February 21, 2012
I love seeing something really well done...
How to fold a suit and shirt, for packing...
(Thanks to chicagoboyz)
May 31, 2009
From the Book of Joel, Chapter 2.
...Thus says the LORD:
I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh.
Your sons and daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
your young men shall see visions;
even upon the servants and the handmaids,
in those days, I will pour out my spirit.
And I will work wonders in the heavens and on the earth,
blood, fire, and columns of smoke;
the sun will be turned to darkness,
and the moon to blood,
at the coming of the day of the LORD,
the great and terrible day.
Then everyone shall be rescued
who calls on the name of the LORD;
for on Mount Zion there shall be a remnant,
as the LORD has said,
and in Jerusalem survivors
whom the LORD shall call...
Just as a point of information (sort of like one of my word notes), the old timers didn't really expect the moon to turn to blood, or the sun to go out. When you read things like that, they are not about *gasp* the End of the Earth. Rather apocalyptic, which is what that kind of writing is called, is and was a literary genre. God acts in history, acts in the world we live in. And saying that the "stars were going to fall" and similar things was understood by everyone to mean that God was going to be making big changes. Not that he was striking the circus tent, and ending the show.
The great irony is that when certain Protestant sects have calculated, from apocalyptic Bible passages, that the world is going to end on a certain day, their thinking is very much a product of the Enlightenment. They are taking, in fact, a rationalistic or "scientific" approach to scripture. They have lost the ability to "see" what Joel was saying. Even if they are Six-Day Creationists, and think dinosaur bones were planted by the Devil, they are as much chained to the narrow room of natural science as Richard Dawkins or poor Christopher Hitchins.
That's why we have the Church. The Church does not forget.
The Catholic Church is the only thing
which saves a man from the degrading
slavery of being a child of his age.
-- GK Chesterton
April 2, 2009
Now this is customer service!
Charlene is starting to use a new legal billing program, The Tussman Program. She's really happy so far. Because of the complexity and unfriendliness of her old software, she had an expert coming in to do her billing every month. Now she's just doing it herself.
She sent them a question today...
Hi there: I bought the program and started using it yesterday and everything is mostly going quite well. One thing (I'm sure there's an easy answer to this one but I can't find it in the tutorials): I'm a solo and the only person who will be billing in the program. Can I set it so that every time I open a charge slip it will automatically put me in as the "staff member?"...
And got a quick answer...
From David Tussman: ...No way to specify a default staff member but I will add that feature. Check with me in a few days and I should have it ready...
March 6, 2009
Tip of the day...
If perchance you get back pain from sitting too long without enough lower-back support, this gadget called the Wonder-Roll works really well! Five stars I give it.
February 25, 2009
Somehow I feel better about the War on Terror, long term...
From a note from my son the linguist. (He's the one who used to be my son the pilot, until he changed his field.)
Here's a little tid-bit of Arabic grammar for you guys to read over and thank the high heavens you never decided to take this language yourself.
Arabic has some peculiarities when it comes to its nouns.
You have the singular form, the dual form, and the plural form.
If you have 1 of something, use the singular form.
If you have 2 of something, use the dual form.
If you have 3-10 of something, use the plural form.
If you have 11-100 of something, use the *SINGULAR* form.
If you have 101 or more of something, then go back to the plural form.
In Arabic, to say "I have 15 books," you would literally say: "I have 15 book."
Yes, little intricacies like that make Arabic fun and interesting, but at the same makes one want to bang their head through the wall, thankfully for some reason my brain has decided to just stop asking "Why?" which most people would do when faced something strange like that, which eventually leads them to give up the language.
It is best, I've found, in cases like these to just not ask why the language has this little peculiarity or another, and just trust native speakers when they tell you that the way you are saying it is correct. There are plenty of things in English that really don't make sense when you stop to think about them.
November 26, 2008
For a small Christmas gift....
...Charlene recommends the Chef'n Palm Peeler:
It's a gadget that fits in the palm of your hand, with a finger through the loop. Then you peel fruits and veggies by just rubbing your hand over them!
