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2009/05/31 Makers Faire
π 2009-05-31 00:00 in Public
I hadn't been to Markers Faire so far, but went on to fixing that this year, especially since Daniel was visiting and it made for a good excuse to get out during the weekend.

It was an interesting mix of Burning Man folks and contraptions, computer and other geeks, and generally creative folks. It was quite an interesting mix :)

Electric Miata
Electric Miata

Big hand that could take metal and crush it
Big hand that could take metal and crush it


Remnants from Burning Man :)
Remnants from Burning Man :)



All those objects are fakes that came from a 3D printer
All those objects are fakes that came from a 3D printer

Radio controlled battleship battle
Radio controlled battleship battle

Lifesize Mousetrap I saw at burning man a few years ago
Lifesize Mousetrap I saw at burning man a few years ago

Victorian keyboards
Victorian keyboards

with matching laptop
with matching laptop


wirewrap 4Mhz CPU
wirewrap 4Mhz CPU

running a modified Minix
running a modified Minix



The beloved Diet Coke and Mentos guys did their show
The beloved Diet Coke and Mentos guys did their show

And a repeat of the famous youtube video
And a repeat of the famous youtube video

See more images for Makers Faire
2009/05/30 Quick Flight at Rancho San Antonio with Daniel and Xav
π 2009-05-30 00:00 in Rc
We used Daniel's visit as good excuse to go flying at Rancho San Antonio. After flying my minimag for a while, they flew Xav's T-Rex while I was having fun flighting the winds with my minimag and practising all kinds of landings in gusts.
Good times.





2009/05/28 Evolution 7 parter on Nova and "creationism"
π 2009-05-28 00:00 in Public
I just finished watching an older Nova series on Evolution, from how Darwin came up with Evolution back in his day. It was a very interesting series, which explained some things I didn't even know like how evolution obviously applies to virii and bacteria, and how they recently found out that after the AIDS virus becomes resistent to new drugs, they're actually better off stopping all drugs, letting the drug resistant virus be taken over by the non drug resistant one because it can spread quicker in a drug free environment, and then try to kill that one again with drugs.

Anyway, the low point of the show was when they had to address how effectively we're no better now with regards to science vs christians who still feel very threatened by evolution since it obviously contradicts Adam and Eve, than we were 200 years ago.

The part I didn't know was how the church leaders knowing that they can't get so called "creationism" (nice word that makes it sound like science) into classrooms if it's not science, to do anything they can to pass it for science even there is obviously not a whole lot to back it up.

The pretty despicable part was the very careful and misleading statements that they had fed to school children so that the children themselves went to the school board and asked stuff like

  • "we want special creation to be taught the facts, we should be be able to know about both scientific views" -> There is nothing scientific "creationism", it's just a story from a book.
  • "because creationism is not religion" -> right, throwing away gobs of scientific evidence and reproducable experiments for a story from the bible has nothing whatsoever to do with religion. But they have to pretend that since you can't teach religion in public schools.
  • "there are facts we don't have" -> right, a story from a 2000 year old book with nothing to back it up is absolutely a fact
  • "I grew up in a church, where god created everything, that's how it's always been and how it'll ever be" -> Yes. If any other evidence shows up, just dig a deeper hole in the sand, put your head in it and chant la-la-la-la-la.
  • But the part that was more worrying was the flat out brainwashing they were doing in some churches where they were teaching all their churchgoers how to deny and push back evolution without giving any critical though into it of course. They also had cute evil little songs that were teaching the little drones how to respond. Scary, really.

    And all this because some people can't admit that maybe some stories in the bible may just be stories, or they may have been simplified to something that people at the time could understand. Neither case should invalidate faith in general or the existence of a god. Even if you push evolution all the way back to the big bang (and while I'll defend evolution all day long, I'm the first to say that the big bang is really a lot more of a best guess theory and just the best we can come up with without current knowledge), there is still nothing wrong with whoever your favourite god is, to have created the big bang, or the universe.
    But no, conservative Christians can't deal with such a happy medium because it contracticts the bible, and the bible must be right everywhere, or many feel their whole life would have been a lie, and they can't have that.
    Now, the good news is that they are only a portion of Christians out there, many others don't have a problem taking the bible with a grain of salt with regards to taking its general message, but giving details like how long creation took (like a day being a metaphor for 1000 years or somesuch), some leeway. Whether you agree with that or not, at least they have a belief that makes sense, and don't have to feel threatened by scientific discoveries or theories.

