Thursday, February 26, 2009

Drives Me Crazy...

Ok, it's my Thursday rant. (Heh. Maybe I'll start a regular post on Thursdays!)

Last night and this morning I was almost killed by four bad habits of drivers. (OK, maybe that's an exaggeration. But they did really annoy me, and could actually be dangerous.)

My top four list of flagrant violations of polite driving?

1. Driving Without Headlights (in dense fog)
2. Not Dimming Bright Lights (when meeting an oncoming car on a dark road)
3. Tailgating
4. Not Using a Turn Signal

My examples of such Bad Behavior:

1. The fog this morning was pea-soup-thick. Maybe quarter mile visability. I live just off a major highway. As I was turning onto the highway, I nearly got rammed by a truck zooming past because I didn't see him in the fog. Fortunately I had *my* lights on, and he was able to move to the left lane to avoid me. I wonder, whose fault would that have been?

2. I drive down a dark county road every evening on my way home. And I am convinced that no one knows the courtesy about dimming your brights when you meet an oncoming car. So last night as I'm toodling home, suddenly... BRIGHT LIGHTS! I'm BLINDED!!! It's one of those cars with the super-dooper high intensity headlights with the lights on high beam, and I can't even see the road. I flash my brights (the international sign for "turn your lights down, you doofus!"). What does the driver do? Flashes me back (so now I know they're on high) and returns them to high beam. I slow down dramatically until they go past and I can see again. Now, I know sometimes a person can forget, or make a mistake about the high beams. But this happens to me several times every night. So I must conclude that folks who drive along this particular county road just don't care. At All.

3. Tailgaters on this road are also common. I drive the speed limit. (I know, I'm wierd.) So folks who think I should go faster get right on my back bumper and try to push. And sometimes, they even combine that with high beams. Argh!

4. And finally, it's amazing how many cars in north Alabama have malfunctioning turn signals. Simply amazing. Either they don't work at all, or they never turn off. ::sigh:: Maybe we could apply for some stimulus money to repair all these cars!

Monday, February 23, 2009

I Can Stop Any Time I Want To...really!

Have I mentioned lately how much I like having regular four-day work weeks? The ten hours of work on Monday and Tuesday are challenging, of course, but by Wednesday I'm already anticipating my three-day weekend. So I have Friday (on Thursday) and then First and Second Saturdays. (And I appreciate that Second Saturday as much as the hobbits covet their "second breakfasts.") Sundays are spent at church and doing whatever I can to avoid the dreaded "Sunday afternoon sleepies." So all in all it's a good thing.

So, I must now sheepishly admit that I spent much of my weekend cataloging our books. Seriously. For Valentine's Day I gave my beloved a lifetime account on LibraryThing and one of their little CueCat scanners (yes, it's cat-shaped!) And I do believe that was The Best Present Ever for him. (He got me strawberry plants, dinner at Johnny Rockets, and tickets to see Romance/Romance, so that ranked pretty high on the cool-gift-o-meter too.) Our LT username, you ask? Catalogingjointly. As in "Married, Cataloging Jointly". (We just did our taxes, you see...) We think it's a surefire way to prevent divorce - we hardly know whose books are whose at this point (well, the stuff in Greek is a dead giveaway) and trying to separate them now would be impossible. Voila!

Anyway, the philosopher and I have added over 1500 books so far, and there are more tucked away in boxes. I really am a frustrated cataloger, or at least an addicted one (I can stop any time I want to!) But I most enjoyed the challenge of finding *exactly* the right record that matched the work-in-hand. Those few times I had to add a book manually just made my day. And I wasted far too much time "cleaning up" the records, getting the authors and editors assigned their proper terms, and making sure the capitalization and punctuation falls in all the right places. Oh, and I shouldn't even mention searching for the proper book cover .jpg to display. It's probably a good thing LT doesn't use the MARC21 standards, because I'd really go nuts then. The fact that I can add call numbers is bad enough, right?

So that's how we spent our weekend - all three days of it!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Now I remember...

...why I like living in the southeast!

The weekend was absolutely beautiful, near 70 degrees on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Saturday was spent with my mom, helping her clear out a storage room so it can become a bedroom for my grandma (who's moving in with mom on Monday). Friday and Sunday we spent outdoors: clearing and burning brush, repairing the back deck, and sinking a new post for our bird feeders. I also transplanted some lavender and rosemary from pots to the new herb garden bed by the front walk. Mmmmm - the lovely smells you get now just coming to our front door! I plan to add other herb-y perennials like thyme, Greek oregano, tarragon, chives, and mint as the days warm up a little more. I expect we'll have some more cold weather before too long (our local meterologist calls long-range forecasting "voodoo-land," and apparently voodoo-land shows another arctic blast coming in before the end of the month), but right now I'll take all these 70 degree days I can get!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Fun with Names

A silly way to decompress after showing 5 different students how to format documents in Word. 8-)

