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2016-04-07 10:23 pm

And so you're back, from outer space,

... I should have changed that stupid lock,
I should have thrown away that key,
if I'd known for just one second,
you'd be back to bother me!



It's only been, let's see, seven years.  So, who's still here?


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2009-05-04 11:47 am

This week only! Make $10 and help a researcher online

A friend (and colleague) of mine is finishing up her dissertation, and could use a few more study participants before closing results up at the end of the week. She's studying education and learning in virtual worlds, specifically in Second Life.

Visit http://www.iit.edu/~filiste/ for details; basically, get a free Second Life account, spend a little time inworld (free class on building in SL!), and fill out a couple of short surveys along the way.

Please give it a shot if you have a few minutes! Thanks!
(OK to forward, just be mindful of the deadline)
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2009-05-01 10:41 am

Anti-Snail Recycling for Your Transplants

Take a 2-liter clear soda bottle, remove the label.

Cut a tall cylinder out of the middle, like a belt or a collar-- a slice out of it. Optionally, smooth the edges or put clear tape over them.

Make a cut so that you have a long rectangular strip. Slit halfway from the top about a half-inch from one end, and from the bottom on the other end.

Get copper-foil sticky tape from the garden store or craft store. Make a line of the copper-foil tape the whole width of one side of the rectangle. It should cross the slits, but you can just slit it. Or tape first, then slit. Hey, this is freeform blogging here.

The tape placement should not be in the middle, it should be offset upward about an inch. Why? Because you will be setting this down into the dirt so the above-dirt portion should be what you center on.

So, now you have a freestanding plant collar that you can either use by itself, or expand to join another collar onto. The copper will keep snails and slugs from climbing it. Sinking it into the dirt around a tender seedling you've transplanted will keep pillbugs from trundling up and girdling your seedling until it falls over like a Paul Bunyan special. (I lost almost all of my from-seed peppers that way last year, had to go buy seedlings, bah.)

You can re-use it year after year, as I do. You can join a bunch of them up to make a little fenced area. Don't let the copper touch the leaves of neighboring plants, they don't like it (not sure why). Also, don't let it touch the ground. I think how it works is that the difference in potential between the ground and the copper gives the snails a little zap.

Sure, you can put copper tape all around your raised bed, but that gets expensive fast, and doesn't keep out the snails that are already in there, hiding down next to the edges.

This post in honor of DreamWidth's opening day, rock on! Going to cross post it to my garden blog. :-)
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2009-04-16 10:55 am

Spring Garden Season

It's here, and it's in full swing. The past month has been kind of like that song on the radio, "you're hot and you're cold". We went from some early March days in shirtsleeves to a couple of weeks of cold-n-rainy, then some nice daytimes with back down the mid-40's at night. This weekend it's supposed to get into the mid-80's. My lettuce is CONFUSED, I tell ya.

Things I've been doing, some of which may be things to think about doing in your garden:

Greens, greens, greens!
  • Harvest the first crop of spinach, Catalina Baby, (outer leaves only), and hope I didn't take too much
  • Plant more spinach, this time a heat-tolerant variety, Oriental Giant (a spinach-alike, really) and a quick to mature type, Nobel 45-day.
  • Harvest rainbow chard, cutting it all way back to some inner leaves. No leaf miners (yet?) this year, for which I'm grateful.
Peas on Earth, Goodwill to Munch!
  • Check on your peas every couple of days-- they may need a boost grabbing onto their trellising. I find myself patiently helping them grab the trellis instead of throttling each other. Hmm, sounds like kids!
  • Pick the first few pea stragglers and eat them as snap peas, whether they are conventional or snap peas. Don't let your pea plant produce full-grown seeds and then think it is done for the season.
  • Dress their roots with a good layer of compost. In addition to keeping the soil moist, this helps keep it cool. Peas with cool feet will produce longer and be less prone to mildew.
  • Now that the weather is getting hotter, make sure that you don't spray the pea vines themselves when watering if you can help it, and when you water, do so with plenty of time to dry out before the heat of the day. Once mildew takes hold, it can spread pretty quick.
Strawberry Fields (and Containers) Forever
  • Strawberries are flowering now; have you fertilized them since tucking them in for fall? This is a really good time. If you wait until the first crop of berries is ready, they may need a long break to absorb nutrients before putting out lots of replacement flowers.
  • Mine are everbearing, which produce a berry here and there all summer, but if yours are June-bearing, it's doubly important to fertilize as soon as they start greening up and forming flower buds. You're only getting the one shot with the berry crop!
  • Before you fertilize, especially if you're using compost, carefully pull out all the winter-killed foliage. You don't want rotting vegetation under that compost-- the crowns need to breathe and get good air circulation. This will help prevent fungus problems.
  • Be careful what you are pulling on, and either snip out the old foliage at the stem, or grab only a stem or two at a time and give a quick sharp yank. It's too easy to pull out the crowns!
  • If your strawberries are in a container, like mine, check the crowns. The soil levels drop as organic matter is used up, and you may have little strawberry castles raised up 2 or 3 inches above the soil. Fill in with enriched potting soil, or regular potting soil mixed 50% with compost. Be careful not to cover the crowns themselves-- err on the side of caution, because if you cover them, you are very very likely to have fungus or mildew problems.
  • Container strawberries are sensitive to minerals, too-- be sure to sprinkle some greensand and bone meal or eggshell into your containers annually. Now is fine, it's not too late at all.
Gracious, where did the time go? I guess I've been a bit busy in the garden lately. We haven't even talked about the runner bean seedlings, the tomatoes and peppers, and the squashes. Next time!
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2009-02-28 03:31 pm
Entry tags:

Potlatch 18: Always Coming Home Friday Night session

O so brief, so blinderingly brief...these are pretty much only my own notes to myself, waiting to speak, didn't note the whole session.

Conjurer's trick: whether you see the tricks, you are still following the hand, forgetting your seat. Whole novel is this way, creating an altered state when linearly read (or not!)

Nice point by a gamer (nicely riffing off previous session on Growing Up Weightless): they read the book like gaming material: description of world, with short adventure set in world to help you grok it, then tables at end, lol!

Bram Stoker's Dracula: inaccessible to me, until in a moment of clarity I saw it blogged as what it is, a series of letters (doh!) and then I got hooked. Note: only recently has novel been ensconced in form it takes now, was much more a collection of notes, letters, etc in some previous states. Refs to some early work in non-linear novels, did not get details bah.

I think ACH would work better for me if considered as a Group Blog. Most multicharacter, shifting storyline, multiview stories maintain a uniform tone. The tone changes in ACH suggest (deliberately, I am certain!) different authors, which is more of a break for me than style. Original edition came With A Box and a Tape (ooh!) which I didn't realize. Can still get the tape/music/material off a related website.

Good point on prescriptive utopia & asthma sufferers (aud memb: I'd be dead!) but raises questions for yrs trly:
* Why is that not a utopia? AudMem: genetic disease, they argue, etc
* Stealth utopia, imho, tho in eye of beholder
** If society is in balance, is that utopian or dystopian? Isn't that a viewpoint? Depends on where your place is in the heap and if you like it, eh?
* Guy panelist says he'd like to visit but not to live there
** Intrigued: what would he gain by visit? What does he perceive he'd lose by residency?

Second level of indirection present in the book for me. I could not read it at first, had to make a real effort-- dropped it the first couple times I tried, stuck it out for Potlatch until I suddenly got hooked in, not sure where exactly, within first 25% by volume.

"There will always be a sickness in man." Good point. Culture as a mitigating force vs a redirecting force, goes back to u/dis/topia again. I see a transfer or encapsulation of xenophobia here that is in some ways healthy: brought plants, animals, environment inside as 'brethren'. Contrast with Condor Culture, City of Mind: are they opt-outs for Kesh, or is Kesh the opt-out for them? Mutual "islands of the blind"?

I need to get a strong binder clip to use as a notebook capo for best legibility of notes!
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2009-02-28 03:14 pm
Entry tags:

Potlatch 18: Graphic Novels panel

Mostly list of pointers; GREAT panel!

