This Space for Rent

Aug 31, 2007

Life on the river (#23)

A crewmember enjoys the sun while the smallest of all the Ross Island Sand & Gravel tugs pushes a load of Ross Island north towards the ready-mix plant at the north end of the Portland Traction trail.

Friday Dust Mite Blogging™

After many years of dealing with huge mini-ITX motherboards, Dust Mite has finally found a PC that's just the right size.

Dear Democrats, you are so mercifully free of the ravages of intelligence

LAS VEGAS -- Saying the coming weeks will be "one of the last opportunities" to alter the course of the war, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said he is now willing to compromise with Republicans to find ways to limit troop deployments in Iraq.

Reid acknowledged that his previous firm demand for a spring withdrawal deadline had become an obstacle for a small but growing number of Republicans who have said they want to end the war but have been unwilling to set a timeline.

(the Washington Post, via Talking Points Memo)

Let me take this opportunity to admit that, yes, I have eaten crow for ever assuming that the Stupid Party has more than one functioning brain cell. But even with that in mind, I'm beginning to wonder if they have any functioning brain cells left, because this is the political equivalent of going down to the local tattoo parlour, having KICK ME printed on your back, then wandering around town topless so that people can admire your spiffy new piece of bodyart.

Maybe it's time to print up some little business cards that say "KICK ME" so I can reply to the nonstop stream of Stupid Party solicitations (serves me right for donating a couple of thousand dollars to the Dean campaign. Not only did the Beltway parasites manage to off him in Iowa, but they managed to get access to his contribution list and now have me pegged as a sheep to be repeatedly shorn. Sorry, assholes, but you lost your chance when you let the torture bill get through without a fight) by enclosing one of those cards (plus a safety pin. Or maybe a little velcro, since this is the Stupid Party and they might not know how to properly use a safety pin) and a little note saying "this is all you'll ever get from me. Now fuck off."

Why do the Democrats even bother to show up in Washington? Sure, it's lovely that they have all these looooooong hearings so that Abu Gonzales can maintain his perjury quota, but when all they can do is rubberstamp whatever offensive policies the Evil Party enacts (two completely unqualified USSC bagmen, permission to engage in an illegal aggressive war against Iraq, the Torture bill, the unconstitutional denial of habeas corpus, abrogating the fourth amendment, permission to engage in an illegal aggressive war against Iran) they might as well just stay home for all the good they're doing.

1 comment

Aug 30, 2007

Yayy Polk County!

A [Polk County] county judge has struck down a ban on same-sex marriages in the US state of Iowa as unconstitutional.

Judge Robert Hanson ruled that a law allowing marriage only between men and women violated the rights of due process and equal protection.

(via the BBC)

There is still the matter of the bigots who will no doubt turn around and try to wedge hate into the Iowa constitution, but Judge Hanson did one thing that will make that just a little more difficult: he ordered that the county issue marriage licenses to the couples who brought the discrimination suit. The bigots will, of course, attempt to overturn those licenses, but when you're at the voting booth it's a little bit more difficult to vote to strip rights from Bill & Fred down at the hardware store, Al & James who run the dairy farm up the road, or Sue & Janet who occasionally babysit your children than it is to strip rights from some hypothetical gay bogeyman that the fundamentalist bigots on TV keep talking about.

And those fundamentalist bigots on TV? Most of them are gay, too, but so deeply closeted that they can't differentiate love from hate. Perhaps seeing the chains being struck from other people will break the shell around their hearts and allow them to come out and finally be happy.

Aug 29, 2007

Cute baby picture of the day

Neither Russell nor Silas like it when I take their picture these days, so when I want to take a picture I have to do it while they're doing something and don't notice me setting it up. And then I have to bellow "Russell! Look over here!" and try to catch him at the precise moment he looks, for otherwise he'll stick out his tongue and otherwise look silly.

The picture was lensbabied, then cropped closely enough so there's just a little bit of distortion around the edges of the frame. (The lensbaby is a terrific lens for portraits, because the blurring around the edges of the picture pulls your eyes right over to the subject of the photo, and if you crop it closely you won't even realize that the sneaky lens is pushing your eyeballs to the interesting parts of the photo.)


Aug 28, 2007

And, speaking of the bleeding edge of software development…

Why is it that, when I'm porting git to Mastodon+older versions of freebsd + MacOS (not much of a port here, I know, but I wanted to test the new configure scripts) it happily allows me to do commits, then push or pull them around without complaint, but when I'm finished with doing that and have it in production it all of a sudden just stops letting me do pulls and pushes?

Oh, sure, I can do the commands to pull or push a repository, and git log on the receiving end shows the changeset that I just pushed over, but does the information actually go anywhere? Pfft. It does not.

I hate computers.

New Code!

In the past couple of months, I've come to the realization that the algorithm that many spammers use to format their messages is the exact same algorithm that many of my relatives use to format the messages they send. It's (obviously) not the same content, but it looks enough like incoming spam so that the mail that some of my relatives send is universally rejected (for such things as no From: address on the mail header, no Subject: line, much more html than text, and the like.) It's not really possible to get them to change; Outlook needs to be clubbed vigorously to make it work as properly as it can be, and none of these people are geeky enough to want to spend the time to beat Outlook into submission.

