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American Beauty Redux

Engineer-Poet Words from others (18 comments)

I have the whole day off
'Cause it's a Saturday
There is a bluegrass band
Somewhere along the bay
Look at the lilacs bloom
Here am I painting the living room

I hear the bluebird sing
Don't let the day go by
Look at the blossoms blow
Over the blue blue sky
Oh with a wild perfume
Why am I painting the living room?

(Lou and Peter Berryman, "Why am I painting the living room?")

I had the luxury of having free time and energy last weekend, so I went to Great Smoky Mountains National Park to chill. I wound up climbing up to Chimney Tops on Saturday, which is a 1700 foot climb over 2 linear miles. It was Wednesday before my legs felt normal again... but I got some great pics from the end of the trail (not quite the top, I refused to try to climb the 50 feet of shale outcrop... I want to put the pics and video on Multiply but I don't know when I'll have time to do this).

The opportunity presented itself, and I went. Don't let opportunities pass you by, you'll feel a whole lot better.

more than 7 years ago



Engineer-Poet Engineer-Poet writes  |  more than 7 years ago

Engineer-Poet writes "Prompted by pressure from the Hon. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) and Tom Udall (D-NM), today the GAO released a ground-breaking report on peak oil. While it is arguably weakened by references to Richard Duncan's "Olduvai Gorge" theory and other fringe concepts, it deflates a number of widely-held misconceptions about ethanol, fuel cells, and a host of other things. Among the salient points:
  • US oil production peaked decades ago. Technology may slow the decline, but it is going nowhere but down.
  • Most of the major oil-producing nations in the world have either peaked, or appear to be peaking. (The list of "has-peakeds" includes Mexico, whose mammoth Cantarell field's production is dropping on the order of 20% per year.)
  • Most of the remaining oil in the world lies in politically unstable nations (think Venezuela and Iraq).
This is very much worth reading, not only for the graphs but also for the mind-opening discussions such as the difference between conventional oil, non-conventional oil and non-oil (page 7)."

Engineer-Poet Engineer-Poet writes  |  more than 7 years ago

Engineer-Poet (795260) writes "I use <blockquote><i> ... </i></blockquote> combinations when I'm quoting other people. This sets off their words nicely against anything I write, or that I'm quoting from another source.

Tonight I noticed that the text no longer goes italic inside these blockquotes. I can make text bold, but I cannot italicize it. Examination of the page source shows that the <i> tags are there, but the text does not display correctly.

I've tested this on other sites. The problem is unique to Slashdot.

Okay, Slashdot. This used to work. Why'd you break it, and when are you going to fix it? (And while you're at it, when are you going to allow us to use common symbol escapes like &cent; and the Greek alphabet?)"

Engineer-Poet Engineer-Poet writes  |  more than 8 years ago

Engineer-Poet writes "Per the San Jose Mercury News, competitors such as Google and Yahoo are meeting to discuss the issue of electricity in Silicon Valley. How much of the USA's 4038 billion kWh/year goes into data centers? Enough to make a difference. Data centers are moving out of California to spread the load and avoid a single-point-of-failure scenario. This is a serious matter; as Andrew Karsner (assistant secretary of energy efficiency and renewable energy for the Department of Energy) asked, "What happens to national productivity when Google goes down for 72 hours?" I'm sure nobody wants to know. (Though setting up to generate another 5000 billion kWh/year or so would put the issue off for at least a decade or three.)"

Engineer-Poet Engineer-Poet writes  |  more than 8 years ago

Engineer-Poet (795260) writes "What's the worst future a nerd could imagine? One without cars, air conditioning or the server farms which underpin the Internet, I suppose. This is going to happen if we don't get off fossil fuels. But over at The Oil Drum, I've got an outline for a completely renewable energy system to replace the full US consumption of gasoline, diesel fuel, and fossil fuels used for electricity (cross-posted here). The USA uses about 2900 billion kWh of fossil-fired electricity a year; I calculate a possibility of more than 5000 billion. That'll run a lot of graphics cards.

Hardware to turn biomass into electricity and remaining motor fuel needs: $270 billion.
Adding battery capability to all new light-duty vehicles in the USA: $50 billion/year.
Telling your die-off friends that the whole US high-tech lifestyle runs on renewable energy: Priceless."

