Thursday, December 31, 2009

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

LB2TR ... another task down

Wa Hoo! I got another thing solved on LB2TR. This one is laughably simple, so of course it took me weeks. I've been unable to get LB2TR to access my Windows PC on the home network. I tried and tried, which for me consisted of hitting the button to connect, watching it not work, then hitting it again. Yesterday when I was talking with my bro, who is much wiser about these things, I realized it could be the firewall blocking the connection. So today I turned off the firewall for 5 minutes on the Windows PC and BAM, there was the network. I moved some music files over that I had missed in my first transfer, then decided to configure the Firewall to recognize LB2TR as a friend. With the help of a simple ifconfig command in Linux I got my local IP address and then went to Norton firewall and made a rule allowing connections with that address. And the weirdest thing happened. It worked! I feel like such a grown up.

Now I'm off to play Harry Potter Clue with my daughters. I feel like such a child :o)

Swimming weirdness

Can you tell I'm on a swimming kick?

Ok, so I've been struggling to get my laps up in the swimming. I figure I'll do, what, half a mile or a bit more in 30 minutes? I can swim half a mile, but not without stopping. I swim a few laps, stop for breath for 30 seconds, swim a few more, and so on. But that's going to be embarrassing when I'm doing this indoor triathlon, because there will be all these swimming geeks making all the running geeks like me look like fools. They'll be cruising along, doing gazillions of laps, breathing every 3 minutes or something, and I'll be gasping through one lap at a time, with time for a quick nap between each lap. Or that's the fear.

So up until today, the most I'd done without stopping was 6 laps, which on the pool I'm swimming in is about 1/6 of a mile. Then today, I have no idea why or how, it just clicked. I did a lap, paused for a bit, then I did, get this, 14 more. Without stopping. I know those fish out there, the swimmers, will smirk when they read that but for me that was freaking HUGE. When I started this insanity a few months back I could only do 10 laps, and I was gasping for breath after each length, forget about the laps! Then I went and did 9 more, to get to the 24 I wanted, then I rested for a minute, then I swam another 4 just because. Twenty-eight laps baby! That's 3/4 of a mile. Slowly, with terrible form, but it's still something to be able to do it. This swimming thing is starting to come together.

So I should probably start thinking about sitting on a bike and peddling, at least once, before the triathlon. Just to round it all out.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

How I Spent My Christmas Vacation

First, let me say that I genuinely had a good time this Christmas. I saw people who love me, and none of them drove me crazy, which is a huge accomplishment.

But it was not all fun and games. There has been very minor emergency surgery, which, although minor and in no way life-threatening, was painful and has never been part of my plans for vacation. And I've also been sick with a run of the mill cold for six days, which is a big ol' chunk of my time off.

And I realize this sounds like a lot of bitching and whining, but the cold will eventually get tired and go off and bother somebody else, and the surgery, while not a long-term solution, did reduce my pain to the point where I was able to genuinely enjoy my vacation, so that's a win in my book. I also got to deal with a doctor who isn't a jerk and who didn't submit me to a giant bureaucratic nightmare of inefficiency and ineffective treatments. Instead, her office saw me (an out-of-town patient she hadn't seen in 3 years) ten minutes after I showed up on their doorstep looking sweaty and pathetic and begging for help, and I went home (well, home with my cousin and her husband) still in pain but knowing that the pain was being dealt with swiftly and kindly, which is the sort of thing that threatens to restore my faith in human nature.

Even more importantly, the larger end result of these two issues has been that I've spent a lot of my vacation on my ass. Which, frankly, I need to do deliberately someday, because if it's enjoyable when you're sick and recovering from surgery, I bet it is freakin' awesome when you're healthy.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Why swimming isn't popular in the Frozen North

Turns out that swimming and snow shoveling use very similar muscles. In theory, that means that digging my way out of a foot of snow on the holiday has made me a better swimmer. In reality, when I went to swim today, I was dragging two limp, heavy leaden things (otherwise known as my arms) through the water for a good half mile. It was unpleasant. This is probably why the universe made water freeze below 32 degrees. If it's cold enough to snow, you probably have to shovel, and if you have to shovel you won't be very good at swimming. Another mystery of the cosmos brought to you from the Frozen North.

Video gamers will like this...

This video is more focused on arcade/video games than the kinds of games I usually play, but most of us have a common history of Nintendo that is amply documented and satirized in the following ode. Thanks to Bill Harris, from whom I stole this (and many other) link(s). Bill writes a good blog, full of unicycles, sports games (which I don't play), and random interesting crap, which I enjoy immensely. Sometimes it's just SO interesting I can't keep my hands off it. Enjoy.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas to all ... and to all a better year

This has been a hell of a year for me and for many people I know, and many I don't. Here is hoping all of you; friends, family, imaginary readers, and even one or two real ones; a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanza, or just a nice day and a good, good, good new year.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Swimming is a way to keep from drowning ... that's common sense!

Have I used that title before? Here's hoping not.

Yes, swimming training does continue. I'm up to doing 24 laps (2/3 of a mile) when I swim, but I can only do about 6 laps before having to stop and gasp for air for 30 seconds or so. This is way way up from the 10 laps I started with but far short of what I'd like before the triathlon. Running is coming back, and I've done 30 + miles the past 2 weeks and hope to do a 15 mile this weekend (assuming the blizzard doesn't keep me from leaving the house). Those fascists at the Y insist on closing for Christmas, which will interfere with my training schedule no end! Something about spend time with your family. Haven't they hear of balance? Swim/run in the morning, family in the afternoon! Well, maybe not Christmas morning, now I think of it. My daughters would probably riot if I left early Christmas morning to work out and they had to wait on presents. Ah well.

This post is dedicated to good old, dead (sadly), George Carlin, who is the author of my title. George rocked.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Rothfussian coolness

I've mentioned Patrick Rothfuss before, and no doubt will again. He's the author of Name of the Wind, a very readable, very cool fantasy novel (his first) and at least as he writes a very cool individual. I put his blog in the links section to the right, in case anyone hasn't hooked up with it yet. Rothfuss seems to be a person of great energy and enthusiasms. It screams in his writings and blog, and it makes me wonder if he's that high energy in real life. Can anyone be that cool in reality? But that's not what I'm blogging about.

No, what I'm blogging about is his current fund raising effort. He's doing his second annual fund raiser for Team Heifer, a charity he is sponsoring that provides, you guessed it, livestock to folks in need (aka I assume other countries). The way he is doing it is quite cool - he has gotten loads of authors and publishing houses to donate signed copies of their work to him, which he then either auctions off, or puts in a general lottery. He's got signed stuff from, among many many others, Brian Sanderson, Neil Gaiman, Katherine Kerr, George R.R. Martin, and Sarah Monette. He has some original typed manuscripts (the ones submitted to the publisher) and drafts of published books with author edits and all that. But what really caught my attention was that he's got a team of four people (including himself) who are auctioning off a reading and critiquing of your manuscript, if you have one. So some aspiring author has a chance to have their work read by either a hugely best-selling novelist or that novelists agent or another established author, or another agent. Which, I imagine, if you're just starting out as a writer, would be absolutely huge. The auction is already over and people ended up spending between $600 and $1300 on those reviews. Lotta cash, but I bet the winners are thrilled at the chance. It makes me wish I had written a novel.

It looks like other aspects of Rothfuss's charity event are still going, so if you're interested head over and check it out. And if you're not, well, fine, don't get a chance at a signed Neil Gaiman book! See if I care!

Small victory

Well, another milestone on LB2TR today. I got Heroes of Might and Magic 2 to run with all the sound working, including the CD opera sounds. Sound like a small deal? It is! But it's a cool one. It actually took more fooling around with DOSBOX than with Linux, but it did end up using some very basic command line work in Linux, and now has me wondering about how to write shell files so that I can automate some of the processes I just used. I'm finding the Linux experience to be interesting. It's like I know there are ways to do all of these things, but I don't know what they are. Sometimes I feel like I'm in a time warp and I'm running a DOS machine from the command line, and other times I feel like I'm running Windows XP. But no matter which mode I'm in, I'm still trying to figure out the right terms, short cuts, or whatever to make it all work. It's like trying to speak a dialect of English, but one that is just different enough that I can't quite get it down.

This is exactly what I had thought would happen, and exactly why I'm trying to do as much as I can on this machine. The only way to learn a language is to speak it, and the only way to learn a new OS is to use it. So on I go. But now with a cool game complete with cool sound to keep me company. It's the small victories that count.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Cool song from Green Street Hooligans

Green Street Hooligans was an interesting movie about football hooligans in England. It wasn't great, or classic, but I absolutely fell in love with it. No really great reason for it. I think I just resonated with the idea of this kind of nerdy guy finding a family and finding his backbone and himself with his "band of brothers."

The final minutes of the movie, the climax, takes part with the song "One Blood" by Terrence Jay playing. It was pretty powerful, and a great song. So here's the song for your viewing/listening pleasure. If, by watching the video, you conclude that the movie was pretty violent, well, yeah. It was about hooligan gangs, after all. But a good movie all the same.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Naked in the locker room

I feel that every now and then a quality blog, as we aspire to produce, needs a post about naked people in the shower. It just adds a certain, I don't know, maturity to a blog. A sense of worldliness, and comfort. Kind of like an Italian leather sofa does for a living room (I assume). Right?

