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Week of 19 November 2001

Latest Update: Friday, 05 July 2002 09:16
 

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Monday, 19 November 2001

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9:00 - It was fantastic at Bullington. The weather was nearly perfect. We saw thousands of meteors, including probably a couple hundred that were mag 0 or brighter. We didn't really have a peak per se, but a bunch of clumps of them that lasted anything from a couple of minutes to perhaps 15 minutes. At one point near 0500 the count was up over 30 a minute that were mag 3 or brighter. I'd say we had four or five fifteen-minute periods where the count per period was 250 or more that were mag 3 or brighter. Overall, I'm sure that the peaks reached the predicted level, and they may have exceeded one meteor/second at some times.

For those of you who aren't familiar with visual magnitude, the lower the number the brighter the object. A difference of five magnitudes corresponds to a brightness difference of 100 times. So, for example, an first magnitude object is 100 times brighter than a sixth magnitude object. Very bright objects have negative magnitudes. The brightest object of all, the sun, has a magnitude of about -27. The full moon is about magnitude -13. At their brightest, Venus is about magnitude -4.4, Jupiter -2.7, Mars -2.0, and Saturn -0.7.

We had probably 20 or more meteors that were about mag -5 to mag -6, half a dozen that were mag -7 to -8, and one that we didn't actually see (its track was behind us) that I'd estimate at mag -15. It lit up the entire landscape considerably brighter than a full moon for a second or two. We saw many fireballs, including a couple that disintegrated into fragments that left their own bright trains. Many of the trains remained visible for a minute or more and we were able to see them breaking up in the high-altitude winds. At one point around 0500, I saw six meteors simultaneously all of which were brighter than mag 0. Jupiter sitting there at mag -2.6 didn't have a chance. There were thousands more meteors through the night that were dimmer than mag 3. 

Michelle Kennedy from Channel 12 showed up about 4:00 or 4:30. She asked if it was okay to interview me and I said sure but did that mean I had to get up (I was lying on the concrete pad on a sleeping bag covered up in blankets). So she and the cameraman stood over Barbara and me with a red flashlight pointed at our faces and interviewed us that way.

I asked Michelle if that was the only time she'd ever interviewed someone who was lying down and she said it was. But the cameraman commented that he often filmed interviews of people lying down, but it was usually at the hospital after a car wreck or something. After she filmed the segment, Michelle stretched out next to me and later asked if she could ask a few more questions, audio only. I said sure, and commented that this certainly must be the first time she'd interviewed a person lying down while she was also lying down, and sharing a pillow and blanket with her interviewee yet.

It was very long day. We left Bullington about 6:45, and the sun rose at 7:02 as we were driving home. We finally got to bed at 7:30 a.m., exactly 24 hours since we'd last slept. Barbara got up around 10:00 a.m. to let the dogs out and then came back to bed. We finally got up around noon. Channel 11 ran part of the interview on the 6:00 News, and Michelle mentioned that they'd run more on the 11:00 News. As I was programming the VCR to tape that later segment, I actually asked Barbara, "What time is the 11:00 News on?" Duh. Yesterday was a very long day.

Norton Antivirus has stopped working completely on the system in the den. NAV is a very strange product. It seems to do its job properly because it does catch viruses, but its scheduling features don't work very well. I have all our main systems configured to download the latest virus signature updates in the middle of the night and then run a virus scan. The autoupdate feature doesn't work on any of the systems, under either Windows NT Workstation 4 or Windows 2000 Professional. It never has worked, and nothing I've tried makes it work. I've gotten used to downloading the updates manually on all my systems.

But until now the autoscan feature has been working. Every morning there's a status screen displayed on all our systems that says the virus scan completely successfully and found no viruses. Until, that is, the last few mornings on my den system. There's been no dialog on that system to indicate that the scan ran. So this morning, I manually updated the virus signatures on the den system and then fired up NAV to do a manual scan. When I told it to start, the dialog minimized as usual, but the scanning dialog never popped up. NAV refuses to scan the den system. Hmmm. So I modified the autoscan on thoth (my main system) to also scan the den system. But this ain't good.

