people), and they've got a post up talking about a long piteous whine that the unsuccessful Democratic candidate for the Oklahoma Senate seat wrote after he was defeated by a certifiable nutjob (who opposed choice even more than the Democratic candidate did.) And the DLC take on this? Why, you can already guess what it is; the Democratic party is too progressive.

Here's an example of this fine thinking from the DLC:

We're the "wrong track" party when it comes to the cultural direction of the country, and we have to decide whether to bravely swim upstream out of loyalty to hip-hop and Michael Moore and Grand Theft Auto IV and Hollywood campaign contributions, or do something else, like at least expressing a little ambivalence about it all. Changing the subject is cowardly and insulting no matter how you look at it.

You know, if the DLC doesn't want to "swim upstream", there's a really fucking simple solution to that pesky problem. Leave the Democratic Party and join one that's already abandoned their morals. My first suggrstion would be the Taliban, but they don't table candidates in the United States. So my second suggestion would be the party that already completely controls the government of the United States. I don't think the DLC would have to change at all to fit right in with the Evil Party; they've already got the moral relativism part down cold (even though they're crap at it; the Democratic Party has been trying on the stupid DLC "abandon your positions and you'll Win Big!" wardrobe for a decade, and.they've been batting approximately 500 (batting 1000 on "abandon your positions", batting 0 on "Win Big!") with that gameplan.) And they'd be a lot happier; the only reason the DLC isn't seen as the nest of neoconservative assholes that they are is that nobody has bothered to formally expell Zell Miller (R-GA) from the Democratic Party.

Yeah, you won with Bill Clinton. But Bill Clinton is slightly more conservative than Richard Nixon was. And the Evil Party is a lot better at opening a political gap than you are at closing it with your stupid "we may look like Republicans, but look at our party membership cards" appeasement policies.

The DLC needs to go away. They need to go away now.

Nov 11, 2004

No. This is wrong.

I can tell you already he's a better candidate than John Ashcroft. (Chuck Schumer)

I think he's a pretty solid guy...If you had said to me six months ago I can have Gonzales or Ashcroft, it wouldn't have been a hard choice. (Joe Biden)

They're both talking about Abu Gonzales, the latest sociopathic choice for Attorney General. Gonzales, as you may recall, is the one who wrote the nice little memo calling the Geneva Conventions obsolete, thus providing cover for the Coward in Chief in his bold attempt to convert the United States into a nasty little third-world dictatorship.

Now, the Democratic party may be completely powerless now (certainly any attempt to filibuster this evil appointment would be greeted with an executive order abolishing the filibuster), but that doesn't mean that Democratic senators should act as if they were just horsewhipped. It's still legal to disapprove of improper behavior. Really.

There's a reason why we sign these treaties: To protect my son in the military. That's why we have these treaties -- so when Americans are captured, They Are Not Tortured (Joe Biden, who apparently only disapproves of torture when there's no political risk.)

Look. If torture is wrong, enabling torture is wrong. Pandering to Alberto Gonzales is enabling torture. If Joe Biden and Chuck Schumer are unable to grasp this trivially simple fact, they should just shut the fuck up and let more intelligent senators speak for the opposition party. Don't forget that licking the boots of the Evil Party just ensures that you'll get kicked first when the next "election" comes around.

Nov 10, 2004

Brilliant Military Strategy for the Ages™

I must admit that giving your foes three months of warning before your surprise attack is an unconventional military strategy. That probably explains why there were only a few hundred resistance fighters in the town; the rest of the resistance must have been so paralyzed with terror that they just melted away into a puddle of melted butter which was then used to make pancakes.

So, yeah, the United States is going to lose Iraq, and the new government will probably be signing agreements to exchange six months of oil production for nuclear weapons before the last US helicopter has cleared the embassy grounds. But at least the "surprise" attack didn't interfere with the "election" in the United States, and that's the only thing that's important.

1 comment

Tanks? At an antiwar protest? In the USA?


More like this, please

Hullabaloo has a nice post up about how he's realized that appeasement doesn't work.

This is a refreshing change from the wave of we didn't win, so we need to dump the faggots that I'm seeing from too many previously sensible lefty weblogs.

More like this, please.