So, if I was going to have mail from my relatives get into pell, I needed to find some other way of doing things. I couldn't drop the spam filters (well, actually I could, but without spamassassin doing its dimwitted thing I got about 15 pieces of spam every day the filters were down. When the filters were UP, I got about one piece of spam every week, which was making me a much happier camper) without being driven immediately insane, so I had to find a different solution.

The solution, which is in postoffice 1.4.3, is the new configuration option junkfolder=, which (as of right now; I may revisit it later) tells postoffice to write detected spam to the mail folder <maildir>/<user>:<junkfolder> instead of to the regular destination address. It's a bit of a kludge in that it adds more mailfiles to the mail spool; files which are not detected normally and which grow and grow without bound, but it at least puts the packages of rotting spam into a place where I won't automatically see them.

I may have to write a notify daemon that either hangs off smtpd or is run from a crontab, but for now it's good enough that it shunts the spam off into a siding.

So, New Code!, freshly harvested from the bleeding edge of the Chateau Chaos programming labs.

You learn new things every day

Frozen vegetables — yikes — will typically preserve their nutrients more than fresh ones, of whatever organic or nonorganic stripe.

(some right winger, via Bouphonia)

If you freeze organic vegetables, they cease to be organic. And here we've been living a lie for the past seven years when we could have been paying attention to the Giant Brains on the right.

This twit also defines careful shopping, conservative pundit style:

Well, this is one gal who "thinks" it's just fine to buy lots of cheap, luscious-looking produce from the conventionally-farmed-food aisles at the grocery.

Note that it's "luscious-looking" she's talking about. You'd think that if you're buying food you'd want to find food that *tastes* good and to hell with the looks of it, but maybe that's just me. How silly to assume that anyone would care about the quality of their food when they could get a greater (and prettier) quantity of massively subsidized wax and plastic instead.

I'd suspect that the fruit in that household sits on the countertop for weeks at a time while the snackfood (all hydrogenated oils, of course; the teeny detail that hydrogenated oils are poisonous pales in comparison to being able to buy more of it) evaporates off the shelf.

And the funny thing is that when I visit parts of the country where there aren't many organics around (I'm thinking, in horror, of going to the grocery stores at the North Carolina beach) the non-organic fruits™ and vegetables© cost at least as much as I pay for organic stuff here in Portland. Sure, I can get thirty-seven hundred different types of extruded snack product and die-cast breakfast food, but it's surprisingly difficult to follow a non-greasy diet down there on any sort of a budget. And, to make matters embarrassing, the peaches I could get at those stores (stores which are located less than 150 miles away from a part of the state where you can't turn a corner without encountering yet another farm stand that sells North Carolina peaches) are shipped in from California.

And they don't taste very good, either. They look very pretty, if wax fruit is your platonic ideal, but if that's your ideal then going out and getting real wax fruit will be cheaper and it won't spoil. But then I'm not a conservative pundit, so my opinions are not to be trusted.

Aug 27, 2007

From the Holgate bridge

I've been walking home from work occasionally to make up for not riding my bicycle as much as I should (it's about 3 miles to work, but when I ride my bicycle I can either (a) ride on city streets and the Ross Island Bridge or (b) ride south to the Tacoma St intersection with the Portland Traction [aka Springwater] trail, then ride north to Hawthorne, then on city streets uphill to work, which makes closer to 5 miles) and today I decided I'd try walking down 17th so I could walk by the railroad yard. When I was almost to Holgate, I heard the tootling of a whistle blowing for the mess of crossings just west of 11th/12th & Clinton, so I couldn't help but scuttle for the bridge in case it was something interesting.

Okay, so it was only a pair of Yellow Menace SD70m pulling a freight train south. Not much to write home about (a few days ago I was riding the #70 northbound and I saw a Yellow Menace inspection/executive train zip over the Powell St. overpass when the bus was still down by the Tri-Met offices, and there's always wondering what might be pulling or pushing an Amtrak train.) But the sun was nice and bright and the ORHF has a bunch of their GN and SP-painted equipment sitting out in front of the Brooklyn Roundhouse.

The gaggle of gear by the roundhouse are so shiny that they sort of glow unnaturally in the afternoon sun.

1 comment

Aug 26, 2007

Flying vermin picture of the day

A large parasitic wasp drills for grubs to poison and use as a food source for her eggs. Spotted at our campsite in McIver state park today.

Gone camping

We spent most of the weekend camping in Milo McIver State Park, which is just far enough away from Estacada, Oregon so there wasn't even the slightest chance of getting a wireless signal (and I forgot to bring my mile-long extension cord and ethernet cables, so I couldn't go and beg for a network connection from one of the little mini-ranches that border the park,) which forced me to actually enjoy myself doing something that did not involve the computer.

