Wednesday, August 26, 2009


It's pronounced "Recover" and it is, amazingly, a file recovery program. On my maimed hard drive, my Desktop and Documents folders said "empty" and refused to open. I installed Recuva and, after some fiddling, retrieved all my emails and desktop documents.
The instructions say you can type a path (e.g. C:/Vacations/Portugal) into the appropriate box, but what they mean is that you can open your favorite text editor, type it there, and then paste it into Recuva; otherwise for each character you type, it starts another search. And if you want to preserve the existing folder structure (you want Portugal within Vacations), you have to find the setting and specify it--that isn't the default.
But everything I'd lost, I got back. Happy, happy!

Monday, August 24, 2009

News Roundup

Better living through chemistry: Since the chiropractor's wasn't helping all that much, I got a prescription for a muscle relaxant and an anti-inflamatory. It's still not entirely healed but it is vastly better than it was for most of July.

College: Josh will be leaving Saturday on his way back to George Mason. I'd expected him to be living in a cardboard box on a sidewalk somewhere, but at the last minute, the Housing Office (despite their explicit policy of "We don't have room for all the freshmen, so try to get the seniors to leave the dorms") found a place for him. Josh's room is above my office--specifically, Josh's stereo is directly overhead from where I'm typing at this moment. The thumpa thumpa thumpa currently vibrating flakes of paint from the ceiling sounds like Bohemian Rhapsody, but I think what he's whistling is Boston's More Than A Feeling.

Zambia: Diana's leaving Labor Day weekend for Zambia, with several cases of supplies (ranging from shoes for the local kids, to spicy mustard for the Americans, to gauze and syringes for the hospital).

Yes, "college" plus "Zambia" means it will be me and the mutt here by ourselves for most of September.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Schlock Mercenary

I've started rereading Schlock Mercenary from the beginning.

Ch'vorthq: Captain, you realize that violence is the last resort of the stupid?
Tagon: Oh, absolutely. Mercenaries are bright enough to resort to violence long before last resorts are required.

Lunch at Bellemonte

Diana and I celebrated her birthday yesterday with lunch at Bellemonte. I had the walnut-crusted chicken on a bed of fettuccine with spinach Gorgonzola cream sauce. I very generously gave Diana a sample, whereupon she spent the rest of meal poaching from my plate.
She said her citrus salmon was also quite good.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

My son the hydronaut

Josh and his friend Tom Paul decided they wanted a little more underwater breathing ability than normal snorkels would provide. They got a garden hose, cut it into two lengths, and put both ends through the bottom of a cubical styrofoam container. They put some ballast into the foam box to make sure it would right itself, then put a Confederate flag on top and christened it the CSS Research Vessel Nathan Bedford Forrest. The experiment didn't quite work, because it was hard to get enough air through 25ft of tube once you were a few feet underwater, but research will continue.


A little over 20 years ago, a friend of mine bought a Seagate 20MB hard drive for $800. Today I bought an 8G flash drive for about $20. That's 400 times the space for 1/40 of the price--his cost in dollars per MB was 16,000 times what mine was, plus mine is portable, takes no power and fits on my keychain.

Of course, we kidded Shelby about "that's more memory than you'll use in your lifetime"; back then, we could fit every program and document we had on a few floppies. On the machine I'm using now, with a hard drive that's two weeks old, I've used about 30GB before loading any games or movies.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

How's that stimulus working?

According to CNN: "It is now a rare Friday night that the agency does not seize the assets of a newly failed bank. And the number of banks judged as troubled has soared to 305 as of March 31, up from only 90 a year earlier. Those 305 problem banks on the FDIC's confidential list have combined assets of $220 billion."

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

First Submission

Made my first submission to Baen Books. Granted, only five words--Baen was asking for titles for an anthology--but a submission, nonetheless. "A journey of a thousand miles begins with leaning slightly forward."

Battle of Ascalon

In 1099, the forces of the First Crusade--about 1200 knights and 9000 infantry under Godfrey of Bouillon--found a Fatimid Egyptian army of 30,000 to 50,000 outside the city of Ascalon in the Holy Land. The Fatimids knew the Crusaders were in Jerusalem, one day's march away, but were not prepared for combat. The Crusaders were outnumbered at least three to one, but attacked anyway and broke the Fatimid army, causing 10,000 casualties; they captured the enemy standard, the general's tent, and much loot. The surviving Fatimids withdrew to Egypt.

