Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Software Revisited

If you don't care about software, just move on, there's nothing of importance.

Of course, since you live in the world today, you contextually interact with software (ATM machine, credit cards, cashiers, newer cars, cell phones), and I think you should care about software.

A while back I listened to Richard settlement. He's basically the creator of the Free Software movement. And that's free as in freedom, not as in free beer.

Anyway, the main thrust is that all software should be freely renewable, freely modifiable, freely distributives, and anyone should have access to the source code. That a lameness definition of "free software", a slightly more in depth version is here. We can argue whether or not "free" is a good name (see the section "Linux isn't free" here, but not right now. If you care, the difference between "open source" and "free software" is that someone can distribute an "open source" program without distributing the source, the "free software" disallows that option.

I debating with a friend about whether or not the "free software" license could hold for all software. In other words, if all software was "free", would we have the software we need today.

His thought was, "No". He thinks that there is some software that costs so much to develop, that no one person/company will invest in writing the software because if they give the source away, they'll not be able to recoup their investment. However, he couldn't come up with an example that I thought was reasonable, and I don't think he was convinced either. That's not to say we somehow "proved" that there is not an example that fits his criteria, but I think it is unlikely.

There's also the misconception that you cannot make money selling "free software". I think that's ludicrous. At work we're paying $250,000 per year for 35 user licenses to run some debug software. It's crap debugging software, and I'm working my hardest to get it kicked out because I think it's a waste of money. If someone came up to our department and said, "I'd be willing to support GDB/DDD for half of that", I don't see how we could refuse. In fact, that's what I'm trying to get done.

You just can't think of selling software in and of itself, at least not for very much. You have to sell a service. And, clearly, companies are more than willing to spend huge amounts of money for software today (that they can only run a limited number of times), so why not spend the same money for the upkeep service of different software?

Ok, so I've been talking about what a big company, like Intel, might do.

How does this affect you? A simple person?

Chances are, you probably don't care about seeing the source code. But you'd probably be happier if you knew you could install and run the software you just bought on as many machines as you want. And if a friend wanted a copy, you could give it to them. Sounds good, yes? Perhaps it sounds greedy to you. But you can give your friend a book or a recipe for paprika chicken, why not a computer program? It is yours after all.

But forget about that argument for a second, let's talk real money: taxes.

Think of where your tax money goes. A surprising amount goes into buying and supporting software. You've got different states/cities/counties all buying different programs to do payroll, billing, monitor traffic and weather, and data collection and processing of all kinds.

Imagine the following scenario: the city utility department is licensing some software to gather all the billing and usage information, and send out bills to the customer. Imagine that company goes out of business? What now? The city is screwed: the license expired, and there's nobody to support it. What if there's a bug? No way to fix it.

Your tax dollars are going to fund software that is proprietary, and if the company goes out of business or even changes their mind, you get the shaft. Don't you want the city to at least have an exit plan? Perhaps access to the code in the event of the company going out of business?

That's chump change though.

Think about military defense spending. You see that we're going to spend about $400 billion on defense. How much could go to software? How about $20 BILLION!!!! Wouldn't you want to know that the military has access to the source code? Would you trust someone like Microsoft to write your missile guidance system? What about national security? How do you know that the company you're buying your software from hasn't outsourced the software writing to a some third world where a terrorist from Afghanistan or Pakistan could insert malicous code? Hell, even the U.S. breeds terrorists - think of the unabomber or Timothy McVeigh. If you can't see the source code, you cannot tell if there is a back door that allows an untrusted person to do something we wouldn't want them to do.

Don't just blow that idea off. Think about it. We're talking national security! The missile guidance system, air traffic control software, your social security checks, all this is likely proprietary and you have no idea whether it is safe or not.

Ok, so national security doesn't appeal to you. What about voting? Do you want to know that your vote counted? Do you want to ensure that someone didn't rig the election? That someone didn't hack in and change the results? Well, in the U.S. you can't be sure. If only you lived in Australia, then you could be sure that the software counting your votes is both secure and fair. But no, in the U.S. we're paying billions of dollars on electronic voting systems that don't work, that are insecure, and that don't even provide a paper trail to allow double checking!

Software, you're paying for software that you'll never have control over.

And worse, it has a huge impact on your life.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Work Oddities

So I work at Intel, writing software. Yup, I'm a geek. And I'm surrounded by geeks, many of whom aren't from this country. I don't have anything against non-citizens, they just aren't necessarily aware of all the pop-culture references that most Americans are. Comments like, "Marsha marsha marsha" and talking about the Flowbee often go over people's heads. But that's ok, it doesn't bother me. It can actually be fun, though I was rather embarrassed when I was asked to explain the term "Hummer" to a van full of non-natives (and no, they weren't asking about the army vehicle.

Anyway, some things people do are very bothersome or irritating.

Of course there's the first one:
Guys who do not wash their hands after going to the bathroom.
This is just disgusting. We even have those fancy, electric-eye, paper towel dispensers so you don't have to touch the dispenser to get a clean towel. Luckily, most of the bathrooms here have doors that open out, so you are not forced to actually touch the door with your freshly washed hands. Supposedly 50% of guys do not wash their hands. Think about that the next time you meet someone new. I'm hoping women have a better track record.

Guys who drive to work with their wives in the car, 

and the wife drives home
Sure, there's probably some "good" reason for the guy to drive. She's putting on her make-up, or talking on the phone, or eating breakfast, or maybe she doesn't want to drive. Maybe. Not likely. I think the guys are control freaks. They just have to drive because they can drive better than their wife can, or that the guy must always drive. And if the wife doesn't want to drive - she's driving home! Get a second car, ride a bike, do something, just don't play your mini Chinese fire drill outside the workplace.