Back to work on the book. I'll be heads-down on it for the rest of this month, so posts here will be short and sporadic.

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Tuesday, 20 November 2001

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8:19 - I spend all day yesterday writing, working on dual-processor configurations for the chapter on designing PCs. What an incredible turnaround. Last year, if you wanted to build an SMP system, Intel was the only choice. All of the Intel mainstream processors were SMP-capable, and there were numerous dual-processor boards available for Intel processors. AMD wasn't even in the game. Now it's Intel that isn't even in the game. Mainstream Intel processors are no longer SMP-capable, and Intel no longer manufactures a mainstream SMP board. Unless you want to buy expensive Xeon processors or obsolescent Pentium III processors, your only real choice is an AMD760MP motherboard and a couple of Athlons.

This is very strange. Norton AntiVirus has stopped running on the Duron system in the den. It's not a big deal in the sense that I simply changed the scan configuration on my main office system to also scan the drives of the den system remotely, but it's very odd that NAV has suddenly taken a dislike to the system in the den. When I attempt to run NAV, I get an hourglass for a second or so and then it simply goes away. I check Task Manager, and there's no NAV process running other than the background stuff that's always running. Oh, well.

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Wednesday, 21 November 2001

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18:29 Tuesday evening - In a moment that may later be judged to have been temporary insanity, I've decided to upgrade the Duron system in the den from NT4 to W2K. I'm writing this on that system under NT4. Will this be the last thing I ever write on this system? Stay tuned.

8:58 - Well, I installed the Windows 2000 Professional upgrade on the den system and, mirabile dictu, everything worked perfectly. Well, not entirely so. When I fired up W2K Setup, it took exception to one of the programs on my hard drive. Apparently, it didn't like the IntelliPoint software I had installed under NT4, so it displayed a dialog with the following semi-literate advice:

The installed version of Microsoft Intellipoint Software is may not compatible with Microsoft Windows 2000 ... 

"... is not compatible ..."? "... may not be compatible ..."? I wasn't sure, so I cancelled setup and uninstalled IntelliPoint before proceeding. After that, everything proceeded smoothly, except (of course) that I had to re-enter the 25-byte init key. It's getting pretty bad when I can just about enter a 25-byte random string from memory because I've done it so often.

But the installation did complete normally, and nearly all of my installed applications worked properly afterward. Windows 2000 did kill the FlashPath driver that supports the FDD adapter I use to download images from my digital camera, but Olympus has a Windows 2000 specific version of that utility, so that's not a problem. Otherwise, everything simply worked. All of my configurations, volume mappings, etc. were still in place and worked properly.

In a moment of continuing insanity, I decided to enable power management on the system. I told it to shut down the monitor after 20 minutes (the default for "Always On", which seems odd), my hard drive after 1 hour, and to put the system into suspended animation after one hour. I was a bit concerned about that last, because Windows 2000 Power Management is famous for putting systems into an irreversible coma when it suspends.

This morning, though, I moved the mouse and everything came back to life. There was even a NAV dialog on screen telling me that a virus scan had completed without detecting any viruses. Very good.

I got a chapter off to my editor yesterday, which leaves me with only two more chapters (Processors and Memory) of the original group to finish updating. I'll have those to him by month end, followed by some new chapters on communications-related stuff.

But today I have to do some stuff around the house. I need to climb up on the roof to blow out the gutters because we have rain forecasted for the near future. That will be nice. We haven't had any significant rainfall since August, and things are getting a bit dry around here. I also have to clean up the dining room. Barbara's parents and sister are coming for Thanksgiving tomorrow, and Barbara wants the dining room available. It won't be that bad. I have about three systems lying in pieces in there, so I'll just collect the pieces-parts, pile them into the empty cases, and hide them under the bed or something.

