Milwaukee NOFX Concert

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Last weekend, I had a chance to go up to Milwaukee for some good food and a music.  I try not to pass up a chance to go to Wisconsin since there are so many cool places all throughout the state.  As for the states largest city, it had been over two decades.  The last time I was in the city for GenCon before it moved to Indy.

 

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Arriving relatively early, we stopped first at the Pabst Brewery.  The building was very well kept in an area in the mist of revitalization.  It being Sunday, we missed the last tour.

 

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Going with out any plan in mind expect taking the tour.  We drove around a bit and decided to eat at the Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery siting besides the Milwaukee River.  This small chain is known for brewing their own beers on site.  I tried their excellent malty Octoberfest that went down smooth despite the high ABV.  I paired it we Wisconsin Cheese balls that were similar to what the Pub II in Normal offers, but these were much larger with a higher quality of cheese.  This was a great pairing because the cheeseballs we some of the best I have ever eaten.

 

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After eating, to kill some time before the concert, we headed the Old German Beer Hall, which is a close rendition of a beer hall in Munich.  It was an interesting experience.  For one, they only served Hofbräu.  Fortunately, there were at least a dozen version on tap including Root Beer of one of the best German beers around.  Their lightly carbonated Oktoberfest went down too smoothly.   I could see getting lost in a stein of this brew.

The Rave/Eagle Club

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The was my first time going to The Rave and it is a place that I will not soon forget.  Built in the 1920s in a more prosperous era, it contains at least four stages on five floors.  The concert itself was on the lowest level and each time you went up a floor, there was another stage with the upper floor being an open air lounge.

 

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This loft which contained a bar full of microbrews such as those from the decent New Glarus Brewing Company.  The lounge itself was heated by large columns of fire offered and offered a decent view of the north side of the city as well as the night’s “Super Moon.”   Being a decent, if cold night, the area was well populated by people waiting for the main act to start.  I sort of felt sorry for the smokers who had to climb 5 flights of steps to light up.

 

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Upon entry to the venue, everyone received this PSA.  Really…In a punk rock concert?  It took about two songs from Useless ID before the mass of people near the stage started throwing themselves at one another.  It was sort of an odd sight.  Unlike Bassnectar I attended earlier, the crowd was much older.  There were a lot of younger Gen Xers and older Gen Y people in the crowd.  This shows that even people in their 30s and 40s can get thrashing (and then pay for it for the next week.)

Useless ID

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I never of heard of Useless ID before tonight.  The group is a standard punk band hailing from Israel.  Overall, their music was fast, loose, and very polished.  Given how long they have been around, it was little surprise they played a quality set.  I’ll be use to add them to my Spotify list to check out some more of their music. 

PEARS

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The PEARS, well they sucked.  The lead singer came out wearing little more than shorts.  Channeling his inner Scott Weiland, he bounced around the stage like ADD child off his meds.  There music was speed punk that was loud and boisterous but rather boing.  While the moshers seemed the like it, after listening to a few songs, I headed for the roof to wait out the band.

Nofx

Nofx is a acquired taste.  On stage, they are known for their variability of the shows they put on.  Because they are on their own label, the band members do pretty much what they want both in the studio and during shows.  You’ll never know if you’ll get a sober set or some lousy drunken attempt at music.

While technically punk, they dabble in SKA and have a habit of bantering with each other and the crowd between songs.  Some of this can be heard on their excellent first live album, I Heard the Suck Live.  During this show, the audience cursed and shouted out songs they wanted to hear as well as threw drinks and articles of clothing at the band.  They retorted and seemed to change up their songs according to the mood of the night.

Initially, I didn’t like their newest album, First Ditch Effort.  It is a dark and moody album that explores middle age problems such as razing children, going sober, and dealing with ex-wives.  After the concert I gave it a relisten.  It is better than my initial assessment once you get past the odd intros to the longs and long, awkward pauses.  However, it is still nothing like the awesome albums Coaster, Wolves in Wolves Clothing, or Punk in Drublic.

When they took to the stage, I sort of understand why their music has been weak recently.  They didn’t have a focus on their anger for the last few years.  Upon coming on stage via a karaoke cover song, they started blaming the crowd for losing the presidential election (Wisconsin went for THE Trump.) 

Fat Mike went on a tirade about how he wanted to kill him and complained bitterly about having him has our soon to be president.  This fired up the crowd and once they started to play the pit went wild.  Beer and bodies flying everywhere.  Even being three rows from the mayhem was no protection against hyped up punk rockers and flying boozy projectiles.

 

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The intro song Six Years on Dope from their newest album and they went on to play a mixture of protest songs from the Bush era like The Man I Killed and Franko Un-American.  During the middle, they change to playing songs off their newest album.  It didn’t fit the mood and the somber music left me feeling cold.

 

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Fortunately, because this is punk with most song lasting between one and three minutes, it was only a matter of time before they switch it up again when they started playing Seeing Double at the Triple Rock and Bob.  As the show progressed, the band member started switched instruments with each other, playing trumpets, trombones, and finally the accordion, which closed out the show.

Overall, it was a great concert with lots of energy in one of coolest venues around.

Southern Illinois Trip

I awoke early Sunday to my cat standing on my chest.  He did some passive-aggressive purring for kibble an hour earlier than normal.  Ah, daylight savings ended.  Lousy farmers.  Instead of trying to go back to sleep, I instead headed south of Illinois’s Mason-Dixon Line, I-70.

 

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Like the last month, the area again had great autumn weather to make this an enjoyable trip.  The morning was colder than the previous few weeks.  There was a large amount of low hanging fog making the trip south feel serene.

 

Lake Shelbyville

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Lake Shelbyville is one of the larger artificial lakes in the state located northeast of the small tourist town of  Shelbyville.  It is a sparsely built up and home to at least a half a dozen county and state parks.  Given the location it would be great place to camp or hunt.

 

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I walked along the dam on the southern tip of the lake in the early morning.  The size and relative remoteness gives the area a feeling like it is here all for yourself. 

Shelbyville

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First stop in town was Forest Park.  I was rather surprised at the beauty of the park.  It has a rather non-descript entrance with the typical playground and ball parks scattered around.  Getting ready of the Christmas, the town has set up lights along the roadways.  Driving past this gaudy façade, at the back of the park there is a pretty flower garden with running spring.  It was also the start of 5 miles or so of decent hiking trails that follow the lake. 

 

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The residential districts close to the downtown have brick streets thick with trees.  Among the leaves were various party signage in the run up the elections.

 

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The downtown strip was actually fairly lively.  Most of the storefront were full with knickknack stores for tourists, gun shops for hunters and several shops and eating/drinking establishments for locals.  There is actually an active single screen theater still in operation where the larger towns of Mattoon, Charleston, and Pana were boarded up when I went through.    

 

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An actual book store.  I can’t stay much for the reading material though.

 

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Ah, there is blight in the city.  I was getting worried as most small towns in rural Illinois like Shelbyville are usually chocked full of it.  The government does a good job of keeping the town clean. 

 

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The county courthouse is still in good shape for being constructed in the 1880s.

 

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One of the many spots for the Lincoln-Douglas debates.   Lincoln’s statue looks a bit like a giraffe trying to crane above his adversary.

 

Gays, Illinois

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The only reason I went to this hamlet was to gawk at the two-story outhouse built in the latter part of the 19th century.  I guess I was expecting a bit more.  I wonder how you get to the second floor?

 

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Otherwise, there ain’t much to do except to drive away.

 

Eastern Illinois University

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I have been to all other public universities in the state except EIU and I couldn’t wait for to walk around the quad.   Since it was about noon on a Sunday, there were few students walking around. 

 

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The whole vibe of the school is something that time passed it by.  Much of the architecture features builds from the late 1930s to about 1980.   Nothing was crumbling, but unlike ISU that has several new constructions, it was a little depressing.

 

IMAG1296Gods of science

This is an awesome entrance to the science building.

 

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Like ISU, the college has a castle, which abutted the northern point of the quad.  It looks like the oldest building on campus.

 

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Advertising for EIU stating that most classes are under 40 student and it contributes a lot of revenue for the town of Charleston.  This puts a fine point to the fact that the school is going broke.  Its enrollment is on the decline.  There are fewer young people in the area as families move to more prosperous areas.

Throughout the city there were a lot of signs supporting the university but it sounds like they actually don’t want to pay for it.  There was a lot of ‘no’ signage for a local tax referendum that has been vote down twice before.    

 

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Charleston

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The town of Charleston reminds me more of Tennessee than the flat land of Central Illinois.  The terrain is hillier and more wooded than McLean County.  The downtown square has the huge county courthouse and one of the largest I have ever seen in the state. 

The square had a decent amount of things a nerd like me has to offer.  A good bookstore that has a decent collection of Sci-Fi, a comic/bookshop for college student, as well as a game store.  The university, really gives the city a boost as compared to other towns of similar size in the rural Illinois.

Moore Home/Lincoln Log Cabin

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The Moore Home was the last place that Lincoln stopped in Coles County.  Rather non-descript but the structure seems fairly typical of the middle-upper class rural area in the 1850s.  We come a long way.

 

IMAG1341Lincoln was here

 

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According the guide the original Lincoln log house was taken to Chicago and lost (maybe used as firewood.)  Later I learned the Abe never lived here as he was an adult before his family moved here.   

 

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Hard living.  It was cool that the had live animals in the pens to give the area some flavor.

 

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Because the site is of marginal historical value, offered many other B-rate attractions such as quilts, painted of Illinois, and dioramas.   This one is of the Kun Brewery.  I’d like to use in a gaming campaign.

 

IMAG1367Ye olde Barbie home

 

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Along the drive, I noticed dozens of working oil wells.  Most of the wells are from the 1940-50s and produce 1 to 2 barrels a day.  I guess they are still profitable given the costs have long been paid.

Lake Mattoon

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Like most lakes in Illinois, Lake Mattoon was built to supply water to the surrounding counties.  For the most part, the lake is unremarkable except for a long road that bisects the lake that allows for a wonderful drive and a good place to fish.