So here is the annual naked people in the locker room, and you're welcome. I was taking a shower after a workout the other day, and I was there, and a few other naked guys were there, and a fully clothed guy was there working on one of the shower heads. He's a maintenance guy, I guess, and I suppose it didn't occur to him to strip down before coming in to work on the shower head, but maybe it should have. Because if you're a naked guy, surrounded by other naked guys, all taking a shower, well that's one thing. You keep your eyes straight ahead, you shower, and you dry off and get dressed. But you don't feel too weird because you're all in the same boat. But if you've got a fully clothed guy there, no matter how many naked guys there are other than you, you suddenly feel weird. It's like those dreams you have where you're naked and every one else around you is clothed and you're hoping they won't notice (or am I the only one who has those dreams?). SO there's fully clothed guy, and the rest of us, and it was awkward!

So what should be done? Well one option is to send fully clothed buys in there after hours so this doesn't happen. Failing that, perhaps a moderate approach. I'm not saying that mechanics should show up with nothing but their tool and a tool belt (get it? tool? I made a funny). But maybe they should do just a bit to make the rest of us feel better. Like taking off their shoes and maybe their shirt. Ok, so they may look stupid then, but I'll feel a whole lot better. And I'm sure that's their top priority, right? Right?

Monday, December 14, 2009

At the Risk of Becoming My Mother

(I know, some of you are thinking, "too late.")

I heard this piece on NPR this morning and thought of my favorite runners. Ari Shapiro, always personable, tells Rachel Flotard that her exuberant "Hand Me Down" has dramatically improved his running time. Flotard's interview with Shapiro sounds so fresh and unrehearsed, which is one of the things I love about a really great interview. Sometimes you see so many musicians on late night tv, where their appearances are boiled down to the most mainstream of their anecdotes and the laughter seems not so much canned as frozen and then reheated. It's nice to hear actual humans laugh together--like real whipped cream on a homemade pie. Flotard's openness on the air charmed me utterly. Plus, the song has a great beat. Listen if you haven't heard it.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

LB2TR update

Well, the thing is together, has been humming along all day, no problems, no crashes. I've got DOSBOX installed and am able to run HOMM2 and MOO, both favorites of mine, though HOMM2 for the moment has no music (which sucks, the music in HOMM2 is my favorite of any game I've ever played). I found a front end for DOSBOX that runs in Linux (DGBL, found here). I'm working on getting ALL my mp3's onto the hard drive, which will be nice now that I've got Amorak up and running and, even better, playing MP3s. For those who end up doing this, Amorak is not set up to run MP3s by default in Ubuntu because Ubuntu does not install the interface (codecs?) for MP3 or other proprietary formats in its default installation. You have to download those separately, and in my case I found a tip to install a second sound program that included the drivers which then allowed Amorak to do its job. So far I like the Amorak interface better than MediaMonkey (whose interface I've grown to not like) but I have not tried to work with the Sansa Clip just yet. That will be the true test, as that is where other apps have failed me.

In contrast with Xbuntu, which I ran on the smaller box, I'm finding Ubuntu to be more user friendly and Windows-like (even though that is kind of an oxymoron) but also much more resource intensive. Fortunately, this pc is in many ways the fastest rig I've got so it should be up for just about anything Ubuntu is going to need.

The current projects are going to be getting a linux-based lightscribe set up (I know, Lightscribe is purely cosmetic and maybe even worthless, but the drive I got has it and I want to use it for a project), get all my mp3's over, get DOSBOX running like clockwork, and start to try to do as much of my computing as possible on this box. That's the only way I'll get even a passing familiarity with Linux. As you can tell, I'll be giving you all ridiculously detailed updates as this progresses.

BTW, this update is brought to you by and on the insanely quiet, very cool LB2TR.

Random Factoids from the Empire

I've had Niall Ferguson's book on the British Empire on the side panel of the blog for some time, and the fact is I finished it a few weeks back but was too lazy to put in the pics of the current books (one by Krugman on depression era economics, and another fiction book by Baker set in New York during the draft riots - think "Gangs of New York" with more history). I'm a very poor historian and so don't really feel I can give you a good description or commentary on the book. It was quite readable, and I enjoyed it and certainly learned a lot. But since I am unable to give you a coherent review of it, let me instead give you a few brief factoids that caught my attention:

1. The British Empire started with pirate ventures to steal the proceeds from other empires (notably the Spanish).

2. The colonists who conducted the American Revolution were actually much better off, tax-wise and so forth, than British subjects living in Britain. The revolution was not so much about people being taxed more than they should have been (the Brits were actually quite wishy washy with their tax policies towards the colonies), but that the taxes were being levied without representation - the colonists never got a say. Of course "no taxation without representation" is the traditional recollection of the rallying cry, and this fits it, but I had always thought that the colonists were suffering under incredibly repressive and unfair taxes before the revolution. Turns out that was not the case.

3. The guy who found Dr. Livingston ("Dr. Livingston I presume") turned out to be an SOB who ended up working for leaders who were involved in the slave trade (something Livingston abhorred).

If, as you read this, you get the idea that the book had a large scope and covered just oodles of information then you've got the right idea. If you get the idea that I'm an ignorant man who didn't know all that stuff before, well, you're correct on that. If you get the idea it's time for me to update the books listed on the side-bar there, you got the hat trick!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Quick Update ... LB2TR

A quick update on Linux Box 2 - The Revenge (LB2TR henceforth and for all eternity). The parts arrived, the build went well, I TOOK PICTURES (so further posts are a-coming), and I've got Linux installed and running updates as we speak. So far it's been a remarkably easy, low key build (fingers crossed, knock on wood, and so forth). It's possible I'm finally, 4 or 5 builds later, getting the hang of this stuff.

And yes, it's quiet. Not so quiet I can't tell it's on at all (that's the dream, my friends, the dream) but MUCH quieter than it's brother sitting right next to it. I've got the case open as I type this (so I can see if any sparks start flying out of it) and even with the case open and right next to my head it's much much quieter.

So I'll put some pre-post pictures up soon, including Heatsink-Zilla, the very heart of LB2TR. But I'd like to wait until I can post those from LB2TR itself (so I can also check out the USB 2.0 functionality and photo editing apps, among other things). But so far so good.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

London Underground Shower Curtain

Is it wrong that this makes me unreasonably happy? When I was furnishing my apartment I looked in vain for one of these. I love functional art, and the London Underground map is a thing of beauty.

No Shiner

A heck of a bruise, but no actual black eye, thank goodness.  And my colleagues are off the hook for offering me a way out of my abusive relationship with myself.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Surfers are freaking insane

I'm not what you could call a surf fan. Although I have watched "Surf's Up" with my kids about a gazillion times. But out of curiosity I checked out this website of a big wave surfing tournament (here) and it is just incredible. These guys are gliding along, and then getting demolished by, the hugest waves you can imagine. People say runners are nuts, but if you fall down on a run, as I've said many times before, you won't drown.

It's almost all here!

Well, today the case, CPU, and sound card arrived. Yesterday I got the mobo, graphics card, hard drive, and power supply. The power supply is frigging huge, and looks like it could power a large killer robot with death rays and earthquake shoes. The video card is tiny and quaint. It's kind of fun to buy a video card that is NOT supposed to run Killer Games of High Res Death. It's small, and passively cooled, and weighs about 1/3rd of any other graphics card I've seen in the past year. And I can officially state now that the heat sink weighs more than any other component except the case (which is a battle ship) and the power supply (which is its nuclear reactor).

I'm going out of town for a few days, and I'm still waiting for a dinky little DVD drive (the only component not picked to be silent, mostly because I won't be using it much). So I'll be putting it together this weekend hopefully. And then maybe the linux can really take off. OR I just blew a whole lot of money to have a large, very quiet paper weight. Let's hope it's the former.

The Woman Who Walked Into Doors

For clarity's sake, this is not Shifter. This is Katy.

I point that out, because I'm about to admit to being really clutzy, and I would hate for anyone to confuse me with the marathon-running, linux-box wrangling Shifter.

For the last six months I've been bruising with ludicrous ease. I suppose I should go and get blood tests or something, but until this month I didn't really realize it was so incredibly pronounced. Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I hit my shin getting into the tub, and it blossomed into the most incredible bruise. I mean a serious bruise, the kind that when you see it on a co-worker, inspires an ethical debate in your head about whether or not you should ask her if she has somewhere safe to go. I still have it--last week it was blue and green, and this week it's a deep wine-red.

Tonight I opened my car door in a tight space, lost my footing, and smacked my eye socket into the corner of the car door. And as I twisted heavily into the driver's seat with the kind of grunt that should really only accompany championship weightlifting, my thoughts were these:
  1. Wow, that could have done some serious f***ing damage to my eye. I'm freaking lucky.
  2. Oh, yeah, that's gonna leave a mark.
I'm home, not twenty minutes later, and there's already a dark mark over my eye. I'm taking bets on whether I'll have a shiner in the morning. I'll try to let y'all know. We'll see how ethical my co-workers are, too, while we're at it.

And nobody's allowed to take any photos of me this Christmas.


Sunday, December 06, 2009

The first part arrives, and I lose another little piece of my sanity

Ok, first thing's first. The heat sink arrived. All I can say is Wow. This thing is big. Really big. I mean, you may think it's a long way to the corner to pick up a paper, but that's just peanuts to this heatsink. Listen... Whether you get the reference there or not, this sucker is huge. So it turns out that quiet and big mean the same thing in the cooling world. What really scares me though is that this was NOT described as one of the larger coolers available. It's modest size for this crap. So if I had gotten a BIG one, I imagine I'd need a second case just to hold it. I'll post a picture of the titanic that I'll be mounting in my PC case later.

