- Still heads-down writing.
The weekend before last, the battery in the white Trooper died. We
jumped it, and Barbara drove it out to Auto Zone to replace the
battery. On that trip, she noticed that my brake warning lights had
flashed a couple of times. So, last Monday I drove it out to our
mechanic's garage and had Tim look at it. The problem turned out to be
the master cylinder. Tim said it was safe to drive it home and park it
until the part arrived, so I did. He ordered the master cylinder, which
was to come in late last week. It finally arrived late Friday
afternoon, so I made an appointment to drive out there again this
This morning, I drove out to get the truck fixed, planning to wait
while Tim did the work, as we'd agreed. Unfortunately, the Isuzu
dealership sent the wrong part. It was a master cylinder; just not the right master cylinder. Tim got on
the phone and they're sending him the right master cylinder, but it
won't arrive for several days. Oh, well.
On the drive out, my brake warning light had been glowing solid. I
asked Tim and he said it'd be better not to drive it if I didn't mind
leaving it there. He offered to get one of his mechanics to give me a
ride home, so here I am, truckless.
I'm glad the problem became apparent when it did. We plan to go
observing up on the Blue Ridge Parkway later this month, and the ride
back down the mountain might have turned out to be more excitement than
I care for these days. As I told Barbara, we could shout Yee-Hah
and swig Jack Daniels as we free-wheeled down that ten miles of
winding, twisting, steep grade. All we'd need is 30,000 pounds of
- I'm still trying to figure out Netflix throttling. In January,
they hit the nadir: only 13 discs for the entire month. In February,
they shipped me 19 discs, of which one was unreadable, for a net of 18
discs for the month. If the three discs that are scheduled to arrive
today do so, I'll be up to 12 discs so far for March, with 17 days left
in the month. Even if Netflix starts throttling severely for the rest
of the month, I should easily make 18 discs for the month, at which
level I'm happy.
I see that McAfee
AV has completely trashed an unknown but probably very large number of
systems. One corporate PC manager reports that McAfee AV has borked
dozens of his servers and 2,000 PCs, and I'm sure he's not alone.
When one considers the cost of staff time to fix McAfee's screw-up, as
well as the downtime for affected users, McAfee's mistake will probably
end up costing corporations hundreds of millions if not billions of
dollars. Of course, that's a cost that Microsoft will never include in
their bogus TCO whitepapers.
The death march to deadline on the new astronomy book continues.
- Geez. Just after I said that Netflix is doing better, they
shipped me this DVD yesterday.
I reported it on the problem page, where they tell me that they
carefully inspect every DVD before shipping, but that sometimes DVDs
are damaged in the mail. This one is cracked from hub to rim, and
someone has tried to repair it with some sort of glue or clear nail
polish. Somehow, I doubt that the post office damaged the DVD, opened
it, repaired it, resealed it, and sent it along to me. That means that
Netflix shipped me a DVD that they knew was unusable when they shipped
I have to go pick up the white Trooper today. Tim called about 5:00
p.m. yesterday to say it was ready. The bad news is that it's going to
cost a lot more than I expected. The original replacement master
cylinder, the one that didn't fit, was a new Isuzu-branded part that
cost $260. The correct master cylinder, also a new Isuzu-branded part,
is $480. So, with labor, it's going to set me back about $600. Still,
as Barbara says, that's cheaper than a new truck.
- Heh. Pournelle
sent me a draft copy of his column, in which he mentions a new security
service for Aunt Minnie. It consists of laser-based motion detectors
and a $20/month monitoring service. I replied that for $20/month Aunt
Minnie would be better off with a Rottweiler and a riot shotgun.
Pournelle changed that last to a "flashlight" for his column,
apparently thinking that a riot shotgun might be a bit much for Aunt
Which reminds me of my mother's mother. My mother's father, who died
sixteen years before I was born, was gun collector. Among his
collection was a 1921 Thompson submachine gun. When my mother was a
girl, her dad used to take her and her mom for weekend walks along the
creek, where they'd plink at targets of opportunity. I remember my
grandmother telling me that she was pretty good with the .38 S&W
revolver and the Colt 1911 .45 ACP pistol, but the gun she enjoyed
shooting the most was that Thompson SMG. As a young woman, my
grandmother weighed about 100 pounds soaking wet, so if she could enjoy
blasting cans with a Thompson submachine gun, I suspect Aunt Minnie
would do just fine with the riot shotgun.
- I spent a couple hours this morning cleaning up my working
data directories, archiving old email, and so on. Things had gotten to
the point where my daily backup of my working data set was approaching
the 4.4 GB capacity of a DVD+RW, so I moved old stuff over to a holding
directory and made a backup of that. My working data set is now down to
about 3 GB.
That'll climb fast as I create more charts for the astronomy book. Full
page charts are about 35 MB each, and the smaller finder charts about 8
MB each. One constellation chapter may have anything from four or five
small charts to 50 or so, so the total size of the files grows rapidly.
There are nearly 60 constellation chapters, at an average of perhaps
200 MB of image files each, so that starts to add up quickly as I
Then there's the new edition of Building
the Perfect PC, which has lots and lots of images. I may shoot
five or ten images on average for each one I use in the book, so it's
not uncommon for me to shoot 400 images per chapter. At about 2.5 MB
each, that's about a gigabyte of images per chapter. I could discard
the ones I don't need, of course, but in the past those extras have
sometimes come in useful, so I hold onto them.
- I haven't been paying much attention to the avian flu thing.
Perhaps I should. I was reading Paul
Robichaux's page yesterday and followed some of the links he posted
to official government preparedness pages. I was shocked at the tone of
these pages. These folks don't want to spread panic,
but they are pretty obviously terrified by what might happen. They're
talking about the possibility of schools, stores, banks, post
offices, and so on closing for long periods of time.
Closing post offices? Has that ever happened before? Even in the wake
of Hurricane Katrina, the post office continued to function. They
weren't hitting on all cylinders, of course, but they were still at
least attempting to deliver the mail. Apparently, the federal
government thinks that if an avian flu pandemic occurs they
may have to shut down everything--public and private--for an extended
period. Reading this stuff, I have visions of us all huddled in our
homes, cold and hungry, hoping for the best. Let's hope it doesn't come
Lest anyone think it can't, though, think back to the Black Death or,
more recently, the Spanish Flu pandemic that followed WWI. We have
better medical treatment nowadays, of course, both in quantity
and quality, but in essence all of it would be supportive rather than
curative. And even with our immensely greater medical resources,
the medical infrastructure would soon be overwhelmed if worse
comes to horrible.
I remember my grandmother talking about the horrors of the Spanish Flu,
which as a young woman she watched unfold, terrified that she would
lose my mother, who was still a baby, and her husband. Most
pandemics kill the old and young selectively. The Spanish Flu was
different. Its victims were of all ages, certainly, but the death
among robust adults in their 20's, 30's, and 40's was shockingly high.
I don't know enough about avian flu. I know it isn't transmitted from
human to human, and might never
be. As long as only those who handle birds are in danger, it seems
to me that the risk is minimal. But if it makes that jump, we'll
immediately make some serious preparations in addition to our routine
storage of emergency food, water, and other supplies.
1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 by Robert Bruce