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This was the hinterland for Sprint and T-Mobile.  No service for tens of miles in every direction.  Relying on cached Google Maps in rural areas can lead you into grass paths of bogs.

 

Hidden Springs State Forest

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Hidden Springs This park is fairly deep in the boonies.  One of the odder state parks, it has at least a dozen non-contiguous plots between small corn and bean plots.   Given the remoteness, it would be easier bike around than drive. 

In generally, the forest has many more conifers than more northern parks.  The paths are well-marked and moderately difficult.  It was fun to whisk through the fall leaves with the conifer clippings giving the ground a spongey feel.

 

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The springs are really hidden.  They aren’t much of an attraction.

 

Thompson Mill Covered Bridge

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This bridge was one of the first crossings along the Kaskaskia River.  Built in 1868, it is narrowest of the 5 covered bridges in Illinois.  I could almost touch the sides when walking through.

 

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Williamsburg Hill Cemetery

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Lost in around the bluffs north of Cowden, I came across this hidden gem of a cemetery.  set top of a set of large hills, the tombstone blend is well the trees.  It is really peaceful place to rest.

Someone came by while I was there.  This was surprising as last 10 to 15 miles, I saw no traffic on the roads and few farms.  I struck up a conversion with the elderly lady to learn more about who was buried here and who recently vandalized some of the graves.

 

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A long road home.

 

Pana

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Being at least a half an hour from anywhere, Pana is an abject lesson why it sucks to live in a small town.  Many of the businesses in the town are boarded up relics.  Any manufacturing along the railroad is long since dried up.  The town itself offered little of interest except the cool link St. Patrick’s church just south of the dreary downtown area.

Bassnectar Concert

imageOn Halloween, I arrived in Downtown Peoria about half hour before my first dj concert.  It was odd to see such a large town so empty at 6 pm on a Monday.  No eateries opened except bars.  Peoria is really dead at times.  Fortunately it made the walk to the Civic Center a breeze.

Upon entering the arena, a woman in the security line yell out “No glow-sticks.”  Seriously?  Later I passed a stand near the entrance to purchase them (ah…monopolies.)  However, for many in the security line, it didn’t seem to matter.  They had other ways to amuse themselves such as lighted hula-hoops and glowing juggling balls. 

While standing in the line to get patted down, I immediately noticed two things.  The first was that I was a decade older than the average concert goer. 

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The next was that I was too plainly dressed.  About half of the people where in costume.  There was a wide gamut.  Some looked like they used their girlfriend eyeliner and drew some odd patterns over their face.  Others had clothing that might have been illegal in some southern jurisdictions.  Still others had costumes so well made few that they would have been right at home at ComicCon.

High Fidelity: "Mouthful of Cavities" - Blind MelonPicture of a typical party goer.

Overall, security was intense.  I think I had to go through more security here than when I last flew.  Of course, it was just for show.  During the concert an hour or so later a couple in front where happily smoking a metal bowl.  Yea security theater.

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TekLife

(DJ Spinn & Taso) from Teklife opened the venue.  Their music was a mix of hip-hop and electronica, which the duo played rather conservatively.  The vanilla beats wouldn’t win any awards for being novel, but I generally enjoyed their show. 

One odd thing about the set was that about a half dozen or so people would come out in front of the stage and dance.  Well dance is a bit of a strong word for it.  More like hop around out of step with the music.  It made the whole thing seem like a high school talent contest. 

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At this point I initially thought that the concert would only be sparsely attended, with the floor only about half full at this point.

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As to was general admission, the taught was to stay away from the hard core revealers and get a good spot in the second bowl section.  Not that I wouldn’t mind getting closer for the rest of the show, but there is a tendency at this type of concert to both get hot and and have a drunk spill beer on you.

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G Jones

At first this dude came up and started jamming on his laptop with no introduction.  I didn’t even know who he was until I Googled it out the next day.  The artist, G Jones, had a much more technical trance and beat set.  While he was good at the art, he couldn’t get the crowd into what he played.  There was too much futzing around with the music every 10-20 seconds or so.  He would get a good grove going and the switch the beat.  You could see the crowd having a hard time adjusting with it as they would start to sway and then bam, a different tempo. 

It must have not matter to the musician though.  He was quite animated throughout the set dancing and rocking out to his own music.   The set reminded me of someone singing in the shower.  Personally, it was OK with the tunes played.  There were some great rifts here and there but I wouldn’t go out of my way to listen to his stuff. 

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At the end of his set, the audience grew rapidly, with a full floor and the bowl about half filled.  Soon my seat 2/3rds of the way up was in the middle of the crowd.

 

IMAG1053Intermission

Bassnectar

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I stumbled on Bassnectar while listening to dubstep radio stations on Spotify a few years back.  After listing to his catalog, I purchased the excellent album Vava Voom.   I like his earlier stuff more than what he produces now as it is a bit more trance and less bouncing rhythms.

http://www.bassnectar.net/wp-content/gallery/family-photos/Bassnectar-FamilyPhoto-20161031-Peoria-aLIVECoverage.jpgCrowd picture from the start of the set.

However, the opening was nothing I’ve seen in years.  The show started with such a wave of sonic intensity that it rivaled hard rock acts like Pantera and industrial icon Ministry.  It was LOUD with the bass to intense that you could feel it in your teeth.

 

IMAG1067So many lights that the shots of the stage sucked.

With this the crowd went wild.  Even siting high up, there were people were dancing everywhere, in their seats, along the pathways, and in the stairwells.  It was like a ground well of humanity as thousands of attendees partying wildly.  Simply amazing.

 

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The banning of glow sticks was of little consequence now.  Their pale glow was only visible through the fog and light show within a few paces.  Many concert goers had LED lighting attached to their clothing.  I have seen lighted clothing at conventions, but never figured they would be interesting to wear until now.

On the floor, there was a person decked out as jellyfish with the tendrils encased in moving led lights.  A young lady sitting to my left was dressed up as an anime magic girl.  Her attire and wand had various light sewn in that sparkled.  Here and their people played with all sorts of glowing objects from balloons to flash settings on their phones.

There were slow spots to give the crowd a rest, but the music never really stopped.  Instead of a traditional set in a song-stop-banter-song rhythm that traditional artists employ, songs flowed into one another.  Actually, it was clips of songs that transitioned and sometimes an earlier song would make a return.  I got to sample from all of his ten albums along with one of the two I came to hear Ping Pong.  The other called Pennywise Tribute was skipped for other remixes.

IMAG1079Is it mana from heaven?

It was later in the show when Bassnectar started playing remixes of other artists.  Snoop Dog and White Zombie featured strongly while I got to hear the hardest version of Frank Sinatra ever.

Overall, the convert experience was above average.  The venue has decent acoustics and its shape fit rather well to the light show.  It will likely be my first and last dj concert, and I think of few better ways to spend Hallo’s Eve than rocking out in great band.

2016 ISU Professor/Administrator Pay Breakdown

Illinois State University - FIREI was doing a little research on teacher pay and came across the Illinois Board of Higher Education site, which lists the compensation of all professors and many administrators.  With is in hand, I through it into Tableau and profiled Illinois State University (ISU.)

 

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ISU is top heavy.  It pays the administrators and unit directors more than other institutions.  They also tend to pay their professors and adjuncts less than most other institutions. 

 

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ISU also uses many more atypical (likely adjunct) teachers.  There are almost twice as many part time instructors than other public universities.  This is likely because it is a teaching college as well as having a vocational/technical bent.  Bringing in people with real world experience can improve learning.  It is also why the pay for instructors/lecturers’ pay is low. 

 

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Excluding the lower paid people, the mix is fairly typical with a few more associate professors on average.  With instructors removed, the median salary is $80,700 vs other universities $83,400. 

 

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When looking at a Pareto chart of compensation, there is a budge of low paid instructors with compensation in the $10 to $30K range.  There is another bulge around $80 to 120K.

Overall, the administrators and high positioned people at ISU are well paid compared to other universities.  It also relies on part-time and adjuncts more than others.

Want to play with the data and compare it to other schools?  Go here: 2016 ISU Professor Pay Visualization.

Increase Virtual Memory for Stat Programs

In my work, I run many models using gigabytes and larger datasets.  Even with 32GB of RAM, sometimes programs crash for lack of memory.  Since it is unlikely that my work machine will receive a memory upgrade in the near future, another option is to expand Windows virtual memory.  While this is unlikely to speed up the formulation of results, allows programs more memory space to run models.  

This workflow is for Windows 7.  It will work for Vista, but some of the steps are slightly different for 8 and 10.

 

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  1. On the desktop, click Start
  2. Type control panel

 

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  1. If the Control Panel looks like the above picture, click View by: > Small icons

 

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  1. In the Control Panel, click System

 

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  1. In System, click Advanced system settings

 

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  1. In System Properties under the Advanced tab, click Settings…

 

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  1. In the Performance Options popup, click Advanced tab
  2. On the Advanced tab under Virtual memory, click Change… button

 

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Now there are various ways to change it.  This system has two drives. 

The C: drive is a smallish Solid State (SSD) drive.  While increasing the memory allocation here provides the fastest access time, there isn’t much space in a 256GB drive.  I normally either leave it as [System Managed] or remove it all together to increase space for programs.  If you are going to set it manually, try not to use more that 20% or so of the drive. 

The D: drive is a large traditional hard drive.  Because of its 2TB size and the fact that programs do not install here, it is a good place to store swap disks.  Again, the size should take up too much of the drive unless it is the only thing that will be on it.  Try 64GB to 128GB start and go larger if programs continue to crash.

  1. Click the drive name
  2. Click Custom size
  3. Enter the initial size (MB)
  4. Enter the Maximum size (MB)
    1. This don’t need to be the same, but I like symmetry.
  5. Click Set button
  6. Click OK to close the Virtual Memory Window
  7. Click OK to close the Performance Option Window
  8. Click OK to close the System Options window

Generally, Windows will ask for a reboot.  Do it at the first possibility to enable the suggestion.