And after five years of occasional camping, we finally got it right and took everything we needed and not much of what we didn't need (the final items were replacing the little 4 person dome tent [4' headroom] with a bigger 6-person tent [6'4" headroom, which is very nice for 6'1" me] and building a roofrack for the prius so we didn't have to cram everything into the trunk and back seat.) The only thing which went wrong was that even though we sleep on old flat futons at home (and I've been known to sleep comfortably on hardwood floors) I've reached the sort of point of decrepitude where it's just not comfortable sleeping on a tent floor. But that was really the only defect (and it doesn't look like anyone makes a lightweight collapsable queen or king-sized platform bed, so it's not a defect that can be easily corrected unless I learn how to weld aluminium) in a nice relaxing weekend which I went into fearing that it would be exhausting without being fun, leaving me stressed out when I returned to the Most Exciting Job in the World™ on monday morning.

And, as a bonus, being away from the computer for a day and a half meant that the constant pains in my right arm and the right side of my body went *poof* until I returned home and fired up the laptop of destiny. This is good in that I've now got pretty solid evidence pointing at this chronic pain as the mother of all carpal tunnel problems, but it's bad in that I'm a computer programmer and it would be hard for me to continue to work if I can't actually type at a computer (I've already completely stopped using mice and trackballs, and what little pointer twiddling I do is done with a Wacom tablet, a twiddle stick, or the narsty little glidepoint pad on my Macbook. It makes it more interesting to look at the web, but it keeps me away from Windows at work, which is an almost complete win except when I have to use Windows for some "you have to use windows to read this webpage because Windows is the company standard !" work requirement.

Aug 25, 2007

I blame James Nicoll

You're "Master Harold"... and the Boys!
by Athol Fugard
Even though you should have realized it for years, you're only just starting to understand how bad your society is. It's been keeping some of your best friends down for ages, and even you have been complicit with this system. When you make a mess, someone else is quick to clean it. When you need help, someone else is quick to your rescue. But when they point out injustice, you've pulled the wool over your eyes. Until now. If you ever need a cast, it will be small.
Take the Book Quiz at the Blue Pyramid.

Only just starting to understand... ? How amusingly wrong that statement is.

(via More Words, Deeper Hole)

Aug 24, 2007

Trolley picture of the day

The sun reflects interestingly off the rear of an airport-bound train coming off the steel bridge.

Friday Dust Mite Blogging™

Still life with Dust Mite, peaches, and blue tableware.

Aug 23, 2007


US intelligence warns of 'mini-Tet' in Iraq

A day after George Bush compared the potential consequences of exiting Iraq to the aftermath of the Vietnam conflict, US intelligence will today warn that extremists could create a "mini-Tet" in the country, an official revealed. [...]

(via The Guardian)

You'd think they'd be embarrassed to peddle this tripe. It's bad enough that a draft dodger comes out and inaccurately compares Iraq to Vietnam, but now the Pentagon is leaping on this bandwagon and pinning up Tet as an excuse for the USA still losing the war, despite the much-ballyhooed-in-the-US-press "surge" that's been going on for the last 6 or 9 months.

I'd have STFU'ed at the point where Maximum Leader Genius said he was perfectly willing to kill off another 50,000 American soldiers (and fuck-only-knows how many more Iraqi civilians. Something around 3% of the population of that country has been killed off thanks to our botched illegal war, and another 15% have either dislocated or forced out of the country due to religious leaders leaping enthusiastically on the ethnic cleansing bandwagon that is so popular these days. If the American Imperium is going to stick it out in Iraq until 50,000 US soldiers have died it's quite possible that the USA will become #1 in the genocide olympics as well.) Popping up to say "oh, yes, the resistance is strong enough that they're probably doing to engage in massive countrywide battles with regular military units that they can sacrifice. And they're planning on doing this any day now." doesn't strike me as a particularly productive use of the radiowaves.

But I suppose I do need to consider that the B*sh junta doesn't care about the state of the troops just as long as an Imperial Guard survives to protect Mount Doom, and if it costs a million or so bodies to keep the support of the 26% of this country that still worships the Boy King that's simply good politics. That 26% already believes the Dolchstoßlegende, so murdering another 50,000 soldiers will just reinforce their ignorant delusions and keep them nice and sheeplike.

And it's not as if I expected any sense of shame, let alone simple human decency, from a government that tortures its own citizens, uses natural disasters to do its own ethnic cleansing, and that runs its very own gulag archipelago.

1 comment

Aug 21, 2007

What an amazing coincidence

It's the now-traditional group of masked "anarchists" (here they're trying to provoke a police confrontation at the anti-SPP [the mutant child of the terrible NAFTA agreement] march in Montebello Quebec) that you get to see at pretty much each and every left-wing political action these days. Note how they're taken away by the police in a fairly polite fashion, too. Okay, this is Canada and they're a bit more civilized than the United States, but when I look at that sea of police officers all nicely masked and dressed in riot gear, I get the very strong suspicion that the Canada that I admire has been taken over by a nest of neoconservatives that are every bit as evil (but much more competent) than the evil fucks who are currently flying the United States straight into the ground.

Note, also, that aside from the so-called anarchists pretty much all of the protesters are regular folk who aren't dressed for a revolution, but are simply out protesting against being screwed over by a "security" agreement that makes NAFTA look like an actual trade agreement instead of the open invitation to plunder that it is. They're not the sort of scary rioter that would require 4-500 masked and armo(u)red riot police.

