Tuesday, 26 August 2014

08:36 – I called the local Costco yesterday morning to tell them they’d overcharged us by 41 4-packs of Coke. She corrected the charge and is mailing us a receipt. She did seem annoyed at the checker at the door, who should have noticed that we had only four 4-packs instead of 45 of them.

Last night, I tried on the Kirkland Signature jeans I picked up Sunday. The waist was nominally 38 inches. I didn’t actually measure it, but the waist fit me properly. The only issue is that this line of jeans is “relaxed fit”, which means it allows extra room in the seat of the pants that I don’t really need. I’d prefer standard fit, but they’re not really baggy on me.

The Costco/Kirkland jeans are made in Mexico. I’d prefer US-made but Mexico is okay. At $14, they’re less than a third the price of the US-made jeans I bought at All American Clothing or jeans from LL Bean or Lands’ End, which are made in places like Turkey and Syria and Pakistan. Barbara’s only comment was that if I’m going to keep buying new jeans she thinks I should start purging our closet of some of the old ones.

I’m filling bottles today for a new batch of chemistry kits, and I think I’m going to try something new. For hazardous chemicals, USPS shipping regulations require that “Each inner receptacle must be securely sealed with wire, tape, or other positive means.” Until now, Barbara has been taping the caps on hazardous chemical bottles, which is time-consuming. For example, 10 of the 40-odd chemicals in a chemistry kit are defined as hazardous for shipping purposes, so that’s 10 bottles per kit she needs to tape the caps of.

As a possible alternative, I just ordered a box of 500 shrink bags from Amazon. I already have a heat sealer and a heat gun. There are six 15 mL bottles and four 30 mL per kit that need their caps secured, so I’m going to try making up two blocks in heat-shrink bags: one block of six 15 mL bottles and a second of four 30 mL bottles. The heat shrink bag meets the requirement to secure the caps, and also eliminates one bagging step because the heat shrink bag itself counts as the inner bag. We’ll still need to use an outer bag with absorbent to contain the two heat-shrink bag blocks, but overall that should cut down on the total steps and total time needed. Also, having the bottles neatly blocked will cut down on cubic, which is always a good thing.

42 thoughts on “Tuesday, 26 August 2014”

  1. I remember first buying a pair of Levi jeans for myself at a whopping $8. This must have been around 1960 or a little earlier. My mom was upset that I bought them at the men’s store, instead of the dime store next door, where she said it would have been a couple dollars cheaper. How was I to know? She bought all my other pants at the men’s store. The only thing she bought for me at the dime store were socks. J.J. Newberry’s was the dime store.

  2. The UK had it right back when they routinely hanged people like this.

    I’ve often said that the US would be a much better place if we just executed the 0.1% of the population that commits 99% of the violent crimes. That’d be about 250 criminals in Winston-Salem and a bit over 300,000 nationally. We could hang all 300,000+ over the course of one weekend, toss the bodies into compost heaps, and things would be a lot more peaceful afterwards.

    Heck, I’d even be willing to volunteer to spend a couple of hours pulling the lever to drop a dozen or two SOBs.

  3. Erf…isn’t IT stuff just supposed to work? Yesterday, my wife’s laptop couldn’t use the network. Looked to me like it was getting a DHCP address from a rogue server. Only thing is: I know all the devices in the house, and there shouldn’t be one.

    So today I go spelunking. Turns out that I can no longer log in to the wireless router we use to offer guest Internet access. The thing is still somehow still working, but it doesn’t show its admin interface anymore. Power cycling doesn’t help.

    Worse, the same thing for our brand new Cisco router/firewall that I bought so we could have two internet connections for VoIP.. It does show the login page, at least, but rejects my credentials (which I know 100%, and anyway have stored in KeePass). Power cycling that did have an effect – it still blinks all the right lights, but otherwise stopped working entirely. The one device that is a single point of failure – now for both the Internet and the telephone.

    Reconfigured so that we are running directly off one of the Internet connections (using the router provided – before it was just a dumb bridge), got the VoIP working again, came back and my desktop machine (Ubuntu) has crashed. Never had that happen before, but now anytime the screen blanks, it dies. So I turned off the screen blanking for the moment.

    Never did find a rogue DHCP server. My best best is that the Cisco firewall mucked up its settings and started a DHCP service. Since it’s now essentially dead, well, the original problem is solved.