Ok, next thing's next. One of the things I hate hate HATE about my job is IRM. You know, the people whose JOB it is to help me do MY job by managing informational technology like, say, computers. So 3 months ago, no kidding, I ordered a new wide screen monitor. Because of where I work, I couldn't just call IRM and say "I need a wider screen monitor - I'm working with data from up to 10 different programs, pdfs, and word files all at once and need to be able to have them displayed on a larger screen." No, that would never work. Instead I had to use some money left over from a grant to order my own monitor. Which I did. 3 months ago. I had to nag, I had to wheedle, I had to harass to get the money, which is supposed to be used at my discretion, spent on time according to my discretion. 3 months ago. Then came a series of every other week emails and phone calls to make sure the thing was actually going to arrive. So finally, FINALLY, the sucker arrives. I know it arrives because some guy shows up at my office door with a huge box. "Did you order this?" "Why yes." "Why?" "To go on my pc." "Ok, sign here." "Are you going to hook it up?" "No, you have to put a work order in for that." And off he goes.

So I spend the last 30 minutes of my day uninstalling the old monitor, assembling the new monitor, and hooking it up to the machine. Mind you, I am a rather expensive person, salary/hour wise, to be crawling around hooking up computer hardware, but if that's how the system wants me to spend my time, who am I to argue. I get it all hooked up, but of course can't install the driver for the monitor because I have no admin privileges. No problem, right? I just call IRM and put in a work order. Which I did.

So today I get a phone call. "HI this is July from IRM. Did you put in a work order to install a monitor?" "Just the driver to the monitor." "Why did you get a new monitor?" "I purchased a new monitor with research funds so I can work with multiple applications and documents simultaneously." "Oh, well you can't switch monitors with leased pc's. Your pc is leased. It has to stay with the same monitor. So we can't install drivers for a new monitor." "But I bought the monitor, it's sitting right here on my desk." "Well, I can try to get you a wide screen monitor that is leased." "But I have this new monitor, bought and paid for, sitting on my desk. If you do that I've bought this new monitor for nothing." "Yes." At this point, my head is in my hands and I'm feeling like a dog who has been kicked about 100 times too many.

SO I say, in a strangled whisper, "Well, I would really appreciate it if you could get me a wide screen monitor." "Ok, I'll put in a work order." "While you're at it, could you put in a work order to install the codec I need to view the video files for this research project in Windows Media Player?" "I don't know if we support that application." "Really, you don't support Media Player?" "But you said we had to install a codec." "Yes, the codec is the information media player uses to decode a new video file format." "Oh, I guess we can do that."

At this point I can barely speak. I say thanks and hang up.

I was going to try to elucidate the things wrong with this exchange. I was going to start with the wastefulness of one part of an organization buying a monitor for me and another part refusing to let me use it, then ask again whey they want a PhD program manager using his time to do basic IT work, then discuss the whole work orders upon work orders thing, then perhaps rhapsodize about having to justify why I'm doing things to two different, seemingly and alarmingly equally incompetent people, and then ask how it is someone in an IRM job does not know what a codec is. I was going to start there and then just keep going, but as I started to write that I started to get more, and more, and more depressed so I think I'll just leave it at this simple description:


That's been my catchword for the entire episode, and no doubt will continue to be so every time this crap turns up.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

End Of The Year Charities

I'm not sure it's really a charitable contribution if you feel like the organization is on a mission to save your brain and your soul, but fortunately the IRS doesn't get that granular about it. This week saw two pledge drives on my radio on Thursday--my local public radio station and a plea from Ira Glass to support the podcast of This American Life.

I admit, I missed the local NPR pledge day. I would feel guilty if I weren't already supporting two other public radio stations (I make monthly contributions to stations in two cities where I used to live, including to WNYC, which produces a lot of the programming that I listen to on my local station). I listen to WNYC whenever I can, and I really almost never listen to the local station--now that I have the squeezebox I'll probably listen to the local station even less.

I did, however, remember to contribute to support This American Life. I really love the show, and I rarely miss it. Now that I have the internet radio, I suppose I could get it without the podcast, but I love the flexibility of listening to it on my own schedule, especially at the gym. If I can stay on gym equipment for the entire hour of a TAL podcast, I'm doing pretty well. And I'm a sucker for Ira's pledge drive spots. So this year I made that my third monthly contribution to public radio--I'll try to get the local radio station the next time they have a drive.

The other contribution I made (a one-time contribution from which I hope to benefit enormously) is a contribution to the Moth in New York, which produces shows composed entirely of people getting on stage in front of a mike to tell true stories without notes. Again, I listen to the Moth's podcast faithfully, and I really love it--it's a great way to learn about the real world that people live in, and to remind me of how complicated and special people are, which I really need right now. And members allegedly get the opportunity to buy tickets early, which is the only way I can get into any of their events--even if I get out of work 45 minutes early to get myself to the city, the odds are good that I would still have to stand in line for over and hour and find out that no more tickets were available. I hope it works out so I can attend a few shows.

If not, both contributions are tax deductible, and that's always nice come April.

If you haven't listened to either podcast, I encourage you to try them:
This American Life Podcast
The Moth Podcast

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Mmmmm, Internet Radio

Imaginary readers, I ask your indulgence. I have done a terrible, terrible thing.

It was cyber Monday. I was browsing for a gift for my parents (which, for the record, I did find and purchase--we'll see how they like it). CNET had a gift guide, and it told me about a hot deal on an internet radio. So I bought one.

I've been looking at them for a long time. I miss my WNYC (I can get it at work, barely, but by the time I get home, it's hopeless). I miss BBC World Service when it's not 4 a.m. GMT. I am often curious about what's on my college radio station. God help me, sometimes I wonder what ever happened to Gene and Julie. Also, I can't wait until CD's are a thing of the past, like in Star Trek, TNG (although if my Squeezebox fails to interface with me via Majel Barrett's voice, I'm okay with that). The possibilities of an internet radio were tantalizing.

I had been looking at the Grace Wireless, mostly because the Squeezebox was way out of my price range. Well, on cyber Monday it fell briefly into my price range, and I was working a friggin' 14.5 hour day at work, and I thought, what the hell, I'm single and I can buy myself a hugely expensive radio if I want one. And yes, I know that represents a reprehensible and unhealthy coping mechanism. But I have a new toy and I'm excited and I don't care.

So far it is very sexy. Setup took about 4 minutes (20 if you include loading all my favorite radio stations, my podcasts, my entire music library, and my purty screen saver, plus setting my music settings and my alarm). There are things I'm still not sure about--can I sleep to one thing and wake to something else? Will I find an easy way to listen to my audiobooks using it? Will I listen to more music than I do now? I'm looking forward to finding out.

And I am really looking forward to hearing Soterios Johnson's voice tomorrow morning, for the first time since I left Brooklyn. Everyone on morning radio is more chipper than I am, but somehow Soterios managed to make me just a little more chipper myself...and that's not easy at 5:30 in the morning.

It's in the mail!

Well, I ordered it last night. All the parts for my new wonderful Linux Box O' Joy. Except the hard drive and dvd drive - those are cheap enough at Best Buy for me to run down the road to pick them up. Here's an interesting fact. Newegg has free shipping on just about everything worth buying. So after I ordered a BIG computer case, a power supply, a motherboard, a video card, a CPU, and 2 sticks of RAM from them I was charged a total of $9 for shipping. does not have free shipping. So once I ordered a small heat sink from them I paid $10 in shipping. I'm sure that says something profound, but I'm just not quite sure what.

Stuff should be arriving in the next 2-3 days and my study will quickly look like a post office with loads o' boxes and packing materials. And when things finally slow down at work in a few weeks I'll start putting it all together. Fingers crossed for no DOA components. Nothing screws up a build like a defective component you'll have to wait 2 weeks to replace.

One last comment though. I just can't tell you how happy it makes me to be building a system and NOT worrying about paying $200 for the damn operating system plus whatever the office software costs. And to know that I can upgrade this new box as many times and in as many ways as I damn well want with NO concerns about the dreaded "reactivation" process. Yes, that alone makes Linux a very good thing

Monday, November 30, 2009

Heat Sinks

So I had promised to keep you all updated as I go through the Linux II the Revenge build, so here is the latest. The latest is: rocks. Frostytech is a website that reviews CPU heat sinks. That's all it does. But it does it well. They review their coolers in terms of noise and thermal performance (which is the whole point of a cooler, after all) and even provide an up to date top 10 list. Turns out that the coolest heatsinks are not the most quiet, which is to be expected. If you hook a Dyson vacuum up to your system you'll keep it pretty cool, but it'll be a bit noisy. Also turns out, to my regret, that the beautiful Zalman heatsinks I was looking at are not rated anywhere nearly as quiet as I had hoped. At high speeds they're just as noisy as the stock fans that come with the CPU's! They cool the CPU a whole lot better, but since the whole goal here is to be QUIET, and since I'm not likely to need to do a lot of overclocking on the Linux box, it seems Zalman is not for me. So instead I'm going to go with a Scythe Zipang 2. No, I have no idea what Zipang means. Most of the other coolers that Scythe makes have names like, I kid you not, the Katana, the Ninja, the Shuriken, and the Big Shuriken. Given the options, I'm just as glad the one I'm going for has a name that sounds like it came from Ikea instead of Dawn of the Ninja. The Zipang has very good specs for both noise and cooling, and costs only about $10 more than the Zalman. On the down side, it's no where near as cool looking:

13 Hours and Counting

My project gets moved to production on Friday.  Or at least, it will if I keep putting in hours like this.  I'm still at work.  Still testing.  Still getting documents all lined up for approval and whatnot.  I would have had a fairly long day today, except that the third party system we are implementing is actively gaslighting me--it tells me things have failed when they have actually succeeded, which took a while to figure out.  I'm not sure whether it's just being stroppy or whether it's just confused because we've done so much stuff in the test system at this point (some of it very ill-advised just because part of testing is making mistakes) that it's hopelessly confused.  I imagine it saying, "I don't know what the truth is anymore, dammit!  Just leave me alone!"
One day down.  Only 18 more days until vacation....

