June 1, 2006
2006, The Year of Personal Techniclogical Catastrophies
Superstition dictates that bad events always arrive in threes. Night before last, the final shoe on this three legged beast had dropped.
First, my wide-format printer died. The head developed a leak that made every print look like an inky massacre, rendering hundreds of dollars worth of pigment inks and paper stock useless to me. I liquidated all the supplies on eBay and replaced the printer with a cheap all-in-one unit. Although I've vowed to never make prints at home again, I still miss being able to do it.
The second shoe to drop was my original server that started as a VIA Mini ITX board in a To Boot shoebox later installed into an antique wooden box I picked up at an antiques show which I attacked with a dremel to add holes for the ports and ventilation. Three years of continuous use and an early spring heatwave seemed to have killed it.
I replaced the shoebox with a spare five or six year old system I had in the basement. Things seemed to be going well until Tuesday when I noticed I couldn't get to my site from work all of a sudden. I returned home to find that the system wouldn't boot up anymore.
I tried a different power supply, isolating memory sticks, reseating everything. It was just dead. The third shoe had dropped.
I was dissapointed to see that my own locally owned computer store ("Tran Microsystems") had been converted from the friendly neighborhood shop where one could buy new and used stuff at a fair price to a rude little joint staffed by loud-mouthed upselling hawkers who try to convince you that blinking LEDs and neon cords enhance performance. I gave in and went to Microcenter and picked up the cheapest of everything I needed to get back-online.
We're back and not a moment too soon. Sorry for the interruption and I hope that this system makes it longer than the last two!
Now if only I can find that gassy smelling oil leak on my cycle before it gets serious...
May 27, 2006
Genographic Update - Additional Testing Required
Off and on I've been checking the status of my submission of cheek-cells to the National Geographic Genographic Project. It's been a little over a couple of months that they've been processing my DNA. Well, last week my entry moved from the processing stage into quality control and something interesting happened. Here's the text from my record:
Additional Testing Required
Your sample has completed the DNA analysis phase of testing. However, during quality control your initial results failed to clearly indicate your haplogroup. We must perform additional testing to accurately determine your deep ancestral lineage. This is not uncommon, but will delay the posting of your results by two to three weeks.
We appreciate your patience. Please also note that this delay is a sign of the Project's success in increasing the diversity of samples in our database.
If we find that there is a problem at any point during the processing of your sample, you will receive an updated message when you log in to check your status.
What does this all mean?
My guess is that my lineage is so strange that they haven't encountered many of my type before. As a matter of fact, that's precisely why I wanted to spend the $100 to try and figure out what my paternal haplotype was in the first place!
I'm putting odds on one of a few outcomes:
- The family has been keeping to traditions and I can trace my haplotype through Israel.
- Someone got scandalous and I've either got North African or Spanish paternal DNA.
- The results will be inconclusive and will simply tell me that I'm human.
- I'm a new subspecies.
Oh the suspense! I'll keep you all updated...
April 1, 2006
I've been drinking a lot of tea recently. It didn't help that I bought a big Bodum three serving tea pot from my friends at Namaste Cafe (more on them in a future posting); I can now boil a huge pot of water and have pot next to me at all times while I work.
I've got a lot of places I can buy tea. I've generally purchased directly from Coffee & Tea, Ltd. in Linden Hills, Minneapolis. Tea seams to be a secondary stock item for them (well, I guess it's not Tea & Coffee, Ltd. is it?) but every once in awhile I've found a gem or two in the many glass jars they have squirreled away on their shelves.
If I cannot find what I like there, I've usually ordered from Tea Source. I've never been let down by their tea before and their mail-order catelog is great! I've got a few favorites from them that I re-order again and again. I keep them in big canisters at my house.
If I find myself at the Mall of America—which is rarely—I sometimes wander into Teavana. Their teas are good enough but their prices are horrible. My biggest irk with them is every time I go into their store an apelike urge wells up inside me and I feel like leaving a turd someplace in a corner. I've haven't heard a larger set of reguritated lies and pretension surrounding a set of products since the last time I mistakenly stepped into a Bang and Olafson store. I hate a shopping atmosphere that is engineered to make the customer feel like its a priviledge just to be allowed in there.
I received a gift certificate from Adagio Teas. When I ran out of my staples, some variety of Japanese Green and some variety of Oolong, I decided to pop on over there and place an order.
In general, it's a very clean and well organized site with just about every feature you could imagine for an eCommerce store centered around the business of tea. They've got snazy pictures of the leaves, comments sections, the ability to sort products along several different criteria, user reviews, accessories, and even a free downloadable tea timer!
Shipping was fast and my order arrived within the week I had ordered. I was really impressed with their packing ability but mostly of all their packaging. I had expected bags of loose tea but had received instead little metallic canisters with plastic pop-top lids with color-printed labels complete with steep time and temperature that looked like they had been designed out by a graphic design student. The letter on the labels were done according to tea type: green for green and a green-hued brown for oolong. Well done.