Nov 09, 2004

The B*sh junta needs a new Attorney General

Saddam Hussein is unemployed, so he might be a good choice for the job. And if he doesn't want it, there's always Osama bin Laden -- after all, it's the least they can do to pay him for the October Surprise.

This is not a good year to be a conspiracy theorist…

... because the real world keeps being more outlandish that your most ridiculous theories.

Atrios, after a couple of days of saying no, no, there's no compelling reason to believe that the election was stolen, just published some amusing figures for the excess votes in Cuyahoga County, Ohio:

Highland Heights: 1385
Mayfield Village: 1385
Seven Hills: 2147
Broadview Height: 2540
Berea: 3146
Olmstead Falls: 3146
North Royalton: 4009
Maple Heights: 4744
Brook Park: 5295
Oakwood Village: 5460
Euclid: 5724
South Euclid: 5724
Cleveland Heights: 6007
East Cleveland: 6007
Garfield Heights: 6170
Lakewood: 6226
Middleburg Heights: 7284
Parma: 7284
Bedford: 8553
Bedford Heights: 8553
Warrensville Heights: 8553
Bay Village: 9948
Fairview Park: 9948
North Olmstead: 9948
Rocky River: 9948
Westlake: 9948
Cleveland: 49324

I'm sure it's all just a concidence. Just like the exit polls being way off in Florida and Ohio. Because, after all, with an excess of something over 3 million votes, why would the Evil Party bother doing vote fraud?(okay, so it's their nature. But, other than that, why would they bother?)

Oh well, there's always the old cruise missile attack on the Pentagon story. That one's not likely to be true, so nobody will spoil their fun by proving it.

Nov 08, 2004


Democracy will not come
Today, this year
Nor ever
Through compromise and fear.
I have as much right
As the other fellow has
To stand
On my two feet
And own the land.
I tire so of hearing people say,
Let things take their course.
Tomorrow is another day.
I do not need my freedom when I'm dead.
I cannot live on tomorrow's bread.
Is a strong seed
In a great need.
I live here, too.
I want freedom
Just as you.

--Langston Hughes

(via Bruce Garrett, from Silent Lucidity)

Nov 07, 2004

Too bad it’s just a model

The bears, the best, and I went trainspotting at the Columbia Gorge Model Railroad Club.

While we were there, we saw many interesting things:

More RS-[23]'s than we could shake a stick at. I don't remember when first generation Alco's were common, but when I grew up the Milwaukee Road used a bunch of them for switching and local freight duties in La Crosse, and the Chicago & North Western would occasionally run them on their local freights from Winona into western Wisconsin.

A bunch of streamlined diesel engines, including a set of F-7's painted in C&NW colors. When I was growing up, F units were everywhere -- the C&NW would occasionally run them in places I could get to, the Milwaukee Road had them on local freights, and the Burlington Northern had F units falling out of the gutters. And then, in 1977 (or sometime around then), every F unit in the LaCrosse area was shipped off to LaGrange to be converted into razor blades and to be used as tradein credit for newer GM locomotives. The last F units I ever saw on a mainline railroad were the C&NW executive F units, and they were dumped by an enginehouse on one of the C&NW lines out of Chicago (The UP eventually got ownership of them, and they were passed into the hands of the steam division, which, if I remember from discussions on the railroad list, decided they were just diseasels and cut the bulk of them up [along with the Alco PB-1 that they got when they ate the Rio Grande.]) having never had the chance to pull a train of Th*m*s the T*nk *ng*n* locomotives.

One sort of engine I've never seen, either alive or dead, was an Union Pacific gas turbine; these engines were dragged off to the scrapline at around the time when NWSL was seducing me into my lifelong obsession with electric locomotives (via an ad the put into Model Railroader sometime in the mid-70s showing a bunch of the Milwaukee Road GE 750 locomotives some time after the Milwaukee Road electrification was abandoned), so by the time I realized that there was interesting power other than electric locomotives and first-generation Alco hood units, the turbines were gone for good. From what I heard about their fuel consumption, I don't think that the accounting department would be overly pleased about seeing one used to pull a single-car freight, no matter how valuable the load.

I guess China was serious when they called Maximum Leader Genius an idiot

The Financial Times claims that China is selling off their US assets. Along with India. And Russia. And some carefully not named Middle Eastern investors.

