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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Dave (aka Dr. ZRFQ)'s LiveJournal:

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Monday, January 2nd, 2017
12:31 am
Good riddance 2016, and Happy New Year everyone
Notice to 2016: You were fired months and months ago and yet refused to leave, and kept piling abuse after abuse upon us to boot. Don't let the screen door hit'cha on your way out, as I'd rather avoid damage to the screen door.

For most practical purposes I've been gone from LJ for something over five months, and mostly been not online at all for most of that period. A few of you who read this may not have heard, through other channels, what happened. I'll post something about it soon, but not tonight.

Happy New Year, everyone. May 2017 bring prosperity, peace, progress, and love to all my friends. (hough I suspect some of my non-LJ friends might not appreciate all of those if they received it, by how *I* am defining the terms.)
Tuesday, January 26th, 2016
12:44 am
Snowzilla, and other winter weather
This has been frustrating. I mean, yes there is some point to getting through the worst part of being sick when there's really no point in going outside anyway. But this hung on and hung on, and here it is 40-mumble hours since the snow stopped falling, and I haven't been well enough to get out and shovel. montuos has been a real trooper, doing what she could over the past couple of days. Nevertheless it's going to take a serious effort before we can break through the plow berm and be able take the car places.

At least the big Katsucon meetings hadn't been scheduled for this *past* Saturday.

The Capital Weather Gang dubbed this storm "Snowzilla". That's a good name for the second-biggest storm ever at IAD, and the all-time record setter in: Baltimore, Harrisburg, Allentown/Bethlehem, New York (LGA), and New York (JFK). The storm Maxwell-Smart-ed the record for Central Park in NYC, coming up a tenth of an inch shy of tying the record.

This is the 23rd winter we've spent in this house. The winters have not been *uniformly* horrid ever since we moved in, but a lot of the worst winter weather ever in Chantilly has happened in that time:

1993-94: We shoulda known that the Christmas Night ice storm was a bad portent. We left Glen Allen VA a little after 8:00 that evening. We got home OVER NINE HOURS later. Not going into further details here. A few weeks later, MLK Day marked the beginning of the worst winter I've ever had to endure.

1995-96: The "13th Night/14th Night" Blizzard of '96 is still the third biggest snowfall on record at Dulles.

2000-01: A top-20 storm dropped about 11 inches on us, though I'm not recalling the exact date too well.

2002-03: The Presidents' Day 2003 Storm is still number five on the all-time Dulles list.

2006-07: The Valentine's Day Ice Storm that hit us was sandwiched between a major snow event to the north, and tornadoes to the south. Lots of people still remember Interstate 78 getting blocked by trucks that couldn't make it up a hill, and at one point ALL east-west Interstates in Pennsylvania were closed east of Harrisburg. I know, I was trying to get across PA at the time.

2007-08: the Just Before Valentine's Day Ice Storm closed quite a lot of roads in Northern Virginia.

2009-10: The snowiest *winter* on record at Dulles, which included the Pre-Christmas Snowpocalypse (number 6 all-time), the Son of Snowpocalypse aka Snowmageddon (still the all time champion at 32.4 inches), and after only 2 days respite from Snowmageddon, Bride of the Son of Snowpocalypse aka Snoverkill (number 12). But that wasn't all -- the latter two storms were numbers THREE and FOUR out of FIVE storms that hit between 30 January and 15 February.

2010-11: Memories of hacking my way out of our driveway a few times in January and February, and needing to park the minivan on the street in Allentown because of the plow berm blocking the driveway, which took me all weekend to get rid of.

2011-12: My memoerable winter weather from this season was actually up in the NYC metro area, as we were up there for both Snowtober and the January storm.

2013-14: Yet another Valentine's Day storm, this one dropping over 13 inches on Dulles for spot number ten on the current all-time list.

2015-16: See above.
Thursday, December 24th, 2015
7:05 pm
(Tune should be obvious.)

"Mikey's ordered a shipment at the MIL-waukee station
For this afternoon at quarter past two;
And flyin' IN the open window here comes Mikey's cable
As the train goes a-rum-b-lin' through!"