Godfrey and Raymond of Toulouse both claimed Ascalon; the Fatimid garrison learned of the dispute and decided not to surrender, and retained control of the city for another 50 years.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


That's the medical procedure I'm getting this afternoon. In layman's terms, it's "sticking a slim tube with light and camera down your throat so we can see why you're having trouble swallowing, and also so we can make our Mercedes payments."

China selling human parts

There's a Monty Python sketch which goes more or less like this:
Men in lab coats: Can we have your liver?
Homeowner: I'm not done using it!
MiLC (holding H.O. down and grabbing his wallet): What's this, then?
HO: An organ donor card, but--
MiLC: Need we say more?
HO: But that's in the event of death!
MiLC: No one that we've taken a liver from has ever survived, so that's all
right then.
The People's Republic of China has apparently taken this to heart--and kidney, and so on. If you're guilty of such heinous crimes as disagreeing with the government or practicing Falun Gong or even being someone the local Party chief doesn't like, you could find yourself strapped to a table, sliced open, and broken up for spare parts.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Touchable holograms

An article on holograms with tactile feedback

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Responsibility of a Patriot

It is the responsibility of the patriot to protect his country from its government.
--Thomas Paine

Zambian weddings

Mom sent:
Recently there have been two weddings here at Macha. Rogers and Petronella are a Zambian couple who now live directly across the street from us. Three weeks ago they had their wedding. The invitation we got said 10:00 am. However, I KNOW that Zambians are always late, so, smart me, I arrived at 10:30. There were 3 people at the church - one waxing the concrete floor and two ladies arranging plastic flowers. They informed me that the preacher was still the far side of Choma (about 2 hrs drive away). We heard that the wedding actually began about 1 pm. The ceremony and reception lasted until 7 pm. Hundred of people came and they feasted on an entire roasted cow.
Yesterday was the second wedding and it was for Justin. He is one of the truly nice people on the planet. Justin's wedding was also scheduled for 10 am , but I arrived at 11:15 am and it actually began at 12 noon. When the Zambians say the wedding starts at 10 am, what they mean is they start getting ready. So, at 12 noon the wedding director starts dancing down the aisle. She had a long dress on with a cloth tied on her head - all matching and looked nice. She really puts on a performance. Two little girls dressed in white satin each with baskets (no flower petals in them that I saw) also dance down the aisle, then two little boys come down, and 8 adult attendants. This is what they call the lineup. It is a really big deal to be in the line up and the hair style for the women is all-important. Everyone matches. (The material for all these costumes--6 males shirts, 2 little girl dresses and 4 gowns plus a change of clothes for ALL the adults at the reception--was given to the dress maker the WEEK OF the wedding!)
The sermon was done by Moses Musaka who is the Head Overseer of the Church and I will have to say it was one of the best I have ever attended. It lasted about 1 1/2 hours and was noteworthy. He left no stone unturned about how husband and wife were to treat each other and how the ultimate goal of their marriage was to glorify God.
The reception was held at the local school auditorium. Hundreds come to the reception--friends of the family and who also attended the wedding, and also village people who show up for the food. They are adults and children, poorly dressed and barefooted and dirty, but they know there will be a roasted cow, goat or pig to eat. No one says anything and everyone is accepted. There is never enough food. Only the bride and groom get a slice of cake, and the very top little layer is frozen until the birth of the first born. The custom then is to crush the rest of the cake; the cake crumbs are passed around on a tray and you take a crumb. Then all the people who can come forward and give an offering to the bride and groom. For example, the bride's mother brought up 10,000 kwacha (that is 2 dollars US money) and the crowd broke out in much applause. The groom's father gave 100,000 kwacha ($20) and the crowd stood up and cheered! After the offering and music, the bride and groom left to eat by themselves and the crowd ate the roasted whatever it was.
Here are a few other interesting details. The normal cost of a bride is 4 cows that the groom has to pay before the wedding. The bride price is called Lobola. Once the bride price is paid there is no backing out - and only the wedding ceremony has to take place.
Most of the people in the community chip in - some flour, sugar, balloons, ribbon, and so forth--so that the food and decorations are in place. They do well with what they have. The same plastic flowers were used for both of these weddings and no one seems to notice; much care is taken to arrange them each time, and they are done differently. The bride also carried the same 4 plastic flowers as the last bride.
Then there is the wedding shower - it is called a "kitchen shower." The bride comes into the room with her head covered with a cloth. She sits down and uncovers her head. The guests dance their way up to her and put their gift down and explain what it is and how you use it. She does not say a word and she does not look at the guest. She then re-covers her head and the groom comes in and looks around as if he is searching for his bride and finally he goes over to her and lifts up her veil and nods approvingly. He sits down and then the bride gets food and serves him on her knees. After she serves him food she lies down and rolls over on the floor as a sign of submission. Then, get this, she goes over to her in-laws and takes them food and again lies down on the floor and rolls over in submission to them.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Adventure plans

