Would You Rather

I say this every time because it’s true: the pain I can deal with. It’s the vision loss that bothers me.

There’s a question — I think of it as part of a child’s game from when I was young for some reason — which body part would you rather lose? Which sense? For me it’s always been my eyes.

I cannot remember ever having seen clearly. I have sharp memories from when I was very young, before kindergarten; I don’t remember blurs. It was in elementary school that I got my first pair of glasses, and realized that the world was not painted by Monet.

For years after LASIK surgery in late 2000, I woke seeing but still groping for my glasses. The effects have since worn  off and I have glasses again, and the onset of presbyopia. The distances at which things come into focus are no longer so clear and well-defined. Ben Franklin, I understand, had  a similar problem.

First the pain. It starts as a dull ache, usually behind my left eye, enough to give warning, not that I can do anything about it. Waves at the periphery are next, and sometimes it stops there, with just the pain and the sense that the corners of my eyes are underwater. Then numbness in my tongue and left shoulder. By this time it’s best not to have plans for the day. It could get worse. Once I lost words.

Worse, the darkness closes in, right eye first, then both until I’m alone, blind. Then the agony starts.

Not today, I think. Today’s feels like it will stop here: with vague sight, numb tongue, and a constant ache to ignore.

What Are You Here For?

I have, since I found out about it, wanted to go to space.

I remember, vividly, watching Star Trek in color in the basement of a friend who had television and shag carpet. I was young: older than five and younger than eight.

(I remember, vividly, watching all of Star Trek in one weekend at St. John’s. But that’s another story.)

I consumed all of the LIFE Science Library and every mention of space in the National Geographic.

I devoured all stories of the stars I could find, all of which made it seem possible. I despaired when Skylab crashed in the Australian desert. I gobbled up the news that NASA would launch a space shuttle. We were on our way again!

Or not.

Still, the first job I wanted — and failed to apply for — was an internship with NASA at Wallops Island, Virginia. That was the first time I decided I wasn’t good enough; I hadn’t enough experience. I was too young.

Yesterday, Elon Musk announced the plans his company SpaceX has to develop an infrastructure to get one million people to Mars, with first launch in 2022.

I’m so excited! I want to be part of this! Why do all the open positions at the company have to be in California?!

Now I’m too old.

Go West, Young Man! Ad astra per aspera.

Chaperone on the Field Trip

Without constant external stimulation, we might have to face the anxious terror of consciousness.

And so the increasingly urgent demand in a first grader’s voice as he asks again and again for the bus driver to turn the radio on. Meanwhile, I too grasp for novelty, though, unlike the child, I have the luxury of carrying the Internet in my pocket.

You Missed a Spot

In housework, as in any field primarily concerned with the reduction of chaos, the work itself is not noticed; only the failures are.

Take a few moments today to thank your spouse, your domestic help, your secretary, your department of public works, your firefighter, your sysadmin for keeping chaos at bay.

Third-Party Content Removed

I have removed all advertising from my website. I’ve had a website online since 1996 or so, and since then I’ve made perhaps $3.00 from affiliate advertising. I have no idea how anyone makes money from this.

Because this advertising is no great benefit to me, and no great benefit to you, the reader, it serves no purpose, and must go.

On Plagiarism and Linkage

I’m disturbed by what seems to be the very common practices on today’s Internet of copying another’s work without acknowledging the source, of quotations without attribution, and of quotations pretending to be one’s original work. I suppose this could be, to some extent, ignorance of polite behavior; in some cases, however, it appears to be out-right theft: inserting someone else’s work in one’s website in order to grab advertising revenue without effort. Some folks — ahem, Gawker — tread a very thin line here, and offer no value to the original author other than the barest mention of a link, while the world thinks that they arrived at some insight on their own.

Is one of these websites the original recipe? Did the same person post twice, forgetting to use a byline at one of the sites? Or is SeriousEats a thief?

  1. Food52: Potato Leek au Gratin
  2. Serious Eats: Potato Leek au Gratin

This behavior should be discouraged, and, if culpability can be determined, punished to the extent possible. I’m not overly concerned with copyright enforcement here, except as a means to an end, but with polite society, and so think shame and disgrace are just as important.

In cases where I suspect plagiarism, I will link with a rel="nofollow" attribute and an asterisk. In cases where I think one is the original, I’ll link to it instead of the first result on Google. One day, perhaps, the plagiarist will not rank as high, and the original author will get some respect.

A Short Networking Quiz

1) An essential characteristic of UDP is that it is

a) unreliable
b) undecipherable
c) unconscionable
d) unwieldy

2) This characteristic is a result of which quality of UDP?

a) guaranteed
b) ordered
c) archaic
d) stateless

3) Which essential service of the Internet relies on UDP?

b) NFS
c) DNS
d) FTP

4) What happens when you increase the “connection timeout” in a firewall for UDP packets from 40 seconds to 60 minutes? (Hint: the connection timeout value determines how long entries are retained in the table the firewall maintains in order to track state.)

