Archive for June, 2015

Green Thumb Up My Nose

June 28, 2015

Garden Report for 150629

A warm week. A hot week, ere the sun rises. Plants shall be withered, records be splintered. 80’s to start and 100’s to end. Watering restrictions imposed for the first time this Century. How far above average was it? This week last year the highs were lower than our current lows.

Pulled the rest of the lettuce from Section 2. We are now grazing our way through three bags of the stuff. As usual, we’ll be done with the lettuce before the first of the tomatoes are ready for a salad. Will plant more, but not this week. Peas are almost ready in Section 4. Not sure what the heat will do to them.

Over in the containers, the cucumbers are trying to take over. Evidently, these weren’t a bush variety. The Asian long beans are just starting to climb. I have a number of Champion VNFT’s coming in, and all seem to have blossom-end rot. I’ll spray them this evening to see what I can salvage. Not sure what VNFT stands for. I think it’s their Myers-Briggs personality type.

The big pumpkins are in a sunny spot under the trees and are doing OK. The pie pumpkins are in a shady spot and are not. The other pumpkins, next the unkillable rhubarb, have already produced a nice, dark 4″ diameter globe.


SpaceX Launch Failure

June 28, 2015

Here’s my thoughts on the SpaceX launch failure, written while the debris is still smoking in the water. This is what I saw, replaying the YouTube video.

At first I thought it was a staging failure. You often get that cloud burst as the main engines cut off (and the remaining fuel in the pipes evaporates), the explosive bolts separate the two stages, and the second stage engines flare fuel clouds before igniting. But this happened approximately 44sec after MaxQ, the point when the atmospheric forces on the vehicle are highest (before this, it’s not moving fast enough; after this, the atmosphere is getting too thin), and roughly 30sec before scheduled MECO (I’m taking these values off the timeline at the bottom of the vid).

At 23:44 into the video (not into the flight), there’s a puff of white gas from the right-hand side of the booster. This billows out into an explosion three seconds later, with the shadow/sillhouette of something that might be part of the rocket, or might be a cloud shadow (but probably isn’t, because of how long it lasts).

At 23:49, the cloud starts to clear, and we see what looks like a normal engine burn. This is visible for another three seconds, when everything is overwhelmed with cloud, with no signs of flame, which clears two seconds later, to show multiple debris fragments.

UPDATE: Elon Musk has tweeted that it looks like there was an overpressure event in the second stage liquid oxygen tank. That would produce a white cloud when the tank blew out, followed by an explosion above the main body of the booster as the oxygen ignited. The first stage keeps firing, not realizing that it’s been chopped off at the hips.

Here’s the vid

Just a note on the language of reporting. A couple of news sites are calling this a failure of SpaceX’s efforts to recover a booster after launch. They seem to be confusing the up-goer and down-goer parts of the mission. The mission was a failure. The effort to put a resupply capsule into orbit was a failure. Landing the booster on a ship was never tried.

Second note. Musk’s tweet was posted an hour and a half after the event. Pretty fast reporting, and an amazing display of openness.

Conclusion. Space is hard. You fail a lot. You learn from each failure, and you want your failures early, before whatever caused them is baked in. It’s like that old video game. You may die; your little dog may die, but eventually, Oregon gets settled.

To quote  Julia Ecklare, the only way to go from here is out.


Akregator: Not quite ready for prime time

June 26, 2015

There’s two reasons I haven’t dumped Opera altogether. First, is their RSS feed (part of their email function). It is still the best I have found. Second, is the fact that FirefoxOnLinux is in some sort of bunfight with JavaScript, and many things (like buttons) don’t render properly. Until both these are fixed, I’ll be using Opera for RSS and structured browsing. Let’s talk about RSS feeds

RSS (officially, Rich Site Summary, more often Really Simple Syndication) is a tool that notifies subscribers whenever a web site is updated. Why would you want to use something like that? Well, it’s a more compact and asynchronous way of keeping track of a lot of infrequently-posted websites than is, for example, Twitter, even though many people use a tweet-stream as an RSS replacement. Let me go over my approach to managing my information workload.

