Sunday, February 19, 2017

revivifying the computer

A couple months ago, I went on a rant about keyboards. One of my good ones is attached to what Laura OLPH called the "Ultra Geeky Linux Computer".

I should have recognized the signs that the boot hard drive was dying (hard drives always do), but I didn't until the computer wouldn't boot anymore. I'd been backing up onto a second (and, in fact, a third) hard drive in that computer, but I hadn't in at least several days. So there was data that I would lose.

Most of my important stuff is in my Dropbox folder, so I knew I wouldn't lose that. There was a possibility of losing some emails I'd rather keep, but that wasn't a real problem (because most of my email accounts use the IMAP protocol, they'd sync up as soon as I logged in again anyway). The key thing was podcasts (I listen to 'em when I exercise), and there were two of them in particular.

The first is This American Life. You can get the .mp3 file of the weekly story for free IF you download it within the week; otherwise it's a 99¢ download at iTunes. I'm incredibly cheap about that kind of thing, and I HATE giving money to Apple, so I download them weekly (I have gigabytes of TAL stories on my backup drives). I hadn't backed up the last couple to the backup drives.

The other was Car Talk. When you sign up for the podcast, they only give you the last two. But I had them for years, and I was still listening to Car Talk episodes from 2013 or 2014. I wanted to get my old list back. I had been using Opera browser as my podcast feed, and I'd been saving my Opera profile through many updates. Could I get the files back?

So here's what I did:

  1. Buy the new hard drive.
  2. Download the latest Linux Mint live DVD image, burn it to disk, make sure it will boot up. It did.

  3. Try to see files on the old boot drive. Hooray! I can see the files! (So the problem must have been in the boot sector.) But because of the Linux copy permissions, I can't copy-and-paste them in the live CD session.
  4. OK. Disconnect all the hard drives (the DOA boot drive and the two backups), connect the new drive, install Linux Mint. 
  5. Sound doesn't work. Sound doesn't work? Research indicates it's a stupid choice of setting in alsamixer, which I don't initially understand, but I got it working.
  6. Hook up the DOA old boot drive. Yay! I can see it! AND I now have the permissions to do the copy-and-paste, which I do. I managed to salvage the "This American Life" files.
  7. Check the email program. Yay! Everything's there!
  8. Download Opera (not available through the Linux Mint repositories [their version of the "Google Play Store"], but it is available in the right format for Linux Mint). But wait. There's language on the site about how Opera now can do RSS, which is what I use for podcasts. I've been using it for years for that. What?
  9. Install and open Opera. Weep with disappointment. Opera has changed their format; they no longer open the old profiles. I've lost all my feeds.
  10. Take out the DOA drive, hook back in the other backup drives, and begin the hours-long process of tweaking the system to my liking (I'm still not done).
So I've got a couple of other podcast solutions going now (one is using the Firefox bookmark system, which works better for my purposes if I don't use the built-in Live Bookmark feature), and I've sworn off Car Talk. I'm more of a Judge John Hodgman kind of guy these days, anyway.

Edit Feb 22: A superficial bit of internet research unearthed the fact that the original Car Talk guys retired in 2012 (and Tom Magliozzi died in 2014); they had a number of shows "in the can", but recent shows are just amalgamations of calls and bits from their active period. So it's time to move on from Car Talk anyway.

too much, and not enough

It's been over 60°F both days this weekend. I'd been planning on that, and when I saw Laura OLPH was planning a 40-something for yesterday, I did not want to miss that...especially when I saw she was adding some extra miles from her home, bringing the total to almost 60.

I shouldn't have done the extra miles. I'll tell you now, I hit the wall at just about 50 miles; I had no power going up any kind of a hill, I was falling off the back, and I could feel the tremor. I didn't intend to be the Ride Canary for the day, but that's how it worked out. I'm grateful for Snakehead and Chris C, who had stayed back, and saw I got enough water and junk food to make it the rest of the way.

