Postcards from the Bleeding Edge
It's 9:20PM... do you know where Spirit is?
For all my cynicism regarding our space priorities... having the extremely knowledgable Christopher Hall
(whose spacecraft blog
I read with reverence) call me "The anti-Zubrin
" hurt - I hope that I am merely AN anti-Zubrin... and one day I will finish writing up more on that - but not today.
Because... once the spacecraft is launched, you have to respect the effort. You have to help will the thing to land
Damn it, I root for all of them. I root for the craft and the people investing their lives in making it succeed.
I had hope for Nozomi (Hope)
for five long years. The Japanese performed engineering miracles that kept that craft running well past the design life, through disaster after disaster - until finally they lost communications in early December and gave up Dec 9th, 2003
I wanted to write on Christmas Day, 2003 - "The Beagle has landed" - but it looks to have crashed, too. I always root for an underdog, and the Beagle was the epitome of British pluck and European innovation.
Twas an evil martian god
He stoppeth two of three...
I didn't want to write Uncle Bill's Helicopter
the way I did - it just came out that way - and we all brought spacecraft earth in for a safe landing... enough to try for another series of mars landings this year.
Now, an hour after a glitch in my personal life caused me to miss tonight's landing webcast of the Spirit lander, I have no idea whether or not Spirit made it.
I am willing Spirit to land... and speak... with all my heart - and soul - and I hope you are too.
I don't have TV, the coffee shop I'm blogging from closes at 11 - (before any transmissions will be heard from spirit) - and I keep hitting reload on the ap-newswire....
I wonder if I can get some bar around here to turn to the news. Maybe I can find one usually dominated by sports to spend just a few moments on a nasa channel - if there is one - Not that any station will cover the landing live, in a world full of floods, death, destruction, and paid advertising... no doubt there are dozens of reporters out there with two stories pre-filed in their laptops - one, a sentence long - describing the landing - the other, pages long blasting whatever variety of factors they think caused the failure - all ready in advance...
Oh, yea, cynicism is my way of coping with my streak of idealism, I admit it. I don't have two stories filed. I don't report - I just blog - and think that exploring space - any part of it - is worth it. Especially when it's time to land.
Go Spirit, go! Go you bastard! Land! Speak!
10:10PMsome signals from Spirit received
Lots of news releases... oh, my cynicism was misplaced... hundreds of stories filed on google
... hundreds... hundreds... maybe I can catch some of this on TV.... outta here!
Twas a dark and stormy friday night. Rain poured down so thick that the smoke from my woodstove immediately cooled and swirled around the house like a grey blanket, and I had the urge to stop - to take some time, sit down, and reflect. Usually you try to do this so you can make New Years resolutions, but I've been running behind.
This week it was impossible to get outside without a wetsuit, and I was kind of burned out on programming computers. I busied myself with some belated house tasks, and simple stuff like wiring.
Tuesday I moved the kerbango memorial radio (kmr) upstairs to where I could reach it easily from my workstation...
Wednesday I tired of the noise from my multi-media box (boogieman) - even in the other room I could hear it still - so I installed a Zalman butterfly cooler on the cpu. Much better - the power supply (still configured to blow rather than suck) was now louder...
Thursday I rewired the stereo to have a pure digital path from the amp, kmr, the 24 track motu, and the sacd player, and moved my stereo speakers so the sweet spot was my favored sleep spot on the couch (next to that warm, cozy, woodstove). Mmmmm... audiophilia....
Friday night I was ready for some down time. I loaded up a stack of soggy wood (I like soggy wood! - it lasts longer and dries out the house less when burning) within easy reach... poured myself a cup of tea, and got my notebook out. I started to outline the past year, and my plans for the next, and clicked the remote to flick on my playlist for the evening.
It was the kind of night, with the rain pounding down, that was perfect for Shostokovich's 11th symphony. I expected before long to close my eyes to an orgasmic session of envisioning the story behind that magnificent opus - the cold snow, the gunfire and artillery going off, the deathly silence of a long slow march... but
There was something wrong
Some noise - in my head? - that made the music seem flat... I couldn't figure out what it was. The rain died down, so I had to get up to really listen to my house...
Some of the X10 converters I installed this week emit a slight buzz when on - so I turned the lights off... that helped. There was still... some kind of noise
Damn it, two monitors, the amp and the 24 track - all have transformers that emit that dreaded 60 hz hum. The 24 track is gonna have to move into the laundry room now, too (I couldn't hear it when it shared the same room as the computer) - The amp is going to have to go in a wall up high, but not now - I want to listen to some MUSIC! I flicked the two monitors and the 24 track... OFF... and cursed edison and his promotion of alternating current. Some days I can forgive him - who was he to know that one day every house would have to have something like 18 AC-DC wall warts spread throughout it, 4 DC fans, 5 computers and an X10 system in it?
