Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The 2008 Election from Delaware

The line I faced this morning when I arrived at about 7:15am. I've voted in De in every election since 94, and can't recall such a crowd. I stood in line for about an hour. Granted, not as long as bigger states, but hey, this is Delaware ;-)

Uploaded by www.cellspin.net

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Man decorates basement with $10 worth of Sharpie

The Lexington Herald-Leader published an article about a man who knows how to wield a permanent marker.
When Charlie Kratzer started on the basement art project in his south Lexington home, he was surrounded by walls painted a classic cream. Ten dollars of Magic Marker and Sharpie later, the place was black and cream and drawn all over.

There are fictional detectives Hercule Poirot and Sherlock Holmes, Winston Churchill lounging with George Bernard Shaw — and the TV squirrel Rocky and his less adroit moose pal Bullwinkle.

Click on the link, there's an amazing animation showing the whole basement. It's quite cool.

Monday, September 29, 2008

2008 - a new depression?

In reading news articles about Congress' rejection of the $700 billion bailout, I stumbled across disturbing testimony to the US House of Representatives' Committee of Financial Services regarding the parallels between the stock market crash of 1929 and the present economic situation.

The reader, if bold enough to undertake such a deep reading, should be quite disturbed by the fact that the testimony was given almost a year ago...before the subprime meltdown really got into swing and we reached the current state of crisis.

Some interesting quotes,
"Your predecessors on the Senate Banking Committee, in the celebrated Pecora Hearings of 1933 and 1934, laid the groundwork for the modern edifice of financial regulation. I suspect that they would be appalled at the parallels between the systemic risks of the 1920s and many of the modern practices that have been permitted to seep back in to our financial markets."

"Since repeal of Glass Steagall in 1999, after more than a decade of de facto inroads, super-banks have been able to re-enact the same kinds of structural conflicts of interest that were endemic in the 1920s -- lending to speculators, packaging and securitizing credits and then selling them off, wholesale or retail, and extracting fees at every step along the way. And, much of this paper is even more opaque to bank examiners than its counterparts were in the 1920s."

"A last parallel is ideological -- the nearly universal conviction, 80 years ago and today, that markets are so perfectly self-regulating that government's main job is to protect property rights, and otherwise just get out of the way.

We all know the history. The regulatory reforms of the New Deal saved capitalism from its own self-cannibalizing instincts, and a reliable, transparent and regulated financial economy went on to anchor an unprecedented boom in the real economy."

"Mr. Chairman, we are living on borrowed time. And the vulnerability goes far beyond the spillover effects of the sub-prime debacle.

We need to step back and consider the purpose of regulation. Financial regulation is too often understood as merely protecting consumers and investors. The New Deal model is actually a relatively indirect one, since it relies more on mandated disclosures, and less on prohibited practices."

And one last bit...
"One last parallel: I am chilled, as I'm sure you are, every time I hear a high public official or a Wall Street eminence utter the reassuring words, "The economic fundamentals are sound." Those same words were used by President Hoover and the captains of finance, in the deepening chill of the winter of 1929-1930. They didn't restore confidence, or revive the asset bubbles.

The fact is that the economic fundamentals are sound -- if you look at the real economy of factories and farms, and internet entrepreneurs, and retailing innovation and scientific research laboratories. It is the financial economy that is dangerously unsound. And as every student of economic history knows, depressions, ever since the South Sea bubble, originate in excesses in the financial economy, and go on to ruin the real economy."

Truly, those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it.

The original article is very long, and very heavy in its economic details. I don't pretend to understand all of it, though I do get the jist of most of it.

In the end, it's very frightening, as are the times we live in.

Here's hoping we're not on the cusp of the next Great Depression...

Friday, September 19, 2008

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Election 2008

Normally, I don't post about politics on my blog...but this article disturbed me enough that I feel I need to this time.

Once Elected, Palin Hired Friends and Lashed Foes

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Tired? Just go back 100 years...

It's been a bit crazy at work lately, things have been getting very busy and time consuming. The weekend went fairly well so far, we took the kid out to a playground with my parents and spent the day together. This morning was a lot of overdue lawn work. About four hours ago, the kid went down for her nap and my wife and I were just settling in for what promised to be a quiet afternoon, talking about what movie we'd like to watch.

It suddenly got a lot more quiet than we had expected.

A freak thunderstorm blew into the area with no warning, spraying rain and covering the sky with dark, ominous gray clouds. The soaked the ground with water, but then left as quickly as it came. It only lingered for a half an hour, but as it left it took our electricity with it.

