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Friday, December 31, 2004

I'm back 

Hello loyal audience (that means you Nino and Rook). I have returned from Over The Hill And Through The Woods.

It was big fun except for the part where my Minolta S414 bit the dust. I've searched the InterWeb and found no solace. The camera was going great guns on Christmas Eve when all the sudden the picture on the LCD went black (the helpful text and icons on the screen were still there, so the LCD wasn't dead). Attempts to take pictures yielded black images. Browsing already taken pictures worked fine. As far as I can tell, the connection between the CCD and whatever comes next has been severed. The camera is old enough (ie, out of warrenty) for me to be seriously considering opening it up to see if some obvious wire came loose.

We were in Lovely Santa Barbara for the Holidays (that would be Young Alexander's Birthday, Old William's (Grandpa) Birthday, Christmas itsownself, and the Anniversay of the Marriage between My Lovely Wife Natalie and myself). Alas, MLWN has to work on New Year's Day, so we're back in Pacifica.

I've told Young William that he can stay up until midnight; he is giddy. I'm giving odds that he won't make it past 10:30.

New Year's Day Update: At around 10:40 Young William asked me 'Dad, why are you snoring?' 'I was resting my eyes, Willy.' A couple minutes later he said he was ready to go to bed. So he did beat my estimate by a solid 15 minutes.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Heh heh 

It probably means I'm not as grown up as I should be, but when I'm watching the traffic report on TV and the traffic report person says, "There's a backup on the approach to the lower deck of the James Lick." I must snort and giggle.

Sunday, December 19, 2004


I was going to use a bit of no-distraction-by-the-kids time to try replacing one of the worn out interior doors in my house. I went to the big box home supply store, got a lovely ready-to-paint, 6-panel, pre-hung door, a door knob set, and some trim to go around the doorway. When I got home a few minutes ago I was defeated by Evolution. Home-building Evolution, that is. My house was built in the early 1960s, a time of flux in home construction. When you look at a wall what you see is the drywall. If you burrow through the drywall, you get to the studs (usually spaced on 16" centers). The studs are 2x4 (or if you like actual measurements, 1.5x3.5) boards. Then you see the back side of the drywall nailed to the other side of the studs. In the evolutionarily successful home, the studs are oriented so the dry wall is nailed to the narrow side of the 2x4 (ie, there is a 3.5 inch space between the sheets of drywall). Well, Mr Odstad (the guy who did the tract housing construction in Linda Mar, decided that if he turned the studs 90°, and had a 1.5 inch space between the sheets of drywall, he'd gain 2 extra inches in each room. This innovation didn't catch on, so when you buy things that are supposed to fit into interior walls, the manufacturer assumes the wall is thicker than is the case in my house. My pre-hung door can't be trimmed down enough to fit into the skinny wall. Dang. Now I've got to go back to big-box land and return my door and door knob set and trim wood. If I find a supply of pre-hung doors that will fit I promise to show the Internets a photo-montage of my home improvement project.

Saturday, December 18, 2004


I now have objective proof that GWB is as incompetent at fascism as he is at everything else. I just dropped My Lovely Wife Natalie, Young William and Young Alexander off at the San Jose Amtrack station so they could take the scenic (and oh so exciting, if you're a young boy) route to Santa Barbara for Christmas at Grandma's House. Having burned through a whole bunch of vacation over the summer, I have to work a couple of days next week before I drive down. But back to our incompetent Duce. Back when Mussolini invented Fascism, he did the suspension of personal liberties that we've come to expect from leaders of his ilk. But he was given a pass on that because, "He made the trains run on time."1 Well we haven't even reached Italian levels of Fascist efficiency yet; the train MLWN, YW and YA took to Santa Barbara was one and half hours behind schedule.

1 Actually, that's a myth, but I'm trying to be snarky.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Friday Kid Blogging 

This week's theme is things I thought were way cool when I was a lad. Young William is showing off his Muscle (This morning's question: "Dad, am I buff?" "Yes, Willy, you are."). Young Alexander has burrowed into the Big Bed.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

sp as p 

Young Alexander has trouble pronouncing two consonants in a row at the start of a word. For example when he's being polite he will say 'Pease' instead of 'Please'. The best one (in the vein of inadvertent humor) has to be the trouble with 'sp'. He can get the 'p' out, but the 's' is missing in action. What he means is, "Dear Father, I would be most appreciative if you would procure for me a spoon." What he says is "I want poon!" To which my usual response is, "Not 'till you go to college son."

Sunday, December 12, 2004


The Boys and I were outside looking at the Christmas lights I finally got around to stringing this afternoon. (Aside, we live on a street that backs up against a hill covered with trees and without too much effort you can get into the Golden Gate Recreation Area which is a LARGE patch of wilderness (for the San Mateo Peninsula), so there is a certain amount wild animal traffic: coons, deer, foxes, maybe even a bobcat once). Young William knows that the racoons like to come out after dark and so he was a bit on edge about being outside. He decided to explain to me about racoons.