Guys who sit in their cars at lunch to eat their lunch.
How anti-social is that? There are quite a few people here who walk out to their car (often with a lunch from the Intel cafeteria), and sit there, either in the blazing sun or downpouring rain. It just seems weird. At least they could surf for porn at their desk...

Guys who never make eye contact.
You know these people. You see them in the hall, but they'll look anywhere but at you: the floor, the cube wall, off into space. I lived in a dorm in college for a year where guys did that. I never did meet 3 or 4 of them - and there were perhaps 10 people on my floor. I'm not asking for a big hug from them, or even anything more than "hi" or "whassup". Just acknowledge that we're know each other once in a while because it's freakin awkward to avoid you when we're the only two people in the hallway.

Groups of people who take over the entire hallway.
I've seen a large guy nearly run a woman into a fire extinguisher because he made the minimal effort to make space for her. It's common courtesy to not take over the entire 12' wide hallway with the three people in your group.

You'll notice there are no gripes about women. That's easy to explain: there are nearly no women at Intel, at least in my Department. And on the few occasions there are women, they're surrounded by a group of guys who are drooling over the prospect of asking her out on a date. It's pathetic. Add that to my list.

A couple more things came to mind:

Guys who don't push their chairs in when leaving the cafeteria.
Most of the engineers here do not push their chairs in when they're getting up after eating. This act of laziness turns the cafeteria into a maze of chairs that require other people to dance their way through the cafeteria. Again, common courtesy.

Leaving insulated lunch bags in the communal fridge.
The fridge is for all to use, and these guys take up 1/3 of the shelf with their one freakin' lunch bag. Not only that, but it is insulated! WTF? You don't try to roast a chicken inside a cooler, you put it in an open pan so the heat can get to it (ideally on a roasting rack so the hot air can get all around the chicken). Same thing with a fridge: insulation slows down the transfer of heat. So you're making the fridge less efficient because you're just filling it with air, so the fridge is more prone to extreme temperature changes when the door is opened. People also waste space occasionally by putting in a 12-pack of Coke, which is also very inconsiderate. There are over 400 people on this floor, and two (2) refrigerators to share.


Mental note to self. Next time resist the urge to eat half a 21 pound watermelon immediately before bed. It leads to weird dreams and a very full bladder.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Film pirate worse than drunk driver...

I as this article about the senate passing a bill that sets up sentences of film pirates to be 3-5 years for the first offence, 10 years for second offences.

Yes, stealing is bad. Shame on you pirates.

But can it possibly be worse than something like drunk driving?

This is yet another sign of how congress is just a mouthpiece for big industry. In this case the film industry, which is making tons of money renting and selling DVD's. I'm not even going to go into the issue of how the movie industry is setting laws that restrict our fair-use rights.

I don't have a problem with the industry making money selling DVD's.

I just have a problem throwing so much weight behind catching someone filming a , especially when it's been shown that most of the illegal copies come from insiders, not joe-shmoe in the audience.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Poison Oak

Damn-it, I ran into some more. I don't know if it was from my ride on Tuesday, or the ride yesterday up Bald Hill. I tecnu'ed up after each ride, and also used dish soap to wash off any remnants. I scrubbed good and long because my reaction seems to stick around for 3 weeks and I'm tired of it.

Alas, I have a couple of itchy patches. They're pretty small, and hopefully won't spread. But I did everything you're supposed to (other than actually coming into contact with the stuff).

Other than that, the ride up Bald Hill was rather nice. I only gave myself 50 minutes to ride (didn't want Mary to have to wait around for me), and it only took me 45 to ride to the hill and go up it twice.

Last fall they cleared out a bunch of the underbrush. They're trying to restore the vegetation to be more in-tune with the normal vegetation. I forget what has grown there that they don't like, but one of the things is, you guessed it, poison oak. Well, I don't think the brush clearing was very effective at controlling the poison oak - I saw plenty on my ride.

I think it was two years ago that they brought in a herd of goats to nibble the poison oak to death. Turns out that people clearing the stuff by hand is a bad idea because of the reactions, but goats are immune to the oils. Or maybe they just like itchy tongues. According to Sam, they're maddening as hell (itchy tongues, he will not comment on the goats). Anyways, the goats hung out for a month or so and ate a bunch of the underbrush. Later on there were some small controlled burns to get rid of the rest of the undesirable plants. I guess that particular area is looking pretty good and is free of poison oak.

So, if you don't mind the risk of a little poison oak, and are looking for a good introductory ride, head out the Midge Cramer Path and up Bald Hill. There's a section about a hundred yards long that's on the top of my list of favorite single tracks. And don't forget to tecnu.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

The Face

Tuesday night ride from Cyclotopia, gotta love it. I guess the guys were tired of entering the forest via Oak Creek. So we rode out 29th by Timber Hill and up a trail named "Snot". People paved the bottom portion of it, and the upper is pretty mellow - but all up hill, and pretty windy. Snot hits forest road 612, right about where it heads north (and downhill). We directly hopped on "Humpy Bumpy" which cuts across the forest to meet "Dan's Trail" right about the 'D' - right where there's a bridge. It's a nice little single track with some up and down. OSU did some logging through "Humpy Bumpy" about a year back, and it's amazing how well the forest has recovered. It shows how well the forest likes thinning as opposed to clear cut.

Anyway, after riding up the middle section of "Dan's", we headed up 612.4 to "Horse Trail", up it, and over to the top of Dimple Hill along road 600. There I was properly introduced to true Corvallis riding.

For those of you not blessed enough to come through Corvallis, we have a ring of hills to our north that make up McDonald Forest. On parts of these hills are fields, and when the grass isn't too high, you can generally see a little brown line coming down the center of the field. These are not your average, "let's grow some hay and corn" fields, they are fields you would think twice about walking through because they are so steep. Perhaps they were clear-cut in the past, but just imagine the bald spot on uncle Lou's head, that's what they look like, and that's how steep they are.

