Archive for August, 2016

Penalty for forgetting your password: Part 4 and final (we hope)

August 20, 2016

The final transition went smoothly. Sortof.

The original SSD turned out to be well secured, by a set of screws and a plastic strap on the bottom of the case. It was the PRO model, while the spare that’s replacing it is the EVO model (Samsung 256GB 850PRO vs 850EVO). The main difference being that the PRO will have a longer service life. However, I expect both of them to be obsolete before ever I get close to their fail dates.

The SSD is on the floor

The SSD is bolted to the floor of the case

It was but the work of an hour for me to unscrew the four screws, ungrommet the rubber grommets, and replace the old SSD with the new one and regrommet and rescrew everything. OK, so not all the screws went back through the grommets, and I had to tape one in place. But it’s back together, and it works.

Unfortunately, the original SSD detected that it had been moved to a new PC or something, and demanded a password, which I don’t of course have. I can’t think of anything that I haven’t backed up onto the NAS or already imported (Firefox even kept my four speed dial tabs, with all the dials), so when I get a spare moment I’ll load something new on the PRO, maybe Mint Linux.

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Our Trip to Alaska

August 19, 2016

MJ is a handbell ringer and handbell choir director. Every couple of years a Portland group called Bells of the Cascades sponsors a cruise — to Alaska, Mexico, the Caribbean — wherein a hundred or so ringers get together, practice during the ocean parts, and put on a concert at the end. Most of the cruises are to warmer climes, during January, and I can’t go along because of school. When it’s an Alaska destination, they go in August, and I can tag along.

Where we went

Where we went

This trip our onshore activity was a little constrained. MJ had just had her shoulder replaced a month before and was still in a sling, with orders to avoid all stress on that arm. But a little thing like having zero use of her left (dominant) arm wasn’t going to keep her from making the trip, and ringing.

Day 1: Departure

We’d sent the dogs to summer camp for the week and packed the night before, so we were able to get on the road by 7AM. It’s roughly two hours to the Columbia, two hours to Seattle, and two hours to the border, plus another hour inside Canada, because the cruise left from Vancouver. Traffic around Seattle was surprisingly heavy.

Downtown Vancouver from the cruise ship dock

Downtown Vancouver from the cruise ship dock

We rolled in to Vancouver about 3PM. The travel agent had booked us at a 4-star hotel (about a star and a half more than we needed) that had the advantage of being on the most direct route from Canada 99N to the cruise ship dock. I really like Vancouver. Of the three great cities of the NW (Portland, Seattle, Vancouver), it’s probably the most cosmopolitan. We walked around a bit, had dinner at a Red Robin (watched a crow learning to lift an onion ring from an abandoned ring-stacker) and went to bed early.

Day 2: Another Departure

Next day we were up early, dodged the crowds and barriers for the Vancouver Gay Pride parade, and zipped down to the cruise ship dock. Parking was inside the cruise ship center, so we offloaded our bags, zipped through customs and security, and were on board by 10AM, thence to hang around the bar until they let us in to our cabins about 1.

Corner suite, right above that orange storage container

Corner suite, right above that orange storage container

The first thing us old folks noticed was the prevalence of kids on the trip, and groups talking off their balconies. It felt a little like an old New York tenement. All it lacked was some laundry hung outside.

Oh, right.

Oh, right.

Another thing we noticed, after several days, was the number of ethnic Chinese on the trip. At one point, in the buffet, of the ten occupied tables, four were seating Chinese speakers. I don’t know if this is a flood of the new middle class from the mainland, or if it was just representative of Vancouver’s large Chinese population (most of whom had arrived just prior to the return of Hong Kong to the PRC). In any event, I was struck by the numbers, and thought of similar sights mentioned in some SF novel of old (Brin? Niven? Stephenson?).

Day 3: At Sea

We started with a 48 hour run up through British Columbia’s Inland Passage and Hecate Strait to a fishing village west of Juneau. Not much to do except sit on the veranda and sip fine wines. Of course, an outside air temperature of 55F and a ship’s speed of 17kts combined to give a wind chill in the upper 30’s, so that option was out. MJ practised with the handbell group,

One person per note

One person per note

and I made an attempt to get some programming done.