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Speaking of Carl Kassell

I heard my favorite episode of Wait Wait Don't Tell Me on NPR today. It has John Cena, who I guess is a famous pro wrestler, as the guest. It turns out he is remarkably well spoken and funny, and I laughed out loud. If you've got ten minutes free, check it out here.

LInux Box 2, the Revenge

A while back I posted about building a linux box, then turning it into a Windows box (for my wife), then refurbishing a Very Old system into another linux box. Then I shut up (about that). Well, now it's back and this time it's serious.

So here's the thing. The old linux box works fine except that 1) it's too old to run some features (such as the Ubuntu desktop and high speed browsing, necessitating the use of the XFCE desktop environment) and 2) the mobo has a bad fan that results in system reboots every 30 minutes or so when it's under any kind of load. The first one is annoying, the second one is the kiss of death. So I decided it's time to upgrade the linux box. But in order to do that, i have to replace the mobo. And in order to do that I'll have to upgrade almost everything else, because the cpu, memory, and video card are all old enough that they will not work with any modern mobo that I get.

Well, if you have to upgrade your mobo, CPU, ram, and video you're pretty much doing a new system. All that's left is the case, power supply, optical drive, and hard drive. That got me to thinking. Why not just go with a whole new system? Why bother, you ask? Well, because what I want to do is build not only a fairly modern system, but also a very quiet system. Partly this is because I'm sick to death of hearing loud whirring fans every time I boot up, and partly because I'd like to be able to have the linux box running a media player while I'm working on the Windows PC. Normally, of course, you can just have Media Monkey or whatever going on the same PC as you run another Windows app, but this doesn't work as well if you're gaming or watching a movie or what have you. But if I'm going to have 2 machines running, one to play music, I want that machine to be quiet, not overloading my ears with more loud fans. Actually, my hope is that I'll get good enough at linux that I'll only use this machine for gaming. But even if I've only got one machine going, it would nice for it to be silent.

So with the help of sites like, tomshardware, anandtech, and so on I've been learning how to build a silent pc. Turns out it's not all that hard - just think passive cooling, very good airflow, good case design, and lots of room and it all comes together. I say lots of room because the CPU coolers that are quiet tend to be big, exotic, beautiful things that are anything but compact:

And the video cards that have passive cooling aren't exactly svelte either:

So what ends up being weird is that the 2 most expensive components of the whole machine are going to be the case and the power supply! Back in the day, those were the afterthoughts of a computer build - you spent sixty bucks and you were set for both. But not if you want a good case and a solid, quiet power supply. The case has to be big enough to fit all this stuff, and has to have good airflow so that a few big, quiet case fans can keep the air moving over the passively cooled components (which is pretty much everything other than the cpu). This is also important because the low noise power supplies don't run their own fans as often or as quickly, they're designed not to need to, and power supply fans typically help move air in the case and keep things cool.

So that's the next project. And will I be posting about here as it progresses? Magic 8 Ball says "it is decidedly so!"

Google Chrome

A couple computer posts coming at you. Here's one on Chrome.

I didn't jump on the Chrome bandwagon when it first came out. To tell you the truth, I'm out of the loop enough that I didn't even know Chrome existed until I started hearing bad things about it - mostly about some weirdness in their terms of use that "attempts to give Google rights to any user-generated content "submitted, posted or displayed on or through" the browser." This was enough to turn me off, although in typical Google fashion the concern was noted, acknowledged, and fixed. (for those of you with a life, Chrome is a web browser, like Internet Explorer, put out by Google as they continue to compete with Microsoft for world domination). About a year after its release I decided to give it a try, partly out of curiosity and partly because I was tired of Firefox's load time. I'm part of that extremely spoiled group of users who thinks that if you have a reasonably up to date system, you shouldn't have to wait several seconds for a commonly used app to load up.

So down was loaded the Chrome, and here we are today. I'm happy to report that overall I'm quite fond of the browser. It's load times are indeed faster than either IE or Firefox, it's use is intuitive, and it has some nifty features. It's address bar, where you type in web addresses, doubles as a google search bar, so that what you type in can lead directly to either a search or a specific web site. As is now mandatory for any current browser, it supports tabs, and it does so very easily (there's a little plus next to your open tabs that, when you click it, pops up a new tab for you). It has an "incognito" mode that, when you use it, prevents the browser from downloading or retaining any information from the sites you visit. (Note that this does nothing to prevent the sites from storing their own information, but it won't be on your PC). As I kind of expected, aside from incognito mode (which you could achieve by tweaking the settings of IE or FF, though not so conveniently), Chrome doesn't offer a lot, at least in terms of immediately apparent functionality, that the others don't. But it's slick, easy, stable, and fast so I like it. I have heard that it uses a "sandbox" approach to improve security, although I haven't read very much about just how effective this is. If it would stop even half the malware that my wife comes across I'd make her start using Chrome.

I should point out that I'm hardly a power user when it comes to web browsing. I'm fairly modest - a few youtube videos, some blogging, some online shopping, and a fair amount of googling for trivia. So there may well be limitations I just haven't come across or cared about yet. The one thing that's disappointing for me is that it doesn't support RSS feeds just yet. Because of that I tend to go back and forth between Chrome and FF, but I find I use Chrome a bit more just because of its convenience.

And as a final note, I just have to say that the team that put together Chrome for Google, "The Chromium project," has the coolest name ever. Just one more reason why only saints and geniuses should be so lucky as to work for Google.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Email pet peeves part I

Email is a wonderful thing. At least I think it is. Sometimes.

Remember in the days back before email. Remember writing "letters?" And then putting them in these things called "envelopes" with these "postage stamps" on them? The younger imaginary readers may not have experienced these primitive vestiges of the dark ages, but to us of the eld, they were once daily parts of life. A big part of going to college, or having your friends go off to college, was the letters. You wrote home. Home wrote back. Home could mean family, friends, former coworkers, your dog Skippy, and so on. Well probably not Skippy, in my case. I still have a few boxes of letters that I kept from those early college years. The letters were like an interpersonal diary - a telling of my life, and the life of my friends, all woven together over weekly to quarterly installments. It was kind of cool.

So, do you remember those days? Think of them fondly, dear readers, because they are DEAD. Long dead. Now we have email. What used to take hours takes minutes. You don't buy a stamp, you hit send. You don't compose a letter, you jot a few lines. You can still enclose pictures, but now you can enclose many, many pictures. If you're actually up on popular computer culture, and you facebook or whatever you don't actually have to send emails even. You just update your facebook page. Weird, I tell ya.

But there are loads of things I like about email. Maybe some day I'll write them down. If I'm feeling particularly sadistic and want to bore you all. But there are a few things I don't like about email. Thing number one, and our subject for today: read and receive receipts. If you haven't hit this feature yet (how could you not?), it's when an email sender sets some settings to automatically notify them when you receive the email and also when you open it to read. From a sender point of view, this can be quite handy. You don't have to wonder "Did they get that email?" cause you know it. So it makes perfect sense. But on the receiving end it bugs the crap out of me. To me it feels like an invasion of privacy. You sent me a message. Ok, fine, thanks. Now get the crap out of my life until I reply. Outlook always asks if it's ok to send a read receipt and I always say "hell no." I just hate internet big brother watching over my shoulder to know what I read and when. Maybe one reason I don't like that feature is that I'm a procrastinator and having an announcement of the time I READ an email that can then be compared to the time I REPLIED to the email can be quite embarrassing. I'd prefer to procrastinate in the privacy of my own home, thank you very much, and if I've got read receipts flowing from my own home to your computer, the privacy of my own home is very much lacking.

So, if you are one who routinely sends things with the read receipt requested option on, and you email me, dont' be offended when you never get a receipt reply. Or if you DO get a reply, I'll send the reply read receipt requested, which you can then acknowledge with a read receipt of your own, which I will acknowledge and on and on we go down through the infinity of time and Comcast digital. You see where this could lead? Anarchy, my friends, anarchy. Best to just not use that feature, I think.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Yummm ... Beeeerrr.

Picture Homer and the title makes sense. Ah, Homer. Remember the classic line "No TV and no beer makes Homer something something"? Five geek points to anyone who can name the episode. But I digress.

I was going to write about this beer called Delirium Tremens which I think is a Belgian beer and is very, very good. I was going to write about it but I couldn't remember much about it other than it seemed to be a wheat beer, it was quite potent (double alcohol content), it's very expensive, but it's soooo tasty. Buying a bottle of this is like buying a bottle of wine, only it tastes good. But what stopped me from writing about it is the fact that I have no capacity, at all, to describe just HOW beer tastes. I don't know the difference between a hop and a tannin. I know dark beer is dark, and tastes more sour and fuller, but I couldn't describe all these different zests and zings and weights and aromas that even beer drinkers seem to be able to pick out of a beer and put into words. For me it tastes good ... or it doesn't. Sweetwater, a local beer out in Atlanta, tastes good. Peroni, an Italian export light beer, tastes like skunk piss. That's about all I can tell you. DT tastes very good. There you have it.

In an effort to compensate for my lack of olfactory and gustatory fluency, I tried to search to find a good description of DT. I did not find one. But I did find that is a very interesting site, and worth looking at, if you don't mind the kinds of content that you would normally associate with a place with a lot of beer (a.k.a. a bar). So if you're at all interested in beer, check it out.