So there we are, on the top of Dimple Hill, and I ask, "what are we riding?" I knew Dan's Trail is useless b/c the fallen trees haven't yet been cleared. "The Face" was the response, and down we went, straight over the edge - kind of like riding a roller coaster, slowly inching to the peak, and teetering at the top, balanced like a basketball on the rim, ready to drop in.

The first part was really cool, it wasn't terribly steep, the grass was shoulder-height, and the 8-inch wide trail wove through it like a garter snake. Then the grass suddenly changed and we could see where we were going (this is the teetering part). The trail got steeper-and-steeper, the grass only about a foot high - giving you a clear view of the guys who'd already finished and were waiting at the bottom. I've never done a section of ride this steep on dirt before, definitely not one this long (about 100 yards). This rivals anything I've ridden in Moab, it was about this steep or this steep. Seriously. I couldn't stop speeding up at one point - I was too afraid to hit the front brake any harder (I needed to get my belly on the seat - but it was up too high for me to make that shift).

Since you don't believe me, you'll just have to come and ride it with me.

After that we cruised down some overgrown, unnamed roads until we hit "Hocus" and "Pocus" some really sweet single tracks that steeply descended through forest. The only drawbacks to those two trails were a little patch of poison oak and they weren't nearly long enough.

Now that we were back road 600, but right near the entrance at Oak Creek, we decided to basically climb to near the top of McCulloch Peak. It was a day for climbing. So up 6020 to "Uproute", then up 680 to 770. From there things got kind of confusing. Somehow we did some descending and hit 770/6021 again (perhaps we started a bit above?), then we road along 6021 to another unnamed trail that had some bulldozers criss-crossing parts of the trail. So down we went, eventually coming out on 6020 right near where we finished "South Side Slip". At that point it was nearly 9pm, so we all headed home.

2 and a half hours of riding, 22+ miles. Not a bad night.

Now it's time to saw some logs.

Monday, June 21, 2004


Last Saturday, Mary and I joined my sister-in-law and her family at the Prefontaine track meet. Kelly (the brother-in-law-law) is a track nut. He coaches a high school track team (and cross country), and he gets giddy when going to a meet like this.

In high-school, I threw (put) the shot, and discus. I wasn't great, but in my league I usually placed either in 1st or 2nd. However, I always choked on the discus when it came to the P.I.L. championship and trying to get to the state meet. So I never got to go to the state meet at Hayward Field. But enough about my glory days.

Kelly brought some of the kids from his track team, and they were all so excited to see the various athletes. One girl started quivering uncontrollably and crying when she met Marion Jones. Marion (if I may call her that) is a very impressive athlete, but I'm more of a fan of Koji Murofushi who throws the hammer.

Alan Webb became the 100th person to run a sub 4-minute mile at Hayward Field. During his victory lap he took off his shoes and threw them into the crowd. Kelly was standing right next to the guy who caught it. I don't think Kelly stopped talking about it the entire drive home. I can't imagine what he would have done if he caught the shoe - he's still giving out pieces of the section of track he carved out of the old track at Oregon State. It was torn out a couple of years ago to put in a softball field, but its claim to fame was that it was the first artificial track in North America.

There is so much stuff going on at one time at the meet that it's very hard to follow. In one 5 second span, a guy threw the winning distance in the shot, a man and a woman cleared 18+' and 15+' in the pole vault, and a race (the 110 high hurdles?) started. Talk about confusing.

I really would like to watch the discus, but they've never thrown it when I've made it. Watching the hammer was definitely the high-point of the day for me. Those guys spin around so incredibly fast - and I can't figure out how they don't get dizzy and throw it into the fence. Koji just blew the other guys out of the water, only two throws were even within 15' of his worst throws, and most of the guys didn't even come 20' within his worst marks.

I stood about 10 feet from the chain-link fence that surrounded the throwing circle. It was definitely the best "seat". Koji's coach was acting like an ass and bothering people, but I guess he gets some slack because he is a real coach. The biggest asses were three guys, all taller than me, who walked up and stood in front of all of us. I couldn't believe it! Three guys, all well over 6 feet - the tallest was probably 6'7, and they just completely blocked everyone's view. I asked them, "You're not seriously just going to come in and stand there, are you?" - and they sheepishly came to the back of the crowd. The nerve. I think they probably never got called on it in the past - they're taller than everyone else, and everyone is afraid of making a scene. Luckily, I was there to save the day. Go me.

Now if I can just figure out where I can start practicing the hammer. Trey for gold in 2008!

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Fitton Green

Yesterday I rode on a new trail, Fitton Green. It's a part of the Greenbelt Fund - which is a plan to encircle Corvallis (and Philomath?) with a series of parks where motorized vehicles are not allowed. Nice idea - though they're not very far on it yet. As a part of the greenbelt trust there's a "park" that I think is named after Martin Luther King Jr., and it's just a little strip of grass sandwiched between HW 34 and the Willamette. There's nothing else around.

Anyways, I rode past Bald Hill, as usual, and rode up a dirt road that never ended, to one of the entrances to the park. Fitton Green is a new park - so the trail is really just a road. The road climbs up the northwest side of the hill (if you take a look at the topo map of the previous link) to a little viewpoint. From the highest viewpoint you can ride down a new hiking trail that winds through the field that covers most of the hilltop. Unfortunately, most of the hill (the eastern half and the top) is privately owned, and someone is building a huge house on the top. The view from the house has got to be amazing.

