Sunday, November 20, 2005

wax and wane

I was bundling about the yard today when my wife called out and asked when I thought the cedar waxwings would arrive. 3 hours later I saw several whip through the sky singing their familiar whistle. They are voracious birds and I was disappointed that they had missed our hollies and dogwoods. Then I noticed they were scouting out the woods and were in no way going to go hungry.

In the past we had marked their comings and goings by the solitary buses or trees where we lived. In Little Rock, there was the Oregon Grape Holly that they devoured. In Hope, we had a huge holly (ilex aquifolium) covered with berries and around 12 dogwoods. When they descended it was in a flock that was sometimes frighteningly reminiscent of an Alfred Hitchcock film. They could eat all the berries off the trees in an afternoon. This time they came in small groups and flitted back and forth between different trees. They were like people at a buffet. "We'll have some of this. And now some of that," I could imagine them saying.

Monday, September 19, 2005

the internet as best as i remember it

April 6th, 1992. That's the first day I saw the internet. Not many people can say that they remember when they first saw the web. I was with my girlfriend at the time, one Holly Bender. We stopped at her uncle's house in Raleigh or one of the adjacent suburbs. We went up to his home office and he had some early service; CompuServe or something. When he connected it was like a modern day portal with scrolling windows and other craziness. It could have even had a blink tag. Maybe not. All this is through the haze of my memory which can be very fuzzy at times.

The second time I saw the web was in a second year astronomy course. I don't remember the date. I do remember the introduction we got to computers (some Sun boxes) and the professor asked if anyone knew what HTTP stood for. Why it stuck I'll never know but a kid sat up and said "hypertext transfer protocol." The "duh" was implied in his tone. Well, it did stick. Not just the memory of that moment but the definition of the acronym and I think it branded me as a bit of a geek.

Earlier in this remembrance I made it sound as though the sight of the internet impressed me so much it made an indelible imprint of the date in my head. Not so. What made me remember it was the fact that on one of the scrolling menus it was showing the current news. Isaac Asimov was dead. I didn't know the exact date until I went to the wikipedia article on Asimov.

Monday, September 12, 2005

space and humanity

Mankind's journey to the moon seems to be the noblest thing humanity has accomplished. There is much to be said for humanitarian aid, but enabling the genome to get offworld starts to ensure the continuation of the species. I appreciate NASA's effort in recent years to keep us circling the globe but it is difficult for me to believe that we landed on the moon before I was born and haven't maintained a presence there. How hard would it be to set up a permanent base on the moon? What benefits would it offer us? If only to preserve a segment of the population from extinction, it would be worth it. Currently humanity is subject to any catastrophe that occurs here, human engineered or otherwise. Our present economic status enables us to spend money on projects that have tremendous payoff like this. I fear disasters like Hurricane Katrina will affect the economy so that spending for space exploration might not be possible much less feasible. My greatest dream is that one day my children will be able to travel to space. Here's to them and hoping they have that opportunity.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

interesting green insect

I've been thinking about insects lately. Painting them, in particular. I really would like to paint some members of the wasp family but nothing atrocious like red or black wasps. The hunting wasps are very neat and way more beautiful than the things you dodge to avoid being stung. Years ago I got a copy of a great book by John Crompton called "The Hunting Wasp." It is a wonderful book but unfortunately there aren't any pictures in it. So I feel like I need to paint some pictures of these interesting creatures. Photos (and I like to paint from photos, sorry) can be found all over the web. All of them copyrighted. I don't know enough about copyright law to say whether or not I can paint from them so I won't. I like my photos too but if you want to use them to paint something or display them or whatever, please do so. No copyrights attached.

I'm posting this image to to see if I can get an ID on the bug. You can weigh in here. Isn't the web cool?

echinacea purperea

I've always loved this flower. The orange cone with the purple petals, yellow pollen and green foliage caught my eye. I've been trying to take some photos of insects but this flower was so beautiful I took pictures of it as well. This is in the bed between the garage and front porch.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

the keys to your restroom

I have recently relocated to South Carolina, land of yellow barbeque sauce. Needing to stow some of my gear I have rented a storage building. It is disquieting to realize that it takes so much gear for me to exist. At the same time, I am pleased. It's less than I thought it would be.

While renting the storage, the call of nature struck. I excused myself to the exterior boy's room and locked the door. There is a sort of common ritual to using a public restroom that is familar yet strange. The deadbolt goes this way. The sink handles work that way. As I turned the deadbolt I twisted the doorknob and pulled. Perhaps I didn't get the deadbolt out of the way entirely for the door doesn't open. Pull again. It won't budge. I notice that the fan is very loud and there is only one switch for bot the fan and the light. Perhaps I didn't actually lock the deadbolt when I came in and locked it when trying to leave. Actuate the deadbolt, pull. No. Still locked. Turn the deadbolt back. Perhaps I didn't turn the handle far enough to the right. I give it a little oomph and it is still locked. I noticed that the handle did turn a little further than the first time so I try it again. Harder. The knob spins all the way around.