    It's too bad that for so many other people however, church and critical thinking are incompatible. I suppose many of the critical thinkers just become "spiritual, but not religious", which I can understand a lot more easily. Of course, I'm going to guess that some of the church leaders don't want that to happen since they can't quite control the "spiritual but not religious", nor get money from them, so it sure looks like they suppress critical thinking as much as possible to stay in control.

    But eh, if they insist, I think it's only fair to also teach about the_tons, and how X_enu came with his spaceship and dropped all the bad souls in a volcano on earth, which in turn created us. I mean, that sounds like a perfectly good explanation. That's called scien_tology and there is even "science" in the name, so it must be true. I think it's only fair that this be taught in schools side by side with evolution.

    Anyway, carry on, I just had to rant a bit. Thank you for indulging me :)

    2009/05/27 Mythtv + Denon-AVR3808 Hack
    π 2009-05-27 00:00 in Linux, Linuxha
    I had a minor issue where I have 4 hauppage remote controls and one on the kitchen counter that I sometimes use to control my mythtv when I'm in the kitchen.
    The only problem was that sound is actually controlled by the Denon receiver and that the hauppage remote doesn't talk to the denon.

    I finally found a fix for this, which somewhat justifies the extra money I spent for an ethernet connected receiver: I wrote an lirc configuration that effectively telnets to the denon to tell it to change volume when the hauppage receives a relevant remote code for that.

    lircrc:

    # Denon
    # Mute
    begin
    prog = irexec
    button = MUTE
    repeat = 1
    config = /var/local/scr/denonmute
    end
    

    begin prog = irexec button = Vol+ repeat = 1 config = /var/local/scr/denoncmd MVUP 3 end

    begin prog = irexec button = Vol- repeat = 1 config = /var/local/scr/denoncmd MVDOWN 3 end

    denonmute:

    #!/bin/bash
    

    FILE=/var/run/denonmute

    test -f $FILE || touch $FILE

    # prevent bounces [ $(( $(date "+%s") - $(stat -c "%Z" $FILE) )) -lt 2 ] && exit

    if grep -q MUON $FILE 2>/dev/null; then CMD=MUOFF else CMD=MUON fi

    echo -ne "$CMD\r" | nc -q0 denon 23 echo $CMD > $FILE

    denoncmd:

    #!/bin/bash
    

    # $0 cmd [repeat]

    for i in `seq 1 ${2-1}` do echo -ne "$1\r" | nc -q0 denon 23 sleep 0.2 done

    exit

    And there you go, I can now send volume requests to my mythtv and they get forwarded to my denon over TCP/IP. Pretty cool :)

    2009/05/25 Day Hike at Sunol Ohlone
    π 2009-05-25 00:00 in Hiking
    We hadn't gone hiking/backpacking in a while and one of the reasons was that Jennifer has as of yet been unable to find hiking boots that fit her (she has a narrow heel which causes the heel to move in the hiking boot, and then bad blisters and even ripped skin in a really bad place).
    Until we can find maybe some heel insert for her (custom boots start around $1000 and take over 4 months to make/get), serious hiking/backpacking has been harder for her. While we haven't quite found the right boot for her, we figured we'd go do a day hike on memorial day. Jennifer checked her hike trail book, and we settled for Sunol because it was nearby (I was wary of 3 day weekend traffic).

    The Sunol Ohlone park is not huge, but it had some nice hiking trails with good views of the east bay, from the Calaveras Reservoir, Mission Peak, and Mt Diablo. On the trail, we saw free range Cows, a pheasant with babies, many lizards, butterflies, chipmunks, and birds of prey.
    At the top of Eagle View Trail, we had a nice view of the whole area while sitting on a shaded bench and eating a late lunch.

    The pictures below are clickable and bring you to the map of where they were taken.

    Cow Tipping anyone? :)
    Cow Tipping anyone? :)







    So called 'little yosemite'
    So called 'little yosemite'

    Oh, and it was nice that going there and coming back was best achieved by taking the fun Calaveras road from Hwy 237 :)

    See more images for Day Hike at Sunol Ohlone
    2009/05/19 Sopranos Disappointing
    π 2009-05-19 00:00 in Public
    I just finished watching all 6 seasons of the Sopranos.

