Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Importing a graffiti problem?

I was in Terrace Park today and saw a couple of pieces of graffiti; one was near the tennis court and one near home plate of the baseball diamond.

The one on the pole says "west side [something]" with a Dodgers-style "LA" on the other side.

The utility box appears to say "[somebody] Rios Los Angeles".

Looks like different taggers at work here, based on the overall look. Does this mean that we have some misbehaving Angelinos in our midst?

Reported both to COR's graffiti abatement program.

AT&T U-verse solicitors

... are pretty aggressive. I've had a half-dozen visits from these heroes in 2009. Usually they travel in pairs for additional obnoxiousness.

This one wasn't so bad; she ignored my No Solicitors sign but at least wasn't beligerent about it. She left promptly once I said "No thanks, and did you see my sign?" spiel. Half the time these ATT clowns will stand there are argue about how "they got all the paperwork" but somehow be unable to produce it and will continue the hard-sell while you're closing the door in their face. Those guys get the cops (at RPD's request).

Today's salesdroid drove away quickly instead of continuing to work the street so I didn't call it into the RPD.

Target parking lot rollover fatality

Story here.

Wife and I saw the helo hovering over the area but didn't know what it was about at the time.

It's a sad reminder to encourage our kids to drive safely.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

COR Radio system needs work?

DMN reports COR may have to update the radio system soon. I can confirm from scanner audio that dispatchers and patrol officers are struggling with dropouts and static issues. The audio of the system is also quite low, but that's probably not a directly related matter.

Makes me wonder what the options are in the$8-10mil range. Currently COR is running an analog EDACS trunked system in the rebanded 800mHz range.

Couldn't go fully APCO25 (digital, for our purposes) for that amount of $$$ I wouldn't think, if Plano is getting 30mil quotes for their (admittedly larger) system. And not in a year and a half timeframe.

Maybe some kind of federal grant money for (wink) interoperability purposes to build a digital infrastructure + a bridge to the existing analog radios, then replace the radios as more $$$ comes along? Maybe move PD/FD to digital first? Or maybe just buy some some new EDACS gear to replace the dying stuff? That might buy us a few more years before going APCO but the numbers above seem high for a scotch tape kind of deal.

Hmmm, maybe it involves running more towers in problem areas? I bet that would be get us in the right money ballpark.

Dunno. Hopefully someone who knows how this stuff works can chime in. I'm just guessing. I suspect the commentary in local scanning groups will be informative and someone will set me straight.

Thanks to Nathan for bringing this to my attention.

Monday, December 21, 2009

If you have to tell us...

Mr. Smith - saying that "we are not arrogant or condescending" is similar to saying "I'm classy" or "I'm cool"; it's evidence to the contrary.

It is not clear what the council thought they would gain by having Mr. Smith appear. I assume they wanted something productive, something that would help citizens understand the lawsuit. Instead they got a socially tone-deaf play-by-play of the case. I suspect this will not be well-received by the target audience as a good faith effort at reunification between the city and concerned citizens.

Boo, sir. Boo.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

PR Strategy

re: COR's upcoming PR Strategy

I've already expressed my opinions on actual and wannabe PR flacks but it looks like the situation is about to get weird. Or weirder.[0].

Here are the city's options:[1]

1. do nothing. An often-overlooked option.
2. If blogger concerns are real and valid, address them. Win/win.
3. If blogger concerns are invalid, provide sufficient evidence and transparency to make that case. Win/Win.
4. Hire a Minister of Propaganda to run the infowar. Win/lose in the short term, lose/lose in the long term.

Reality check: if the customer wants an improved product do you listen to customer suggestions to make a better product, or do you hire someone to manage your brand and spin the current product?[2]

Cluetrain puts it this way: "You have two choices. You can continue to lock yourself behind facile corporate words and happytalk brochures. Or you can join the conversation."

guerilla capitalist

[0] as HST would say.
[1] I have left out some really unpleasant/counterproductive/stupid ones to avoid giving TPTB any ideas
[2] Extra value will be assigned to opinions expressed by those that have run their own businesses (especially here in Richardson).

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Remembrance of Chernobyl

I saw this article today about Chernobyl-related radioactive decay taking longer than expected.

It reminded me that Bert, Mike, and I were on The Continent when that went down. As the cloud wafted across Europe all the news services advised:
  1. Don't go outside.
  2. If you have to go outside, try not to contact any dirt or breathe it in.
So of course we were out running PT in the countryside. Hoo-ah and all that.

At the tail end of the run my platoon was dropped for pushups in some of the fine local German dirt (probably because of my own smart@ss behavior). While pushing-up I informed our cadre of the proscription against playing in fallout. Maybe they thought we'd absorbed sufficient rads already and a few more wouldn't hurt. Dunno. I think I pulled my shirt up over my nose to keep the bigger particulate crap out.

I recently had a chest xray (TB screening for C-FB ISD) and there were no chernobyl-shaped spots in my lungs. That's always a plus.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

msteger blog - attempted to comment

but his comment function blows up with "too much time elapsed!" if you take more than a few minutes to compose, you know, a comment that is thoughtful and not all extremist-ish. See image to the right. Using the back button results in a blank form so your text is lost, which is generally not the case with most comment submissions.

This has happened to me several times before and I officially give up trying to leave comments on his blog.

I addressed a couple of issues in my lost comment; I will very briefly recap one here.

Mr. Steger's Dialog v. Pitchforks update article starts one paragraph with "The vitriol of the extremists continues" and finishes up with "even the city-produced Christmas parade (one blogger objects to it being described as a "grassroots effort").

I did not object to the Christmas parade being called a grassroots effort; there is nothing intrinsically objectionable about that phrase. I objected to the characterization of the parade being labeled a grassroots effort when it is demonstratably not:
Grassroots in what way? The manner of its founding "in 1972 by the Junior Chamber of Commerce" or its current incarnation led by Parks department staff and volunteers, with donations collected by/at Parks, using a COR email address and phones, hosted on the COR website, and with a set of rather Draconian rules (pdfs apparently produced by COR's H. McCrady) hosted there including the permitted number of Santas (one, in case you are wondering)? I know the definition of "grassroots" is rather fluid these days, but seriously folks.
That's an example of extremism? A civil objection offered up with specific reasons and supporting evidence gleaned from the COR website? I submit that Mr. Steger paints too broadly and energetically with the "extremist" brush, and it weakens his argument.

Monday, December 14, 2009

DMN Richardson blog comment removal

As noted over on DC's entry about DMN blog comment removal, I accidentally had an opportunity to see what comments were deleted on the COR Sales Tax / Asterisk article.

Here are all the ones I could recover.

[This comment violates Terms of Service and has been deleted.]

My guess is; they cooked the books.

[This comment violates Terms of Service and has been deleted.]

Why would someone write such a story in the firstplace with such a misleading headline and without all the facts, and then have to do a tail-between-the-legs correction? Looks like someone needs to spend less time texting, polishing his shoes, and swallowing what Keffler's Krew feeds him, and more time beating the streets and investigating the etch-a-sketch numbers being put out by the city. Must be using the Bernie Made-off Accounting Made Simple or Generally Assinine Accounting Principles (GAAP, yeh, a really big one) methods in putting these figures together.

[This comment violates Terms of Service and has been deleted.]

Note: there was an identical dupe at 2:48 that was also deleted, but that's reasonable.

