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Vacation July 30, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in blogging.
6 comments

This blog will be in hiatus until about mid-August, because I am vacationing in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado.  This means I won’t be responding to your comments or, in all probability, visiting your blog either.  When I get back, though, I will either be back to blogging and visiting more frequently, or I will stop entirely.  This once-a-week blogging and infrequent visiting of other blogs that I have been doing lately has been a little unsatisfying.

I may post a little on my mobile blog, hackmobile.blogspot.com, while I am away.  But I walked into the pool with my cell phone in my pocket this morning, so that might not happen either.

Eight More Things July 23, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in memes, Other.
2 comments

Cerebral Jetsam just tagged me with the Meme of Eight.  I have already been tagged with this one, but I am going to do it anyway, partially because I don’t have the mental strength to do a more complicated post, and because I find Cerebral Jetsam fascinating and want to support him and his blog.  Since I have already done this one, though, I’ll not pass it on to others.  It’s sort of a compromise, I guess. 

1. My wife and son left on an extended trip about a three weeks ago and I find myself much more lonely than I expected to be.  Work has been really mentally taxing, which is an odd development.  With my support system gone, and being too busy to blog from work, I’m finding it really hard to post.  I’ll join them this week, in California, and am really looking forward to it.

2. I am taking this opportunity, these several weeks when I am alone at home, to work on the house, and myself.  There are a wide variety of home improvement projects to work on, including the sink installation, which I have posted about already, and insulating the attic, and a few other projects.  I am working on my posture, too, which has never been good.  I suspect that my posture problem stems from the fact that I wasn’t a serious athlete as a kid, and the fact that I am both very tall and very shy.  So I have always tried to become invisible, which is hard for somebody who is a full two meters tall.  I am doing exercises that I found on the web.

3. When I went, late in my junior year of high school, to see a career counselor, he told me that I should consider vocational school of some sort, and that college would be a waste of my time.  I didn’t believe him, but many people did.  I was a serious underachiever. 

4. I married one of the few who did not believe that I wouldn’t do well in college.  She was the valedictorian of my class.  She thought of me as one of the smartest people she knew.  But that’s not why I married her.

5. I am not totally alone.  My dog, Maggie, is here with me.  She is lonely, too.  I compensate by taking her on long walks.  But she is frustrated, nonetheless, by the fact that I leave here alone for four or five hours at a time, coming home on my lunch hour to walk her and talk to her, throw the ball for her. I find this responsibility curiously draining.

6. I am wearing a surgical smock right now, given to me by my best friend in high school, whose father was a doctor.  I could never have become a real doctor.  I have a Ph.D., but I can’t really deal with people in pain very well.  It is too upsetting.  I do pretty well in crises, and other stress, but it affects me too deeply to choose such a profession. 

7. I had a difficult time specializing in graduate school.  That’s because graduate school is mainly about becoming the world’s foremost expert in one thing, and I am, deep down, a jack of all trades, better at most things than most people.  I squeaked by, carrying a 4.0 until I was safely ensconced in a funded teaching assistantship and then pursuing whatever I felt like pursuing.  I studied recent U.S. history and had several conversations with my advisor where he would ask me why I needed to take a class in Latin or whatever.  Needed?

8. There are times when I find myself missing California.  This won’t shock many people, only the ones who know me.  And I realize that the California in which I grew up is completely gone, but still.  It’s like Tom Petty says, “California’s been good to me/ I hope it don’t fall into the sea.” 

Bees July 17, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in Lowell, Maggie, Other.
3 comments

Since my wife and son are on an extended trip, I am at home with Maggie.  So I’ve been going home for lunch and taking her for a walk around the neighborhood every day.  And then I go back to work for a few hours and come home for another walk, and to play ball somewhat endlessly.  I saw that there was a couple of trees down after the big wind and rain storm we had on Sunday night, so I walked her down there today (not our usual route) to take a look at them. 