Monday, November 23, 2009


Carl Kasell is retiring.  Well, I guess I can't blame the guy for wanting to sleep in.  I would never be able to get up as early as he's had to.  And as long as he's still on Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me, I'll learn to cope with it.  But I'll miss Kasell's voice in the morning.

When you just don't want to go home...

I'm not sure if everybody has this feeling.  Maybe it's just me, and maybe it's just a measure of where my life is at right now.  I have no living breathing thing waiting for me at home, and so I'm just a little more inclined to stay at work a little extra.  That, and the fact that the project that I've grudgingly nursed for the last six months is stubbornly refusing to spread its wings and fly and is, in fact, hanging onto the side of the nest for dear life, forcing me to pound on its little wing-fingers in an attempt to get it to LET GO.  "You can fly, little bird, I swear.  You just have to stop sitting on your ass in my nest all day!" it bad that the only reason I'm going home now is that I'm looking forward to How I Met Your Mother and Big Bang Theory?  Yes?  It is?  It makes me pathetic?  Oh, all right then.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

One Heckuva Cuppa

The Moth in NYC had their annual Moth Ball last week, which I again failed to go to. I keep hoping that I'll have someone to go with so I don't have to stand there looking awkward, but next year if I'm around I think I'll just buy a freaking ticket and invest in an anti-awkward strategy (meditation? breathing exercises? or perhaps the old standbys of tequila or valium). The Moth is one of my favorite podcasts, right up there with This American Life, and I know I'd enjoy the live event.

When I went to see if I had in fact missed the ball, I discovered they also had an auction, and one of the auctioned items was tea with Neil Gaiman. ($4400. Because I know you want to know. Mr. Gaiman says "WHY DEAR GOD WHY?" but admits it's for a good cause.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Running with bronchitis

If one was to assume that one knows someone else who happened to have contracted bronchitis, one could imagine that this individual may in fact take a long time to recover from said affliction. If said individual had also, we can imagine, had H1N1 prior to the bronchitis, such an individual may not have been inclined, or even capable, of exertion for a number of days, perhaps even as much as 2 weeks, as they were suffering from and then recovering from these illnesses. Such an individual, if they were, we might suppose, used to regular exercise or perhaps even a wee bit obsessive about some aspects of exercise, could be predisposed to frustration in such a circumstance. Indeed, we might suppose that this individual would be downright pissed off about not being able to engage in any particular physical activity that they had specialized in. Such as, oh I don't know, just pulling one out of the ether here, running. Such an individual perhaps would even be tempted to go out and run 7 miles in slightly, we might guess, chilly conditions before they had fully recovered from bronchitis. Certainly we could understand and sympathize with such an impulse. Surely we could all picture doing the same thing ourselves, under similar circumstances. Yet, even if we could all empathize, and understand, and even agree, yes, even if that were the case ....

It would be a Very Bad Idea.

Or so I might imagine if I knew someone who imagined someone who had actually tried it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Oh, Barney, Let's Never Part Again

A brief tribute to How I Met Your Mother.

I love this show. It's been a little off this season, and I'm forced to admit it's my fault. I was a real Barney & Robin 'shipper, but now that they've broken up, it's good to have Barney back.

And also, damn you Marshal, now I need frozen waffles.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Much-Needed Laugh

I love Boing Boing. And I love the fact that this product exists. And I love the fact that the need for said product is lovingly chronicled here (with greatest hits here).

Lazy blog post you say? Yup. It's been a pretty nasty weekend, but I thought I'd share one of the few things that made me laugh.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


My daughter brought me a code today made up of food items that she had used to write a message. I was seized by a sudden moment of uber-geekiness, and explained to her that this was similar to the hieroglyphics that the Egyptians used to write back in the day. (You know, the day, thousands of years ago?). One of the things about being a parent is you can try to sound smart about something you know nothing at all about. She was mildly interested so I googled hieroglyphics and showed her some examples. She wandered off, officially bored by her fathers pedagogy. But I kept reading. Turns out, the system of writing makes some kind of sense! I mean, at least based on this one website, you can readily grasp what they were doing when they were writing it - what meant what (at least in terms of the alphabet, there were a few thousand characters that were not the alphabet that would be harder to figure). Anyway, it was a fascinating 10 minutes, even if my daughter wasn't there to hear it, so if you've ever wondered what they're reading on "The Mummy" check it out.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Really well written response to a book I won't be reading

You guys know I've read Freakanomics, and liked it generally. You also probably know that they've got a sequel out - Superfreakanomics. And based on the buzz, I'm not planning on reading that one. From what I've been reading about the book, they've kind of gone off the edge of reason with the same kind of thinking I have complained about in the past - Post-hoc thinking. Essentially what they're doing is picking a set of data, looking at it selectively, and using it to make some point instead of systematically examining all of the facts or, better yet, conducting an experiment to see if their guesses are right. I feel weird critiquing the authors because, having read the first book, I've concluded that they're brilliant. But brilliant people can make intellectual asses out of themselves and one of the things about pop (i.e., non peer reviewed) writing is that you can get away with being a really big intellectual ass and still sell lots of books (sound familiar Mr. Limbaugh and Mr. Beck??). So, brilliant or not, I'm not planning on plopping down $30 more for the book.

One of the things that people are really fired up about it their stance on climate change. Of course a very hot button topic, and they're brave to take it on. But that doesn't make them right. I've read some excerpts from their chapter, and a load of replies, and by far my favorite post on the subject is this one. I like it because it's well written, it's very clear, and it does a great job of illustrating just where post-hockery can get you. So if you've got a second check it out - it's enjoyable and educational all at the same time. A veritable Oreo of a critique. Enjoy.

And so it begins...

At 9:00 this morning I was supposed to have a deliverable (code that converts a file from one thing to another thing).  At 9:00 I found that the person who was going to write the code was patiently waiting for another human to do something.  I lit a fire under the human who hadn't done his thing, and ever since it has been a process of shepherding things across one little tiny bridge after another.  It's like herding cats across bridges built out of matchsticks.
And it's now 4:00 and we are only theoretically further along than we were at 9:00.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Don't Tell Him How Awesome He Is!

My colleague just got a promotion...except that nobody told him.  Sssssssh!  Don't tell anyone, but Rich is awesome!

Flu sucks

That has to be one of the most subtle, and surprising, post titles I've ever written, if I do say so myself.

So just an update - I've had the flu the past week. It could be H1N1, it probably is because 1) I don't usually get the flu and 2) I got my seasonal flu vaccine a month ago, and 3) I had all the symptoms. But whatever strain it is, I had it in the middle of a business trip and it was quite unpleasant. When I got home, starting to feel better, by the way, I started coughing so much that my wife sent me to Urgent Care where I found I had picked up an ear infection and bronchitis on the way. The doc was optimistic that it will all clear up soon at this point, and I suspect he's right, but in the mean time *blech*.

One of the things that bothered me the most about the whole experience was that I got to be Typhoid Shifter bringing plague to all of Atlanta, everyone on the plane flights, my roommates for the conference, and so forth. At least one of my roommates, my boss actually, did get sick. Definitely a good way to earn brownie points.

So I should add some deep thought, witty observation, or interesting fact to keep this from being a "guess what I had for lunch" post but, well, I can't think of anything. So, it was sausage and noodles with a granola bar. So there.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

The Peacock Needs Some Color

OK, so full disclosure. I'm a white girl of Irish heritage. I don't tan so much as glow like a traffic light when exposed to the sun. So I'm probably not the best person to bring up this particular topic. There's no tactful way to say this, and this will be exceptionally tactless, because I suck at politics. I apologize, but I really think it's a point worth making, so try to give me the benefit of the doubt.

I love great television. So I love Friday Night Lights. This season, the big plot turn (and it's a good one) is that Eric Taylor has been banished to coaching the football team for East Dillon, the "poor" high school.

Even when Eric was coaching the Panthers, the racial mix of the show was a little weird. I did not grow up in Texas, but I did grow up in New Mexico, and at least once an episode I would wonder where on earth all the Hispanic people were. Let's face it, if this were really Texas, they would probably outnumber the white people on the show. We had the nurse who took care of Matt's grandma representing the entire Hispanic adult population of Dillon, but I remember only one Hispanic student, and I'm not even sure he had any lines. I'm not the only one who's noticed--lots of affectionate reviewers and viewers would prefer it if our suspension of disbelief was taxed only by the insane plot line involving Tyra and Landry committing a crime with virtually no consequences, and not by the regular assertion that nobody in Dillon speaks Spanish except for high school Spanish class.

So I was really excited when the show took this turn of having Eric lose the Panthers coaching job to the truly Bond-villainish father of JD McCoy. I saw it as NBC taking the criticism on the chin and being proactive about it, and using it to fuel some kick-ass drama. I was naive enough to think that some of the kids who live in Texas might not be white, and that some of these not-white kids might go to East Dillon High.

The producers do seem to be aware that East Dillon might have a different demographic. And they have summoned their casting talents to find some really terrific African American actors (including "Wire" veteran Michael B Jordan). This is awesome. I love Smash, and I think Gaius Charles has a big career ahead of him, and if they want to launch another three or four or ten talented African American actors, I'm behind them 100%. Yay, NBC. But Dillon is in Texas, not Georgia. The absence of Hispanic culture in Dillon is frankly getting egregious. These kids would be at that school. And we all know there's talent out there. Hell, Glee takes place in friggin' Ohio and has a more diverse cast--and those kids have to be able to sing. Get out there and raid Telemundo, NBC. Or better yet, get your butts to Texas and find yourself some actual Texas talent.

Sorry--I'll put the soapbox away now and return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

One of Those Weeks

One of those weeks is coming. Just to clarify, it's the kind of week where you bring your own coffee maker to work because you won't have time to go downstairs for coffee. Fortunately we haven't actually gotten to the point of fitting ourselves with catheters yet--maybe next project.