I restarted the symphony, and sat down... right about then, the fridgerator kicked on, and I had to get up and turn that off.
there was still something wrong... I got up close to the speakers, and now I could hear it, clearly - a faint, ringing, bell-like tone preceded the horns, and the strings were fuzzy
and the overall sound quality just seemed worse than an mp3... and here I was, with a pure, all digital path, playing the third movement of the symphony directly from a wav file ripped from a clean cd, and it SUCKED.
Was it the cd? the file? the player? the driver? the audio hardware? the cable? the amp? the speaker cable? the speakers?
I just wanted my brain to stop - my brain had stopped - so I decided to try hardware first. I plugged in my headphones to the amp - same problem - that ruled out the speaker cable and speakers... I switched out the composite pcm to toslink converter - same problem. I spied the composite cable - was it really 75 ohm? - it didn't have any markings on it - was it really 75 ohm? My multimeter was 200 feet outside in my office, and given a choice between running to that in the rain and mud and testing, and going to radio shack in the rain and landslides in my car and getting a new one... I went to radio shack.
Remember... my purpose this evening was to sit down and reflect on life....
I realized halfway there that I could have tried the cd player's pcm jack, almost turned around, went on to radio shack anyway (I like radio shack). Picked up some pizza next door... came home, plugged the new cable in, and...
same problem. great. Now I have two cables that don't work... or there is something more subtle wrong
. Finally, after some digging, I found the original cd, and plunked it into the cd player - wham! it sounded great - the speaker placement was perfect - I could hear the conductor singing parts, the slight scraping of strings, the creak of a chair, and the music, oh the music! The snares - machine guns, the drums - artillery - the fear, the adrenaline of war and mortal combat, the sudden stillnesses, the... I sat down, with tears running down my face at times, and let myself get carried away by the entire symphony.
Shostokovich's 11th is about surviving the 1905 russian war, and it fit with my state of mind - as I had survived 2003. Ahhh.....
After the record was over, I put the 3rd movement on repeat while I went about debugging the sound problem. What about the analog output from kmr? Now that I knew exactly what to listen for I could still hear it slightly. Damn it. The audio hardware, driver, rip, or player is screwed up...
The phone rang. I pulled the plug.
I go over the the multimedia box, fire up that 24 track pro gear and winamp. the driver hangs on output. What's wrong? the thing is 6 feet off the floor now, hard to get to... I can't deal with it. I sit down, google, fiddle with the drivers (all the while repeating the third movement which by now is starting to really get on my nerves), the hardware, pull stuff out of the linux kernel...
and finally, I give up, at 11PM, and watch 3 hours of the amusing and mind dulling firefly... on headphones.
I think this says something about my year, my ability to prioritize, my creativity, and my curses more than the outline I had started something like 8 hours prior...
but I am not sure what.
In the meantime if anyone out there has a clue as to how to make an epia-m sound good under redhat 9.0 with the viacombo drivers (my theory is that it is upsampling from 44khz to 48) playing wav files I'd love to hear it. I will try the alsa drivers and a 48khz rip next...
I am not a lemming!
And chipper noted that Neal Stephenson is running a wiki
, and also wrote:
I bought "Contact" out of the toss-away bin at Wall-Mart, watched it for the first time since seeing it in the threatre, and picked up on this for the first time:
"An alien intelligence is going to be more advanced. That means efficiency functioning on multiple levels and in multiple dimensions."--Dr. Hadden
More advanced eh? So what do we call more advanced?
Fucking Microsoft Word document formats and proprietary pdfs.
Fuck us, we deserve it.
I had a dream this morning. I dreamt I said I'm tired of playing by the rules. I just want to create, I just want to live my life free from hassles, I want to just write in html and .sxw formats, record in flac and I cried out as I woke - I AM NOT A LEMMING!
An intelligent man makes and lives by his own rules.
You ain't that negative "us", chipper, unless you choose to be. Why use the human race as a role model?
repeat after me:
I am not a lemming... I am
an alien intelligence.
I had written part of a long rant last night too - about all the christmas stuff that drives me bats - but I've got to run some fish tape down a wall to get to an errant usb/midi cable.
The ethernet-wired electric guitar - at 100Mbits! The Electric Studio - at 6ft 1inches up!
sent in this link:
I got excited about this technology about a year ago. The guitarists I talked to about it met the idea with fear and distain - "Waaa? Can I still do feedback?" - me , I want this sort of feature on my audio gear, desperately. I have noise problems - I want perfect sound from my keyboard, a bed of silence so deep you can smell the snow - and I can't get it. Guitarists, now... they want
to be noisy....
Brian plays trombone - and his .sig on this message cracked me up -
I came home the other night and tried to open the door with my car keys...and the building started up. So I took it out for a drive. A cop pulled me over for speeding. He asked me where I live. I said, "Here."
-- Steven Wright
live... here. I spent until the wee hours of the morning in a massive multi-tasking mode - burning cds, building software on three different machines on two different architectures, dictating into my ipaq, fixing various things wrong with my network, hacking on secure sendmail - and best of all I got a toolbox, found all my tools, put it in it...