It's been a long time since we lost the power, thank Heaven. Since moving into our house about five years ago, the local power supply has been remarkably robust, in spite of much worse thunderstorms in the past. This time, however, we lost our electricity after a few disturbing flickers that brought the lights up and down.

My wife and I were both surprised at the event, and immediately did the usual drill in case it was a long outage. We retrieved our candles, planned for a cold dinner, and thought forward to the next day. After taking twenty minutes to clean the living room (children are messy creatures ;) we then found ourselves wondering what to do.

There was no Internet, no TV. We couldn't run the dish washer, neither the clothes washer nor dryer. The air-conditioner was silent, as were the computers and all the appliances.

The depth of the silence was astounding.

We opened the windows, as the house was getting stuffy and the storm had passed. The cool air from outside breezed in, flushing away the stuffy air that had been stiffening ever since the central conditioner died with the rest of the house. The outside was as quiet as the inside. Gone were the humming noises of our neighbor's central air units, gone was the noise of televisions, radios, and even lawn mowers.

The only noise was the rustle of the wind in the trees, or the occasional twitter of a bird, the buzz of an insect.

At first, the quiet was slightly annoying. We both had things we wanted to do, chores to accomplish and entertaining electronics we wanted to relax through. My wife took to the quiet much more quickly than I did, having grown up in a quiet house. She simply picked up a book and started reading. For me, however, I had grown up in a house that was always abuzz with the hum of circuitry and the rush of air from a central unit.

Following Linda's lead, I went down to the basement to find a book to amuse me. For many years now, I've been trying to find time to read Huck Finn. So, I picked up a book I'd bought years ago with four of Mark Twain's novels.

Sitting down, I opened the plain book and quietly read the pages. Many, many years have passed since I read a book that was not a technical manual or a college text book. As I read the ink-laden pages of the tome, memories of my teen age years came back to me, when I had time to read books for leisure. The added silence of the power outage only enhanced the experience.

Five chapters and an hour later, Linda and I took to talking, giving our eyes a break from the reading. It was all the more relaxing, just chatting idly about matters of the day in our lives. Soon after that, we took to playing dominoes while listening to quiet tunes pouring out of the speaker of a hand-crank radio. The air was cool and crisp after the storm, and we continued our chat, the room filled with the music, the sound of our voices, and our laughter.

Gone was the world of electronic beeps and whirs, the emails, the web pages, the instant news, instant chat, instant everything. Life was slow again, and peaceful. I felt a calm overtake me that I had not experienced in years, perhaps even ever before. All that we had before us was each other and the gentle sounds of the radio.

After a good hour of this pleasant time, the entire house came to life as the power came back on, appliances whirring once more and computers beeping as they sprang to life. The central air rushed out of the duct at our feet, and suddenly the radio seemed small and insignificant in the face of so many other electronic components of our modern home.

We finished our last domino game and went back to our typical day. Perhaps we were just a bit more relaxed than before the power so graciously left us for the time.

Time seemed to slow to a crawl as we sat in the silence, reading and enjoying each other's company. The experience was simply unparalleled in my busy life of late, so laden with the rush of work, childcare, and keeping up with family and friends.

Life truly has become too fast paced of late, I think. Not much can be done to stop it, we can't turn back the clock. However, I think we could all benefit by unplugging now and again, forcibly ripping the plugs and antennas out of our digital days to sit in the same peace and quiet as our grandparents must have enjoyed decades ago when the only media around was a record player or the radio. Perhaps we are more efficient and productive than they were, but are we happier?

There's much to be said for disconnecting, now and again.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

So with iPhone 2.0, I'm trying the Lifecast 3rd party app. Just giving it a whirl here...

Posted with LifeCast

Monday, July 7, 2008

Home Roast - Ethiopia Organic Dry Process Golocha

Last night, I roasted the next bag from the Sweet Maria's sampler that my wife gave me for my birthday. Here's what the bag read:
Ethiopia Organic Dry Process Golocha
At Full City. A rustic cup with very heavy body, dried apricot, hint herbs, tobacco, bittersweet finish, modest acidity

This roasting experience was markedly different than the last couple that I'd done. First, the beans had a lot more empty shells than I'd ever seen before. As the roasting progressed, these shells quickly turned into a great deal of chaff. Because of this, I pushed the beans to a darker color than I'd ever done, mainly because I was concerned about the quality of the beans. I figured it was better to roast more heavily (though I probably finished with a full city level anyway).

It seemed that some of the beans darkened very quickly, while most seemed to take much longer. I started to be concerned that the roast wouldn't taste very good because of this, as it seemed I was going to end up with some over-roasted beans amongst the majority.

The cracking was rather frequent and pronounced with this batch, continuing all the way to the end when I turned off the burner.