Taking time out to look cool

Taking time out to look cool

Day 4: Icy Strait Point

There’s not a lot of places to stop in southern Alaska. There’s Juneau, and maybe four small fishing ports like Ketchikan, plus a couple of glacier-ridden fjords. So, as I understand it, the cruise lines pooled their lunch money and put in a multi-million dollar dock at a small former fishing port, Icy Strait Point. How small is it? One of the highlights on the tour map was a 20-grave cemetery. They also built a fishing museum and a “zipline”. I use the scare quotes because you don’t really hang on the way you do on a real zipline. Instead, they have a seat that looks like some of the safer playground swings. The most photogenic objects are the local cat

The municipal cat. In chair, at left.

The municipal cat. In chair, at left.

the ship

Our floating hotel

Our floating hotel
(click to embiggen)

And here’s a shot of the ship with MJ in the foreground, for scale. The sling is designed to keep her shoulder from levering itself out of the socket.

The sling is designed to keep her shoulder from levering itself out of the socket

She doesn’t normally wear her hair ahoge style.

And finally the museum, which includes a working model of a Radio Shack.

This museum has everything

This museum has everything

Day 5: Hubbard Glacier

Overnight to the Hubbard Glacier. Very impressive

The approach

The approach

and the warm days meant it was calving almost continuously

If you look close, a chunk of ice just fell off in the center

If you look close, a chunk of ice just fell off in the center

That night was the Bells of the Cascades concert

Concert for the passengers

Concert for the passengers

Day 6: Juneau

Running overnight and most of the next day down from Hubbard, we got in to Juneau in the early afternoon. I wandered around a little bit, but the interesting bits of town were too far away from the ship, so I stayed aboard and watched the float planes landing.

As we were docking, one of these landed between the boat and the dock

As we were docking, one of these landed between the boat and the dock

Here’s another view of the ship. Our stateroom is right above the caribou flag.

A cruise-crowded port

A cruise-crowded port

Day 7: Ketchikan

Our last port of call was Ketchikan. During the run down from Juneau, the handbell group gave a free concert. Unfortunately, the room they gave them was so small only a few passengers could get in.

Only one working hand? That's OK. I'll play both bells with it.

Only one working hand?

Caption goes here

That’s OK. I’ll play both bells with it.

We were moored behind Holland-America’s Noordam, one of three other cruise ships at dock. Seeing small fishing towns suddenly inundated with 10,000 or 12,000 tourists gives you a bit of a feeling what it must have been like during the gold rush days.

Four cruise ships, at 3,000 passengers each...

Four cruise ships, at 3,000 passengers each…

BTW, this was Celebrity Infinity docking at Ketchikan back in June. Our arrival was much smoother.

 

Day 8: At Sea

Another day and a night at sea. We chased the Noordam through the Inland Passage.

No passing zone

No passing zone

That night the Strait of Georgia, and it was amazingly warm. It turns out there was a reason for that.

 

Day 9: Arrivals

Arrived in port at Vancouver about 6AM. Nice trip under the bridge.

Home from the sea

Home from the sea

Spent most of the morning having a leisurely breakfast. Our chalk was due off the ship at 8:30, and by 9:00 we had picked up our bags and cleared customs and were on our way home.

Arrived home late Sunday afternoon, but it wasn’t until Tuesday that the whole family was back together again.

Final Thoughts

This cruise wasn’t as much fun as the others, due to MJ’s shoulder, and there were a lot of minor irritations. The ship is, I think, a little small (90,000t, 2500 pax) and a little old (2001, second oldest in their fleet). It was tarted up a few years ago, with a new carpet and paint job, but if you looked at the edges of the steel plates you could see they were delaminating and rusty. The passageways seemed narrower than on other cruise ships, but that might have been because they were always cluttered with cleaning gear and laundry bags. The pre-departure abandon ship drill was a joke. Our muster station was in the main ballroom, from thence someone would take us to our lifeboat…it says here. Other cruise lines hold their drills right next to the assigned lifeboats.