Then hauled the toolbox into the laundry and finally put my multi-media box - the one I continually try to work on my songs on -- in the laundry room. It was just too noisy where it was. Better yet, I had an innovative idea:
The real innovation was that I put it on the shelf, just before you exit the house (see aformentioned steven wright tale), and I put the shelf just above the door, and the computer upside down
so that an ejected DVD or CD is within easy reach on the way in or out.
I sawed. I hammered. I drilled holes to pass the firewire and vga cables through the wall. All while blasting .flac files at maximum volume.
Amazing what you can do at 2AM when you live alone.
I gotta take a picture of this. It seemed so wrong - yet so right - to mount the dvd upside down in the case. But it is so simple... and just perfect up high, out of the way....
I flashed on Tom Wolfe's "The right stuff" when I did it - one of the astronaut candidates had had it with all the tests and started playing games with the deadly serious shrinks he was dealing with.... handed a blank piece of paper, and asked:
"What do you see?"
he looked at the tester deadpan and said
"But it's upside down."
...I guess I should rip apart the power supply and flip the fan to blow rather than suck - wind sucks rather than blows, according to Bucky Fuller....
Brian wrote later about his 15ms of fame:
Years ago (probably 16 or 17 years ago at this point), I saw Steven Wright doing his comedy stand-up routine at a comedy club in Philly. I forget the name of the club; it's the one that had a Middle Eastern restaurant over top of it. Anyway, we had seats right up toward the stage; there were four or five of us at this round table. At one point during his act, I was laughing so hard he actually stopped and looked at me.
I had a similar experience last year when maotig
took me to see Henry Rollins. We had center seats and at times he seemed to be talking right to me. It was really reassuring at the time to see a guy on stage, that talked and thought so much like I do - only funnier - For months I wanted to write him, saying - hey, remember me, I was the guy in the red sweater??
My 15ms of fame.
an X10 christmas
After all this time hacking on X11
, I took a step back this holiday and installed an X10
house automation system. I had held off for years - primarily due to the overwelming invasivenes and html abuse of the the x10 web site - and my inherent hatred of an unreliable protocol (you can't tell if a module is on or off) - but the call of house automation could not be ignored.
I can finally make my mark on my house - as I have decided to stay - and making the house as easy to manage as I thought it would be (my god, managing the place is a hassle).
I shorted out the house twice along the way (* note 1 - no matter your faith in your own invulnerability, cut the circuit breaker before connecting the internal wall switch. * note 2 - is it the black wire that connects to the blue wire or the black wire that connects to the black wire? I can't remember - and remember to not do this stuff after 7PM - see note 1 - it's impossible to tell the difference between these two colors in the dark.)
The motion sensors are the best. It really is great to step outside, or pull up in the driveway, and have the outside lights switch on. The house says: "Welcome home!" Ahh... Two minutes later, the lights switch off - the electric company says: "waaaa.... "
I can now reach across my desk and turn on the stereo, the christmas tree, the lava lamp... there is a Linux interface
to it so I can control it all via the kerbango memorial radio and my wireless ipaq... if I get around to patching my kernel. I can see how metcalf's law applies - after doing half the house I NEED MORE MODULES to control the heater, the camera, the cat toy....
Heinlein once wrote about the lazy man - a guy that spent a lot of effort so completely automating his life that he could ultimately lounge in a hammock and take it easy - I want to be that guy - but I'd probably be bored. (song of the year - Stress
- by Jim's Big Ego. The song describes my 2002)
Now if only I could push a button on my remote control and get the property taxes paid and the sagging floor fixed!
In other news, Where's Cherie
made yahoo's Picks of the day
. Woohoo - Go Cherie! I have followed her adventures from the comfort of my deskchair for a over a year now!
Lets see - what else?
I have a bunch of longer blogs stacked up - one that I may take the time to finish today.
In trying to get to 1/100th of Doc
's unbelievable productivity, I decided what I really needed was an outliner
. I've been kvetching about that for a long time - it has really stopped me from writing larger pieces.
There are a bunch of good ones on DOS and Windows, but Linux lacks... about the best one I had found was called Buzz -
For a while I used a DOS one, then that machine died. I couldn't read the format with another tool...
Buzz did't quite do what I wanted to do... it was written in python, which I don't grok...
Then a couple months back I discovered Mathew Allum
. Aha! it worked on my ipaq
, and on my desktop. It used a simple xml based format, based on radio userland's OPML
standard. Best of all, the code was simple, and easy for me to understand... before I knew it I'd made the thing closer to Gnome HID compliant, and started work on getting the important features I needed going.
What I really need to be doing is writing - not writing an outliner - ah well - it was fun to spend a couple nights working out the concepts...
Here's source to a pre-pre-pre release figment
... more after I get cvs access.
You have to take time, every so often, to scratch your own itches. I have been very frustrated at work...
My vacuum cleaner is broke. I just have to order a roomba. Just have to...