Sidebar: What's the deal with the huge houses? I realize this is America and all, you're free to do what you want with your money, fine. But really, do you neede a 4000-5000 square foot house? Perhaps to park your gas-guzzling SUVs you might need a gargantuan 3 car garage. But what about the house? Unless you've got 9 kids, or your in-laws are living with you and you need a buffer, you can't seriously use that much space.

Right now there really isn't much to the park - just the little loop I rode, and about two more miles of trail that connect to two other road entrances. I wouldn't recommend it for any serious bikers, but it's got a nice little view.

Movie Critic

We watched "50 First Dates" last night. I'm not a big fan of Adam Sandler, but I did really like "The Wedding Singer", so I thought I'd give Adam and Drew another chance.

Spoilers ahead.

One and a half thumbs up. It's a really cute movie about a guy who really loves a woman who can't remember who he is. The movie has a rather actually serious message, and some good humor. I had a little trouble not seeing Sean Astin's character as Samwise Gangee with a lisp. Rob Shneider's character should have been thrown out the window - his off-color jokes were just dumb and completely out of place - more like what a standard Adam Sandler movie wants.

I especially liked the ending, they didn't candy-coat the situation and do what I expected - which was give Lucy her memory back.

Anyway, the movie recommended for a good romantic evening (even if the wife falls aslweep 2 minutes into it). It has the standard Sandler songs and the standard moments of overacting (fake crying, etc.), but it's definitely worth the rental.

As a bonus, the movie has lots of remakes of 80's tunes, most of which are pretty interesting: The Cure "Friday I'm In Love" and "Love Song", Sting's "Every Breath You Take", and some others.

Friday, June 18, 2004

South Side Slip

So I rode with the group that meets at Cyclotopia every Tuesday/Thursday. Theoretically, the Tuesday ride is an easier, more gentle ride. Turns out that this week is "opposite week".

The ride starts at 6pm, and the group (8 of us, with one more meeting us at the forest's Oak Creek entrance) took off at a leisurely pace. After a bit of discussion, one guy decided, "It's the hottest day of the year so far, let's climb McCulloch Peak!" And so we rode, up, and up, and up, and up. McCulloch is the highest peak in McDonald Forest - something like a 2100' climb. But, no worries, we took the long way (somehow it's harder) up, road 6021, commonly known as "Cougar Bait Road".

If you take a look at the map of the forest, you can notice where road 700 T's into the road to McCulloch Peak. That's where most of the earlier rides with this group stopped. There's a trail named, "Top Secret" that is essentially an extension of road 700, except it is the size of a deer trail, and it dives off the edge of the mountain.

Little did I know, I had yet to climb "The Wall", the section of road from the T intersection to the top of McCulloch. I didn't think it was all that bad, it was just some more climbing. Finally we reached the top, and if I had a digicam, I would have taken a picture. Beautiful view of the rest of the forest, Corvallis, and the general Willamette valley to the east.

Now was time for the down. Common concensus was that the single track from the top was all steep. Half the group did the (evidentally) super-steep top section of South Side Slip, and the other half (including me) did some comparable, yet not quite as scary - though I forget the name. Our trail was due south from McColloch, while the upper SSS was east-south-east of the peak. We all met up on rd 6021 at the bottom of upper SSS. I faired fairly well on the alternative trail - it was steep enough that my front tire was slipping (I'm blaming it on the slow guy in front of me). I did a lot better after I stopped because I ran into a little tree. With my breath back, the last bit wasn't quite as bad.

The drop in for main portion of South Side Slip is pretty intimidating. It's gotta be close to a 45 degree slope, into the relative dark of the forest, with some ruts and rocks. Luckily, you just start slow and use the little bit of a run-out to regain any control you lost. The rest of the trail was challenging and fun. Lots of steep down with ruts (I hate that), and quite a few downed logs - some rideable, others requiring you to climb. I didn't ride any of the logs because I'm chicken shit, even though they had nice little ramps up them.

South Side Slip ends somewhere in the middle of 6020 - right around where the number is on the map. Most of us continued on my favorite ride, which is via Uproute to Extendo.

All in all a great ride. Nearly 3 hours of solid riding, with about half an hour of resting hither and yon. I'm kinda tired today, but much better off than I expected to be. I'll probably try again next week, perhaps on a Tuesday.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Ban ana

That's banana split, get it? "banana" split.

Anyway, we had them a couple of nights ago. Two friends came over to watch "Office Space", bringing ice cream, bananas, and hot fudge sauce. We had the fresh strawberries from our garden, some fresh pineapple, peanuts, and real whipped cream. Delicious.

If only I hadn't forgotten the maraschino cherries. alas...

We just picked another 2 quarts of berries tonight. I can't believe how many berries our little plot (4x12) produces. One of the two types is an ever-bearing, and we'll be getting berries from it from now until September. That's a real treat - I suggest planting those if I were you.

Hmmm..., fresh berries. There's a little ice cream left, some hot fudge sauce... gotta go.


This past weekend I finally rode the Extendo trail in McDonald Forest. I'd seen it before, even hiked it with Mary, but because I try to pay attention to official trail closures (some trails are closed between Oct 1 and April 15), I'd not ridden it on my bike.

Lately, I've just been riding out past Bald Hill, and out to the Oak Creek. From there I can enter McDonald Forest and ride a little loop that takes me about half an hour (600 to 6020 to Upwards to 680 back down 600). But now that it's after April 15th, I can fly down Extendo. Here's a pic of what the trail looks like - I didn't take the picture, and I have no idea who the person in it is.