  1. There are some sites that update essentially once a day, like Slate. To see what’s on Slate, or APOD, or the Aviation Herald, I keep their links in a folder titled “Morning Papers”, and I open everything in that folder once a day.
  2. Other sites update weekly, or biweekly, or they may update daily but are such that I don’t need to see them every day. So I have another folder, titled “Daily”, and in that are subfolders “Monday”, “Tuesday”, etc. If Girl Genius updates MWF, then I have a link in each folder. On Monday, when I’m done with the Morning Papers, I open all the links in the Monday folder and read the latest Girl Genius cartoon, and catch up on the news from Bury St. Edmunds. BTW, the last time I looked, Firefox won’t let you do this — you have one link to a website, and if you save a link to a new folder, it moves the link from the old folder.
  3. Still other sites update continuously — Fark, or Reddit, for example. I know there will be something new whenever I go there, and I don’t want to be bepestered with notifications. There’s not many of those, so I can keep them in yet another folder, or even in my Speed Dial.
  4. Finally, there are sites that update irregularly, or seldomly, or that I’m only interested in aperiodically — Eureka Alert, Cooking sites, sites carrying the latest news on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I put those sites in my RSS feed, and I get notified whenever they update. Eureka Alert will do an 80-entry data dump a couple of times a day, Buffy, not so much.

Opera runs its RSS reader via the Opera Mail function. As with a good email client, you get to organize thing sin folders, you get a list of subject lines, and you get a look at the first paragraph or so of the update. Often, you get the full text.

But we’re trying to say farewell to Opera, remember? Unfortunately, it turns out there’s not a lot of good RSS readers out there. Firefox, for example, wants to put every RSS feed into my Favorites bar. That is OK for the first twenty or thirty, but I have over a hundred 345.

So, what else is available? Check back up on the Subject line. Akregator is a KDE based RSS feed for Linux. It has the same look and feel as Opera, but can show you more of the message, actually, the whole web page, and is reasonably easy to work with.


Nice, clean layout. Pity about the 7,000 messages

Nice, clean layout. Pity about the 7,000 messages

There are three things wrong with Akregator: one bug, one feature, and one deal breaker.

The bug is that it will often reload a feed item that I’d already deleted. Not sure if it’s AK’s fault, or if the website is doing something funky with its xml. In any event, I’ll delete an item, and then come back the next day to find it reposted as unread. It’s easy enough to delete them, but I have to keep a running list of previously screened titles in my head.

The feature is that it doesn’t show you how many feed items you have hanging around. It shows you the number of unread items, next to each feed folder, with a total at top, but not the number of ones you’ve glanced at and left hanging about for later. Nothing in the documentation or the forae about it.

The deal breaker is the fact that it will reload the entire RSS feed set upon reboot, sending me, just for e.g.’s, from 27 unread items to over 7,000 unread items. Now, it may be that this is an artifact of the archiving feature, and that the solution is to tell it to just delete all feed items on closeout. So that I only lose the ones I’m really interested in.

Life is too short.

I’m sliding sideways, from OpenSuSE to Mint Linux sometime this week — I have the desire, I have the new SSD, I have the latest download, all I need is the gumption. Maybe there’s something over on that side of the world. Maybe Vivaldi will get their act together.

Low Kaliber Oatmeal

June 25, 2015

Somewhere on the web I saw a pretty favorable review of Kaliber Beer, an imported non-alcoholic beer by Guinness. So, on the basis of something I read on the web, I bought a six-pack, at just over a buck a bottle. Then reality set in.

I was prepared for a milder tasting IPA. I was prepared for a milder tasting Guinness. What I got was something that tasted like a 10:1 mixture of Coors Light and Guinness. Bleah.

So the beer went where all unwanted foods go, into my breakfast. I actually tried two different recipes: 3:1 beef broth and beer, and a 50/50 mix. A word of caution at this point. Beer is carbonated. It foams. When boiled, it foams a lot. Stay next the stove and move the pot on and off the flame, or electrons, or magnetrons, or whatever.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, two dinner teaspoons of potato flakes, one cup of broth/beer mix (your choice as to the ratio), salt.  Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats, and minding the foam.  Add the potato when you take it off the stove.

Results: Too much bitter. Not inedible, but not anything I’d want to order again. I may try adding the beer in tablespoon quantities, but anything less puts us in homeopathic dilution territory. Question for the class, how many tablespoons in the four remaining bottles of beer?