Turns out the trees didn’t fall down, the nursing home had cut them down preemptively, ’cause they were very certainly dead (see picture below, clicking to enlarge).

tree0717071252.jpg

The woman in the bee-proof clothing is Louise, who was working with John, another beekeeper to attempt to save the bees by helping them to migrate their hive.  Apparently the inside of the tree was an excellent place to have a hive, with maybe 50 lbs of honey.  The idea was to lure a bunch of their scouts into this box that smells really nice (to bees, but it smelled pretty nice to me, too).  And then the queen would follow the scouts.  John didn’t think that the probability of success was all that good.  But I am hoping for the best.

John said I could go under the caution-tape, then asked if I was allergic to bee-stings.  I said that I am not allergic, although I remember that it hurts a lot when you get stung.  I have an aversion to bees.  Louise kindly took this picture with my cell phone camera. 

bees0717071253.jpg

Is that cool, or what?

Update on Sink July 16, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in DIY, how to, Other.
3 comments

I put my DIY sink clips to the test this weekend as I learned some lessons about how to cut stainless steel.  Franke’s sinks are typically made from 18- or 16-gauge, 18% chromium/10% nickel stainless steel, which they call “type 304.”  So, naturally, I asked myself “what, exactly, would one use to cut that sort of thing?”

Well, a cutting tool, obviously.  There are all sorts of high-speed cutting tools on the market these days, and I bought a cheap one a while ago for a very different purpose.  I needed a bit, though, since all of the bits that came with the thing were designed for cutting stuff like drywall and wood, which are pretty soft, compared to type 304.  At a well-stocked home and garden supply retailer or hardware store you can find bits that have a picture of a stainless steel sink on the package.  The package says that it will cut stainless steel, and that it costs $17.  Sold.

So I got this thing home and drilled a hole in the sink with a very hard drill bit (because the lable on the titanium bit that I just purchased says quite clearly not to use it as a drill.)  It took a while, but I got through.  Now all I had to do was cut a 1 1/4-inch circle, using that hole as a starting point.  I traced a little pattern with a “C” type battery, which is almost exactly the right size.  I put the bit in the cutting tool and started cutting. 

In a conversation with my brother last weekend he warned me that it was going to be hard to control the direction of the cutting.  I figured that this stuff was so hard that I would have all sorts of time to correct the course if I was cutting the wrong direction.  I would have, too, were it not for the distraction of the cutting itself.  See, what they don’t tell you is that these cutting tools are not the appropriate device for spinning the little titanium bits.  If you use one of these cutting tools for that, you will find that titanium, or chromium, or nickel or iron, or the mixture of all of these things, subjected to the intense heat of the spinning, will cause the bit to turn instantly red-hot, and sparks and flames will shoot out of the hole you are attempting to cut.  I don’t know, maybe if you get anything hot enough it will burn and throw sparks.  I’ll have to ask my brother about that.  He’d know.

So the cutting got a little out of control, I guess.  I stopped and drew a different circle, which I hoped would incorporate the actual hole I had started, but would still be in roughly the right place for the spigot.  I tried again, with the results depicted below (click to enlarge).

steelsink.jpg

Lovely, I know, with the scorch marks.  It was probably for the best that the bit sheared into two pieces at that point, burning a little hole in the cabinet below the sink (but thankfully not hitting any bystanders). 

At that point I decided to look up on the intertubes how to do this sort of thing.  RTFM, I know.  It’s usually my second step.  Turns out that you should lubricate the bit while you are cutting, with some sort of oil.  Turns out that you need to push very hard, and that the bit should spin at less than 300 revolutions per minute.  Now, how fast does one of these cutting tools spin?  Turns out that they go about 30,000 rpm–only one hundred times as fast as needed.  Even at the lowest setting these things go forty times too fast.  I don’t remember which setting I used, but it doesn’t seem to matter. 

My old, decrepit, drill worked O.K., and the direction was much easier to control, so long as I pushed as hard as I could, sometimes in directions 90 degrees removed from the direction in which the bit wanted to go.  And, by the way, with all of the pushing, sparks and flames, the sink didn’t move at all.  And it had every incentive to run screaming from the kitchen, believe me.