Update: It has been suggested that the three "anarchists" in this picture are actually undercover policemen. I don't know why you'd think that. Surely it's a coincidence that the three of them are wearing nice new boots that look like police boots. And it MUST be a coincidence that they don't look like your run of the mill anarchist griefer, but like big burly policemen. And of course it's a coincidence that they appeared to just vanish off the face of the earth after being "arrested", unlike the 4 other arrestees at that protest. And it had to be an accidental coincidence that the official Mount Doom advance visit manual suggests embedding counterprotesters to drown out any real protests against the Boy King.

(youtube video via Pacific Gazette, advance visit manual link via The Galloping Beaver)

1 comment

Aug 20, 2007

The stupid, it burns!

Digby has been paying some attention to a right wing thinktank called "Family Security Matters" (a name that right away tells you that something is wrong with the group) and their rapidly-being-sanitized website. She wondered why they'd be sanitizing their website, because normally the right wing kookieheads are proud to let their freak flags fly, and went for a little archive search.

It is wonderful, in the sense that it's a wonder that their spinal cords haven't leapt up and strangled their brains yet. These people are kooks, they've got a mad crush on Maximum Leader Genius, and they are unhappy about the thought that the B*sh junta might just step back and leave the stinking wreck of the United States to someone else.

Yet in 2007 he is generally despised, with many citizens of Western civilization expressing contempt for his person and his policies, sentiments which now abound on the Internet. This rage at President Bush is an inevitable result of the system of government demanded by the people, which is Democracy.

Yup. They don't like the whole idea of a democratic republic and would be just as happy if it went away. So what is their recommended course of action here?

If President Bush copied Julius Caesar by ordering his army to empty Iraq of Arabs and repopulate the country with Americans, he would achieve immediate results: popularity with his military; enrichment of America by converting an Arabian Iraq into an American Iraq (therefore turning it from a liability to an asset); and boost American prestiege while terrifying American enemies.

He could then follow Caesar's example and use his newfound popularity with the military to wield military power to become the first permanent president of America, and end the civil chaos caused by the continually squabbling Congress and the out-of-control Supreme Court.

Yup, they think that Maximum Leader Genius should just formally overthrow the US government and become a slightly kookier version of Baby Doc Duvalier. But this is not what sets them aside from the run of the mill right wing kook site. You notice that they mention "emptying" Iraq of those pesky brown-skinned people so that they can fill it with white folk, but are nicely vague about it. Well, they aren't vague enough about it, because a little earlier down the line they were whining about it's not faaaaaaaiiiir that the Coward in Chief should be blamed for destroying the US military, and a better solution to the (nonexistant) problem of the (nonexistant) Iraqi WMDs was to:

The wisest course would have been for President Bush to use his nuclear weapons to slaughter Iraqis until they complied with his demands, or until they were all dead. Then there would be little risk or expense and no American army would be left exposed. But if he did this, his cowardly electorate would have instantly ended his term of office, if not his freedom or his life.

They think that genocide is a good thing and that if the United States is to survive it needs to start nuking the wogs and replacing them with white people.

That's pretty spectacularly stupid. It's evil, of course, and it would have been responded to by every other country in the world (except for Canada; I'm sure that Stephen Harper would say "what a wonderful idea! Please annex my country now!") boycotting the USA and going into a massive frenzy of bomb-building and the occasional sub rosa transfer of nuclear devices to sufficiently enrange Iraqi refugees ("someone nuked San Diego? Wow, I guess you were right when you said that Iraq was working on The Bomb. Good luck finding the terrorists, oh, and get your ambassador the fuck out of our country before we peg him to the front of a HST and do some collision testing.")

It would be funny if they weren't the sort of people who get to whisper sweet nothings in Darth Cheney's ear (assuming he didn't ghostwrite the thing in the first place,) or if we had an oppositiongoverning (I keep forgetting that the Democrats are allegedly in control of Congress this year) party that wasn't also too timid to govern. As it is it's sort of awe-inspiring in the complete and total disconnect from reality that these neocons have.

She might be stupid, but she’s very cute and furry

Dorrie dozes on a dining-room chair
Tandoori Chicken takes a little nap on my dining-room chair.

Aug 18, 2007

Daily pollinator photo

A nice long drink of nectar. Sluuuuurp!

Waiting for someone to drop in

What better way to spend your saturday morning than to sit on the porch and wait for lunch?


Aug 17, 2007

Friday Dust Mite Blogging™

Dust Mite and Cat Tank.

Railroad picture of the day

A more normal consist pulling the Coast Starlight, but from a slightly different viewpoint; I was wedged up against the fence looking south across the Powell Ave viaduct when I went zoomy to take this picture.

Time to fly

When I was waiting for the bus to go home for lunch (I'm 10 minutes away from work and I have a bus pass) I noticed another bumblebee working the butterfly bush thicket by the bus stop. It was close to the chainlink fence that separates the sidewalk from the lot that contains the thicket, so I couldn't resist the temptation to take a few pictures. With the flash turned on.

Well, it turns out that this bumblebee was a sensitive sort. As I was clicking away, it turned and glared right at me, then jumped into flight and started flying around in a moderately indignant fashion. I took the hint and retired from the field, and only realized that I'd gotten one takeoff picture when I reviewed the photos when I got home.