* drewwing.com
* xkcd.org
* Farley (sp?) on dicebox.com
** "Adventures into Digital Comics"
* Finder, Carla Speed MacNeil, Lightspeed Press
* Castle Waiting
* Amy Unbounded
* 13 Marys Ballad (hard to describe but definitely fractal media!)
* "God's Man", 1920s-ish graphic novel without any text or captions
* "Afterlife", Donna Barr; combining finally the plotlines/characters of:
** Stinz, centaurs in the fictional Gieselthal Valley of Switzerland in WW-II timeframe
** Desert Peach, Erwin Rommel's gay younger brother Pfirsch and his misfit army unit in the African Desert
* great looking site on comics, The Midnight Library
* Scott McCloud has 3 books now, sheesh, yr hmbl nttkr is 2 books out of touch
* Delta Thrives

Concept of The Gutter, the action happening in your head like in a text-book, only in graphics: this panel has The Axe, and this other panel The Scream, *you*, you killed the guy! In the gutter! between the panels!
** Hey, the whole Talmud is kinda like this, they just only transcribe the gutters every generation or two and condense stuff ;-) (yr nttkr gn)

* Astro City
* The Classics Illustrated from the 1950's
* Astroboy's Osamu Tezuka now doing The Life of Buddha illustrated manga
** Vol 1, Kapilavastu, I think vols up to 6 or 7 are out now
* Zhuangzhi Speaks: the Language of Nature
** popular graphic novel format telling of ZhuangZhi, Lao Tzu, Confucian teachings, great series
** Tsai Chih Chung is the author; gold here! :-)

Concept: Tribes (McCloud), e.g., Robert Crumb of the Iconoclast tribe (prolly Ernie Pook's Comeek would fit there too), also Harvey Pikar's "American Splendor" where the lines of expression on characters' faces tell so much of the story; homage to Will Eisner, of course, on that. Fagin the Jew passed around, Eisner's hookup/mashup on Dickens.

Linearity, graphic novels/comics vs movies; point brought up that Tivo and the like changing how we view that content, loop back and slowmo to grok the fullness; convergence!
** Close captioning apparently sometimes gives name of song and also sometimes lyrics, so you can see the metapoint being made there by the soundtrack, adds dimension

Web comics are Da Bomb: so many demos of great stuff!

* Girl Genius, Phil & Kaja "civilizing influence" Foglio (ooh, my fave!!!)
* Yowtzel / Yotzel (sp?), sketchbook form retelling of 'what if my family had not left Warsaw during WW2'
* Strangers in Paradise
* Fables (Rose Red, Sleeping Beauty, others, in Manhatten, war vs ancient evil, etc)
* Akiko, for kids just too old for Moomin, not anime; Mark Crilley
* Why the Last Man (title?) Brian K Vaughn
* Alan Moore nonsuperhero, like V for Vendetta and a ton more
* insanely ossm (imho) James Blish meets psychedelia, flying guitar cities
** dicebox.com/asides/dontlookback
* Larry Madar's ossm Tales from the Beanworld
* copy of Bone was being passed around
* Sinfest, another ossm webcomic

Enjoy! Send links! will update!
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2009-02-28 02:40 pm
Entry tags:

Potlatch 18: Scalzi Rules Panel

Notes from the spirited yet finely moderated discussion that is/was the Scalzi Rule panel. Attenuated due to hotel computer costing in the office module. USA Today, the Nation's New PAP. ;-)

Tracking the bulleted points of journaled thought:
a) A libertarian is someone who believes zhe has a shot at (pun intended) having The Biggest Gun.
b) Fandom treats rules as challenge-damage (just scream and leap!) and tries to route around them.
c) The Scalzi Rule can be the Gun of the Meek, and some support it therewith.
c-prime-alpha) Roleplaying the Bad Cop, or how Moderators can Still be a Nice G/Shy
c-prime-beta) The Stream of Consciousness Damocles is hanging over my notes; I'm forwarding my mindtrack in the hoping that you'll like what I wrote; oh, the huge manatee; what's coming over me...[zippit!]
d) There's a metapanel (never that I didn't like) in here somewhere:

  • entertain
  • share knowledge
  • feel good moments/barricade of culture
  • 15 mins of fame
  • brainstorming
  • get acquainted/closing the gap
  • (added later) see/hear Foo who never comes to conventions anymore, or who is a Very Unusual Guest the Like of Which We'll Prolly Neva See Agin
  • (ditto) Like but not exactly the same, come see/hear Foo and Bar compare notes on being founders of the Foo Bar and Grille or likewise

e) I love the idea (who spake?) of iconography in conbooks to denote which of above categories are met; knife, fork, spaceship, deathray, no gas for 3.75M parsecs, etc
f) Also love the "Scalzi bringing his blog/net culture into 'real life'"
There's a metidea in here: tools for creating & maintaining consciously consensually managed communication space

Tag Team Tips Trailing, non-Tenative:
* Brad, from his moderating experience: "Any questions, or really long polemics phrased as questions?"
* Kathryn, ditto; went to a Vocal Expert of Strong Opinion before a panel in which said expert was NOT a panelist and nicely said, essentially, "I respect your expertise but please don't hog the questions, this is aimed more at beginners" and experience was more productive and less painful than zhe'd feared.

Duty of the Audience while Piloting the Airwaves (Sounding! Zhe Sounds! Thar zhe blows!)
* The whole Scalzi Rule thing is to prevent That Guy (whump, quoting Darien/Damien someone) from taking over the panel
* Modeling Not Being That Guy is a duty now for the future evermore everlasting (ting ting tinnabulation)
* Moderators should not be That Guy while on the panel
* Facilitators vs Moderators: no expectation of contribution, which can prevent accidental That Guy Zeal from emerging as a behavior
* Anecdote by ConRunner Smoftaculaire re: meeting expectations of being a moderator
** Sometimes the Moderator is an Interviewer
** Sometimes a referee
** They should do homework!
** No, say some, they should get a briefing!
** At least on what the program committee wants the panel to be, if not on the folks themselves.
* Model appropriate audience behavior! Early n often
** "My question is, 'what does this panelist think about xyz'?"
** Nicely, without the "this panelist who you skipped over, steempy you eeediot" part.

We Can Haz TrainingZ?
* tools for moderators new to it
* Guidance on how to manage cliques, err, eminence grisee, um, local FGoH's, whatever
** "You weren't fair!" --> My ox! My ox! You weren't supposed to gore MY ox!
** Great anecdote about how a moderator completely ignored a subject matter expert on a panel, audience member hated the session, but later found rave reviews from much of the audience who loved that THEY got to talk so much instead of the panelist(s); loopback to expections, expectorations, and See Figure One-ations.
** What about the Jumpers-In, who just KNOW how smart they are, and that they are Among Friends, etc but do kind of spoil it for the quiet types (/me guilty, sez note taker, sometimes)
* (??) Mindfulness: "Yes, have some!"
* "Waiting is"
** Someone also smart will ask your question, or a better version of it, likely
** You can always keep bulletpoint notes
* Beautifully working observed technique of taking queues and dividing room into quadrants

Note taker Me sez:
Want to talk to folks about programming. Sounds like we are identifying another axis of ^Hevil meaning for programming: already have topic, type (roundtable, panel, reading), fame of panelists; need to explicitly add 'affordances of panel' (e.g., entertain, knowledge share, 15 mins of fame, brainstorm, etc as above). Another kind of balance.

Would be interesting to do exact same panel description, but run as different type on that continuum, explore different ways it would manifest.

Kthxbai.
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2009-02-28 12:19 am

Blinking, I Emerge from Under My Rock...

It was only kinda sorta official before, but now there's a press release and a case study and everything. So I can finally talk about what I've been doing for the past year or so. Nope, it's not a good excuse for dropping out of all my non-work activities, but it's Very Shiny.
A
We built a behind-the-firewall Second Life Grid for IBM. (As that article said, it jumped the gun-- I sure couldn't talk about it!) I had the privilege of being the Project Manager for what turned into an amazing interdisciplinary intercompany effort-- Lindens are awesome, and it's great to be one and help with things like this. Years of experience working on challenging rollout projects with multiple vendors didn't hurt either. ;-)

Now we're in the sweet triumph phase of the project. It's time to take that deep breath and let it out with a happy sigh. "Ahhhhh." ... and then get back to work on the current thing that I can't tell you about either. I'm trying for better work-life balance this time around!