    Tomorrow I’ll do a factory reset on the firewall and see if that does anything. The wireless I don’t care much about, since it’s (a) still somehow working and (b) only for guests anyway. I’ll get to that “someday”.

    For now, I’m going to have a good scream, followed by a beer…

  4. Brad, you’re prolly way beyond me in knowledge of these things, but now might be a good time to move to DD-WRT or another open source router firmware. Once you get new hardware, that is. This move solved some of my issues with networking.

  5. I’ve often said that the US would be a much better place if we just executed the 0.1% of the population that commits 99% of the violent crimes.

    Isn’t that the purpose of the three strikes law? Even though it was so popular back in the 1990s, it seems to have been watered down over the years. And yes, the truly violent criminals need to be kept away from society. Forever.

  6. One strike is enough. I wouldn’t impose the death penalty in all cases. Usually, a guy who kills his wife or vice versa does so in a fit of passion rather than cold-blooded Murder One. I would impose it in all cases for first-degree murder, rape of a stranger, rape of a prepubescent child, armed robbery, defrauding the elderly, email and phone spamming, and politicians breaking their promises. Come to think of it, we might have to bump that from the worst 0.1% to the worst 1%. Still, that’d be only 2,500 in Winston-Salem and a little over three million nationwide. We could still do it all in a weekend.

  7. @Jim: Not necessarily – I do this kind of stuff so rarely, and it’s not my main line of work (I mostly teach programming courses). So I spend a lot of time “playing pinball”, i.e., trying one thing after another until something works. And lots of time on Google, which is kind of hard when the problem has taken down my internet connection…

    I’ve heard about DD-WRT, but I’m a bit intimidated. Flashing foreign software onto hardware just seems like a really good way to make an expensive brick, and I’m sure that it voids any sort of warranty. If you’re familiar with it, perhaps you can reassure me 🙂

  8. isn’t IT stuff just supposed to work

    It isn’t just you. I have a D-Link wireless router that is only being used as an access point. It quit working. Could not get into the management interface. Reset to factory specs and still unable to get into management interface. Forced a firmware reload and tried to load new firmware. Got a message the file was not correct for the device. Did a web search and found an obscure reference to not use IE but instead use Chrome. Did that and got the firmware reloaded, device reconfigured and it is now working.

    Which begs the question as to what corrupted the firmware so badly that only a forced reload of the firmware worked. And why does IE not work when forcing a firmware reload. The page is nothing more than a file upload dialog.

  9. Gremlins. It’s gremlins.

    Actually, I have long suspected that all complex electronics include a special device, known as a “critical need detector” – in cheap stuff they substitute a “stress detector”. Whenever these detect their respecting things, the device breaks.

    @RBT: Heat-shrink bags – do try unwrapping one after you’ve packed it. I’ve received some that had wrapped so tightly around the contents that it was difficult to remove them without damaging what they were protecting. The last thing you want is for your customers to accidentally unscrew the caps while trying to get the bottles out of the bag.

  10. The only time I’ve ever had a cable modem or wifi router go out on me is when my dog decided to pee on them. Not cool, dog. Not cool.

    Outside of that, I usually upgrade them every few years as wifi standards evolve.

  11. I like my Apple Airport Extreme. Works great. I don’t like that the only way to access it is via Apple’s Airport software. I guess that makes it less hackable?

  12. lol Gov Moonbeam of CA “come one, come all” invites illegals to CA. I say Obummer should just ship them all there since they’ve been invited. Goodbye CA, hello Aztlan.

  13. Which begs the question as to what corrupted the firmware so badly that only a forced reload of the firmware worked.

    The NSA. Not really but it sounded cool.

    As a lifelong programmer, I am totally amazed when today’s programmable devices stay running for a month. All it takes is one critical bit to flip in the ram and bang, everything quits working.

    In this case, the rom got corrupted which does sound like somebody was messing with it. And these devices are very well know which means that any weak areas will be attacked over and over again. The NSA, the Russians, the Chinese, the kid next door, …

  14. We had router problems out at the transmitter shack of the radio station. Started with occasional minute or two dropouts of programming from the studio over the IP stream. Finally, router went dead, but the lights on it still worked. Bought an identical reconditioned router, because the firewall and port forwarding were complex, and an identical router would accept the config file that took days to devise.