(I *may* provide context upon request. Not sure yet.)
Tuesday, November 10th, 2015
11:35 pm
Forty years ago on this date
Most folks above a certain age (and some below that age) are aware of what happened forty years ago this evening, if only because of the very well-known song that Gordon Lightfoot wrote about it. On 10 November 1975, an early and vicious winter storm hit Lake Superior, and took down the SS Edmund Fitzgerald with all her 29 crew.

My father-in-law was a merchant mariner -- an engineer to be specific -- up through the mid-1960s, when a medical condition caused his retirement. His son was career Navy, also in engineering. Tonight my thoughts are with all those who go down to the sea in ships, with special prayers for those (and the family and friends of those) who didn't come back.

Here's an excellent video with an intro of what I think is an ABC newscast from the following day, footage of the big ship herself, and Gordon singing the song live in the background: The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
Sunday, November 1st, 2015
12:47 pm
Silly thought of the day
Titles of actual books that you wouldn't want in series with each other.

"God Is My Co-pilot"
"Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret"
Friday, July 10th, 2015
12:00 am
Ideas that go around, come around...
(Adult Content: references to computers older than my high school diploma.)

Two dozen years ago, I moved into a house with an old-fashioned electric resistance furnace. Now, I cannot claim to never have lived in such a house before; after my dad's transfer to eastern PA we moved into an all-electric house, in the days before heat pumps. My parents still live in that house, though they are now on their second heat pump (FAR more efficient, as modern heat pumps tend to be) rather than the relatively inefficient electric resistance furnace that house started with.

However, I had never paid attention to my parents' utility bills while I lived there. Something about being in middle school and high school at the time.

Back to the early 1990s, we moved in during the spring and I didn't run the furnace before that autumn. (The air conditioner was separate and generated electric bills about the level I expected over the summer.) Then heating season came, and I totally gacked at the first electric bill after we turned on the heat. In a panic I called my dad and said "Is it normal for an electric furnace from the early 1970s to generate electric bills nearly double those when running the air conditioner in summer?" My dad, somewhat to my surprise, said "Yes -- that bill is not indicative of your furnace needing repair, they really do cost that much to run."

Holy crap.

The following spring, we were asked if we could do a friend a favor, and store one of his currently unused computers in our garage (which was effectively a storage unit at the time anyway). We said sure. Now the computer in question turned out to be a Prime 650 supermini. When George rolled it in, I looked at it and said "How big is the power supply on that?"

George: "45 amps, 110 volts."

Me: "That sucker is about the same size as my piece-of-shit electric furnace, which also takes 45 amps. If I could convince the landlord to take it out and install your PR1ME in its place, then during heating season we'd have just as much heat *AND* lots of computing power, and I bet it would cost less to run than the furnace!"

20-something years later that idea has made it to the commercial marketplace: Heating houses with 'nerd power'


(Footnote: The History Of "Prime Computer, Inc." on a site run by a former employee.)
Saturday, June 6th, 2015
2:27 pm
'cause Uptown Funk gon' give it to ya...
I'd long since fallen out of any habit of listening to "current pop" radio, until a need for Frederick-specific traffic reports got me listening to a local pop station there. For those who didn't know, the biggest hit of the first 4 months of 2015 (according to Billboard) was "Uptown Funk" by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars. (Ronson is a guitarist and producer, but mostly doesn't do vocals, so he brings in divers folks to do the lead vocal on each track.) Perhaps it's a guilty pleasure, but it's definitely my favorite from that time frame. If it comes on while I'm alone in the car I'll crank up the volume and sing the bass line, or sing the trombone part, or some of both.

It struck me as very reminiscent of songs I heard during my first widescale experience with pop music, from 1975 or 1976 through about senior year of high school. Ronson freely admits that this isn't an accident.

Mark Ronson on ‘Uptown Funk': Pop Songs Don’t Need to Have Dumb Lyrics

"Thing that you ever don’t want to sound like is something that came out last year, but 20 years ago is fine." Or in this case, getting close to 40 years.

One review (I've misplaced the link) opined that this was an homage to the 1980s Minneapolis Uptown funk scene. Given the song title, I wouldn't be surprised. And the *lyrics* are certainly more like mid-1980s (or later) than they are like most of what came earlier. (In fact, certain pieces of the lyric would disturb me more than they do, except that I'm treating even the lyric as being a retro-style pastiche.) But the *music*? That groove is older than 1980s Minneapolis. Now, the only funk act I can recall from that scene is The Time. (Yes, the biggest name to come out of that scene was Prince, but his albums that everybody knows from 1999 on are far more funk-*flavored*, either synthpop or just plain pop.) And by the mid-1980s I wasn't listening to that genre as much. In retrospect, I wonder if it's because I wanted something new, or new to me, for the same reason as the above Ronson quote.