My boss actually sent me home early on Friday because we all know that next week is going to suck. It's going to be really, really awful. This is because although we are only a couple of weeks away from the now-pushed-out delivery date for our project, we keep finding defects, some of which won't even be ready for re-test until Tuesday, so we have an unbelievable number of tests to run in an unbelievably short time frame.

So, you know, posting may be light.

And if you see posts...well, that means that we've found so many problems that we've had to stop working. So hell has been briefly postponed. So that's not good either.

In an effort to prepare myself I went to Brooklyn today. I walked around in the fall sunshine and got my hair done. I went to an off-Broadway play in the afternoon (it wasn't especially good, but it was better than cleaning my house, which was definitely the alternative). Tomorrow I'm working out and finishing cleaning my house, because if I get it clean tomorrow it will stay clean until the project is over, because I'll be lucky if I see it for a week. And that'll be a big relief when I finally emerge from the Zone of Evil.

Any and all tips for survival in the Zone of Evil are welcomed and appreciated.

Friday, November 06, 2009

I am an economist!

Well, okay, maybe not.  But my experience is now officially mirrored by employed Americans everywhere, as noted by an actual economist on Marketplace.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Another Reason I'll Never Be a Serious Journalist

Personally, I wouldn't have done this story without using the phrase, "toe-pick!"

Monday, November 02, 2009

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Cool song...

A colleague/friend of mine gave me a running mix right before the marathon. I didn't listen to it in the marathon, but did listen on the drive to/from. IT has a few songs that caught me by surprise. As in they were very good. Here is one of them, by Tom Waits. I gather he's been around for ever and ever but I never listened to him. Maybe that was a mistake. He has a scratchy tired voice that is very appealing in the context of this song, and the lyrics are pretty cool. It took me about forever to figure out what he was saying. What's not to like?


Here are the Halloween Jack-o-lanterns. I'll let you pick which is which:

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Halloween is a favorite holiday. It's got it all. It's got candy. It's got parties. It's got activities after dark. It's got things you do with your family. It's got things you do with your friends. It has skeletons and bloody scythes. Yes, it has it all.

For me, Halloween also has about 5 hours raking leaves, mulching them, and putting them into big yard waste bags. It has blisters. It has burning eyes from all the leaf dust. It has no time for lunch, much less workign out. It has that tired feeling you get from a job that is not well done, but done, and that gives you only the satisfaction of knowing your lawn is less likely to grow mold over the winter.

But it also has pumpkins! We had a bumper crop of Jack-o-Lanterns this year and if I'm not too lazy I'll post some small pics of them later. Each of us carved one. My own has a neurotic, weepy/scared face which just suited my mood today. One daughter's is kind of angry skeleton and the other's is Frankenstein's monster on acid, and my wife's is just demonic. No wonder my poor orange guy is all freaked out - he keeps weird company.

I hope everyone reading this, imaginary or not, has a fun and enjoyable Halloween, with just as much candy as you like and no more fright than you can handle. And remember - if you eat too much candy, you can always run it off tomorrow *place demonic laugh here*

Torchlight Update

In the interest of being fair, let me say that I've got Torchlight up and running on my PC. After thinking about it, and checking their support forums, I found that there were two issues. One was that the installer puts MS C++ Redistributable 2008 on your PC even if you happen to have that same redistributable or, in my case, a full version of MS C++ 2008 installed already. That was creating the Buffer Overrun error. I fixed that by removing the redistributable that the installer had put on the machine. The other was that good ol' Norton was detecting the program as some kind of threat and not allowing it to connect to the internet for program registration. I can see why it might do that, I've seen it happen before with small press applications. But what bugs me is that Norton Firewall would then decide that ALL attempts to access the internet were malicious and thus, I would be unable to access the internet with any program after trying to start Torchlight. Which would lead to a shut down, and all the rest. I got around that by turning the firewall off long enough to get the thing registered, then put the firewall back on (so I wouldn't get caught with my electronic pants down). Fortunately, the program does not access the internet other than for registration, so it doesn't keep hanging. Also fortunatley, it looks like the developers are already working on a patch that may address this or other issues.

So far, the game seems quite enjoyable, but I haven't gotten to play it much because I spent all my playing time getting it to run. But I have played it enough to know that it does not suck (so far).

Friday, October 30, 2009 - There's An App For That

I happen to think this is hilarious. The iPhone seems like a cool smartphone, and mad props for innovation, but Apple's opportunistic decision to selectively waive its normally fanatical dedication to proprietary technology to sell apps (which coincidentally help sell iPhones) just burns my cookies.

But maybe Torchlight does?

I frigging HATE IT when programs won't run. I actually got enough work done at work today that I had a night off. I was going to spend it playing this new game, Torchlight, which looks to be just the bee's knees. I'd love to tell you about it but, well, I can't. Because I can't get the fragging thing to run. When I try it first gives me a buffer overrun error, then essentially freezes my internet connection and then won't allow me to enter in the verification codes because it can't access the damned internet. It can't access the internet because it's f*ing up the goddamn connection! The conflict seems to come with the MS C++ redistributable package or something. I've spent an hour and a half trying to figure it out, with many MANY system restarts, and nothing. Not one piece of luck. What an INCREDIBLY frustrating way to spend $20 and an evening. @#$!@

Others are playing the game, and liking it, so I'm assuming it's a weird combo of my system set up and the software. They just released it so eventually they may get enough people with this problem that they'll post a fix. Or not. RIght now I'm too annoyed to care. If I had purchased a boxed version of the game, I would have set it on fire by now.

So I'm just fooling around on the linux box for the moment. Even though the hardward is a bit buggy, and even though I'm finding linux to be confusing as hell (cause I'm just not that used to it or saavy with this stuff), it's VERY stable and that makes me love it.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

MS Visio doesn't suck

It's always a treat to find a MS program that doesn't suck. I'm currently writing this on my linux box which, although it does reset itself from time to time due to a bad heatsink on the mobo, boots SO much faster due to not being an MS program :o) But I spent a lot of time today using MS Visio and I have to say, it didn't suck too bad. Visio is a drawing program, mostly for diagrams, flow charts, and that kind of thing. Like EVERY MS program, you do quickly have to get out of all the templated, pre-set crap that they assume will just be soooooo helpful, and get to where you can tell it what you actually want it to do. But once you do that it works. I'm doing some diagrams for an upcoming presentation where I'm reporting on this SEM/CFA modeling (if it would mean anything to you, you'll know what that means) and I've seen people do diagrams in Word, in Powerpoint, and now (myself) in Visio and so far Visio is my favorite. The arrows go where I want them, it's easy to insert text for each path you draw, circles are circles, squares are squares. It doesn't take too much to make me happy.

So, if you happen to need to do a bunch of path diagrams and you have access to it, Visio is not a bad way to go. If you don't, just use the Draw program - that will work almost as well. When I used it in a grant application though I found that it's figures tended to be a bit fuzzy and weird on printout.
There ya have it. Geek out, world.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Have I mentioned how much I hate spiders?

I think I may have mentioned how much I hate spiders. So tonight I'm watching The Biggest Loser on my fat ass, which is conveniently located on my sofa. And I look over and there's a large unidentified object on the ground. And it's vaguely spider-shaped, but it can't be a spider. I mean, it just can't. Because it's huge. Forget a quarter. This thing is the size of half a dollar bill. I dogleg around behind it, and damned if it isn't a spider. Like the kind that come on plastic rings this time of year. Only he isn't on a plastic ring. He's on my carpet. And turns around so that he's watching me.

So I did what I always do in these situations. I called someone who's hundreds of miles away. The last time this happened, a spider effectively treed me on the sofa and I called my friend in Arizona. Yeah--I lived in New Mexico at the time. As the spider bobs up and down trying to figure out just how much silk it's going to need to immobilize me while it sucks my body dry, my friend is like, "Honey, I can't do anything. You know if I lived even 20 miles away, I'd come running, but you have to sleep before I can get there. Hit it with a shoe." It wasn't until hours later when my then-husband arrived and shrieked like a teenager in a horror film that he believed how big the spider was. (My ex-husband killed it with a shoe. He was a good man that way.)

This spider could eat that spider for lunch. And would--because, you know, they're cannibals. And I got divorced, so there's nobody to kill the spider.

I run back to the sofa and call my cousin's husband. "Bill, Bill. There's a spider in my house so big that he casts a shadow. And he's watching me."

"Well, he's probably not watching you, because he's a New York spider. I don't think you have poisonous spiders out there, do you?"

"I didn't think we had giant spiders, but the survey says yes we do."

"Do you have a New York Times?"

"No. I read it online."

"Oh, well then you'll have to get a book and wrap it in paper."

Genius. I wasn't fooling around. I got an encyclopedia so big that when I put it in a Trader Joe's bag, the handles of the bag tore off. The spider, no fool, got under a chair. It took me five minutes of coaxing from thousands of miles away to move the chair and throw the encyclopedia at the spider. And I kid you not, it made him really mad. Instead of his legs being out in creepy-crawly mode, he shooped them up under his body to make himself really tall and threatening like the tripods in War of the Worlds (except an octopod). Not to be deterred, I got the Oxford Guide to the Bible and threw it in another Trader Joe's bag. (He must not have been doing very well for all his big show, because he stood there looking mad as hell while I did this.) I was a little concerned, because it wasn't as big as the encyclopedia, but it turned out that greater maneuverability was an asset.

At least, I think it was. I'm scared to pick up the bag. And all the hair on the back of my neck stands up when I look at it. I'm counting this as my workout for the evening because my heart rate was definitely in the fat-burning zone.