Note:  For best results, if you use a traditional hard drive, defrag it first to give Windows a large contiguous block of space on the drive.  It may reduce thrashing.  This step is not necessary on a SSD.  Happy quanting

Fare Thee Well Acme

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Well it happened, the last true comic book establishment, Acme Comics, in the B-N area succumb to Amazon and electronic comics.  While I never frequented it often, people that I know have many fond (and not so fond) memories of spending their youth purchasing comics, Heroclix, and toys from this place as well as Metropolis, which went out of business over a decade ago.

I guess Babbitt’s Books has stepped up of offer subscriptions to satiate your comic fix.  Seems like an odd idea for the store.  I frequented the Babbitt’s more for non-fiction and stuff for school.

Clinton Lake Circle

Since it was such a nice day, I jumped into my car and picked a direction through the backroads of Central Illinois.  My main goal was to find parks south as well to explore the rural areas of Bloomington.

As if finally dried out enough to get into the fields, there was a lot of farm traffic on the one lane roads.

Clinton Lake Circle Route 2

1. Clinton, IL

My first stop was unexpectedly at Clinton, IL.  Always driving around it along US-51, I never really had been in it.  The town itself isn’t much, just a slowly dying farming community with some history dating back into the mid 19th century.

However, the downtown square was lively with May Day Celebrations.  Carney’s serving food, kids rides and a bunch of firefighters battling it out with firehoses, and of course booze flowing at the local bars. Typical Midwest small fun.

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2. Weldon Springs State Park

Weldon Springs is a a more improved park which gets its name from two springs flowing into a lake.  These springs aren’t much too look at, just faucets for water bubbling from the ground. 

From the people enjoying the day, it seems like a good place to fish, hang out with the family, and a cheap dating place for teenagers.  There are a dozen or so miles of most wooded trails circling the lake, but the improvements are in much need of repair (thanks state budget problems.)

Overall, it is fairly scenic and has lots of hiding places to give privacy for visitors.

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Memorial for veterans

 

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On Dawson Lake

 

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“Walden Springs”

 

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Geese sunning themselves in the marsh

 

3. Church Bell

While driving along Lake Fork road, I came across a bell statue siting at the Cemetery Road crossroads.  This was odd, since this place is in the middle of a bunch farmland with no house or other structure close by.

The placard reads that their used to be a church here until around 1989 when several churches combined and it was closed/torn down.  It is a nicely kept patch of green among the corn fields.

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4. Friends Creek Conservation Area

Friends Creek is a small wooded area with about 5 miles of currently muddy walking trails near the creek it gets its name from.  It is well maintained for a county conservation area and I enjoyed the hike around the river.

On site, there is a restored one room school house circa 1850s called Bethel School. 

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Bethel School

 

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Outhouses for both sexes across the school yard

 

5. Allerton Park

Allerton Park is an impressive estate owned by the UI with many gardens and natural areas.  It must be well known place to get married because the parks was quite busy with at least two wedding parties milling about the grounds.  The gardens were awesome, and I would like to come back in the summer time when more would be in bloom.

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I got some flowering tips in the Spring Gardens.

 

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There are lots of odd statues in the gardens.

 

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Lots of hedge rows around the grounds.

 

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6. Lodge Park

Lodge Park in the City of Monticello is pretty impressive for a county park.  It hosts a fair number of attractions and some rough hike.  I enjoyed the drive through it winding one-lane paths as many of the marshy flowers bloomed.

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A sea of yellow

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7. Mackey Cemetery and Sangamon Park

After some few dead ends looks for cool places to stop, I saw Mackey Cemetery sitting one a improved ridge surrounded by new plow fields.  It is a picturesque location for a graveyard with a nice view of the surrounding countryside.

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Walking up to the cemetery in the afternoon light.

 

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Nice spring evening for a walk

 

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Sangamon County Conservation is a small wooded area that gets its name from the creek of the same name.  It is a fairly nondescript forest in the middle of no where.  Because of the location and time of day, I did happen to see more wildlife than the other areas, stumbling across deer, a skunk and other miscellaneous varmints.

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Sangamon river is placid today.  Nice place to contemplate.

 

 

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On the drive home at sunset on the flat plains of Illinois.

 

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Durbin Toes the Line, Kirk Goes Against the Grain

ProPublica has an API that exports Congressional voting patterns so that people can review their representatives voting habits.  In downloading the data for senators, I noticed so marked differences in the voting patterns between the two senators for Illinois.

Note:  The data below was cleaned and compiled by me.  If you want to a better look at the charts or download the data go here: https://public.tableau.com/profile/steve.rubendall#!/vizhome/CongressVotingPatterns/Data

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Kirk is sort of a rebel, with the 3rd highest rate of voting against his own party in the Senate.  I’d chalk this up to representing a very Democratic state.  Other notable rebels are two former presidential candidates Rand Paul and Ted Cruz.

Durbin on the other hand toes the party line.  He is the 3rd lowest in voting against his party.  This is likely because he is the Minority Whip.  For all that Berne wants to be, he toes the Democratic party line more often than not, voting against the Dems less than others in his party.

 

 

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As for votes missed Kirk ‘misses’ about 6% of the votes about double Durbin’s number this term.  This chart is stark for former presidential candidates.  Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz miss 1 in 3 votes with Berne missing over 1 in 3.

 

 

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When looking at the Congress as a whole, the Democrats are more unified in their voting patterns in both houses.  The Senate is especially ruckus for the Republicans with over half of their party voting against itself over 1 in 10 times.

 

 

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In general, the my house rep, Darin LaHood, is a  pretty solid vote for the Republicans.  I guess he has to be since our previous rep, Aaron Schock resigned because of his decorative and travel escapades.

Building a Steam Machine

Sick of waiting for Valve to come out with their version of a console, I decided to build one myself to replace my Ouya that faithfully powers my viewing experience on my TV.   The Ouya itself is a decent piece of hardware and when paired with Kodi, a media player, it does a decent job playing music and videos.  The problem with it is that streaming sources are limited.  No Amazon, Netflix and Spotify unless you want to do some serious hacking to get it to work.

I had 5 main objectives going into it:

# Goal Result
1 Play saved/online media Better than expected
2 Play CD/DVD Slight better than I expected
3 Play blu-ray Awful.  I will never buy another blu-ray again.
4 Gaming Mixed, but decent
5 User experience Odd, but better than expected
  Overall Better than expected

 

Part 1:  Hardware is like an expensive jigsaw puzzle

After sinking a significant portion of my discretionary income on games and other software over the years, I wanted to enjoy them while sitting in front of my TV like a typical American would do.  After a few weeks of research, I finally had enough information on the hardware to use in building a Steam box and media center.

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Case:  SilverStone RAVEN Series RVZ01B

What attracted me is what it isn’t, a full size box that looks like a computer siting on it side.  It met all of my criteria.

  • Black – Think thing is actually too black, it is like an invisible monolith when lights are turned low.

  • Holds a full sized discrete graphics card

  • Spot for a Blu-ray player

  • Sits horizontally on top of a audio receiver

In the end, this was the only case that fit the criteria as the box fills an odd middle point between ATX cases that are too big (and look like computers) and typical ITX boxes that are too small to fit a discrete graphics card.  In my experience during the build, the case is great so long as you carefully part out your equipment before the build.

An odd thing is that the case comes with spaces for three 120mm fans, but they only give your two slim styled ones.  I ended up purchasing an Antec TrueQuiet case fan and placing it over the CPU and relegated the ones that came with the case moved to support the graphics card.

During the build, I decided to make the machine use a positive flow, meaning all the fans blow inward.  The case has lots of holes to move air out.  With the graphics card helping fan with exhaust, the machine stays cool and quiet.  Even under stress testing, the machine ran cool (64C for the graphics card and 69C for the processor) with the only audible sound being the processor fan if it was under a heavy load.

 

 

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Power supply:  SilverStone ST45SF 450W SFX12V

Upon ignorance of computer power needs, I originally worried that 450 watts wasn’t going to cut it this machine.  Later during testing I found it is actually too large.  The machine peaks at 166 watts at full load.  Oh well, at least it is energy star bronze certified.

I have no real complaints about the power supply outside the cost.  Because the case was small, I had to purchase a SFX based version, which was about 50% more than a typical ATX of the same quality.

 

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Processor: Intel Core i5-4590S

After a few days of pondering, I choose this over low power Haswell i5 over a comparable high-end i3.  The main reason was I didn’t think a dual core i3 would have the oomph to traverse large directories of files and do complex multitasking functions.

However, this isn’t 2009.  An i3 would have worked fine it all but the most demanding tasks.  If I had it to do over again, I’d save the $50. 

 

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Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-H97N-WIFI ITX

In most situations, I prefer ASUS boards.  They generally have better power user features I look for and having used their equipment for more than a decade, I understand the company’s idiocracies.  However Gigabyte has always been my second choice because their lower end boards are no-frills and stable.

Fortunately, I came across this motherboard in a previous build and loved it.  It is small, fast, and containing every port needed in a console computer, it pairs perfectly with the case.

I choose this board because:

  • Bluetooth 4.0 – few ITX board have it.

  • Has 802.11 AC – Fast wireless and makes pairing with other devices an easy affair.

  • 8 USB ports (6 USB 3.0 with 2 for the front of the machine)

  • Optical sound out for the 15 year old Sony receiver

  • Good power saving while sleeping (currently < 1.2 watts)

In use, it has never crashed.  The only stability issues were because of BIOS settings, which were solved by shifting the power savings and USB operations to the operating system.

If I fault the board for anything, it is that it only has 2 fan headers, one for the CPU and other for the case. The problem with this is that the case has spots for 3 fans. I ended up splicing them into the single remaining case fan header, but this never causes them to ramp up quickly fast since the power provided by the motherboard is too small.  Fortunately, the case is well vented and the components never go much above 40C in normal use.