I brewed up a first batch this morning, and it's pretty good. There's much less of an oil taste than the last bean I did. It kind of tastes more like coffees I buy already roasted. I'm not sure if that's because of the bean variety, or how dark I roasted this batch.

When I buy more coffee beans, I'll have to try roasting a given bean type two or more times, so I can start to gauge the difference between the type of bean and the effect of roasting to different degrees.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot. I found a blog by Sweet Maria's, including this post for the same bean that I just roasted.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Dia2SQLpy - new release

Well, after five years, I finally got around to releasing a new Dia2SQLpy. No new features, this is simply a bugfix/documentation run.

It seems that in five years time, the Dia people had changed their XML doc for a UML diagram. How could they? ;)


Sunday, June 29, 2008

A Cup of Sulawesi Enrekang "Mount Alla"

So I started off this morning with grinding and brewing a pot of my home-roasted coffee from yesterday. The first thing that struck me about this bean was the smell. It had a strong smell of oils that reminded me of popcorn. I've noticed that about coffees before, but this was particularly strong.

When I poured the hot water over the grounds and saw the liquid accumulating in the carafe, the second thing that struck me was how light in color it was, when compared to the first bean I had tried, last week.

The coffee tastes very good. It's light and low in acid, but still has a very rich taste that pleases my palette. There is no hint of bitterness, just a delightful coffee that I thoroughly enjoy.

I'm going to continue on with these beans for the next four days (that's about how long a half pound seems to last me). Then I'll roast another batch late in the coming week.

I'll post about my next foray into home roast when I do it.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

A triple shot of joe

So today was a three-way coffee experience. First, because I had brewed the last of my home-roast coffee yesterday, I prepared a pot of the remaining Gevalia I had on hand.

My first impression of it, when compared to the coffee I'd been enjoying, was that it tasted very dark and bitter. Now, that may have been just the variety, as it was a mocha blend. I might have guessed that it was partly due to the Gevalia coffee being more darkly roasted. However, if one reads the description, it's advertised as lightly roasted.

So, perhaps the difference was the home roasting. ;)

This afternoon, I had some Wawa (decaf) coffee after lunch. It tasted decent, but as with the Gevalia I was comparing it in my mind to the home-roasted stuff. It compared better, in my opinion. But then, I've always liked Wawa coffee (as do most people I talk to in this area ;)

So, the last experience was that I roasted again today. The first batch was so enjoyable that I want to ensure I don't go long without more home-brew. I find the process easy and enjoyable, and the end-product is incredibly tasty, compared to brews roasted by companies.

I just finished roasting Sulawesi Enrekang "Mount Alla". I was going to link to Sweet Maria's catalog entry for that variety, but all I could find was this.

I'm going to post the relevant text from that link, just in case it disappears with the natural changes of the site:
In 2008 we have offer both super-clean, bright, non-traditional wet-process coffee from the Toarco estates, and traditional Semi-Washed, rustic type Sulawesi Toraja. We had a special lot of the later type too. I am referring to the Mount Alla coffee from Enrekang. In 2006 and 2007, Sulawesi offers have been brighter and cleaner in general, which throws a few cuppers for a loop since they look to Sulawesi to have no brightness/acidity. I think a good coffee needs the liveliness of some amount of acidity, and welcome this cup profile. The preparation of the green coffee, the absence of defects, has been fantastic. And now we have a wet-processed Sulawesi to offer alongside the traditional dry-process (well, semi-dry-processed). This is the first time I have cupped a wet-process Sumatra or Sulawesi, the most rustic of Indonesian coffees, and been impressed ... well, actually, blown away! It's fantasic stuff. Those looking for a more natural, earthy cup, head to the Sumatra Classic Mandheling or Gayo Mountain.

The bag that the coffee came in describes it as "At Full City+ chocolate, spice, and earthiness. Low acidity with pepper and caramel aromatics. Both clean and earthy". Here's what the final product looks like:

It doesn't seem that different than the last batch, does it? ;)

Anyway, I'll be brewing a pot tomorrow morning. I'll post with my take on tasting it.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The best part of waking up...

is not Folgers in my cup, it's my own home-roasted brew. ;)

This morning I ground and brewed my home-roasted coffee that I'd talked about yesterday. Since I'd gone to the trouble of roasting my own coffee, it only made sense to me that I brew my coffee in a more purist fashion.

So, I forsook the coffee machine and went for the old-school method of just boiling the water in a kettle and pouring it through a filter filled with the freshly-ground beans. The whole procedure worked fairly well, I was able to grind the beans while the kettle boiled the water, the timing was almost perfect.