At this point I shake the door and hope that I'll jar something loose. The Storage facility is rightly concerned with security. The door has no interior hinges. When the lady comes to see what the door shaking is about, I find that it has no exterior hinges either. I was worried about her thinking I had dodged out and locked up going home leaving me the cool solitude of the restroom for the evening. Because of the loud fan I must turn the lights off to converse. She asks what's wrong and I explain. I laugh thinking how odd it is to be talking to a complete stranger while stuck inside an unfamiliar restroom. My laughing seemed to unnerve her. You could hear the panic rise in her voice when she says, "I'm going to call the manager." I start working with my little Gerber knife I bought back in 1988. The screw closest to the hinges comes out pretty easy and I start to work on the screw next to the jamb. The knife must be held vertically oriented with the screw and I don't have much torque. After five minutes or so I get the other screw out and the knob falls in my hand as does a small cracked piece of plastic. The latch retracts and I am on my way again. I take the doorknob to the attendant. Funny how, after being confined for even a few minutes, freedom feels...

Friday, April 22, 2005

speed and loads of it

The Suzuki TL1000S is a fast bike. So fast I don't like to think about it. A buddy of mine had bought one and I wanted to go for a ride. I thought we'd pull a quick loop and come back. 60-70 MPH tops. Sure.

My buddy is a bit on the adrenaline junkie side. As we are riding out of the parking lot I'm sitting upright and holding onto his sides. The way he says "You might want to hold on," makes me wrap my arms around him like a lovesick little girl. I had my head turned slightly to one side looking forward. At 100 at had to stop looking because my eyes were watering so badly. I probably looked like a skull I was grinning so wildly. I felt something slide on my cheek and realized I had drooled on myself and it was sliding rapidly back toward my ear. At 125 the wind felt like someone clapping their hands over your ears. The bike was still pulling and I had to close my eyes. Not squint them, mind you, close them entirely. Eyes closed, deafened, I felt like an infant cozily cuddled by a shrieking wind demon. He throttled back and down shifted. Three times. This bike has a six speed transmission. We still had three more gears to go. after turning around, he wound it back up. The return trip was equally unpleasant. Not to say that I didn't have fun but it was physically painful being buffetted by that much wind. Stepping off the bike my buddy said the speedometer had hit 135-140. He couldn't tell exactly because, well, he couldn't see either.  

Sunday, April 10, 2005


I just had an epiphany concerning windchimes. They bring outside in. As you lay snuggled in your bed, they sound and you know that something is happening out there. I used to detest windchimes. When I was a teen they drove me insane to the point I thought I needed to tear my neighbors down. My grandmother had a set of incredibly dissonant tinklers. I wanted to tear those down and run over them with the Farmall conveniently located down the hill. During that same time period I also wanted the sun blotted out of the sky and the entire Earth paved. Thank you Teenage Dementia. How pissed off can one person be? I guess that is why teens get short shrifted. They are, for the most part, all pissed off.

As I aged, the anger left and I was filled with a longing for green things and the sun. And windchimes. For my wife's first birthday after we were married I bought her a set of the most beautiful chimes I had heard (mp3). When we bought our third house there was a set of chimes hanging on the front porch. I'll be taking those when we leave.

Recently I read an article about using windchimes to determine the weather. Chimes are hung on all sides of a home. Here, our weather develops from the South or the SouthWest. So were we to hear our South side or both South and West chimes, we'd know that weather was coming. Nice idea and one that I had intuited but never verbalized.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Indian motorcycles

Suman Das

Amitava Gosh

In India most motorcycles are relatively small displacement. Traffic is such that 350cc is a rather large bike. My friends were fascinated by this 1100cc Yamaha V-Star and insisted on going for a ride. Truth is, we all really wanted to ride. The weather was poor (cold and rainy). We shivered afterwards. Fun was had by all. That is what counts, isn't it? My buddies flew back to Kolkata a couple of days after these pictures were taken. It would be fun to visit them and tour India via motorbike.

While looking at the touring site, I found this beautiful bike. Wow! Royal Enfields are all gorgeous. I had no idea they even existed. Here's a rundown of a test drive. Having briefly owned a 1977 MGB I'm not sure I could handle the maintenance but wow! I'd love to be able to throw my leg over one of these or these or these... Oh, but for a little money!

Sunday, March 20, 2005

porcine antics

My Granny was a frail woman even before she got old. Tough but slight in build. As a younger woman, she had kept chickens. She and Papa had squeaked through the Great Depression and in a rural area one way to keep fed was to have chickens. They really don't require much care and when you are hungry you can go kill one, stew it up and there you are. Post Depression, she had continued to keep the birds. I can understand why.