 

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Memory: Corsair Vengeance 8GB (2x4GB)

This machine doesn’t need 8GB.  2 or 4 would be fine.  But it was a $5 upgrade so why not. In real world use, it causes me to never close any program.  Once opened, programs stays that way until reboot since there is little to no overhead in using another half a gig of memory.

I chose this memory purely for the fact that is was cheap and approved by Gigabyte for use in the motherboard.

 

 

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Drive:  Samsung 850 EVO

For this build, I went for speed and power savings.  So, no large spinning rust drive for storage.  This allowed the machine to only have a SSD.  Since I already use this model main machine, it was an easy choice.  It is fast, sips power, and stable in a low usage environment.

 

 

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Graphics card:  Sapphire HD 5770 1GB – 100283-3L

A recent throw away from my main machine.   However, it still has life so it got a new home.  Having had this card for about 4 years now, it performs as expected.  1080p is no problem and most eye candy can be upped at the max.  The only reason it was demoted from my main rig was that it had a hard time handling two 1920×1200 monitors.

Originally, I purchased it because reviews highlighted its quiet running.  This is still the case.  During stress testing, the fan never goes above 45% @ 64C, which causes a barely audible hum in a quiet room but easily drown out by a furnace fan.  Wish I could say the same thing about street noise.

The only negative I give is that this card uses a bit too much power.  At idle or playing music, the machine uses 53 watts, peaking around 120 during games, which is low for computer standards, but I’d much rather it use under 40.  Taking the card out lowers usage drops to 30 watts.  My gaming usage patterns will dictate if it stays.

 

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Blu-ray player: Panasonic UJ-265 Slot Load

This was the hardest part to source.  Because the case needs a slot-loading player, this is the only one that fits outside the SilverStone branded version that sells for three times as much (and is the same equipment, just rebadged. Unfortunately, it has led to buyer’s remorse since the entertainment industry hates people watching their content on unapproved devices (computers.)

 

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Remote:  Rosewill RHRC-11001 Remote

The reason I chose this remote was that I already purchased it for my main PC.  Since I never use it, so it was repurposed.  I have little to complain about it.  Once plugged in, it just worked without software.  In Steam and some Metro apps it pairs fine, and Kodi allows find tuning controls and assign buttons to do specific functions.  Best part is it can make the computer go to sleep and wake quickly.

It replaced my PS3 Bluetooth remote.  There is nothing wrong with this remote, but few people code for it, therefore it tends not to work in many pieces of software.  The two issues I had with it is that caused havoc for other Bluetooth devices in the area.  The other issue is that it didn’t have a power button for the computer.

 

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Keyboard:  Logitech K400

For the price, this is one of the best wireless keyboard integrated mouse combos out there.  Everyone I know has at least one of these hanging off their TV.

  • All functionality works out of the box.

  • It has multimedia keys

  • Has a computer on/off button

  • Good battery life (4 months later and it still has needed new ones)

  • 15’ use

The only negative is the mouse is a track pad, which is a poor substitute for an actual mouse.

This replaced a Fosmon Bluetooth keyboard/touch pad, which I like OK, but for the fact that the range was 8 feet.  To use it, requires the user to sit up and bend toward the screen to work.

Part 2:  Construction ahead

The biggest problem during the build was everything was too big or too long.  All of the parts are meant for larger systems so the ended up being extra lengths of cords everywhere. Where I could, the went around the edge of the case.  Others, I resorted to taping the extra cord to the book of the enclosure with electrical tape.

Installation steps:

  1. Power supply first
  2. Hard drive
  3. Attach the processor and fan to the motherboard
  4. Attach memory to the motherboard
  5. Install motherboard
  6. Attach cabling to motherboard
  7. Attach fan cabling to motherboard
  8. Install Blu-ray player to extra mount
  9. Install Blu-ray cabling
  10. Install graphics card and and cabling to extra mount
  11. Install extra mount to the case and to the motherboard
  12. Attach 4 feet to bottom of the computer to help with airflow
  13. Plug in USB parts as needed

Click pictures to enlarge.

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Housing for the solid state drive.  The computer can hold 3.5” drives.  If you are going to use something smaller, make sure you have a 2.5” to 3.5” mount.  The one the drive is on was from and old OCZ drive.

Tip: When building, attach the power supply first otherwise you’ll waste time taking out the motherboard.

 

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When adding a DVD or Blu-ray player, get Mini to Regular PCIe cord like the one at the top.  The at the bottom doesn’t fit.

 

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Blue-ray player.  To use it, it is better to take off the basel (pictured at the bottom.)

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When installing Blu-ray cabling route it between the graphics car and player.

 

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Graphics card.  It doesn’t fit directly on the motherboard.  Instead the case comes with a small PCIe 16x hookup that attaches to the card,  Then the card attaches to the extra mount that holds the Blu-ray player and graphics card. 

Tip: Remember not to use a graphics card that is more than 10 inches long or it won’t fit.

 

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The top of this is a picture shows how the extra mount attaches to the motherboard’s PCIe x16 slot. 

Tip: If you use a graphics card, you cannot use any additional PCIe slot if the board has one as their will be no room.

 

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Antec fan that faces the processor.  It needs to be set at High to rotate fast enough to move air.

 

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Inside the completed computer, minus the extension for the graphics card and blu-ray player that goes on the right.

 

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Underside of the computer.  Note the 2 fans with dust grills.  At the top right shows where one of the feet should go to improve air flow.

 

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Back side of the motherboard. 

Tip: If using a wireless keyboard, place the dongle near the PS3 port (top-left.)  This port is the first to initialize and will help you get into the BIOS.

 

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Completed computer.  I taped the blue light of the machine with electrical tape because it is super bright.  The thing attached to the second USB 3.0 slot is an extra bluetooth dongle for to extend the range of bluetooth devices.  It is not needed if you use non-PS3 controllers.

Tip: The case is a finger print magnet.  Make sure you clean your hands before assembly.

 

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Controls.  The most useful is the Logitech keyboard and Rosewill controller.

Tip: If you are going to use an RF controller like the Rosewill or Logitech Universal remote, place the receiver as close to the TV as possible.  Otherwise, you have to do funky calisthenics to move around the menus.

 

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Installation with Kodi running.

Tip: Clean equipment before you take a picture.  Digital cameras are a harsh and unforgiving lot.

 

Part 3: BIOS, it thinks too much

Once built, I made numerous changes to the BIOS in an effort to make the machine work properly.  The biggest issue was after waking from sleep numerous parts didn’t wake with it.  In the end, I drew two conclusions:

  1. Turn off anything that wasn’t being used (e.g. serial port)

  2. Let Windows handle the power settings

This meant turning off most legacy ports, old technology compatibility settings, and anything non-UEFI.  This fixed all of the lingering power issues and made most user interface operations extremely responsive.  Any continuing problems at this point seem to be due to software issues.

Eventually I’d like to have the machine to power down to S6 or into hibernation to lower the 1.2 watt stand by power usage, but at this point the S5 lower power mode consumes less than 2 watts, so I can live with that.

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Below are the settings I used.  The Blue lines indicate the BIOS user interface tab.  I documented any setting that I thought about.  If it is not on this list, it is set at the default.

Name Set at Why?
M.I.T.    
M.I.T. settings All at Auto Don’t care to overclock, want stability.
Advanced Frequency Settings All at Auto Don’t care to overclock, want stability.
Advanced Memory Settings All at Auto Don’t care to overclock, want stability.
Advanced Voltage Settings All at Auto Don’t care to overclock, want stability.
PC Health States    
–  CPU Fan Speed Control Quiet  
–  System Farm Speed Control Quiet Changing this to be more aggressive messes with my keyboard.  3 fans must draw too much power and affect the USB.
Miscellaneous Settings    
–  PCIe Slot Configuration Gen3 Graphics card is that generation
–  DMI Gen2 Speed Enabled Helps with bandwidth of parts in computer
–  3DMark01 Disabled Who cares?
CSM Support Disabled Have no old parts in the computer so not needed
BIOS Features    
Full Screen LOGO Options Disabled Who cares?
Fast Boot Disabled I will enable it once setting are finalized, but it only shaves a second or two seconds off the boot
Execute Disable Bit Enabled Anti-hacking tool
Intel Virtualization Technology Disabled Processor doesn’t support it
Intel TXT(LT) Support Enabled Anti-hacking tool
Dynamic Storage Accelerator Enabled Lets the hard drive control its own speed
VT-d Disabled i5 doesn’t support virtualization
Win 8 Feature Enabled Have Windows 8.  Didn’t want the use the WHQL setting as I have hacked drivers
–  Boot Mode Selection UEFI only Have modern hardware
– Storage Boot Option Control UEFI only Have modern hardware
–  Other PCI Device ROM Priority UEFI OpROM Have modern hardware
Peripherals    
Initial Display Output PCIe Have graphics card installed
PCH LAN Controller Disabled There are two LAN controllers, but I only need one.  This one had the most problems so it was disabled.
XHCI Mode Disabled No old USB devices
Audio controller Disabled I use the HDMI to my TV for sound
Intel Processor Graphics Disabled Have graphics card installed and one display
Intel Rapid Start Technology Enabled Using a solid state hard drive
Legacy USB Disabled No legacy USB
XHCI Hand-off Disabled No legacy USB
EHCI Hand-off Disabled No legacy USB
Two layer KVM Disabled Don’t have one installed
SATA Configuration   Only changes I made is to disable ports that that are not in use
ISCT Support Enabled All ISCT settings are set to enabled for power savings.
Serial Port Disabled Not in use
Power Management    
Power Loading Enabled Just in case of under voltage to the house
Wake on LAN Disabled  
RC6 (Render standby) Disabled Have graphics card installed
Power On By Keyboard Enabled Ability to wake computer from the keyboard
Power On By Mouse Move Ability to wake computer from the mouse
Platform Power Management Disabled Problems with the computer on wake not recognizing USB equipment.  Causes the graphics card to crash.
ErP Disabled Want to computer to turn on with a controller or keyboard

 

Part 4:  Software, this is where the fun starts

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Tip: Pin programs to the taskbar or the Metro Start menu. Pressing the Windows key will allow usage of installed without much mouse/controller moving.

