Archive for October, 2015

And we're ready

Happy Halloween from VAULT-TEC!

And we’re all ready. Dozens of nice little candy gift packages from VAULT-TEC, with candy and a surprise inside – instructions on building your very own back yard nuclear reactor. Heat your hot tub, water your plants to get extremely unusual flowers, and saving on heating bills – it’s wins all around.

I’ll be answering the door as a VAULT-TEC sales rep, of course, which in the actual pre-war Fallout world would probably make me the worst house on the block. But hey, at least it’s actual candy, right? Everybody likes Atomic Fireballs. (Well, I like Atomic Fireballs. Not even ironically, I’m just fond of cinnamon. It’s yummy.)

This is probably the first Halloween I’ll have worn two separate costumes. Historically I’ve only ever done that at conventions, and even then, rarely. SCENE CHANGE!

Guess who got a PROMOTION?

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this is an extraordinary piece of domestic architecture



This is The House that Calculus Built and it is wonderful. And though they aren’t using the word, it is brutalist as all fuck. Look at all that raw exposed concrete! Look at all that exposed bare metal and glass and stone. Look at all those repeating patterns and curved, plastic forms. Look at the exterior massed forms, particularly in the front. Look at WATER AS A GODDAMN DESIGN ELEMENT AND NOT DECORATION. (Again, watch the video at the link for that, and also look at the stairs inside the water I AM DYING here.)


Seriously, this is what happens when you do brutalism the right way instead of as an excuse to throw up a bunker building on the cheap. I am crying a little it is so beautiful.

h/t Yvonne Pawtowski on Google+

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red cascade

I haven’t posted many leaf pictures lately, but I took a couple recently that I liked. Here’s one that really needs to be seen bigger – click on it to go to the large version on Flickr.

Have fun with Halloween!

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safari error with wordpress

I haven’t been able to solve this problem yet, so I’m throwing it out to the world. I’d throw it out to Apple Support forums, but they’re apparently doing something to them (and have been for the last few days) and they won’t let me post – I get a backend-under-renovation notice whenever I try to log in.

100% of the time, I can reproduce this error when I try to edit the timestamp of a comment in WordPress. It happens literally every second time I try to make such an edit:

It also happens when saving or editing posts. Not every time, but enough that I’ve started saving posts in the paste buffer so I don’t lose them. It will also reproduce on other WordPress administrative pages involving post or comment edits – commits, really – enough that it will happen during most sessions. If you search, you’ll find other people are experiencing this as well; it’s been going on since at least Mavericks.

It does not reproduce in Firefox on the same machine, at the same time, under any circumstances. There have been multiple posts to Apple support communities about it, but none of the solutions offered – solutions which did fix it for those posters – fix it here. That includes deleting all saved website data, disabling all (non-Apple) extensions, disabling all plug-ins, deleting add-on input methods and scripting additions (of which I had one of each), everything here.

But the one thing I have found is that it does not reproduce in safe mode. At all. Something specific is causing this.

Ideas, anybody?

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Happy Halloween from Vault-Tec!

I’m making little gift packets of candy for Halloween. I also need to whip up a Vault-Tec ID and some business cards, but that’s easy enough. Here’s a picture of the packets:

Happy Halloween from Vault-Tec!

Three variants, so I could see how they looked. The outside is a Vault-Tec “Prepare for the Future” flyer; I’m going with festive orange, of course. Specifically the darker orange, since that’s higher contrast and easier to read. On the inner side? Simple instructions for building your own back-yard nuclear fission reactor. Easy as pie, and wow, will you save on those heating bills!

The way the packages are folded gives them six edges – that’s for the two H3 atoms for the heaviest of heavy water. The candies inside are – of course – Atomic Fireballs. Three per package, for that same H3 symbolism.

