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My first computer…

February 26, 2013 Leave a comment


My first computer was a dumb terminal connected to the computer at my father’s company with a 300 baud modem. I quickly learned BASIC well enough to hack into the payroll system and change my measly little hourly wage to… something more appropriate.

Being a white hat hacker, I promptly went to my father’s office and showed him what I did. He laughed and was pleased to have another “aligator story” to share with friends about his bright son*. The person responsible for the office computer system was decidedly unpleased at having to explain to the company President how a teenager broke into the payroll system during his lunch breaks.

So what was your first computer?

*  In case you think I’m a bit full of myself, this story was usually told along with the one of me figuring out how to get past the electrical outlet guards, usually resulting in a shock.  Yeah, real bright.

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A look into New York’s watery underworld

November 5, 2012 2 comments

I have been rereading a chapter from Alan Weisman’s “The World Without Us” titled “The City Without Us”. The chapter opens with a look into what would happen to New York if humans vanished from the planet one day.  Under normal circumstances, the subway tunnels in New York are kept dry by constant pumping. Once humans are no longer around to maintain the pumps, the tunnels would fill up quickly, even without flood waters from Sandy’s storm surge.  The chapter goes on to illustrate just how delicate New York’s infrastructure is and how much it relies on constant human intervention to keep the large portions of the city from quickly collapsing. With more Irene and Sandy-like storms likely in New York’s future, the chapter is an excellent view in the possibly futile effort to keep New York dry.

The rest of the book is equally fascinating and looks at what happens to several different human creations after we simply vanish.  The chapter on our Nuclear Power plants and warheads is applicable for those curious about what happens to all that spent nuclear fuel we have laying around in cooling ponds.  Given the fragile state of Fukishima’s cooling ponds, that chapter contains a sobering look at our “Hot Legacy”.

Anyway, I highly recommend the whole book.

 

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Wired Science: The dewatering of New York

November 2, 2012 Leave a comment

UPDATE: Apparently, I missed the fact that the US Army Corps hasn’t received a request to help with subway tunnels. From the look of MTA’s web site, they appear to have things under control. I can only imagine how long it’s going to take to pump all that water out and then inspect the electrical equipment.

I ran across an interesting article in Wired Science about the process of removing flood water from New York’s tunnels.  It’s a fascinating short read worth your time. A few highlights:  The US Army Corps of Engineers has built up a specialized Task Force for such operations in the years after Katrina. Interestingly enough, they have the people but no equipment on standby.  It’s going to take some time since they are waiting for pumps and the dewatering process needs to be done slowly to prevent damage to the tunnels.  I also found it interesting that they are focusing on the Brooklyn Battery tunnel for cars first rather than Subway tunnels.  MTA’s Subway Recovery Map shows that the Brooklyn Subway lines are all completely cut off from Manhattan. In New York of all places it seems like you’d want to focus on the rail system first, but perhaps there is other damage further up the line or the MTA has things in hand on their own.

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I-1185: A recipe for special interest control…

October 21, 2012 2 comments

“The two-thirds rule offers these interests the protection of a rigid supermajority barrier by making it impossible to reform our overly complex tax code through the elimination of underperforming tax exemptions”

Let me be clear: I support well thought out limits on taxes. Our general sales tax is already high enough to encourage day trips to Oregon to avoid it and our B&O tax system is an archaic burden to struggling small businesses that can’t afford lobbyists to protect their interest. But over the years, I’ve come to revile Tim Eyman’s ham-fisted efforts to limit taxes because of how poorly thought out they are and the array of unintended consequences.  The key problem with 1185 is that it hands an effective veto against ANY revenue measure, no matter how well thought out and broadly supported, to a mere 17 out of 147 legislators. That has been a recipe for special interest control or our state’s tax code.  Want a tax loophole to “create jobs”? You only need convince a simple majority of legislators in both houses. Want to get rid of that tax loophole after it’s shown to be ineffective? The bar has been raised to 2/3.