Which words do you own?–Tales from the Reading Room July 14, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in blogging, blogs, Blogs and Blogging, Books, COMBS, Haiku, linguistics, literature, Other, statistical analysis, vocabulary.
7 comments

Note: This is part of a continuing series on the actual vocabulary in use in the blogosphere.  Other posts, whether analyzing particular blogs within the study or detailing the methodology of this thing or whatever, can be found at the Center for Occasional Meme and Blog-O-Sphere Studies [COMBS].  Go there by clicking here or the Center’s logo, which should be on the right (starboard) side-bar over there —->

About two months ago I took a sample of words from Litlove’s blog Tales from the Reading Room.  I added them to the vocabulary database, but I was reluctant to just do a normal post on them.  I wanted to do something a little special because Litlove had started this whole project, in a way, with one of her posts.  So I procrastinated, a favorite strategy of mine, until I could think of something more interesting.  I think I hit upon something, so without further ado . . .

Litlove’s word sample runs from March 31 – May 9, 2007.  Sample size was 25,741 words.  She added 905 words.   She used a wide variety of words–4,535 different words within the sample, pretty good, since her sample had 5,000 fewer words than most of the others.

Here is a word cloud comprised of the words used more than twice by Litlove but not at all by any of the other 18 blogs that went before her:

onlycloud.jpg

And here’s those words in a font called Love Letters:

onlycloud-loveletters.jpg

And here’s the Venn diagram I usually make out of these words:

llvenn.jpg

The left lobe consists of words that were new to the sample, that nobody else had used, sized relative to the frequency of use.  The middle part consists of words that everybody has used so far, sized according to how much more frequently Litlove used them in the sample than others did.  And the right lobe consists of words that everyone else sampled before her used, but that she did not. 

Here is another effort by my Haiku-generating algorithm, which crashed six times before yielding a Haiku made from only the most common words and the words Litlove added to the database (all of the crashes all had to do with a shortage of monosyllabic words of various types in Litlove’s pool of words.)

In boy’s forthright sneer
she adheres perilously
to the politeness.

Puzzling, like all good machine-generated poetry. 

And here is the new thing.  It’s an additional wordcloud that is a little more complicated than the others I have generated thus far.  This is the first time I have tried to explain it, so bear with me.  I calculated the average number of times each word in the database is used (per subject).  Then I subtracted the number of times each words was used in Litlove’s sample.  The postive numbers represent words that Litlove used more frequently than average.  Then I scaled these words by frequency of use in her sample.  But then I deleted the 65 most frequently used words in the database (see here for a partial list of these).  This yields a list of at least 100 words showing something new about the speech patterns/word choices of the blogger, Litlove, in this case.  I’m not at all sure what it shows, though.  So here’s Litlove’s cloud:

mtacloud.jpg

And for purposes of comparison, here’s one from last week’s subject, silverneurotic:

sn-mtacloud.jpg

I find these a little more interesting than the other visuals, at this point.  And since their appearance is not so firmly tied to the size of the samples, I can generate them with a much smaller sample from someone’s blog.  So I may just keep doing this, if I keep getting volunteers.

As always, the vocabulary clouds and Haiku are the property of the volunteers, except that said volunteer may not have them taken off of my site but may otherwise do with them what they wish.  Thanks for participating, Litlove, and sorry about the long wait.

K.F. Gallagher Writing Contest July 9, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in blogs, fiction, Other, Rock, writing.
3 comments

Kaitlyn has started a writing contest with a prompt from an old Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers song.

I love Tom Petty. I recall quite vividly the only time I ever saw him in concert. Even though it was twenty-three years ago I can remember it almost like it was yesterday (which is often pretty hazy for me). One of the opening acts was Men at Work, that flash-in-the-pan Australian group. They put on a very nice show, but the crowd was not treating them very well. Some guy down near the front kept pelting the lead singer with chips of ice, and eventually he began to threaten the audience member with bodily harm. Many of us (some 30,00 people or more) were hoping that this Aussie would dive down into the crowd and rip the asshole’s head off.