It finally made sense as to why you couldn't order any arbitrary quanitiy of tea, they weight out the tea to fit in the container. It seems to make good sense. I only hope there is an option for rebuying the same tea from them in order to refill the container. I'd hate to develope a huge empty collection of these things.
The teas were good, not Earth shatteringly good but exactly as described by the copy written up on their website. I think I've discovered that I like oolongs that are not like "oolong #40" but are more toasty than champagne-like and light. User reviews for the tea I bought were all over the map. Several of them I suspect are not brewing their tea correctly. The clincher for me would be able to add "trust" to certain reviewers on the site that I believe match my palette. I'd love to mask off any clown that would add milk and sugar to an already great tea!
I have no doubts that business for them is going to grow and they're going to bring on some new features. All in all, not a bad site!
March 12, 2006
Genes, Genes the Musical Fruit
It's tax refund time and I am looking for an appropriate waste to spend it on. A while ago a friend of mine pointed me to The Genographic Journey which will determine your haplotype and tell you about the migration of your genetic marker over time. What I wanted to know was how recent the results are so I knew what to expect for my $99 + shipping.
Suprisingly, I was only able to find one poster who actually had received their results and decided to share. Sanjiva over at Overtures had this to report about his genetic testing. It seems the results for him went as far back as the Eurasian notching point about 60,000-80,000 years ago up to about 15,000 years ago.
He discovered that his haplotype travelled out of Africa, into central Asia (like all P-I-E speaking ancestral groups), as expected. However that's when things took a funny turn: his ancestores had the type common with the group that migrated to Siberia. Sadly, that's where the story ends. Via this project, he may never know how his ancestors reached the Indian Subcontinent.
Personally I hope that once your genetic haplotype is known over the years better and better data will become available and you'll be able to glean more and more data about one's ancestral journey. With that hope, I go to order a kit!
12:23 PM: Here's another person's results, this time she's been tracked with her mDNA.
February 28, 2006
I am still scratching my head at this one. Yesterday I saw one of the most horrific scenes of my life.
When I arrived at the University yesterday, nature called. I headed to the bathroom up from the parking ramp into the student union building. When I entered, I browsed the row of stalls until I found one unoccupied and opened it. There I faced the terrible scene.
Inside the stall was a cafeteria tray set atop the toilet paper dispensor. On the tray was a styrofoam plate with a half eaten burrito sitting in a pool of salsa accompanied by a large fountain beverage and straw. My mind filled with shock and a thousand questions: did they order their food with the expressed intent of brining it into the bathroom? Did they have the sudden realization while on the throne that, "hey! I'm eating on the toilet! What the hell am I doing?" then pull up their pants and get out of there? Are they some sort of evil genius that leaves half-eaten burrios in toilet stalls for people to wonder about?
Or, in the best of all lights: perhaps they are over protective about their food and decided to take it with them into the bathroom, but why oh why bring it all the way in the stall? And why leave it? They became disgusted with it, why not just throw it away?
And to think, we will never know the answers to any of these questions. Life can be so cruel.
February 17, 2006
My apologies for not writing anything for the past week or so. Somewhere between the list of things I needed to do and the things I wanted to do the blog went to the wayside. It's a shame. I really felt the absense of being able to produce something creative if but only a few nights a week.
I'm ready to gear up again; At home I've got a new PC and a new monitor calibrated and ready to go. Expect me to post some new entries to the photoblog soon.
Moving over to a new PC and migrating all of my data has caused me to re-examine my present strategy for catelogging my photos. The way I'm doing it now seems to take too much time and effort and it doesn't map well onto the world of virtual albums or Flickr-like tags.
The way I'm organizing my photos now closly tracks how I've been posting them into my on-line gallery. The system is: I arbitrarily decide how to divide my collections of photos in a evermore complex and personal hierarchy with sufficently detailed filenames to maintain searchability. There are no tags or keywords and often little to no reliance on any metadata.
I've heard over the years that people have liked the way I've organized my on-line collection. I think they find it interesting to see how I've divided things up...but truthfully its just too hard to maintain. A Flickr-like system of tags and virtual albums would be far, far more tenible. I want to change the way I organize things and I want to do it now. The first thing I've realized is that I'm going to need to make a tool change and a file organization change.
Here's the procedure I'm thinking of using starting from importing the data to my PC from the camera to how I would like to be able to later slice and dice the data:
- Copy all of the files from my camera's memory storage device and rename the folder into one or more folders taking the format "YYMMDD-NN Short Description of Grouping" where Y, M, & D are the familiar date elements and NN is a number like "00", "01", "02, etc. depicting what import number it is from that day.
- Rename all of the files in that directory as "YY - Folder's Short Description - Place/Subject.ext"
- Add tags/keywords.
