Ice on Prez Day


Originally uploaded by eidolon.

Zach and Pascal and I went for a walk out on Lake Cochituate (which, except for ‘fast current’ spots, was solid down to about 14 inches). We hiked out into the ‘main’ section of the lake, and I was struck by the wide-openness, blue sky, and crystal clear air.

It was VERY cold – current temp is showing about 19 degrees, but it was also breezy. Brr! But we were bundled up nice and warm against it.

Chilly in Boston!


Originally uploaded by eidolon.

Yes, that display really does say ‘9 F’ – 9 degrees fahrenheit. That was at 10pm tonight, on the way back from band practice. It seems to be holding there, the thermometer here at home is showing 10 degrees outside.

One thing this does remind me of is how important a house that has a decent building envelope is. Right now our (rented) house leaks like a sieve. I durned near froze my tootsies off last night as our room temperature probably hit the high 40’s overnight. My fingers were -cold- when outside the blanket. When I finally dragged myself out of bed this morning, the in-house thermometer in the hall happily said ’58’, and this after the sun had been up for 2 hours.

Today Catya picked up a couple small ceramic room heaters – much as I hate using electricity to heat, the alternative was unacceptible.

Fortunately, Mosaic is building things with a very GOOD building envelope, so even on the coldest days, we’ll be able to keep up. This house has a perfectly fine large oil heater in the basement, and baseboard heating all throughout, but that furnace cannot keep up with the amount of heat loss poor (I’m suspecting _ZERO_) insulation, and badly designed structures allow through.

I can’t wait to move.

Comcast FTW!

I’m generally not a big booster of Large Horrific Corporations, but it sure feels somewhere along the line, The Man figured out that customers are happier, when they get good service. Monopolies are stronger when their customers aren’t grouchy all the time.
So it is with mixed feelings that I cast my blessings upon Comcast, who seems to have finally gotten the ‘support the client’ thing down pretty well.
The setting – I needed a cable tuner box. My MythTV project had hit a snag with the de-stabilization of deathstar. I wanted to be able to actually watch TV, but without a functional PVR, I was sort of hosed. Ah well, time to ask Comcast for a tuner.
With trepedation, I went to their website, was pleasantly surprised to note it was uncluttered and easy to navigate, moved to ‘contact us’, and found, huh! “Start a live chat with a service representative”. Okay, I really dislike talking to support on the phone, lets give it a try.
Sure enough, within a minute I was in a java-driven chat applet with a rep, who happily upgraded my cable service, and scheduled a time for the comcast guy to come out and install the new cable box.
But that’s not what I’m hear to talk to you about.
I’m hear to talk to you about two nights ago, when the cable stopped working. Got the guide, no picture. Time for another chat! As I’m describing the problem to the rep, he asks that I check the cabling. While I’m walking over to the TV, VOILA! Instant image and picture and sound. I hadn’t touched -anything-. It just came on.
*typetype* “Okay, did you do that?” rep: “Do what?” “The TV just came on, and I’m getting video and sound fine.” rep: “Ah, yes, I sent a reset signal to your cable box and told it to re-initialize.” “It worked.” “Great!”
Surreal, yet oddly satisfying. I have other issues with Comcast (for instance they have deliberately blocked the firewire port on the tuner box so MythTV cannot record digitally. Grr.) But for now, things seem to be working. Next step will be most likely upgrading the settop box to support 16:9 off the wire (at the moment it’s stretching things to 4:3). But that may wait a while.

Slashdot promotes windows!


Originally uploaded by eidolon.

Ads are ads are ads. They generate revenue, they are the lifeblood of many websites. On most days, I can tolerate them.

But when a website I’ve been using for a decade, a site that is truly the core of much of the Linux community, for all its faults, supports an ad so blatantly sensationalistic, with no bylines, no disclaimers, and in fact nothing to say this IS in fact an ad, I find my bile rising.

This ad appeared on this mornings reload of It ran big bold headlines “LONDON STOCK EXCHANGE CHOOSES WINDOWS OVER LINUX FOR RELIABILITY!” and stopped at the frame shown here. The implication is “Windows is more reliable than Linux in server environments. You should run Windows Server 2003 if you want to succeed.”

This really isn’t the place to go into whether Windows or Linux is more appropriate in the data center – that’s been hashed, rehashed, and argued ad nauseum. What bothers me is seeing this sort of IN YOUR FACE advertising on a site that really is against all that this ad represents – the blind marching toward the All Savior of Microsoft, only they can run our data center! Only they can run stable servers!