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Thursday, 22 November 2001

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8:40 - Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers.

The gutters are blown out, the dining room looks like a dining room again, and Barbara has numerous small turkey-like objects ready to put in the oven. Her parents will be over for dinner. Her sister, Frances, is doing something with her boyfriend this year, so it'll be a small group. Just the eight of us, Barbara's parents, my mother, Barbara and me, and the three dogs.

I see that PETA, those whacko animal rights people, are at it again, claiming that eating turkey is murder. According to them, we should all be eating soy protein instead. They probably consider eating bacon and eggs for breakfast to be a dual felony. Murdering the pig and kidnapping the chicken's children. I have no argument with someone who chooses to be a vegetarian. I don't think it's a good idea--humans are built to be omnivores as even a casual examination of our teeth establishes--but they have the right to choose what they eat. But plants are living things, too. How long can it be before a splinter group splits from PETA? Then we'll have People for the Ethical Treatment of Plants (PETP). I only hope that every PETA member joins PETP as well. Then, I suppose, we can look forward to yet other groups--People for the Ethical Treatment of Bacteria (PETB) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Viruses (PETV).

I see from the date on today's entry that I have only one week to complete updating the last two current chapters. That means there won't be much if anything posted here until early December.

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Friday, 23 November 2001

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9:50 - We had a typical Thanksgiving. Lots of food and football games on TV. One different thing was the dog fights. Malcolm got into it pretty badly three times with Duncan and once with a dog down the street when Barbara was walking him. He's been spending a lot of time in his crate lately, including all of last night.

Also, I happened to notice in the TV listings that the FX channel was running a Buffy the Vampire Slayer marathon from noon yesterday until 0200 today. I don't generally watch stuff with commercials, preferring to tape the program and zap the commercials later, but I made an exception here because I didn't start watching Buffy until the third season. There were several early episodes on, including the first. During commercials, I ran out to set up two VCRs to tape 1400 through 2000 and 2000 through 0200 so that I'd have the last 12 hours of the Marathon on tape.

11:44 - If you don't know the details of Jane Fonda's treason, see J. H. Ricketson's page. Many people protested the Vietnam war in good conscience. What none of them did, however, was commit treason. None, that is, except Hanoi Jane. By her actions, Ms. Fonda was responsible for the deaths of American servicemen. To this day, she has never been held accountable for those actions. She should have been executed, literally, but she hasn't even served a prison term. 

I thought at the time that she should have been stripped of her citizenship and dropped with an oxygen mask but without a parachute from a B52 over North Vietnam. During her long fall she would have had time to think about the suffering and death she inflicted on the sons, fathers, and husbands of other Americans. She wouldn't have, of course. Jane Fonda never had a thought for any of them.

So Jane Fonda is one of the 100 Women of the Century? Indeed, I suppose, but only in the same sense that Adolph Hitler or Joseph Stalin was one of the 100 Men of the Century. If I encountered Jane Fonda today, I'd spit on her, but only if for some reason I couldn't piss on her.

I almost forgot to publish this morning. Barbara came in to tell me she was headed for Lowe's to buy some kind of grass seed that lives in the winter and dies in the summer. I'd minimized FrontPage. I expected to hear the garage door go up, which I did, and then to hear Barbara start her truck and drive away, which I didn't. It turns out her battery was dead. She's highly offended because it's a "6-year battery" that was only installed five years ago this coming February. I've noticed that many women expect very precise estimates of service life on things like this. With Winter on the way, my attitude is that a five year old battery needs to be replaced, even in our moderate climate. If I still lived up north, I'd be replacing any battery, even the best, every three years or so. I got stranded by a dead battery once, which was more than enough.

Back to work on the book.

 

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Saturday, 24 November 2001

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9:50 - Writing today. 