That dull thud! thud! thud! noise you hear? That's me, whacking my head against my desk, because I didn't get around to completely converting my liquid assets to € and ¥ before the 2004 election was stolen. Perhaps I'll be able to get 20€ or so for that US$20,000 next week.

Perhaps Osama is in the hospital.

So we'd better just bomb it.

After all, once you've started running a gulag and torturing prisoners to death, there's really not much point in pretending that the regime of the Coward in Chief isn't just another rogue state.

Nov 06, 2004

How outsourcing works

The American company wants to save money, so they look around for the cheapest possible outsourcing company in the Far East. Then the American company tells their el-cheapo-outsource company to do some work which it doesn't have the technical expertise to do. Rather than admit they don't have the skills to do it, the employees of the outsourcing company dig around on the net and send email to American programmers asking for help with their project.

I'm not making this up:

X-MimeOLE: Produced By Microsoft Exchange V6.0.6603.0
Subject: Needed ur help in writing a Tcl script
Date: Sat, 6 Nov 2004 20:33:48 +0530
From: <***>
To: <>

   Hi  David

   I needed ur help in writing a tcl script. I found ur mail id on google

   I tried downloading a file from a location (The url address is quite
   long), but failed. This is the
   code I tried. Could you please tell me where I have gone wrong. I have
   installed Tcl on Windows2000.

If I were a recently outsourced programmer, I'd be really pissed off at this. As it is, I'll just save it, and if my corporate masters ever start talking about outsourcing me, I'll simply forward this email to them without comment.

Old Iron

Silas and I went to the local hobby shop to look for interesting model railroad stuff. It was a success (a success being defined as not staggering out the door burdened down with US$1000 worth of electronic controllers or models of electric locomotives -- not, of course, that $1000 will even get you close to buying models of electric locomotives unless you are interested in GG-1s or E33s; I saw, recently, an ad for a simple 3-unit Milwaukee Road freight motor where they were charging something on the order of US$5000 for the painted units. Ouch.) and we walked away with some interesting things, ranging from an ancient book on the 2ft railroads in Maine to a Revell model of an SP wooden caboose (obUK: guard's van). The Revell model is nothing special, except that it was made in 1956; a dozen years ago, 1950s state of the art for injection molding would have bothered me, but now that I'm a middle-aged model railroader, I couldn't even see any finer details unless I removed my glasses and put my nose up against the side of the caboose.

As a collectable, this caboose is doomed. I won't be repainting it (unless I feel obliged to reletter it for the PV&T), but those NMRA-design couplers are going to be replaced with Kadee (or Kadee clone) couplers so it will be able to run on the railroad I'm building for the bears; since the couplers are attached to the trucks, that means the (sprung) trucks will be replaced with modern plastic trucks. And, given my main interest in a railroad is operating trains, it doesn't bother me that much that the details are 2 - 3 times larger than scale (I think that the only remaining place where out of scale details bother me is with catenary. I've not yet figured out how I'm going to do close-to-scale catenary for the LW&C model railroad I'm trying to build.)

Nov 05, 2004

How to get me to want to emigrate, in one easy lesson

Have lefty weblogs lecture me on how I am obliged to lash myself to the mast because, well, it's there, and that's what liberals do.

It's not only not convincing, it's offensive. There are good reasons for staying in the United States (if you're straight, that is. I find it harder to develop much enthusiasm for Oregon now that they've made me a second class citizen. Fuck Oregon! was, I believe, my comment when I discovered that the Hate Amendment passed. And my state taxes are subsidising the people who voted for this piece of bigotry -- if I moved out of the big yellow house and into Washington, I'd not be a second class citizen for a couple of years longer, but it would be very painful to have to emigrate from a city where I had, at least up until 3 days ago, expected to spend the rest of my life. And if we uproot, it will be just as painful to move across an ocean as it would be to move across the Columbia) and taking up the sword of political battle (I'd leave actual violence to the minions of the Evil Party, because they seem to enjoy that sort of thing), but there are equally good reasons to move out of the United States (not being resident in a country that tortures people is a good moral reason to get out, and not paying taxes to the US Government is a good practical reason to get out.)