So why am I asserting that the groove comes from earlier than the 1980s?

This mini-history lesson starts with James Brown. The "Godfather of Soul" was better described as the Godfather of Funk. He expanded on the Stax/Volt "Memphis Sound" (with its signature horn section), and all of Brown's best work had horns as an integral part of the sound. A bit later on, crossing from the 60s to the 70s, you had Sly Stone further expanding the horizons, and through the 70s one had the Ohio Players, Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, George Clinton with Parliament/Funkadelic, and others, all refining the sound... and in a somewhat more mainstream-accessible vein there was Earth, Wind, and Fire; and increasingly funkily from 1972 through 1977, Stevie Wonder (think "Superstition"). Which brings me back to 1976, when EW&F had their "Spirit" album, and Wonder came out with one of those all-time great albums that everyone really should hear all the way through before they die, "Songs In The Key Of Life".

Herewith a couple well-known examples of 1976 funk on the AM Radio (Everclear song reference intended):
Earth, Wind, and Fire, "Getaway"
Stevie Wonder, "I Wish"

I hope this helps demonstrate my point.

And now for a change of direction. In the Ronson interview there was some discussion of his use of live instrumentation, especially on his current Uptown Special album. A lot of acts have gone to all or mostly electronic backing tracks even for live shows. They're missing something. There is an energy generated by a bunch of live musicians that a prerecorded backing track just cannot duplicate. It's clear to me from being in the audience, or even working the concession booth, at live shows, and even more clear to me from my days of playing and singing in ensembles, going all the way back to high school (primarily the jazz band). I remember seeing EW&F perform live on a television show, perhaps Midnight Special but I don't recall exactly, and that same vibe was there.

So here are Ronson, Mars, and the gang, in the debut live performance of Uptown Funk. As its lyric goes, "it's Saturday night and we in the spot" -- and if you'll forgive the baseball analogy, they crushed it on SNL. The Rolling Stone article said "they hit it out of the park"... and if Studio 8H in Manhattan is the metaphorical ballpark with home plate to the west, I'll go further and state that the ball landed somewhere out in Block Island Sound east of Montauk, THAT'S how well they nailed it. And you can even tell from just watching the video... but this is one I wish I'd been there in person for.

"Uptown Funk" Live on Saturday Night Live
Thursday, November 28th, 2013
10:50 am
Because it's Thanksgiving
The "church nearby the restaurant" was later bought by Arlo himself, and forty years after the incident that started at the church, he sang the song there...

Alice's Restaurant Live at Guthrie Center

Which makes this rendition a real-life example of telling band camp stories at band camp. ("This one time, a- here...")

Happy US Thanksgiving everyone.
Wednesday, October 30th, 2013
9:04 pm
Signal boost
My friend zephyrofgod ran into some serious trouble with airlines not too long ago and almost didn't get back to the States after her vacation. I'm signal-boosting her post about it, which is unlocked.


Please go read it and offer suggestions if you have any. Thanks.

(All comments on this post screened; not on the post I'm pointing to.)
Tuesday, May 28th, 2013
6:26 pm
Requiescas in pace
It was 18 years ago this summer that we got inquiries on the Rialto (Remember the Rialto?) from one who was about to start grad school at Catholic U., and wanted to know if there were heralds in the area. Umm, why yes, there were a few. He came to herald practice pretty regularly once he moved in. We survived the Blizzard of '96 and 12th,er,13th,er,14th Night together. Our friendship endured for those nearly eighteen years. I managed to refrain from maiming his father the morning of his wedding (and also from throwing his brother off the 11th story balcony that night, after the wedding). Two weeks ago I was over at the apartment he and his wife were moving out of, packing stuff up for the move (and carefully NOT packing the many things that were not going with them in the move). We were planning to help unpack boxen in their new place this past weekend.