- Optionally create interesting virtual folders based on tags/keywords in my age-old metal hierarchy and publish these to my on-line gallery.
I've already ruled out Picasa2 to help me achieve this procedure: it simply doesn't have the capability to construct a hierarchy of albums or (as far as I know) to be able to combine its keywords into simple boolean statements—such as, create a folder with photos of "japan and (me or Evan) and 2005"—so I'm evaluating ACDSee Pro to see if I can bend it to my will.
Does anybody else have any other suggestions out there? How do you keep things organized without overhead overkill? Are there any other tools out there you would suggest?
As for my old photos and my old organization strategy, I'm going to make 2006 a landmark year and just make the change going forward. I'll put the old stuff in an directory named "before-2006" and go through it every once in awhile when I want to feel haunted by nostaligia as I do with my other old drawers and boxes of junk.
October 21, 2005
From the Brink and Back Again
The hard drive that serves this site, named toboot suffered a serious corruption issue causing me to have to rebuild the file system tree from single user mode. It looks like only a single bad sector, but reiserfs requires the entire file system to be rebuilt and that takes a lot of time.
I'm double-checking my back-ups and crossing my fingers that I can make it into next year. Then I project I will be able to afford to build another little server box to replace toboot. Here's for hoping!
October 19, 2005
MT Updated to MT 3.2
I've updated the site to MT 3.2. Please let me know if you notice anything wonky.
I have to say the update was pretty painless. I'm exicted to see how the new junk folder system works out. I'm sure that will take all of five minutes to find out. I had over 40 spam hits today already before the update!
October 15, 2005
A Busy Week
It has been an extremely long, exhausting but exhilarating week. It started from last Thursday when it was time to travel to the Bay Area, California for my friends Steve and Amy's wedding.
Weddings are interesting moments. They are filled with periods of intense, ostentatious relaxation as well as emotionally charged points of terror and anxiety. Luckily, this wedding was primarily filled with the former variety: we toured the Sharffen Berger Chocolate Factory in Berkeley, roamed around wine country, played cards, and stayed in a nice inn.
Just about all of the negativity that weekend was either the result of my own doings or the doings on the part of the airlines. I had managed to drink a mammoth amount of beer at the bachelor's party and ended up having to take a drunken stroll around Sonoma around three in the morning in order to walk it off. The next morning, I awoke with a truly profound hangover. I guess I am just not professional when it comes to drinking. Likewise about the airlines it could be said that they are not very professional when it comes to flying.
Sparing the details of that particular Monday, it was important to be back on Tuesday in order to shoot our episode of Decorating Cents with Joan Steffend in order to have the kitchen made-over. However, our Frontier Airlines flight out of San Francisco had not even arrived yet. It had not even arrived yet from Denver and was delayed at least five hours. The airline could not decide if the flight would be continuing on to Minneapolis or not.
If it did and not barring any additional complications when it came time to reach snowed-in Denver, the new arrival time was set sometime after 3:00am. The HGTV camera crew was set to arrive at 8:30am. This drove me to try and be creative in getting home.
Having tried to reach the crew and notify them of the delay and failing I left the terminal for the ticketing agent to petition for alternatives. Using some magic I learned from my father I negotiated my way into a flight coupon that would be valid on other partner airlines.
The first airline I tried on my ticketing trick-or-treat was NWA who left me standing at the counter for 20 minutes before emerging from the back office only to inform me that they no longer honored "type 120" coupons from Frontier and that I would need to return to them in order to get the coupon re-issued in a more generic form called a "FIM". She assured me the work was mearly clerical and their part and would be no trouble at all.
An hour of waiting in lines and haggling yielded no FIM, and no further advice. I had the poor misfortune of getting the woman who hated her job and hated everybody else by extension and she even threatened to void the coupon I had because the last man was mearly, "doing me a favor I did not deserve." All the while the flight had been delayed even further. It was looking bad. The thought of an angry television crew standing outside the door of my empty house made me nervous.
I returned to my ticket trick-or-treating and finally found an airline that would be willing to take the coupons from Frontier. America West finally took me in and re-issued tickets to fly through Las Vegas. The final arrival time into Minneapolis was now set at 4:10am, but at least I would be getting there.
The good news is, I ended up winning cab fare home on the nickel slot machines in the airport in Vegas. The bad news is, I have positively no recollection of the filming of the episode. After landing in Minneapolis, there was just enough time for an hour and a half nap and a shower before the crew arrived. At least most of the house was clean. My only regret was not having cleaned the stove before leaving to California. Joan told us that a little dirt makes for better T.V.
It was rather surreal at times to have eight or nine people in this tiny house, poking around filming and recording things and trying to define, stereotype, and make you sound interesting to the at-home audience. It is going to be weird to see what a lanky dork I look like on camera. The magic of television.