"Racoons like to walk around at night, they like to eat garbage, they live in the woods and they don't like hugs."
"That's right," I say, "they don't like hugs."
"Yes, I learned that from Elf."

So, if you haven't seen this new addition to the Christmas movie Pantheon, the Take Home Message is: Racoons don't like hugs.

Friday, December 10, 2004


I just have to say that Slash Records is/was amazing. I've been going through my old LPs and recording them to disk. In the last week or so I've done at least a half dozen records out of a stack of probably 20 that I was never able to find on CD. Every one that I've done so far put out by Slash: 2 x Blood On The Saddle (eponymous and Poison Love) , 2 x Rank And File (Long Gone Dead and Sundown), 2x Rave-Ups (Class Tramp and Town And Country), and 1 x Los Lobos (...And A Time To Dance). I'd still have to get through all the Blasters (Slash!) except that I found a multi-disk CD of all their Slash Recordings just in time for last Christmas. Now I have a mission to track down more Slash artists since I seem to be on the same wavelength as the folks who ran Slash back in the day.

Friday Kid Blogging 

Here is Young Alexander enjoying the sunshine at the Legion of Honor when we there to look at the Mayan Royal Art exhibition a couple of weeks ago.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Brush With Fame 

Back in the day My Lovely Wife Natalie and I lived in Minnesota (foreshadowing: the home of the Artist Who Is Once Again Known As Prince). MLWN had a job that required her to, from time to time, get on planes and fly to other cities. Being the loving husband that I am I would drop her off and pick her up. I would even meet her at the gate (you can tell it's a story from long, long ago since I could get to the gate to meet her) instead of idling outside at the curb. On one such day I was waiting for her flight from LAX to come in. I noticed that amongst the sparse crowd waiting for the plane was a really Big Guy wearing a black overcoat with a strange emblem afixed to it (this was in the days when the Artist Who Is Once Again Known As Prince was still just Prince. Later I learned, along with everyone else, that the symbol on this guy's coat was the Glyph by which the Artist Who Is Once Again Known As Prince would someday want to be known). Big Guy was pacing like he was really nervous and talking into a cell phone (that's what really drew my attention, it being in the early days of cell phones). Eventually the DC10 pulled up to the gate. As soon as the gate agent opened the door to the jet-way Big Guy bolted down to the plane. Meanwhile one of those really irritating electric old-people-ferrying cars backed up right to the opening of the jet-way door. Eventually Big Guy and Another Big Guy (in an identical coat and glyph pin) emerged from the jet-way with the World's Smallest Pop Star between them. They all plopped onto the cart and drove off. In a fit of sanity I managed to not yell out the question that was on the tip of my tongue: "Hey! Aren't you Michael Jackson?" I like to think that if it had only been Big Guy instead of Big Guy and Another Big Guy I would have said it, but I really didn't want to get pushed down by one or more body guards. To top it all off MLWN didn't even know that Artist Who Is Once Again Known As Prince was even on the plane.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Support Our Troops 

Here's a question: do you support our troops? When you discover that our heroic soldiers have been sent overseas to fight a war that was totally unecessary, with insufficient equipment, where there was no plan beyond driving to the capitol and pulling down a statue, where they are engaged in an anti-insurgency campaign that has no over-arching plan beyond the hope that if we kill enough of them they will stop, where they are put under such stress that they begin to commit war-crimes, where soldiers that have completed their enlistments are told that they can't leave and soldiers that thought the had completed their obligations are called back anyway; when you discover this do you think they should stay there while you put a yellow ribbon magnet on your Ford Excursion? Then, my friend, you don't support the troops. Why do you hate America's soldiers?


While in the midst of my super-duper-long commute (but what a pretty commute it is (driving as I do down California Highway 1 between Pacifica and Santa Cruz)) it occured to me that we have a strange form welfare going on right now. Instead of the government taking money from one group of people and giving it to a different group, we have the government taking the sons and daughters of those too poor to send their kids to college and using them in an attempt to further the interests of people who are conspicuously absent from the military. "Hey thanks for the blood of your children! Now shut the hell up while my children and I get another tax cut." Talk about redistribution.

A Comment! A Veritable Comment! 

My very good friend Anonymous left a comment on my rant about NSF funding. I'm so excited. A reader that replied. Oh the joys of blogging!

Tuesday, December 07, 2004


When the above happened FDR had sufficient brain power to lead the nation into a war against the people who actually did it. For those of you not up your WWII iconography the above picture depicts the USS Shaw blowing up at Pearl Harbor after taking a bomb in the magazine.

