Week of 25 December 2006
Update: Thursday, 28 December 2006
No luck last night. Just before dark yesterday, I donned my reindeer
camouflage, climbed up on the roof, nestled down near the chimney, and
lay in wait. I had my Atchison with 20 rounds of #4 buckshot in
the drum magazine and the switch set to rock-and-roll. It was a pretty
miserable night, with constant drizzle and periods of heavier rain. My
antlers got soggy.
I must have fallen asleep at one point, because I never saw Santa but
when I came down this morning there were gifts under the tree. Curses,
Barbara just loaded up the sleigh and headed off over the river and
through the woods to Grandma's house. (Well, actually, it was her Isuzu
Trooper and she was headed to her sister's house via Silas Creek
Parkway, but close enough.) She'll be doing Christmas stuff all day.
I'll probably stop over for a few minutes sometime this afternoon just
to say hello, but otherwise it's just me and the dogs and a normal work
day around here.
Tuesday, 26 December 2006
- Speaking of the Atchison anti-Santa gun, several people have asked me to post a photo of it. Here's something better, video of it in action.
Incidentally, this video was shot while firing standard buckshot
rounds. With flechette rounds, it's even more devastating. I use
buckshot in the ASG because flechettes are a bit light for
In addition to being a good ASG, I think of the Atchison as the ideal home defense weapon. Every household should have one.
It'll be heads-down work for me from now through the end of the year.
In addition to writing, I also have the typical year-end stuff to do,
including cleaning up our working data directories, writing new sets of
DVD+R archive discs, and so on.
I do wish there were a convenient way of archiving my mail. That's one
nice thing about Outlook's .pst files. I could just move old mail to an
archive pst file and store that file anywhere I wanted. With kmail, I
have a directory structure and discrete files rather than a monolithic
pst file. I already have an archive folder and subfolders set up in
kmail, but the actual data resides in the same directory as my current
mail directories. I suppose I could try just cutting that archive
directory out and pasting it elsewhere, but it'd be nice if kmail would
let me point to a different disk location. That way, I could move the
archive mail stuff to a different area of the hard drive so that I
wouldn't be backing it up every time I back up my working data
Wednesday, 27 December 2006
Nothing much to report. I'm doing a bunch of boring year-end
administrative stuff that'll keep me occupied the rest of the week.
Thursday, 28 December
- According to Engadget, the encryption used by both HD-DVD and Blu-Ray may already have been cracked.
That comes as no surprise. Mathematically, the only thing needed to
guarantee a crack is access to a few hundred HD players. Even with the
pathetically slow sales of HD-DVD and Blu-Ray players, the anti-DRM
community certainly has that access by now. I said when HD-DVR and
Blu-Ray movies began to ship that I expected HD encryption to be
cracked by the end of 2006, and it looks like that's happened.
Not that I care. I have no intention of ever buying into HD video. I'm
perfectly happy with standard DVD resolution. At across-the-room
distances, I suspect my eyes aren't good enough to tell the difference,
particularly if the standard DVD is played back in an upsampling
player. And we don't have an HD TV, and probably won't have one for
years. It's all pretty meaningless to us.
ScienceKit emailed me yesterday to say that my order was being
processed. That order includes some of the nastier chemicals I'll be
using, including concentrated nitric acid, ethylene chloride, some
soluble barium salts, and so on. Ordinarily, chemicals don't scare me.
I respect them, but I don't fear them. Well, with some exceptions.
Dimethylmercury, for example, scares me silly. One drop of that on your
skin, and you're a walking dead man. But I've always regarded most
chemicals as things that are safe if they're handled carefully.
Then I started reading the MSDS (material safety data sheets) on a lot
of these chemicals. The MSDS data are enough to scare anyone. So
yesterday I called my friend Dr. Mary Chervenak, who's an organic
chemist, and asked her for a sanity check. She confirmed my original
thinking, which is that all this stuff is reasonably safe to store and
handle, assuming one takes ordinary precautions such as storing
incompatible chemicals separately, wearing splash goggles and
chemically-resistant gloves, and so on.
She did give me one tip that I hadn't thought about. She suggested I
wear old clothes when I'm working with concentrated nitric acid,
because whatever clothes I wear will end up with lots of tiny holes in
them. That part I knew, but the second part of her advice was new to
me. She suggested I wash those work clothes separately, because if I
wash them with our regular laundry, all of it will also end up with
tiny holes in it.
I told her that wouldn't be a problem. I'd just use the male solution,
and never wash my lab clothes. Mary said in that case she'd
never visit my lab. I reminded her that I'd have full respirators
Saturday, 30 December
1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 by Robert Bruce