But when Tom and his band took the stage they owned the crowd. The music was perfect. The atmosphere was perfect. It was amazing. If anybody threw ice at Tom the whole crowd would have decended upon the assailant and tore him to shreds, I think. At one point, Tom was just walking around holding a bottle of beer. I think it was during an extended introduction to “Breakdown.” Tom eventually gave his beer to someone in the crowd. You would have thought he had knighted somebody, from the reaction.

When we were driving back down to the valley after the concert (which was in the Sierra Nevada foothills) we sang every song we could think of in that Pettty-ish nasal whine (although we probably sounded more like Bob Dylan than Tom Petty). What a day.

Anyway, I have an idea for a story, which is something I haven’t had for a while, and I’m in. So stop by Kaitlyn’s blog, check out the rules and join me, allright?

The Kitchen Sink July 9, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in DIY, how to, lifehack, Other.
9 comments

I mentioned in a previous post that I was having trouble finding clips to install my new kitchen sink, so I thought I’d explain. The reason I don’t have clips to install the sink is because I didn’t actually purchase the sink. If I had bought it new I probably wouldn’t have this problem. Because I would just take it back to the place I got it. But I found it.

I was driving home from church or something one day about a year ago and was close to Route 3 in Bedford, Massachusetts. I saw, on the side of the road, put out for the garbage people a stainless steel sink. Normally, I would have just driven past, but our house was built in 2004, and it had really, really crappy sinks and fixtures (the faucets squeak when you turn the knobs). Our place was not custom-built, and it is really nice in many ways, but the kitchen and bathroom fixtures are where the builder cut corners. There are worse places to cut corners, but it has bothered me that the kitchen sink is shallow and small. I wash most of the dishes in the house, and most will not even fit in said sink. And this sink, the one by the side of the road, was really quite nice.

We had just purchased a new faucet, bouyed by optimism when my wife achieved tenure at the University, but I didn’t want to just install it in the crappy, shallow sink. So I grabbed the one by the side of the road (turns out somebody threw away a sink that retails at about $500, but I didn’t know that at the time). This sink, in perfect condition, otherwise, only had two clips attached, and one of them was broken. And these things are very specific to the manufacturer.

Suddenly, with my wife and son on a road trip, I found myself last week with the prospect of some additional time on my hands, and nobody to complain if I didn’t do dishes until I solved the sink problem, so I dove in. I tried to order the clips, but the suppliers online weren’t able to promise I’d even get the clips for three weeks or more, so I decided to just make them. Pretty much used up the whole weekend, plus part of Friday, doing that.

I bought a bunch of brass picture hooks, and routed out the hole where the nails go, widening it enough to accept a #6 sheet metal bolt, 3-inches long (see picture below-clicking to make it bigger).

0709071813.jpg

Then I clipped these things to the bottom of the sink and threaded them through holes made in the aluminum bar, put a wing-nut on the bottom (see picture below, blah, blah).

0709071809.jpg
And then the thing worked pretty well (click to enlarge). Turns out that the whole picture-hanging machine screw set-up is very similar to what Kohler sink clips, although I didn’t know that until after I made my first six.

0708071732.jpg
I think it was, after all, worth the effort. I’m ordering some from the factory anyway, to make the whole thing even more secure. But in the mean time, there is no danger of it flying away.

All Set? July 6, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in Logic, Other.
14 comments

This morning I went to a popular chain retailer of home improvement stuff to purchase, among other things, clips to attach a new kitchen sink (don’t ask).  I was greeted by several employees with the same phrase, which has become unbiquitous over the last year or so.  That phrase: All set?

You might think I’m getting old and cranky, but I’ve been cranky as long as I can remember.  I find this incredibly annoying, and I’m wondering if it originated here in Massachusetts.  It fits so neatly with the prevailing attitude here.  It seems as if its intent is to offer help.  But it is really much more non-committal than that.  To gain help–or, recognizing that I will be spending considerable time this evening making my own sink clips from scraps of metal, to gain the possibility of help–one has to admit that one is not set.  To gain assistance one must answer in the negative.  “No.  I’m not all set.”  Then one has to ask for help, since none has, technically, been offered. 