Monday, December 06, 2004


I have a few albums squirrled away that I've never been able to find on CD. I managed to get my hands on a turntable a while ago and have been encoding one or two of them from time to time. After getting used to ripping CDs at around 10X using iTunes, the less than 1X process for vinyl (check the input level, record the record to disk, mark the boundaries, split into separate song files, trim inter-track tails, load into iTunes, enter the tag information, convert to MP3) certainly is a bit more labor intensive. But ever so much worth it. I haven't heard Blood On The Saddle for ages. And I've been enjoying The Rave-Ups too. Today I'm going to try to work on my two Rank And File albums.

update: I converted Sundown and Long Gone Dead by Rank and File and as a bonus did Poor Little Critter On The Road by The Knitters. Woot! It's funny, you can get a Knitters tribute album on CD but as far as I can tell the original is not available in that format.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Return of the Tax-Farmer 

The Chron reports that Tax Farmers are about to be unleashed on us. I guess it's fitting since the Republican Party didn't agree with most of the 20th Century (let alone the current) that they would want to return to a form of tax collection first perfected by the ancient Mesopotamians.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Who's Linda? 

I can hear you Internet, clamoring to know. You're saying, "Hank, who is the Linda person you refer to in the URL of Hank's Place?" Well Internet, there is no Linda. I live in lovely Pacifica, California. Now even many Californians have never heard of Pacfica, and that's OK. It's nestled on the Coast-side of the San Mateo peninsula, just south of Daly City, which is itself just south of The City And County Of San Francisco. And to be a bit helpful I've included this small snap of a view from the hills above Pacifica. "But wait," you say, "what about Linda?" Patience, Internet, it's coming. Pacifica is divided up into several districts. The Southern-most part of town is known as Linda Mar. I live in Linda Mar. Hence, Internet, the URL. There. That wasn't so bad was it?

It's Very Simple 

Rant time.

If you are one of the large number of people who think that Darwin's explanation of evolution through natural selection is not an adequate explanation of the history of life, then you are either woefully ignorant or an idiot. Your opinion is worthless until you acquire some knowledge and understanding of the topic.

Oh, and saying "It's just a theory" betrays the depth of your ignorance. When you're talking about science, a theory is as close to iron-clad fact as you can get. I'll say this slowly for the knuckle-draggers in the back, a theory explains all evidence and can be used to predict future events. If some data emerge that contradict the theory, (after verification of the new data) the theory is modified to explain the new data. Darwin's book from almost 150 years ago didn't get all the details right, but it did explain all the data he had. As science has progressed the theory has been expanded and refined to incorporate all the new data. It is right. You are wrong. Pointing to a book written a couple thousand years ago that tells stories about your imaginary friend does not help your argument.

Rant completed. Thank you for your time.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

WWJS (Who Would Jesus Smite?) 

I am completely unclear on how the ad described in CBS, NBC refuse to run church ad welcoming all (subhead) Appealing to gays violates 'hot button' policy, networks say is a 'hot button' issue. I haven't been to church for a long time, but if all those Sundays spent on hard pews in Lutheran Churches taught me anything, it's that Jesus spent a lot of time hanging out with the 'undesireable' members of society. Hookers, tax collectors, lepers and other yucky types were his buddies. But then the current 'Evangelical Christian' movement clearly isn't Christian, so we can let them make up their hot buttons in much the same way they make up the rest of their so-called Christian faith.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Getting Geeky 

In real life I write bioinformatics software. My language of choice is God's Own Programming Language: Python. Lately I've felt the need to get a pile of tab-delimited files combined into a single, useful file and decided that XML was the way to go. I headed off to The Python Cookbook to see if they had any light weight XML code (the xml.dom and sax stuff is just a bit to burly for what I need) and found a lovely class that represents everything in a tree of instances. But, alas, it didn't include a __repr__ method. So I wrote one I'm quite proud of and am sharing it here with you:

def __repr__(self, indent = 0):
) __repr__(self, indent = 0)
) Generates a string to print. If the given element has children they are also
) printed. The optional indent parameter gets used when children are printed
) and makes them be indented in a pleasing manner.
) Parameters:
) indent - the number of blank spaces to put in front of the printed information
) Returns: a string to print
indentDelta = 4 # The depth of indenting for children and cdata

string = "%s<%s" % (indent * ' ', self.name)
for attName in self.attributes:
# Put the attributes, if any, inside the starting tag
string += ' %s = "%s"' % (attName, self.attributes[attName])

if self.cdata or self.children:
string += ">\n"
if self.cdata:
# Print the cdata so that it is indented as much as the children will be
string += "%s%s\n" % ((indent + indentDelta) * ' ', self.cdata)

for child in self.children:
# Print all the children of the current tag with a pleasing indent
string += child.__repr__(indent = indent + indentDelta)

string += "%s</%s>\n" % (indent * ' ', self.name)
# If the string has neither children nor cdata, close it with the
# no-closing-tag-required ending
string += " />\n"

return string
## __repr__ ##

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