Aug 16, 2007

Two railroad pictures are not enough

After I finished looking at the new trolley line, I went home via trolley->#17 bus->#70 bus, which should have been nice and fast. And it was, at least up until the point where I reached the bus stop at Haig & 17th, and then spent about 40 minutes cooling my heels as I waited for one of the one-every-15-minutes busses to arrive. This was annoying, but it wasn't a total waste, because I was still sitting at the bus stop when the 18:15 Cascades came sailing through Brooklyn Yard:

And the train was pulled by the P32 I saw last friday, so that answered why that engine was on the northbound Coast Starlight. Unfortunately I was located far enough away so I had to be zoomy to get the picture (and you can't see it but a Tri-Met bus was pacing the train and was just out of the left side of the picture. It wasn't [much of] a problem here, but it was approximately 30 feet behind the 507 when it swept by the foot of Haig St, so the hopeful dramatic engine-popping-out-from-behind-the-building photo became a not quite so dramatic side-of-a-trimet-bus photo.])

Trolley photo of the day

OrangeGreen departs from Gibbs St.

When I was walking down towards the new trolley line south of Gibbs, OrangeGreen was sitting at Gibbs St. When I stopped to take a snapshot, it started to move north, so one of the snapshots picked up some interesting reflections from the lens body.


A pre-opening peek at the newest trolley line in town

The latest extension of the downtown streetcar line is going to be opened for business tomorrow morning, so I wanted to go down and get a picture of it before the opening festivities started. Fortunately for me Tri-Met has been training operators on the new line, so some (most?) of the cars have been running light south of Gibbs and around the loop. Including Blue Green, which obligingly posed for a picture at around 17:30 this afternoon.

Aug 15, 2007

Life on the river (#22)

A submarine and large cruise boat look on as the embarrassingly named "Crystal Dolphin" returns from a two hour cruise.

Aug 14, 2007

This is not the bee you are looking for

A golden nectar eating fly

This nectar-eating fly was hanging out by the bus stop when I went home for lunch today. It wasn't about to be bothered by any pesky primate with a camera; the only thing it did to acknowledge my presence was to turn slightly towards me after I'd taken 5-6 (flash) pictures. It's a pretty big bug, too; it's about half-again the size of the bumblebees that were flying around the butterfly bush.

1 comment

Aug 13, 2007

Come into my parlour, said the spider to the fly…

... just wait a second while I finish building it.

More bee pictures™

A honeybee gives a demonstration of how to land on a butterfly bush.

Aug 11, 2007

A pretty flower with a little surprise inside

A tiny wolf spider waits for someone to drop in for a snack.

Don’t forget the bears!

Russell evades capture at the Oregon Garden Two bears plotting mischief of one kind or another Silas on the run

Cutest. Bears. Ever.

Red and Blue

Two dragonflies help patrol the skies above the swamp at the Oregon Garden

The Oregon Garden Frog Festival

The swamp at the Oregon Garden contains an unbelievably huge number of frogs, most of which spend a good part of every afternoon sitting there glaring balefully at those pesky primates who keep walking back and forth without producing the promised cornucopia of fresh delicious fruitflies.

Pollinators On Parade

We went down to the Oregon Garden and spent a few hours wandering around in the blazing sunshine today. One thing we noticed is that the bees just love this place, and were so dense that some of the lavender patches almost had one bee per sprig of flowers.

It would have been a shame to not take a few pictures, don't you think?

Aug 10, 2007

Friday Dust Mite Blogging™

The Ferocious Cat!
Dust Mite attempts to hide from a savage tiger.


From the department of "there are going to be some unintended consequences coming out of this one", a court has apparently said that, no, SCO lost control of their Unix copyrights when they merged with Caldera in 1995.

This has some spiffy consequences outside the realm of "you piss off a judge, you lose your intellectual property" that the frothing Linux fanboys at Groklaw have probably not considered. In particular, I'm thinking about the 2002 agreement to release all of the ancient Unices under a BSD-style license. If, as this court claims, SCO lost their Unix copyright as a result of their merger in 1995, there's no way they can change their licensing terms and release the code to the world.

So I can't ship vi anymore, or any of the other programs I've lifted from the ancient Unices and put into Mastodon. This probably doesn't matter to the fanboys, because they won't touch anything that isn't GPLed, but it's an extraordinarily annoying roadblock on my path to newer and better tiny versions of Mastodon, because now I need to go into OpenSolaris and see if I can reconstruct those programs from the now-BSDGPLed descendants of the Sun branch of the ancient Unix code (this branch happened in 1994, thank Ghu, so it's safe, for now, from this particular bit of property reassignment.)

I'm not going to even think about the implications of "you merged? Oh, all your copyrights went away, sorry!" but I think I hear shrieks of laughter coming from the Microsoft corporate offices as their senior officers get ready to go out and celebrate this unexpected, but delightful, mid-august surprise.


Life on the river (#21)

A zoomy sideview of the Ross Island Sand & Gravel tugboat as it pushes an empty gravel barge past the (remains of the) near southeast Portland industrial area.