Extendo has got to be my favorite trail in the Corvallis area. Granted, I've only been on a handful of the illeglal trails in McDonald Forest, but it's just a perfect combination of technical riding with speed. You've got windy single track, with some steep downs, and large tree roots liberally sprinkled in to make it interesting. Like a lot of the forest, there are large sections of trees where the only underbrush is grass - which is just amazing to bike through. Imagine, dark trunks extending 40-50' in the air, bright green grass 2 feet tall, and a slim trail weaving through it all like a snake.

Dan's trail is almost as pretty, and offers a less technical ride, though it is a bit faster. However, due to the storms this winter, there are tons of downed trees on Dan's trail, and they're still not cleared up. I rode with Ron, trying to show him the amazing riding in Corvallis, but all he got was his ass kicked while riding up Horse, and a good upper-body work out while tossing his bike over the 20-odd trees we had to cross while coming down Dan's.

The best beginner trails around are on Bald Hill, they're short, interesting, and even closer to home. I can get there in 10 minutes on my bike (as opposed to 20 minutes to Oak Creek). There are three single-track trails up to the top, plus a horse trail, and a little (hiker only) trail connecting two of the single-track trails. Additionally, just past the farms to the north of the hill is yet another single track trail that is a nice out-and-back. None of the trails are very steep, they're in the range of .5-1.5 miles long, but they're windy enough to be interesting to the more advanced riders. The only drawback is that poison oak runs rampant on Bald hill. And just recently I found another small set of trails that connect (via gravel roads) to the Bald Hill roads. I'll explore them soon.

I think I'm ready to head out with the group that leaves from Cyclotopia on Tues/Thurs at 6pm. They ride long and hard - you generally don't get home until 9 or 9:30, and since it is usually dark at that point, you need to bring a light. They're the ones that introduced me to the illegal trails, and after a few more rides I might get the courage do to them alone. The biggest problem is getting lost because all of a sudden you're dumped out onto a logging road you've never seen before. Well, that and the fact that they ride like little banshees, and I get tired trying to keep up.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Mmmm.... donuts

I've got a soft spot for donuts. It's actually kind of a big soft spot, it's my belly. And you wonder why I lost the "Fatty Bowl" competition. sigh...

Anyway, I see donuts as yet another indication that our country is going down the shitter.

Walk into any of your standard grocery stores. Take a look at their donut selection. They've got the pre-packaged, month old, Hostess donuts (twinkies, ding-dongs, etc.), or their own home-grown donuts.

Now, the Hostess donuts are just very plastic. The chocolate icing has the flavor and mouth-feel of thick saran wrap. But at least they keep well. And I've got to give it to them, Hostess at least makes their food products look like actual donuts. The donuts are round, everything is uniformly shaped, it's what you'd expect to find. Of course they taste like cat poop.

On the other hand, you have donuts at big stores like Safeway and Fred Meyer that make their own donuts. Their cake donuts are usually relatively round, but they taste like the baker fried the dough in a vat of petroleum-based oil. But the biggest disgrace is their other donuts, the apple fritters, maple bars, old-fashioned, and crullers. I don't even know where to begin!

All of them are covered in a thick, grainy sugar icing that even Tammy Fae would have trouble handling. The apple fritters have no apple at all, just enough cinnamon to give the illusion they taste different than the standard donut. The cinnamon swirl has the same amount of cinnamon as the apple fritter, only you know it's a cinnamon swirl because the brown dye (dirt?) they roll into the cinnamon swirl is shaped like a spiral (usually). It tastes no different than the apple fritter.

But the biggest crock is the maple bar! The maple bars have enough fake maple flavoring to choke a horse, the icing weighs as much as the dough used to make the "bar" portion. But now they cannot even make the bar look like a bar. The shape closely resembles a large turd that's been stepped on by an elephant. It is in no way symmetrical, and only resembles the "bar" shape in that it's vaguely longer in one dimension than the other.

The "bakers" at Safeway and Freddies probably don't get paid much, but they could at least take some pride in what they produce.

Of course the newcomer to the world of donuts is Krispy Kreme. Sure, they've been "around" since 1937, but only recently have they made it big. They do produce a very pretty product, and their Original Glazed donut is pretty good when it is served hot. But their other donut varieties aren't anything really special, and they tend to use a bit too much glazing. I will give you the fact that their donuts are an order of magnitude better than Safeway's and FredMeyer's.

To get a truly remarkable donut, you need to find a good mom and pop place. I know of two places, one in Portland: Annie's Donut Shop, 3449 NE 72nd And one in Corvallis: Gramma Dama's Donuts, 2215 NW 9th.

Back to the original premise: donuts being an indicator of what's wrong with this country. Our focus is off. An indicator of success in the US is how much bling bling you've got - similar to the amount of sugar icing on a donut. Just because a little is nice, doesn't mean you're better off with a bunch of gold teeth.

So pay some respect to the little people, buy a donut from a local shop.

Friday, June 11, 2004

An evil plot to take over...

So I've got this idea on how to take over the world.

Well, perhaps not the world, but certainly the grain production of the US and Canada.

Well, I wouldn't take over the production, but Monsanto certainly could. And it wouldn't cost very much at all. In fact, it'd cost very little, perhaps a few hundred dollars in seed.

You see, they recently won a lawsuit against a small Canadian farmer. I don't know the specifics, none of the little news blurbs give any real specifics. So, perhaps this farmer was stealing the grain. Shame on him.

But what if he wasn't. What if he was doing his own thing, growing his own corn, and the corn was fertilized by pollen from some other farmer's field that was using Monsanto's Roundup-resistant corn. This farmer, through no fault of his own, would now have corn that contains the "patented" gene for Roundup resistance.

Not that this specific farmer would have ever known, because he doesn't use Roundup!. Yet, according to the courts, he's responsible for keeping his field clear of the patented corn. This farmer is just doing what farmers have done for thousands of years: growing his crop, keeping a chunk of the seed for next year's planting, and selling the rest.