Barbara is off this afternoon to SciWorks for a pet rescue event. She's taking Duncan along. He'll serve as a representative Border Collie. He's much larger than the average BC, but otherwise typical. Gentle, affectionate, friendly, and regards orders as suggestions. That's the one drawback of having dogs as intelligent as Border Collies. They have their own opinions about most things, and see no reason why they should consider your opinion better than their own. Of course, their ability to exercise judgment is one of the reasons that trained Border Collies are so useful. You can tell them what to do but not how to do it, and sure enough they'll go do it without your supervision. 

Actually, you don't even necessarily have to tell them what to do and when to do it. They have their own ideas on that, too. On many farms, for example, Border Collies routinely work sheep unsupervised. They know when it's time to take them out and bring them in, and they'll do that all by themselves. If the BC encounters something he can't handle, he'll come get a human to help. Border Collies are great on farms, because they have a job to do. They're not so great as pets, because their instinct to work is so strong that if you don't assign them work to do, they'll assign themselves a job and then do it. And it's probably something you don't want them doing.

Barbara's birthday is a week from tomorrow, and as usual I had no idea what to get her. She buys clothes for herself and doesn't wear jewelry. If she wants a book or a CD, she buys it. I must have Toolman Tim tendencies, because I frequently buy her electronic or hardware items. One year I got her a complete set of 3/8" drive 6-point and 12-point sockets in metric and SAE. To be fair, she's also gotten me tools as gifts--screwdriver sets, nutdriver sets, pliers sets, drills, and so on. Exchanging tool-related gifts has become a standing joke. So this year (don't click the following link, Barbara) I got her this.

With Thanksgiving past, it's time to start thinking about a surprise for Santa. The Shilka didn't work last year (it couldn't track fast enough) so this year I was thinking about something space-based. I figured even Santa can't outrun a laser or particle beam. The trouble is, despite searching eBay and other sources, I can't find a used one available. Actually, I don't want to buy one. I'd just like to rent one for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day but there are apparently none to be had for sale or rent, so I may have to fall back on Plan B. A Patriot battery.

I figure that if a Patriot battery can intercept Scuds, it should be able to protect our house against an old guy driving an antique sleigh pulled by a few stinking reindeer. We'll see. Actually, Patriot batteries are also surprisingly hard to find this year, so I may have to fall back on the low-tech method of drugging the milk and cookies we leave out.

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Sunday, 25 November 2001

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9:30 - I got a bit of writing done yesterday, but we'd taped The Cazalets on PBS and decided to watch it. So we did, six hours worth. It was promoted as being like Upstairs, Downstairs, and I suppose it was, but with much less character development and much more sex. They tried to cram an awful lot of material into six hours. From what Barbara told me about the four novels it was based on, it would have been much better if they'd produced it as at least a 15- or 20-hour series. Still, not bad.

We don't own a DVD player, but if I ever bought one it would be to watch programs that I consider worth archiving for periodic re-viewing. Kind of like re-reading a favorite book. There are very few movies, if any, that I'd care to own on DVD, but a quite a few series. Upstairs, Downstairs, for one. I, Clavdivs for another. Come to think of it, quite a few of the PBS series, including a dozen or more of the long-running series from Masterpiece Theatre. All Creatures Great and Small, Brideshead Revisted, The Jewel in the Crown, Elizabeth R, The Six Wives of Henry VIII, and many others. The complete Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes series and Derek Jacoby's Inspector Cadfael (as I call it). Perhaps David Suchet's Poirot. And, of course, the complete Blackadder canon (which Barbara bought me some years ago on VHS). And some of the best of commercial television: Soap, Northern Exposure, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and so on.

Actually, with a DVD player and a whole bunch of DVDs, I could quite happily never watch a new program again.

Well, I'd best get to work doing laundry and so on. I also want to finish up the Memory chapter today so that I'll have all this coming week to finish up Processors.

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A collimation tool for our telescopes. (Well, actually I got her some other stuff, too, but that would be telling).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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