Note that neither of these options require that I do them just because they're there. The existence of Canada, the UK, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa does not commit me to moving to any of them, and the existence of the United States does not commit me to staying here. I don't particularly care what the Evil Party apologists have to say (they're all lying, and, better yet, they reek of desperation even while they're destroying evidence) but I am curious; if you're a liberal and you're thinking of (a) staying or (b) getting the fuck out of Dodge, why?

Nov 04, 2004

A tax reform policy I will enthusiastically support

Duncan Black's Tax Fairness Act proposal. I'd even support rolling the tax fairness act down to the state level.


Atrios is hosted on blogspot, which is, um, not the most reliable place to point links at. The link for the Tax Fairness Act is, um, not resolving to anything useful anymore, so here's the whole proposal cut and pasted:

Tax Fairness Act of 2005

In the comments section of my post about "really bad ideas that voters love" someone made a suggestion which was something I had almost included in the post originally. In any case, the person provided the catchy name. I suggest the Democrats first major legislative proposal, complete with press conferences, laser show, hunger strike, whatever, is the "Tax Fairness Act of 2005." This Act would mandate that, within some reasonable margin of error, your state should get as much back from the feds as is sent to them in taxes. It's time to end this kind of geographic welfare!

Current deadbeat states who went for Bush: (those getting >110%+ of their tax money back)

North Dakota
South Carolina
South Dakota
West Virginia

Non-deadbeat states for Bush:
North Carolina

Deadbeat states for Kerry:
D.C. (obviously a special case)

Non-debeat states for Kerry:
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New York
Rhode Island

[Iowa (not deadbeat), and NM (deadbeat) still not called]

...Look folks, for the record this is a "stupid" idea and not one which either should or will pass. The purpose of it is to:

*Get into the public dialogue the fact that the anti-guvmint Bush-voting states to a great degree prosper to whatever extent they do because of an infusion of money from Kerry-voting states.

*It allows Democrats to run crazy campaign commercials like 'Congressman Elephant voted to give YOUR tax dollars to Wyoming!!!!'

...and yes, people, this post is partially in jest...

Well, that’s $60,000 I’ll never see again

It's Social Security Privatisation Time in the OK corral.


The soulless cube farm where I work had really cheap thin carpet in it when I started working for my corporate masters. Sometime during the summer the building got wet, and when it dried it shrunk, which meant that the carpet started wrinkling up to the point where people started to trip on it. Now, the Evil Party hasn't been in power long enough to make liability lawsuits illegal yet, so my corporate masters found themselves in a situation where they pretty much had to replace the carpets (I suspect they would have, anyway; they seem to be pretty good on the corporate master front (by 1999 standards, that is; I've worked for companies since 2000 which, um, don't give nearly as much of a damn as these people do) or get sued when someone tripped and broke their neck. So, this week, they came through, hoisted all of the cubicles up into the air, ripped out the old carpet, plunked down new carpet, and dropped the cubicles back onto the floor.

So I go into work this morning (after working from home yesterday because they were doing the cubes next to mine on tuesday night, and it was already pretty foul in the area from the smell of the nasty glue they use), unpacked my computer from the plastic bags someone had put it in, and tried to do some work. It took about a hour before the smell of the solvent wafting up from my feet reached the point where my head was about to explode (for non-political reasons! Imagine that!) and I had to bolt for home, where (thankfully), the stupid cable modem wasn't being overrun by viruses and I could work for a change.

I don't know what the screaming baby quotient will do to my work habits today, but I'm sure I'll find out.

My contribution to the traditional liberal circular firing squad

I've looked at the hysterical cries from the left, bewailing something that anyone could suspect might happen and trying to decide whether appeasement or, um, appeasement is the best response to this election.

I have a different idea. The Coward in Chief may have actually honestly gotten a majority of the electorate to vote for him, and, more importantly, he got the majority of the electorate to vote for an unadorned Evil Party slate of lies, intolerance, incompetence, and drunken-sailor spending. Okay, good. Let him do it; 44 seats in the Senate is a joke -- the Evil Party will find 4 senators that they'll be able to sway, then kill -- so there's nothing that can be done except provide propaganda for the next round of LII&D-SS. The Democratic bloc should eject the Quislings now (it's too late to eject Zell Miller (R-GA), but Stephanie Herseth should be shown the location of the Evil Party cloakroom and invited to hang her coat there), then just vote en masse against whatever evil tripe Maximum Leader Genius thinks of. No filibusters, no procedural games (neither of those will work), just a round of speeches calling the Evil Party what it really is, a bloc vote, and then a symbolic turning their backs to the evil toads and their latest LII&D-SS amendment.