OK, maybe Twitter, Facebook, and blogging are not what we call "better work-life balance" outside of Silicon Valley, but since here is where I am, well, see you online!
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2009-01-23 12:14 am

More "Honeymoon Pictures"

Don't let that Promise you won't let the revolving door hit you in the butt on the way in or out ... let's say for 2 years.

Oh, and how about we comply with FOIA requests by default, mmkay? In fact, don't even wait for folks to ask.

The presumption of disclosure also means that agencies should take affirmative steps to make information public. They should not wait for specific requests from the public. All agencies should use modern technology to inform citizens about what is known and done by their Government. Disclosure should be timely.

I'm in love, I tell ya.

Sure, he's married, I'm married, but this is a love that can be consummated simply by being proud to be a citizen again. This could go on the rocks. Small-minded folks will get in the way. But I think we can go the distance.

There won't be magic and unicorns overnight, but the world looks a whole lot brighter.
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2009-01-22 11:20 pm

So Wrong... And Yet, So Right

Take a walk on the wilder side of artificial nature, courtesy of this alleged viral marketing experiment involving balloon animals. Not safe for most workplaces.

Don't forget the various outtakes.

Follow up with When Balloon Animals Attack. Drink heavily. Enjoy.
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2009-01-22 11:51 am

Long-Awaited Release Notes

US Democracy Server: Patch Day

Version 44.0
President

* Leadership: Will now scale properly to national crises. Intelligence was not being properly applied.
* A bug has been fixed that allowed the President to ignore the effects of debuffs applied by the Legislative classes.
* Drain Treasury: There appears to be a bug that allowed loot to be transferred from the treasury to anyone on the President’s friends list, or in the President’s party. We are investigating.
* Messages to and from the President will now be correctly saved to the chat log.
* Messages originating from the President were being misclassified as originating from The American People.
* A rendering error that frequently caused the President to appear wrapped in the American Flag texture has been addressed.


(There's more, a lot more, covering VP, Cabinet, etc at the original: http://www.chromecow.com/2009/01/20/us-democracy-server-patch-day/ )
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2009-01-19 11:15 pm

Make Your Own Salvation...

...one day at a time.

Found a remarkable book up at the Harbin library this weekend. "Street Zen: The Life and Work of Issan Dorsey" Candid, gritty, no-nonsense retelling of the beginnings of the national drag-queen scene, drug culture, the founding of the SF Zen center, and Issan's odd journey from the brink of disaster to Climbing the Mountain, becoming Issan-roshi of the Suzuki-roshi Dharma line.

I found it very inspiring.

Had a really good visit with Mike over the long weekend. He's still up there on a medical leave (workplace stress). He's doing a lot better. Climbs the mountain every day (a trail that links up to the Boggs Mt summit, 2K+ elevation change), and is feeling very centered.

Hmm, the cat needs me. Blogging, not so much.

Oh, and there was a class on "Non-Violent Communication" on Sunday that turned out to be REALLY GOOD, and very interesting. It's apparently A Thing, Now: http://www.cnvc.org/ Worth checking out.
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2009-01-10 09:57 pm

Six Years of LJ

I had previously used ljmigrate to back up my LJ back in August 2007, somewhere on or near a previous LJ acquisition event. Looked at entry00001/entry.xml out of curiosity: Jan 3, 2003 Oh yeah, right after we got settled in for the winter with a cable modem in FL on our big road-trip sabbatical rollabout.

I made a full backup in XML at the time, and then purged my journal entries. Or at least, I thought I had, but the ljmigrate -r I just ran was able to pull some missing entries, as well as the recent ones. Maybe I only made them invisible/private. I suppose I should check on that.

Thirteen hundred-ish posts, and at least a couple of "I'm outta here" entries. But I keep coming back because somehow social email lists got tougher over the years-- I stopped having a Unix box at home, stopped having static IP addresses or a colo box, and spam took on epic proportions. A pull media seemed better.

Shrug.