Regardless of where you get the numbers, an investigative reporter needs to verify the information and data before publishing a story. To blame someone else for not doing this is unacceptable and a cop-out. Anyone who has any clue of what is really going on with the economy knows that double digit increases in sales tax collections is impossible. With the city's economic base being far smaller than many other larger cities, the percentage increases and decreases are going to be skewed one way or the other, and the main focus should be on absolute figures. Regarding the comments of Mr. Anonymous Sick of Crazy People (aka Mr. Happy Talk), sounds like he should be onboard with getting rid of the city council if he really feels that way. What he/she needs to understand is that city and their cohorts are the ones who initiated the malicious and false slander campaign attacks against reasonable and informed residents. This includes the "crazy" label which has been slapped on many reasonable residents who have met with city officials and attempted to effect positive change for the benefit of all citizens (and not for a select few of elitist kleptocracts) to no avail. Why, because they are not considered by those in control as having any right to do so (to paraphrase the city attorney's "dasturdly" view of the general public). This is what is killing the city, along with the root corruption, holding closed door meetings, and violating the City Charter, and a willful failure in many instances to adhere to and enforce the existing laws. It's about time that rocks started being overturned and the magnifying glass focused on the city - we neet to get rid of the crooks, hold those fully accountable and responsible for any misdeeds they may have committed, right the wrongs, and most importantly, elect officials that will put their sworn oath of office vows to uphold the City Charter, City Ordinances, and all other existing laws, and exercise their inherent legal and fiduciary responsibilities, above and beyond all else.

[This comment violates Terms of Service and has been deleted.]

Children! Children! For those of us who have been tuning in for the past few years, this looks to me like a repeat performance of the December annual event. What is disgusting about it is that the story line hasn't changed, and City officials have a pension for publishing half-truths to mislead the electorate, and like a gang of pathological hucksters, make a tidy living at it.

There were more comments/deletions but they happened after I left for work so I don't know what they were.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Gilbert == the new Tuttle?

Looks like Gilbert, AZ may be this year's Tuttle, OK.

I assume every tech dweeb on the planet has read that last article, but just in case...

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Sanity check: water system

Dear Wife's BFF emailed over the weekend to say that his city suddenly had an E. Coli problem in their water supply and it was not safe to drink untreated. He went on to say that his local shops were sold out of drinking water.

So... pretend for a few minutes how your household would handle lack of access to safe drinking water for, say, a week. If the fecal bacteria story above doesn't do it for you pretend we had an unexpected hard freeze[0] and your home's water pipes burst from freezing; your water is cut off at the water meter until the overworked plumber can get there.

Here are some resources that may help:

who has more questions than answers

[0] Impossible? How about today's sudden snowfall? How many weathercasters called that one for this morning?

Monday, November 30, 2009

RPD brass loves their pretty, shiny medals

While reading today's Richardson Police Department wins accreditation through state program article I was struck by two thoughts, neither of them pleasant:
  1. Accreditation programs are, in my experience, either money mills or power plays to control a particular market segment. Or both. You can see the annual fees associated with this particular accreditation program here. $1200/yr isn't a lot of money in the grand scheme, but I'd rather see the money go to improving the LEOs' break room or something instead of funding feathers in leadership's cap.
  2. It is much, much easier to purchase a wall plaque that says you run your department well than to actually run your department well.
[edit -- note to DMN: please do not conflate "state program" with "statewide program"]

RPD/google crime map tweak

I noticed recently that the RPD crime map looked subtly different but I couldn't figure out how.

Turns out there is a new purple icon that does not appear in the map key to the right. It appears that:

purple icon = pending residential burglary
yellow icon = inactive "Resdiential" (sic) burglary

Perhaps this change was due to harping (mine, among others) that residential burglaries do not get enough detective time and/or Crime Scene attention like commercial burglaries and higher-$$$ thefts do. The existence of a purple icon might signify additional RPD resources being allocated to residential burglaries. Or it could mean something as cynical as brass telling a web jockey to "post all burg-habs as pending for a week then move them to inactive." I hope for the former rather than the latter.

If there were a contact email on that page I'd let them know about the missing purple icon in the key and the "resdiential" typo. But there's not, so I won't. Not that it would make a huge difference. A few months ago their webmaster was emailed that the "Last 6 months | Last 12 Months | Last 18 months" links on the crime listings page all point to the same URL but it's still busted...

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Review: Fiesta @ Plano/Buckingham

This is the location where there was a Sack 'n Save before. It'd been empty for a while so I was glad to see someone leasing the space.

The Grand Opening banner was still up and there was a small festival-type setup with a bounce house, etc, in the SE corner of the lot. The PA at the festival was pumping some groovy reggaeton dance tracks.

While I was finding a parking spot the Dear Wife commented that there was a rather serious looking SWAT-style security dudester walking the lot. He had that "tacticool" look I mock most of the time, but he had good situational awareness and handled himself professionally when I spoke with him briefly on our way out later. Thumbs up.

Upon entering the store the first thing I noticed was the polished concrete floors; I love that. Low maintenance, simple, honest, and pretty in a steampunk sorta way. Tortilla station front and center; the tortillas were still warm in the package I picked up. Produce section next in line, and this is (for me) the highlight of a Mexican grocery visit. Grabbed some limes (12/$1) and some kind of pear-shaped squash I can't identify.

The meat section had good-looking meat but I didn't get any today; we weren't going straight home afterwards. I did stop at the cheese shop and bought some queso de Oxaca, which was [mis?]labeled weirdly. When I asked for it by the labeled name (in my cringeworthy Spanish) the counterlady said "Oxaca?" Si, gracias, that's the one. I also picked up some queso de puerco (ie, head cheese) which I've always been fascinated with but never tried. This particular example is highly cartilegenous, so I assume it's mainly snout and ear. Should make a decent sandwich in my brown bag rotation.

Had to look for the bakery area to snag some pan dulce. A so-so display, but I picked up a gingerbread pig cookie. There were two kind of churros; plain and some word I didn't recognize. I picked the latter and since the churros were unexpectedly full of something (dulce de leche?) I will assume the word meant "filled". Wasn't bad but I prefer the plain ones as they are crispier.

The aisle signs were in English only, which seems kinda counterproductive (and maybe rude) if your target consumers are Hispanic. Maybe the bilingual or Spanish ones will go up later. Most of the (young and Latino) checkout staff spoke English among themselves for the most part when no one was in the lane. That brings me to a tip for the timid: if you are trying out a new shop where you don't speak the language, get in the checkout line with the youngest checker. S/he will likely move fluidly between English and the language of the market. Older checkers may be more fun as you gain confidence as they will likely help you with pronunciation and vocabulary if you are trying. The younger kids will just stick to English to get you through the line faster so they can text or play grab-ass.

So how does it compare to El Rancho? Rancho is an experience, an adventure. From the giant wall of pan dulce when you walk in to the tropical-looking food stands inside it scores high on the cultural richter scale. The new Fiesta is a grocery store, neat, clean, and a little boring. It happens to have Mexican food on the shelves but otherwise it could be an Albertsons or something. I find El Rancho more satisfying but it's too far away to become my go-to.

Fiesta Mart
1332 S Plano Rd
Richardson, TX 75081 Map
(972) 994-4300

Thursday, November 26, 2009

OS geekout revisited

A while back I geeked out on several linux distros for the Eee.

I had trouble that day with two of the distros: DSL and Slitaz. I revisited both of them today (two versions of DSL) using the latest recommended release. The pics below are screencaps from the OSes running in a virtual machine on my Ubuntu linux workstation.

Damn Small Linux - Not (DSL-N)
DSL-N is a less minimalist version of DSL. It is not obsessed with keeping to the 50MB limit (see below) so it bloats to a heady 100MB (Windows 7, for comparison purposes, is ~2470MB; DSL-N is 24+ times smaller than Windows 7, and is, you know, free).

DSL-N was a real winner. Loaded like a champ in a virtual machine. I think it was about the same as DSL below, which was the fastest-running OS I've tested in a virtual machine thus far.

Nice, clean desktop, conky info in the upper-right-hand corner, and transparencies in the shell screen. Pretty, and exceptionally fast.