    So, the show was enjoying for the most part, even if they were missing some continuity between some episodes, but I was disappointed by the ending.
    It just felt cheap and rushed. That last episode just looked like just another episode, except that none was coming after :-(

    2009/05/17 Reality And Movies
    π 2009-05-17 00:00 in Public
    I was watching the Transporter 3 (yes, yes, I know). So, on one side I'm willing to suspend disbelief when you land on a train with a car, or it comes to being able to breathe underwater from a car tire (although mythbusters tried it out, and not so much), or how you can take an Audi from the bottom of a lake and get it to run again in 2mn (eh, top gear kind of did that with a truck after a few hours).

    But, a cell phone call from inside a car that's sinking under water? Seriously? Really?
    I wonder if they're ok with it because most viewers don't know any better, or maybe this only bothers me because I'm willing to suspend disbelief when it comes to aliens or stunts, but not basic physics and science unless we're talking the Matrix where physics are negotiable :)

    2009/05/15 Hooked on Driving Event at Thunderhill
    π 2009-05-15 00:00 in Cars
    I had a few reservations about the Hooked on Driving event because the advanced group only had 5 sessions of 20 minutes (which effectively is only around 12mn of track time per session). This is not so great compared to a typical Bonni/Team Racing event with 3 run groups, and 6 sessions of 25mn
    Then again, I had some brakepads and tires to finish up, so I figured that limited track time would be enough.

    On the plus side, there was an interesting collection of cars. 4 were even cousins of mine :)

    F355
    F355

    F360 with my old brakes
    F360 with my old brakes

    F430 with carbon brakes
    F430 with carbon brakes

    Race F430
    Race F430

    the Ford GT was back too
    the Ford GT was back too

    Out of the 4 rungroups, one was a race prepared group, which made for some interesting cars.

    All kinds of race prepared cars
    All kinds of race prepared cars

    small ones too
    small ones too

    While it was an enjoyable day, the track felt a bit crowded at times (very few clean laps at my speed), and I never really broke 2:11 (compared to my best between 2:08 and 2:09). I think it was a combination of the brakes being a bit less effective when the pads were low and overheating more easily, and the tires being chewed up, limiting my speed in turns.
    Still, no one passed me and 2:11 is still nothing to sneeze at I suppose.

    I bailed after the 4th session as my rear pads were really wearing thin (that's a new one, it's always been the fronts so far, but good news that my rear brakes are working harder).
    All in all, it was a reasonable day.

    2009/05/15 Flight to Willows/Thunderhill and Back
    π 2009-05-15 00:00 in Flying
    I did another quick flight to Willows for my thunderhill track day. Unfortunately, that morning was going to be IFR due to a solid overcast, which for an otherwise 50mn VFR flight added quite a bit of overhead. I could have flown the previous evening, but had already made arrangements otherwise. I also reasoned that there was no point for me to be IFR rated if I went out of my way to avoid even the softest IFR.

    So there it went, I filed for willows, showed up at Palo Alto around 06:20 and had the plane ready by 06:40. When I taxied to the rununp area, I heard the tower folks on CTAF who nicely gave me a weather update even though the tower would be closed until 07:00.
    I asked them if they would mind getting my IFR clearance, and they nicely agreed. When I was all done with my flight plan, it was 06:58, 2 minutes before the tower would officially open, so I just called CTAF to announce my takeoff and took off in the 600ft overcast. When I switched to norcal on 121.3, which is typically what I'd do after Palo Alto tower handed me over to them, norcal asked me "are you VFR or IFR?". I misunderstood that as whether I was on an VFR or IFR flight plan, not visual vs instrument actual conditions, so I said "IFR" for "IFR flight plan", except that this is right about when I entered the clouds.
    Now, hopefully most IFR pilots would have figured out by then that I was supposed to be in contact with norcal before entering IFR for them to be ready for me, even if they knew I was about to enter the system since I had gotten my IFR clearance (but not release) from them. I could have gotten it in the air although staying VFR in the meantime would have been tough, or better, gotten it on the ground as a takeoff clearance, which is what I would have gotten if the tower had been opened. That said, I hadn't talked to the not yet open tower at all, I would have called norcal from the ground and gotten my clearance and release directly from them. This goes to show that you have to be careful when you get outside of the workflow you're used to.
    Unfortunately, it's the mix of the two that caused my confusion, for a situation that I did learn 3 years ago, but never had to use. Thankfully there were no consequences and the norcal controller just gave me a friendly notice about my mistake in the procedure.

    The flight to Willows was otherwise uneventful outside of a nordo cropduster that crossed my path on final probably just 30 feet over the ground (a fair distance from me), and the return flight was nice and brief thanks to a nice tailwind.