36 hours later he had a severe stroke. A week and a half of heroic effort by the medical team only yielded that he wasn't going to make it. 11:10 pm Eastern last night was the end.

He was born only a few months off from my kid sister. Now he's gone, and it's hard to understand how this circumstance could occur. Heart attack due to a congenital condition that stayed hidden until it was too late? Post-operation coronary thrombosis (aka throwing a clot), or even a post-op cerebral thrombosis (clot-based stroke)? Those are more understandable flavors of shit-happens. But a *hemorrhagic* stroke at age 42? That just ain't right.

I'm finding it hard to come up with words to explain what he meant to me.

pedropadrao, I will miss you immensely. We all will miss you one helluva lot. Your wife will miss you even more than the rest of us combined.

Baruch dayan ha'emet.

Current Mood: crushed
Monday, November 26th, 2012
1:31 pm
More cooking as done by engineers
Somewhere in the not-recent past I remember an article about engineers at a cookout, figuring out the best way to get from "light the charcoal" to "nice bed of coals" in the shortest possible time interval. One can imagine what ensued.

Now for the holiday season, we have some folks from NASA demonstrating Four Crazy Ways to Cook Your Turkey Using NASA Equipment.
Monday, October 22nd, 2012
10:45 pm
Overheard tonight during the debate
@JacksonPearce on Twitter: Every time Romney says "step one," I can't help but think "cut a hole in the box." #debate2012

To which I add... Step 2: Then a miracle occurs

Step 3: Profit!
Friday, August 24th, 2012
1:37 pm
Songs you know by... other reasons
Thanks (?) to a picture that I saw on montuos's G+ feed... here are some UNofficial names of fairly well-known songs. How many of them do you recognize, and do you have any others to contribute to the list?

The Viking Kittens Song (the one that prompted this post)

The MTV Song (This may be easy)

The Popcorn Song (I've also heard it called The Jiffy-Pop Song)

The Ajax Song

(Possibly more to come!)
Sunday, June 3rd, 2012
11:55 pm
[string-geekery] Kumihimo patterns
If I start doing posts like this on a more frequent basis I'll create a specific list for it. But this is the very first post in the category so alla youse get to see it. This is really mostly for me to record what I've done so I can recreate it later is desired/needed -- or to avoid things that didn't work so well.

After working up a few basic 8-strand kumihimo round braids in two colors, I decided to see what I could do with 12 strands and three colors. My first attempt was to take 2 pairs of each color and space them as evenly around the wheel as I could, so a pair of color X was opposite the other pair of that color, ditto for color Y, ditto for color Z. This means it takes 6 crossings to go once all the way around the wheel (the basic 8 strand pattern uses 4 crossings per cycle). The resulting spiral pattern was nice and even but more elongated than the 8-strand spiral.

In hopes of getting a tighter spiral I decided to go back to a 4-crossing-per-cycle setup, with 4 groups of 3 strands. But the first attempt didn't work at all.

4 groups of 3, experiment one: Initial pattern had colors X X and Y (in that order) at "north", Y Z and Z at "east", then continuing around with X X and Y at "south" and Y Z and Z at "west" -- each diameter had two radii of the same color. The result, however, was a mess, with the Y color threads getting pretty much lost in the shuffle. So I tried something else.

4 groups of 3, experiment two: initial pattern had colors X Y and Z (in that order) at each cardinal direction, again each diameter having two radii of the same color. This resulted in as close to a checkered effect as one is likely to get in a 3 color round braid. Not unattractive, but really doesn't help make the colors stand out. So on to the next.

4 groups of 3, experiment three: X X Y at north and east, Y Z Z at south and west. Each diameter now has two colors. I am not getting a spiral out of this, but I am getting an "offset diamond" effect which helps each color to be visible and distinct from the others. I like this pattern so I'll make a complete cord of it.
Thursday, December 1st, 2011
6:53 pm
An amusing quote about Australia...
...because seanan_mcguire needed to see this. The poster says about Australia: "It's like the Defcon 1 of stress for me." Check out the actual post for more (it's not locked).
Monday, September 19th, 2011
1:51 pm
LOL du jour
Today's xkcd. Especially with the mouseover text.