Me, I'll keep using the old spud peeler. The old ways are best. I'd say this oddly-colored item is in what O'Brian would call a "reckless, Jacobin, democratical line..."
As Tom Pullings put it...
..."Then on her quarter, with the patched inner jib, that's the Hope: or maybe she's the Ocean -- they're much of a muchness, out of the same yard and off of the same draught. But any gait, all of 'em you see in this weather line, is what we call twelve-hundred-tonners; though to be sure some gauges thirteen and even fifteen hundred ton, Thames measurement. Wexford, there, with her brass fo'c'sle eight-pounder winking in the sun, she does: but we call her a twelve hundred ton ship."
"Sir, might it not be simpler to call her a fifteen hundred ton ship?"
"Simpler, maybe: but it would never do. You don't want to be upsetting the old ways. Oh dear me, no. God's my life, if the Captain was to hear you carrying on in that reckless Jacobin, democratical line, why, I dare say he would turn you adrift on a three-inch plank, with both your ears nailed down to it, to learn you bashfulness. The way he served three young gentlemen in the Med. No, no: you don't want to go arsing around with the old ways: the French did so, and look at the scrape it got them into....
-- Patrick O'Brian, HMS Surprise
November 9, 2008
We loved this film...
I don't normally recommend films, because I don't normally watch them. I'm weird that way. But I made an exception for Russian Ark .
It is technically mind-boggling; 90 minutes shot in one continuous take, moving through many rooms of the Winter Palace, which is now the main part of the Hermitage Museum. And this includes enormous and complex scenes with hundreds of richly costumed actors.
The film also moves through time, weaving back and forth over 300 years, from Peter the Great, to modern museum rooms. And we accompany a skeptical 19th Century European, the Marquis, dressed in black, who converses with a ghostly narrator, discussing Russia and Russian culture. He is almost invisible to the actors, who don't see him most of the time.
The technical feat is no mere gimmick; in fact you soon forget about it and sink into the odd and delightful and dreamlike world of the film. If you are into history, you must not miss it. The costumes, the very faces, are perfect--never like modern people in period dress. (And if you are one of those poor souls who need a plot....you will probably hate it!)
...these cute little egg-poaching cups. You just float the cups in simmering water, crack the eggs into them, and cover...
Like a chom it voiks....
July 5, 2008
Awesome new gadget!
I have a very exciting new woodworking machine, the Matchmaker, by Woodtec. I've made a little video of it in action.
I can't write an actual review, since I've just started using it. But here are some preliminary thoughts:
It's a nice solid machine. I like it so far. This didn't show up in my video, but I was moving that control stick using only my little finger!
I've had a little slippage of the stops that limit side-to-side motion. (But I'm working with very big boards.)
The router mounts by removing the base and guide-rods of a big plunge-router, then sliding the router body onto the machine's own rods. That wasn't clear to me when I bought it. Disassembling the router was a pain; I had to call Hitachi to ask how to do it. I'm pretty sure I will never remove the router to use on other tasks. So I'd say you should budget for a dedicated router.
The manual is adequate, but not great. (My experience has always been that the more expensive the machine, the more wretched the instructions. The cheap consumer-level machine costing hundreds of $ has, necessarily, crystal-clear instructions. Then I upgrade to a big professional contraption that costs thousands, and end up wasting hours figuring out stuff that could be explained in a single sentence.)
The video that comes with it is a VHS cassette! Good grief, is that a time warp, or what? I certainly can't watch it. Uh, guys, I really really appreciate your old-fashioned inventive iron-mongering genius, but there is this new thing called the Internet. With web videos. And, may I be so bold to suggest, FAQ's. Answering questions by telephone is SO Twentieth Century.
But these are quibbles; it's a grand gadget.
Also, I mis-spoke on the video; it's not a gate post, it's the stile of a gate.
March 11, 2008
[Note: This post is NOT aimed at my usual readers. I'm just dropping it into the Interweb as information for people around here who might be Googling the subject. Blogs are useful that way; they get high Google rankings because they change frequently. Or so I've heard.]