On our cruise, the whole handbell group had asked to be seated together — same dining room, same time — but the Celebrity people didn’t pass that on to the ship, and their on-board software evidently couldn’t solve such a large linear-programming model, so we were scattered hither and yon. At least our table was quite close to the table where MJ’s sister and her family were seated.

It's good to be close to family

It’s good to be close to family

In another, albeit minor, example of software shortfalls, they had one channel of the ships internal TV system devoted to showing a moving map, with our location. However, the system didn’t seem to be hooked into the actual ship systems, because it couldn’t show true wind speed and direction (0/N), and it kept losing (briefly) the GPS location. When that would happen, the map would keep moving underneath this modal window, so I guess it’s waiting for someone to click <OK>.

I'll just wait for someone to notice me

I’ll just wait for someone to notice me

The cabin crew and wait staff, on the other hand, were superb. Well trained, attentive, engaging. Our sommelier was somewhat overworked (I think they were short-handed), and spent most of the evenings running back and forth with armloads of bottles.

If we had been on our onlies, I think it would have rated as a great cruise. As it was, we’re a little disappointed.

Meanwhile, with everyone back home, the puppy is learning how to fit in.

Next time, I just inch a little to the left

Next time, I just inch a little to the left

Squash VelcrOats

August 18, 2016

Some dishes, a generic stew for example, are called refrigerator velcro — pretty much anything in the fridge sticks to them. We had half an onion, a couple of Zucchinis (one quite elderly), a summer squash, and about a third of a butternut squash that needed using up. What better way to do that than by munging them all together with some chicken broth and sour cream to make squash soup. So we did. And there were leftovers.

The basic soup was very bland and needed salt. We tried spicing it up with salt, a little too much sugar, ponzu sauce, and way too much Lonnies Wholly Huli Hawaiian BBQ sauce, which is like ponzu, with added pineapple and garlic. It was much better, but it was not what you’d recognize as squash soup.

As presented, the soup was very thick, like a thin applesauce. It was likely that there wasn’t enough plain liquid in it for oatmeal, so I tried 2/3 of a cup of chicken broth and 1/2 a cup of soup. That worked out just right.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, 2/3 cup of chicken broth, 1/2 cup of squashlike soup. Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.

Results: Acceptable. Still too heavy on the Huli, but otherwise quite tasty. I’ll continue the experiment, later.

Rating: *****

Penalty for forgetting your password: Part 3

August 17, 2016

Almost done.

Turns out, the file transfer process was the easiest part. Copied the contents of my home directory to the NAS, thence to the new SSD. Dug down into the .mozilla and .thunderbird directories and copied the .default folders to the NAS. Then copied the .default contents to the .default folders on the new SSD.

That’s it. All my in-the-cloud stuff now available. gMail and Amazon know who I am. Some housekeeping left. Mostly setting up the speed dial on Firefox. Some new installs, like DropBox.

Later today I’ll swap the SSD’s.

Penalty for forgetting your password: Part 2

August 16, 2016

Nothing is ever easy.

So, right after finishing the first article in this unintentionally long-running saga, I dashed into the sun room, where MJ keeps her plants and I keep my other spare computer stuff, grabbed up the box with the 256GB SSD in it, and …. say, that feels a little light. Oh, empty. I wonder where the drive is?

It’s not like the old days, where you could spot a 256MB hard drive sticking up out of a stack of old boots. These new guys are small enough to slide into your shirt pocket and still leave room for a smartphone, key-holder, and sunglasses (as long as they’re not Oakley Gaskans). It could be anywhere.

[some hours later] Oh, right, it’s in my other spare computer. I remember now, I put Mint 16 on it last spring, as a test. My main spare computer has two HDDs in it, so I unplug one and plug in the 256. Have to be careful, ’cause it’s just hanging from the cords, and has a tendency to rattle against the fans.