Perhaps I'll be more careful in the future when I'm getting back on a bike after several months, with an injury and a weeks-long illness-and-recovery in the interim.

But probably not.

It was a great ride anyway, and just the thing I needed after my enforced idleness. Eight of us went, many of whom I've ridden with for years, whom I consider friends, and others whom I wish I knew better. Peter and I met Laura at her house, and we rode into Pennington, where we met Ricky G, Snakehead, Chris C, and Andrew. Just as we were leaving, Celeste rode in.

We did this route. I found it hillier than advertised (Laura's route page showed the elevation as 2272, lower than the 3042 I wound up with), and there was moderately hairy direction (we went about twenty feet on 206 in the direction against traffic), but it was a great day, a great ride, and I'm delighted I had a chance to hang out with some bike-y people and ride again.

The nominal reason for the ride was another stop at thee Factory Fuel coffee shop in Flemington.

It's a wonderfully alt-left place; the baristas are decorated with tattoos, ear gauges, and good cheer; there was a young lady out front of the farm market next door collecting signatures against Trump, and the inside of the farm market held (in addition to the farm stands) an aging band and stands with various homemade wares for sale (there was a driving cap that caught my eye; I may be back). Most of us ate and drank coffee in the sun.

The coffee-drinkers tell me the coffee is good (I went with an orange Pellegrino instead), and I can tell from personal report that the junk food there is certainly worth the working-off of the empty calories.

In lieu of the obligatory bikes pic, here's another look at that rack they've installed out front. They need to move it away from the wall a bit.

It is, of course, similarly warm and sunny today, but I didn't have another long ride in me. Instead, I went for one of my usual 20-milers at a sensible pace. Then I came home and fell asleep on the recliner... it wasn't even noon yet.

Later this week: a post about bringing the Ultra Geeky Linux Computer back from the dead when the hard drive died, and how, even if you can salvage files from the hard drive (I did), it doesn't help if one of the programs on which you've come to depend has upgraded to the point that the old format is no longer recognized. Grrr...

Saturday, February 11, 2017

finally back on a bike

I got an email from Tom about a ride on the rail at Tyler Park today. I didn't think I was going, until The Excellent Wife (TEW) made it clear this morning that she thought I ought to. "It's on a trail," she said, "if you get lost or fall off the back, you can just turn around and go back." TEW's ideas of trails are based on the D&R canal towpath; the Tyler Park trails are more like a network, but I don't think that was the point; I think the real reason for the suggestion was that she thought I needed to see some of my bike-y friends. And a case could definitely be made; I've been in a much better mood this afternoon than recently. I've been able to completely avoid the topic of recent politics (until just now... D'OH!).

I barely got the bike onto the car and on my way in order to make it in time, I was that sure I wasn't doing anything today. After a bit of worried navigation, I figured I was in the right place when I saw Chris C's truck, and, next to it, Tom's Subaru.

And, right about start time, Laura OLPH pulled up.

The three of them were on mountain bikes, and I was riding the Krakow Monster with hybrid tires, so I took heed of a quick lesson from Chris on snow and ice surfaces. Most of the trail was cleared, though.

It was a wintry day.

I decided to walk the bike up the steep, muddy/icy/snowy hill to the covered bridge. I am learning my limits.

Did I mention it was a wintry day?

I was surprised by the number of people out walking the trail, many with excellent-looking dogs (I wonder if there's a attractiveness quotient for dogs allowed into the park of a Saturday). Perhaps a future blog post will feature good-looking canines.

I've been worrying about whether I'd be able to keep up after the ankle injury two months ago, and bronchitis over the past month. Two bits of good news, then: first, neither the ankle nor the lungs posed particular problems. There were a couple of climbs* that did me in, but I think that was mostly just being out of shape (which I definitely am). (*It was probably the same climb twice; we did part of the loop two times - see the ride page.) Second, I was able to keep up with Laura, Tom, and Chris.