NMA's new album

New Model Army! They're at it again. Woo hoo!

For the unenlightened: NMA is a British once-punk band that's been around for decades. They have a substantial cult following, not only in Europe (where I gather they're better known) but here in the States as well. Their music started punk and softened and broadened a bit over time. One of their albums from the 90s (Thunder and Consolation) was once described to me as a cross between Pink Floyd and Depeche Mode, which was funny to me for a few reasons. First, I was very fond of both of those groups (and still am very fond of Floyd). Second, because I doubt NMA feels at all influenced by either. But somehow the description worked. By the way, if you were looking for an album to introduce you to NMA, I'd probably go with Thunder and Consolation. Maybe just because it was my first exposure to them and it totally grabbed me, but I've always thought that it was one of the most immediately appealing albums.

NMA is one of those bands who has been around long enough to change. Which is cool. Their sound has definitely evolved. It's matured, moderated, grown more complex, a bit less angry. But they're also a band who has stayed very true to themselves. They still sing about the social issues and socialist themes that made it hard for them to get visas to tour the US on a few occasions. Their lyrics, which have always been a huge strong point, are still awesome. They still rock. I think at some point I'll try to get into more about their songs and lyrics. One of the many many items in the "future post lists."

But anyway, the boys have got a new album out, as of last month. Today is a Good Day. No, that's the name of the album. I've only gotten to listen to it a little bit so far, but it sounds good. You can get it for $9 from an Amazon download, a $35 import (if you're stateside) cd, or you can order direct from their website. Or you can ignore this and go about your business.

Monday, October 26, 2009

So what's with all the econ cr*p anyway

Really, when you come right down to it, why read any economics book? What do you care, right? You're not all about money, are you? That would be lame. You don't want to be one of those money people, do you? You don't want to be a money-grubber! Perish the thought, and pass the credit report.

So why on earth have I been trying to read the mainstream, pop-econ books I've been reading?

Well, I'm glad you asked! Because I have a few answer for you. First, econ is not the study of money! Second, it has some interesting implications and explanations, and finally, because it freaking matters. Read on, dear readers, for more!

Alright, so maybe I exaggerated a bit - econ does study money. Surprise. But. But more than that it's the study of human behavior. Specifically, it's the study of how people allocate resources in response to incentive. That sounds boring, right? Well consider that "resources" is anything you have - your time, your interest, your activity. And incentive is anything that influences your behavior - a smile, a piece of candy, a PR in a race, that good feeling you get when you donate to NPR. So at its broadest, there isn't that much difference between economics and many other social sciences - psychology, sociology, maybe even anthropology (not sure on that last - I've never studies anthro). But those things are interesting. Why? Well, if you read half the posts on this, or any other, blog they're about why do people do the freaky crap that they do. Why do I do the freaky crap I do? Why do even weirder people do even weirder things? Why do pepole act so goddamn stupid? These are the questions, dear IR's, and econ has answers. Maybe not the rigth answers, definitely not all answers I agree with, but interesting answers. So one reason to read at least pop-econ is that it's interesting.

Now even my brief reading of econ has found that it does explain some things. Here's an example. Why do special interest groups have so much power, and why do we end up with so much "pork" in government spending? Well, it turns out there are very rational (and I think good) explanations for how this occurs and they come right from economics. Unfortunately, I just tried to write them down and it came out in the electronic equivalent of whale vomit, all over the screen, so that'll wait for another post. But for now just take my word for it - it has some good explanations.

So now you know it's interesting, it explains things, why else?

Well, because it matters. I think I've ranted on this before, but here you go again. I have talked before about how taxation is the implementation of a people's (society's) will. And that's why taxation should matter to all of us, whether we like taxes or not, can afford them or not, they represent how we as a people are acting. I still buy that, by the way. But the implication is that the people express their will through the economy (Taxation) which means we express our will through the allocation of resources. And when you think about it, the allocation of resources is probably the single most powerful thing that societies do. Does the king get all the resources? Do all people share equally in the resources? Is it based on merit, inheritance, effort? These are all about economics, and these things all matter. And what economics, in theory, should do is give us a way to study how our decisions about these things actually work. In other words, if we set up a policy to tax this, or incentivize that, to achieve a goal, how well does that policy work? Those are the questions that really matter, the ones that need to be asked. And the ones that economics should help with.

Even in my very brief reading in this area I'm already seeing 1) the reasons some things are being done in the government, 2) where some people (commentators, politicians) seem to be just dead wrong, and 3) some possibilities for how things could be done different. I'm not quite arrogant enough to figure my quick reads have got me wise enough to tell everyone what to do (I was already that wise, doncha know?) but I do feel I've got some new insights.

Everything I've said, by the way, is my endrosement for "Naked Economics" by Wheelan. It's readable, it's basic, it's interesting, and it's more of the core ideas than Freakonomics or the other books I've read. Highly recommended.

So now that you know why this is so damn interesting, you may want to ask "Does all that insight change Shifter's life?" Nah. Not a bit. But that's a whole different question, and a different post, and probably on someone else's blog.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Life Without Multitasking? Scary!

I almost never buy magazines. I used to subscribe to a couple, but when they began to pile up around my home in great, unread, teetering piles, I decided enough of that was enough and stopped subscribing. Now I subscribe only to the New York Times Book Review, which at least stacks up into small, unthreatening unread piles.

Last month I bought a Real Simple magazine. I have no good explanation. Real Simple magazine almost never involves anything real simple. I remember, a long time ago reading an interview with someone associated with The Simpsons. The guy said he loved finding advertising where the ratio of words to lies was 1:1--the example he gave was Country Crock. "It doesn't come from the country and there is no crock." Real Simple is right up there. On the front of the issue I bought, for example, is a beautiful frame handbag. It is a two-thousand dollar Prada bag. That says it all to me.

Nonetheless, in the magazine was an article called "Stop the Madness! One man's quest to go from manic multitasker to zen unitasker in one month flat." It is a testament to my multitasking addiction that it took me from September to nearly November just to find the time to read the article. But I really did enjoy it, for several reasons.

For one thing, I really feel for the dude as he struggles to corral his brain into unitasking. I do not remember the last time I ate a meal in my own home without watching television. If I turned off the television, I would probably turn on the radio. I don't shower with the radio on, but that's only because I don't have a shower radio. The concept of just concentrating on food is something that I do only at a restaurant, partly because I'm not a great cook...probably partly because I only pay attention to food I haven't prepared myself. Just taking the time to sit and read the article without doing something else was a struggle.

I also really identified with his struggles with meditation. He says he falls asleep while meditating, too--it's as though my brain has two speeds, trying to do too many things at once, and off. My brain sees meditation as time I've set aside to listen to it natter about all the depressing things that I really don't want to hear it blather on about. It's time for it to bring my unfiled expense reports to my attention. Time for it to explain why nobody loves me (yes, I know it's wrong, which is why I really hate it when it brings it up--it's like having the same argument that nobody wins with your spouse for like the 9000th time in a row). Time for it to explain how much I suck at my job. Blah, blah, blah.

And the culture of interruption at work, which he doesn't mention a lot, probably because he works from home, is something I hate and yet passively endorse by buckling like a belt to the constant pressure to be instantly available to everyone at work all the time. Instant messenger is a wonderful boon at work, but it's also the worst interrupter ever. People are allowed to interrupt you if you're busy, or in a meeting, or whatever. Last week during a critical activity that couldn't be delayed, I put "Do Not Disturb" on my messenger, which is apparently a crime against nature. 8 people messaged me to tell me that my messenger was on "Do Not Disturb." Thanks, folks. I needed that bulletin. (I'd have logged out, but then I'd be forced to talk to the developers in India on the phone. There is one specific guy I work with there whose written English is easier for me to grasp than his spoken English, and my written English is less idiomatic than my spoken English, so IM is what we've agreed works best. See? Boon. And yet...)

I found the article interesting (and also? hilarious!), and I'm off to try to meditate before bed. Assuming I don't fall asleep.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Well said, Mr. Krugman

As part of my dabbling into economics I've been reading the odd blog or two. Paul Krugman is an economist who has some nobel thing or other going for him and who blogs prolifically. He tends to talk to other economists as far as I can tell, so sometimes it's hard to follow him closely, but his post here was succinct and to the point. And right on.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Joss Whedon on Glee

Joss Whedon, musical talent extraordinaire, is going to do an episode of Glee. He claims he won't kill off any of the characters, but I'd watch anyway.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Church of Chuckology? Where do I sign?

This morning on NPR they did a story on radical evangelist atheists--you know, like Richard Dawkins. It was a moderately disturbing story about how these people believe that religion is actively dangerous and must be actively opposed by rational men and women of the world, and the slightly absurd notion that this militant view is causing a schism in the atheist community. (Dude, as schisms go, that's not really going to make it into the top ten, is it? I mean, you've got your Urban VI, your Martin Luther, hell, even your Henry VIII. But the guy who separated the unbelievers from the less strident unbelievers? I find it hard to believe that's real schism material.)

For the record, I'm not real sure I disagree about the danger of religion. Religion is many things--a comfort, a blessing, an incentive to make the right decisions, and an awesome tool for, well, tools who want to control politics, abase women, and excuse appalling injustices on pretty much every continent except Antarctica. But I'm an agnostic, not an atheist (you have to have much healthier self-esteem than I have to be an atheist--I could never be so full of myself to claim absolute certainty that there is no God), and far be it from me to oppose people--and there are plenty of them--who truly want to make their faith a force for good in their lives and the lives of others. I reserve the right to make fun of them sometimes, but that's about as militant as I get. And I think a lot of agnostics and atheists envy the truly devout their faith, even if they think it's a divine madness. Let's face it, it seems pretty comfortable to know what's going to happen to your eternal soul.