Operating System:  Windows 8.1 64-bit Home

With all the dislike of 8.1, why choose it over 7 or SteamOS?  I having been using since beta testing Windows 8, I learned it has several advantages in the living room:

  • Metro apps work well on large screens

  • Has native support for USB 3.0 and other peripheral drivers are built into the OS

  • Powers on quick (~3 seconds for this machine)

  • Many tweaks to the user interface make it useful without a mouse

The overall software settings of the machine are for media/game consumption, automation to keep software up-to-date, and power savings.  There is no creativity suites and if Windows had it built in, such as Internet Explorer, Windows Defender, or Reader it was used.

Utilities

Software Use Comments
Notepad++ Text viewer Used to open configuration files and light coding
Greenshot Screen capture Good to do screen captures with a click of a button
Glary Utilities 5 Maintenance Full version automates defragging, software updates, cleaning up temp files and many other annoying maintenance items.
SpeedFan Hardware testing To check on temperatures and other metrics.
FurMark Stress testing  
Spybot Search and Destroy Security I don’t keep it resident.  It is just in case a program goes rogue.
Ad Block Plus for IE Ad Blocker Blocks ads and malware in Internet Explorer.  Also makes the Internet worth surfing.
TightVNC Remote control Allows access to the computer from tablets and other computers.
SCP Controller Driver PS3 software Allows PS3 controllers to work through bluetooth.
MotionInJoy works, but it corrupts other USB devices.

 

Fun software

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Steam

When the computer powers on, it goes right into Steam Big Screen view.  While it focuses on games, it allows users to favorite non-game software.  This opens up other software to controller or remote usage.

It also allows access to a vast game library, of which about 1/4 are controller based.  In practice however, many of games had mouse only menus or some barrier that prevents pure controller only usage.  I wrote several programs to skip menus or install Xbox controller software for navigation.  However, I tired of writing patches so if a game doesn’t allow immediate play, I uninstall it.

Overall, this keyboardless system works well.  The user interface is fast and intuitive, doesn’t crash and opens up Windows programs to other ways of controlling them without a mouse.

 

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Kodi attempting (and failing) to play a Breaking Bad Blu-ray.  This is why I needed to install PowerDVD.  You’d think that content providers would make it easy to consume (and purchase more of) their products.

Kodi (formerly XMBC)

This is the main reason I built the system.  Ouya spent about 95% of its time in this program.  It was vitally important that this program worked with a keyboard.  It is hard to describe what it does to those that don’t own a large media library.  It helps catalog the thousands of music, podcasts, video and pictures on servers and in the cloud. 

Every day, it pulls in a fresh batch of podcasts and web site RSS feeds to peruse.  It also scans Yahoo! to display the weather to satisfy the old man in me.  In addition, there is a large library of add-ons that add functionality.

Video and Music Add-ons

  • Funamation – A Netflix for anime
  • Crunchyroll – A Netflix for anime, manga, and Asian drama
  • PBS – American public television, need my Frontline fix to keep tab on Putin
  • Rooster Teeth – Funny, got hooked after watching RWBY
  • TED Talks – High minded people talk about changing the world
  • The Onion – America’s news source
  • Udacity – Get your learn on ppl
  • YouTube
  • Pandora – Music streaming, not as good as Spotify
  • NPR – Good for listening to WGLT blues
  • Fusion – A gray market add-on that allow access to nearly everything from Estonian live TV to first run movies.  Best part, no ads.

 

Software Usage Comments
Spotify Audio streaming Awesome audio steaming program
Media Player Classic HC Video player Best video player for desktops and laptops on Windows.  Installed with CCCP.
VLC Video player More for testing video connections.
Calibre E-book/PDF reader Perfect Viewer is so much better.  Too bad that it is Android only
Comic Rack Comic reader Perfect Viewer is so much better.  Too bad that it is Android only
Origin Game store Sometimes I want to play Mass Effect 3.  Despite what people say about the ending it is still an awesome game.
Cyberlink PowerDVD 9 Blu-Ray player It is an OK DVD and Blu-ray player but doesn’t work well with anything but a keyboard and mouse
Netflix Metro app Movie streaming Works well enough to watch shows with a game controller.

 

Failures or things left uninstalled

  • Amazon Music – I purchase music from Amazon.  I thought about adding it, but a server downloads them to a location that I can get to from Kodi.  It does have streaming, but Spotify has a better selection.
  • Amazon Prime – They do not have a Metro app to watch video, so I have to use IE (sigh.)
  • Controlling the mouse with a controller – Never found a good program to easily control the mouse without using a touchpad.  Using a controller is slow and imprecise.
  • Desura – A gaming platform for indie games.  The problem is that it that you cannot use a controller with it (and they want bankrupt.)

Bureaucracy and the NYPD Slowdown

NYPD BadgeOver the last few days, I’ve watched the goings on with the police force slowdown in New York with some interest.  As the police have done less, there has been little change in overall crime.  Opponents say this is proof that there is something amiss in the NYPD and their tactics.  In truth, it hasn’t been long enough to prove much of anything except arrests and citations do not necessarily make a society safer.  To me, it unearths the shows the inherent problems with the modern bureaucracy.

Since a society without codified rules can be an unwelcoming place, especially to minority viewpoints, a bureaucracy is necessary.  The problem is that we often go too far and end up codifying social norms and making minor offenses subject to fines.  This leads to arbitrary, asymmetrical justice and increases mistrust of the system.

Vincent Freeman, Illegal jaywalker for the sake of a womanTake jaywalking.  With the rise in autos, many cities made it illegal because drivers disapproved of people crossing willy-nilly.  It made sense as it could improve driver and pedestrian safety.  Upon enforcement however, government bureaucracy makes it is a mess. 

Example: A person jaywalks and a police officer stops them.  In this situation, the officer has great leeway depending on the overall interaction.  They could:

  1. Let the person go after warning them on the dangers
  2. Run their name through the warrant system
  3. Pat them down to see if they are committing other crimes
  4. Write them a jaywalking citation

Ideally, all involved would want the least invasive to happen.  The police officer to tell them not to do it again and leave the matter at that.  However, the bureaucracy prevents this.  There are ticket quotas or standard operating procedures to run names or to stop and frisk people committing minor offenses.

What happens is that more often than not after a citizen’s private life is reviewed, they end up with a citation.  Even if they go to court and prove themselves innocent, they still pay court costs and take time out of their lives to fight it.  So in the end, it is often lose-lose interaction when a police officer stops a citizen.

What makes this more insidious is that getting caught for jaywalking varies depending on where it happened in a city.  Police patrol more in high-crime areas.  These tend to be poorer neighborhoods that are statistically more likely to have a greater portion of minorities.  So, citizens in these areas end up with more citations and more negative perceptions of the police.

This hurts neighborhoods.  It makes people avoid police.  Many have had run ins for minor offences, and those who haven’t feel they can get scrutinized for trivial matters.  Often the citizenry becomes disdainful, making interactions with authorities tenser than they need to be.  Polices in-turn feel many of the citizens they protect are criminals, given their reluctance to communicate amicably.

In the short-term, I think the slowdown is good for New Yorkers in general.  It will give people time to cool off.  If it continues long-term, it might be of questionable benefit as society adjusts to these changes. 

It would be a good time to rethink how police should interact with who they protect.  They could start by abandoning revenue (citation) generating quotas.  This simple change would lessen the adversarial nature of many interactions as police no longer target minor infractions in an effort to stay employed.

Tableau Confernce ‘14-Day 3

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Let us recap day two’s festivities:image002

  • Most presenters talked about simplified visualizations better convey topics to non-data people.
  • There are few good programs to correct data file imperfections.
  • Most companies present dashboards without insight generalization.  Users need to draw their own conclusions from the visualizations presented.
  • Designers hate pie charts.
  • What is truly evil is the exploding pie chart (which I now know how to make, ha!)

Good morning Seattle!  I got up early today and went for a stroll around the downtown area just before sunrise.  I shot pic above down by the water.  I realize now that one does not simply stroll east-west as the rolling terrain make it more ascending mountains.  I was almost late to rendezvous with my colleagues at the hotel.  Again food at the conference had a high nom factor.

 

Session #12: Keynote: Dr. John J. Medina—The Business Brain

imagesI didn’t have a clue to who Dr. Medina, the author of Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School, was before the session and asked around to see if anyone else knew who he was to no avail.  I guess he wasn’t a contestant on Dancing with the Stars or Idol.  I first thought he’d going to go on about how people think or ways to excel at work or home, but instead the topic was sleep.  A great topic indeed.

  • Myth: People use <10% of their brain.  It is actually 50-60%.
  • Myth #2: There are left and right brained people.  There is no evidence of this.  Humans need both to survive.
  • Our brain evolved to survive outside.   We are wired to notice changes in weather, sensing motion, and looking for things that aid in survival.
  • Brain as two parts
  • Generator – Affected by mood, what we eat, sickness and sleep
  • Spotlight – Our attention and stimulus receptors
  • We need around 8 hours of sleep a night.  This occurs in 4 to 5 cycles a night.
  • Why so sleepy after lunch?  It is the brain telling you to take a nap because it is confused.  This happens when the circadian arousal and homeostatic sleep drives are nearing equilibrium.  Take a 26 minute nap. 
  • People who have bi-polar often have problems with the homeostatic sleep drive.  I see this in my mom.  At times, she does not sleep, leading to all sorts of problems.
  • Sleep helps people remember what they learn over the course of a day.  The brain replays the memories to aid learning.
  • Four levels of sleep depravation

    1. Irritability
    2. Worsening working memory
    3. Motor skills worsen
    4. Hallucinations similar to LSD

    Sleep deprived people don’t realize they need sleep in the first two stages, but those around them do.