WITNESS PROTECTION NAME:(mother and father's middle names)
Ellen Fletcher

YOUR MARRIED NAME: (first 3 letters of your first name, first 3 letters of your spouse's first name)

YOUR SECRET SPY NAME: (your first name backwards)

STAR WARS NAME:(the first 3 letters of your last name, first 2 letters of your first name)

DETECTIVE NAME:(favourite color, favourite animal)
Maroon Kitty

SOAP OPERA NAME:(middle name, last four letters of where you were born)
Lee Gads

SUPERHERO NAME: (2nd fav color, fav drink, add "THE" to the beginning)
The Hunter Fresca (because "The Hunter Caffeine-Free Diet Dr. Pepper" just didn't work)

FLY NAME:(first 2 letters of 1st name, last 2 letters of your last name)

STREET NAME:(fav ice cream flavor, fav cookie)
Moosetracks Chocolatechip

ROCK STAR NAME: (1st pet's name, street you grew up on)
Prissy Mitchell

YOUR GANGSTA NAME:(first 3 letters of last name plus izzle)

YOUR GOTH NAME:(black, and the name of one of your pets)
Black Julian (Black Kahula would have been better, but Kahula kitty passed away years ago)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

I am on a roll...

Three posts in two days. What is the world coming to? Well, I've done one on answered prayer, and a random one on cryptographic history. Now I'm doing something else completely different. I'm posting a political article link. It's by Victor Davis Hanson (writer for NRO and Pajamas Media)

It's probably not a surprise to anyone that I'm pretty conservative politically, and I admit I didn't vote for Obama. But he's our president now, and I pray for him because he won the election fair and square. I want him to do right by our country and keep us the "land of the free and the home of the brave". But I do worry. I worry that the mainstream media gave him a pass during the election and didn't ask the hard questions that deserved to be asked. And I worry - like many, including some of his supporters these days - that there are some uneasy trends evolving based on decisions he is making.

So go read Hanson's post on Pajamas Media. Yes, it is critical. Yes, it points out some serious concerns. But the concern isn't based on ad hominem attacks, it's based on the fact that a potentially weak - even weak in appearances - Commander in Chief could be disasterous for our country. (And I'm not recommending the reader comments about the article, merely the article itself. Anyone who reads comments knows they can get awfully vituperative!)

Hanson writes, "I write here not to score points, but to warn readers that this is all very serious. Obama is our President, and we must hope he does something fast to save his administration from general ridicule that will incur real dangers for all of us abroad." So keep our president in your prayers, even if you don't agree with his policies. Pray that he makes wise decisions. Pray that he surrounds himself with other wise and knowledgable people of integrity. Because for the next four years, this team will be charting America's course through history.

The Turing Bombe

Not a nuclear device, or something that might hang underneath a F-16 or a Predator drone. But the electromechanical device created by Alan Turing in World War II to break the German Enigma code - which likely ended the war several years early. It's an amazing invention. I saw the American Purple decryption device (very similar) when I visited the National Cryptologic Museum on the NSA grounds a few years ago.

I recently discovered the nifty audio lectures available for free on iTunes U. One of the random lectures I downloaded was about the Turing Bombe, given by a gentleman who works at the Bletchley Park National Codes Centre. (And, though he didn't say this, I suspect he was a cryptographer before he retired to be a tour guide.) After World War II, all the bombes were destroyed because of the secrecy in which the project was surrounded. In 2006 a team finally finished reconstructing one from the original blueprints, and now they give lectures and such at the Park for those who are interested in codebreaking during World War II, before the advent of computers.

Because the Bombe wasn't a computer. It didn't perform computational calculations. It was merely electromechanical, and relied on the human brain to tell it what to do and to understand the results it provided. What is most fascinating to me is that the bombe didn't search for the *correct* results. Instead it searched for all possible *incorrect* results, which thus by the process of elimination showed the proper settings for that day's key and settings, usually within 9 or so hours. The Germans changed the key roughly every 24 hours, so there was a tight turn-around. And when the Enigma has something like 129 million million million combinations, you can see how amazing this machine really is.

When I read about stuff like this, it leaves me in awe. For a man to invision this concept, and bring it to fruition.... wow. OK. My nerdy reminisces are at an end now, and I will continue with my regularly scheduled program. ::grin::

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

God is Good

Prayers were answered!

1. We don't have to re-drill our well, at least not immediately.
2. Our HVAC outage only lasted two days (it didn't get that cold, mostly, while we were waiting on the repairmen) and it ultimately cost less than $200 to fix.
3. We had some new faces at church on Sunday (though there's still a lot of prayer needed for us there).
4. Even though we still haven't heard about any permanent job updates for the philosopher, he is teaching this semester and already had some students approaching him for help with the campus Philosophy Club.
5. And there' s still a chance he'll hear from one of the other colleges that have not yet sent final "thanks but no thanks" letters. There's one in particular that said they were delayed in reviewing CVs. It's the one I think was the best fit for him, with the best recommendations and connections. And even better, it's in the southeast! So not all the doors are closed, and hope is a Good Thing to have!