    Fremont and Sunol
    Fremont and Sunol

    Mt Diablo in the background
    Mt Diablo in the background

    Silicon Valley in the morning
    Silicon Valley in the morning

    Cropduster by Willows
    Cropduster by Willows

    San Francisco half fogged up
    San Francisco half fogged up

    Southwest Landing at Oakland
    Southwest Landing at Oakland

    Oakland Runway 29
    Oakland Runway 29

    Fedex landing at Oakland
    Fedex landing at Oakland

    The new paint job for the blimp for hire at Moffett
    The new paint job for the blimp for hire at Moffett

    2009/05/13 Changed Groups at work and moved back to B40
    π 2009-05-13 00:00 in Google
    After over 3.5 years in build-tools, it was about time for doing something new. The folks from prodimage-team needed some help to maintain and evolve production linux image that's on all our servers. I almost got to work on that before going to build tools years ago, so it's nice to be able to work on it now.
    Time will tell how hard it'll be to get this to evolve, or not.

    almost packed up
    almost packed up

    almost unpacked in my new location
    almost unpacked in my new location

    An added bonus is that the new job allowed me to move back to the main campus in B40 :)

    2009/05/06 50k Emails
    π 2009-05-06 00:00 in Public
    I passed the 50,000 sent Email threshold in my personal inbox recently. What records I was able to keep go back to 1996 (unfortunately, everything before that got lost).
    Now, that doesn't count work Emails for instance, in my last 6.5 years at google, my sent box says I sent over 41,000 Emails. Looking at some incomplete records I have, I sent 918 Emails while at netapp (9 months), 613 Emails while at SGI (9 months), 13684 Emails at VA Linux (3 years).
    So, for whatever that's worth, I sent a few more work Emails in the last 10 years than I sent personal Emails in the last 13 years, for a total of over a 100,000 Emails sent. Not bad :)
    2009/05/03 Recent Biking
    π 2009-05-03 00:00 in Exercising
    After messing up my left hand pretty badly while biking almost 2 months ago, it's been slowly recovering, but it's still not back to normal. I'm still in pain when opening a door handle that needs to be grabbed tight and twisted but the rest is mostly ok now.
    Since I was able to do regular road biking two weeks ago, I tried mountain biking this time, and we went to Fremont Older for our usual loop, and some little wine tasting and shopping on the side for Jennifer :) (oh, and pony molesting too :) ) Biking was mostly ok, I just wasn't too comfortable going downhill on a steep gravel path where I had to squeeze the brakes very hand (my left hand wasn't super happy with that part), but otherwise the ride went fine and we got home almost dry (rain fell down a bit later).

    weather did look menacing
    weather did look menacing


    See more images for Recent Biking
    2009/05/03 Misc Updates
    π 2009-05-03 00:00 in Public
    In the random news department, my Onkyo TX-SR705 receiver started failing by going into firmware upgrade mode for no reason and being unusable after I moved it to a cabinet, and jolted it a bit during the install (at most).
    Amazon was fantastic there, I was able to get them to take the receiver back and send me another one (this is the second receiver that failed and that they swapped, past their own 30 day return window). This is even more amazing because the price had gone back up from their $400 special to $800, and they sent me their last one with free shipping and a label to return the old one for free too.
    After a few hours of work, the 3rd one is setup and working again. I'll make sure not to breathe on it too hard :) but seriously Amazon went above and beyond the call of duty here.

    I got a free scooba 5900 from work. I was never really sold on the scooba, and indeed it looks like a finicky little device that needs a lot more help and care than a roomba, to the point that you may not save that much time compared to mopping yourself. It's also unclear that it's safe to use on our stone and hardwood floors, which might not be fully sealed. It also seems that the battery on the one I got is mostly dead, but eh, it was free :)
    Maybe it's worth using it as credit for a newer scooba 350 or so, but I'm not sure.

    In the good news department, after trying and ordering 3 pairs of hiking boots at REI, I think I finally found a pair that will work for me (i.e. that is wide enough without being way too long, which is otherwise bad for a hiking boot): Lowa Renegade GTX Wide. So far those seem both lightweight, which is nice, and willing to give more in the toe area. Hopefully they won't destroy themselves in a few days, but it seems like they may just work for my wide feet (I'm a 9 E wide).

    Last, but not least, I've been spending a lot of time in the last weeks reading our 4 books on Hawaii and its Islands and working with a travel agent to plan our 3 week honeymoon. Those books are fantastic and have so much info, it's not even funny. In return, it's taking a lot of work to read all the useful info but it's allowing me to plan a very good honeymoon. Hopefully all that work will have been worth it :)


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