First, food. Secondly, they can be absolutely beautiful. My wife and I kept several different varieties of chickens and they can be staggeringly pretty. The pictures don't really do them justice. Thirdly, they are fun to watch. It is interesting to watch them work through their social trials. The birds were important to Granny. Papa kept pigs for food as well. Hogs can be predatory animals and will eat anything they can. Chickens included. Hogs are also industrious escapers. It is difficult, short of concrete flooring and welded steel, to keep a hog in a pen. So they had a hog that had escaped and was taking advantage of the relatively free range fowl. Quite frequently this hog would kill a chicken and devour it. Hogs in general are large animals. At least 150 lbs. sometimes on the order or 200-300 lbs. Imagine trying to pull a 150 lb. person off a plate of fried chicken and mashed potatoes with gravy. Imagine that person had no compunction against biting you or stomping on you with a cloven hoof. So chickens were being eaten and Granny was getting more and more furious. The morning of the summer day in question the hog had jumped a chicken right in front of Granny. So the anger was a blinding screen pervading all my Granny did that day. My Granny was an imminently peaceful woman. As full of grace as I would have imagined Christ.

Today, however, was money changing at the temple day. As the hog rounded the corner, in full view of 4 of her daughters, she picked up a rock and threw it at the hog. When I was a child I threw a rock at a friend. As it left my hand I had the worst feeling come over me. Not that I had thrown a rock at my friend but I calculated the trajectory of the rock and my rapidly retreating friend and determined that, indeed, the two would intersect and that I was going to be in serious trouble. It was a Bad Feeling. I wonder, did Granny go through the same calculus for a solution of Triumphant Feeling? She hit the hog right between the eyes and down it went. Stone dead, literally. Killing a hog was something that was generally done in the winter. The cold cut down on the flies and other insects. But this summer day they had a hog killing and dressing. You can't let that kind of meat go to waste.

Friday, March 18, 2005

to and fro

Weirdly after penning the last entry I really haven't been able to notice much while headed to work. Maybe it is sheer desire to get to work that drives all else out. Maybe it is just feeling my seat under me. I did happen to see a crow carrying some food on my ride out yesterday. I find crows interesting. They aren't very loveable to me. I did have a neighbor who had one as a boy. He felt like someone poisoned it and after at least 50 years you could tell he still hurt over the death of his bird. The crow carrying the food made me wonder. Where was it headed and who else might see it?

The Arkansas Department of Game and Fish has a tracking site for ducks that they have tagged with GPS transponders. They can be tracked here. Following a registration page and a brief (optional even) survey you can view a map with the ducks current locations. AGFC tagged 53 new ducks this year and they will be online shortly. It's a very neat program and I wonder if it could be implemented for crows. Voyeurism apparently intrigues me.

I flew a remote control glider for a while. The same kind of voyeuristic impulse struck me when flying. I love the aerial photos/movies that are taken using RC aircraft. Even free flight photos are very cool. Why is the sense of looking outside myself so intriguing?

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

seven miles

I ride my motorcycle 7 miles to work each day. I have noticed that the thrill of wind in my hair (somewhat untrue as I always wear a helmet) keeps me from noticing things. Truth of the matter is, it is just so damned fun to twist the throttle I can't notice anything else. Silly, huh? So I'll write about what I notice in a conscious effort to increase my awareness of the moment. It is about more than just opening the bike up. Sometimes.

Today was 40 degrees and wet. The rain made interesting patterns on my wind screen. I ride in all types of weather, good and bad. It is a great and wondrous thing to have a nice rainsuit. I get funny stares quite frequently but unknown to the curious occupants of those vehicles, I am comfortable in 30-35 degree weather. 17 degree weather is another story altogether.

I was briefly stopped by a short, 2 engine Union Pacific train. I barely put my foot down and it was past. It's neat to watch these trains travel back and forth. We live not 2 blocks from the tracks and 40 or so trains pass by throughout the day. In a weird sort of way the trains are very romantic. You'll wake up at 3:00 AM and the house will be shaking (yes, that close) and the whistle blowing. I picture the engineer hurtling through the night, lights blazing. Their hearts must feel close to their machines. Very cool. The engines themselves are sometimes stopped for days at a time by the house, for repairs I suppose. To walk around them is to truly understand how large they are. They are, like motorcycles, beautiful machines.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

adding domain users as users on local machine

Ever tried to add domain users as users on a local computer? I did and ran across something funny. The local computer was the only pool available to draw from. The PC was a member of the domain and could see the domain controller. Finally I added a reference to the DC in the hosts file. It resolved the issue. It was a DNS problem that I'll resolve later. I didn't see this listed anywhere for free on google so I thought I'd list it here just in case someone else ran against it.