Railroad Picture of the day

I didn't think that I'd be doing any trainspotting today. Yellow engines are not in very much favor around Chateau Chaos, and the northbound Coast Starlight was scheduled to arrive in Portland at 18:10, and if I waited that long for a train I'd arrive home to a den of ravening bears. So I decided I'd just take the bus home when I left work today.

Unfortunately, I was a little late out the door and I fell headlong into the now-traditional south-end-of-downtown traffic jam (Arthur Street is also highway 26, and a truly ridiculous amount of traffic comes through it during rush hour. It doesn't help that the road to the Ross Island Bridge turns off Arthur Street, goes up a ramp, narrows to one lane, mixes with an exit from Front Ave, then gets two more lanes of traffic feeding into it at the west foot of the bridge) and the #19 didn't arrive and didn't arrive and didn't arrive. So eventually I gave up on waiting for the #19 and walked one stop closer to the bridge, because that would put me at a #17 stop as well as the #9 and #19. As I suspected a #17 was the next bus to show up, so I hopped on to join the traditional creep across the bridge.)

If I'm riding the #17, I transfer at 17th and Haig because that's at the north end of Brooklyn Yard and there's a chance that something interesting might show up while I'm waiting for the #70. And by the time I reached this stop it was already 17:50, so there was actually a dim chance that something interesting might get there before the clock struck 18:02 and the next #70 came by. After all, 18:10 is quite late for the Coast Starlight and the engineer might have been able to make up a few minutes.

The signal tower to the north was showing green over red, which was a good sign, and I hadn't heard the chortle of twinkie whistles when I was waiting for the bus, so if the train had even recovered 5 minutes there was a chance that I'd see it before I had to bolt for the bus.

I parked myself on the sidewalk next to the derail and waited....

Oh, look, they made up 10 minutes!

It was nice enough to get a picture of the oncoming train (nicely framed by a tree, the Toonerville bridge, and the stainless steel office building that plays merry hob with exposure values when you try to take a picture of a train going by,) but as the train rushed towards me I realized that there was another surprise in the consist; it was not the traditional pair of twinkies, but was a far more interesting lashup:

A Twinkie, a P32, and a F59? Now that's something you don't see every day.

If I'd only known I would have tried to find a place somewhat further away from the tracks and gotten a side view of the three engines, but if I'd done that I would have missed the 18:02 bus. As it stood I got the pictures and then had to cool my heels for another 6 minutes before my connecting bus arrived.

All work and no play, honeybee-style

A honeybee works a dandelion blossom within camera-range of the 1st and Arthur bus stop.

Aug 09, 2007

Railroad Picture of the day

The Coast Starlight was running later than usual tonight, so I decided that I'd just go home without doing any trainspotting today. But when the #19 bus reached Milwaukie and Bybee, it was only about 17:30 and the online train arrival webpage said it would get into Union Station at 17:50. Hmmm. It only takes about 5 minutes for a passenger train to get from Milwaukie and Powell down to Union Station, and the train tends to blow through Brooklyn Yard at track speed, so if I went down to Westmoreland Park and planted myself on the Bybee Bridge I might be able to see the train from there. At worst, it would be a nice walk home from the park.

So I didn't pull the cord for my regular stop, but went down to the Westmoreland Park stop and walked up to the middle of the Bybee Bridge. Red signals to the south of me; good. Green over red to the north of me; good. No trains blocking both mains and the yard lead/departure siding; really good. And it was only 17:35.

Hi ho, silver!

10 minutes of waiting and what should appear but three headlights and eight tiny reindeer. Well, no, not really; it was just the #14 trying its best to make up lost time in a very photogenic fashion:

A twinkie and a F40PH lead the northbound Coast Starlight towards Brooklyn Yard
clickity click!


Aug 08, 2007

Portland, city of multiple aerial tramways

A lego aerial tramway
... it's just that some of the tramways are larger than the others.

Railroad Picture of the day

I'd planned to leave work at around 5pm today so I could get down to the SP Yellow Menace mainline in time to see the northbound Coast Starlight pass through east Portland. I ended up staying a little later than I thought, and when the bus got over the river I decided that I could get down near the mainline faster if I got off at 9th and walked down towards Division. This turned out to be a good choice, because I was still about a block away from the tracks when I heard #118 blowing for the 11th+12th street crossing(s); I broke into a dead run and reached the crossing approximately 5 seconds before the train popped out from behind the Northwest Natural Gas yard and blew across the crossing.

(The slight rotation of the picture is an artifact of my consistant inability to hold a camera level. My traditional way to fix this would be to do fine tuning with Irfanview, but I've replaced my Windows laptop with a MacBook, and MacOS, even though it's a fine operating system, doesn't have any image viewing programs that play in the same league as Irfanview. So I'm stuck with (ugh) iPhoto, which is like doing image processing with crayons and a popsicle stick.)

Aug 06, 2007

Close, but not quite right

The Stupid Party cycle of self-immolation

The big problem here is that it assumes a level of competency that is lacking from the Democratic congressional caucus. "Democrats Enact Horrible Policies", eh? These are not the Democrats I've grown painfully familiar with; from my 2500 mile viewpoint, it's a nonstop series of politically damaging leaks, fumbles (gee, who could have predicted that the Evil Party would filibuster *every single* Democratic bill? Apparently not the vast and well-paid army of strategists who hover around the Stupid Party like yellowjackets at a picnic) and own goals, punctuated by cries of "We meant to do that! It's our grand strategy to keep the Evil Party on the run!"