    That worked for about 3 weeks. This time, no warning, just dead. No lights. We surmised power supply. Switched power supplies, and all was well. That lasted about 6 weeks. Dead again. Swapped out the power supply again. No go. Bought a new router, changing brands (I forget what brand the chief tech got). That worked for about 6 weeks.

    Turns out that the radio receiver from our wireless ISP provider was the next to go. A closer look at grounding showed that our coax was not properly grounded. It should be grounded at the top of the tower and at the bottom. The top had only been grounded to the tower, which itself was not properly grounded; the bottom was grounded to something like the grounding the phone company does at your house, nothing like the heavy-duty straps that should have been employed. We were thus getting whacked by faulty grounding. We don’t know how long that had been going on, but surmise that the grounding was done improperly by the original antenna installation people and the first chief tech. We have had quite a few hits over the years that took us off, and broke equipment. The routers had always survived before.

    There have been hellacious lightning storms this summer, culminating in one that was close to the worst I have ever seen. No problems at all since the grounding was completely redone.

    As to isn’t IT stuff just supposed to work

    I decided today would be the day to stop using the deprecated ntpdate and switch to ntp. Five minutes top, I figured. Three hours later, I am still not sure it is working. But in the process of looking for errors, I found that the syslog was writing some kind of wpa_supplicant error every 2 minutes. Apparently it had been doing this since the install. I have also had problems being knocked off the Wi-Fi a couple times a day. Some people were being knocked off every time that wpa_supplicant error occurred.

    How’s this for open source solving problems. This has been a problem since 2009, and is still listed as a Debian bug. The solution is the next to the last entry here:


    You go into network setup and choose the MAC address for the “BSSID” entry. That halted those error messages in my system. We will see if it stops the twice daily Wi-Fi drops, too. Apparently, developers do not consider it a bug and refuse to fix it. The idea is that wpa_supplicant searches for a wireless connection every 2 minutes for corporate situations where wandering through the building with a laptop means changing Wi-Fi connections. It is intended behavior. So click on that MAC address under BSSID if you do not need a network Wi-Fi search every 2 minutes. This is all on Linux Mint for me, but affects every Debian distro. The really disastrous thing for some people is that VPN would not work from home, as those searches would knock the VPN connection lollapalooza.

  15. RBT, your suggestion for reducing crime would likely have a disparate racial impact, and therefore cannot be allowed. Please report to the nearest reeducation camp for your refresher course.

  16. “Heck, I’d even be willing to volunteer to spend a couple of hours pulling the lever to drop a dozen or two SOBs.”

    Ditto. But as I’ve said many times, I’d prefer the guillotine; set up a bunch of ’em like assembly lines. And put the heads up on the city gates for a while; hey, good enough for my English ancestors, amirite?

    “…I usually upgrade them every few years as wifi standards evolve.”

    Crikey, our router must be about six or seven years old now; I have a new one to throw in there but am scared it’ll flake everything out just as I need to VPN in to work for sumthin in the wee hours. I know about the open-sauce router sw and would love to play with it but we can’t afford any fun downtime right now.

    “Please report to the nearest reeducation camp for your refresher course.”

    Indeed, except as Dr. Bob defines capital crimes, I don’t think that would be as evident; most pols and lawyers are Caucasoids, so the whole ratio would be thrown off. But yeah, if we only went by the capital crimes listed now, it would be predominately two of the non-Caucasoid groups, which we all know full well but have to mince and dance around constantly for fear of…I dunno…someone might call us bad names or sumthin…

  17. RBT, your suggestion for reducing crime would likely have a disparate racial impact

    Wow, that is what Fred said, “And you will find that the perps are almost always black. If you are a good liberal, you won’t like this, but after three months on the street you will not have the faintest doubt. If you are a suburban conservative out of Reader’s Digest, you will be surprised at the starkness of the racial delineation. “:

    Please report to the nearest reeducation camp for your refresher course.

    I wonder sometimes how far we are away from this. I remember the drive-in movie re-education camp in “Red Dawn”.

  18. I usually upgrade them every few years as wifi standards evolve.

    I also upgrade about every two years. Hence the use of the D-Link as an access point. Put it to good use at a friends house where he had weak wifi but had a wired connection. I am currently running a Netgear Nighthawk R7000 and have one Netgear R4500 sitting on a shelf. Bought the R4500 at Costco. Bad decision. Turns out there is no way to turn the R4500 into a wireless access point. The commercial version you can, but not the Costco version. I did not know that until I decided to upgrade to the R7000. Bummer.