And sure, maybe out water purification systems would last longer if we didn’t use such heavy water. But, by gum, that’d be compromise! Won’t have it! Nothing but the best from VAULT-TEC!

eta: Business cards:

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waiting for the 308

Waiting for the 308

I have no idea how she got there. I can only presume she was waiting for a bus. I’m also presuming it’s the 308. Because I have no idea how the 308 would get there, either. It’s the wrong stop.

If you’re looking for the Grammy Awards Long List nominees, thank you for listening, and for your consideration.

How SXSW really, really blew it.

Wow, SXSW really screwed up.

First, by scheduling a pro-GamerGate panel filled with people who have led harassment campaigns as a “balanced discussion” “counterpoint” to another scheduled panel, on web design that’s built around limiting harassment.

Because you always want to provide time to harassers to counterpoint building web interfaces that encourage civil discussion and discourage harassment.

Even better: SXSW bypassed the normal process for the GamerGate panel. Panels have to go through vetting and public comment, and be submitted by a deadline. None of that was true here. It was apparently thrown in secretly.

Then, when said GamerGate panel’s members started throwing GamerGaters at the web design panel, and the inevitable harassment and threats went out, SXSW cancelled web design panel because that panel’s members were being harassed. SXSW claimed they couldn’t have a “civil discussion,” because the panelists were being targeted. No, really, here’s SXSW’s idiotic statement on the matter.

Blaming the victim much? Blaming the victims they set up as targets? This gets into outright mendaciousness. There is a point of incompetence at which it stops being simple incompetence and becomes malice. Congratulations, SXSW, you hit that point.

SXSW then also cancelled the GamerGate panel, but wow, that does not make it better. The Daily Beast has strong words about this. So does Chris Kluwe at The Cauldron.

What the fuck is wrong with SXSW?

If you’re looking for the Grammy Awards Long List nominees, thank you for listening, and for your consideration.

poison ivy has the right idea

Higher levels of CO2 – levels commonly found indoors – appear to have substantial impact upon cognitive capability. VOCs have similar effects. This is a follow-up study to a previous study which showed the same effects.

Both are particularly interesting given that the cognitive impairment effects are seen at CO2 levels similar to the projected no-action-taken general atmospheric levels of CO2 by 2100.

Actual study here:

Associations of Cognitive Function Scores with Carbon Dioxide, Ventilation, and Volatile Organic Compound Exposures in Office Workers: A Controlled Exposure Study of Green and Conventional Office Environments
Joseph G. Allen, Piers MacNaughton, Usha Satish, Suresh Santanam, Jose Vallarino, and John D. Spengler

Article about that study here:

Exclusive: Elevated CO2 Levels Directly Affect Human Cognition, New Harvard Study Shows
Joe Romm

So the applications are obvious, of course. If you need people to be a bit more stupid than usual, and to handle crises badly, pump up the CO2 and/or VOCs. They’re both pretty invisible to the nose. But the CO2 – that’s really the handy part, because you don’t even need a generator. The levels already present are meaningful, and all you have to do is block the air-exchanger intakes to make them much worse.

The best part is, it only takes minutes to take effect! Sleeping and paralysis gasses should be so efficient.

But there are obvious concerns for your own lair, as well. NASA has already changed space station scrubbing levels for CO2. Should you be doing the same for your lair? Clearly, it’s something to consider. Evil is one thing – but stupidity? I think we can all agree – that’s unacceptable.

If you’re looking for the Grammy Awards Long List nominees, thank you for listening, and for your consideration.

wifi progress, and a new show

Short notice show! I’m playing with Leannan Sidhe at Shoreline Community College’s Black Box Theatre on November 6th. It’s part of the Express Yourself Showcase. I don’t know what the rules are for audience admission – as in, whether it’s students and faculty ID required – but if you’re around, come watch the fun! There are lots of groups performing.