Runs the 2.6.x kernel.

dsl-n-01RC4.iso, ~100MB. Recommended.Link

Damn Small Linux (DSL)
A bit of explanation is in order. DSL was, AFAIK, the first practical micro-Linux distribution. The 50MB limit was to ensure the entire OS fit on one of those bizcard-sized CD-Rs. Remember those? A little smaller than a floppy (remember those?) DSL makes a few sacrifices to keep it in the 50MB range. For example:
  1. DSL currently runs the 2.4 kernel instead of the bigger and more modern 2.6 kernel. Many of the other micro-linuxes choose differently.
  2. Some of the icons are cartooney to save space and cpu time
DSL runs very quickly, as one might expect. The look/feel of the desktop is nowhere as polished as DSL-N. If a non-techie were looking at your screen you might feel like you have to explain DSL's ugly duckling appearance, while they might comment that DSL-N was pretty and impressive. Things like that can matter in the OS advocacy world.

dsl-4.4.10.iso, ~50MB. Recommended, but DSL-N above is probably better for many people.

SliTaz failed to impress.

It stumbled during boot a bit and had to be coaxed along. It's a French distro, so it is understandable that much of the prompts are bilingual. But at a given point you give a language preference and it would be nice if the OS installer respected that.

slitaz-2.0.iso, ~30MB. Not currently recommened.

Tiny Core Linux
I am currently running TCL on my beloved Eee netbook. I like the "frog on a banana leaf" background because it looks like he's stuck on the LCD screen. Doesn't take much to amuse me.

tinycore_2.5.iso, 10MB (247 times smaller than Windows 7!). Not recommend for normal folk, but loads of geeky fun for masochists, hair shirt addicts, and compulsive experimenters.

A word about small linux distros in general

There are a few generalizations we can make about these small distributions:

  1. You can run them as a LiveCD/LiveUSB, which is to say you can test-drive them without affecting your PC in any way. If you ever ran a Knoppix cd you know what I'm talking about.
  2. You can run them in a virtual machine with VMware, Micro$oft Virtual PC, or the freeware QEMU. The nice thing about this is you can keep running your normal OS and not have to reboot off the usb/cd/dvd.
  3. the utilities and shells are a smaller, unified busybox version.
  4. There is generally one user on a micro-linux, and you use sudo to do root-like things
  5. the software is generally limited to a relatively small subset of software specially packaged for the project. Generally a few hundred common apps rather than the thousands usually available for linux.
  6. Very little software comes installed; you installed it using an application browser (you can think of it as an App Store, kinda, only it's all free).
Ok, enough dorkery for one night.


I am thankful for many things this year. I'm going to share them as a reminder to myself and as an antidote to my earlier post.
  • I am thankful for the companionship of my wife. When one finds a worthy wife, her value is far beyond pearls. Her husband, entrusting his heart to her, has an unfailing prize. She brings him good, and not evil, all the days of her life. Proverbs 31:10-12
  • I am thankful that I am employed, however minimally
  • I am thankful to have a house (and, by extension, to be making the mortgage; see employment entry above)
  • I am thankful that my health has been generally good.
  • I am thankful for the VA Hospital for those times when I am sick.
  • I am thankful that my 12-yo old car is holding together
  • I am thankful that I get to work with some very talented, caring, professional teachers in RISD. There are amazing teachers, and the crop of 1st-year teachers I have met are motivated and resourceful.
  • I am thankful that I get to work with some exceptional students. There are kids out there that will reaffirm your hope in the future of humanity.
And some smaller things that might seem trivial but contribute to quality of life:
  • I am thankful that tomatoes are still growing in the garden.
  • I am thankful for the dog that makes me stop and smile
  • I am thankful that my dorky hobbies are sunk costs at this point and don't require any money (again, see above)
  • I am thankful that some of those dorky hobbies are actually useful during periods of economic stress.
  • I am thankful for the public discussion started by people like Nathan, Ed, Destiny, David, et al. I updated the layout today to include more explicit links to those blogs.
It's time to get serious about turkey carving in the other room, so I need to go. I hope everyone has a good day.

Monday, November 16, 2009

I am SUCH a scrooge

I was previously unaware of the Richardson Christmas parade, then in the last week I've had two brushes with it. First, I had a request to be in the parade (not me personally, me as part of the Crime Watch effort). Then I received a copy of Richardson Living with an article called "Let's Celebrate, Y'all."

I'm grouchier-than-normal this morning, so I'll take it out on the Christmas parade. [What kind of luser beats of up a Christmas parade?]
  1. I viscerally dislike parades; they are a mob version of a scary clown at the circus. Self-consciously "happy", but hollower, more artificial and disturbing the closer you get to it. I suspect if you like clowns you will like parades, and if you dislike clowns you will dislike parades. I will call this the parade-clown continuum. I auditioned clown-parade continuum but that was unacceptable because it sounded like a parade of clowns which, IIRC, is one of the signs of an impending Apocalypse.
  2. The flash crap on the COR Christmas Parade webpage is incredibly annoying. Luckily Firefox's NoScript extension can selectively hammer that kind of thing into submission.
  3. From the article: "As the community grows, there are still traditional events we can count on..." Interesting choice of words, and an interesting argument in play. Why would community growth imply the loss of traditional events? Ahhh, what if the demographics of the growth segment didn't look (or sound, or eat, or worship) like the traditional community? That would do the trick. If I were an easily-offended member of a minority group in Richardson (and I'm not, as far as you know) I might read this as "well, at least this Christmas parade hasn't yet been replaced with a pinata march or Ramadan celebration." The only thing missing here is the our way of life meme.
  4. Continuing: "...and this grassroots effort is one." Grassroots in what way? The manner of its founding "in 1972 by the Junior Chamber of Commerce" or its current incarnation led by Parks department staff and volunteers, with donations collected by/at Parks, using a COR email address and phones, hosted on the COR website, and with a set of rather Draconian rules (pdfs apparently produced by COR's H. McCrady) hosted there including the permitted number of Santas (one, in case you are wondering)? I know the definition of "grassroots" is rather fluid these days, but seriously folks.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

random thoughts about Veterans Day

Some thoughts about Veterans Day.

I normally don't think that much, consciously at least, about military service. I don't worship the military, I am not a flag waver and I don't have a subscription to Soldier of Fortune. My hair is buzzed off but mainly out of convenience and the effects of helmet-hair when it is longer.

For the purposes of this screed I will say army and soldier because that is my experience. Feel free to substitute other branches of service and words like "sailor, marine, airman" where appropriate.

What society "owes" veterans
  1. Foremost -- not to use the military's force without declaring war and without a plan to get in and to get out.
  2. Adequate post-combat decompression time for soldiers so they can re-adapt to the rest of society that is not at war.
  3. Take care of active-duty soldier with adequate training, services, and materiel.
  4. Take care of veterans by living up to the agreement made at the time of their enlistment: educational benefits, loans, medical, etc. We as a country don't have to agree to this kind of contract, but once we have agreed to it and enlisted the soldiers they are entitled.
  5. If you catch me after a few beers I might start talking about mandatory national service. This gets my Libertarian friends started whispering words like "ostracism" and "excommunication".

What veterans "owe" society
  1. appropriate use of benefits mentioned above. We need to steward these resources wisely.
  2. humility
  3. an honest-as-possible accounting of what military life is like, if asked. There are things that are not appropriate to share based on the audience, national security, discretion etc.

The most striking thing about our national assessment of the military is that the most "hoo-aah", rabidly pro-military folks are folks that never served. There is a mystique about the military that can be quickly cured by actually joining the military. I hear they are still recruiting if you're interested.

Note that I am not saying everyone should enlist[0]; I'm saying that if you don't enlist just see the military for what it is and not as some glorified (or denigrated) construct.

Cold Warriors
I have an idea kicking around about the difference between Old Army types, current army coldiers, and Cold Warriors. I won't get that done tonight but I think it's a topic worthy of discussion.

when I am in the classroom I sometimes find myself thinking "these kids need boot camp". Boot camp is a crash course in self-reliance, teamwork, and self-discipline. It teaches you what is possible, what you can do. Boot camp is mental. Sometimes the kids ask me if I was ever in the military. When I answer some young fellow[1] immediately asks one of two questions:

1. "did you ever kill anybody?"
2. "how many different ways do you know to kill somebody?"