I have toyed with different responses to this non-committal, non-offer of what turns out to be non-help.  Mostly, service being what it is today (mostly self-service) one hears it most at the checkout.  All set?  And I want to respond “Yeah, I’m set, unless you want some sort of payment for this stuff I’m going to be removing from your store.” 

The worst thing about the phrase is that it is so hard to answer positively, which is something I’m actually working on.  How can one frame a positive response?  “Yeah, I’m just trying to catch your eye because I think you’re really hot,” perhaps.  Or maybe “yeah, I’m all set, but your hair has slipped a little and no longer covers your lobotomy scar.” How about “absolutely, all set to hear from you that the only kind of sink clips you guys stock are for the exact brand of sinks that you sell. I have braced myself.”

I’m going west on a trip in a couple of weeks, so I’ll find out if it happens in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado.  But I’m curious about how prevalent this question is.  Do people do this in Florida?  Arkansas?  New Jersey?

Which words do you own?–Searching for Normalcy July 5, 2007

Posted by caveblogem in blogging, blogs, Blogs and Blogging, COMBS, Haiku, linguistics, Other, statistical analysis, vocabulary.
3 comments

Note: This is part of a continuing series on the actual vocabulary in use in the blogosphere.  Other posts, whether analyzing particular blogs within the study or detailing the methodology of this thing or whatever, can be found at the Center for Occasional Meme and Blog-O-Sphere Studies [COMBS].  Go there by clicking here or the Center’s logo, which should be on the right (starboard) side-bar over there —->

Anyway, the blog under the microscope today is Searching for Normalcy, published by Balou.  Her word sample runs from November 22, 2006 – June 27, 2007.  Sample size was 32,214 words.  She added 502 words, which is  more than what I would expect to see at this point in the experiment.   She used a wide variety of words–4,552 different words within the sample. 

Here is a word cloud comprised of the words used more than twice by Balou but not at all by any of the other 26 blogs sampled thus far:

balouonlycloudpic.jpg

Never ceases to amaze when words that seem so ubiquitous, words like maternity and crafts, pop up for the first time.  I mean, I’ve processed more than half a million words.  How did these not appear until now?  Words like “corals,” “ornament,” “starfish,” these I can understand, but “breakup?”  Go figure.  Please.

And here’s those words in a font called Lou:

onlycloudloupic.jpg

And here’s the Venn diagram I usually make out of these words:

balouvennpic.jpg

The left lobe consists of words that were new to the sample, that nobody else had used, sized relative to the frequency of use.  The middle part consists of words that everybody has used so far, sized according to how much more frequently Balou used them in the sample than others did.  And the right lobe consists of only two words that everyone else sampled thus far has used, but that she did not. Of these there are none, again.  The list of words that everyone uses is, I think, getting down to the bare essentials, sine quibus non of writing.

Here is another effort by my Haiku-generating algorithm, which crashed four times.  All of the crashes all had to do with a lack of monosyllabic adjectives in Balou’s pool of words.  So the algorithm is not to blame this time.  (I have a pretty good store of words now for this algorithm, by the way.  When I run it with all of the words (the ones I have coded as to number of syllables and part of speech, it rarely trips.)

Crabs, snails, big-eyed pairs,
dogma cleans the halo of
the tolerant brat.

The second and third lines are pretty straightforward, although it is difficult to imagine dogma doing something like that. The first line can be interpreted as apostrophe, I think (with an anthropomorphic bent).  “Big-eyed pairs” is evocative of a scene from an anime treatment of the biblical story of Noah, or perhaps even “Evan Almighty” (don’t know, haven’t seen it, but I’m judging by the commercials).  I’d be interested in any other theories, of course. 

As always, the vocabulary clouds and Haiku are the property of the volunteers, except that said volunteer may not have them taken off of my site but may otherwise do with them what they wish.  Thanks for participating, Balou!

Next up (early next week, prob’ly): litlove, ’cause I promised.