    How we get sleep depravation

    • 5 days w/6 hours of sleep a night is like being up 48 hours straight (felt that when I was Seattle)
    • If someone is up 18 hours in one day, it takes 3 to 4 days to correct the issue.

    Takeaway:  Sleep is the best career move.  Get some.  Hopefully my boss will let me take naps after lunch, for my health…that’s the ticket.

     

    Session #13: 100 Years of Visualization Best Practices—It’s Time to Stop Making the Same Mistakes

    2014-09-17 17_38_47-Graphic presentation - graphicpresentat00brinrich.pdfAndy Cotgreave gave an interesting speech about Willard Brinton and his book, Graphic Methods for Presenting Facts, which can be read in its entirety online (thank you public domain.) 

    • When zero could be a real number in a visualization, start the axis at zero.  Otherwise the perspective can be distorted.
    • The title and images in the visualization tell their own story
    • Use a checklist to make sure visualization meet the needs of the user

    “Show me the numbers” – Stephen Few

    Keys to data visualization

    1. Data interactivity – Use over time, YoY or averages to give context
    2. Isotype – Use shapes that are similar to what you are measuring.  Like footballs for the number of catches a receiver makes.
    3. Don’t size by area, it is not effective.  Make the keys understandable.

    No, bad Economist, no.

     

    IMG950825

    This was original.

    IMG950828

    This is what Andy created using the same data.  Notice how the convey different a meaning.  The top one is more visceral, but the latter one really tells a positive story (well before ISIS hung is shingle in Iraq and Syria.) 

    IMG950829

    Thanks Patty for the snaps.

    2014-09-17 17_43_28-Graphic presentation _ Brinton, Willard Cope, 1880- _ Free Download & Streaming

    Look! Pie charts even in 1914.  They’re eternal I tell you.

    Note:  This book has some great visualizations.  If you have the time, I’d recommend skimming the book for ideas.

    Takeaway:  The visualizations used can change how the reader perceives the insight.  Think about this when displaying data. Review the book, it is nearly as good as Edward Tufte’s, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, another one I highly recommend.

     

    Session #14: General Motors Design Center: Connecting a Data-Driven Business with a Visually-Driven Team

    I wasn’t expecting grandeur, after all this was a presentation by a GM, a company until recently was known as Government Motors.  My perception changed as Ben Pope took the mic.  He a affable, witty, and most importantly knew analytics.  He even built his presentation in Tableau and not PowerPoint, I true analytics deity.

    GM implemented a graphic view for their projects forgoing the horrendous UI of Microsoft Project and their other internal project systems. 

    • It is used in 10 design centers worldwide with 2,500 people
    • Built with strong IT and management support (which is needed for analytic project in my opinion)
    • Holds all data sources in one workbook.  The they can make changes centrally and push it to the server.
    • Have 3 analysts working and maintaining their dashboards.

    image

    Picture doesn’t do it justice.

    image

    2014-09-17 18_10_38-Sketch114142222.tiff - Windows Photo Viewer

    Rough sketch of the data workflow.  Missing the piece of pull from Microsoft SharePoint to Access (likely to get user information.)

    Takeaway:  It is important to get your stakeholders involved earlier and have a strategic direction to help analytics teams when creating visualizations.

     

    Session #15: Keynote: Hans Rosling—Future Global Trends: A Fact-Based View

    I was looking forward to Hans Rosling closing out the conference.  I am a big fan of Gapminder.org, a organization he help to found.  A few years ago in the pre-Tableau and Excel 2013 days, I used the software his organization created to make a bunch of dashboards in Flash.  During that time, I got to play with the world data he showed to the audience.  Tableau has this data available natively in its products.

    He ask six questions to the audience.  Before proceeding, take the survey to see if you’re l33t enough to continue:  http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/10/world/gapminder-us-ignorance-survey/

    Answers: http://www.gapminder.org/GapminderMedia/wp-uploads/Results-from-the-Ignorance-Survey-in-the-US..pdf (love the filename)

    Anyway, he was frank and funny, a great presenter.

    • Population in 2100: 5 billion Asia, 4 Africa, 1 Americas, and 1 Europe
    • Peak child will be in 2014 to 2016.  That means their will be only 2.1 billion people under 18 in the world each year from now to 2100.
    • The lack of gender equality lowers fertility in middle income and advanced countries (see China and Japan.)  It has no affect on those making <$1.25/day.  This is because of high child mortality rates, which in turn increase birth rates.
    • Two factors that have contributed most to the declining birth rate: vaccinations (sorry anti-vaxors) and globalization (sorry protectionists and greens)
    • Once families make more than $10/day, birth rate declines .  Children are healthier (survive) and don’t have to work.  They go to school and become more educated after which they make more than their parents and have even fewer children.
    • High-income earners have more children provided there is a high level of gender equality.
    • Most high income countries have a lower birth rate than the replacement rate (2.1 children/woman.)  This means their populations will stabilize and shrink (unless there is immigration.)

     

    Sketch11416219

    I was inspired to draw again during the presentation.  I thought of a way to do rolling overtime with a YoY graphic programmatically directly from a DB2 data source.  When I have the time, I will implement it on a daily basis and make the DBAs cry.

     

    Night

    IMG950713

    The conference let out early on the last day, so I went back to Pike Place Market while it was still open.  It is a cool scene when open with all the activity from locals and tourists.  Much of the food was fresh.  I spied an ostrich and emu eggs for sale.  I thought, briefly about taking one to take back.  Then I realized that I had no place to put it in my luggage.  Even if I could manage, the TSA would not keep it whole (like what happened to my jar of garlic spread, grrr.)

     IMG950715

    Them are some big lobster tails.

    After poking around a bit, the group that I was with headed toward the bay to eat.  After some side treks, we heads to Anthony’s Pier 66, just north of the Seattle Aquarium, where we went to sit up so we looked down on the water.  I ordered swordfish, which was good, but I decided not my favorite type of fish.  It was too cooked.  Fish is better in its natural state–raw.  Overall, the food and service was decent and adequate enough for a bunch of tired convention attendees.

    After eating, everything that had happened hit my mind at once.  It was a zen realization that I was dog tired and only wanted to hit the pillow for a few hours before the early 7am flight back to the Midwest.

     

    The recap for day number three:

    • Sleep is more important than staying up all an finishing the next round of Civilization, get some and often.
    • Edward Tufte wasn’t the first person to think of how to display data.
    • There is no one way to get data into Tableau.  Most companies use CSV or Excel rather than go directly against data stores.
    • IT limitations will cause data analysts to do crazy things.  It is important to collaborate with IT to set up reporting systems correctly.
    • The population will stabilize and get older as the world gets richer.  That is a comforting thought for the future of humanity unless a big rock falls from the sky.

    About the Conference

    The conference overall was slickly produced and well run.  Things of note:

    • The TCC14-Data14 app was well produced and was built on Event Base technology.  It bridged nicely between the virtual and physical world.  Tableau added all of the sessions, happenings, maps, surveys and even a game in the app itself. More impressively, the kept it constantly up to date.  I think that it would be a useful tool for any company wanting to hold events with hundreds of people.
    • Tableau used the app and other technology during check-in to see what programs they needed to add during the conference.  The app was constantly pinging about sessions moving to larger venues or added to accommodate popular topics.
    • The lament the size of the lanyard, but it did have a map in the sleeve so you did have to pull out your phone/tablet to see where you needed to go.
    • Tableau offered nice touch services such as shuttle to and from the hotels and discounts of their stuff.
    • Offered a good brand of non-carbonated unsweet lime water in a can.  Wish I could remember the name of it.  It was weird to drink something flat from a can, but it grew on me in place a of black tea that I usually drink.

    Miscellaneous Stuff

    This is stuff I forgot to mention in the earlier posts or just plain didn’t know where to put it.

    IMG950848

     

    Mount Rainier from the Air by Patty Walsh.

    IMG950718

    Rainy Monday at the Fish Market by Patty Walsh.  The rest of the week was clear and sunny.

     

    0909142140

    Listening to Sir-Mix-A-Lot while staring upwards whilst eating a doughnut.

    0911141805a

    Shiny buildings.

    0908141418

    Looking down from the 10th floor in the Seattle Public Library.  Gave me vertigo.  The place is awesome on the inside, but just pain ugly outside.

    photo

    Mount Rainier again.  This time from Safe Co field.  By Brian Welch.

    Note: Next time, bring a decent camera.

    image

    Not sure where I snapped this.  Decent visualization though.

    Proving Simpsons Quality Slide

    I came across a neat web-based graph package by Kevin Wu called Graph TV.  It takes IMDb rating of all episodes of a show and displays plot them over the seasons.  The first show I checked out was The Simpsons, as it was one of my all time favorite shows of the 90s.

    Simpsons chart

    I thought the quality slid greatly after the 7th season, turns out many other people thought less of it too, coming to the realization a few season later. 

    It’s interesting to see that after season 10, there are few breakout shows. My take is that today’s Simpson serves conservative comedy compared to its edgy nature in the late 80s/early 90s.  Not even Bill Cosby or George Bush would complain about Bart and co. today…pity.

    Tableau Data Mining Fun – McLean County’s Sales Tax Referendium

    2014-03-08 21_54_26-McLean County, IL - Official WebsiteI am following the debate around Bloomington about the March 18 referendum to add a 1% sales tax for schools.  Like any issue pitching money v kids, the conservatives v progressives are battling it out.  Those voting yes think about our children’s education, those against don’t want to see taxes go up.

    Note: to educate yourself on the issue, I recommend reading Stifel Nicolaus Presentation to MCSD [PowerPoint] for details.

    Unfortunately, neither this presentation nor the rhetoric online do good job comparing McLean county to other in the state.  So, what does the data say about what we already spend? 

    I looked into this issue using 2012 Illinois State Board of Education data and threw it into Tableau to pretty up the spreadsheets.