Still here. Have backup. Waves. :-)
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2009-01-03 12:07 pm

Silent But Deadly

No, not that, though we HAVE been eating a lot of beans around here since we got the slow cooker.

Our carbon monoxide detector went off today. We're not sure why, and to confuse matters further, it said it was in Test Mode... yet it said it had seen (when? now?) 287ppm. The furnace, hot water heater, and oven were all going.

The alarm is not going off now. By the end of today we will have several new CO detectors in the house, a mix of the battery-powered type and the house-current type. I've learned a number of things in the past few hours which surprised me, including things I was Just Plain Wrong about. Fortunately, not Dead Wrong. If the situation were different, though, my lack of correct information might have been fatal. So, let me share, just in case you know some of the same wrong things.

What to do first. If you're like most people, including us, the first thing you do is go to the alarm and see what's up, then start looking for the problem. No. Not even remotely correct. The FIRST THING you do is LEAVE THE HOUSE. Period. No questions. Grab all family members and pets and get out. Only then do you think about what to do next and make a plan of action. [1]

Why? Because in case your alarm went off only in the cumulative exposure fuzzy-headed stage, you may already be at risk of going to the next level of CO poisoning. It can be abrupt, and you could go from 'mostly fine' to 'I can't think and need to just sit down for a moment' without any real warning. If it turns out to be that bad, you might never stand up again.

The next thing that everybody does is start opening up windows 'just in case'. Apparently that's also wrong. Instead, you should, theoretically, call the fire department, your appliance repair person, or your utility company and actually have them do a check. If you're like most of us, you're probably not going to do that, you're going to change the battery in the thing instead (you did write the date of the last change on the battery with a sharpie, yes?) and if it goes off again, then you're going to think about calling someone.

At least get folks out of the house first, and don't go opening all the windows yet. "Many CO alarm calls have been classified as 'false alarms' because the homeowner has ventilated the home and turned off the equipment before firemen or technicians can measure the CO levels and find the source." [2]

Another 'everybody knows' pseudo-fact is as long as you don't have a skull-splitting headache, you're okay. NOT! What most folks don't know, and I sure didn't, is that low levels of exposure commonly cause flu-like symptoms, including sniffling, red eyes, tiredness, nausea, mild headache. At medium levels of exposure, the ones that could tip suddenly depending on your physiology, that's where you get symptoms like "severe throbbing headache, drowsiness, confusion, fast heart rate." [3]

If you tend to be sniffly and tired at home in the evenings or weekends, but feel better at work or out of the house, well, that could be a lot of things from needing to clean the ducts to vacuuming to dust mites. But it could also be low-level CO exposure, so add that to your list. Get yourself a CO detector that measures continual exposure and make sure you get your appliances checked annually.

Speaking of which, as long as the flame is blue, not orange we tend to think it's ok. Leaky ducting can cause CO exposure even when the flame adjustment is ok, so don't rule it out just because the flame looks right. Get somebody with a sniffer to confirm your in-house levels.

The CO detector should be in your bedroom, right? Maybe one of those little plug-in ones? Well, partially. Ideally, the CO detector should be either on the ceiling or about 5 feet off the ground, since CO is generally lighter than room air. I was unpleasantly shocked to find out that the only CO detector in our place was actually in the 2nd bedroom, which Mike uses as a workroom. Why? We don't remember. Well, that will change by this evening!

We also tend to think that as long as the 'test' button works, the alarm works. Wrong, alas. Apparently very few CO or smoke detectors actually test the detector, rather than the audible alert. Pressing the 'test' button tests the NOISE circuit, not the detector, in the vast majority of detectors.

We purchased our detector when we moved in, almost 5 years ago. We assumed it was good 'forever' as long as we changed the batteries. Nope. The mechanisms they use to detect CO differ, and many of the small battery-powered ones use a colored disk that they monitor for changes, rather than more direct chemical means. Multiple sources say that most CO detectors have a 5-year lifespan but some may be valid for only a couple of years. Either way, we need to replace ours.