Eyman cites new taxes on candy and bottled water imposed by the legislature as an example of the need for I-1185.  This is ironic since those taxes were repealed by the voters through a simple majority vote. (A campaign coincidentally funded by, you guessed it, the candy and beverage manufacturers) Another Irony: Tim Eyman claims to support “Joe Six Pack” and yet the majority of his funding comes from large corporate interests such as BP, Conoco Philips, and the Beer Institute.

By all means, make your views about limited taxes clear to your legislators and demand limits on taxes. Yes there will be unpopular taxes imposed from time to time, but they can be repealed and legislators can be voted out of office. Vote NO on I-1185.

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Apple helping me to choose Android

June 11, 2012 5 comments

[ UPDATE: 6/11 – Here is a far better article detailing the mapping features Apple plans to roll out – H/T: @SumNums on Twitter]

Great timing, Apple. Just when I’ve decided to give up my car, along comes this news story. In short, Apple has tired of relying on Google’s rather lame mapping app for the iPhone and has chosen to go it alone. Here’s what concerns me:

Maps itself will not feature information on public transit or alternative methods of transport like biking, as Google’s app does now. Instead, Apple will release APIs for Maps and allow developers to build their own transit apps that will be featured, integrated, and promoted from within Maps.

Let me be blunt: I could not care less about turn-by-turn driving directions (Frankly, I don’t trust them). Despite its relative lameness, I use Google Maps heavily on my iPhone for walking and transit directions. I *crave* biking directions and integrated real-time arrival times for public transportation. Those two items have been my motivation for looking at Android phones but, for now, I’ve been content to wait. If Apple pushes out a new mapping app without lining up quality developers to produce walking and transit directions at least as good as Google’s, that will push me over the edge.

The generation currently entering the workforce and buying cell phones like candy is driving less and using public transportation and bikes more than my generation. Does Apple really want to risk losing them? I assume the answer is no and that Apple will get this all sorted out. That said, you know what happens when you assume, right?

Hey, Fat Girl…

May 31, 2012 Leave a comment

I stumbled across a post from Flintland titled “Hey, Fat Girl…” shared by a Facebook friend. Reading through that post reminds me of  thoughts I have when I see overweight cyclists out on the road.  I won’t expand on Flint’s post other than to say: If you are overweight, are trying to get into shape, and feel self-conscious about what others are thinking, try not to worry about it. Keep doing what you are doing.  Who knows? You might be surprised if you could read our minds.

Do take the time to read Flint’s post, it’s a short read and well worth your time.

 

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“B” is for “Beer”, “Black Raven”, and “B-Line Beer Run”

March 2, 2012 7 comments

A while back I spent several days conducting “research” on establishments for a B-Line pub crawl event. Of all the drinking establishments I visited, the Black Raven Brewing Company was by far my favorite. Located in an office park a 1/2 mile from the B-Line, Black Raven’s taproom has all of their beers in a warm and relaxed atmosphere. They don’t serve food, other than free peanuts and pretzels, but you can have pizza delivered by Flying Saucer Pizza to enjoy with your fresh beer. (I think Zeek’s also delivers but that is unconfirmed, check with Zeeks and/or Black Raven). Lastly, you can get growlers and kegs to go. (A keg on the bus. Now that would be interesting)

To get there, take the B-Line to the stop at 148th Ave NE & NE 87th St in Redmond, just before/after the intersection with Willows Road. From the bus stop walk east on 90th and then north on Willows Road using the large sidewalk on the east side of Willows. Right before 95th turn east and scramble over the bark covered berm and walk into the parking lot next to the inactive railroad tracks. (This avoids walking along NE 95th which doesn’t have a sidewalk.  It’s also a shortcut since the driveway for Black Raven is located past the entrance to the Tap Room) You can also find directions here on Google maps.

This area isn’t normally someplace you’d think of walking around, given that it’s a bunch of office parks in a very suburban and car-dependent setting. But the sidewalks are wide and comfortable and it’s not that long of a walk.  If you bring a bike, Black Raven also has a small bike rack out front.  (Note: While biking while intoxicated is not technically a crime, it IS pretty stupid. Drink responsibly and be prepared to walk your bike back to the bus.)  If you’re up for a little transit/beer adventure, why not give Black Raven a try?

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