[Some search-terms: R.C.I.A. San Francisco, RCIA San Francisco, RCIA Program San Francisco, RCIA Program Bay Area, RCIA Program St Dominic's.]
R.C.I.A. stands for Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults. This is how you become a Roman Catholic, whether you are coming from another Christian tradition, or are not a Christian at all. It's also for Catholics who have never been confirmed, or who just wish to learn more. The program includes a weekly class, from September to the following Easter, when candidates join the Church. Attending the program doesn't commit you to anything--you can come and explore and see how you like it. You won't be put on the spot.
And our program at St Dominic's is simply the best. I kind of follow these things on the Web, and I've never heard of any RCIA half as good. Father Xavier, our pastor, and Scott Moyer, our Director of Adult Faith Formation, will give you more information and ideas than you can possibly absorb. You will learn what the Church is, and WHY. You will learn about Sacraments, moral reasoning, history, saints, prayers, and rites. You will find out what God is up to. You won't be bored!
I'm currently on my second time around. I entered the Church on Easter of 2007, and now I'm back in the program as a humble helper. And I don't feel like I've learned the half of it!
(We also have a very fine Landings Program. That's for Catholics who have drifted away from the Church, and wish to return. My wife Charlene helps out with that program.)
Contact Scott Moyer for info (firstname.lastname@example.org 415 674-0422) or feel free to e-mail me, John Weidner: email@example.com.
January 26, 2008
This is really amazing...Microscopic art...
....The collection is valued at more than £11million and has just been bought by David Lloyd, the former tennis champion turned art collector.
Pieces include a Scottie dog on a grain of sand, Henry VIII and his wives in the eye of a needle and Prince Charles on a cocktail stick. There is also the Statue of Liberty in the eye of a needle and a sculpture of Marilyn Monroe, half the size of a full-stop, carved out of diamond.
The pieces are all the work of artist Willard Wigan, who said he slows down his heartbeat and goes into a meditative state to prevent tremors when he is working.
Each piece can require him to carve for up to 16 hours a day for two months - and the slightest movement can be disastrous.
He said: "The pulse in my fingertip can ruin a sculpture and I have to work at night because the vibrations from traffic can cause problems."...
Go look at the picture. Henry VIII and his six wives, standing inside the eye of a needle!
September 7, 2007
by Dean Takahashi Mercury News [link]
I know that Shu Wong of San Jose hasn't received the $3.50 mail-in rebate for a Vastech computer networking USB hub purchased at a Fry's Electronics in May. Richard Louie of Austin, Olivia Sattaypiwat of Saratoga and Buu Duong of San Jose haven't received their rebates, either.
I know this because they told me so, and because I am staring at more than 1,300 rebate requests sent to Vastech on Bonaventura Drive in San Jose. The envelopes were tossed - unopened - into a garbage dumpster near Vastech. I have two boxes of envelopes that were thrown out without being processed. In all of my years of reporting, I have never encountered such outrageous behavior against consumers.
An employee of nearby Dominion Enterprises found the letters, along with hundreds of others addressed to Vastech, at his company's dumpster. He turned them over to his boss, Joel Schwartz, who gave them to me. All of the letters were addressed to UR-04 Rebate or some variation of the product name at the Vastech address...
(Thanks to Rand Simberg)
Of course the really big scam is that the manufacturers know that most rebates never get sent in at all. People process the low "after rebate" price, buy the product and think they got a good deal, and then lose the form or never find the time and energy to send it in.
June 16, 2007
Fun stuff with a scroll saw...
As a matter of general info, there are lots of woodworking things you can do without a shop or expensive tools. One neat machine is the scroll saw.
My son was tasked with buying a toy alligator to go on the going-away-party cake of someone in the choir who is moving to Florida. We were about to go driving around looking, but I hate shopping, and I said, "We could just make one." And so we did.
My scroll saw is a plain-vanilla Powermatic, that cost me less that $150. (Of course if anyone's looking for gift suggestions in the four-figures neighborhood, these babies are what I dream of. But don't really need.)