There's nothing that can be gained by heroic measures, and if the party isn't willing to go to the brink of civil war (which it isn't. The ballot shredding machinery in Ohio had barely enough time to start erasing the conveniently never-counted Kerry votes there before the Kerry campaign abdicated. (Speaking of which, WTF? WTF-FF? Thanks, John, for buckling before the battle even started!)) they're committing themselves to a battle of attrition, and that sort of battle is never won by standing out in the open and taking potshots at your entrenched enemies.

France circa 1650 may have been a wonderful place for the royal family, but it wasn't so grand for everybody else. And everybody else remembered. So, bring it on. We'll loan you some rope.

Nov 03, 2004

Funniest liberal whine of the day

This map has been kicking around for a little while since the latest round of voter intimidation, gaybashing, and fraud!™ finished (with the now-traditional I fold! (but we haven't even started?) from the left. Sigh) wednesday morning:

This would have the advantages, for me, of

  1. stopping my taxpayer subsidy of the intolerant states,
  2. getting me out of the nonstop trainwreck that is the American healthcare system (I've been paying, either in cash or as part of the total compensation package my corporate masters give me, roughly $15000 a year for health insurance for my family, and I'm still arguing over a childbirth bill that a previous health insurance company decided that they just wouldn't bother to pay. And the great thing is that as soon as I leave my job, all of my health benefits go away. Is this a great country or what? ... well, as far as healthcare goes, or what is the correct response.)
  3. speaking of the taxpayer subsidy of the intolerant states, if they weren't sucking from the taxpayer teat, perhaps they'd learn self-reliance. Sure, Alaska would end up being strip-mined down to bedrock, but global warming is beginning to lay waste to the state anyway.
  4. New Hampshire, Wisconsin, and Illinois would all be in the USC, so I wouldn't have to go through customs to visit the ancestral stomping grounds.
  5. The Hate Amendment would collide with a supreme court that wouldn't use it as an excuse for putting in a federal Hate Amendment.

The downsides would be

  1. 75% of the population of Jesusland would attempt to immigrate to the USC as soon as they realized that the taxpayer teat wasn't giving them the pork-filled bribes that they've come to depend on.
  2. We'd be stuck with Kennebunkport. Which means we'd be stuck with Maximum Leader Genius. Who'd try to take over the country. Again.
  3. Colour. Flavour. Aboot.

1 comment

Oh. now that’s the topping on the cake

Oregon just made me a second class citizen.

How much of a discount do I get on my taxes now?


Nov 02, 2004

Election night strategies

I'll pick recount.

(from The Pain -- When Will It End?)

Ignorance is bliss

To avoid excessive stress, I've been avoiding television or weblogs. The vote theft I don't know about is the vote theft that won't drive me into a screaming rage. Of course, the glasses of whiskey (Irish; I'm finishing a bottle of Middleton) are helping keep me from going completely nonlinear, but I'll credit not looking at the news with me not loosing my personal dogs of war.

Election? Fate of the United States? Despotic religious state vs. the tattered representative democracy we used to have prior to November 2000? I'll vote for booze tonight.

Is there an election today? Naa, I'll just have another drink or ten.

Vote or die

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all convictions, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep

Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

--WB Yeats

Nov 01, 2004


... is now. Do GOTV if you can, vote if you haven't.

This is a big election. If the Coward in Chief is able to steal the election again, it may be the end of the United States. The polls start to open in 12 hours, and in 28 hours the lawsuits will begin. If we can get a 10% lead in the popular vote, it will be a lot harder for the Evil Party to steal the election without fomenting civil war.

You may like John Kerry. You might dislike him. But that's not the big issue. The big issue is:

Are we a nation that follows the rule of law and obeys the golden rule?

Or are we a nation that tortures people?


Obéir c'est trahir, Désobéir c'est servir


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