Red Echo

July 31, 2013

Beautifully photographed account of a motorcycle trip around western Europe – 6802 miles in 62 days.

It’s been a good twenty-five years since I read my dad’s copy of Umberto Eco’s “The Name of the Rose”; I remember really enjoying it but also being aware that the author was smarter than I was, that there was a lot going on that was over my head. It made an impression, though; I bought my own copy a few years ago, when I saw it on the shelf at Twice Sold Tales, but I didn’t get around to starting in on it until last night.

Not twenty pages in, I’m astounded: how on earth did I completely miss the fact that it’s a blatant Sherlock Holmes homage? I was a big fan of the Holmes stories back then, too, so you’d think I’d have noticed. The style, the mannerisms, the physical description, the whole deduction-from-seemingly-insignificant-details performance-art thing, with the narrator playing his Watson role to a T. And then Eco names his Franciscan monk character “William of Baskerville“, just to really drive the point home…

July 30, 2013

Video tour of Bodie, via quadcopter. I wish they’d supplemented the gorgeous aerial views with some glimpses of the frozen-in-time interiors, which are kind of the best part of the Bodie experience. Still gorgeous, though – especially that closing sunset shot.

While looking up that Wikipedia link I discovered that there is also a ghost town named Bodie here in Washington. Three hundred miles each way? Sounds like a great summer motorcycling day.

July 23, 2013

Solar panels keep buildings cool: they don’t just produce energy, they save it, by reducing the amount of air-conditioning necessary to make the building comfortable.

July 18, 2013

I signed up for Internet service at the new house, which is located on Martin Luther King Junior Way East. The customer service rep who took my call must have hit the Tab key at the wrong moment because the latter half of that address got grafted onto the “name” field in their database. I now receive form letters which begin like this:

Dear Mars Saxman Jr Way E,
Thank you for choosing CenturyLink High-Speed Internet. We want to make sure you know blah, blah, blah blah blahblahblabblub

It is hilariously obvious that no human eyes have ever reviewed any of this, and I have no intention of helping them fix their mistake.

Solar panels

A crew from A&R Solar is busy today installing an array of photovoltaic panels on my roof. It’s a 2650-watt system with a ten-year warranty, grid-tied (no batteries), and they guarantee that it will produce at least 2.3 megawatt-hours per year. We haven’t gotten our first electrical bill yet, so we don’t know how much power we actually use, but the contractor estimates (based on the average consumption rate for a house this size) that the panels will supply 60% of our annual electricity. I bet we’ll do even better, since we have brand-new appliances and a shiny new suite of LEDs occupying almost all of our light fixtures. It’ll be fun to see how it works out!

Financing couldn’t have been easier – we got an “energy smart” loan from PSCCU at 4.75%. We’ll pay the loan off in five years and the panels should pay for themselves in seven; after that it’s pure profit, and the system is supposed to last for at least 20 years.

following up on yesterday’s comment about Austra – start with this track: Painful Like. It sends chills up my spine… if you like it you’ll probably like the rest too.

July 17, 2013

Latest music discovery: Austra. Two albums so far: the first one is very good, and the new one, “Olympia”, is just plain magic. Rich, strange, operatic voice, solid danceable music, soaring lifts from minor-keyed moods. I’ve been playing it over and over for the last three days.

July 14, 2013

How did I miss the idea of a distributed hash table until last year? This article was published in 2003! I think I first heard the term last year. I suspect that some of the systems I used at Google must have been based on algorithms like this, though I never had a chance to learn enough about them to know for sure.

July 12, 2013

Kim O’Grady discovers the reality of gender discrimination when adding “Mr.” to his resume dramatically improves his job prospects.

July 10, 2013

Two home-made teardrop travel trailer projects: this one is 8’x5′, using fiberglass insulation panels as walls and a translucent polyethylene sheet as roof; this very detailed instructable describes a wood-framed 8’x4′ trailer with aluminum cladding. All of these designs seem to start with one of the cheap Harbor Freight trailer kits – and really, why build the trailer from scratch when it’s the habitat on top that you really care about?

July 1, 2013

Goodness 2013