These questions indicate the students fundamentally misunderstand the role of the military. There is more to that thought but I will let it sit.

Infrequently I get this additional question, generally from girls:

3. "what was your job in the Army?". I generally give an oblique answer because there are words one doesn't use in a public school, and because the kids have no living memory of the Cold War and have no way to relate to it. So far none of them have recognized the name Gorbachev although most recognize Reagan.

There are two men I knew that were soldiers through-and-through; naturally gifted at everything the military threw at them: weapons, gear, training, trucks, local girls, whatever. These two fellows were similar in their "supersoldier" abilities but quite different in presentation.

The white collar supersoldier was Mike H. Mike was a poster boy for the (then) New Army.[2] Whip-smart, his service was full-blooded but veiled in a veneer of wicked irony. It looked like he was playing but underneath it was universal competence. IIRC, last I heard from him he had gone to OCS and got a commission. I envy the men that serve under him now, assuming he has not retired.

The blue collar supersoldier was a fellow we called Jake; I think his last name was Jacobsen. A bit harder-edged, Jake was a rough-and-tumble Old Army guy. He had unbelievable skills piloting deuces and five-tons. Once we were in a cramped motorpool and our 5ton drivers couldn't get a stake-and-pallet (S&P) trailer backed into the far-too-narrow slot. We were trying to get off duty but couldn't until the trailer was parked. Forward and back, forward and back. Jake came up, said "WTF are you guys doing?" He jumped in the cab, floored it forward at a 45 deg angle, slid to a stop, floored it in reverse, yanked the trailer brake until the trailer slid into the correct angle, then slammed it into place. We were astounded.

Once he broke his hand out drinking the night before; I believe it was a wall punching exercise of some kind. He hid the pain but finally came to me in the motorpool. The problem was this: he needed medical attention but couldn't get it without a fig leaf. At that time (and maybe now) any injury while drunk result in an immediate referral to CDAAC, the Center for Drug and Alcohol Abuse Counseling[3] on base. A CDAAC referral wasn't deadly but it was a pain and might interfere with one's drinking schedule. And it stayed in your personnel file and so might or might not interfere with promotion if you were a "lifer".

Anyhow, I instructed Jake to get in the cab of a 5-ton and lean over towards my open door. I slammed the door loudly, he yelled "you broke my fscking hand!" on cue and I apologized loudly and yelled for a driver to "take this man to the medic!"[4]

And an apology
There was another supersoldier, and I don't remember her name. She was in S-2 (Intelligence) and spoke Russian. She was quite odd; at the time I attributed her oddity to an assumption that she was familiar with the poetry of Sappho. In retrospect, it seems to me that S-2 folks were effectively sequestered and it must have taken a toll on them. I might also invoke something like Asperger's. Regardless, in my youth and ignorance I made many unkind remarks to her and female soldiers like her. The time has come for me to apologize to fellow soldiers who I mistreated because of my perception of their orientation. Mea Culpa; forgive me. I have learned much in the interim, and I am a better man for it.

bloggermouse (nee armymouse)

[0] although I think it's generally good for a human to do, assuming the national leaders haven't gotten us mired in yet another undeclared war.

[1] almost always the most disruptive person in the class

[2] marked by an increasing reliance on technology and and an educated, thinking enlisted cohort.

[3] hence our running chant "I wanna be a CDAAC ranger", which we loved and the sargeants pretended not to hear.

[4] Of course, in this story "I" means "someone else in our platoon", and not me personally, because otherwise that would mean admitting to some kind of youthful indiscretion that I (I mean "he"!) would be loathe to admit in public.

Monday, November 9, 2009

City of Garland radio system rebanded

The COG Motorola Type II trunked radio system rebanded this morning. Happened midmorning, as reported in the DFWscan yahoo group.

The COR rebanding earlier this year didn't affect many scanners that were already receiving it. This is because COR is on an EDACS system and rebanding is less traumatic there. But Motorola systems get rebanded in such a way that many older scanners capable of monitoring Garland yesterday will not be able to monitor it today.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

CarpetRipping, pt 2

Earlier in the year we ripped the carpet out of the front room (living room?). The Dear Wife and I finally had the "simultaneous days off" and "motivation" lines on our biorythyms line up so we did the hallway. The beige at the top is the carpet, the blue is the top of the carpet padding, and the brown-yellow is the underside of the carpet padding. Note the bits of padding that stuck to the floor when the padding was pulled up; those are where the floor is stained below.

This one went a lot faster as there was no furniture to move. You can see the stains where the stuck-on bits had to be scraped off. No mopping or washing done yet; only swept. Luckily there was no physical damage to the wood as was found in the front room.

Friday, November 6, 2009

I don't think he likes HOAs

Another interesting post in a forum. This one is in response to the question: "Do cities like HOA's because it transfers the cost of maintaining common areas from the city to the homeowners?"

The posted answer:

Absolutely, that's why cities are mandating them and have been mandating them for a couple of decades in Texas. The city of Garland has representatives testifying to that effect before the Texas State Legislature the last several sessions. This is a disease that has been spreading for a while. The city/county comes up with some "public benefit" that will be mandated for the property (open area, water retention, etc.) and then mandates a private method for taking care of it. Even in areas where the HOA has become defunct, the cities/counties are suing to force creation/revival of an HOA to assume those public responsibilities.

Not only does it eliminate the cost of maintaining those areas, it also ensures that the so-called common areas are privately owned and therefore subject to taxation. If the city/county owned them those areas would be exempt from the tax roles. Instead the city/county is mandating these areas in subdivisions but they are privately owned. This means they will be on the tax roles and privately maintained at the expense of the homeowners in that subdivision. The HOA owns the common area, not the homeowners.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

the "Rule of Stupids"

Read this on a forum recently:

Now, with all that said, there are things like the The Rule of Stupids, of which there are several variations... Among those variations is this one which states:

1) Don't do stupid things!
2) Avoid stupid people!
3) Don't go to places where stupid things happen!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

goats are neat

This article on goaty outdoor maintenance and Google's recent use of goats to do the lawn got me all nostalgic.

My family had Nubian goats on our bit of land and they were hilarious and useful. The billy reeked but that's his job. Ate a few cabrito, which does wonders for my street cred with my Hispanic students. :-)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Tasting: canned beef

I canned some beef (cubed) earlier this year and broke some out last night for dinner. It was tender and tasted like roast beef.

Served with mashed potatoes and steamed cauliflower. I think I'm going to try frying cauliflower sometime. I had it fried at Ali Baba and it was interesting; the high heat developed some brussel sprout flavors in the white veggie.

Speaking of mashed potatoes, have you had instant mashed potatoes lately? I'm something of a purist and use a potato ricer for my smashed potato adventures. I have rejected instant mashed potatoes as heresy, partly for their "instant" nature and partly for the horrific flavor and texture I remember from the 80s. Recently my SIL gave us a packet of them to try. I sneered for a couple of months and then we made them. Wow. I don't know what happened to the technology since the 80s but these were really good. And at ~$1/bag they are pretty cheap. And storable. The thing that's really got my head spinning is that I don't think I can consistently make homemade smashed potatoes as good as these new instant packages.

So now there are a couple pouches in our pantry and a couple in our 72hr kit.

Attempted residential burglaries booked as lesser crimes?

This article deals with a bit of a gray area in crime reporting in DPD. This is an important issue because RPD does the same thing, and we should probably think about what it means.

The RPD position is that in some cases the burglary cannot be proven but a lesser charge of criminal mischief or vandalism can be. This seems to be a reasonable position, although I think maybe the prosecutor should be making that call. Maybe the prosecutor[s] have already given a rule-of-thumb to the RPD which they follow. I don't know.