My machine has undoubtedly paid for itself many times over, just in making small gifts. Back when my children needed presents to take to a birthday parties, I used to make keychains by cutting the person's name out of a scrap of Rosewood, which can be buffed to a nice gloss. I probably did at least 30 of them over the years, which is a LOT of trips to Toys 'r Us avoided!
If anyone is interested, I made the alligator out out two pieces of smooth 1/2"-thick Poplar. I taped them together and cut out everything except the legs. Those were cut on each piece separately. Then I glued the two together. The color is green wood dye. The actual cutting took less than 10 minutes. It's about 12" long.
September 16, 2006
Important safety tip
It is possible for a light fixture to be "hot," even when its switch is off, and the lamp is not lit. This is because you can wire the fixture so that the switch turns the light off by interrupting the hot wire (correct) or by interrupting the grounded wire (bad thing, but not unknown, especially in older houses). The grounded wire is "downstream" from the light fixture.
This morning a bulb broke off, leaving its its base in one of our kitchen lights. I did the right thing, and tested it before poking my pliers in. Good move, John! You earned your pay today. It was hot.
When in doubt, just turn the circuit-breaker off...
April 8, 2006
Tip, for earthquake season...
I encountered a good tip in a newspaper today. When circuits are busy, use text messaging...
...Burt Benrud, vice president of New Orleans' renowned Café du Monde who was on hand at the small business celebration, said he did not know to try text messaging when his family evacuated to Alabama, but luckily the teenagers in the group did.
"Everybody had a cell phone, but all of the circuits were busy," said Benrud. "It was the members of our fourth generation who figured out they could text message each other."
A text message takes up less room on the network and is more likely to get through,” said Joe Farren, Director of Public Affairs for the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, “The text message is the best way to communicate in an emergency....
January 19, 2006
All the same except different...
Here's a web site that explains the relationship of Hindi, Hindustani and Urdu, which have long confused me...
....Then, about seven centuries ago, the dialects of Hindi spoken in the region of Delhi began to undergo a linguistic change. In the villages, these dialects continued to be spoken much as they had been for centuries. But around Delhi and other urban areas, under the influence of the Persian-speaking Sultans and their military administration, a new dialect began to emerge which would be called Urdu. While Urdu retained the fundamental grammar and basic vocabulary of its Hindi parent dialects, it adopted the Persian writing system, "Nastaliq" and many additional Persian vocabulary words. Indeed, the great poet Amir Khusro (1253-1325) contributed to the early development of Urdu by writing poems with alternating lines of Persian and Hindi dialect written in Persian script.
What began humbly as a hodge-podge language spoken by the Indian recruits in the camps of the Sultan's army, by the Eighteenth Century had developed into a sophisticated, poetic language.
It is important to note that over the centuries, Urdu continued to develop side by side with the original Hindi dialects, and many poets have written comfortably in both. Thus the distinction between Hindi and Urdu was chiefly a question of style. A poet could draw upon Urdu's lexical richness to create an aura of elegant sophistication, or could use the simple rustic vocabulary of dialect Hindi to evoke the folk life of the village. Somewhere in the middle lay the day to day language spoken by the great majority of people. This day to day language was often referred to by the all-encompassing term "Hindustani."
Because day to day Hindustani was essentially a widespread Indian lingua franca not associated with any particular region or class, it was chosen as the basis for modern Hindi, the national language of India. Modern Hindi is essentially Hindustani with a lexicon of Sanskrit-derived vocabulary in preference to the Persian borrowings of literary Urdu. Likewise, Hindustani in its Urdu form was adopted by Pakistan as a national language because Urdu is not tied to any of the regions comprising modern Pakistan....
Fascinating how the languages seem to be defined by poets...
December 28, 2005
D it is...
Here's something you should read, on the importance of keeping up your Vitamin D level to prevent cancer. A daily dose of 1,000 International Units is being recommended. (Of course your body uses sunlight to make Vitamin D, so if you are getting lots of sun you should be OK. Except for getting skin cancer...) Interestingly, I see that the multivitamin I take contains 400 IU, and Charlene's contains 67 IU! Odd.
