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September 19th, 2011

05:56 am - Oldest rocks in the U.S. in our back yard
Ok, not quite in our back yard, but at least the same state.

This weekend we were watching Eureka and the episode in question metioned several times that the town didn't get Earth quakes.  Since they mentioned in was in Oragon in several episodes and because I'm a disaster freak, I knew this was wrong.  All the Pacific states are at a high risk, including Oragon and I mentioned this.  Little-J then said, well of course, no place is safe from Earth quakes.

So I told him there were places in the world where Earth quakes are all but unkown.  He asked where and I pointed out Minnesota.  The bedrock of most of MN is iron impregnated granite (they don't call it the iron range for no reason).  It's hard, it's solid, and it's deep.  As far as Earth quake danger, we're the lowest risk in the U.S., with no recorded history of quakes over a 5 magnitude and only 2 recorded over a magntude 4 (5 could crack the plaster in a wall, 4 feels like a large heavy truck is driving by your house).  

The conversation made me decide to do some research on the subject, and one of the things I found out is that this reagoin is a lot more seismically stable than even I know.  It turns out that the geology of MN is some of the oldest in the world dating back 3.8 billion years (plus or minus a hundred million years).  The rock outcroppings at Granite Falls MN are the oldest exposed rocks in the U.S.

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September 16th, 2011

06:51 am - Why People Believe Weird Things
I'm currently reading Why People Belive Weirrd Things by Michael Shermer.  As a whole it's a very enjoyable read, and I totally agree with the base line phelosophy of the book.  The idea that humans are inharently programed to believe, but are not inharently programed to be skeptical.  I also firmly believe that to truely understand the world around us skepticism is required.  However, I find some of his arguments down right foolish, and some of his statistical analysis to be seriously lacking.  He has a nasty habbit of ignoring the background of beliefes.

One example of his foolishness:  "Shouldn't we know by now that ghosts cannot exist unless the laws of science are faulty or incomplete?"  Yep, I do know that.  I also know that the laws of science are indeed incomplete.

Another is a poll of supposedly foolish things people believe amoungst which are:  Witches, The lost continent of Atlantis and Noah's flood

Ok, I know several people that would self identify as witches.  So, witches do indeed exist.

The lost continent of Atlantis is likely a volcanic island in the medatraining.  The archilogical remnants indicate that before the island was distroyed it was home to a culture that was at the cutting edge of technilogical advancement for the era.  And Noah's flood was almost certainly a story based on the orriginal flooding of the dead sea.  I don't believe in every detail of these stories, but I do believe they were based on real events.  And my belief is based on scientific information (NOVA did great documenteries on both). But I could say the same thing for the Apollo moon landings.  I firmly believe they happened, but I don't nessasarely believe every detail of the "offical" history of them.

I'm sure as I read on I will find many more examples of this kind.  But to me it doesn't really take away from the core message.  Be skeptical, do not believe because you are told to, believe because you have a reason to.

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August 18th, 2011

09:28 pm - Gotta love the fine print
So recently we signed up to use Comcast cable internet service.  To put it bluntly USI Wireless was simply too unstable.  The fact that several dozen times a day we'd loose connection to the internet for any where from a second or two up to 20 minutes.  Was simply too big a problem to deal with.  Especially since I occationally work from home.

On the plus side with Comcast our speeds have increased dramatically. With USI Wireless I was on 3Mb download connection package (that rarely got higher than 1.5Mb), on Comcast we're getting around 19Mb download.  Our upload has gone from 500Kb to around 2Mb.

So far stability also looks good.  In the week we've been using it we've had fewer disconnects than we had in any single day with USI Wireless.  Also, all the diconnects have been less than 2 seconds.  We wouldn't  have noticed them if I hadn't been running software to trake connection stability.

However, just today I found out that we have a maximum data transfer per month of 250Gb.  I'm sure this was listed some where in their agreements, but I don't ever remember seeing it.  In all reality, this would normally be more than enought.  However, it just so happens that I started the "first time" backup after upgrading to Windows 7 using BackBlaze a couple days before we switched providers.  In the last week it's uploaded 175Gb of data from my PC to my BackBlaze account, and it still has 190Gb to go.  For the entire rest of the month we only have 75Gb of transfer, and I'm not at all sure that's going to cover things.

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August 12th, 2011

05:22 am - Windows Firewall: I HATE IT!

Back in XP a new feature design flaw was added to Windows to help protect users from them selves, Windows Firewall.  The basic purpose of any firewall is to the network, and how they have access to it.  In theory this is a great security feature, in practice it's a royal pain in the ass.
In XP it wasn't to big a problem.  The firewall was turned off by default, and most people never turned it on.

In the newer versions of Windows it's a complete a source of major problems.  It's turned on by default, and it's almost impossible to predict how it will work.