Hardboiled cynics might say that this downgrading is intentional because it makes the crime stats look better. I am not quite that cynical yet.

But the take-away is this: when you see crime stats for criminal mischief or vandalism consider the possibility that this was an attempted burglary that was written up as a lesser offense. I know I am a broken record on this, but if you want to know why the LEO was called in the first place you're going to have to listen to the scanner traffic. It's not a perfect solution but it's better than the alternatives.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Lottery fraud in GP

This same thing actually happened to me once in Richardson, albeit for a much smaller amount.

This was in the late 90s when there was a (different) craptastic Quickie Mart near Star of Siam on SpringValley/75. One night I took my four-out-of-six winner to the counter; it was due an $85 prize based on the size of the lottery that drawing. The details are fuzzy but that's the idea.

Me: [handing over ticket] "I got four"
Clerk: [runs ticket, looks at printout, pulls $4 out of the register] "Four dollars"
Me: "No, I got four numbers. It's $85"
Clerk: "Oh". [pulls $85 out of the drawer]

He would have pocketed $81 on that deal. Safest way to check numbers is to scan them into one of the lottery machines at the grocery store. Much faster than checking nums on the website.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Seriously, get a carry license

At the Spring Valley DART station today, taking the train to the fair.

Wife and I were walking up the stairs when a aggressive/freaky/huge looking dude stops dead in the middle of the stairway facing us and stares at us. We had to rearrange to go around him. I said "good morning" as we passed. He didn't answer and I didn't hear him move behind us. My heartrate was a little elevated because this dude did not seem right. He had that "I am a sociopath and would just as soon kill you" vibe.

A few minutes later we were up on the platform. He walked upstairs again and came right over to us. Oh boy. Here we go.

Him: Hey man, do you have $2?
Me: No, I don't.
Him: I didn't mean to be rude when you talked to me down there.
Me: No problem. It's all right.
Him: [suddenly agitated] Why did you talk to me?
Me: [boggling, WTF?] What?
Him: [more agitated, seemingly unhinged] Why did you talk to me, with all these other people here? Why the hell you wanna...
Me: I said "good morning". [At this point I pulled my elbow in a bit so I could be sure of the positioning of the subcompact 9mm in the holster on my hip.]
Him: [he continues ranting]
Me: "We're done here", and I shepherded the wife away.

Moved to the north end of the platform and he followed within a minute or so.
We moved to the south end and he followed after a bit. Crap. This isn't a coincidence.
Moved to the north end again and placed a call to RPD.

I identified him in pieces, as he kept getting close enough to hear and we had to relocate several times: Black male, 30+ yrs old, 6' 1" or 6' 2" (he was taller than me), 200#, black knit cap, dark sunglasses, long desert-style camo parka shell, brown pants.

Within a couple of minutes two officers (244 and 264) showed up and walked the platform. They walked south-to-north like they were scoping then went downstairs. I couldn't see where they were, if they had left, or what. My guess at that time was that they had ID'ed the guy from my description (he was obvious) and was waiting for the train to clear the crowd before moving in. At this point I was still on the phone with dispatch and we agreed to drop the call since two LEOs were on scene.

After the cops had been (downstairs? gone?) for about two minutes the fellow got agitated again and started asking a group of commuters "why the cops here? What they looking for? Those was Richardson po-lice, not DART po-lice."*, etc. We moved away again and so did not hear the rest.

Interesting that he was so clued in to the difference between the affilliation of the officers, and that he saw both of them although they were moving seperately in different areas and in a low-key fashion through the crowd. I knew they were on-scene somewhere and still barely spotted them until they were quite near. I suspect his questions indicated he understood the LEOs were not there on a random patrol, and he wanted to know who called the police. Frak.

Train came shortly thereafter, wife and I boarded, and our pet psycho stayed on the platform.

I came home and listened to the scanner traffic. Call came in at 9:28am, and my description was reduced to "BM, 6 foot, camo, panhandling and behaving strangely". Both cars were on-scene by 9:33am, then nothing more until one of the officers announced he was clear at 10:23am. Normally if they had stopped someone they would have run a background check on the NCIC channel, but that was not on the recording. I bet a dollar that psycho had an active warrant somewhere. I suspect no contact was made.
Lesson learned: next time I will request officer contact so I can ensure contact gets made with the suspect. I did not request contact w/me as we were waiting on a train and didn't know when it would arrive.

I guarantee you that an encounter like this with a potentially dangerous pursuer is much different when you are armed. Instead of being in trapped animal mode, you are aware of the options in the scenario. There is no huge power disparity, there is just a human acting strangely and aggressively which you have to deal with safely.
Here's another pointer to a decent unofficial overview of how to get started with your concealed carry license.

* I was conflicted about whether or not to transcribe this outburst into standard English. Tried it both ways and it seemed more artificial to put words in his mouth. So those are direct quotes. If you have a problem with this word choice or syntax, feel free to take it up with him.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Another reason to love Mickey$oft

MS slips a Firefox extension in a windows update. It makes FF users vulnerable to IE-style drive by infections, and is nearly impossible to remove.

Yes, it's not enough that they make their own software into virus incubation tools. They want to infect everyone else, too. Now watch them claim that FF is no more secure than IE after poisoning the well.

Nice. When you get sick enough of the MS crap, take a spare PC and install linux on it. Ubuntu is probably the easiest to get started with.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

stop yelling

Although I am libertarian and predisposed to support Ron Paul's quixotic adventures, I was disappointed in hecklers that shouted pro-Ron Paul statements at Sen. Graham at a recent town hall meeting in Greenville, SC.

Hecklers: make your statement in a civil manner at the microphone when it is your turn. If it is not your turn do not shout. I know it's not going to get anyone on TV, but please display enough self-control that people are not worried that you have the right to drive, breed, and live on your own without a parent (or nanny state) around. Be an adult.

COR council meeting audio 200901005 20091012

10/5 and 10/12.

Much better audio this week, at least what I've heard. I am about 2 weeks behind on all my audio and blog consumption.

[10/14: I've just noticed that the city is posting audio files so I'll stop reproducing that effort.]


In theory last night was National Night Out.
Only it wasn't because Tx met later to avoid the heat. So it was Texas Night Out.
Only it wasn't because COR moved our NNO to Oct 13.

But in Highland Terrace it looked more like National Night In (because of rain?) . I rode and drove HT from 6-8pm last night and met with two block parties. I also spoke with folks I saw outside that were not out for NNO.

One of the block parties consisted of two homeowners and the other was a comfortable group of folks (including part of the Crime Watch Patrol) with yummy food/drinks relaxing around a fire pit. They looked happy and neighborly. I think they have the model right. I'll spend more time with them and see what they they makes their block work when others do not.

I think the challenges of NNO are the same challenges that confront neighborhoods in COR in general:

* neighbors unaware that they live in a defined neighborhood. Sign toppers would help rectify this, but the recent COR council work session revealed how expensive that can be.

* many people were unaware this was NNO. Hmmm. I wonder how much one of those low-power radio stations costs to run? Farmers Branch has one and I like it.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Update: Best Foundation flyer

Update from the previous post.

I got a professional response from Always Distributing (AD hereafter), who appears to handled Best's flyer work. I received their email a few days ago but am just now answering; busy weekend.

Here is my email reply, with his text redacted as I am a little squeamish about posting email without consent when the sender appears to be operating in good faith.

[AD was concerned I had been inconvenienced]

I haven't been inconvenienced. My intent was to help local businesses comply with local law. [my personal info redacted], I am keenly interested in who enters our neighborhood and whether or not they perform their business lawfully.

[AD requests I delete the blog post]

I will update the posting, noting that you responded professionally.

I'll give it a month (Nov 2) and will contact Richardson PD to confirm that Always Distributing has obtained a permit to distribute flyers in Richardson. I am confident that AD will comply, as the process is inexpensive and easy (particularly when compared to the $500/day fine for distribution without a permit).