Engineer-Poet Engineer-Poet writes  |  more than 8 years ago

Engineer-Poet (795260) writes "Lots of Slashdotters don't seem to want to think about either peak oil (peak fossil-fuels in general) or global warming. These are perfect geek topics, but the naïve implications are unsettling: fewer, smaller and less-fun cars, less petrochemicals (including plastics), less air conditioning, less electricity (which hits server farms), less of lots of things. This leads lots of people straight into denial: they do not want to think of the future being less comfortable or sophisticated than the present.

But fear not. We're swimming in energy, some of it carbon-negative and the rest carbon-free. While we're going to exhaust the Chateau Lafite Rothschild Devonian, there's plenty of Beaujolais Nouveau to be had. The major problem is that our technologies for using the fossil fuels don't work well for the flows of biomass and such which form this year's "vintage"; our return on e.g. cellulosic ethanol can be less than 10%. But they're coming along, from surprising directions. With biomass alone, the USA can replace all the motor fuel we use plus all the coal and natural gas used for electricity... and replace a billion-plus tons of atmospheric carbon emissions with a half-billion tons of carbon removals. How? By refactoring our whole energy model (which is not all that difficult and can be done incrementally). Breathe a sigh of relief, O geeks; neither your rides nor your server farms are inherently unsustainable. However, the details are neither simple nor obvious; ethanol is but a bit player, to list one deviation from common wisdom. The full story is posted at The Ergosphere and is scheduled to appear at The Oil Drum on Tuesday; read and critique before the masses see it!


Engineer-Poet Engineer-Poet writes  |  more than 8 years ago

Engineer-Poet (795260) writes "The previous experiment was interesting. Ms. Fuzzbutt didn't use the newspapers I put in her usual spot, but she did her business right next to them and found a way to kick the papers to cover her leavings. I was nonplussed.

To try to reinforce the message that ALL leavings should be left in the litterbox, I placed Ms. Fuzzbutt on kitchen arrest last night. Sure enough, all leavings were in the litterbox this morning. However, she sure didn't like it very much and I'm sure she's scared of me doing it again.

I don't want her to be scared of me. I need to find some other inducement, or why she's reluctant to poop in the box. Pity there's no way to ask her, so I have to test hypotheses instead.

On the theory that kittycats don't like to leave scat near their food, I moved Ms. Fuzzbutt's box from the kitchen to the tub in the guest bath. (She's tried to hide in there, so she obviously doesn't have a fear of that space.) Then I carried her to it and made certain that she knew where it was. (She doesnt like being picked up right now, she probably thinks I'm going to dump her in the kitchen all alone.)

I'm awaiting the results with a certain amount of worried curiosity.




Mathtah, it'th ALIVE!

Engineer-Poet Engineer-Poet writes  |  more than 7 years ago

I finally got around to backing up 38 GB of data (as a precaution, and a long-overdue protective measure) and loaded the latest Mandriva Free.


  • It got the ethernet port working again (no idea how I screwed up the old config).
  • I didn't have to use the backup.
  • It didn't mess with /etc/hosts, so all my ad-site blocks still work.
  • My passwords and everything are just fine - I can be myself on /. again!


  • It no longer mounts USB devices under /mnt, df doesn't show them, and I haven't yet found where it puts them.

But in the mean time, just about everyone else seems to have drifted off. Where is everyone? Multiply?


Funny things from the road

Engineer-Poet Engineer-Poet writes  |  more than 7 years ago

Driving the roads, you see the darnedest things.

I'll say it straight out: I don't like SUV's, or the sort of person who "needs" one to make a statement. I think they are overly hard to see around/past, their bumpers are too high for the safety of others, and the level of rollover fatalities ought to require a special license certification to drive one. When someone has added a bunch of unsafe features which guzzle even MORE fuel for the sake of "looking cool", that person has lost all claim on sympathy in my eyes.

Is it wrong to experience schadenfreude when such a bozo's stupidity comes back to bite him?

Leaving Santa Clara for Yosemite, I was cruising east on the 205 when I witnessed a bozo's moment of grief. Bozo was driving an Explorer with an obviously aftermarket paint job and oversize tires (gas wasters, and some of them are damned noisy too). But it was obviously too much effort for him to pay attention to where he was going, because as I and my travelling companion watched, he drifted his right front corner ever so slowly into the wheels of a semi-trailer in the right lane.

Debris scattered. He swung briefly left, right into the semi again, and then got away from it... too late. His tire had been at least knocked off the rim, if not shredded. He was rolling to a stop on his rim on the right shoulder as I went by. I suspect that he took a pretty good whack to the fender and corner fascia as well.