If necessary, review http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_Datagram_Protocol

A $50 Gift Card


Frankly, I don’t understand why people buy gift cards. I understand why they give them, but not why they buy them.

Gift cards are given because giving the card, instead of cash, shows that you spent some time and effort thinking about the gift. The selection of which store can even indicate that you know a little something about the recipient. I tend to receive Barnes & Noble cards, for example.

What’s puzzling is why people buy gift cards. Many entail fees, declining value over time, and expiration dates. Is the benefit of a good impression sufficient to cover these additional costs?

In Memoriam

Back before Twitter, there was jogger.jabber.org.

September 11th
10:40:10 AM
R.I.P. WTC 🙁
10:06:15 AM
Looks like most of the news sites have been /.d. Guess no one has learned their bandwidth lessons.
10:05:26 AM
a0551 —–
“I saw the tail of a large airliner. … It plowed right into the Pentagon,” said an Associated Press Radio reporter. “There is billowing black smoke.”
09:12:02 AM
A plane just crashed into the World Trade Center. Picture on www.cnn.com

Many people started writing that day.

In the long history of Man’s inhumanity to Man, it is ever so

While reading In Our Image: America’s Empire in the Phillipines, I came across mention of a disturbingly familiar topic. War is hell.

From The New York Times, April 15, 1902, the following (also at wikisource).

WASHINGTON, April 14.—The Senate Committee on the Philippines began the week with the intention of making an investigation of the charges to the effect that the “water cure,” so-called, is practiced on the insurgents, and Charles S. Riley of Northampton, Mass., formerly a Sergeant in Company M, Twenty-sixth Volunteer Infantry, was the first witness Called with that end in view.

Mr. Riley said that he had been in the Philippines from Oct. 25, 1899, to March 4, 1901. In reply to questions by Senator Rawlins, he said he had witnessed the “water cure” at Igbaras, in the Province of Iloilo, on Nov. 27, 1900. It was administered to the Presidente or chief Filipino official of the town. He said that upon the arrival of his command at Igbaras the Presidente was asked whether runners had been sent out notifying the insurgents of their presence, and that upon his refusal to give the information he was taken to the convent where the witness was stationed and the water cure was administered to him.

This official was, he said, a man about forty years of age. When he (the witness) first saw him he was standing in the corridor of the convent, stripped to the waist and his hands tied behind him, with officers and soldiers about. The man, he said, was then thrown under a water tank which held about 100 gallons of water, and his mouth placed directly under the faucet and held open so as to compel him to swallow the water which was allowed to escape from the tank. Over him stood an interpreter repeating one word, which the witness said he did not understand, but which he believed to be the native equivalent of “confess.” The Presidente agreed to tell what he knew, was released, and allowed to start away. He was not, however; permitted to escape. Water was brought in a five-gallon can, one end of a syringe was placed in it and the other in the man’s mouth. As he still refused a second syringe was brought and one end of it placed in the prostrate man’s nose. He still refused, and a handful of salt was thrown into the water. This had the desired effect, and the Presidente agreed to answer questions.


Health care as an employer-provided benefit arose in response to salary caps and payroll taxes [citation needed]. It was a way to compete for employees by increasing the employee’s effective salary without having to pay all of the cost. Employee benefits, as part of the total compensation package, are still used to compete for quality workers. Compare, for example, the descriptions of the benefits offered to work for these three companies. Two are fast-rising stars. Two are publicly-traded. One ranks seventh among the most profitable companies in America.

For which would you wish to work?

Grandmother’s Fruit Cobbler

  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 c. flour
  • 1 c. milk
  • 1 stick butter
  • 3 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 qt. fruit, sweetened

Heat sweetened fruit in saucepan. Melt butter in deep baking dish (at least a 2 qt. size). Mix sugar, flour, milk and baking powder. Pour batter into hot, melted butter, then add hot fruit.

Bake at 375° for 25 minutes.

Serve from the oven, topped with ice cream.

recipe from Leta Bell Cox, published in the Beverly Presbyterian Church Cookbook (2002)

Footprint per Capita

The newspaper had a map of each country’s carbon footprint per person. Something like this one from Wikipedia.

carbon dioxide emissions per capita per country

This is one of those graphics that misleads with statistics. The U.S. seems top of the charts here, but one has to recall that the ranking is per person. Compare, for example, China or India, which have many more people than the U.S. In the ranking of emissions per capita, the United States comes in 10th, behind Qatar and other well-known polluters such as Aruba. China is 91st, while India is 133rd. However, considering emissions alone, without dividing by the population, we’re #1, followed closely by China, with Russia and India lagging behind in 3rd and 4th place, respectively.

carbon dioxide emissions by country

Faded Memories

All I remember of one of the few records I owned as a child is a line that ended one of the songs.

Save your Confederate credit cards. The South’s gonna rise again.

For some reason that stuck with me. I thought it was funny since the Confederacy didn’t have credit cards. I wonder what song that was, and who sang it.