Ads are ads, as I said. But Slashdot, shouldn’t this bother you, even a smidgen?

Thanksgiving in Ashland


Originally uploaded by dbang.

Yesterday we all went over to Steph and Dwight and Sarah‘s house for their (now traditional) “Day after thanksgiving hang out and share leftovers” day. It ended up being an outstanding afternoon of socializing, food, kids, chat, and general friend-connectedness.

Part of the fun was being outside (after all the rain we’ve had) and playing football with the kids. John joined in as well, and we kept Zach, Ian, Andy, Mishka, and Alexei well entertained for an hour or two. Diana took this shot while we were tossing the ball around.

I really enjoyed having the time to spend non-business time with my future neighbors and other friends. It was just what the Dr ordered.

Powertools and the bedroom

The end result!

Originally uploaded by eidolon.

So yesterday we got notice that the new futon we had bought had arrived. It was only 5 minutes away by car, so we quickly scampered over to pick it up.

Since I was taking apart the bed anyway, I thought it would be a good time to follow through with a project I had been thinking about. While I liked the whole futon concept, I was really done with the “bed on the ground” thing, and wanted something I could actively sit on the side of. Mattress boxsprings and frames seemed silly – I already had a bed, I just needed to raise it up.

Futon frame under modificationOn with the power tools! The first step was to make the trifold kingsized frame rigid. It wouldn’t be sitting flat on the ground anymore, so it needed a way to support itself. Adding 3 2×3 stringers along the underside of the frame did that.

Next I needed to raise the whole setup. I added 9 posts to the bottom by connecting a 6″ piece of 2×3 to a 10″ 2×3, in a sort of ‘shelf’ arrangement. The bedframe sites on the smaller piece, and attaches to the side of the longer piece with a pair of heavy wood screws. With help from a visiting friend, we assembled the entire thing in about an hour.

After flipping it over and putting the mattress back on top, the entire arrangement is now easily flush with the window and sitting on it is quite comfortable. i can even see the TV while folks are playing games or hanging out. Hooray!

Oh, and a new futon mattress after being on the same one for 6 years? Priceless.

The face of modern telecommuting.


Originally uploaded by eidolon.

Every morning I spend an hour or so on the ‘phone’ with my client down in New Jersey. This has been tricky when we don’t have a ‘face’ to talk to on both ends.

We’ve worked out a combination of audio and video that works quite well. Using MSN (which is the standard for the client), we have a webcam in the conference room that someone hooks up to their laptop. It’s quite simple to just ‘make a video call’, and off we go.

For audio, we use, which lets us have a very robust dialin / conference call system. I use a VOIP client from called X-lite, which ties into our VOIP account from RNK Telecom.

All of that coupled with my Blueant X5 headphones make for a very comfortable, useable interraction.

All of this is running on clipper, my laptop. The niftiest part of this is I can do this from anywhere. I’m considering getting smaller, mort portable camera (I’m using a Labtec camera now, which is ‘okay’, but not exactly portable.)

Yay technology!

Zipping along the Minuteman Trail

dbs goes zoom

Originally uploaded by bk7j.

On Saturday, blk, Zach and I went for a bikeride along the Minuteman Trail. We weren’t sure if we’d ride the entire length or not, but in the end we covered the entire trail – Alewife to Bedford and back again, a total of about 21.5 miles. Barb did the entire trip on rollerblades, which was quite an accomplishment. According to Mister Bike Computer, we were going between 8 and 10 mph, which is a slow for me, just right for Zach, and fast for a blader. It averaged out. 🙂

On occasion, I’d give Barb a tow (she’d latch onto the back of my bike and I’d pedal for a while). At one point we cranked up to about 20mph (about as fast as she was comfortable going without pads on).

She snapped this picture while rolling along next to me… it’s the first decent pic I have of me riding. I always thought my ‘bent was huge and bulky, but under me, it looks like a toy 🙂

Mobile computing on the Treo

Treo 650 with Keyboard

Originally uploaded by eidolon.

This past weekend while at the National Cohousing Conference, Cat and I shared a bit of geekery and picked up a palmOne IR Wireless keyboard so that we could take notes in various panels right into our Treos. After installing the .PRC file into both units, the keyboard worked great, unfolding like some new-age Transformer into a nice perhaps 3/4 size keyboard, with a prop for the phone. Reassembling it was somewhat Rubiks-cube like, but it did fold down to a very comfortable package not much larger than the Treo itself.