Bozo's trouble was entirely his own creation. I could see that his head was down, not keeping his eyes on the road. I feel for the poor semi driver who had to stop, but Bozo... am I wrong to wish him high enough insurance rates to force him to drive a Saturn or Corolla instead? Especially since he obviously doesn't have the smarts to drive safely?


Editting image metadata in Linux

Engineer-Poet Engineer-Poet writes  |  more than 7 years ago

I've got a problem and I hope you folks can help.

I came back from my little trip with about 1300 images from two different photographers (and several dozen AVI's, which aren't at issue here). The images are all JPEG.

The Windows image/FAX viewer software provides for rather comprehensive addition of metadata to JPEG files, or appears to. There are a number of fields to which one can add data about the image, creator, and such. This is such a great thing, I had planned to annotate every image in order to make the set more useful later.

These plans ran into a brick wall when I got the files copied to my desktop (Mandriva One) PC. The Gimp doesn't seem to admit that JPEG metadata exists. ImageMagick does claim a means of adding comments to images (and it's scriptable, which is a great thing) but I cannot for the life of me figure out how to print those comments or load from/save to a file. It's as if they are write-only.

Questions for the bunch:

  1. Do the Windows tools actually put metadata in the JPEG files, or is it a non-standard extension held in other files?
  2. If it's in the JPEG itself, what Linux tools should I be looking for to read and edit it conveniently?


Things are changing

Engineer-Poet Engineer-Poet writes  |  more than 7 years ago

My car MP3 player died halfway through the California trip. This left me with radio for my entertainment.

Passing through a radio market roughly once an hour means you cover a LOT of different milieus. One station I heard in the heartland somewhere was doing one of the things radio stations do: running a contest to try to drum up listenership.

The prize in this contest was a car. Time was when such a car would be a Corvette or Camaro or Mustang, but not any more.

These gas-guzzlers have apparently become passé. This giveaway sported a hybrid Toyota Camry.

Why not a Prius? Perhaps because Toyota can get list price for every Prius they can build!

If this is what's going on in the band across southern Illinois through Kentucky, it's a very encouraging trend.


Home (such as it is) again

Engineer-Poet Engineer-Poet writes  |  more than 7 years ago

I have returned to home, or at least the job site.

Ms. Fuzzbutt made it through just fine. She was actually happy to see me.

My neighbor (who made sure that things would be that way) isn't doing so well, and I'm doing what I can to help.

I have many hundreds of pictures (roughly 1300 between two photographers, plus several dozen short videos) and need to start sorting, renaming and adding metadata to them. (I got pics of the Moon and Venus within about a degree of each other, just setting over some rocks outside Bryce Canyon. My new camera has its annoying attributes, but sometimes it rocks.)

The Clean Tech conference reportage still isn't entirely written up. I still have my notes from Thursday afternoon to put into some kind of intelligible order. I also have quite a few hours of unpacking to do; meanwhile, the remnants of a tropical storm drizzle down upon the scene.

Back to work tomorrow. Wish me luck in re-adjusting.


At least it goes both ways

Engineer-Poet Engineer-Poet writes  |  more than 7 years ago

I went riding yesterday in the 90 degree heat and spent almost 2 hours pedalling. This morning I was down 3.2 pounds from Monday by the scale. It was a bit extreme pushing into the wind (I stopped a couple of times to check my map, guzzle water and just rest) but I think I did okay.

I always try to head out to windward so I'll have a tailwind home. This time the wind was out of the southwest, so I went to see different territory than I have before. It has a certain sameness, but there are also different things to see everywhere. One thing that strikes me is how much forested area there is. If people abandoned this land, it would be in scrub timber in a decade at most. There are empty houses which do not look to have been that way long, and trees grow right up to them. There are also ruins showing signs of careful gutting followed by fire.

I tested the "HALT!" spray on a yappy lapdog that chased me. Stopped it dead in its tracks. I'll have to see if it does the same on ones which are big enough to be dangerous.

The forecast is for rain through tomorrow, so I may not get another ride in before the weekend. I'm looking forward to it, though.

I gave my spare water-saver shower head to my neighbor. I'm becoming the local energy evangelist.