(Yes, I am a math and computer geek, why do you ask?)
Wednesday, July 6th, 2011
9:27 pm
Post-4th Link Soup and other stuff.
Check out What Your Favorite ’80s Band Says About You, by John Peck in McSweeney's Internet Tendency. Lots of amusing bits; different ones will appeal to different categories of my friends.

"Weird Al" Yankovic's new album ALpocalypse has been out for two weeks now. Here are links to this promo and that promo which are not as new but are still funny.

Silly computer fuCollapse )

I get catalogs from L. L. Bean like so many others. Near the address on the cover, the following is printed: "Visit our store at Tysons Corner Center, Virginia, or The Mall in Columbia, Maryland." Guess which Bean store I *actually* shop at most often?
Friday, June 10th, 2011
2:26 pm
Many of my friends will have seen, or at least been pointed to, this already. For the rest of you, since it's kinda cool, I'm providing the link here.

So seanan_mcguire, writing as Mira Grant, has this Newsflesh trilogy. The first book, Feed, came out last year and is nominated for the 2011 Hugo Award for Best Novel. The second book, Deadline, came out last week. (Tuesday, 31 May to be precise. Actually finding a copy at B&N in Center Valley this past weekend? Not a simple task when they hadn't even put the book out on the shelves by Friday evening. Sheesh.)

The publisher, Orbit, has now put out a video trailer for the book(s), and that was a cool thing to do, and so I'm pointing you at it. Yes there are zombies involved, but no zombies are depicted in the trailer. (It's not exactly a high budget trailer -- just narration, and words, with effects -- but it's a *book* promo. Words are appropriate, IMO.)

Seanan has a few more links to related stuff in her own LJ post.
Wednesday, May 25th, 2011
8:35 pm
Fun with wood and Trex
This post is rated "Adult Concepts" for the use of power tools.

I'm making a vertical side post to be part of a frame for an AC window unit.

-- one (1) standard Trex deck-railing vertical post (about 31 in. long)
-- two (2) #8 x 2.5-inch wood screws, flat head
-- duct tape

-- circular saw
-- 3-inch clamp
-- drill with standard bits, plus a 3/8 inch countersink

Lay the Trex post so the wider side touches the surface of the "work table". The wide side is about as wide as a 2x4 is thick; the narrow side is about 3/16 inch less wide. This is important, because the narrow side will fit into our double-hung window grooves. (Not a tight fit, but close enough for this job.) The wide side DOESN'T fit in the grooves.

Set the circular saw to cut at 15 degrees off vertical, more or less -- match the angle of the bottom of the window. Cut the very end of the post at this angle. Flip the post horizontally and cut the other end **parallel** to the first one. (Luckily I got it right the first time.) Now cut the post exactly in half, again along an angle parallel to the ends.

On the same *narrow* side of ONE of the two halves, drill two pilot holes 5-6 inches apart (roughly 1/3 of the way from each end). The holes must be large enough for a #8 wood screw, and should be about 7/8 inch deep. Deeper and the wood screws will not get much grip on the drilled half; shallower and you're just making the screwing more difficult for yourself. Now drill a countersink for each pilot hole.

Clamp the undrilled halfpost to the hole-less side of the drilled halfpost. Each end of each halfpost should be coplanar with the corresponding end of the other halfpost. Place a wood screw in one of the pilot holes and screw the two halfposts together. Repeat for the other pilot hole.

Inevitably the two halfposts will have a gap of some sort in between them. Cover the gap with duct tape.

Now that I have proof of concept, I must return to the lumber yard and get another post to repeat this procedure for the other side of the frame; I also need two 2-foot lengths of 2x4 and some 1x4 for the frame's bottom, and foam insulation for all around the frame since I can't find the stuff from last year. Given my schedule I'll probably have not quite enough time to finish the frame tomorrow, but Friday is looking good. Just in time for the weather to get *really* sweltering, too.

EDIT 03Jun2011: 1x3, not 1x4, was needed, and I needed *two* equal lengths of 1x3. I also needed a couple of nails (already on hand), two 2-inch #10 pan-head sheet metal screws, and some washers. We found the insulation from last year.
Thursday, March 31st, 2011
9:08 am
Opening Day
Just about 4 hours to first pitch in New York and here in the FedroSplat.

And yes, the following link is incredibly obvious, but it's still my favorite Opening Day song of all time. "Put me in coach, I'm ready to play..."
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