As I poured the water into the coffee grounds, I was struck by two things. Firstly, the water foamed as it was poured over the beans. It's been a while since I brewed in this fashion, where I could see the process unfold. Because of the difference in color of the different roast levels of the beans, there was a gradiant in the color of the foam, as well.

Regardng the other sensation that really struck me, the smell and taste was definitely unique to all other coffee I'd had to date. Yesterday, I'd roasted the beans to about a "city" or "full-city" level (see the wikipedia article on the matter). As such, I believe the flavor of the beans really came through.

The cup I'm finishing now, even as I write this, has a much lighter flavor than most coffees I drink. I can sense the oils in the coffee, and the taste really kind of resonates upwards into my nose, as opposed to being heavy in my throat (my typical experience with coffee). I would almost say there was a "green" sense to the taste, perhaps the freshness of the beans coming through (?)

In any case, I really am enjoying the thinner quality to this coffee, it's nice not to have a cup that sits so firmly on the palette. I've got a travel mug full of the stuff yet, so I'm looking forward to finishing that as I head into work.

I'll definitely be brewing again, I've got another five bags of coffee yet to go. After that, I'll be buying more from Sweet Maria's. When one does the math by pound, it's actually cheaper than most roasted coffees (of any quality) that one may buy. (By 30% or upwards...)

So, for now I think I can say this was a complete success. I'll be posting more as I roast other coffees and learn more.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Home Roast

One of the presents my wife gave me for my birthday was green coffee beans for me to roast at home. Years ago I'd already made the leap to grind store-bought beans, so this was a neat step up.

Linda bought me a sampler pack from Sweet Maria's. Sadly, because we're so busy, we didn't try it until today. It's hard to say yet if it was a success, but I'll be able to tell tomorrow morning, after I grind & brew my first cups. ;)

In any case, here's what I did.

We followed the directions given at Sweet Maria's website for skillet roasting. While we have a very nicely seasoned cast iron frying pan, we opted for the wok method, as it would be (1) less work, and (2) easier to see what's happening. Maybe next time I'll try the shake & bake version. :P

For this first batch, we started with the "Colombia Huila Valencia" variety. Green beans smell very different than roasted coffee. After all our gardening, I'm rather surprised at the smell. I would have anticipated a smell closer to the green things that grow right outside our window, but coffee beans have a very strange, musty tentor to them. It's not a foul kind of smell, mind...nothing like anything rotting or molding.

However, it doesn't smell fresh, either.

Here's how the beans looked when we started, when we had just poured the green beans into the hot pan.

It was incredibly easy, and took very little time at all. All I had to do was keep stirring the beans while they heated.

As we cooked the beans in the wok, the smell of roasting coffee started to waft over us. It was very subtle at first, but before we knew it, the atmosphere was saturated with it. The smell had a very dark flavor, an aromatic air that quickly filled the entire house.

Within about five minutes or so, we heard the beans start cracking. Right or wrong, I had expected the cracking to follow the same progression as popcorn popping. First one, then a few, then many upon many until the sound started tailing off.

However, that didn't happen with our experience. What did happen was we heard the first crack, and then silence. It was sometime before the next followed, and a while after that until the next one.

One thing that concerned me, though it may have been unavoidable, was that there seemed to be great disparity among the beans. A few of them darkened up very quickly, while most remained green or a very light brown.

Nonetheless, as roasting continued, the overall color of the beans continued to darken. After about fifteen minutes, we took them off the heat and dumped them in a glass bowl to cool.

We took them outside and stirred the beans for another ten or fifteen minutes before finally deciding they had cooled sufficiently. Then we transferred them to a colander to shake the chaff off. Another twenty or thirty minutes, and the coffee was cool enough to put away.

I'll be grinding and brewing it tomorrow. Here's hoping it tastes great. ;)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Legendary Content with MythTV

Okay, so maybe the title of this post is a little over hyped. Myself, I blame the guy who called the Linux PVR software "MythTV".

As a geek, Mr. Richards should have known the pun potential he was letting loose on the world. ;)

But enough of that. Here's what I did. It's nothing revolutionary or untried before, just a little tweak on what others have done before, as well as a plug for Myth.

Long story short, there's a new and free site out on the Internet called Hulu.com which provides free, legal TV and movies, for free.

Did I mention it's free?

Oh, yeah...there are advertisements. One thirty-second commercial every fifteen to twenty minutes.

Yeah, I know the die-hard Myth users are probably turning up their noses (the commercial skipping feature of Myth is amazing, I use it all the time ;). However, you can't argue with free TV and movies.