    This graphic is a is a little small. If you want to see these dashboards in their full glory, go here.

    Mclean county is 28th (of 102) in spending, roughly a bit above the average, which is skewed by Chicago as they spend far more per student. We are ranked 8th in both our ACT scores and ISAT (an elementary school test.)

    Not bad, though the county average mask the highly variable quality of our schools depending on which school a student attends. It is safe to assume that State Farm’s professional base gives are big lift overall.

    Overall, I will vote No not because I dislike paying taxes for good causes, but because sales taxes are regressive, hurting the poor more. They pay a higher proportion of income on goods, which are taxed. Wealthier people spend more on services and save more, both of which are untaxed locally. I’d rather see a progressive income tax or property tax levy hike, if it is needed. But increased spending rarely increases our kids preparedness for life.

    I might have voted differently if our schools where severely underfunded or our schools were underperforming, which the data suggests that neither is true.

    Intrepid Sledders at Ewing Park Hill

     

    Sledders

    Despite the cold, there where a few sledders during the snow storm this morning.  Going down the southeast side of the hill to stay out the the brutal northerly winds.

    image

    Not a bad walk. Hedge woods are an awesome wind break.  I now see why they planted a bunch around Ewing Manor despite the ugly fruit they drop.

    image

    There were few crazy enough to drive on Emerson…

    image

    …Or walk.

    When Sci-Fi Meets Cyberpunk

    TheSkySoBigAndBlack

    I went on a little sci-fi bender over the last month since there are few good game of note put out at the end of last year.  I started with Childhood’s End (weird,) then Rendezvous with Rama (good adventure story,) reread Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead (still awesome on repeat readings,) and slogged through Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand.   Oddly enough, the one that stuck out in my mind ended up being The Sky So Big and Black by John Barnes.  It is a great blend of sci-fi cyberpunk.

    The book is the last in the Century Next Door series.  It focuses a teenaged prospector Teri and shrink/friend during the colonization of Mars.  The story begins not long after an idea (meme) war breaks out on Earth.  This leads to the assimilation of everyone by the True One, a viral program that runs inside people heads that controls their action.

    In the beginning, Teri works with her dad as a prospector hunting trapped water and gases on the surface of Mars.   They are one of thousands that are terraforming Mars.  Her life, outside making a big gas score, is rather mundane for a teen.  She graduates school, gets dumped by her boyfriend, and ponders the future.  During the first two-thirds of the book, I wondered this narrative was leading but soon all hell breaks loose.  The ending left me conflicted.  On the one hand, it is depressing to see what she went through and on the other the story end with her mostly happy.  It is weird to read about something were protagonist couldn’t tell you if any of the preceding narritives are real or made up by some computer program.

    ghostintheshellWhile not be best best book I’ve read in the last month, the concept of a program running inside someone brain makes for fascinating reading.  Throughout the book, I wondered if what the main character is remembering is real or something concocted by the virus.  It reminds me of the excellent anime movie, Ghost in the Shell, where people’s brains get hacked and controlled. 

    It is worth checking out if you are into sci-fi or a cyberpunk fan.  Though those not familiar with the series might want to start with the first book Orbital Resonance.

    Recycling in McLean County

    In December, I decided to dig through my old junk in the basement and rid my house of all the stuff  that hasn’t been touched in years.  I sold some online, but I still had lots of unsellable items that I didn’t want to toss it in a landfill, so I decided to look up where to give it away or recycle it.

    I found that http://www.ecologyactioncenter.org is a good resource for McLean county, but was missing a few recyclers/donations places.  So a little more research I built this list:

    http://lostmidwesterner.com/bloomingtonnormal-il-recycling/

    Enjoy!

    Failures in Technical Communications

    I always liked this presentation for Technical Communication. My teammate and I decided to do it on failures of technical communication.

    TVblockingcamera 01_misaligned_bridge_503

    Mars Climate Orbiter (Polar Orbiter)

    This missing was going good until a thruster shot off wrong and the orbiter burned up in the atmosphere. It turned out that one of the groups gave its information in the standard system while everyone else was using the metric system. Oops.

    Links

    1. Mission Background
    2. Findings


    Phenergan (Promethazine HCL)

    Phenergan

    This drug was to help people with severe nausea. The only problem was that if it was injected wrong it caused gangrene. The instructions were so byzantine that even trained nurses couldn’t inject it correctly (see below.) The reason that the company didn’t update the instructions after people started to get hurt? Wyeth said the government wouldn’t let them, but that wasn’t a good enough reason for the courts.

    Links

    1. A lawsuit that went to the supreme court
    2. What happens when the drug is injected incorrectly

    Challenger Explosion

    The Challenger exploded in 1986, the cause was likely group-think, found so often in government and larger companies. I cannot show the chapter from the Edward Tufte’s book Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative we used for copyright reasons.


    Miscellaneous Information

    misalignedbridge steepdriveway

    A recent study conducted at the Swiss federal Institute of technology in Zurich analyzed 800 cases of structural failure in which 504 people were killed, 592 people injured, and millions of dollars of damage incurred. When engineers were at fault, the researchers classified the causes of failure as follows:

    Insufficient knowledge

    36%

    Underestimation of influence

    16%

    Ignorance, carelessness, negligence

    14%

    Forgetfulness, error

    13%

    Relying upon others without sufficient control

    9%

    Objectively unknown situation

    7%

    Imprecise definition of responsibilities

    1%

    Choice of bad quality

    1%

    Other

    3%

    From: M. Matousek and Schneider, J., (1976) Untersuchungen Zur
    Struktur des Zicherheitproblems bei Bauwerken, Institut
    für Baustatik und Konstruktion der ETH Zürich,
    FrBericht No. 59, ETH.

    sotp makesuretosotp

    Up with Bread: 4 G33k$ 3xp0$3 0n th3 F1n3r P01nt$ 0f Wh0£3 Gr41n Br34Ð M4k1ng

    At a suggestion of a colleague, I went over to Naturally Yours Grocery in the attempts to locate a box of whole grain bread mix. I wanted a guide rather than buying all the sundries and actually figuring how to utilize what little baking skills I have. After a few minutes of roaming the aisles that housed nary a molecule of sodium benzoate, I was guided by an eager employee who pointed out the bread mixes. “Wow jackpot,” I thought, staring at 50 or mixes. Then it I read closer. These items were “gluten free” mixes ranging from blueberry to the generic white bread mixes. Yuck, take out the only thing that gives bread any substance and over charge for the privilege of eating sawdust, no thanks.

     

    Saddened by this development, I left this aisle and pursued the store a little more. A few aisles, over I came to gawk for a time at amount of all natural pet food while a Futurama quote danced in my head at that moment:

    Leela: What do you people want?
    Free Waterfall Junior: We’re with mankind for ethical animal treatment. Popplers are little creatures. You got to stop harvesting them for food.
    Bender: Or what?
    FWJ: Or…we’ll boycott Fishy Joe’s.
    Leela: You’re vegetarians. Who cares what you do?
    FWJ: Shut up!
    Leela: Animals eat other animals. It’s nature.
    FWJ: No it isn’t. We taught a lion to eat tofu.
    Lion: *cough* *pause* *cough*
    image

    This thought led to another. I thought about my cat’s desire to imbibe all-natural foods. To this point, the only all-natural things he ate are crickets and the occasional dim-witted spider.

    image I kept walking and found a smaller area, which was pay dirt. To make for an easy choice, here was only one type of whole grain bread mix, All Natural Arrowhead Mills Organic Multigrain Bread Mix, so I picked along with an all-natural peppermint chewing, Glee Gum, with “rainforest chicle” in the checkout lane. This was definitely an impulse buy. The package had a fair representation of the Fallout Guy from the game series of the same name. In the car, I tried a few pieces. The favor kept for roughly five seconds before reverting to rainforest resin. It is the last time that I buy food based on a game character.

    At home, I awoke the bread maker from its slumber. It had been a second hand gift from my stepmom last Christmas and it the time I did not want to dawn the hat of a baker. This racquet brought out my previously mentioned feline, Shinji, to inspect the goings on. Jumping on the counter he just stared at me with the typical “I am too cool for you” cat expression during the set up process.

    Once complete, he took note of the new addition to the kitchen appliances. The stared at me as to say, “Dude, go back to the microwave, remember the last time were creative in the kitchen, in the fridge you detonated many bottles of overly yeasty homemade beers. You want to have DHS to visit again? It’s Getmo for sure this time.” After a while, he decided that the open kitchen window was more appealing than seeing the dawn of my humiliation and wandered off to bird watch.

    Directions (If you want to make this too, or a close facsimile)

     

    1. Dissolve 7 grams yeast in warm (85 degree F water) for five minutes to active it

    I looked into the bread maker at the small pile of the living organisms and thought, “oh well, so much or reading directions” and proceeded to Step 2. I enjoyed their usage of the metric system in this step as everything else is in standard measures. The yeast must have emigrated from Britain.

     

    1. Add 19 oz. of bread mix and stir

    1. 3 tbsp. of Canola Oil OR unsweetened applesauce.

    Canola must be some weird whole grain oil that I don’t use, so I added sweetened apple sauce…a small container of it. I do like apples and now the bread can be used as a fruit for the Extreme Fitness Challenge.

     

    1. 3 tbsp. of honey

    I combed through my pantry for some honey and noticed that mine had separated into the component elements–yellow and sugar. Instead, I spiked the mix with molasses from another failed experiment is kitchen chemistry, cookies. Molasses does differ slightly in that it tastes more like a burned out conifer forest rather than sugary goo, but it does have a tad bit of sweetness.

     

    1. 1 cup + 1 tbsp. of water or only 1 cup if using apple sauce

    I noted the change and used 1 cup only, but I forgot to warm that water a little before mixing from Step 1. I hope the yeast critters don’t mind.

