Week of 2 February 2009
Update: Sunday, 8 February 2009 08:03 -0500
I'd hoped to have finished the forensics book by the end of January,
but as usual I was a bit optimistic. Barbara and I got a dozen or so
images shot yesterday, and I'll work this week on the remaining images.
Many of them are reshoots, ones that I'm trying to shoot better
versions of ones I've already shot. The majority of the "new" images
remaining are ones from the forensic biology chapter in the two DNA lab
sessions, which I haven't completed yet. I'll shoot images of those as
I do them.
Believe it or not, I kind of watched the Super Bowl
last night. Barbara wanted to watch it, so I kind of half read my book
and half watched the game. I can't say I really cared who won, but I
did grow up near Pittsburgh so I kind of favored the Steelers.
Back from the dentist and having my fangs cleaned. As usual, I proposed
an alternative to me coming in every six months to have this done. This
time, I asked if I could change it to once a year if I promised to chew
on one of the dogs' rawhide toys every day. No dice. She says I have to
come back in August.
- Here's an interesting article about naming computers.
scheme has changed over the years. Originally, I named our machines
after Barbara's collection of stuffed animals. So, in the early days,
when I typically had anything from a dozen to two dozen computers
running here, we had machines named kerby, mandy, sherlock, theodore,
kiwi, humphrey, and so on. About the turn of the century, I started
naming our new machines after geniuses. Since that time we've had
hypatia, newton, davinci, darwin, lavoisier, galileo, dirac, agnesi,
kovalevskaya, curie, sidis, and so on. My current main system is
wittgenstein and the den system is leibniz. Barbara wanted something
different, so her system is named for the Adélie penguin.
Wednesday, 4 February 2009
- I suppose nothing on the Internet should surprise me, but I confess that the idea of a PMS tracking service
was new to me when I happened across it this morning. And a quick check
of Google shows that there are multiple competing PMS tracking
services. I'm not sure what the market for these services is. Don't all
guys just know? I mean, 2.5 million years of evolution should have
sorted out the clueless ones, one way or another. Are there really guys
still walking around who lack the necessary pheromone receptors?
of the images I shot yesterday took a lot longer than it should have.
In one of the lab sessions, we use Scott reagent (cobalt thiocyanate)
to test currency notes for the presence of cocaine by wiping the notes
with a damp cotton ball and then applying Scott reagent to the cotton
ball. If cocaine is present, the pink Scott reagent turns blue. As a
positive exemplar, I had readers use diphenhydramine, which is a common
legal drug present in many OTC allergy medications. Scott reagent gives
exactly the same reaction with diphenhydramine as with cocaine.
I followed the instructions I'd written up for the lab, crushing an
allergy tablet, placing the powder and a currency note in a plastic
bag, and shaking them up. I then wiped down the note with the damp
cotton ball and treated the cotton ball with Scott reagent. Nothing. I
repeated the procedure. Nothing. I crushed another allergy tablet,
dipped the damp cotton ball directly into the powder, and applied Scott
reagent. Nothing. I knew this worked as expected when I did it a couple
months ago when I was writing the lab. So I thought perhaps the Scott
reagent had somehow gone bad in the interim. Not that there's much to
go bad about a dilute solution of cobalt thiocyanate, but I suppose
anything is possible.
Then, just as I was about to mix up some
fresh Scott reagent, I thought to check the allergy table bottle. Sure
enough, the allergy tablets I'd been using didn't contain
diphenhydramine. I crushed up one that did, dusted a note with the
powder, and the test worked fine. I was finally able to shoot the image
I needed, with pretty blue blotches on a pink cotton ball. Geez.
Thursday, 5 February 2009
The weather is a bit variable around here. Earlier this week, for
example, we had a high temperature near 70F (21C) at lunchtime. Then a
cold front came through, and we had snow on the ground by the time
Barbara arrived home for dinner at 5:30. Last night, the low
temperature was about 14F (-10C), with wind chill near 0F (-18C).
Today, the high is supposed to be just above freezing, but by Saturday
we'll be back near 70F.
I think I'm going to reconfigure the
VoIP setup. Right now, I have the VoIP terminal adapter behind my
border router, configured as a DMZ device. That basically means that
the TA has direct access to the Internet connection, with the router
passing packets in both directions without any filtering. But the TA is
still behind the router, and I think it needs to be Internet-facing.
I started uploading images from the forensics book to my server. During
the upload, I called Barbara to see what effect the upload had on voice
quality. It had no effect at all inbound; I was able to hear Barbara
perfectly. But she wasn't able to hear me at all. Obviously, that's
because our cable modem provides 8 Mb/s downstream but only 384 Kb/s
upstream. The file upload was eating all of the upstream bandwidth,
leaving none for VoIP.
Although I have no technical
documentation for the TA, I'm hoping that putting it between the
cable modem and my border router will allow the TA to grab dedicated
upstream bandwidth when it needs it. Of course, it'd be better if TWC
simply provided symmetric upstream/downstream throughput, but that's
not going to happen. Their "business class" service offers higher
upstream bandwidth options in various tiers, but that service is very
expensive and the upstream bandwidth improvements are minimal. For
example, the next step up would boost my upstream bandwidth to only 512
Kb/s. If I were willing to pay three times what I'm paying now, I could
get 1 Mb/s upstream. Big deal. I wish Verizon would roll out their
fiber service here. Not that I'd buy it, but it would put some
competitive pressure on TWC to provide better bandwidth at more
I should finish shooting images for the forensics book this week. I've
uploaded nearly 200 images to my server, where the O'Reilly/MAKE
production folks can get to them. I still have about a dozen images
left to shoot, most of which are re-shoots. Once I finish those and
incorporate them in the chapters, I'll be doing a fast tech-review pass
to incorporate comments from the tech reviewers. At that point, it'll
be out of my hands until the production folks turn it into finished
Saturday, 7 February
We got most of the remaining images for the forensics book shot
yesterday. All that remains is four or five images from the final
chapter on forensic biology. For those, I need to do another run of the
DNA stuff. Barbara is off to visit her parents this morning and go out
with her dad to the driving range, so I'll plan to get the remaining
images shot this afternoon or possibly tomorrow evening.
already mixed up the DNA goop, using canned corn and Adolph's Meat
Tenderizer this time, and stuck it in the refrigerator. I'll probably
have to vacuum filter it because the goop is too viscous to gravity
filter. I'm going to try using sodium borate running buffer this time.
Rather than using a stack of 9V transistor batteries wired in series,
I'm going to try running it at 13.8VDC with an automobile
trickle-charger to see if I can get separation at low voltage.
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