Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thoughts on Video

So, I was taking a moment to watch this below video of the snow storm in Buffalo:

and when the pilot brings the drone back to take a selfie, I had a flashback to when we moved back to California, and I recorded a video tour of the new house for family and friends.  There were a few times in bathrooms and bedrooms where I caught myself in a mirror, and broke the description of the house with, "Cameraman."

It was on a compact camera that used magnetic tape.  We then transferred the video to VHS tapes for distribution.  This was in 1986 and most everyone's VHS players were standardized.

This had not been the case just a few years prior when we had lived in Kentucky and done another video of our redone backyard with new brick patio and flower mounds.  We recorded our tour at what we assumed was the normal speed because our VHS player could record up to 6 hours of material on a cassette.  Unfortunately, the friends we sent our tape to did not have that format on their player and could only record 4 hours of material on a cassette (maybe only even 2).

So what happened?  Apparently it was like watching a poorly cranked film on playback.  The dog and I were accused of extreme hyperactivity and it was recommended that I cut back on the sugar.  And we were asked if the scenic flower mounds were Indian burial mounds.

At the time of this writing, the snow drone video has been viewed over 300,000 times.  And yet 30 years ago, we couldn't even get our video to be properly watched once.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

New Tech and Old Tech

So, almost a month ago, I bought a new external hard drive, and shuffled around our home network a bit.  The way it had been was an network attached storage (NAS) with an external via USB, plus a smaller external attached directly to my computer.  Our music collection (as well as shared photos and other documents) was on the NAS-external, and syncing our iPods was something we would do over a weekend.  It was just slow.

With the new external, I moved the small external to the NAS and each laptop got an external.  Then the real shuffling began.  The NAS and its external are formatted with a UNIX file system.  So there was a bit of file movement to perform.  And some other things as well.

  1. Attach new external to my laptop, and copy (over wifi) complete contents of old NAS-external to new external.
  2. Connect old external to my laptop, reformat, and copy contents.
  3. Connect small external to NAS, reformat.
  4. Connect old external to Jennifer's laptop, redirect iTunes look locally for files
  5. Redirect iTunes on my computer to look locally for files
  6. Spend some time deleting music of Jennifer's from my external
  7. Spend more time renaming folders for consistent naming.
  8. Realize the majority of folders have been renamed, so re-import music for iTunes.
  9. Reorganize playlists
  10. Attach iPod to re-sync, get notice that Windows needs to run a disk check.
  11. Check disk crashes iTunes, making restart necessary.
  12. iTunes requires Restore of iPod, but Restore locks up iTunes, and three repeated attempts yields same results.
  13. Attempt Restore using Jennifer's laptop, locking iTunes again.
  14. Setup appointment at Appel Store - Genius Bar.
  15. Go to Apple Store.  iTunes not seeing iPod, but Genius gets it working after a few restarts of iPod.  iPod is Restored, but iTunes is not seeing the iPod.  I am wished luck.
  16. Plugging iPod into computer brings up Checkdisk requirement again.  I hold my breath and do it again.  This time no crashes.
  17. iTunes require a Restore of the iPod.  I hold my breath, and do it.  Again, no crash.  Trying to hide excitement.
  18. After Restore, iPod begins syncing.

Now, as I mentioned before, syncing the entire iPod (an iPod Classic with 160 GB) used to take from Friday night and often run all weekend and might be done by Tuesday morning.  I was about 30% synced in less than 3 hours.

And so, happily, when I got up this morning the sync was complete.  So all is well, and I can put off buying a replacement for a while.  But I may buy one anyway, just to have a spare.

Friday, November 07, 2014

New Madness

So, you should know that I'm a regular reader of science sites.



Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy

And so today io9 had the follwing article on the removal of information from a textbook as the Republicans continue their anti-science, over-religious attempts to control the country.

The links referred to in the site are for Rachel Maddow's site.

And a biologist's site.

However, just in case these should go away, here are the pages (545 and 546) that are being ripped out of the seventh edition of Campbell Biology: Concepts and Connections textbook:

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Stop the Madness

So we have six or seven smoke detectors at home.  They are wired into the building's main power, but they also have a battery backup.  Apparently, the detector sends a check regularly through the battery  to check its voltage and ensure that it is in working order.  If that voltage (maybe current?  Dammit Jim, I'm a geologist not an electrician!) is too low to run the detector, then the detector chirps.

Perhaps this is common knowledge to people, but last night I had a bit of a situation as all four upstairs and one downstairs detector began chirping when we were heading to bed.  They did this for half an hour.  I tried pushing the silence button (which usually works), and changed out the batteries in them.  Nothing worked.

Now to forestall any admonishments, I know you're supposed to change out the batteries every 6 months.  I just wish they lasted that long.  These things have been 9-volt vampires and end up getting changed when they chirp.