  1. A couple of months ago my teenage son tried to log into his Blizzard account to play Starcraft II, and it wouldn't authenticate him.  After much fussing and a call to Blizzard tech support we found out it was the Firewall and turned it off.  All of a sudden he could connect again.  What was really strange is that 2 weeks before he could connect without a problem.  At some point the firewall decided all on it's own that it should start blocking the out going ports used by Starcraft II.
  2. Today while setting up an application server and a database server, I all of a sudden couldn't connect to the database engine.  All the settings were correct, and I'd tested them several times earlier in the day, and everything was working.  Then all of a sudden I started getting messages saying the SQL Server wasn't running.  Checking the DB server everything seemed fine, the database was there and running.  Back on the other system, still getting errors.  The firewall on the server running the database had decided all on it's own to block incoming connections on the ports used by SQL Server.  Once the firewall was turned off everything connected fine.
What really pisses me off is that there is NO GOOD REASON for this software.  The reality is that software firewalls are not and never have been an effective method of protecting a system.  That's because the software firewall is setup and controlled by the same computer the malicious software is running on.  That means the malicious software has access to the controls of the firewall, and can let it's self through.

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July 19th, 2011

04:03 am - Clive IA Shoot
 This last weekend I worked the fireworks shoot for the Clive Festival in Clive IA.

On the up side of this shoot, I got to "push the button" on the 1 minute teaser shoot we did on Friday night.  So when it came time to shoot I was the one actually firing the shells at the control panel.  This is the first time I've done that for a professional shoot.

On the down side it was HOT!  95+ degrees with 80+% humidity.  The heat index on Saturday when we were setting up was something like 110.  To say we were all miserable during setup would be an understatement.  By the end of setup I'd pushed myself as far as I could get away with.  I was feeling dizzy and nauseous and ended up having to sit in the truck with the AC on for a while.  I was sooo happy to get back to the hotel and get into the shower.

At the festival they had the worlds coolest slip and slide.  

Yes, they are wetting down the slide by spraying water on it from a fire truck hose.

Unfortunately it was so hot out side that walking back up to my hotel room (3rd floor, out-door stairs) to change into a swim suite, walking back down and over to the slide, and then back to the hotel after sounded like too much work.

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July 6th, 2011

11:54 pm - What a weekend
800 miles of ridding in the cab of a truck, around 5 miles walking, and 3,500lbs of fireworks fired off in a total of 50 minutes.

I want to start by saying that we had two fantastic crews this weekend. I can’t begin to tell you how big a difference it makes to be able to have 100% confidence in the people you’re working with.

Friday - Travel to Waterford WiCollapse )
Saturday – Setup and shoot at WaterfordCollapse )
Sunday – Travel and setup at BoscobelCollapse )
Monday – More setup and shoot at BoscobelCollapse )
Tuesday – Travel back homeCollapse )

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June 21st, 2011

10:10 pm - Watching a show on animal intelligence
Some dolphin trainers give the dolphins a two piece command (using sign language), first piece "create" second is "trick". The dolphins dive under water, "talk" (the have under water mics so you can hear their clicks and whistles) to each other for several minutes, then come to the surface, and start swimming around on their back's together. They were never taught to swim around on their back as a command.

So not only did they understand they were supposed to do something they were not taught to do as a trick. They worked cooperatively together so they would both do the same trick.

I must say I'm very impressed.

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June 17th, 2011

04:53 am - Non-human CO2 emissions: Mammoth Mountain
Mammoth Mountain CA, (1 of around 5,000* volcanoes that although classified as "inactive" still produces out-gassing) is producing CO2 at the rate of around 40,150 metric tons per year.  To put that into perspective of human production of CO2, Mammoth Mountain puts out as much CO2 every 4.5 hours as the average person in the U.S. put out in a year.

*5,000 is a very loose number that includes under ocean volcanoes that have not been empirically surveyed, but are believed to be nearly double the number found on land (2/3 the Earth's surface is ocean, 2/3 the volcanoes are oceanic...).  This number is highly debated with many geologists and oceanographers pointing out that mid-oceanic ridges are the most volcanically active places on Earth.  Other scientists point out the "common-sense" argument that the truely active oceanic volcanoes (Hawaii, Krakatoa, Iceland) tend not to stay under water.

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June 6th, 2011

02:22 pm - Creepy Crawlies
 This last weekend I played airsoft.  It was a lot of fun, but the bugs were a huge problem.  There were quire literally thousands of mosquitoes.  For the most part I didn't get bit (only a 2 or 3 bites in 7 hours) because I was really good about using the bug spray.  However, that didn't prevent them from constantly swarming all around us, and that doesn't touch on all the other little bugs brushed off of me throughout the day.  On top of that I also had to pick off 2 ticks at the end of the night.

Now it's two days latter, and I'm still regularly feeling that creepy crawly feeling where it feels like something is crawling on your skin even though you know there isn't.

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May 25th, 2011

05:37 am - Movie Review: The Void
Stargate SG1 fans might enjoy this to some extent just to see Amanda Tapping once again playing a scientist who uses way too much techno-babel saving the world.

Unfortunately the acting, plot and dialog leave a lot to offer.  So in the end it's not really worth watching.

On the flip side, you can't go too wrong with a love scene between Amanda Tapping and Adrian Paul...

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