     

    1. I set the bread maker. It is one of those idiot-proof ones that does the work for you, bonus. I set it up for Whole Grain, large loaf, and darker crust since I thought it would remove any excess liquid that I included with the applesauce. It spit out 3:55 and I started it in its journey. The maker attacked the ingredients with such virulence that it made my Sauder table shimmy along the linoleum.

    Outcome

     

    I expected something more in the lines of course sawdust, but happily, it was better. Like most whole grain breads, it was dryish, but nothing a drink of water cannot cure. The crust was thick and chewy without much flavor except when biting into the occasional flax seed. The insides tasted much like a Milk Bone, only slightly moister. Putting butter on it was ineffectual as it sopped up all traces of liquid, quickly reverting to its dry bread state. This does not make it an ideal candidate for a good PB&J sandwich. It is more of a cheese and meat type needing someone to triple its caloric output by adding sharp cheddar cheese and sausage log meat.

     

    Good:

    • It has an understated flavor that will enhance the taste of any fattening food place on top.

    • It stays fresh. E.g. doesn’t dry out since it is already died out.

    • Organic

    • Good source of fiber

    Bad:

    • Getting through the crust takes jaw strength or a really keen kitchen knives.

    • It is useless to put any fruit product on top since it will emaciate the spread.

    • The ungrounded seeds attach themselves to your teeth. So have some toothpicks on hand for extraction.

    Ugly:

    • Albus thinks it is a new brand of cat food.

    Verdict: Not bad, but I will stay with the store bought stuff.

    Confessions of a Fruit Taster

    Originally, this piece was done for a work contest, but I decided to post it here.

    On Friday, I choose to pursue the first choice of challenges. My original plan was to do the second one by doing a little yard work this weekend until I realized that I fettered most of the week studying instead of doing anything remotely active. This meant to increase my activity; I needed to go out into the bright sunlight for an overly large number or hours. This would have put a crimp my effort to power up my troll warrior Ditaz so he could do battle against the forces of light, borderline aching carpal tunnel not withstanding.

    So, I choose to discover two fruits that I have not had before. Now, I did realize that I have eaten most types of fruits I encountered, but this is a “challenge” and it seemed to be in the week two pamphlet to test my resolve. My first expedition, going to Kroger, ended in abject failure. It seems the store is not on the leading edge of biodiversity as the most exotic fruit was a cantaloupe grown out of season. I left Kroger and my travels finally revealed two fruits that I have not yet tasted.

    #1 Pluot (from Chile)

     

    image

    I choose this as it looked the least threatening of all fruits surveyed. Upon closer inspection, the outside kind reminded me of what my mind’s eye thought a Zed would look like from the book World War Z. Since the food processing company was kind enough to encase it in wax to prevent spoilage, it emitted no smell. This just reaffirmed my suspicions about it being the undead.

    When I purchased it, the checkout rang up as “Dinosaur Egg.” As I put it in the bag, I thought this a computer error, but later surmised it to be a fruit from the Mesozoic era, and like petroleum, it takes a while to ripen for human consumption. Unfortunately after I ate it, Wikipedia dashed all hopes of dining on a fruit that a Triceratops might have enjoyed. It is a name brand, and the fruit is just crossbreed of a plum and apricot curtsey of the Umbrella Corporation Zager’s Genetics.

    Back to the fruit. In palming it, the puolt has a slightly squishy feel and smooth outside. When opened, bit into as it were, it displayed a reddish colored inside. With the wax out of the way, it wafted a smell much like a peach. The meat was firm to the bite, so I suspect that I should have let ripen for another eon or two. Its taste is slightly acidic and very sweet much like a mix between a grape and peach. In thinking about it more, it was like eating an oversized grape with a pit inside. Overall, it was kinda refreshing and enjoyable.

     

    #2 Ugli (from Jamaica, mon)

    image

     

    With trepidation, the next fruit I chose was an ugly wrinkled orange. At close range, the ugli looks like an off colored hedgeapple that fell too far from the tree. Like the pluot, it had a squishy feel to it. However, unlike the aforementioned, it did not have a wax encasement to prevent the fruit from exhibiting its floral and citrusy scent that reminded me of Suave’s citrus shampoo. My hopes were that it wouldn’t taste like soap or even Mr. Bubbles.

    It took a knife to hack open its thick skin. Once opened, it emitted a strong citrus scent much like a good citrus fruit. Innards are slightly reddish, like a grapefruit before you add a mound of sugar to cover the icky after taste. When consuming it, I thought it was an overly juicy orange relative. It was so juicy that put a ripe peach to shame. It has a very light sweet and citric taste. It must have been ripe because it peeled quite easily.

    There were no seeds, so it must have been be a genetically modified freak fruit. However, I could not force myself to look down on the lonely ugli. I personally dislike seeds so viva genetic manipulation! Again, Wikipedia came along with its so-called facts and dashed my hopes that it was a truly unique fruit. It seems that it is a cross between a tangelo and grapefruit. Why do I keep going back to that web site if it keeps telling me that I actually didn’t eat anything unique this week?

    My verdict: yum. It has a flavor that I would expect a good citrus fruit to have. It is juicy, a mix of slightly sweet and sour, and easy to peel. What kept me fruit procuring more they cost so much. It is the F-22 Stealth fighter of fruits.

    Lifecycle of a TV Show

    I write this as a guide as homage to the shows I once cared about watching. I have seen so many I admired become irrelevant and pointless. I speak mostly of animation, sci-fi, and comedies as well as certain dramas, but many other show types follow this law. Many of these show never make it past stages one or two. Those that do are special and seemed to be put on a pedestal, closely followed by it cohorts of loyal fans until all worthiness is wrung from the plot.

    What isn’t in the scope of this article are reality shows, docudramas, nature and cop shows. These are mostly immune to this law due to the episodic nature of their shows and the fact that they are already garbage, in the case of reality shows.

    1. Quaintness
    The first few episodes of a show are quaint when you look back after a few seasons, yet somehow we became captivated by it in some way back then. Sometime this is because society changed. Take for example The Simpsons first season, it is hard to imagine that advertisers where pulling ads because of the content.

    When watching the show, it is typical for the actors to fee out their rolls. Some shows even have the aura much like a high school play. What makes the show is the uneasy chemistry between the people on camera and in the background, solid writing and plot. Star Trek: The Next Generation comes to mind. Man was was William Riker young in looking before he got a beard!

    Newly created great shows have good plots to overcome the newness. However, I often wonder how any show makes it out of this stage, but mos of the greats went through this stage.

    2. Trial and error
    As the actors start grow accustomed to their roles, writers to start firing up their creative juices as they see the actors fill their roles. Main themes start coming to life with the entire cast adding what works and filtering the flops. Great shows often push the boundaries constantly, coming back to this stage repeatedly. MASH comes to mind. It traverses many levels starting as a comedy and ending as a commentary on conflict.

    This stage is where the show gets its identity, where side characters make their first appearance and catch phrases start enter the show’s arsenal. Again the Simpsons is a classic example.

    A show goes into this stage about mid-first season and can continue indefinitely to the producers like to change the show around a lot. Most get through this by the start of the second season.

    3. All engines go
    If a show lasts into season two, it may enter into the golden age. The actors are hitting on all cylinders, comfortable with their characters by now. The writers start filling in the strengths and weaknesses of the characters.

    The main story lines themes develop and become engaging. The producers and writers are in the groove, having plotted the show’s direction for the next few seasons. Often the show is at its riskiest, as the audience will let them take risks.

    4. The crossroad
    After a while, the stories become similar, the actors start to be type cast and the show, while still good becomes bland. This is inevitable fact of all good story lines; the writers have used all their ‘A’ material. The very nature of V makes this an inevitability. Unlike, musicians or book writer, they don’t the luxury of waiting a few years to refine their talents. cannot go Until now, they knew where the direction of the show lies. Now writers struggle with new plot lines. Everyone is faced with a choice, revamp or go into irrelevancy.

    The roads are not apparent. As with most human endeavors, it happens gradually. A few people start having problems coming up with new material, and gradually it spreads. When the majority of people working on the show get to this point, it is too late to change, old age has occurred. Occasionally, something does happen to accelerate the decline, such as the loss of a key actor who leaves to pursue a movie career or writer moving onto better opportunities.

    This is a crucial moment. People have to change for the show to be a classic. The show needs to move in new directions. Shows change in a number of ways, by getting darker or edgier, by adding or removing characters, changing the writers, or exploring different aspects of the characters.

    Once the path has been chosen, the show moves in one of three directions. If they do not change, they grow into old age, if they do change, they could be successful, or are canned if the audience abandons them. Being canned is not bad as old age as like people, it has to takes risks throughout the shows run to continue to be good.

    There are many examples of shows changing for the better, but a classic example of changing and failing occurred with the X-Files. From seasons 2-4 they enjoyed a golden age, the with a sudden change of direction with the movie, the story line fell apart. They gave away too much of the plot with the spaceship. The stories after were hokey with the death stroke being when David Duchovny left.

    5.Old age
    This is where to show starts to suffer, trapped by it own success. Plots is rehashed, characters are so type case that even the actors cannot use their skill to change. The same old tired dialog are dredged up. If the show is still popular, it goes into a slow, inevitable decline. Some loyal viewers will start watching the reruns and tune out on the new shows. By the time a show gets to this stage, there are slim hopes for its revival.

    The problem could be contributed to complacency or even cynicism to think that people will tune in to watch do to familiarity. This is a catch 22 since those with varied tastes have left, arguably the very same people who advertisers want to woo. This is not to say the particular episodes cannot be good, but for the most part, the fall into mediocrity is complete.

    6.Cashing in the life policy
    When hope is lost, the show implodes, but fails to die. The creators turn to the tried a true; cashing in on its former popularity. Here come the spin-offs, movies, specials or commercials. It has been bland and stale for some time now, but refuses to die because the fan base has grown accustomed to turning in.

    The Simpsons is a classic example. All of the originality has been drained from he show long ago. Now they sell their franchise through the use of a movie. This would have been great a few years ago, but now, it will pretty lame.