(Thanks to Orrin)
November 28, 2005
If you are thinking of taking up a sport...
There's Segway Polo twice a month at a park in Sunnyvale..."...a lot like regular polo, but with nothing to shovel..."
(Thanks to my daughter Betsy)
October 9, 2005
Here's some inside dope on why quicksand is hard to get out of, and how to do it....
Thanks to Zannah
September 19, 2005
If you are like us, you get a lot of those "pre-approved" credit card offers in the mail.
August 17, 2005
...or not to ICE
I started out as an EMT, then a Paramedic, then I went on to become an ER/Trauma nurse in the late 90’s, so I think it’s safe to say that I am allowed to have an opinion on this matter.
I do not have an “ICE” entry on my phone, nor will I. It’s just not necessary....
....Your cell CANNOT store an easily-accessible database of your medical history, meds, or allergies. (Emergency personnel won’t have the owners manual to learn how to work your model of cell phone, even if it does have a PDA type of function, and they don’t have time to figure it out.) Contacting your family is secondary to providing lifesaving care. Having an emergency contact number is a bonus, but again, it can go in your wallet. A second easy-to-find emergency info card can go in your cars’ glove compartment. A third emergency info card can be taped to your refrigerator door at home. Medics should ALWAYS check the door of the fridge (that’s where medical info/DNR orders have been posted for decades)...
Makes sense. (Thanks to Dustbury)
August 16, 2005
...Big point: everyone in the hospital acts like you're in a prison or something, with few rights. Nothing could be further from the truth, and if your doc can't handle you pulling out all the stops for your loved one-get another doc.
Second point comes from a USA Today story that I neglected to clip before my flight: grass-roots movement among emergency medical response personnel in Britain is spreading to the United States. Finding that many unconscious patients carry no info on them regarding whom to contact in an emergency (remember those cards in wallets?), they're asking people to do so on their cellphones.
Here is how it works:
Type in cell phone numbers for next-of-kin emergency contacts and then label the entry "ICE" in all caps. The acronym stands for "In case of emergency." The EMR techs just might find that phone on your and check the numbers (makes perfect sense to me that they'd check) and when they see that entry, they'll be able to hit the button and call.
I will assume you know who Barnett is, and that you have read his book. If you haven't, you don't know what's going on in the world, and ought to keep your mouth shut and slink around trying not to be noticed...
Update: You should read the whole post. The Barnett family had a very bad year, with a child in the hospital with cancer, and their responses are worth reading. He also talks about it in the book, as an illustrative example of how you must change all your priorities to survive a crisis; applicable to nations as well as families.
And Anne has this same ICE tip on her blog also...
Or maby it's not a great idea. See next post.
July 11, 2005
Good cell-phone resource...
I did a lot of Googling when I chose my new phone, an LG VX-8000. The results were disappointing, and various questions went unanswered. And when I got the phone (which I love) and read the manual, they were still unanswered.
The place I should have been at was PhoneScoop.com. It has scores of reviews, and a busy forum of VX-8000 users. My biggest question has been: Can you upload photos via a USB cable, rather than paying Verizon to e-mail them from the phone? The silence on that one was, to use le cliché juste, deafening! Verizon doesn't specifically say it's not possible, they just let you infer it.
Turns out, yes I can. Bitpim is the software to use. [Open Source; Windows/Linux/Mac OS-X; works with many CDMA phones.] And eBay has inexpensive cables. (I don't have my cable yet, so I can't be sure all this will actually work.)
Speaking of forums, I'm always surprised at how hard most people find it to clearly communicate questions or answers. Or even just write a Subject Line that will attract the one person who might have an answer. If your Subject Line is "Help!!!!" or "PROBLEM," busy people may just skip over your forum post, rather than waste time on what will probably be of no interest. I sure do.Update: I got my cable, and all seems to work as advertised. BitPim is a touch awkward by Macintosh standards, but no real problems so far...