What kind should you get? Here in the States, I quote Underwriters' Labs: Rather than looking for specific features, look for the UL Mark with the adjacent phrase "Single Station Carbon Monoxide Alarm." [3]

Why? Because it's required to have a silence button and to re-alarm within 6 minutes if the condition persists. Many detectors will just happily shut up and not go off again if you silence them. Low batteries can cause an alarm to go off, so if one does go off, after you think it's safe (remember the first part of this article) then you can change the batteries and see if it goes off AGAIN.

There's so much more, but that's a good start. Don't freak out, but take part of an afternoon and put some safety in the bank for you and your family. Have a safe n happy new year!

[1] http://www.carbonmonoxidekills.com/faq.htm
[2] Incredibly detailed and helpful info from our Canadian buddies: http://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/co/maho/yohoyohe/inaiqu/inaiqu_002.cfm
[3] http://www.ul.com/consumers/co.html
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2009-01-02 08:55 pm

Dancing Fool

I usually love the silly links collections, but the ones going around lately about office-party dancing made me sad. Mostly I see ordinary non-glamorous people having a good time, and being mocked for their lack of perfection. I saw some pretty decent dancers and singers who just happened to be old, or balding, or fat.

Who is the bigger sad sack, the drunken office-party dancer, ineptly having fun, or the sneering cynic on the sidelines, capturing the moment and 'sharing' it on YouTube so s/he can feel superior?

There's a well-known set of trite lines that ends with "and dance like nobody's watching." A few months ago I stayed up in SF at the main office to go out with coworkers to see a band that featured one of our colleagues. The opening act was good, and their act was good. People were happy, smiling, nodding, jigging their shoulders a little, but only a couple dozen of the 100ish folks there were actually dancing. There was room, but maybe it just "wasn't cool"? I danced, and had fun, and didn't care.

Whether at an office party or out at a club, if the dancing is only For The Beautiful People or The Talented People, there'd better be signs. Otherwise this old fat chick is gonna be dancin'.

So there.
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2009-01-02 12:32 pm

O IntarWebZ, We Has Missed Thee

Not that you noticed I was gone, or only spasmo-sporadically updating things, as my ties to thee sputtered off and on, mostly off.

Well, foobar felgercarb snargleblarg. The good news is that we have IntarToobZ again. The bad news is that can only get up to about 1.3 Mbps incoming, and 300ish outgoing. So say we all, including http://helpme.att.net/cgi-bin/speedtest/speedresult.cgi?1293854;321827;1;2.0;speedtest-sntcca.sntcca.sbcglobal.net , who should know.

My suspicion that requesting an upgrade to Premium 6Mbps service was to blame was correct, but in an unexpected way. The nice folks at AT&T had not actually messed up our connection (hush, o you cynics and scoffers). Instead, trying to push a higher rate through the line had revealed a physical line issue that had not manifested at our previous SBCYahoo blazing 768Kbps level of connectivity.

A very pleasant fellow came out here today at about 9:30am and just left a few minutes ago, after 3 hours of outside line work. He got us a fresh pair to what passes for the local infrastructure and did the extremely tedious phone work of contacting both departments needed to roll back the subscription from Premium to Elite (ooh, we's 'leet!).

I think the extra measure of cheer for our visiting AT&T service guy might have come from contemplating the alternative. How unpleasant his time would have been if the phone line hadn't come into our place under the nice, dry carport! He got to avoid the cold, nasty drizzle that's been watering the garden all morning. I offered to get him some hot coffee or tea, and he was surprised-- isn't anyone nice to service folks anymore?

So, welcome back, IntarWebZ, we salute thee. Just not as speedily as we'd hoped.
strata: (Default)
2008-12-12 10:54 am

as jaded as I am...

...this kind of thing is why I work here.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LxVDVggLqsA

The build techniques are, fyi, very real, just speeded up and edited. I need to go look for this build inworld, if it's still extant, and spend some time there. Very, very, nice.
strata: (Default)
2008-12-12 09:40 am

Well, it's about TIME

OK, so this happened this summer and I missed it until now. But still, HELL YEAH.

http://www.fda.gov/cdrh/consumer/amalgams.html

The FDA finally stops ignoring tons of evidence and says, well, um, yeah, amalgam fillings release mercury when you chew, and um, pregnant women and kids and maybe possibly even sensitive types maybe possibly shouldn't use them much.