So all Monsanto has to do to take over most of the corn/grain production is to simply hire some crop dusters to fly low over a bunch of fields and scatter the patented grain in fields - or even just the pollen if you do it during the right season.

Over time, the patented grain is going to intermingle with the normal grain, and whamo! Bring out the lawsuits because everyone is growing your patented grain.

This is probably going to happen anyway, the crop dusters would just speed up the process.

That's the scary part of the GMO food. Not that I think we're going to die because of some mutant gene. It's probably not going to happen any times soon. However, what if it did happen. What if one of the GMO grains did turn out to be horribly bad, causing birth defects in babies or something. By the time we would know, the grain would be out there, cross-polinating with the normal grain. Forever contaminating the food source.

Plus, you couldn't ever get rid of it, because it'd be Roundup resistant.

Bottom's Up

Last spring in Moab, I was introduced to the wonder of the Mojito. For those of you who are unaware of this beautiful drink, it consists of lime juice, mint leaves, light rum, and some soda water. Various recipies include dashes of bitters and simple syrup.

So, I've decided to come up with my favorite combination, the ultimate Mojito recipie, if you will. Of course everyone has their own favorites, but mine will be the tastiest. I think the key ingredient might very well be some Grand Marnier.

time passes...

Yup, Grand Marnier is key to an awesome Mojito. I spent about a week making Mojitos for myself, about two a night. After that I had to lay off the alcohol for a little while because I'm getting old.

So my favorite mojito combination so far is (roughly - like I'm going to give away the best drink recipe ever):

1/2 a lime, cut into wedges
3-6 sprigs of fresh mint (I like spearamint)
1 dash Angostura bitters
2 oz sugar syrup
2 oz good light rum
cubed ice
selzter water

In a highball glass, muddle the lime, mint, bitters, and sugar
syrup until thoroughly mixed. Add ice, rum, and selzter water.
Give it all a quick stir, garnish with a lime slice and a grilled
shrimp skewer. mmm... barbie


Speaking of drinks, my wife and I encountered two very interesting drinks while in Australia last year. They're both easy to make and very yummy.

My wife and I met my sister-in-law and brother-in-law after their work day at pub in downtown Perth on the waterfront, named The Lucky Shag. Evidently, that's the name of a local bird. Whatever, it was a pub on the water, and they served alcohol.n

However, since I don't like beer, I don't usually drink wine, and cocktails are only made well in the good-ol U.S.A., I ended up sipping a non-alcoholic Lemon Lime and Bitters.

Quick digression, you can only find a good cocktail in the U.S. Sure, there'll be some errant bartender in another country who can mix up a decent rum and coke. But by and large, the rest of the world wouldn't know a Manhattan if it was thrown in their face - let alone how to properly garnish a cocktail. Cocktails are more American than just about anything. Besides, until relatively recently, the US didn't produce any good wine or beer - so we had to make due with cocktails. But now we've got hundreds of micro-brew makers, and the wines are getting to be world-class But back to the story.

Yes, it (lemon lime and bitters) is a chick drink. But since I was already carrying around the new embroidery book, feeling masculine was not exactly high on my list. Plus, it's a damn fine drink - made with fresh lime, a lot of bitters, and their version of Sprite. Here's a pretty decent version that I mix up at home:

1/4 fresh lime
1/2 fresh lemon
5 dashes bitters
3 oz sugar syrup
cube ice
seltzer water

In a highball glass, squeeze the lime and lemon. Add the
bitters and sugar syrup, mixing well. Add cube ice and
seltzer to fill. A quick stir and a lime slice as garnish.

The drink should have a slight brown tint from the bitters
(you can also float the bitters on top or bottom - that looks
cool too). If the drink isn't visibly tinted, you're just
drinking Sprite.

The last drink we discovered was completely by accident. We were walking along the waterfront and decided it was time to eat some lunch. Unfortunately, there was nothing nearby - just grass and trees. So we left the waterfront and found a Thai restaraunt tucked into some office-type building. Very odd location.

The menu listed, "Thai lemon drink". I figured, why not, you only live once. The drink was delivered - it looked like lemonade. I took a sip and wow! what a tasty drink.

Of course I wanted to know where they got it. And of course the waiter barely spoke any english. He was real nice and tried pantomiming the recipe.
"Lemon, sugar, sauce and water."
"Huh? sauce? what kind?"
"No ... sauce." And he starts shaking his hand as though he were having some sort of seisure.

After struggling for about five minutes, he goes back to the kitchen and brings out a salt shaker.

I was sure it was going to be fish sauce, an ingredient used in Thai cooking as much as we use salt in our cooking. And I'm tempted to try making the drink with fish sauce - though I've not been quite that brave yet.

This drink is really touch and go with the ingredients. I usually have to adjust after making it because I've added too much or too little salt or too little lemon, or something. You know you have it right when it's very lemony, you can taste the salt, but you've got a very nice balance of sweet, sour and salty. It'll probably take a few tries, just start with a bunch of lemons and don't give up. Here's a rough guide to get you going:

1/2 fresh lemon
2 oz sugar syrup
2 tsp table salt
cube ice
selzter water

Mix the lemon, sugar syrup and salt until the salt dissolves,
then add the ice and selzter.

Instead of sugar syrup and selzter water, you can just use Sprite or 7-UP, but it's nice to be able to control the sweetness. And don't try using honey, it's a pain in the rear to dissolve - pretty near hopeless after you've added the ice.

Bottom's up!

Stallman speaks

Last night I attended a talk by Richard Stallman at Portland State. Yes, *the* Richard Stallman, founder of the free software movement, and the person who we have to thank for GNU\Linux, Emacs and gcc. Remember, it's "free" as in free speech (or freedom), not free beer.