Sometimes I kind of wish I could join a religion. Unfortunately my experience with Catholicism left me so mistrustful of organized religion that my one try at attending a Buddhist meditation retreat nearly gave me a panic attack. In case you didn't know, Buddhists are about the least "militant" sect out there. You go to a Buddhist temple and they're like, "have a cup of tea. We do this. If you'd like to do this, you should stay. If not, well, at least you had a nice cup of tea." They are definitely not out to recruit you or control your thoughts--they'd be pretty happy to observe their own thoughts, thanks. But there was a bit of the meditation where they chanted together, and it reminded me so much of mass that I just had to leave--it was all I could do to keep from crawling out of my skin before we got to a moment where I could flee without disturbing other people.

So it is with great interest that I read that Chuck Lorre is starting a religion that is, if you will, informed by Buddhism, but which probably doesn't involve synchronized chanting and probably doesn't involve getting dressed up or going anywhere. Yay Chuckology!

All of which is just my way of saying:
The Big Bang Theory is awesome.
Wil Wheaton is also awesome.
Wil Wheaton and Sheldon in a duel to the death? It may not be communion with the eternal, but I was totally there in the moment.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

So where are all the great marathon posts...?

What's that? A cry of dissatisfaction and longing from all the IR's out there, desperately checking their RSS feeds every half hour on the off chance that the promised Marathon Blog Posts have arrived? Yes, yes, I hear a sound, faint but distinct. It may be just that, that I am hearing. Or I may be hallucinating.

My apologies to all our IR's for being so tardy in posting any of the Great Ideas that came to mind while I was running the last marathon. What happened is this: 1. I ran a marathon. 2. I came home. 3. I walked in to a sh*t storm at work. 4. my wife got sick. 5. our dog had surgery (neutered - poor guy - snip snip). 6. I'm still a little sick. As a result of these 6 factors, and a few other unmentionables, I haven't had much time or energy to post. And I don't have a whole lot right now, but I'm determined. Too long have ye waited. Too often have ye checked the blog. Now ye must be satisfied.

So, the first blog should be a little bit about the marathon. Whistlestop is a marathon that isn't exactly local for me but is reachable. It's known as a pretty marathon, and a relatively fast one, because it's down hill. It's in the north of Wisconsin and takes place just as the leaves are turning colors and usually it has nice weather. This year almost all of those things came true except for the nice weather part.

I really enjoyed driving up to Wisconsin and seeing all the trees with their truly vivid autumn colors. I mean colors with capital letters. And italics. I mean the leaves weren't yellow, they were Yellow, a kind of royal Yellow that takes your breath away. And the red leaves were Crimson, or something like that. If I was a more visual guy, who had more than 6 colors in his vocabulary, I could try to paint you a picture, made out of words, describing the things I saw on that drive. But I'm not, so all I can tell you is it was godd*mn beuatiful. So I got to the town it's held in (Ashland) the day before and picked up my race packet, then went and drove 90 minutes to the hotel I was staying in. Ashland is not a big town, and it doens't accomodate the few thousand runners who show up for this, plus other tourists wanting to see The Colors, easily. Normaly this wouldn't matter much - you don't sleep a lot the night before a big run anyway, so getting up a little early to drive in isn't a big deal. Unless there's a blizzard or something.

There was a blizzard.

No, I'm not kidding, I got up at 5 am the day of the marathon, looked out the window, and found my car covered in a few inches of snow. Snow that was still falling. Because I have brain damage, I didn't bring very good cold weather gear. I had a long sleeve shirt, a thin jacket for a windbreaking shell, shorts, running shoes, baseball cap. I was missing a few things you would normally want for running in a blizzard. Things like, I don't know, GLOVES. Gloves are great things to have in wet, freezing conditions. Especially as you are getting the snow off your car (socks work a bit, as it turns out). So I got the snow off my car and started driving to Ashland and right away I'm was driving in this really heavy snow that was making it very hard to see the road. I was worried about slush, I was worried about ice, I was worried about driving into a ditch. I was driving slow, slow, slow. Good thing to, some other guy did drive off the road. And as I was driving up to Ashland in my shorts and light jacket through the snow storm all I could think was "I can't believe I'm going to die on the way to a marathon. How F*'d up is this??"

Well I made it to the marathon, somehow, with plenty of time and no bodily or automotive damage. That was a big relief, until I realized I had 2 hours to wait before the race started and it was below freezing outside and I had my shorts and tiny jacket and baseball cap. It was Full. Of. Suckage. A frozen wait in line and a blessedly long (and heated) bus ride later I arrived at the start line and found a fishing/hunting bar that someone had opened up and that was, again, blessedly heated. I'm sure it had a capactiy of like 70 people and we had about 300 runners jammed in there. But we were the lucky ones. The other 900 runners couldn't fit inside and got to do jumping jacks or whatever to try to stay warm, waiting for the race to start. Normally I wouldn't like standing in a small room surrounded by Greenbay Packers posters and a large crowd of strangers in various states of excitment and frostbite, but having tasted the world outside of that room I didn't mind at all. I didn't leave that blessed, heated bar until 5 mintues before the race was supposed to start. It was just too damn cold.

Then, finally, the race starts. And within 5 minutes I'm totally not cold. That isn't as weird as it sounds. I, and most runners, really do generate a lot of heat during a run and the reason I didn't have a lot of cold weather gear with me was I didn't think I'd need it when I was running. And I didn't. I just needed it before and after. The one exception, of course, being the gloves.

The run itself was beautiful. It's on an old rail way that has been covered with gravel going through the woods. Autumn colors, as previously described, were all around. There was a lot of wind, but it came from behind to it didn't bite too much. It did, however, blow up snow sparkles and blow down leaves that were just beautiful to watch as I ran. From time to time I would try to catch leaves as they were falling, just to pass the time on the run. This was, hands down, the most gorgeous race I've been in. It was still cold, and my hands went numb, and I had to chew on some ice chips that had formed in the water and energy drink they handed out at the water stops, but I really didn't mind. It was all just fun, really.

So in terms of the running itself, that went well. I did not expect much from this race. As I've said, I was sick, I didn't get to train as much as I like for a lot of reasons, I didn't get to taper as long as I needed for similar reasons, and I had generally not been feeling my fittest for the past 3 months. So I was telling people I wanted "4-ish" or 4:10 from the race. And I was hoping, secretly, to get just under 4 hours. But I didn't expect it, to be honest. So at the start of the race I was taking it easy. I was doing 9 minute miles, sometimes a bit more. I actually stopped and waited a minute or so to use a port-a-potty, which I usually wouldn't do. (No, I wouldn't do anything drastic - I'd just keep running until I found one that was open rather than waiting). At the half way point I was just about at 2 hours, which I expected. What usually happens, though, is that the last 13 miles are much slower than the first because you get tired. And you hit it. The Wall.

The Wall pops up about mile 20 and is a psychological/physical event when your body and mind suddenly decide that f*ck you, this sucks, you're insane, and they want to walk. The Wall makes the last 6 miles of the race feel like 20, and take as long as 10. The Wall has made me want to cry. And will again. Now I know about the Wall, I've seen it many times, so I was just waiting for it to slam down in front of me, or on top of me, as soon as I hit mile 20. And that is why I figured when I was just under 2 hours for the halfway point that I was looking at a 4+ hour marathon.

But then the weirdest thing happened. The Wall never showed up. I hit mile 20 at about 3 hours, which is about usual for me. But I wasn't feeling tired, and I wasn't feeling like I was going to die. Both good signs, if unusual. No, I won't remind you again why I do this to myself. Then I hit mile 21 and was still feeling pretty good. In fact, I found myself speeding up a bit. Mile 22 came and went and still no Wall, still feeling good, wanting to speed up. Around Mile 22 I started to pass people. Usually you kind of settle in with a group of people who happen to be running the same pace as you and who will, for the most part, finish with you. They hit the Wall around when you do, some of them get through it better than others, but on the whole you finish up with the same people you had with you for a lot of the race. But not this time. Because the Wall didn't show, and because I had enough energy to actually increase my pace, I was passing just loads of people. I've never actually done that in the last miles of the race - it was fun. It wasn't really a competitive thing. At that point in a marathon, most of us are just racing against ourselves, trying to keep moving. In fact, a number of people would call out "good job!" when I ran past them and I'd yell back "thanks, you too!" At mile 24 I had figured out there was No Wall in this race and I started pushing hard. I did my last 2 miles at just over an 8 minute pace, which for me, for the last 2 miles of a marathon, is just freaking insane. Did it hurt? Hell yeah. Was it fun? Hell yeah! It was a blast. And it hurt. And it was a blast again.

So I crossed at about 3:53-3:54 and as soon as I crossed I felt just awful. My lungs were aching, I was incredibly cold, and all I wanted to do was get out of there. As I said, when you're running you generate a lot of body heat and can be in any weather no problem. When you stop, you're just a guy who's exhausted, soaked in sweat, wearing thin, wet clothes, in a moderately heavy wind with an air temperature of about 35 degrees. That was unpleasant. I grabbed my medal, got my shirt, picked up my sweats bag, and staggered back to my car. 90 minutes later I was in a warm shower, feeling awful, and feeling terrific. Knowing I had done far better than I had expected and that not one thing in the world could take that away from me or bring me down.

This race was dedicated to my brother and my wife, for reasons they both know. Thanks for reading about it.

So next I'll post some of the random thoughts I had during this experience. But that comes later.