Years of arguing with dentists "so, if my old amalgam fillings are cupped and worn, where does that material go? why isn't it harmful to ingest?". Taking a major health turn for the better when I finally took the hit to pay for ALL of my amalgam to be removed and either crowned or refilled with composite. Vindicated.

Rat bastards. How much more aren't you telling us?

BTW, I didn't get any pushback on asking for a thimerosol-free flu vaccine when I got one on Tuesday. Why? "We're out of the regular kind." Nice.
strata: (Default)
2008-12-08 11:17 pm

transforming art into science [RelInq]

The biggest problem with transforming Art into Science is that people would rather be Artists than Scientists. No, wait, you say, I love Science! Yeah, now would you rather be a Rock Star or a Lab Tech? Yes, you see the problem.

I recently read a New Yorker article that completely kicks ass in describing how medical science is poised on the cusp of a potential transformation into something that can save Even More Lives, but via a path that's difficult to take: the humble, homely, not the science of the rocket, procedural checklist. As the article states,


Tom Wolfe’s “The Right Stuff” tells the story of our first astronauts, and charts the demise of the maverick, Chuck Yeager test-pilot culture of the nineteen-fifties. ... But as knowledge of how to control the risks of flying accumulated—as checklists and flight simulators became more prevalent and sophisticated—the danger diminished, values of safety and conscientiousness prevailed, and the rock-star status of the test pilots was gone.


Reading this, I was instantly transported into familiarity-- this is the exact problem that I spent a decade banging my head against in Systems Administration, and what drove me to spend the next decade in Project Mangement to try to solve. A number of us in the Usenix and LISA communities seemed to have a handle on this, but the way the blind men had a handle on the elephant. We specialized in dealing with our rope, our fan, our spear, our wall, our tree, and, umm, whatever the sixth thing was that the elephant was like-- oh yes, our snake. We didn't have the problem space sharply defined. Author, and doctor, Atul Gawande describes the dilemma precisely:

Something like this is going on in medicine. We have the means to make some of the most complex and dangerous work we do—in surgery, emergency care, and I.C.U. medicine—more effective than we ever thought possible. But the prospect pushes against the traditional culture of medicine, with its central belief that in situations of high risk and complexity what you want is a kind of expert audacity—the right stuff, again. Checklists and standard operating procedures feel like exactly the opposite, and that’s what rankles many people.


"Expert audacity." Yes. Absolutely. It's what the cool kids do. Indiana Jones meets skatepunk, and checklists ain't got the cool.

While I was able to leverage automation and some ticketing systems to bring reproducible, higher levels of support to some of my clients, I didn't Get It. I did not see clearly enough that many people, even very well-meaning ones, will resist changes that reduce the intensity level of their daily jobs. They fear becoming bored, unappreciated, less vital to the organization. The addiction to the adrenaline cycle and the kind of "cult hero" status that goes with it is very, very difficult for an organization to break. As Brent Chapman noted, discussing resistance to automated network management, everybody wants to be a hero.

While I have always seen career mentoring as an important part of managing a team, I didn't realize how important it is to build up a vision of what people will be doing when they're no longer playing superhero.
Systems people are keenly aware of projects that are languishing while they respond to interrupts. It's rare to meet someone who doesn't have a "someday I'll get to this" list. Stabilizing the network and systems environment and establishing strong processes, including checklists, is vital for scaling services and being responsive to the needs of the organization. A decrease in emergent crises ("complications", in medical parlance) frees up cycles for complex projects that present true depth and scope challenges for individuals and teams.

Being a Rock Star is fun-- as countless Guitar Hero and Rock Band fans, including myself, can attest. Quiet, directed competence can be just as much fun, though, and allow personal and career growth with a bit less drama and a bit more sleep. While networks, legacy applications, and odd emergent behaviors of client desktops aren't as complex (perhaps!) as a living organism, there is plenty in common. As Dr. G says:

It’s ludicrous, though, to suppose that checklists are going to do away with the need for courage, wits, and improvisation. The body is too intricate and individual for that: good medicine will not be able to dispense with expert audacity. Yet it should also be ready to accept the virtues of regimentation.


Sing it, brother.