Sure, it's possible that the Stupid Party could actually be fiendish criminal masterminds that have a secret plan (to do what, exactly? To be a less-effective version of the Evil Party? Senator Clinton is honest about wanting to enshrine an Imperial presidency before she seizes the crown, but the rest of the Democratic caucus has trouble stating anything more coherent than "oooh, the scary Republicans are going to steal our babies!") in mind, but Occam's Razor applies here just as it does to the machinations of the Evil Party. The Evil Party acts evil because it is evil, and the Stupid Party acts stupid because it is stupid.

(I will admit that the Democratic Party is not as stupid as the Naderites, who proved to be sheep led by a Evil Party member in neo-progressive clothing. But that's not much of a comparison, because *topsoil* is smarter than a Naderite.)

(simplistic, but pretty, picture from Democracy In Action)

Aug 04, 2007

Oh look, it’s investment via clapping harder!

We've got a large wad of money shovelled away on the hopes that we'll survive until retirement age (and will then have a little something extra to make up for the Evil Party [ "We helped!" -- the Stupid Party ] looting of the US treasury. A lot of this money sits in mutual funds (which is about as useful as stuffing it into a mattress -- I watched my retirement funds climb steadily during the Clinton years, only to see those gains completely erased when the B*sh junta took over the country. But I digress,) which, as you can expect, are run by the parasitic classes that the B*sh junta caters to. In practical terms, this means very little beyond decade-long stretches of crappy returns, but in political terms it's very amusing.

Most of the mutual funds are operated by the parasitic class (they get their tax-free millions regardless of the performance of the stock,) so they've pretty much uniformly got a hard-on for the Coward in Chief. And they express their forbidden love for Maximum Leader Genius by wedging the occasional "everything is wonderful" letter into their embarrassing excuses for annual reports. Some of them have enough brain cells to realize that it might not be a good idea to piss off the 85% of the country that is not enjoying the benefits of the ongoing looting of the public purse, so they coach their mash notes in vague enthusastic terms ("well, yes, the airplane *did* crash and burn, but this means you don't have to wait at the baggage reclaim!") but occasionally their passion gets the better of them and you see something like The Hartford's attempt to get us to love the Evil Party.

We got The Hartford's "semi-annual report" just last week, and the cover of it has a little graphic of an Evil Party balloon and a Stupid Party ballon on it, with the title "Which is Better for Your INVESTMENTS? The Answer May Surprise You." This is suspicious to start with, because this year has seen a growing line of reports that say, not surprisingly, that the Stupid Party grows the economy better than the Evil Party does. You'd think that (a) The Hartford would be aware of this and (b) they'd not want to piss off their Evil Party customers (because if they did, those customers would realize that they weren't getting the so-called benefits of the wonderful™ Evil Party economy.) And, yes, the suspicions are well-placed, because the start of the report lists the increases in the stock market over the past 30 years (in a nicely biased fashion: The Evil Party did things that made the stock market go up, while the Stupid Party was just in power when the stock market mysteriously went up. Amazing how that works.)

But that's not the best part of it. No, the best part is this; the stock market has generally trended up over the past 30 years, except for one tremendous plunge that started after Maximum Leader Genius overthrew the US government and made the "no taxes for the rich" cargo cult the state religion. Now this is poison to the parasitic classes, because the Coward in Chief lowered taxes for the rich, and their Holy Book states explicitly that lowering taxes for the rich (and only for the rich; if hoi polloi had their taxes lowered then the government would have trouble borrowing enough money to cover the huge tax subsidies the rich already get) makes *everything* better in *every* way. So when you're looking at the B*sh junta and their approximately 2% increase in the stock market from 2001-2005, what to do?

Well, you take the list of presidents, show the stock market increase for the entire term of the rest of them, but you split the stock market results for the B*sh junta into two parts (one way down, one staggering back up to where it was) and blame the first two years on Clinton while claiming that the tax cuts for the rich was responsible for the (housing bubble-powered) increases in the second two years.

To quote Jonathan Schwarz, You just have to pray to god they know they're lying. (And that they'll continue to try gaming the system until you can get your money out of their hands and converted into a stable currency like rubles, Zimbabwean dollars, or the grey pebbles that the cloud-devils of Gliese C use as their currency.) It's as bad as the pretend Laffer Curve that the Wall Street Journal embarrassed itself with last month, but this embarrassment is being committed by people who actually have their hands on real money.

Aug 03, 2007

Friday Dust Mite Blogging™

play that funky music
Dust Mite listens to some tunes on our new(ish) iPod.

There’s always a silver lining

Down in my neck of the woods, there's been a long-running argument about what to do with the fairly ancient and really narrow Sellwood Bridge, which is very heavily used and in a steadily decreasing state of repair, but which has about 3 different constituencies warring over what to do with it.