February 23, 2005
We've been working on a substantial do-it-yourself project. I'm going to blog it, just so I'll have the pictures and story in one place in case anyone asks or Googles. I'm fabricating countertops for our kitchen, (actually half the kitchen for the first stage) using Soapstone (Steatite. Not to be confused with Talc, which is also called soapstone).
Slab of 3/4" Soapstone on my rolling table. Click below for more.
Soapstone has several advantages over other stones. One of them is that it's easy enough to cut and shape so that do-it-yourselfers can tackle it. Another plus is that, although it is softer than granite or marble, it is also denser. It won't absorb stains. Lab benches are sometimes made of Soapstone. Also, it's appropriate for older homes—it's a traditional material without a glitzy modern look. We bought the stone from M. Teixeira Soapstone (pronounced: teh-SHARE-uh) which has just opened a San Francisco warehouse.
In the picture above you saw it in its natural light gray color. But the last task after you've installed your stone is to rub it with mineral oil. When you do, something dramatic happens! It suddenly looks like this:
This is the first piece we've completed. The grain of the stone jumps out when it's oiled.
Soapstone is not hard to cut using a diamond blade. But it's very dusty work. Everything will be covered with fine white powder. Do it outside. I found this simple cutting guide very valuable. Also I covered my table with an extra sheet of rough plywood and set the saw depth to just a little more than the thickness of the slab. Then I cut right on the table. That way the stone is always supported.
The stone used for countertops is 1 1/4" thick. I made the backsplashes from a slab of 3/4" thick stone. We wanted a curved section behind the stove, so I made a template from 1/2" MDF. I roughed the curves out with the saw, then used the template and a router with a pattern-following carbide bit to get the final shape. (I used this cheap little trimming router so that if working with stone damaged it I could just throw it away with a light heart. But so far it's fine.)
Also, the edges are easily finished with sanders, and scratches can be easily sanded out..
And here are the backsplashes in place...
Here I've glued two pieces together with a black epoxy, and I'm starting sanding. The epoxy is smelly stuff, you want LOTS of ventilation. The seam shouldn't have been so messy, but no matter, the excess was sanded off, and the seam disappeared once we oiled the stone. This should have been a two-person job; the glue hardens up quickly, and I barely had enough time.
That slight bend in the wall and the cabinets was tricky to do in stone. Lots of finicky adjustments, which usually meant hauling heavy slabs outside and then back in...
DONE (Almost. We're considering putting splashes at the ends of the counters...)
Important note: The glossiness of these counters is misleading. They've just been oiled.
Soapstone won't take a high polish like granite or marble.
NOTE: My comments close after 10 days. But feel free to e-mail me. (And if the issue is especially interesting I'll add it here as an update.)
September 5, 2004
I was pleased to see Glenn Reynolds prominently debunking the Bush 41 supermarket scanner story. It's one of those lies that has turned into an urban legend, and keeps popping up again and again.
Another one that lives on, is the notion that former President Gerald Ford is clumsy. That one was started by LBJ, and the press delightedly picked it up and ran. Actually Ford was quite an athlete, and seriously considered a career in pro football. I've heard various versions of "strong man is really clumsy." It's sometimes said about body-builders, or it's said that they really aren't very strong. Silly, and probably stems from a certain jealousy.
October 21, 2003
Important tips ....
Tip from Charlene: It's a good idea to carry a camera in your car--one of the little disposable ones is fine. Then if you get into an accident you can gather some evidence to have in the event of a lawsuit. ALSO, if you are on the scene of somebody else's interesting accident, take some pictures because they may be worth money ..... in the event of lawsuits. (Lawsuits, as you probably know, are her business. She's not, I hasten to add, on the Dark Side.)
Also, someone I know (I won't mention any names) was unaware that in most browsers you can adjust the size that type is displayed at in any particular window. My browser, Safari, has buttons on the toolbar and also + and - as keyboard shortcuts. So if the type in Random Jottings seems too big or too small, just adjust it!