Let’s try something new. Download Mint 18. Install (Linux installs are so easy, just make sure to tell it to install on the 256SSD and not the 750HDD). Umm can’t install bootloader. Check online. Others have had this problem. Download Boot Repair. Runs fine, dumps a lot of error messages, throws up in it’s mouth, gives me a link to an error log, says to be sure to install the bootloader by hand on sda 750GB. [I’m compressing about six hours of reinstalls here, including a switch to Ubuntu].

750GB? A quick trip inside the PC and I return with a handful of cables rip’d untimely from that mother’s slots. Now the only drive is the SSD.

Power cycle. Re-install. Linux installs are so easy. Fifteen minutes and we’re up and running.

Next step, the dreaded file transfer process.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 15, 2016

Garden Report for 160815

The weather this week was warm and dry. The deck tomatoes seem to be recovering. I got three smallish tomatoes out of Section 4, and one biggish one from the front container. The squashes are producing at just the right rate for us to keep up with them, if we eat a lot of squash soup.

Week
Ending
8/15
Vegetable Count Weight
g
Unit
Weight
g
Total Total
Weight
kg

tomato  4 216  54 27 0.99
cabbage 4 4.02
peas 1.67
summer
squash
1 486 486  4  .85
zucchini  1  1500  1500  4  1.90
Running Total 9.43

 

Week
Ending
8/08
Vegetable Count Weight
g
Unit
Weight
g
Total Total
Weight
kg

tomato 23 0.775
cabbage 4 4.02
peas 1.675
summer
squash
3 .36
zucchini 1 500 500 4 1.400
Running Total 8.93

No, He Doesn’t

August 12, 2016

As my computer hits auto-send on this article, the New York Yankees are taking the field against Tampa Bay, and Alex Rodriguez, A-Rod, will be soon stepping up for his last at bats in major league baseball.

Michael Dougherty, over at The Week, says that A-Rod deserved better than the fan hatred that followed him throughout his career. He’s wrong.

Fan dislike of Alex Rodriguez started in Seattle, when he left the Mariners for league rivals Texas in 2001. He may have loved baseball, as Dougherty claims, but if so it was a love of the mechanics and of the playing rather than love of the game, writ large.

Seattle gave him his start, gave him his nickname, and made him the star player of the team. Everybody loved him. At the end of the 2000 season, he became a free agent and left the Mariners, turning down extremely large amounts of money, to go with the Texas Rangers for an obscene amount of money.

The Mariners fans never forgave him. Ever after, he was booed at every appearance at SafeCo Field, and fans were continually floating paper money down onto the field.

Here's some more money, Alex

Here’s some more money, Alex

You see, in going for the money, A-Rod turned his back on an outstanding team, one that had made it to the ALCS in 2000 and was slated to make it again in 2001, to go with a team that was mediocre before he got there (71 wins in 2000), and was still mediocre (73 wins in 2001) even with his star presence.

Meanwhile, the Mariners were racking up a historic 116 wins in the 2001 season. Yes, they fell apart in the ALCS, but does anyone doubt that if A-Rod had stayed they’d have taken the the ALCS and then possibly the World Series? He turned his back on a winning team for what? For money.

So A-Rod deserves it. It’s not hatred, Mr. Dougherty, it’s contempt.

Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 8, 2016

Garden Report for 160808

The weather this week was reportedly clear, hot and sunny, with heavy rain at the end. I say reportedly, because we were off on a handbell cruise, of which more in a later posting.

We have the KHG plants on a water timer, so they got watered throughout the week. The deck plants didn’t do so well. We’ll see if they recover. The deck parsley managed to survive.

How dry I am

How dry I am

Only one zucchini was ready when we got home, but that was because our neighbors were encouraged to pick what they wanted. As you can see, the squash in Section 3 are all doing well, while the tomatoes (Section 4, in back) are really hurting. I think it’s lack of sunlight.