[AD is concerned that my blog post about AD's failure to comply will reflect poorly on Best]

I don't think it does. Looked like they handed my concern over to you quickly and you responded quickly. In a perfect world they probably would have responded to me directly as well but that's their call.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Handbill: Best Foundation Repair

Here is a local company getting it wrong three ways:

1. handbill attached to rail rather than door
2. No Solicitors sign ignored
3. Solicitor not displaying the solicitor permit.

Here's the video where you can confirm the solicitor is not displaying a permit. (.avi, about 3MB)

Even local companies can get it wrong.

I've emailed with this information.

Update 10/05/2009.

Monday, September 28, 2009


Found a hummingbird feeder at a garage sale for 50c. Cleaned it up, read up on making the nectar, and hung it up in the back yard. Saw the first bird (a brown female?) later that day. Just now a green one was at the feeder.

Here's a page on identification of hummingbirds in Texas.

Open house

Last week it finally got cool enough to open the house up and blow out some of the pent-up dog/human funk. The weekend was too warm for it but the windows are open now.

There are few screens on the house so we built one for a front window. This allows us to get serious airflow going through the couple of screens on the back of the house. Mmmmm.

I don't know why having the house opened up gives me so much pleasure, but it really lifts my mood. And I needed a mood lift. I'm still signing into about 40 school/isd sites a day to check for jobs but it's a desert. I feel better after my flu quarantine mid-month but I am still a bit washed out.

On the upside, I had three kids tell me I "ought to be a real teacher." :-) I told them I was trying.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Finally posting audio for 9/21 council meeting

And it sucks.

The audio from the visitor mic is nearly unintelligible. The other mics are about the same as always.

Haven't listened to all of it yet, but I am keenly interested in the SV revitalization stuff.

Keffler: "hope I can diffuse this one"

If you haven't read DC's blog entry on this yet, it's worth your time.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Aggressive limo driver on Grove

9/20/2009, 6:10pm.

White limo, Tx plate CNL-479 heading northbound on Grove.

Honking at other traffic, speeding/driving in the bikelane, going straight from a right-turn only lanes, etc. A real douchebag.

We both turned e on belt line and stopped at Bowser. I advised the driver he had been illegally driving in the bike lane. At that point the caucasian male driver (about 35yo?) encouraged me to "eat sh_t". I declined. To my discredit I responded with similar language, punctuating my shouty opinion with unkind gestures.

Since then I have been disappointed to find there is no searchable database of plate numbers.

Suspect in 9/16 home invasion

The details, such as they are, can be found here.

While you've got your eyeballs peeled, this fellow is also loose in the region.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

9/16 home invasion/kidnapping Buckingham apartments

Local 6pm news had a segment about a home invasion / robbery / kidnapping on Buckingham. I can't find any online sources of info yet. {Update: see vid at bottom}

My uncomfirmed instinct: is that it started last night and wasn't reported until this AM when the perps left the house so the residents could report it. The dispatch time and doesn't line up with the 9-to-12 hour event duration unless it started last night and ended this morning.

This is within easy walking distance of my house. I turned on a couple more exterior lights than usual, doublechecked the carry sidearm and the Moss 500. Yes, the Dear Wife also knows how to shoot them.

BTW, let's say it's the middle of the night and three armed men just kicked in your door (see above). How scary, inappropriate, and unnecessary is that homeowner's assault rifle now?

{edit: I do not mean to imply that an assault weapon is the best tool to combat home invaders; that role is served by a shotgun. Simpler to use, less $$$, and less risk of overpenetration. About the only time the assault rifle is a better deal is if the invaders are armored.}

Images by the amazing Oleg Volk.

I'll pull down this Ch11 vid from my MythTV box as soon as the segment appears on CBS 11. The audio and/or aspect may be jacked, as this is my first attempt at editing video.

a meditation after 9/11

I couldn't take much time to think about 9/11 on the actual day this year. I had 300 or so kids to get through the day at a local high school and that kind of thing leaves little time for introspection.

So today I find myself reflecting on things most of the world thought about last week.

I think this is perhaps the most moving, serious, and genuninely heartfelt tribute I have seen. I thank the BBC and the British people for their kindness in those days after the tragedy.

"Leonard Slatkin Conducts the BBC Orchestra on September 15 2001 in honor of those who lost their lives a few days prior. Visuals from BBC's 'Last Night of the Proms' and ABC's 'Report from ground zero'. AUVIEX edit. "

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

sprouts: lentil, mung, fenugreek

I do most of the cooking at home because I like it. There was a four-year stretch when I was working nights and the Dear Wife was pressed into service. She did great but I don't get the feeling it was fun for her.

My meal planning isn't bad but for the past year or so I have been aware that we don't eat enough fresh greens. My rough plan to correct this has been:

1. try my hand at gardening (more about this in a future post)
2. shop more often at local stores to pick up green shtuff. This sucks a bit because I hate my local Kroger and the road is torn up between me and Sara Bakery.

Neither have been big payoffs, though I predict my garden will produce more next year. We are eating some tomatoes now.

So I was wandering around youtube one day and saw a video about sprouting various beans and legumes (sprout content starts about 60seconds into the vid). Hmmm. I knew I liked the alfalfa sprouts you get in salads and the mung bean sprouts you get in many Asian foods. Question is, how hard and how expensive could this get?

I had some spare screen scraps and cut them to fit the inside of some mason jar lids. Commercial sprouting lids are about $6/each as far as I can tell.

It turns out that sprouting is stupid cheap and stupid easy. Forget all the hippie "your body loves the owl spirit of the superfood raw enzymes" crapola, they are cheap, fresh foods you can grow on the countertop.

Basic how-to
Put a small amount of seeds/beans in the bottom of a mason jar. Start with a tablespoon full or other small amount until you know how big they will get. Some really explode on you. I do the soak overnight. Cover the jar with screened lid (commercial or homemade). You can also use something like cheesecloth or nylons and secure with rubber band or the lid ring.

8 hrs later (like the next morning) rinse with water, leave inverted or partially inverted. I prefer a 45deg angle which keeps sprouts from blocking airflow. Then 2-3x a day rinse and drain and leave inverted again. I do this in the morning, at night, and if I remember once in the afternoon.

A few days into it (3-4?) your sprouts will be luverly and ready to eat. You can put them in the window if you want them to green up more.

I eat them raw with salad dressing, soy, or vinegar, or cooked into other foods, or stirfried for a very short time (like 60 seconds).

Win: lentil, mung, fenugreek.
Fail: wheat sprouts were weirdly sweet; kids might like them. Garbanzo/chickpea; got weird.

fevered notes on the 9/14 council meeting

Unedited audio posted here for you mp3 player types.

This post is a mess, but feel free to slog through. I am quarantined at home with the flu and all my brain cells are sizzling with the fever. Hope some of it makes sense.

Notes from the Work Session, pt 1

I finally get to disagree with Amir!
At around 7:01pm Mr. Omar falls into the trap of trying to overcontrol city departments communication with the the public (ie, the customer). "I would love any piece of communication ... somehow go through Communications before it gets there... you see that a lot in corporations and I think it would make sense for us to do it here as well."

No, no, no. No. Overcontrolling worker communication with the customer is expensive and counterproductive. For an argument about why this is so, take a short ride on the Cluetrain. (full text starts here)

From Michelle's presentation
Around 7:04pm. One of the goals is "help the city position itself positively to current and future residents, visitors, businesses, others"

Why should we pay the city to propagandize us? I'd be more interested in seeing objective analysis than Feel Good softsoap. Sometimes the emperor really has no clothes, and the sooner we find out about that the better off the city will be.

How about this reach-around: "We want to focus on the fact that when you move to Richardson you have made a smart choice... and it's because you all on the city council and the leaders who have come before you have made some smart decisions..." I guess when you're asking for the council's vote a few strokes do a world of good.

