Archive of August, 2006
August 31, 2006:
Sunday night I had a bout of insomnia. Since I was awake and Megatokyo updates at 1:00 AM, I decided to take a look at the new comic.
The comic hadn't updated yet -- the artist updates on time about as often as I feel good about myself -- but the editor had a link to a Wikipedia article about a set of characters from the original Mobile Suit Gundam series.
After bouncing around the various Gundam series for a while, I found a link to the article for Starblazers. I learned some new things, like that there was a third series that either didn't air in America or got far less airplay. They said that Cartoon Network refuses to air the series, allegedly beause the people who own the rights want too much money, even though they aired on the web site a few years ago.
Then the article mentioned the full DVD box set. A quick trip to Amazon verified it: There's a six-DVD set of the first series, the Iscandar saga. It's silly, especially considering that the animation isn't quite up to snuff with the current fare, and that the original Space Battleship Yamoto aired three decades ago, but I really want this DVD set.
And of course, I can't afford to buy anything non-essential right now. Damnit.
August 29, 2006:
Every site we build for clients at work has a Web-based CMS built into it. This lets the clients edit their own pages. It's a win-win: They can make changes any time without waiting for us to get to it, and they stop calling us for minor changes.
My blog editing system is, shall we say, much more primitive. I have a plain ol' <textarea> element, into which I type raw HTML. The only programming I do on the text is converting a double line-break into a paragraph break. To get the layout I need, I add an opening paragraph tag before the text, then add a close-paragraph tag after it.
I could port the CMS we use at work pretty easily to work here, but that would require actual work on my part, and the busier I am at work the less time I spend on improvements here. I suppose that could be part of the 8.0 upgrade that I want to do, in addition to moving my static pages into the database, adding categories to the blog, and (yet another) redesign, but that's a lot of work for a very minimal payoff. You (and I) will be looking at this archaic site for quite a while.
August 28, 2006:
head gasket (hed gas'·kit) n: mechanic-speak for "take it like an altar-boy!"
My car had been idling rough for a few days, so I loped up to the garage I've been using since the last place stole half a gallon of coolant and a quart of oil out of my trunk. Initially they found a bad spark plug and some bad wires, among other things. Not exactly cheap, but not too bad: About $450.
Then when they took a closer look to start the repairs they found one more problem: a blown head gasket. This is 8-9 man-hours of labor to repair, in addition to being an expensive part.
This is a bit of a conundrum, really. I don't have enough disposable income right now to buy a new car: I've been waiting until I pay off the IRS (in October) and clear out all but my monthly expenditures from my credit card (in September) at which time I'd have about $600-$700 a month for payments and a few months until the spring to build up a down-payment.
But until then I have to keep the current car running, pretty much regardless of the cost. What that means is I just had to pay $1000 -- 2/3 the value of the car as assessed by the county -- to get through to May. In addition to the two new tires I had to put on it last month, my credit-card payoff date has been pushed back from September to (probably) January. That knocks down my down-payment quite a bit.
That means I probably won't be able to purchase the car I'm looking at (a V-6 Honda Accord). My options are to lease the car, which is cheaper in the short term, or buying a Civic or something similar.
I'll probably wind up leasing the Accord, assuming my math works out right. Basically, the longer I keep this car, the more it costs me, which means I have to keep it longer while I pay off the debts I incur repairing it.
It's just so frustrating. After costing me $886.63 all of last year, the car has cost me almost $2,100 and August isn't even over yet. That year I spent out of work has set me so far back -- I won't be done paying off that debt until next fall, and I had to refinance my student loans which pushes their end dates back to 2012 -- that I feel like by the time I'll have the disposable income to buy the things I want I'll be too old to enjoy them.
August 25, 2006:
Well, apparently I spoke too soon. Twelve planets must be too many; instead the IAU opted to demote Pluto instead. So we're down to the eight we started the 20th century with and Clyde Tombaugh has been relegated to the same status as... um... ol' whatshisname who discovered Ceres.
The logic is a bit weird... apparently Pluto got demoted to "drawf planet" because it hasn't "cleared out" its orbital space. If you have no idea what that means you're not alone. Is it because the Pluto-Charon CoM is outside the body of Pluto? Hell, that means the Earth will cease to be a planet in a couple billion years.
Or is it because its orbit crosses Neptune's? (It really doesn't; the crossover only looks that way from a certain angle, and the two planets are never there at the same time regardless.) Wouldn't that make Neptune stop being a planet?
If they really want to get rid of Pluto, it's easy: Say a planet must be at least 4000 km in diameter -- Mercury's in by a comfortable margin and Pluto and "Xena" are too small.
So, eight planets. Not nine, not twelve. But it'll probably stay nine for quite a while, regardless of what the propellerheads say.
August 18, 2006:
The IAU is getting ready to officially define what a planet is today (Thursday). Here's what they've come up with:
1) A planet is a celestial body that (a) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and (b) is in orbit around a star, and is neither a star nor a satellite of a planet.