Oh, fudge

Engineer-Poet Engineer-Poet writes  |  more than 7 years ago

I got on the scale this morning and found that I'd fallen back. WAY back. I don't know if it was the pasta or the one lapse with fries for lunch (salt), but pretty much all my progress was lost.

I guess it was all water. I'm going to have to work much harder (and watch my diet very closely) to make real strides.


Now if I can only keep this up...

Engineer-Poet Engineer-Poet writes  |  more than 7 years ago

Got in another good ride yesterday. Had to cut it a bit shorter than I wanted due to a wind shift (I don't like coming home with a headwind if I'm trying to beat the sinking Sun) but saw some territory I'd never been past before.

Every time I do this, I am down a couple pounds on the scale the next morning. Roughly a pound seems to stay off for several days, and the effect is at least somewhat cumulative. If I can keep doing this for the summer, I'll be downright svelte.


What a surprise!

Engineer-Poet Engineer-Poet writes  |  more than 7 years ago

After an 8-day hiatus, I got out on my bicycle again today. I didn't quite hit my intended turn-around point (I got started late, and turned around to make sure I didn't run out of daylight) but all in all I got in a very good workout. I give myself extra points for the sprint near the end to catch a line of traffic and get through a major intersection before the light turned.

One funny thing: someone coming the other way actually started to pass, saw me, and pulled back in. I gave them a friendly wave as they went by. Maybe the locals just take a while to get used to seeing bicycles on the road?



Engineer-Poet Engineer-Poet writes  |  more than 7 years ago

I looked at cameras at the local store and was taken by two: the Fujifilm S5200 (on clearance at $255) and the Canon Powershot S3 IS at $350.

After checking the specs on-line, I think I am going for the Canon. The Fujifilm may have slightly better color rendition and a faster sensor (ISO 1600 to the Canon's 800), but the Canon has a better optical zoom, image stabilization, stereo microphones, USB 2.0 interface and it's more compact. The 5.2 vs. 6.1 megapixel is close to a wash.

I have seen the Canon priced on-line at about $300. Any better suggestions?


Tweaking the system

Engineer-Poet Engineer-Poet writes  |  more than 7 years ago

(possibly identifiable data within - persistence not guaranteed)

I work for a division of a massive company with some truly moronic policies. One of these policies relates to labelling. Drawers, shelves and equipment are supposed to be labelled, outlines of equipment put on surfaces so they can be located "properly", etc.

This makes a certain amount of sense on a production line. It's sheer lunacy to impose it on engineering workstations, but the policy implementation is one-size-fits-all. Worst, compliance is part of employee evaluations.

(I understand that I do not have to wish death upon the originator of this policy, because he's dead. At this point this atheist is hoping that providence created an afterlife and a Hell just so that he could get what he deserves.)

My move to new office space created an opportunity for snarky labelling. Our office does a certain amount of ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) work, and some areas and items are labelled ITAR. Accordingly, I labelled my bookshelves and drawers with the following:


Let them put that in their pipe and smoke it.


California, here I come... again.

Engineer-Poet Engineer-Poet writes  |  more than 7 years ago

Out of the blue, a friend from the ether presented me with a question: since it was 30 hours round-trip flight plus other things if he went (presumably from Australia), how would I like to attend the CleanTech 2007 conference as a member of the press?

I got my press pass last night. I have a few more arrangements to make (and a laptop to acquire), but right now it's ON! I'll be live-blogging it for The Oil Drum and The Alternate Energy Blog. ... oh, and I'll need a digital camera! (My old 35mm died last month.) Anyone got any suggestions? I'm drawn to the ones which look more like SLR's (big lenses), but I'm not sure these are really any better than the ones which retract their optics into clean rectangular packages. What do you have, and what makes you like it?


It's Bacchanalia out there

Engineer-Poet Engineer-Poet writes  |  more than 7 years ago

You may think of rednecks as straightlaced, but the stuff that goes on in "sleepy" towns can surprise you. This corner of Podunk has been swamped by a wave of libertinism. Everywhere it's sex, sex, sex, day and night! These libertines think nothing of doing their thing in public. They behave like pigs, too. Clean up after themselves? Hah! They leave remnants of their orgies everywhere. A little rain is just enough to wash it all into pools with a disgusting film on top.

Damn pine trees. They ought to behave discreetly and keep their pollen between themselves.


The #$&*!ers are trying to kill me

Engineer-Poet Engineer-Poet writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Nothing drives home the realization that you're living in Podunk more than encounters with rednecks.