More important, though, was that I got to see some friends I have not seen. I think I've made it clear in these posts that a large part of my social life is tied to the bike. Having missed almost all of that for two months, including Christmas and New Year's, has added to a smidge of depression, I think. I'm much brighter today. I'm looking forward to getting out more with other riders: people I know well, and people I don't.

Near the end of the ride we stopped at a park building to engage in some plumbing. The melt-and-refreeze off the eave onto a picnic table was picturesque.

Later, TEW and I will be going on an early Valentine's date, where I hope to provide more jollity than gloom. I've had gloom enough (do you need any?)

(I do not love the look of that rear derailleur on the Monster. I think I'm low-key in the market for a prettier one. That one works. I got it, though, to prove that a really cheap component [which that is; it's a Shimano Altus] can do the job, and it does, especially with the friction shifting. But it's not a thing I love.)

Sunday, February 5, 2017

just sayin'

Now, I'll admit that my loyalties are suspect; I LIKED Clinton because she wasn't "liberal nice".

That said, the most recent Republican presidents have been George W and Trump... and along the way, they threw in Sarah Palin.

Is this the best they can do?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017


Do you remember that post about the Lunar Baboon comic from a couple weeks ago?

He posted another one.

Do you suppose the hair on that monster is supposed to remind you of anybody?

Monday, January 30, 2017

we've got to welcome them

If we attack Trump supporters, or belittle them... or pity them... or seem to be "concerned" about them...

... we force them to double-down and harden their positions.

I think we have to find a way to welcome them. And I can't think of a way to do it.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

still under the weather

I finally went back to work on Friday the 27th. I spent the day doing not much more than cleaning up all the detritus that had accumulated in my absence. With all that, I got an avuncular lecture from my administrator that I was working too hard (he was concerned about my checking my work email while I was out sick).

I'm on my ninth day of a ten-day regimen of antibiotics. Usually, by this time I'm so well recuperated that I have to remind myself to take the last few doses, but I'm still coughing up gloop. I'm a little worried that I'll still be ailing after the antibiotic regimen ends, and the bugs will regroup and attack anew, this time fortified, as their weaker numbers will have been killed off. I'm sure I'm being idiotic.

What I DON'T think I'm being idiotic about is the realization that these lung things might be what finally takes me to visit Charon and cross the Styx. For decades, I got every respiratory ailment that came around, and when I was sick, I was SICK. I had recurring bronchitis (which is what this is), and I wouldn't be surprised if it turned into pneumonia during one of these visits. (But everybody dies, and there are worse ways to go.)

I did feel well enough today to get on the Krakow Monster and take it out for ten miles. While my friends have been most eager to invite my on group rides, I'm sure I'm not ready. I'm blaming illness and headwinds (and the heavy Krakow Monster), but I did the five miles out at 12.8mph, and got it up to a smoking 14.7mph on the ride back. It's gonna be a while before I'm up to Hill Slug or Insane Bike Posse distances and paces.

There was one bright spot. The Excellent Wife (TEW) and I went to see the McCarter Theater presentation of the Bedlam Theater Company production of Shaw's St Joan. Four actors did the whole thing, and it rocked. I was in tears several times throughout. After, we went to Teresa's for dinner. Great date, and TEW and I need more of them (great dates, that is).

Anyway, thanks for checking in. I'm going to go shower now.

Edit: The thing I didn't tell you about, but which is hanging heavy over me, is that I just heard today that another priest, also a classmate at the seminary to which I went for college, has been removed from the priesthood for perpetrating sexual abuse. In college, he and I were friends, although I later discovered he had turned into kind of a jerk. I've alluded to classmates who'd done this and been defrocked before in this blog, but I never wrote about how it messes me up. We were going to set the world on fire.

