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Week of 7 August 2006

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Monday, 7 August 2006
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07:49 - Two weeks left to finish the book. Barbara and I finished building the Media Center PC and shooting images of it on yesterday morning. Then we dived into the Small Form Factor PC, and finished it up yesterday afternoon.

I'd intended to finish up the Media Center PC chapter this weekend or today and get it sent off to my editor. Instead, it made sense to defer writing the chapter and shoot images of the SFF PC build this weekend, while Barbara was available. So, I have two chapters well in progress and hope to finish both of them by the end of this week. That leaves me all of the following week to incorporate tech review comments, do any rewrite needed, and write the Preface. We're coming down to the wire, but we'll have it done before the deadline, one way or another.

Obviously, I won't be posting much here for the next couple of weeks. Actually, probably the next three weeks, because the week after deadline is typically pretty hectic as well, with urgent queries, re-rewrites, and so on.


Tuesday, 8 August 2006
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07:49 - I pretty much finished up the Small Form Factor PC chapter yesterday. It's all done except the final few summary paragraphs. Those will have to wait until I finish playing around with the system a bit. Today I'll dive back into the Media Center PC chapter, which I hope to have finished tomorrow. That's it, except for incorporating technical review comments and a few final re-writes. All of that will take place the end of this week and next week, and the book will go to production as scheduled on Monday 21 August.


Wednesday, 9 August 2006
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08:18 - I posted the SFF PC chapter on the Subscribers' page yesterday about noon and then went to work on the Media Center PC chapter. I'm about halfway through that, and expect to post the final draft tomorrow. That's the last chapter finished, one day ahead of my projected schedule. That leaves me this weekend, next week, and the following weekend to do the final re-writes, incorporate tech review comments, and so on. Then it's off to O'Reilly and we're finished with it other than answering queries and so on. The book will have a 2007 copyright date, but it should be in the bookstores by early December, well in time for Christmas sales.

I'm getting tired, and I'm beginning to make small mistakes. Yesterday, for example, I forgot to move the current bookmark on this page to Tuesday, and when I posted the SFF chapter on the Subscribers' page I forgot to update the date there. Still, the end is in sight, and twelve days from now the book will be off to O'Reilly. Then I can take a couple days off to relax.

We're not completely finished, though. We still have a video or two to produce. There's plenty of time for that, though, since the video doesn't have to be ready until the book hits the stores.


Thursday, 10 August 2006
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08:22 - I see that we are now prohibited from taking any liquid aboard an airliner, including bottled water and shampoo, because of concerns that Islamics will blow up airliners using liquid explosives.

Years ago, I suggested that the Heimatsicherheitshauptamt might simply require people to fly naked and chained to their seats. It may yet come to that. Or they could take rational steps, like forbidding Islamics to board airliners and encouraging normal people to carry their personal handguns, issuing frangible ammunition to them at the boarding gates.

I got a lot done on the Media Center PC chapter yesterday, and I plan to complete it today, one day ahead of schedule. That'll be everything except the Preface, so I can dive into reading and incorporating the technical review comments I've received. Everything should be finished several days before the book goes to production on Monday, 21 August.


Friday, 11 August 2006
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08:10 - Initial reports about the conspirators who planned to blow up numerous airliners said that among them were an elderly Swedish man, a young Japanese woman with two children, four American business executives, a Mexican grandmother, two U.S. Marines in uniform, three Canadian nuns, and a middle-school soccer team from Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Oh, wait. It turns out that those initial reports were wrong. By a simply amazing coincidence, all of the conspirators who have been identified so far are young men of Middle Eastern appearance. What are the odds of that happening? Don't you think it might make sense to concentrate enforcement efforts on people who are actually likely to be terrorists?


Saturday, 12 August 2006
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08:24 - I canceled our Netflix account yesterday. They'd already sent me two discs yesterday before I canceled, which we have one week to watch and return without being billed for them.

Netflix makes it very easy to cancel. I just visited the My Account page and clicked Cancel. A screen popped up to ask if I were sure. I told it I was, and it canceled my account. A minute or so later, I got a confirming email that said my account was canceled and that I had one week to return any outstanding movies, which it listed. It also informed me that it had kept my queue stored in case I decided to rejoin later.

I'll probably join Blockbuster on line the first of the month. Blockbuster has several things we want to watch that Netflix doesn't offer, including the third season of The Irish R.M. and Carl Sagan's Cosmos.

I wonder what the authorities hope to accomplish with the new restrictions on carry-on baggage. As I said shortly after 9/11, we can prevent terrorists from turning airliners into cruise missiles, but we can't stop them from taking down airliners. Even with the current restrictions, I can think of several ways that I could take down an airliner if I were willing to die in the process. Obviously, dying is not a problem for terrorists.

For example, right now I could go out and for a few dollars buy everything I need to manufacture a couple of kilograms of high explosive that can't be detected by the sniffers they use at airports. I could disassemble my notebook battery and rebuild it as a bomb, packed with a kilogram or so of high explosive and some NiMH cells. The battery would look completely normal, and would have sufficient charge to power the notebook long enough to pass an airport security check.

As long as I'm at it, I'd convert a spare battery in the same way. Also, my notebook has a removable drive bay that ordinarily contains an optical drive. I'd pack that bay with high explosive as well, and cover the front of the bay with the optical drive bezel. At that point, I'd have a notebook bomb that contained a couple kilos of high explosive and yet on superficial examination would appear to be just an ordinary notebook computer, one that would boot and run if I were challenged by an airport security dweeb.

If the authorities forbid notebooks as carry-on luggage, that's no problem. It can go as checked baggage and travel in the hold. Obviously, it's no problem to set up a timer to detonate the charge in mid-flight. If I thought the airliner might survive one 5-pound high explosive warhead detonating in the hold, well, there's nothing to say only one terrorist can be on that flight. The plane is unlikely to survive two or three or ten such warheads.

The only way to stop terrorists from taking down airliners is to keep terrorists off those airliners. And the best way to do that is to prohibit people who even look like they might be terrorists from boarding airliners. If your name is Muhammed or Hassan or Ali, you don't belong on one of our airliners. If you look like your name might be Muhammed or Hassan or Ali, you don't belong on one of our airliners. If you're a young man of Middle Eastern appearance, you're banned from flying on US carriers.

Is that fair? Who cares? It's rational. Is it perfect? No, but it's about 99.9% certain to keep terrorists off our airliners, which is a hell of a lot better than our current methods.


Sunday, 13 August 2006
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12:00 - Barbara was working in the yard this morning when she apparently stepped on a nest of yellow jackets. At least I think they were yellow jackets. Here's a picture of one that I gassed.

Please excuse the fuzzy image. There were still some crawling around in the basement, and I wanted to shoot a picture and get out quickly.

The stinging insects, whatever they are, swarmed over Barbara and stung her in half a dozen places or more. It could have been a lot worse. She ran into the house screaming. I rushed downstairs and helped her kill the ones that had come in behind her and on her clothes. She stripped down and we ran upstairs and put Bactine on to reduce the sting. She took two 25mg Benedryls and we applied topical Benedryl liquid and 1% hydrocortisone cream that our neighbor Stephanie offered.

I'm assuming these little bastards will go back into their nest at sunset. I went out in the back yard, very cautiously, and located what looks like the opening to their nest under the edge of a landscaping timber. I'll go out after dark and drench it down with bug spray. Barbara wants to pour gasoline down the hole. She didn't mention whether she planned to ignite it.


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