We found it very useful to take fast notes into the Palm Memos function, and then upload them into email and other programs.

At one point I sat down at one of the tables, fired up upIRC, a very good IRC program for the Palm, and sat happily chatting with friends online over Verizon’s 1xRTT network. As a mobile IRC platform, with the addition of the keyboard, I find the whole setup pretty useable. It does get you some odd looks from passers by though. “He’s typing, but… he’s got a phone propped up. Suppose he’s typing on thephone? nahhhh.”

Pittsburgh Road Trip, Day 1


Originally uploaded by eidolon.

Yesterday (the 12th) I set out on a somewhat ambitious journey. A driving trip from Boston to Pittsburgh for a 4 day camping excursion with blk. The occasion is a private party held out in the hills outside Pittsburgh.

After much hemming and hawing, and taking into account my general dislike of sleeping in tents in rainy conditions if I can avoid it, I decided to haul our Jayco camper trailer out, instead of flying there and tenting it.

I had never driven the van this far before, and certainly not hauling a 2700lb trailer. I had camped with the trailer before, so knowing what was needed for that was pretty easy. Bedding, flashlights, etc etc. No problem. But the 10-11 hours in the car was another matter.

I loaded up the iPod with a bunch of new tracks, and also spent some time rejeuvenating my XM Radio. The main problem was that I was getting a constant whine in the speakers. Fiddling around it turned out the whine was only happening when jacked into either of the 12v outlets in the van. This wouldn’t do. I rattled this around for a while and noticed this problem merged with another problem I was wrestling with. How to power the trailer while camping. The trailer can take a 12v power lead (as well as 110v ‘shore’ power), but the small lead acid batteries I had been using (scavenged from UPSes) are not ‘deep cycle’, and once fully discharged tend to really lose it.

The answer came after I remembered seeing these Black and Decker Jumpstarter / Power supply thingies at a Sears local service center. A quick trip to AutoZone and lo, there one was. 400amp, has a 12v socket on it, charges from 12v or from 110v, has a compressor, and says it has no problems cycling from fully charged to low charge, just don’t do it constantly. Perfect. $79 later, and it was mine.

At a previous campout, we had used a similar hookup (loaned to us by another camper), but it was much smaller (maybe 100amp?), and really didn’t hold up for a whole weekend. I think it started out low charge too.

I charged up the battery, and installed it into the footwell on the passenger side of the van. Using the 12v connection from my XM receiver, I jacked it into the battery, and lo! No whining! A totally isolated power source.

It turns out the power held up beautifully, powering first my XM receiver, then my ipod, and back again, for the entire trip, without losing more than a quarter of its charge. Excellent. I’ll be able to power my toys on the trip, then move it to the trailer for powering lights and other accessories while we’re camped.

The drive out in an of itself wasn’t particularly eventful. I went over several sets of “mountains” (the quotes there for Rosa’s benefit – being from Wyoming, hearing easterners refer to our little lumps as ‘mountains’ gives her a chuckle) – regardless, they were a lot of work to get over. The van held up great, though I certainly did spend time in the 40mph lane going over some hills.

Pennsylvania is HUGE, and has some absolutely gorgeous countryside. I had forgotten how empty the middle of the state is. Even within 30miles of Pittsburgh, it’s wide open rural.

P7130023.JPGIt rained occasionally, but mostly was overcast and just humid.

Today we pack up and head off to the campsite. The forecast for the weekend is occasional thunderstorms (which are wonderful when the trailer is all set up and comfy), but a little tricky for getting around and socializing. We’ll see!

Jesusland grows bold

Obscene Liberty

Originally uploaded by Lightning Rose.

This statue is real. This is not photoshopped. This horror is a 75′ tall product of the World Overcomers Outreach Ministries Church. They have a website about the ”Status of Liberation Through Christ”. They have erected this obscenity in Memphis, TN, against the objections of people in the town who have to see this thing every day.

From the FAQ:

The message is: America (represented by the Statue of Liberty) belongs to God. It proclaims that Christ is the true source of liberty: spiritually, emotionally, physically, relationally, financially, and intellectually. The Statue reminds this nation that it was founded on Judeo-Christian values and urges America to return to them. It says: America, bless God if you want God to bless America.

Flag burning is nothing compared to this travesty.