"Key message document" - Here, city employees. These are your talking points.

"Brand positioning" - the idea of brand positioning a city makes me want to projectile vomit. If your city has the stuff it will have good word of mouth. If it's a turd then you can't polish it (mythbusters notwithstanding). I read a biography of David Ogilvie that had a quote something like this: "Marketing is showing the customer two quarters and convincing them not only that they are different, but that one is worth more than the other." Do we really want to attract warm bodies stupid enough to fall for sub-corporate marketspeak?

"We've already started the taping of council meetings and webcasts... one of the things we'd like to take a look at with CITV is to realign their workplans to be consistent with our key messages..."
Translation: We've already been forced to publish our meetings; in order to regain leverage we should force CITV to push our propaganda.

Nixle vs. Twitter.
Twitter is used by the whole planet and no one has heard of nixle before this very second, but it's been pitched as "Twittr for governments" so we're leaning toward nixle. Great call! I am completely sidestepping whether or not the whole Twitter meme is idiotic.

And I get to agree with Michelle on something: it does makes sense to retain the current publishing schedule of Richardson Today. Push out more time-sensitive stuff through the web or email. I also agree with the move to cheaper thinner paper; the current stock is weirdly stiff. I disagree with the need for expensive color on each page.

Anyone who has made their living from the phone will tell you that scripted phone greetings are widely hated by the public and the workers. Sold-on-hold messages will have to be subtler than "reinforcent of our key messages".

Notes from the council meeting

* dog park. Nice idea, but I've never been to one where I felt comfortable with my dog. There's always some Type-A d-bag out there with his aggressive dog. I bought a house in part so my dog could run in the yard.

* Ho. Lee. Crap. Mr. Morgan's questioning of the Council paid off tonight. This 2r + 2yr + 1yr crap is a fig leaf, an obvious attempt to skirt the law. What good is a contract length limitation if it can be subverted this way> What if it said "2yr + 2yr +2yr until Mr. Keffler's eventual demise". Would that lifetime contract not breach the spirit of the law? Well done, Mr. Morgan. I suspect that this kind of term-skirting will not be implemented in future contracts with COR.

Notes from the Work Session pt, 2

* Audiocasting. I think audiocasting is a great idea. It uses very little bandwidth compared to video, and screen shots or images can be podcast(or even embedded) in the mp3 files if they are useful.

* neighborhood sign toppers. I think these definitely increase neighborhood awareness. I am asking my own neighborhood association about this at the next meeting (by proxy, because I'm sick) since there is a bylaws requirement. The enforcement of uniqueness is a bit odd. I think it would be sufficient to have a simple text sign with the neighborhood name on it (see below).

It's weird that the HOAs have to pay for the signs ($40-$85, two required per pole!) and also pay the city to install them ($45-$75 per sign - can't do it yerself). Sounds like union rules to me.

It's also weird that only $2k of the $6k installation cost was collected.

I think a better solution would be to let HOAs buy cheaper, plain signs at cost from the COR sign shop. But I do support the decision in the meeting to install the signs at city cost.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Pee on your tomatoes

Really. It's good for them.

Where your Doom money went

Those of us that bought Doom, Doom II, etc, in the 90s funded more than a few Lambos and Ferraris around Dallas. It used to be that if you saw an exotic in town it was probably owned by one of the Id guys; now it's probably Mark Cuban. Saw him in a yellow 'rari on 35 earlier in the year.

Anyhow, one of the Id team was John Carmack. For the past several years he's been heavily involved in amateur rocketry (somewhere in Rockwall?), and it just paid off. $1 million if I understand correctly.

Check out the video. It's not dramatic but it's truly impressive.

Way to go, John. You continue to rock.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

class overcrowding

The City-Data Dallas forum has an interesting, ongoing thread about a kid being moved (with others, apparently) into a different classroom due to overcrowding. There are several complicating factors.

It's an interesting problem with interesting forum input. I think it's worth the read. If nothing else it is heartening to see a parent put thought and interest into their kid's relationship with the teacher.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

10/7: 2 armed robberies in short order

Note: there are a couple of {corrections/additions} made to the post below.

I started out listening to the "tape" from 10/7 because I saw this:
09/07/2009 11:55 PM ROBBERY-INDIVIDUAL 1100 BLK of ABRAMS RD

The file is the full day's audio (about 4 hours of solid audio), and the robberies start around {10:30pm} (2300 hrs in military/PD lingo). That'd be about 75% into the file.

{It'd been a while since I'd listened to a whole day's audio so I listened to the whole thing. I was surprised to hear two armed robberies within an hour.}

There was also an interesting altercation at the DART rail station that gives you an idea of what kind of weird thing happens there. I was one to pooh-pooh the "DART stations breed chaos" argument, but I've heard some pretty crazy stuff reported from there. Maybe we need video surveillance if we don't have it already.

Other stuff worth listening to on there. You can play it on your iPod while you commute or whatever.

: if you have a CHL, carry. If you don't have a CHL, are eligible, and are comfortable with sidearms I encourage you to get licensed. Here is a layman's description of the process.

Praise: COR's graffiti abatement program

I reported the marker graffiti on those tall utility boxes yesterday around noon, using the online request form. Less than 24hrs later the boxes were repainted so carefully that I had to check the house numbers to make sure I was at the right spot. The paint was very carefully matched. If someone didn't point out where to look you wouldn't know it'd been tagged and repainted.

This was in the alley between Woodway and the railroad right-of-way.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Ok, last stove/lantern geek post for a while, I promise.

This gem of a post came from a thread called How I Became a Stovie. A stovie, btw, is a person who collects/uses/tinkers on liquid fuel stoves.

My Sainted Mother, bless her, taught me to read before I was five. I then began reading my older cousins' boy Scout books. There in print was tacit permission to have fires! I liberated empty cans from the garbage and washed them preparatory to savaging them with tin snips and straightened nails in order to contain small fires made of twigs and pine cones so I could incinerate food purloined from the kitchen. My parents saw no harm in it until I assassinated an innocent cottontail going about his lawful business in our vegetable garden. I divested the victim of his furry waistcoat and most of his inward workings with the aid of my (t) rusty pocket knife, then made some barely edible rabbit fricasse in a tin can kettle over a fire in a tin can stove. Nirvana!

Down the hill from us about a quarter of a mile was the western shore of a small irrigation dam which contained frogs, slime, hordes of mosquitoes, and an assortment of bullheads, sunfish, and perch. Some of these leviathans attained lengths approaching five inches. They were also severely retarded as proven by their propensity to bite hooks baited with bits of red bandana handkercheif. Many of these unfortunate denizens of "The Dam," as it was generally called, also came to ignominious ends on my various tin can crematoria. Since then I've had an unquenchable thirst for things "stove."

In my early teens I built a shack of salvaged (read: "stolen") lumber in the back yard wherein I and my partner in crime Joel Jensen had a stove fabricated from a 5 gallon lube oil can with a chimney made from a length of galvanised rainspout salvaged from a building being torn down in the neighborhood. We vulcanized dozens of eggs, cans and cans of SPAM, and boiled vats of bad coffee on that stove.

It was about that time I found a discarded REI catalog in the neighbor's trash. In it there were pages and pages of forbidden camping and stove porn ! ! Joel and I caught a bus to 11th and Pine in Downtown Seattle, where perverted enablers actually encouraged us to light up! We learned words like: "Svea 123", "Optimus 8R", "Primus 71L" and the delights of Army Surplus dried squash, spinach, and chemically mummified lemon type flavored drink powder. It would be many more years before I could actually buy any of 'em. I've never looked back.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009


some lamps

Fettling = working on an old pressure lamp or lantern. In Europe this might mean Primus, Petromax, Optimus, Tilley, etc. In America this means Coleman.