Some plants do well, others don't

Some plants do well, others don’t

Week
Ending
8/08
Vegetable Count Weight
g
Unit
Weight
g
Total Total
Weight
kg

tomato 23 0.775
cabbage 4 4.02
peas 1.675
summer
squash
 3  .36
zucchini  1  500  500  4  1.400
Running Total 8.93

 

Week
Ending
8/01
Vegetable Count Weight
g
Unit
Weight
g
Total Total
Weight
kg

tomato 3 358 120 23 0.775
cabbage 4 4.02
peas 1.675
summer
squash
2 240 120 3 .36
zucchini 1 200 200 3 .900
Running Total 7.73

Fruity Oaty Bowls

August 4, 2016

With a h/t to Serenity.

I’ve written before about various fruits in oatmeal — blueberries, bananas, figs, etc. Recently, we had a lot of fresh fruit getting slightly over-ripe. We also had the pressure cooker out after making some Santa Maria beans. So, why not pressure cook a bunch of fruit? So I did. Peaches, banana, blueberries, a different kind of peaches, and so forth. Don’t bother to peel them, just chunk them up and throw them in. I made a couple of batches, one of which included blackberries. Don’t use blackberries. They taste musty, and a half-pound box leaves a pound of seeds in the mix. One batch I tried zotting with the stick blender. Don’t use a stick blender. You get a mix that’s 3/4 sludge and 1/4 juice.

What worked best for me was to put the fruit in the pressure cooker (or a regular pot, if you don’t mind watching it), with enough water to make steam with (say, one or one and a half cups), and maybe some sugar. Pressure cook on high for 20min, or simmer for 45min or so. Let it cool, then strain to separate the wet from the soggy. I ended up with twice the fluid I put into it, plus a nice bowl of soft cooked fruit. The liquid can be used for oatmeal, just like water or broth. The solids can be topping for the oatmeal, or eaten separately with cream or creamer.

Setup: 1/3 cup of stone ground rolled oats, one cup of fruity broth, sugar to taste, salt (yes, salt — it’s oatmeal). Cook for 10 minutes or so, depending on the exact style of oats.

Results: Pretty good, as long as I only have to eat it a couple of times a summer. Too much of a hot fruit ambiance for me.

Rating: *****

Green Thumb Up My Nose

August 1, 2016

Garden Report for 160801

The weather this week was clear and sunny, just brushing mid-90’s at midweek.

Harvested two Big Beef tomatoes from the front pot, a New Girl from Section 4, and some miniature peppers from Section 1 of the KHG (4 peppers, 64g total, not worth adding a row for). The BBs are supposed to come in at 400-500g, but these were both 110g. The New Girl was 140g, exactly as advertised.

The squash in Section 3 were badly hit by blossom-end rot, not sure why. Watering has been consistent. I hit them with some calcium mix and they seem to be doing OK now. Got one summer squash and a Zucchini.

Meanwhile, the rest of the KHG tomatoes continue to meander on, with few fruit and nothing ripe. The pie pumpkins outside the KHG are doing OK, but I only see one pump.

I am trying an experiment in the newly-cleared Section 1. Remember the big thistly plant from a couple weeks ago? Turns out it’s burdock, the roots of which are used in some Japanese cooking. First and second year growth is best. So I clipped some of the thistles off a few nearby plants, and planted them in the garden. Remember kids, the best way to get rid of pests is to turn them into gourmet food.

Week
Ending
8/04
Vegetable Count Weight
g
Unit
Weight
g
Total Total
Weight
kg

tomato  3  358  120 23 0.775
cabbage 4 4.02
peas 1.675
summer
squash
 2  240  120  3  .36
zucchini  1  200  200  3  .900
Running Total 7.73

 

Week
Ending
7/25
Vegetable Count Weight
g
Unit
Weight
g
Total Total
Weight
kg

tomato 20 0.418
cabbage 3 2750 917 4 4.02
peas 1300 1.675
summer
squash
 1  .120
zucchini  2  .700
Running Total 6.93

Interestingly, this time last year I was about even with this year’s harvest, and in 2014 it wasn’t until mid-August that it was even worth building a harvest table. That will change by the end of the month.