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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Moving off the Googleplex

I am slowly moving off Google properties. I no longer feel like giving my content to the All Seeing Eye. So I have migrated all these blog posts to my web site,, and all new content will be posted there. If you subscribe to this blog via a feed, update your subscription here.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Where have you been all my life?

I have been lusting for a cordless drill for some time now. I have been using an old, corded drill that still requires a chuck wrench to tighten the bit for my entire adult life:

Yesterday I got a generous Lowes gift card from my mother-in-law and while discussing it with my brother-in-law, he said his new favorite tool in his arsenal is an impact driver. He regaled me with stories of driving screws into wood above his head with almost no effort at all.

So today I went to Lowes, combined the Christmas gift card with another one from my boss plus some of my own money out-of-pocket (and still much less than it would've cost me for just a nice cordless drill) and bought both a cordless impact driver and a drill, both using the same 20V lithium ion batteries:
I could've gotten them as a boxed set which would've come with two batteries and a charger, but for the exact same price I was able to buy them separately and come out with three batteries and two chargers. I considered that a bonus.

I just went and used the impact driver on some wood screws I had put into place last week on a shelf that was coming away from the wall. When I originally put them in I couldn't get them screwed all the way flush by hand, even after pre-drilling holes for them into the studs. The impact driver got them flush immediately (and again, this was an "above my head" scenario).

It was love at first use.

And now I can buy other 20V tools without the batteries for reasonable prices. Like a cordless reciprocating saw (the corded version of which, until today, was my favorite tool - I love wielding the thing). And grinders and lights and jig saws. Too bad the brand I settled on (which is low-end, admittedly) doesn't have a 20V cordless circular saw, or I'd be all set. And of course each manufacturer's batteries are made to only work with their brand, so it's a lock-in kind of thing. But anyway, I am pretty happy with the purchase.

Drive on!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

What if you're the negative person?

I received one of those email forwards today that are full of various sayings - some cute, some philosophical, some trite, some deep - that are each superimposed over some image mirroring those "inspirational" posters. You know the type. Glancing through them one caught my eye and ire:

"You cannot hang out with negative people and expect to live a positive life."

Sentiments like this one have been getting on my nerves for a while, for a variety of reasons:
  1. This attitude increases the trend toward "throwaway" relationships and just cutting and running when something is hard (and it also directly contradicted some of the other sayings about relationships in the same collection).
  2. A lot of times we cannot control the people around us, for example in our family or work life. If your family is truly dysfunctional, with active emotional (or physical) abuse, then yes, you may need to "divorce" yourself from them. But a lot of people are just negative - via genetics, life experience, whatever. What if the most negative person in your life is one of your children? Just toss 'em, I guess.
  3. It seems like it absolves you from any responsibility toward the other person, instead of seeing if perhaps you can help. This skirts dangerously close to co-dependency, I know ("If I just love them enough they will change!"), and I have some trend toward that myself. But it just seems too easy. "You're a bummer, Carl, so we're done being friends/family/coworkers."
I don't know - maybe I am over-reacting. But I have seen enough of these go by on Facebook and elsewhere that I am starting to build a "Grrr..." response every time I see one. Especially since often they are posted by people I consider to be quite negative themselves. So if I were taking their advice I would cut them out of my life, and I could be cruel and point to the saying as I did so, with a "Thanks for giving me the reason to edit your sour puss out of my script."

But I don't, and I won't.

Yes, there are some people that occasionally need to be "pruned." But to just casually say, "Cut all negative people from your life and it'll get better" is just too much like treating them as commodities, things; not beings.

And what if maybe, just maybe, you're the most negative person around you? Then perhaps you're the one who needs to be cut from everyone else's life, to maximize their utilitarian equations. But of course if that happens, you'll understand, right?

Anyway, just had to get that out of my head. Herein endeth the rant.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Classic ad fail (plus traditions)

I was on Facebook today getting ready to perform an annual Thanksgiving tradition and post a link to a video for Arlo Guthrie's Alice's Restaurant (below), when I came across the "official" Arlo Guthrie page. I decided to "Like" it. The advertisement in the lower right-hand corner of the following screenshot immediately came up. I think someone should tune the parameters for placing that particular ad.