We’ve made some progress on the Lair’s wifi situation, particularly on the lowest level. We’ve gone from really quite a mess to something a lot more reasonable. To wit, enjoy some signal-to-noise ratio maps:

Minionland and Chudville had Really Bad Wifi

Minionland and Chudville have Much Better Wifi

Colder colours are noisier, blue is pretty bad, unevenness is generally not good. I’m showing signal-to-noise maps rather than raw-signal-strength maps because as long as you have enough signal to use, S/N ratios are much more important than raw signal power. A full-strength signal that’s 30% garbage is useless; a weak but audible signal that’s clean is just fine. So.

There’s less yellow super-hotspot area now, but you’re not going to get much throughput improvement between those strong green levels and the yellow. The evenness of field should help with reliability, of course – that’s lots and lots of yellowish green, which is pretty solid.

And most of all: no more blue. Blue in this software means problematic levels of noise. I was seeing S/N headroom numbers as low as 20db, and regularly in the low 20s; that’s not disastrous, but it’s not good. Now we’re reliably in the 40db range, which is a huge improvement. dB is logarithmic, so that’s not twice as much headroom, it’s 100 times the headroom. It’s a lot.

To get here, we’ve done a few things. One, we got seriously started on the RF noise suppression in the wiring through liberal use of filter units and ferrites. There’s still lots to do, but it’s a start.

Two, we moved the primary lower hub so that it’s as close to above the downstairs repeater as I could get without tearing into walls. (The location indicators on the display are wrong; it’s the software’s best guess, and it’s inaccurate sometimes.)

Three, I built a reflector for that primary hub to spread the signal around better on the ground level, the non-CHUD half of which is shown above. (The CHUD half is a secret.)

Also, we had to repurpose a functionally-useless AirPlay receiver as a second repeater, one level up. That repeater is not shown. It’s so that the main level would have somewhat reasonable coverage from the lower network, which is useful for people going up and down stairs.

So, yeah, there’s that update. It’ll be a couple of days before the next set of line filters arrive – I burned through most of through my useful stock – but that will hopefully help with the noise a bit more.

Then I’m going to poke some at the upper network – officially the “west” network, though both “up” and “west” are true – to see if I can get some better south-end coverage out of it. It’s unlikely, but I’ll try. Mostly, I’m happy not to have done it any measurable harm by adding yet another transmitter to the lower network.

Will this solve all our problems? I doubt it. I’ve already found that we shouldn’t be using our upstream provider’s DNS servers. Our servers don’t use it, why should our workstations? So I’ve gone back to using our own, and that’s already helped. But the big job, I suspect, is getting IPv4/IPv6 concurrency sorted. We’re running some IPv6 now, on workstations, and I’m pretty sure some of the stacks are… not entirely ready. And I’m not sure what to do about that.

So much overhead in running a lair, I tell you.

If you’re looking for the Grammy Awards Long List nominees, thank you for listening, and for your consideration.

adventures in wifi

Yesterday, I got poking around the Lair’s wifi with some signal analysis tools. The interference and terrible signal to noise ratios I had to fight in the recording studio are just as bad in wifi, if not worse. It’s really terrible.

But check this out – I think I’ve sussed part of it. In the illustration below, the red bar is the giant cement retaining wall. The bar is not actually to scale, sorry about that – it should be thicker, because it contains a lot of rebar. The gradients of colour are wifi strength, from a nearby hotspot which is not ours. I picked this one because it shows the effect best, but it shows up in imagery of other transmitters as well.

Do you see what’s going on here? The rebar in the retaining wall appears to be acting as a crude parabolic reflector. This relatively-hot-spot is showing up in all of the maps, pretty clearly, except for the ones where that area shows up as a shadow of reduced strength. I think those are signals from transmitters from the other side of the wall.

I mean honestly, look at this. Am I wrong? This is so neat. And I’m wondering if this is the cause of some of our other interference problems as well, like possibly even the BBC-World-Service-on-the-house-mains issues.

All sorts of wireless things act very strangely here. Even AM/FM radio. And I’m starting to wonder if there’s a way to improve the grounding on the rebar. I can’t imagine how, but still.

If you’re looking for the Grammy Awards Long List nominees, thank you for listening, and for your consideration.

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