Archive for March, 2009

Baltimore to Berlin

Friday, March 20th, 2009

About a year and a half ago I made my transition from Baltimore down here to Greenville, SC.  While not exactly a culture shock, it was definitely a change.  I’ve adapted to some things, and quietly rebelled to others.  Now, a friend of mine up in B-more just took the leap- to living on the other side of the Atlantic.  A bit more drastic a change, I’d say.  He just touched down there a little less than a month ago.  Here’s his blog:

http://www.sheldondrake.com/blog/

I’m sure I’m violating all sorts of internet protocol and ettiquette by posting a link to a blog on another blog.  Sorry, matt.

Migration of a Debian System

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

One of my little projects this week was migrating my main desktop, which runs Debian, to new hardware. The easiest way to do this, for anyone else who needs to:

1) Install Debian on the new machine (in my case, I went from a 32-bit install on a P4 to a 64-bit install on an Athlon 64. Obviously, it doesn’t need to be the same version.)

2) Generate a list of the packages on the old machine with:

dpkg –get-selections | grep -v “deinstall” | awk ‘{print $1}’ > ~/package_list.txt

3) Copy your home directory to the new machine with something like:

scp -r [username]@[old machine IP]:/home/[username] /home/[username]

4) Install all of the same packages with:

cat package_list.txt | xargs apt-get install

Since all of the preferences are stored in your home directory, you should now have a perfect clone of your old desktop on your new machine.

Futuramic

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

Pretty quiet around here lately.  Well, I was in Philadelphia yesterday, as a part of my cool, hip, jet-setting lifestyle, but I guess I didn’t miss anything.  Being that it was St. Patrick’s Day, however, it was fitting that one of the shop techs at the facility I was visiting drove his very green 1950 Oldsmobile 88 Futuramic (how’s that for a name?) in to work.  Naturally, the car provoked a huge mass of people asking questions, taking pictures, and in general Not Doing Work.  What interested me most (ok, blew me away) about the car, though, was the neat jet/ space age detailing on it.  I mean, who the hell today would put this in the center of the steering wheel:

I have lots of great pics of this car…email me if you’d like them!  mechimike@yahoo.com

Personally, I think GM should break out the body dies for this puppy and start cranking them out again- white wall tires and all- and stuff some modern powerplants like an LSx Covette motor and modern mechanicals and safety equipment into them.  They’d sell the crap out of them.  Hell, I’d buy one.

Quote of the Day

Monday, March 16th, 2009

From a discussion on Slashdot:

“I wish that Obama’s supporters realized that the real messiah wouldn’t try to spend his way out of a depression. Jesus saves.”

Auction.

Monday, March 16th, 2009

Wow.

I am currently resisting the urge to go to Charlotte.

Broken Windows

Monday, March 16th, 2009

I’m sure that everyone here has heard of the “broken window” theory of crime fighting. To put it succintly, the idea is that minor crimes like littering and graffiti breed an environment where people are more likely to commit larger and larger crimes, because it appears that nobody is in charge. It’s the justification behind many cities, including Buffalo, cracking down on “quality of life” violations (loud car stereos, public drinking, etc.) to bolster the surrounding neighborhood. I think it was also used to justify Giuliani’s gassing of the NYC homeless population.

Whether or not this approach actually works has always been a topic of debate, partially because it’s so hard to quantify, and partially because nobody goes to the police academy hoping to get out and write tickets for littering. But Lowell, Massachusettes, right outside of Boston,  did something interesting. They picked out 34 crime hot spots in the city, went to work cleaning and maintaining half of them and left the others alone as a control group. Crime dropped by 20 percent in the areas that were being maintained.

From personal experience, I don’t find this surprising. I live in a nice neighborhood in a city that doesn’t have many of them, and I think a big part of the reason is that we have a strong block club that doesn’t let even small problems crop up. But it is nice to see some “evidence”, inasmuch as it exists in the social sciences, backing up that instinctual feeling.