Especially when they are encounters which could easily be fatal.

I broke a bit early from work on Tuesday to get in some mileage on my bike while I still had daylight. I had no real difficulty with traffic going my way, but on the last leg back into town I was run off the road by opposite-direction traffic coming into my lane (head on) to pass.

Not once, but twice in the space of a few minutes.

This constitutes reckless disregard for life and safety. I am going to consult the police about the legality of carrying small balloons of paint to mark the cars of such dangerous drivers, plus whatever's necessary to deal with the ones who decide to escalate.

No, I have no intention of leaving the roads. I can see these idiots coming, but I can't stand most other forms of exercise and giving it up is a road to ruin.


Some threat that was

Engineer-Poet Engineer-Poet writes  |  more than 7 years ago

So here I am, trying to play with Ms. Fuzzbutt, but she's decided that she's just going to sit there for 10 minutes instead of chasing the laser. Ergo, I decide to change the game.

I stand up and announce, "You better watch out!" and before I can get to "I'll pat your butt!" she's already jumped up on the bed and flopped down to be scritched. First time that's happened, but I think she's on to me.

I'm not sure which one of us is better-trained.


Time for a laptop. Recommendations?

Engineer-Poet Engineer-Poet writes  |  more than 7 years ago

I have been thinking about getting a laptop computer to go with my desktop for a while now. Years, in fact. But I've never done it, because I've never really needed one and my nature is to spend money on long-term value rather than short-term gratification. Laptops depreciate so fast they feel almost disposable, thus my reluctance.

Now, however, I'm in the position of having a need which cannot be satisfied by anything else. I not only need a laptop, I need one with all the trimmings:

  • Good keyboard.
  • Decent screen.
  • Really a laptop, not a notebook which can't sit on my lap for two hours without frying its CPU - or my legs.
  • Built-in wireless.
  • Is practical to work with in OpenOffice, do presentations in OOImpress, and the like.
  • Enough battery life to run through several hours of talks, using the WiFi.
  • And last but not least, SUPPORTED BY LINUX. It'll almost certainly come with Windoze, but if I can't boot and use Linux it's just not going to work out.

Who's got recommendations for brands, options, and vendors? What's good and not good about them?

NOTE: Please try to mention specifics for all the above bullet points if you recommend something. Screen size (both inches and pixels) is a big one. Typical price point is good too.


Not as bad as I thought

Engineer-Poet Engineer-Poet writes  |  more than 7 years ago

Between sleep deprivation, general stress and lack of opportunity to exercise, I put on about 20 pounds in the last year. I've been meaning to do something about this, but my fan trainer was such sheer drudgery I failed to get much good out of it. (Perhaps this will change if I can substitute a generator for the fans and see my output in watts - or maybe not.)

But down here in the south, it's already starting to get warm. I got out for a couple short rides last week, and today I took off early from work so I could take advantage of the great weather. Then once I was on the road, I decided to do a little exploring.

I explored quite a bit. I still have no idea exactly where I went, and I wound up about 2 miles north of the town I was more or less aiming for (the intersection put me back into known territory). I was pedalling for roughly an hour and a half, about 3 times my ride of last Thursday. I killed both my water bottles, too.

My legs are telling me that they took some damage, but all in all I did a lot better than I would have thought I could just this afternoon. I'm not in such bad shape after all!


My brain/mind vs. my bed

Engineer-Poet Engineer-Poet writes  |  more than 7 years ago

I've concluded that they share two major similarities and one major difference.

I've made neither of them up.
They're both wrinkled.

But only my bed has the world's laziest cat sleeping on it!


Stomach transplant

Engineer-Poet Engineer-Poet writes  |  more than 7 years ago

Over the last year or so, my Roomba became very ill and wouldn't eat. Charging it just made the battery hot, and it would only run a few minutes. Without treatment, it was not going to have a normal life.

I located a donor stomach at batteryspace.com. It arrived yesterday, and I performed surgery on the battery pack last night. After soldering the terminals onto the new battery and screwing the case back together, I buttoned the patient up and connected the feeding wires for the first time in many months.

It doesn't look like much is happening. The unit itself is cool as a cucumber even after 9 hours. But a brief test off the charger showed a green power light, and a full initial charge should take more like 12-15 hours. The patient's prognosis looks good.

Update: No power difficulties, but it has trouble negotiating this carpet! At least it can do the kitchen.

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