The kitchen however did turn out beautifully. New paint, new shelving and storage, less clutter and more space. "All this for under $500!" Also, the magic of television.
While driving back from a victory dinner at Safari Restaurant, a place filled with warmth, good friends, and excellent food, we were waived down by a couple of large looming figures standing cold and angry in the rain.
I rolled down the window and inquired what was going on and this man told me that his car quit, he thought it was the alternator, and that he wanted a jump.
There is an ever fine line between street smarts and compassion. I returned with my car, a pair of jumper cables, and a Maglite and hoped my compassion would be met with open arms.
The man introduced himself as Darren. He was over 6'5" and pushing 250 pounds, with short dark-brown hair, thin mustache, and sharp eyes. The woman he was with was short, squat, with rough features and a soft rounded accent I immediately recognized as from a Native American reservation.
I pulled up my car nose-to-nose with his, flipped on the Maglite, and took out the cables. He told me the car wouldn't start and it was making an odd noise. I asked from where and as his finger met the beam of my flashlight I saw that the nail had been torn from the finger. I asked him how it happened and he said that he had mistakenly slammed the hood of the car down upon it a half an hour ago. It was still bleeding.
I asked them to turn on their headlights so I could judge how strong their battery was. They were dim. I hooked up the jumper cables to my car, started it, and connected the cables to his vehicle which made the lights brighten. He barked at his wife to try and turn the engine over. Nothing emerged but a sad little noise from the component that he had pointed at with that bloody finger.
Everything I have learned about cars I have learned from Tom Waits and and The Ghosts of Saturday Night, "You know it could be your distributor and it could be your coil." In this very Tom Waits vintage 70's Mercury, I guessed the round cylindrical object with one gozintah and many gozouttas that sounded like a coffee grinder was the culprit; it was probably the distributor and not the coil.
I softly informed them that I did not think the car would be going anywhere that night and offered them a ride home. The man then barked at this wife, "bring 'em the backpack!" She brought over the backpack and opened it for me and saw that it was filled with cutlets of meat from the local supermarket chain, "we'll give you some meat for a ride home!"
I told him that wasn't necessary and asked him where he lived. He lamented to me that the car was not even his, but his 500 pound friend who would break his neck when he found out that he had left his car so far from home. He said he lived on the northeast side of town, just past the University. The three of us climbed into my Mini Cooper.
He pointed at the center dash speedometer, silhouetting the crooked tip of his finger, "what can you get on that? The world-wide high-speed Internet?" he chuckled to himself.
I inquired what happened to his finger, and he said that it was broken and that he dropped a drill on it a few days ago. Under the street lamps I could see that it was still freshly swollen. I wondered how many more mangled digits he possessed.
When we hit the highway his mind began to run about how to tell his friend that his car was broken, "he's going to kill me, goddammit...he's going to kill me." And he pleaded that we stop at his friend's house, then his mother's house so that he could plead for money, "my per-cap from the casino doesn't come in 'till this weekend and he is going to kill me!"
His trick-or-treating from family and friends for money proved not to be as successful as my trick-or-treating for tickets from the airlines. As we neared the driveway to his house, he pleading to me with an ever faint whiff of sweet alcohol on his breath that made me hesitate, "can you help us out at all? I mean you've been sah nice and all...but anything?" By the time he turned around to expose the Leech Lake reservation emblem on his back to motioned for the backpack of meat again I had already produced the $20.50 that was in my pocket.
Driving home, all I could think about was the gulf of magnitude between his problems and my problems. It had been a busy week.
October 12, 2005
A Graphic Title
I finally sat down and added title graphics to the site. It's about time. What has it been, almost two-thirds of a year since we've been around? The font I chose to go with is called LaureHead. I chose it because it complimented SourFang's shape well and I've always imagined something "plodding" to be rather round.
Have I mentioned that I had web-browsers yet? Ah, yes I have. It took relatively major tweaking to get everything working across all browsers just so.
Hopefully I should have improved the layout a bit while I was tweaking things such as the clipping of content text within the main blog pages; the window and content size for pop-up comments, along with some other minor tweaks for browser's such as Opera that I really hadn't got quite serious about until tonight.
For all who check this blog (or most likely my photoblog) daily. My apologies for the late post today. I'm surviving on 2 hours sleep after having arrived in from Sonoma, CA and standing up in my good friend Steve's wedding. Congratulations Steve and Amy! I'm sure I'll have some pictures to post from that event soon...
I had to be back today in order to film an episode of Decorating Cents. They're doing the kitchen! Believe it or not, they've been working all day and I haven't even peaked in to see what it looks like. I promised I wouldn't ruin the surprise.
It's an understatement to say the house feels more cluttered than usual. You literally cannot walk from room to room without bumping into a light stand or an HD camera. Those are neat. I'll have to put one on my holiday want list.