  19. In this case, the rom got corrupted which does sound like somebody was messing with it.

    I doubt that. I had it locked down fairly well with mac filtering and changed the default passwords and the WIFI was well encrypted. I think it was a cosmic neutrino that struck a ROM bit. Or the NSA using an unknown backdoor. May explain that black van that was parked in the street.

  20. Yes, gremlins-and they do detect fear or urgent need. My suggestion about DD-WRT is likely irrelevant, now that I think about it. I know a couple of pros, and they both swear by wired connections… and AT Wi-Fi. Just seems troublesome. I have similar experience, but not enough chops to make it work always. I wish there was a better answer.

  21. ” I know a couple of pros, and they both swear by wired connections… and AT Wi-Fi.”

    I’m not a network guru by any means but I concur wholeheartedly on both counts. Wireless tends to be unreliable and a security issue, whereas with good Cat 9 there are fah few-uh problems. We have both here and I keep both main desktops wired and if I do updates on laptops I hook them up, too. Interestingly the Kindle picks up all the wireless around here better than ours half the time, including the newly installed town hall setup about a hundred yards from our front door.

    The GM at work told me today she bought two WAPs for us to set up at other properties a few miles in each direction from our plant; she sez she can program the buggers from her office but will need my help with the physical setting up; I can see it now, probably high up on a frigging roof or pole. The county where all this stuff takes place is tucked between several mountain ranges and a long series of hills and the cell service and wireless suck rocks.

    Back in sys admin land again; for every ten issues that come at me during the day, I am managing to solve/fix maybe two or three of them, and the rest roll over to the next day, while adding another half-dozen. I imagine this will either continue as such or I may eventually figure out where everything is, what all their damn site procedures are, and who everybody is.

    And maybe someone will also explain to me why it is they have all their users and groups organized in BOTH Windows Active Directory AND MySQL database tables…

    Their Server 2012 is also running at near-capacity every day, as is the main CentOS box, and the Exchange/Outlook app sits on Server 2003, also slow as molasses in January. The DC, by the way, has 8GB of RAM. I am gonna have to educate these people, I can see that, and they’ll have to listen to me, ’cause I’m all they’ve got, at least for 40-60 hours a week.

    Thursday I have to roll in at 06:00, which means getting up here two hours earlier, so I can get squared away and then drive for an hour. Why is that, you ask? So we can merge an old MySQL db with a newer backup for the gun boyz. While also fixing a boatload of missing serial numbers that ATF has been asking about. Unless stuff is blowing up at 3 PM, I’m bailing. Also going in late Friday so I can go to my possibly last VA PTSD session for a while and then roll in for the afternoon fun, which will include the weekly IT Meeting, which is me, the GM, and the COO. I’ll go easy on them this first time…

  22. Forgot to mention that we are having severe water problems here in South Texas now. The aquifer in the next county, Wharton County, has dropped from 40 ft below the surface in April to 103 ft below in July. Many of the residential water wells have or are running out of water and having to be redrilled.

    “LISSIE – For two months this year, water seemed abundant here in Wharton County, with vast rice fields flooded at 3 to 4 inches deep. But the still-life can be deceptive.”

    “Most of the water came from below ground, in pools known as aquifers. And by the time farmers had finished pumping the underground reservoirs for their thirsty crops, wells had gone almost or completely dry for more than half the households in this unincorporated community of about 300 people.”

    “For example, one of Gertson’s wells, just north of Lissie, showed water at about 40 feet below the surface in April. The level dropped to 103 feet below on July 26, Texas Water Development Board data shows.”

    My new well that I drilled last summer is 240 ft deep but had water 80 ft below the surface then. The pump is hung at 160 ft deep. And we have plenty of water, clean and cold (65 F all year long).

  23. @Chuck: The systems are so complex, and supposedly identical ones aren’t. I’m using Mint as well, and just looked on my laptop for the wpa_supplicant messages you mentioned. There are a few, but not all that many.

    Backdoors or some other kind of attack could certainly explain corrupted ROM. In our case, the router was pretty new, it may just be “infant mortality”. I’ll be interested to see if the factory reset does anything. I didn’t export the configuration, so I’ll get to do it all again. Stupid, stupid, that was a pain to get set up.