Rating: *****

Green Thumb Up My Nose

June 21, 2015

Garden Report for 150622

Warm and dry and windy. Highs around 80. Lows around 60. Dried out the plants such that I had to water the containers twice a day.

Lettuce is well on its way to bolting. Pulled up about half of it (and about half of that was edible). One small plastic bag’s worth (the kind the supermarket gives you to put wet veggies in). Will do the second half tomorrow. Harvested our initial bean crop. Blue Lake bush beans. Six plants gave us six beans per plant, except that not all the plants had beans, so figure four per plant. Looks like we need to plant lots more beans to get a proper crop. Next increment is peas, in about two weeks.

Theoretically, our Early Girl, Champion, and Sugarsweet tomatoes begin producing this week. Right now, it looks like the yellow tomatoes will ripen first. Everybody’s getting water stressed, with the heat and the wind — a number of them have lost their blooms.

Planted accacia and chard last week. So far, nothing’s sprouted. Planted a mix of accacia and radishes in one of the long deck containers. Planted some shiso in the bell pepper container out front.

A little constrained in what I can do in the garden because of my cataract operation. Next week the shields come down, and I’ll be able to go back to bench pressing 30lb again.

On this date in Parliament, 1940

June 18, 2015
The original notes

The original notes

Winston Churchill gave a speech.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

June 15, 2015

Garden Report for 150613

Weather continued its three-days-cold, four-days-warm cycle. Mid 90’s at the start of the week, mid 70’s at the end. Mid 80’s in the forecast.

Pulled up most of the cabbages in Section 2. Tried the leaves in a salad. Not impressed. Planted a batch of amaranth and the last of one packet of chard.

Pulled most of the lettuce from Section 3, before it could bolt. Planted some amaranth here, as well. This batch we’ll leave for the seeds. People say you can cook them like popcorn. Since they are about the size of a mustard seed, it better be a really short movie. Meanwhile, the green beans are about ready to harvest. And speaking of beans, the pinquito beans I planted last week have started to come up. Still planning on a late October harvest.

Our containerized banana pepper plant has produced one small pepper. Very good. Went back to the hardware store for more, but they were out. Got a yellow bell instead. Put it in a big pottery pot out on the driveway.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

June 7, 2015

Garden Report for 150608

Two weeks of not much going on. Wx cycled between 60F and 80F on a three-days-cold, four-days-warm basis. Due to hit the mid-90’s this week.

The heat will definitely bolt all the remaining cabbage and lettuce. Harvesting bags of the stuff. MJ got in very late from a dog show over in Seattle on Saturday, and so didn’t go to church on Sunday. That means we didn’t have a chance to run around tying bags to people’s door handles in the parking lot.

Stopped at Huckleberry’s and got some seed. It seems late in the season to be planting seed, but we’re really only a week past official last frost. Put melons in on Friday, also one banana pepper plant. Back ordered some amaranth. Should have it by Wednesday.

I ordered some pinquito beans last week. Got them in on Saturday. Planted them Sunday. In the Santa Maria Valley, they plant in May and harvest in early October. I guess I’ll harvest in late October.


Abolish TSA

June 2, 2015

You’ve been diagnosed with a chronic, possibly fatal disease. Your doctor writes you an expensive prescription to deal with it. Almost fifteen years later you find that 95 out of every 100 pills you have taken over the years were just plain aspirin. Your disease has not progressed. You haven’t died. Questions for the doctor: Do I really have that disease? Do I still need to take these pills? Do you have malpractice insurance?

That’s the situation we are in today with TSA. Their measures don’t work. Their measures have never worked. Given the low level of the terrorist threat, a simple Bayesian analysis shows they will never work. So what’s TSA’s response? We will tighten up our procedures.

Sorry, guys. Doing more of something that doesn’t work, doesn’t work.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t have any security. I’m saying that by TSA’s own numbers, nothing they have done since 2001 has made us any more secure than what we were doing before that.  We’ve been subjected to a ~fifteen year, ~$70Billion government scam. It’s time to revert to our previous protocol. It’s time for a $70Billion malpractice suite.

It’s time to abolish TSA.