I guess some of us did.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

illness and maths and medieval battle plans

So I've been ill with this bronchitis for well over a week. I have a class in two days I hope I can make, and I'd like to be able to go to work on Friday Jan 27, but I'm not sure if I'll make it. Sometimes I can't generate any voice at all; sometimes I sound like that announcer who does the voice-overs for the coming attractions in the movie theaters; sometimes I have a semblance of a voice that somebody might recognize as mine, but those moments are rare and fleeting.

Between lack of sleep and oxycodone, I'm half-asleep much of the time. The Excellent Wife (TEW) had the idea to reduce risk on the oxycodone by using half the prescription, which I'm doing; I've only used it for nighttimes. It takes a while to kick in, but it was effective: the morning after the first dose I was sleepy into midmorning. But today, I woke at about 2:30 am, and I'm fairly alert now, three-quarters of an hour later (as I'm typing this). Perhaps it's tolerance, or perhaps I'm just not as sick as I was.

When I'm alert, I've been doing a lot of stupid internet. In my ramblings, I found a couple of neat mathematics Youtube channels: I started with Numberphile (sample below):

One of the regulars on Numberphile is Matt Parker, a stand-up comedian who does math stuff, in the way Bill Nye does science stuff. Parker has an indisputable Michael Palin vibe. He's got a video about a computer circuit made with 10,000 dominoes, but I thought this one, about there being only one, true parabola was worth linking (yes, he does jokes about those other "only one, true..." preachers):

When I'm not watching these, I might have on Lindybeige (whom I referred to in my recent bow-tie post). His stuff is eclectic, and he's opinionated (and sometimes I dispute his interpretations of facts), but he's not boring. He does a lot on ancient battle weapons and tactics (and modern, too, now that I think of it). Here he is on vikings, and what they were really about:

... but of course he had that other one about bow ties, and he's done videos about why the rest of the world should drive on the left, how modern art is insulting, and a number of other targets.

And, of course, with Youtube's autoplay-the-next-video feature, sometimes the videos just keep playing into my headphones while I'm snoring through what I hope is my recovery from this affliction. I have had it with being so sick, I assure you.

(Yes, I'm actively avoiding discussing anything political. Isn't if #$%@ing OBVIOUS?)

Friday, January 20, 2017

if it weren't for bad luck...

On top of everything else, a cold from earlier in the week has developed into bronchitis. I'm ensconced in my Archie Bunker chair in the front room, saturating handkerchiefs, coughing just enough that I don't get much sleep, and eating too much in an effort to manage the chills (I find I feel warmer if I'm full, and junk food doesn't do it). The affliction is almost certainly viral, which means that antibiotics aren't effective (not that I'm eager to use them anyway; twenty years ago I worked in a hospital under a doctor who prescribed antibiotics only too frequently, so I've probably been incubating drug-resistant strains right in my own carcass for years).

When I feel well enough to think of it, I wallow in self-pity. Then the aches and fever come back, and I can forget my self-pity for a while as I try to find a position that aches the least.

I've been in to work for 90 minutes in the past three days (honest, I tried; I just couldn't). The Excellent Wife (TEW) has been most patient; I'm tired of myself, so I can only imagine how she feels.

Back when I was a Catholic, St. Blaise was responsible for throat ailments, and, as his day comes on February 3, we used to go get the throats blessed with candles, often right at the height of flu season. It turns out he got the throat job from dislodging a fish bone rather than respiratory ailments, but then the job descriptions of the saints always seem to end with the same clause at the end of the Description of Responsibilities: "26 d: And other duties as required." (Besides, the good Irish gal, St. Dymphna, is probably good and tired of me by now. She the one who handle us crazies.)

You're glad you're not any closer to me than you are right now.

Edit Jan 21: Went to the Brunswick Urgent Care; wound up with rx for antibiotics, told to get Mucinex DM (which, although not prescription, is behind the counter because of the dextromethorphan); was also given rx for codeine hydrocodone cough medicine which I hope not to have to fill (I'm afraid of opiates, given my history). No work until AT LEAST Tuesday.