I have a ratty old 1961 lantern (red one on the right) that burns great but has been difficult to light. Hey, it's older than I am and start a little slow in the mornings, too.

Should work like this:

  1. fill with fuel
  2. pressurize with the pump
  3. crack open the fuel valve about 1/4 turn and listen. You will hear air hissing. Then after a few seconds you will hear fuel start to make a delicate gurgle sound. Close the valve.
  4. get your match/lighter/torch in there
  5. re-crack the valve 1/4 turn
  6. gentle "foof" as the fuel ignites. The mantles start to glow.
  7. when mantles glow gentle, increase the fuel delivery
  8. the generator gets hot enough to vaporize fuel efficiently and you get a soothing hiss and brilliant light. All is well with the world. Or the back porch, at least.

But it has been working like this:

  1. fill with fuel
  2. pressurize with the pump
  3. crack open the fuel valve about 1/4 turn and listen. Just air. No fuel.
  4. wait. wait more. Still no fuel. %&^#*&^!
  5. Get annoyed and open the fuel valve a couple of turns until fuel does begin to flow.
  6. floods or semi-floods the lantern as fuel at the 1/4 turn position is metered differently on purpose.
  7. get your match/lighter/torch in there
  8. dramatic "BOOF" as the whole top half of the lantern ignites. The neighborhood start to glow.
  9. if nothing (important) nearby is on fire, attempt to regulate fuel delivery until the generator warms up and things normalize.

The part that I needed to work on is hidden inside the fount (the metal base where the fuel is held/pressurized). This part, the fuel/air tube, serves partly as the fuel pickup mechanism and as a kind of crude carbureter. I cleaned the f/a tube and re-stretched a small spring that's part of the carbing process. Starts immediately now.

Here's a pretty good explanation of how it works.

rode the completed bike lane

The paintjob and signs appear to be complete on the Grove bike lane (read: traffic calming lane).

I rode the bike lane from Centennial to the DART station at Arapaho. No cars were driving in the bike lane this time which is a welcome change. No big trucks parked dangerously far into the lane.

It was generally enjoyable although bicycles do not trip the traffic signals, so one has to wait for a car to come along in the same direction. At Arapaho a car can set off the lights on the other side of the street but you still get red. :-( Running the light at Arapaho is a little scary. I mean it would be if I did it. Which I wouldn't admit.

There were some "traffic school" type pylon patterns in the northeast corner of the DART lot and road, so I slalomed them. Or I would have if I had ventured over there. Which I wouldn't admit.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

possum kingdom

A possum wandered onto the back porch; one of the (non-nightvision) security cams picked him up. He wanders up by the chair at around the 15sec mark, and I spotlight him with the q-beam.

He was licking beaded up water off the deck. I guess he was thirsty. He waddled off somewhere after a few mins.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

a football idiot speaks

To be sure, I don't know squat about the NFL.

But watching Friday's game I am confused why we are not keeping Carpenter and booting Kitna. Carpenter can at least take a snap, make catchable throws, etc. Heck, he even caught that one really high snap and got the ball passed off.

I wonder which Romo we get this season:

* the highly mobile, effective, mirculous Romo who can make a pass while falling, flying, or running, or

* the "throw it directly to any available member of the opposing team" Romo.

Maybe they are the same guy. I hope not. I hope he's got the Jessica curse washed off him and he's ready to pay attention.

Glee is back

I had suggested earlier that Glee doesn't suck. It's back on and worth a taping.

The pilot was rebroadcast with some extra (worthwhile) footage. They also did a "tweet peat" rebroadcast where the cast tweeted. I was hoping for something closer to DVD commentary, but it was mainly chatter. Good idea, but didn't work first time out.

Maybe just record commentary and put it on the secondary audio track?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Comments on 8/31 work/council meeting

Work session

* Keffler's response to Visitor Morgan's "5 year contract" issue was interesting. It wasn't "that isn't what happened", or "you don't understand the law", but rather, "we had our lawyers check off on that." I hope Mr. Morgan shares anything he learns on this topic.

* More practical and insightful questions from Mr. Omar (school zone lights).

* bike lanes on grove and elsewhere - so far 100% of the time (see update below) I have driven down Grove since the installation of the bike lane I have seen cars driving in the bike lane. Dave says "the ones that live along there are pleased; the ones that do not live along the roadway are the ones that are not [pleased]." Ya think? This confirms my previous comments about the NIMBY aspect of this traffic calming project. I live off Grove and am not convinced of the overall value of the project yet.

[update: it's now the 6th. I drive Grove at least 2x/day. 4 days after writing the above "100%" post I finally traversed Grove without seeing someone driving erroneously in the bike lane. This occurred at 6:15pm on a Sunday afternoon. So I stand corrected.]

"bulb-out" - well, I learned something today.

Mitchell: "It's an esthetic thing". Really? Cars parked alongside the road are pretty?

Macy: "my beady little brain". Hey, I didn't say it.

Mr Solomon: bike lanes are causing congestion, and drivers are having to choose other routes. That, Mr. Solomon, was the intention of the traffic calming project.

Council Meeting
Didn't run long, so there is going to be a couple hours off his at the end of the mp3 I posted.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

COR work and council meeting, 20090831

Uploaded the audio for those that can't are prefer not to stream.

Haven't listened to it yet, so my comments will follow a little later.

As before, it's unedited and there will be blank hiss on the recording where it was blank hiss on ch16.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Rode the bike lane

I rode the marked portion of the bike lane last night around midnight.

* cars were driving down the bike/parking lane

* the bike lane paint strip goes away at lasalle in the northbound lane, and terminates at beltline for the southbound lane. I assume they are still working because spray paint dabs are present on the northbound side. Perhaps it's not officially open yet.

* the bike logo stencils are not yet present. I hope they will help clue people in that they are driving in the bike lane. [note - this draft is 24hrs old - since I started writing this the logos have started showing up]

* people are parking fullsize trucks far enough away from the curb that a bicycle cannot pass without hitting mirrors or crossing the solid white line.

I don't know if having the bike lane will reduce the chances of getting run over or not.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Water bill envelope

I assume this reusable thing must save money/paper when compared to a seperate envelope but I find it annoying. Particularly when humidity is high and the gummed strip sticks to itself when folded up.

I didn't see any mention on the COR website about envelope cost savings. Anyone know if we are saving money on this deal?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

More notes from the 8/24 city council meeting

I am eating my own dog food at the moment (listening to the .mp3 I uploaded of the Ch16 broadcast from 6pm-10pm). I zipped through the video earlier but didn't pay close attention. On closer listening I have a few more thoughts.

Keffler's car compensation
I completely agree with visitor (is that the right term?) Mr. Morgan's call to re-visit the city's auto allowance for Mr Keffler, and indeed all city employees.

I believe that no one but the city employee should enjoy vehicle benefits; under no circumstances would anyone other than the designated employee use the benefit. And then even when on city business. This means no joyrides, no grocery runs, no dinners and a movie. Perhaps the car could be fitted with a woo-woo so we could always hear where it's going:

I trust that Mr. Keffler and his family drive better than Li'l Sis (or Bubb Rubb, whoever was driving that Supra in the video).

I appreciate the general civility of council members when dealing with each other, speakers, and visitors. It's better than I expected.

Executive sessions
I'd like to see a sunset provision on the sessions. Audio or videotape those sessions and set them aside for a year or five years. Then publish them on the COR website.

Collections fee last year
Does anyone know what the unusual collections fee was that is not expected to recur during the next budget period?
Is it 3498 - Attorney Collection Fees - $40,000?

Mr. Murphy and open records requests
Sounds like Mr. Murphy would prefer to put a chill on open records requests. I have not made any such requests but highly value the ability to do so. I will take Mr. Keffler's response at face value, that he and his team are dedicated to discussing requests with anyone that wants a real answer. I am less impressed with his subsequent discussion of car allowances.