    @Lynn: Rice fields? In Texas? I thought only the Californians were dumb enough to raise rise in a dry climate.

  24. OFD: hoo boy, 40-60 hours, hour commute in winter, climbing poles, etc. I don’t miss it. Hope you love it! Just mention why you are going to PTSD sessions; may keep them in line. Then again, they make mil hardware, so are not likely scared much.

    Seriously, hope they treat you well.

  25. Hi just read your bottle top seal idea. I have received a number of solutions with what appears to be electrical heat shrink covering the bottle/ cap joint I tried this out and it seamed to work

  26. Yes, we’ve tried that method, but it takes about as much time and effort as just taping the caps.

  27. The difference in fit between my new Kirkland jeans and a pair that has been washed in hot water several times is obvious.

  28. Will the shrink-wrap make it hard to keep the caps on while it is removed? Asked another way, will caps and bottles tend to come off with the wrapping when someone gets frustrated and starts tearing at things?

    I have had some unfortunate experiences removing some shrunk-on wrappings.

  29. No, the caps are secure without any special treatment, but taping them or whatever is required by shipping regulations.

  30. @Lynn: Rice fields? In Texas? I thought only the Californians were dumb enough to raise rise in a dry climate.

    South Texas used to be the major rice producer for the world as we used to get 60+ inches of rain per year. Now the subtropical weather pattern has moved all that rain to Mississippi and we only get 30+ inches of rain per year here. One meter.

    We still have quite a bit of rice growing here but the field flooding is via river or aquifer. BTW, with all the rice moving to Mississippi, the Canadian geese have also moved there for the winter. We used to get two million geese wintering here, now we only get a quarter million. It is amazing how wildlife change their habits based on food.

    In fact, I have been wondering about the change in food production. Until ten years ago, 1/4 of the world’s food came from the USA. Now with expensive farm equipment (emissions addons are very expensive), expensive diesel and the droughts in California and Texas, that ratio is rapidly dropping. Very rapidly. I think that most of the food production has moved to the tropical forests in South America but I am not sure at all.

  31. Huh. I would have guessed that the US still led the world (by far) in food production and exports, with Canada and Australia second and third. Are you sure of your figures?

  32. Are you sure of your figures?

    Not at all. I do know that an enormous amount of land has been cleared in South America, especially Chile, Brazil and Guatemala for agriculture. The USA does not even make the top five in rice anymore. Number three in wheat though.

    A lot of farm land here in Texas is going fallow now due to the drought which we are in the fifth? year of. Same in California. There is a rice mill about three miles away from my house which has been abandoned.

  33. Hmm. I see that India is both the largest and second-largest producer of cotton. They must grow a lot of cotton there.

    Perhaps it’s like US military spending versus the rest of the world. The last time I looked, IIRC, the US spent more than the next 12 or 13 countries combined, so we had the top ten all to ourselves.

  34. “…Dave, just for giggles, a reminder of your misspent youth:”

    Yup. And they eat dogs, too. Only country over there that doesn’t was Thailand. Used to see them hung up with poultry in the town markets in ‘Nam, Laos and Cambodia. But they also have the annual monsoon rains that drop the mang-dai by the millions, fat rice bugs, considered a delicacy. They’d run around in the rain gathering them up; males sold for two baht, about a dime at the time; females, five baht, ’cause they’re bigger. Eaten raw or mashed and sauteed with garlic. Nasty.

    And also during monsoon, gotta dodge all the snakes, slithering to higher ground from the klongs; boa constrictors twelve feet long, king cobras up to eighteen feet….

    “So, I shouldn’t start a rice patty in Vegas? I already bought the ricelings.”

    Bad flashbacks, man. Don’t do it. Plus, it’s one thing to hover over them in a nice comfy, well-appointed helicopter, and quite another to slog through them and their leeches and snakes on the ground. Got leeches in Vegas? Sure ya do. Suckin’ all the blood and money from the rubes at the casinos…; snakes? Them, too; in the hallowed halls of gummint and courts.

  35. @Lynn: wow, that much rain?! I guess that’s a part of the state I don’t know. Practically everywhere else I’ve lived in or at least thoroughly visited, but not Houston and surroundings.

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