In the past, I have exchanged a couple, brief, email with Stallman, and I've even curiously played the recording of him singing the Free Software song (it's even cornier than you would expect). But this was the first time I saw the legend in person. Here's my mini trip report:

Introduced with minimal preamble, RMS launched into the story of his beginning at MIT's AI lab, the hacker culture there, and the Xerox laser printer that introduced him to proprietary software. For want of some source code, the free software movement was born.

The piece I'd never fully grasped before this talk was how personally Stallman took the denial of access to the source code. It truly is a moral evil to deny someone the source: it does them actual harm. In this case, they were not able to work around paper jams (nor learn from the source code). In essence, a Non-Disclosure Agreement boils down to an agreement, "I promise not to help ________" (with the blank to be filled in later).

Starting in 1983, Stallman began coming up with the idea of free software, and began working toward that end.

Free software (by definition) guarantees the following:

0 - Freedom to run (as often and as many times as desired)
1 - Permission to modify
2 - Freedom to share
3 - Freedom to distribute modified copies

For RMS, it's all about freedom. Examples of harm done by proprietary software are: inability to share useful software, illegality of playing DVDs on free software, spyware (Windows XP/Real reporting user information), etc.

The initial goal of the free software movement was to build a completely free system you can run on your computer. This includes, kernel, compiler, editor, file systems, graphical system, etc. etc. The first piece of software he wrote was, my favorite, GNU Emacs. He sold tapes containing the program (or you could get it free of charge from an ftp site).

After founding the Free Software Foundation, to further the cause, he stopped personally selling Emacs, and began contracting work. He quickly worked up to charging $250/hr, and worked until he paid enough for himself to live, to save, and to pay taxes for the year. This took him 7 working weeks. After that, he worked without charge. Needless to say, Stallman lives a simple life.

In the beginning of the 1990's, all the pieces for the free operating system were in place except for the kernel. After casting around for a free option, they settled on the MACH micro-kernel (developed at CMU), and set about writing the user-level programs to fill out the system calls that would complete the kernel interface. This turned out to be more difficult than originally expected. Luckily, Linus Torvalds began writing the Linux kernel (using the monolithic kernel model), and released it under GPL in 1993. People began combining the Linux kernel with the GNU system, and eventually even GNU people began using the system as a whole. Thus was born what we now know as GNU\Linux.

You'll notice my use of "GNU\Linux" as opposed to just "Linux". I knew that Stallman believed strongly in using the former, while many (most) other people are happy with just using the latter. It wasn't until this talk that I finally absorbed how simply using "Linux" to describe the operating system, versus "GNU\Linux", completely breaks the connection between the software and the philosophy of free software. Stallman acknowledged that the Linux kernel is the last piece that carried the free operating system across the finish line, but it is just one piece. And because freedom is the end goal of the free software movement, this last piece of education is critical.

He rarely programs, letting people younger and more capable to that work. Stallman now spends most of his time educating people about free software. The GNU\Linux system is only the beginning, there are many more pieces needed: playing DVDs, authoring multi-media content, gaming software, whatever might be useful. The two most powerful enemies to free software are the href="http://anti-dmca.org/">DMCA and software patents, the later
being the larger of the two.

Many questions were asked, the bulk the answers usually boiled down to the questioner not understanding "free software", or Stallman applying freedom concepts to the specific example. The most interesting question asked was,

"Specifically, if you could change one aspect of copyright law, what would you do?"

His (paraphrased) answer was to change the laws so that software can only be copyrighted for 3 years. In order to obtain software copyright you would have to register the complete source with the Library of Congress, and in 3 years they would release the code. If you did not register the complete source, you would be guilty of a crime (and could be prosecuted). The way proprietary code could still exist would be to continually innovate (or at least release "new" versions at least every 3 years).

He did sing the Free Software song and talked about the church of Emacs. The obligatory dig at 'vi' was, "vi vi vi - editor of the beast", and he views using a free version of 'vi' as penance.

Stallman is quite the character - he's very adamant about his views of "good" and "bad". In reality, he is pretty humble. He always honored other people's view points - both people he talked about (Linus Torvalds) and people in the audience. While Microsoft was the butt of several jokes, he explicitly pointed out that simply "hating Microsoft" is not good - it could lead one to thinking that anything anti-Microsoft could be good, and his view is that *all* proprietary software is bad. In a nutshell, he believes to his core, that all software should be free.

When you take a step back and look at the accomplishment, the GNU\Linux system - it's pretty impressive. Stallman started a movement that, 20 years later, has resulted in truly free system that is threatening Microsoft, a company with 90+% market share, $25 billion in the bank, $10 billion/year in revenue, and probably the highest margin of profit ratio ever. It is software of the highest quality (think of the last time Linux/Emacs/gcc crashed). And most importantly, the software can *never* be taken away from you.

Not Last

I raced this weekend in Ashland at the Spring Thaw. People asked me how I did, and my response is, I didn't come in last (193/204). Turns out, amongst the Clydesdale's, I was 6th out of 8 - and I would have beaten #5, but I'm scared of rutted, sandy downhills (which is what we rode down).

Needless to say, my ego wasn't exactly stroked this weekend. It was a pretty grueling up-hill, and I haven't trained very much, so I was passed by everyone from the skinny athletic guys to a 16 year old on a rigid Kona with a rack. I do take some pride in that I didn't walk any of the first hill, I passed a couple of people who did, and one who puked his breakfast. I only walked the 50' of the super steep and sandy hill right after the last aid station.

While I was cruising along in the middle of the race all by myself I realized Ashland is a pretty idyllic place to live: good skiing all winter, good mountain biking all summer. The only catches are: 1) it's way in the middle of nowhere, and 2) the unemployment is relatively high, and 3) all the jobs revolve around the tourist industry and are barely above miniumum wage.