Finally out of frustration, I called our property manager and asked him if he had any tricks to get them to be quiet.  (And yes, they did chirp a few times during the conversation.)  He said to completely disconnect the ones that were chirping completely from power.  I ended up only having to do that to two of them before they all quieted down.

Apparently there are new code laws coming into effect in 2015, and so next year we will be getting new detectors that have their own 10-year battery life and not be connected to power.  He is coming by today to install three of the new detectors in the most important locations: master bedroom, guest bedroom, and upstairs hallway.  The rest will get replaced next year.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Book Nook

So, I'm going to be moving on to some non-fiction for my next book.

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August was lots of fun.  It was so much more than I expected it to be after its beginning.

Then I read Patrick Rothfuss' The Slow Regard of Silent Things.  I cannot begin to describe how reading this novella makes me feel inadequate in any sort of field of putting words together.  This book has no dialogue, but there is conflict, and action, and tension.  It takes place in Rothfuss' Kingkiller world, and had me riveted the entire time.

But now, I'm on to Self-Made Man by Norah Vincent.  I'm not sure where I came across the book, but this may be another Kinja/iO9/Jezebel reference.  It initially strikes me as a Black Like Me kind of book, but i'm intrigued.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Really? I'm Not That Hungry.

So, I'm apparently on the part of my reading book list that I have acquired from web page recommendations.

Graham Joyce's Some Kind of Fairy Tale left me wanting.  It builds up in the beginning, and then doesn't really go anywhere.  I read the whole thing for the conclusion, and it wasn't very satisfying.

Then I tried M.R. Carey's The Girl With All the Gifts.  I found the basic description of the book intriguing, and the writing style was captivating.  And then it became a zombie story.  Maybe it's not a true zombie story, but it's damn close enough that I got disgusted with it.  Add to that the fact that it's about the study of the children of zombies, or maybe children infected with the zombie virus, and I was appalled.  I don't think I got past 50 pages, and life is too short to read books you don't like once you're out of school.


And, so I'm moving on to Claire North's The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August.  I'm already finding it very interesting.  Much like The Confessions of Max Tivoli it is a mundane world seen through the eyes of a person in an extraordinary situation.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Big Test

So, it's been pointed out to me that I didn't talk about how my test went last Thursday.

The test was supposed to start at 8:30, so I decided to make it an easy morning.  I slept in until 6:00, got ready, and walked to Emery-Go-Round at 7:00.

I only had to wait a few minutes, and the shuttle showed up.  Then I had only 1 minute to wait for a San Francisco BART train.

The testing center was at California and Davis, and I was glad that I had talked to a previous test taker and my dad about what it was like.  First, I was supposed to take everything out of my pockets, and put all that I carried into a locker.  Because, they do treat you like you are a criminal.  I was only allowed to bring a calculator and the key to the locker with me into the test.  This compared to engineers who were taking the California Seismic portion of the Professional Engineer test, and were allowed to bring 3 text books and a binder of references.  I was even given special test center pencils.

The test itself was 3 hours long and consisted of 85 questions.  I'll save you the math: that's about 2 minutes and 7 seconds per question.  It went pretty well.  I had four primary equations memorized as well as a few conversion factors, and there were a few other equations provided in other questions.  I ended up finishing about 30 minutes before the clock on the test said the test would be complete.  I checked through those questions I had marked to go back to, and I was done.

And so now, the waiting begins.  It will be about 90 days according to the guy I studied with which puts it into the new year.

Again, I'll keep yo all posted.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Magic of Music

So, regular reader will know that I am part of a monthly pen and paper, role playing game.  This past Saturday we had our session, and a certain topic came up.

Just follow this logic.

In the GURPS Magic system, the kinds of spells are broken into Colleges: separate colleges for the four elements, animal magic, sound, light and darkness, etc.  Then there are ways of limiting the magic user like allowing one to only be able to cast spells in a single college, or only cast spells during the day, or (what my recently retired character began the campaign with) only being able to cast spells when singing.  This last are usually called Song Mages

So the next step in speculation is: who sings all the time?  Disney princesses.

Disney princesses have a tendency to be able to magically interact with animals.  They can speak with them, and sometimes control them.  And usually this is done through song.

(And yeah, this does kind of make Mulan into the Batman of Disney heroines, but still...)

But take this a little farther (and it even continues the Disney theme), what other famous character communicates and kind of controls animals?


Now, nowhere in the rules does it say that a song mage has to have any musical skill or talent.  So with only a gorilla's sense of music, Tarzan casts his spells to do what he does with the animals of the jungle.

This was about where we left it on Saturday, but I started applying this to other things.