How is that different than what we get on the airways? Well, go to Hulu and see for yourself. Simply put, they provide content that you can't find on TV anymore. Good shows, too, that were on major networks, a few years ago.

How's it work? Well, it uses Flash to provide the content. Since Linux runs Firefox, and that lovely browser has a Flash plug in, it was fairly trivial to get up and running.

First, I followed these instructions on my R5F1 install of Knoppmyth. Then I took the remote and went to "Utilities / Setup" -> "Setup" -> "Info Center Settings" -> "Web Settings".

From there, I did two things. I created a "New Bookmark" for www.hulu.com, and I changed the Browser from "/usr/bin/mythbrowser" to "/usr/bin/firefox".

After having configured the built-in browser to be Firefox, I again used the remote and went to "Information Center" -> "Web". There was the link I created, so I just selected that.

Firefox loaded quite nicely, but I had no way to control it using the remote. So, I had to make use of the mouse and keyboard. Mainly the mouse. It was a bit of a pain, but it works, so it'll do for now.

As it turns out, the instructions didn't quite work for some reason. I was told that I needed a more current Flash plug in. Thankfully, because Firefox works so very well on Linux, all I had to do was click the "Install Missing Plugin" button at the top of the brower's display.

At that point, it all worked. There's even a button inside of the Flash display to go full screen, which works perfectly.

The only other quirk is that the volume is appreciably lower than regular MythTV usage. I'm not sure yet how to fix that, but it's not a show stopper. It's just an annoyance.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


Only in Windows...

Monday, June 16, 2008

Sticking with Blogger

Well, after a few days of evaluation, I've decided that I'm sticking with Blogger. Wordpress can go take a hike.

What changed my mind, after all my ranting about Blogger's limitation? It's simple, really.

Wordpress asks you to pay for their advanced features. Features like...custom fonts and colors.

So, maybe I'm just a cheap bastard, but I have a problem with the principle of someone charging me for the privilege of using `font-face:` and `color:` tags in my website's cascading style sheets.

Blogger, of course, is subsidized by Google, who makes their money through advertisements. As of yet, I haven't found anything on Blogger that requires payment.

So, I'm going to stick with this old horse.

Besides, knowing Google, they'll improve matters around here. ;)

Sunday, June 15, 2008


If you've ever owned a cat, odds are you can appreciate this video:

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Trying a new blog

I've gotten a bit sick of Blogger and it's limitations. So, I'm looking at moving to Wordpress.

So far, I like what I see.

Friday, June 6, 2008


I love LOLcats. This has to be one of the funniest I've ever seen (it's something we all should be able to relate to...)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

New photos uploaded

I finally got around to uploading some of the pictures I've been taking lately. Last week I kinda went on a snapping spree, running around my back yard while I was cooking some burgers for the family.

Naturally, I took lots of photos of our garden:

I also did some experimental stuff, just finding whatever caught my eye in the area.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Random thought of the day

Youtube - never was so much storage available to so many, only to serve up so much crap.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Look away

What is it about people that sometimes we don't see things until we look away, and then look back again?

It's the silliest thing, but I was just killing time by playing solitaire (mind-numbing activities are great relaxation after a long day of heavy brain usage). I thought the game was done, but then something distracted me and I looked elsewhere. When I looked back a second later, I saw an obvious move (what move in that game isn't obvious? ;-) that was had been staring me in the face for several moves. As the old adage goes, "if it were a snake, it would have bit me".

Yet, I had missed it.

Of course, a game of solitaire is a ridiculous example indeed, but we've all been there with bigger matters, haven't we? Staring at some complicated problem for a long time, beating our heads against the wall to find a solution. Finally, we give up and walk away.

Then, minutes, hours, or even days later, we come back to what we were doing, only to find the solution staring us in the face.

I have to wonder what it is about the human brain that causes this phenomenon. I don't have any answers, of course, but it is a curious thing. Just the kind of thing to make you pause and think.

So, always make the time to step away from whatever you're doing. You may find yourself more productive for less effort.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

New post to SquareFootGazette

Linda posted our first update for our Square Foot Gardens in 2008.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

New Photo Album - Longwood Gardens

I finally got around to sifting through some of my old pictures and uploading them into my online photo gallery.

These are shots I've taken of Longwood Gardens when we went there a couple of years ago. In all, it's a really nice place to visit, very relaxing with all of the beautiful plants and landscaping.

Here's a sample ;-)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Perhaps a little cheese with that wine...

I found a neat site to record the wines I buy/try. Winelog.com is rather well done, sort of a social bookmarking site for wine. I find it's very well designed, intuitive, and easy to learn and use.

Nice to see, sadly too rare in development. :-(