Things to do in the next few months:
  • Take Diana to Dulles Airport and put her on a plane bound for Zambia. She'll be gone from September 6 to 27.
  • Drive the Virginia section of the Blue Ridge Parkway
  • Make plans for a trip to Arizona, to see Canyon de Chelly and some other big canyon they have in their northwest corner
  • National Jousting championship will be held in Northern Virginia in October
  • Paint miniatures

B-17 Bomber Liberty Belle

The Liberty Belle, a restored B-17, was at Chesapeake Airport today, and Josh and I went to visit. One of the visitors had been a pilot for the 96th Bomb Group in WW2, and the plane crew was giving him celebrity treatment.
If we'd had a spare $430 each, we could have taken a 45 minute flight; as it was, we watched her land, and then got a chance to go through.
From the outside, the plane is a little smaller than I'd expected; from the inside, it's a lot more cramped than I expected. You pretty much have to get on hands and knees to crawl into the nose, where the chin turret and bombardier's stations are. We looked into the cockpit, then through the bomb bay to the after section. It looked like a tricky squirm to get back to the tail gun; and as for the ball turret, Josh said "that's why the military emphasizes duty so much--so someone will accept that kind of job when they get assigned to it." We got out, took some pictures of the outside--Josh took 150 pictures in total--and then went around to the front, climbed up the ladder and went through it again.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Electrons, Spinons and Honons

A.E.Brain: Electrons, Spinons and Honons

An electron is supposed to be an indivisible point-particle, but it doesn't seem to be behaving that way.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


My sister Tabitha, her husband Chris, and their kids are here from Charlottesville for a beach visit. Sand, blue crabs, seagulls, pelicans diving on fish, and a trio of dolphins swimming parallel to the beach. It's been a while since I've gone in and gotten knocked around by the waves, and the water was a little cooler than I care for, but it was fun.
I was attacked by a bear-shark who pounced on me from out of a wave and wrapped me in a 230lb bear hug. I'm not entirely certain that my back and shoulder will ever recover, but I survived. I was a bit shaken by the experience and didn't see it coming, but Josh--who'd been standing beside me just before the attack--helpfully identified the bear-shark for me.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

True Names

I recently lost a hard drive and therefore about five months of emails since my last backup. This and some prodding from TomB led me to consider GMail, but that meant I needed an account name. As I was mulling over what name to pick, I was reminded of a question I got from a friend I know through a role playing game, who asked me what name I wanted to be called by. My response was that it didn't matter--I'm comfortable with Laser or Laserlight, or Runehorn, Chainshot, Flurry, Moosashi, Alarishi, Hunter, and so forth in various contexts. What's odd, perhaps, is the answer I did not give; I didn't say "my real name is Chris", because I don't think of that as my real name. Among some cultures, I've heard, a child gets a true name which denotes who he really is; he also has a name which is safe to tell other people, because it's merely a public name rather than his real name, and therefore has no power over him.
In this case everything else I tried was already taken (except MenacingBaa, which would take too much explanation), so I finally settled on chrisdeboe (but since my employer blocks Gmail, keep using the verizon address you're used to).
Is there anyone else who feels their given name isn't their "real" one? If you were picking a name for yourself, what would you pick?

New World Carcassone

Just got New World, a Carcassonne game.

Wild at Heart

"[I]n the heart of every man is a desperate desire for for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue."
John Eldredge, Wild at Heart