(2) We distinguish between the eight classical planets discovered before 1900, which move in nearly circular orbits close to the ecliptic plane, and other planetary objects in orbit around the Sun. All of these other objects are smaller than Mercury. We recognize that Ceres is a planet by the above scientific definition. For historical reasons, one may choose to distinguish Ceres from the classical planets by referring to it as a "dwarf planet."
(3) We recognize Pluto to be a planet by the above scientific definition, as are one or more recently discovered large Trans-Neptunian Objects. In contrast to the classical planets, these objects typically have highly inclined orbits with large eccentricities and orbital periods in excess of 200 years. We designate this category of planetary objects, of which Pluto is the prototype, as a new class that we call "plutons".
(4) All non-planet objects orbiting the Sun shall be referred to collectively as "Small Solar System Bodies".
For two or more objects comprising a multiple object system, the primary object is designated a planet if it independently satisfies the conditions above. A secondary object satisfying these conditions is also designated a planet if the system barycentre resides outside the primary. Secondary objects not satisfying these criteria are "satellites". Under this definition, Pluto's companion Charon is a planet, making Pluto-Charon a double planet.
Which means that in addition to the nine planets we all learned about in school we have some newcomers.
The largest asteroid, Ceres, is a planet -- its own gravity smashed it into a ball, and it orbits the sun directly.
Pluto's ersatz moon, Charon, is now a planet in its own right, since it and Pluto orbit a common center of mass ("barycenter") that is outside of the body of Pluto. Thus Pluto-Charon is now a double planet.
(The Earth-Moon barycenter is 4670 km from the center of Earth, compared to Earth's radius of 6380 km. The Moon is still a moon, though in a few million years, as tidal forces slow Earth's rotation and move the Moon's orbit farther out, Earth-Luna will become a double planet as well.)
Also making the list is 2003 UB313, temporarily dubbed "Xena" by its discoverers. The IAU will some up with an official name at some point, until then it's officially named something that looks like a serial number.
So remember, kids, we have either eight planets now or twelve, but nine is no longer correct.
I'm guessing that we'll stick with the eight major planets (possibly grandfathering in Pluto and maybe Charon) and teh only place the others will be called planets in in textbooks. I'm also guessing that by this time next year, very few people will know or care about the current planet count.
August 17, 2006:
Google Maps Is a Pack of Lies
Blogging this one old-school from Wilkes-Barre, PA, since there's no Internet conenction at the hotel here.
The ride up here was a bit more interesting than I would have liked, as the car managed to have a full coolant reservoir while at the same time having a radiator slightly drier than the Sahara. I swear, that car knows it's on its way out, and it's fucking with me.
I'd forgotten just how much crack smoking is involved in placing signage in this state. I should have caught on when the directions told me to turn right onto a street that only went to the left.
Eventually, I wound up climbing a hill in second gear, looking for a place to turn around, since I figured that a two-lane road through the woods doesn't count as Main Street, even in Wilkes-Barre.
Well, I obviously made it here, and I'm pretty sure the car is still in one piece. I'll see if I can futz with it tomorrow morning before I head back to Virginia.
That assumes, of course, that I can explain this Web-based CMS that I'm here to demo without going apeshit. In all fairness, the guy using the system is fairly computer-literate. This should be OK, probably about two hours.
So it's Sunday night, and I'm sitting here in the Ramada watching TV and I've realized that Jeff Foxworthy hasn't changed his routine in 15 years. I think I'll be going to bed at 10, just to avoid having to watch more TV. God, I miss the Internet already.
Well, just to give you an idea of Pennsylvania's state of affairs, I just saw a commercial starring the governor, telling people not to bother leaving the state for tourism; just go to Pittsburgh! Great, nobosy else comes to this state, so now they have to prey on their own people.
I can't believe I lived in this state for a decade. Virginia may be as hot as the Fifth Circle, but at least there's something kind of like civilization there.
Edit, Tuesday Night: The demo went well. There's a lot of information that I threw at this guy, and there are going to be questions. I think now that we've had a chance to sit down and see the same screen this will go much more smoothly. I came away with a set of notes for changes and clarifications, and most of them are done already.
The car did the whole dry-radiator with full-reservoir thing again; I'm gradually adding coolant to the radiator to avoid overfilling. In fact, I need to go down to the car and see how everything's doing fluid-wise right now.
August 14, 2006:
I recently rediscovered a journal I wrote during the week I spent at the Air Force Academy before my senior year of high school. I added the entries on the dates I wrote them (there's now a 1993 option at the top of the calendar). The truly sad thing is, I wrote that journal in June of 1993 -- more than 13 years ago, when I was 16 years old -- and my writing hasn't improved at all. At least my coding ability has. I think.
August 08, 2006:
Went to the dentist for my four-month checkup on Monday. Found another cavity that needs to be fixed. So I'm going in early next month to get The Drill yet again. At this rate I won't have any intact teeth left by the time I'm 50.
And on a teeth-related note, a few months ago I finally found the old cast the orthodontist took of my teeth way back in the sixth grade. I keep meaning to take a picture and post it; you can see how well that plan's working out.
August 01, 2006:
When I eat chips and salsa, my blad spot sweats. That is all.