And now for the tradition. May this be a great Thanksgiving to you and yours and all of us on the Group W Bench:

Friday, November 22, 2013


"Clusterlinks."* That's Les's suggestion for the stylistic approach in online articles or blogs, less often in emails, of writing a phrase where each word is hyperlinked to a different location, all illustrating and reinforcing the subject. When done correctly, the links themselves are illustrative just by hovering over them to see the underlying address, and don't require the reader to actually jump to the different sites to gain insight into the nuances the writer intended.

Here's an example from a post I wrote the other day:

All things pass away.
Depending on the way the page or email is rendered, the fact that there are separate links may or may not be apparent. For example, it is quite obvious in Blogger's editor that there are four links in that sentence, but not at all in the actual post unless you hover over each link, which I do by habit - it takes a clusterlink-aware reader to appreciate a clusterlink-savvy author's work.

Another fine example:
Don’t they know that you have nothing to fear, if you have nothing to hide?
I see this as a new, "hypertext-ed" style of emphasis, of citing influences or adding flavor to a piece. Like color, bold text, italics and underlining, it gives a way to add "depth" and "background" to the words. Because meta.

[* If someone has another name for these, or a pointer to a definition, please post in the comments.]

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Sesame ginger noodles

In my teens I learned the joy of fried noodles with "stuff" added, whatever was at hand. Cheap, plentiful, filling - a good thing to do with leftover pasta. I remember learning the original concept from Patti, a waitress at the original Old Chicago in Boulder, who made up a batch of "Fettuccine amandine" for unexpected house guests by simply sauteing some slivered almonds in butter until toasty brown and tossing them over the noodles with salt and pepper. It was great, and no one eating it (besides her and me) knew it was basically inspired by an empty cupboard.

Tonight's entry is based on some leftover fettuccine noodles as well, but with a bit more "Asian" flair.


  • Cooked plain pasta (leftover is best, it has absorbed all the moisture).
  • Butter or oil (EVOO is good, but anything will work)
  • 1+ Tbs Sesame seeds (I buy herbs and spices in bulk)
  • 1+ Tbs crushed/grated/paste fresh ginger (I had a tube of paste in the fridge tonight)
  • pepper to taste
  • soy sauce to taste

Saute the pasta in the butter/oil, adding the pepper along the way. About halfway through add the sesame seeds and keep sauteing. About 1-2 minutes from being finished add the ginger and keep cooking and tossing the noodles. Remove from heat, dash liberally with soy sauce and serve. Those inclined may also squirt on copious amounts of "rooster sauce," because really, life is better that way.

Serves however many are there based on how much pasta you had and how hungry you all are.

Pro tip: You kids going off to college, remember while reading this - ramen counts as pasta! Just don't overcook it.
[And seriously, try to find some udon instead - it kicks ramen's ass.]

Sunday, November 17, 2013

If time didn't go on, where would we put it all?

I thought the following short monologue from last night's Prairie Home Companion was thought-provoking as we approach the 50th anniversary of John Kennedy's assassination. Garrison Keillor certainly didn't take it where so many probably thought he would. You can hear it here, it starts at 31:00. Here is the transcript:

"I was in Dallas I think it was a year and a half ago and I had this clear, revelatory moment - see if I can describe it to you clearly:

"I was here to give a lecture or something and I was on my way to the airport and it was sort of noon-ish and the cab driver was taking me out from the hotel and we were coming around this street and suddenly I knew where I was. I was in Dealey Plaza and it was such a strange sensation because I had never seen Dealey Plaza from this angle before, from the back seat of a car. I was coming around the turn and there was the overpass, and there was the grassy knoll up there, and there was the spot where the black limo back in my youth went cruising slowly, slowly along.