What about super-heroes?  What do a lot of super-heroes have in common with Disney princesses?  They're orphans.  Is this another link to the hidden power of magic/super-powers?  Sure this doesn't work with Batman, but it does explain why Mulan can only talk with the spirit-powered dragon, but has no control over him or the cricket.

Ariel's powers are limited because her father still lives; she can speak with some of the fish (and the seagull), but can't control the shark or the eels.  Aurora probably gained hers from the good fairies because both of her parents are still alive as well.  Pocahontas is gifted by her grandmother.  Snow White - major animal song mage.  The trope is even mocked silently with Giselle.

For a full circle head spin, what super-hero (other than Black Canary) is most known for singing?

Mighty Mouse.

::mike drop::

Monday, October 13, 2014


So, Sunday, I met with some other geologists at the Oakland Public Library's main branch for a little CHG study session.  One of them had taken the exam last year, and not passed.  The rest of us picked his brain for what the test was like, and we went over questions of the type that he felt sure would be on the test.

We all decided that we hadn't been studying hard enough, but were going to focus the rest of the week.  Jennifer and I are going to keep out television off once I'm home.  She's going to read, and I'm going to do the end of chapter problems in my old textbooks.

I'll be in San Francisco on Thursday for the test.  Send all of your good thoughts and energy my way from 8:30 to 11:30.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Hati and Mani

So, I was reminded of a few things this morning.  One of the smallest is that if you take the time to setup a tripod prior to getting up to take pictures of a lunar eclipse, you'll probably fall back to sleep sooner afterwards.

I didn't do that though.

The first picture I took, I forgot to turn off the flash...

So the moon's there, but it's really faint.

So next, I turned off the flash, but didn't realize how much hand moved when supporting the camera, and it's a bit heavy with the zoom lens.

So I went to the closet and got out the tripod.

I took several pictures, but this one I think is the best.  What surprises me is how much the stars moved in just a 6 second exposure.  I have one shot I took that has a 10 second exposure.  Even the moon is blurred and slightly elongated from its movement.

Still, it was cool to see.  We were very fortunate to have fog only over San Francisco and not all over the Bay Area.

Also, for reference, Hati and Mani...

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Needing Your Support

So, my mom is going through a lot right now.  I'd recommend checking out her blog for the news.

I spoke with them this weekend, and then earlier this week when they left the hospital.

As she says, please keep them in your thoughts, and keep it positive.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Hitting the Books

You might notice that I've added a new section to the right.

Back in June I applied to take the exam to become a California Certified Hydrogeologist (CHG).  I had to gather up three letters of recommendation from other CHGs or Professional Geoloigists (PGs).  It took a little work, but I got it all together, and after some additional questions from the Board, I was approved to take the exam.

The exam is in the middle of October, so now I have to study.

The Board published a list of material that I need to know, so now I get to go back through my textbooks and refresh myself.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Cycling and Football

Yesterday, Jennifer suggested riding the Iron Horse Trail again.  We decided to ride the entire trail, and planned to take BART all the way to Concord, then ride down to the trailhead on Olivera.

However, when we got to Pleasant Hill, the train was going to wait for over 10 minutes because of track maintenance.  So we decided we'd get off, get on the trail, ride to the trailhead, and then turn around and do the whole trail to Dublin/Pleasanton.

Yeah, but then we lost the trail in Concord around Willow Pass Road.  Looking at Google Maps today, we missed where the Iron Horse Trail splits from another trail when it crosses Monument Boulevard.  Good to know, and we'll try again another time.

We dodged walkers with baby carriages, cyclists who had more gear than sense, and dogs no being controlled by their owners.  And to top it off, Danville was having a wine festival that was adjacent to the trail.

We were very happy to make it to the BART station.

In total with all the back and forth, we did just about 33.5 miles.


Then this morning is the first Sunday of the NFL regular season.  It's a bit of a tradition for me to make Jennifer a special breakfast while she watches the pre-game show.

We made a quick race to Trader Joe's for necessary ingredients, and then using other stuff we had on hand, I made two breakfasts.  For myself, just a bagel eggwich with Kinder's peppered bacon:

But, Jennifer got eggs Benedict with smoked salmon, and a couple slices of bacon.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Good Morning - 3, 2, 1...

Looking this quote up that I thought was Terry Pratchett, I learned it was actually from Will Durant.

"Civilization exists by geologic consent, subject to change without notice."

A 6.1 earthquake (as of this writing) rolled through the Bay Area this morning.  It was centered south of Napa near American Canyon.

We were awakened by the shaking, and then heard a thump and something breaking.

We got semi-dressed and went downstairs.  The cats were fine in their room.  None of the glasses had fallen.  Then Jennifer called from a room upstairs.  A propped up piece of art had shifted forward and knocked two ceramic tea light holders to the ground.  One landed an the other, and that's what made them break.

Otherwise, we're fine.