There's the trucking industry (and the DOT), which really REALLY wants to see a new four-lane bridge so they can run their tractors back and forth without blocking traffic and collapsing the bridge; there's the local community, which also doesn't want to have the bridge collapsing, but really doesn't want to have a 4 lane bridge running headlong into the (formerly 4-lane, now two-lane) Tacoma Street; and lastly there's the people who live in the condominium complex that was built up around the east-side base of the bridge [when the bridge was built, the state didn't claim any extra air rights or condemn the ground under the footprint of the bridge), who don't give a tinker's damn about Sellwood and would be perfectly happy if it collapsed into being an industrial slum just as long as it doesn't infringe on their river view.

The bridge has been gently persuading the county to work on a repair or replacement strategy by the simple expedient of starting to fall apart (the main truss of this Lindenthal-designed bridge is apparently in good shape, but the approaches are not, but the DOT does not want to simply replace the approaches and leave the bridge as is) and the project has crept forward to the point where the county engineers are holding public meetings to figure out where to put a hypothetical replacement.

The simple solution (replace or rebuild the bridge in place) is, of course, the cheapest and least obtrusive, but the "obtrusive" part of the plan involves buying out and removing a few condominium units, so the condominium owners had a shrieking hissy fit and got the county to add a bridge option that would involve a new bridge located about a thousand feet north. This one would be much more expensive than the rebuild-in-place plans (by "much more expensive", I'm talking in the ballpark of US$80 million dollars, or enough money to physically dig up and shift the stupid condominium complex 20 feet north] and it would involve hacking a huge swath through the non-condominium part of Sellwood, demolishing more structures, and destroying the south end of Sellwood Riverfront Park.

In a sane world, the county would smile thinly, say "that's nice", then immediately shred this crackpot option. But, alas, river frontage == expensive == money == influence, so the option stayed on the table, even though it is loudly loathed by everyone in Sellwood who doesn't live in these condos.

Two days ago the I35W bridge over the Mississipi River in Minneapolis suffered a catastrophic fault and collapsed into the gorge. This was not a very old bridge (it was finished a few months before the Silver Bridge took a dive into the Ohio River) but it was built with approximately 0% redundancy and was not aging well even before it fell apart. This collapse focussed a lot of attention on the fairly terrible state of repair of many of the nation's bridges , even though the I35W bridge was not considered to be any more of a risk than the Silver Bridge was in the early morning of 15-Dec-1967.

One of the "terrible state of repair" bridges is the Sellwood bridge. So, almost as soon as the rubble stopped bouncing, some bright spark in the condominium "to hell with Sellwood" bridge committee was on the phone to the Portland Tribune, whining that the Sellwood bridge is unsaaaaaaaafe and that to protect the chiiiiiildren the county has to build a bridge across Sellwood Riverfront Park immediately. And they've got a website and and they've invited everyone to go to it so they can vote in favor of "yes! we want to have our parklands destroyed so that some wealthy propertyowners don't have to pack their bags and move to another waterfront condominium."

It's the American way, doncha know. Take a spectacular disaster and warp it into an excuse for your own political goals. It's helpful that the Portland Tribune is a fairly conservative paper that's been reliably sympathetic to the travails of the rich (this does not appear to be because of editorial interference from the owner; EVERY newspaper in Portland, including the alt-weeklies, is pretty conservative) and will print the latest episode in the story of Richie Rich and friends vs. the unwashed masses.

I don't own a riverfront property, but I *do* take advantage of Sellwood Riverfront Park. It might suck to have to cash a US$1 million cheque from the county and then move from one cheaply constructed riverfront apartment to another, but it sucks less than losing a nice public parkland and not getting a single thing in return.

Aug 02, 2007

happy birthday to me

A crowded city street, lego-style

Tuesday was my birthday, and the best and the bears gave me a lego building. Lego buildings don't come with enough people, so I scrounged around in the set pieces pile and livened up the scene a little bit.

Aug 01, 2007

So, just which “senior congressional Democrats” might this be?

(Regarding another B*sh junta's attempt to retcon legality onto one of their massively unconstitutional domestic espionage programs):

...Aides to senior congressional Democrats and Republicans say they recognize the threat and are willing to pass legislation to address it before Congress adjourns for a month next weekend...

(--Talking Points Memo)

Ahh, the lovely vague threat of congressional rollover. Now, it's perfectly possible that the Stupid Party caucus is itching for another chance to buckle under to the unreasonable demands of Mr 25% popularity [the House leadership is still claiming that even thinking about impeachment will get in the way of their agenda. You'd think they'd realize that this agenda will not go anywhere if the Evil Party can continue to freely place traitors and saboteurs within the bureaucratic ranks of the US government, but that is assuming -- against all evidence -- that the Stupid Party caucus is not actually stupid,] but you'd think that the chance of humiliating such a Democrat would be too tempting to pass up (either by the reporters at Josh Marshall Inc [the only remaining liberal news organization on the Mount Doom side of the Beltway] or by an Evil Party mole who wanted to see a little more egg on the face of the Stupid Party caucus.)

No, no, it smells like a memo from Mount Doom that's been carefully scrubbed of fingerprints and plopped down on the AP newswire to panic the Stupid Party into doing another stupid thing.


Obéir c'est trahir, Désobéir c'est servir