While I was cruising along in the middle of the race I had delusions of winning the race. I envisioned myself at the head of the pack, racing to keep ahead of those who would wish to take the yellow jersey from me. That thinking didn't make me go any faster.

After recovering from the race, I finished a book Mary lent me: Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver. It's not my usual reading, but it written much better than the stuff I normally read. I think I'll go back to the sci-fi.

Just before we left Ashland, we stopped by a "Nature Store" that had all sorts of bird feeders, fancy lawn ornaments, and wind chimes. We looked for a wind chime for the in-laws b/c memere broke hers a while back. I'm not a big fan of wind chimes. An old housemate of mine bought me some bamboo ones that sounded pretty cool, but they're usually too high pitched and tinny. However, we saw a set of these chimes which sound really good. They sound like Tibetan bells. You'll have to come on by to hear them.

Kitty Crack

Cats on catnip are pretty funny. Ours (we have three: Fysh, Jade, and Jupiter) roll around in it, lick a lot, and become very playful. Playful in the cute way cats in cartoons play with balls of yarn. I was always real careful about how much I gave the cats because I figured they'd OD on the stuff, and I'm a cheap bastard. But, the last time I went to the vet and she gave Milo (sadly, he's no longer with us) about a 1/4 cup of catnip.

Who would have thunk that cats like morel mushrooms? Turns out ours do. We were woken up last night by the sound of a paper bag full of dried mushrooms being batted around the hardwood floors.

I dragged my sleepy butt out of the bed and poked around the house until I found Jupiter staring at me, with the bag of mushrooms in his mouth, and a look that said, "You thought they'd be safe in the cupboard, didn't you? Sucker." Needless to say, they're safely stored away in a drawer now.

If catnip is kitty marijuana, then I guess morels are kitty crack. They went nuts just smelling the mushrooms and playing with them like dried-up bugs. I wonder what they would have done had they done more than just nibble the shrooms.

On an unrelated note, I went to the bike store to get a couple more spokes to replace the one that broke last night. I chatted with one of the bike builders there while I was waiting for another to put new handlebar tape on my road bike. This guy has 9 bikes, and he's built all but 2 of them! The kid couldn't have been more than 18 years old. The latest one is a full suspension frame, and the down tube has a triangular cross-section with 8 gussets. Or perhaps the head tube had 8 gussets - it was large enough to house some 1.5 inch Manitou fork. He said that he just needed to pony up the cash for a rear fork.

Yeah, I get all excited that I can replace a couple of spokes and true the wheel up. This guy builds his bikes from scratch.

But, my point is, I had to get the rear wheel in order because I'm gonna race this weekend. Mary has some sort of herb conference - not what you think, she's a naturopathic physician. I've only done one other race, a duathalon. It was was fun - but I did the bike portion after my friend, Nick, ran the race. As a result, I was able to pass a ton of people because they were all tired out from running the first 5 miles. Now I will be able to ride against fresh riders. The question that remains is: am I a beginner or a clydesdale?

Meanwhile, I ordered the new rear wheel. It'll be here in about two weeks (he has to order the PW Hub as he didn't have it in stock). No more fixing spokes.

Ain't karma a bitch

So I was just giving my brother crap about his recent bike problems. Then I go to put the tire on the rear wheel of my mountain bike and whammo! Another broken spoke!

Even better, it's on the drive side this time, so the second spoke I picked up on Sunday (for the non-drive side - which I replaced earlier this morning) doesn't even fit!

I'm a believer of karma now.

Dreaming of a new wheel

Earlier today I replaced a spoke on the rear wheel of my mountain bike. I hope to never have to replace a spoke on my rear wheel again. It's not that big a pain, but with the addition of disc brakes, you have double the pain of removing things before you can even begin to address the broken spoke.

First remove the free wheel, then remove the cassette, add new spoke (don't forget to lube the threads), tighten, true, replace, replace, replace, inflate, and you're ready to go. All in all, it takes me an hour to replace the one stupid broken spoke. I guess I won't be applying for that bike mechanic position any time soon.

Back to the whole, "not replacing a spoke again," theory. I'm gonna have Peter White build me a wheel. He guarantees against spoke breakage and truing! Wow, and considering the fact that I'm gonna get a bonna-fide Phil Wood hub, the only thing that should ever break is the rim. And that's the one thing (knock on wood) I've not broken on a bike yet. Oh, I guess I dented the rims on my road bike when I hit a pot hole (1 inch deep, vertical edge) at 25mph. But that was my fault. Hopefully the fat tires and the Deep V rim will get me through the most of my riding.

Now I just need to make the call and drop the $400+. ouch.

Guess I'd better get back to work so I can pay for this bad boy.

Rant, my first posting.

Inspired by Porktonado I've decided to try this diary land gig.

Mostly I'm annoyed about the fact that the shimano
rear hub
has the lock nut way out on the end. As a result, it's
often coming loose - I guess b/c I can't cinch it down against
anything. If I try cinching it, I tighten the cones so much that the
wheel won't spin freely. WTF?!?!


That's yet another reason to buy a Phil Wood hub.
But more on that later.


I feel like I'm the little brother!

Sam is pushing me around, wanting this, wanting that.

Now that I've made this blog, he wants to be able to use
RSS to read the blog.

Great, so now you can use RSS, whatever that is.
So go to this site to do whatever it is you have to do: http://feeds.feedburner.com/BigFaceWorm.

Or just click on the fancy button below:

Move along, there's nothing to see

I'm moving from diaryland to here.

Because my brother was complaining that my last blog didn't have a rss feed. Supposedly this one does. I dunno.

Anyway, here I am.