"It was so clear I didn't expect it, I wasn't looking for it. And then we kept going, and I didn't tell the driver to stop. I had no interest in telling the driver to stop. I could feel the whole piece of history, so vivid to persons my age. I was 21 years old when it all took place. It was just passing away, and you just let it pass away. It was an event that took place in a place, and it's been a long time and it fades away into the dark. So unfair for people my age to hold onto this bag of rocks and expect people who are younger to somehow take an interest in it.

People say in speeches "We must never forget." They're wrong - of course we must. Life goes on. The city went on. I went on. And it was a moment of truth in a great American city."
That really struck me. I wonder how many other "bags of rocks" we expect our children and grandchildren to carry on, when the right thing to do may be to just let them become history? Not to be forgotten, perhaps, but certainly given a new perspective, a bit of detachment, some objectivity. The Depression and Pearl Harbor do not have the same impact for my generation as they did for my parents and their parents. Frankly, even JFK's death is not that powerful to me (I was three), although I remember RFK and MLK's. Similarly, Vietnam and Nixon don't resonate to my kids as they do to me. Some day, 9/11 won't bring the visceral response from my grandchildren and their children as it does so many now.

Tragedies and disasters, hatreds and prejudices, that are handed down from generation to generation are tragedies, all right, but not for the reasons they're passed on. I may never forget something, but that is not the same as demanding, "We must never forget." All things pass away. If there is ever to be forgiveness and grace and peace and charity, that is probably as it should be.

Sunday, September 1, 2013


I am going to purposefully leave the details of this post fuzzy because I don't want the company I am writing about, which I've never done business with before and hence don't know how they receive technical "concerns," to come after me with some bogus DMCA charge. Instead, I am just posting it to both of my blogs as a parable.

I am an unpaid, volunteer webmaster for a certain local non-profit. Our web site has been hosted for free for years by a national non-profit who also provided low-cost domain name registration. Recently, the national organization decided that the web hosting and registration business was not part of their core mission (and their reasons make sense - it's a PITA to deal with, but I understand why they're doing it). They recommended some providers to take over the web hosting part and as a convenience have contracted with a domain registrar to take over the domain name side of things. It is with this latter company that I have the following complaint.

Today I was checking my junk folder and right before I emptied it I noticed a "From" address that rang a bell. It turned out to be a "welcome" email from the new domain registrar. That in itself is not a bad thing - it is even proactive, given that the deadline for switching over is less than two months away. But in the middle of the email lurked problem number one - they had included a new userid and password for our account, in plain text. Already my antenna are twitching. Who would be so clueless as to send out an unsolicited email with credentials in it? SpamAssassin thought it was fishy, that's for sure.

I then go to their web site (not via any links in the email, but directly using their base domain name that I had already received from the national organization), and see a place to log in, so I do, using the credentials from the email. And that's when I notice the second problem. The login isn't sent over an encrypted HTTPS session. Just to make sure, I fired up Fiddler and tried it again and yup, I can see the unencrypted userid and password going over the wire in the HTTP request body. It isn't until later, when I click on the "My Account" link on their site that they switch to an HTTPS session, but at that point why bother?

So, needless to say as part of the process of migrating the site to a new hosting provider I am going to make a strong recommendation that the local organization I am working with changes domain registrars, too. Because frankly, I consider this technical cluelessness of the first degree and completely inexcusable.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

My life along the 40th parallel

As some of you may know, Baseline Rd in Boulder (where I grew up) is so-called because it runs along the 40th parallel (north). While looking at a map this morning, it hit me that I've lived pretty much my entire life within a degree or two of that line. So I did a bit of research and calculations and confirmed it. The average distance north of the equator I've lived is 39.23 degrees with a 0.77 standard deviation, with the max being 41.38 and a minimum of 37.95. If I weighted it by years lived at each location, it would zero in even closer (especially because the minimum of 37.95 was only for a year and a half). Compare that to longitude, where the spread of where I've lived is 30 degrees.

So when seen from space, I've been wandering along a more-or-less straight line back and forth across this country for 53 years. Talk about a rut. :)