Edit Jan 22: Over the past three days and nights, I've had a total sum of about seven hours sleep. The doc was right; I'm filling the codeine hydrocodone prescription. The Excellent Wife (TEW) and I have already discussed some planned controls.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

webcomic: lunar baboon

Regular readers may know (or may not; I haven't linked to any of my regulars in these posts for about a year and a half) that I have a few webcomics that I check out regularly. I've got another favorite (just because I check them regularly doesn't mean I like all of them all the time). Below is the most recent Lunar Baboon:

(The quality probably suffered due to compression; you can check out the original.)

I wish he posted more regularly and frequently.

I'm home sick from work today, which makes me feel both guilty (leaving my responsibilities on my coworkers) and anxious (twice in my life, I've returned from a work absence to find my job in jeopardy). This comic (this one, AND the series) helps me to find perspective.

The artist and I have little in common; he's 30 years younger than I, with kid, but I like the way he places his priorities (he makes many comics about priorities).

Check it out.

Monday, January 16, 2017

in which plain jim confesses to utter dissipation

While friends have been out hiking and biking, I've been spending my recent days in unproductive idleness. The Excellent Wife (TEW) was down in Florida for a few days: the Excellent Mother-In-Law had decided that she was Florida-bound to see the grandchildren and great-grandchildren (and the one daughter who lives down there), and TEW went along to act as guide on the plane, arranger-of-arrangements, carrier-of-luggage-and-bottled-oxygen-supplies, fetcher-of-airport-wheelchairs, and to attend to similar duties. She left me alone from Wednesday to Sunday with adequate food and warnings not to get into too much trouble while she wasn't around to monitor my comings and goings.

I get up quite early most days. On weekdays this is partly due to the fact that both of us need to get excercised, abluted, dressed, and out the door in time to arrive in a timely manner at our respective employments. On the Thursday, I didn't have to be at work until 10. Normally, I'd be out of bed before 5:00 in order to allow for the activities noted, but, without the need to make space for her, I lolled about a bit, then a bit more... and almost didn't make it to work on time.

The idle time has me re-thinking retirement plans. In a few months, I'll be old enough to collect Social Security. My Social Security "full retirement age" is sixty-six-and-a-bit, but if I can't find anything better to do than I've been able to come up with this weekend, the inactivity might be malignant, perhaps even fatal. I'd better keep working, unless work becomes worse than idleness.

Friday afternoon, though, I engaged in an activity I'd been thinking about, off and on, for thirty-plus years. When I first moved to New Jersey in the mid 80s, I worked at the Fireman's Fund Insurance Company (since taken over by Allianz), somewhere on Route 10 in Parsippany. Paydays brought an extra quarter-hour for lunch, and my fellow employees went to Arthur's in Morris Plains for excellent burgers a few times. On the menu then, and now, was/is a 48-oz. steak. It was a topic of some discussion among my coworkers then, and I never forgot it.

Now, I loves me some steak, and have always eaten about as much as is available without seeming like a complete Philistine. TEW asked me once, "How much steak will you eat?", to which the answer was (of course), "How much have you got?". It's been on my mind for a few years to go order the 48-oz. steak, just to have the experience, and I knew that TEW would not want to participate in it (and her disapproving eye-roll when she heard about might result in permanent ocular damage). So I decided to go on the Friday she was away.

I'm glad I did. It's not a great steak (although the concept of a "bad steak" is not one that will stay together in my head), but it's good. It's good enough that there was not enough left to worry about bringing any home (there was a streak of fat in the middle that I left). I now know how much steak is enough (two and a half pounds would probably have done it), and I never have to do this again. (In case you were worried, TEW's eye-roll caused only minor vertigo and no visual problems to speak of.)

But now it's time to get back to routine: work, keeping my usual hours, and arranging my diet so that the six-or-so extra pounds I'm carrying doesn't take up permanent residence. The ankle is improving; if the weather holds this weekend, I'll try to get a few miles in on the bike to see what I can do.