Delmonico International

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

Back over Christmas when Tina and I were up in the frosty North, we stopped into a consignment store that was having a going-out-of-business sale. Among other finds was this gem you see above, marked down from its original price to the ridiculously low sum of $32.50.

I’ve no idea when it was manufactured; judging by the 16-33-45-78 RPM record settings and the fact that Frequency Modulation seems to have been an afterthought, I’d guess sometime in the early 1960’s. I had a few hours to kill today since the weather was dreary, so I cracked the back cover and decided to try to get the thing working.

Tubes. Oh my freaking God, honest-to-Jesus Vacuum tubes. Point-to-point wiring, exposed solder on loose wires…this thing is a cornucopia of old-school Heath Kit style electronics. I pulled all the tubes, cleaned them off, cleaned out the sockets, cleaned all the potentiometers and gave the entire inside a good dusting and a blast with my air jet, put it all back together and she fired right up. I’ve got her tuned to 103.3FM right now, a new favorite of mine- a local, non-Clear-Channel-owned private station that seems to oscillate back and forth between old country music and 50’s and 60’s rock. The Delmonico set puts out that nice, big, quasi-hollow sound that just sounds right when listening to that old music.

The most amazing thing to me, though, was that I found all of the original literature intact inside- wiring diagrams, owners manual, warranty certificate, everything. Apparently Delmonico was a sort-of “Sharper Image” of the 1950’s and 60’s; the turntable in the unit was manufactured by JVC and the tuner and amplifier is a Victor of Japan unit. The literature is hilariously poorly translated- apparently Japanglish was the Chingrish of its time: “When the power is on, “rabbit eye” lamp on the front grill will light”.

Uh, I think my rabbit eye is blind.

Away Game

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

Last night, Sue and I drove to Rochester to catch a Bandits away game. They were playing against the Rochester Knighthawks at the War Memorial.

(Oops. I mean “The Blue Cross Arena At The Rochester War Memorial”. How silly of me to forget the proper branding.)

We bought tickets in a group with a bunch of other Bandits fans, so there were about 200 of us in a section stomping and cheering for our team. The game was awesome – the score was close all the way to the end, and Rochester ended up winning it in overtime 15-14. It was a fantastic experience all the way around, even if I’ve still got Dinosaur Barbecue sitting in my gut like a cannonball.

It’s amazing how small the War Memorial seems now. I remember when I was going to Amerks games as a kid, the seats seemed to go on forever. Now it looks like a midsized college hockey arena.

Hood

Friday, March 13th, 2009

So, have you ever been driving down the street and seen a car with one body panel that’s the wrong color and wondered what happened?

I sure like my new green hood. I think I’ll tell the neighbors I’m buying a new Subaru on installment.

Made Off

Friday, March 13th, 2009

So everyone’s heard by now of the confession and sentencing of Bernie Madoff, his 150 -odd years of light time (come on, does anyone actually think he’ll be shackled and cast down with the Sodomites?) and the rousing cheers of the offended masses whom he bilked out of billions of bucks.

I was listening to a part of his statement yesterday, though, and something struck me.  All these people, calling for blood; caling for his head- all of them were greedy enough, and naive enough to believe that he actually could “guarantee” the sorts of paybacks that they expected and demanded of him.  Don’t misunderstand me- what he did was obviously illegal, and a ponzi scheme, and morally reprehensible.  But isn’t it just a bit akin to someone hiring a hit man to off someone for them?  Sure, Madoff pulled the trigger and did the deed- but if there hadn’t been a demand for what he was doing, he likely wouldn’t have done what he did.  In his statement, he mentioned that when he started this whole thing, back in the 1980s, his clients were making money, big money, and the expectations rose and it became harder, and then impossible, for him to continue.  He got caught up in it and eventually “knew” that the only way out was when he would eventually be caught.

Twisted?  Yes.  Does Madoff deserve prison time?  You bet.  Do these greedy, short-sighted investors who played along with his schemes have a right to be pissed at him?  I can’t answer that as succinctly.