Tuesday, September 30, 2008

"My God — It's Full Of Stars!"

Last weekend I helped drive a troop of Girl Scouts to a campout over in Iowa. The girls ranged in age from about six to fifteen. We got to the campsite after dark, about 9:00 PM.

While the leaders met with the camp director, to find out where we would be, I stayed back by the cars, to help keep an eye on the girls. One of the older girls got out of her car to stretch her legs. As she stretched, she looked up above the trees.

"Oh. My. God! Look at all the stars!"

She had grown up in the city, and had never seen the night sky in all its glory.

Friday, September 19, 2008

New Microsoft Ads ...

It's probably already been said, but I have to say it:

In a "Life Without Walls", who needs Windows?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Free? Or Freedom?

Linux (or Gnu/Linux, as RMS would have me say) is Free Software. That is to say, the Gnu tools, the Linux Kernel, and most of the rest of the software, is licensed under the GPL (the Gnu General Public License, sometimes called a copyleft), which is considered a “Free” license. (Technically, a given copy of the Linux kernel may not be entirely Free, as it may contain some proprietary binary “blobs” to aid in wireless network connectivity and certain video card drivers.) Indeed, several totally “Free” distros exist,and several popular distros also provide Free versions.

But what is Free Software?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Idiot Drivers

I just had to get this off my chest.

What IS it with the IDIOTS on the freeway? Every day, it's the same thing. Driving too fast for conditions. Taking stupid risks. Why? Because they might get to work/home a minute or two faster.

This morning, I was on the on-ramp, just preparing to merge into the traffic. I was doing all of 20 mph, but that was because the rest of the traffic was doing the same - normal backed-up conditions leading into the construction zone. I was ready to pull into the flow when the guy who would have been behind me gunned his car into the spot, apparently just so I couldn't be ahead of him. Fortunately, the guy behind HIM was considerate....

On the way home, the first 10 miles is usually a pretty easy cruise. But when we hit the I-80/Kennedy Freeway interchange, all bets are off. The two inside lanes go straight through as I-80, with one more lane going either I-80 or continuing around to I-480. Another lane is pure I-480, while the far outside lane can be either I-480 or off to the Kennedy. Most of us wanting the Kennedy get in the far outside lane about a mile ahead, around the 42d Street interchange. OF course, Kennedy is where the construction is, so traffic slows, and backs up onto I-80. I can live with that; it's just a fact of life. Sometimes you can just roll through the interchange at 35 - 45 mph, which isn't too bad.

But, usually, there's a large truck needing to head down the Kennedy, somewhere up ahead. And, face it, an 18-wheeler has a lot of inertia. It takes time for it to both speed up and slow down. And the ramp to the Kennedy is uphill, which means they can't accelerate very fast on it. So, of course, there's the idiots behind me who can't wait the extra 30 seconds it will take to get to the ramp, and they pop over one lane, zoom down to the ramp, and then dive into the traffic flow again, cutting off the vehicles that are already crawling along. This, naturally, forces the backed up traffic to slow down even more, or even stop, which apparently upsets another idiot from behind, who pulls the same stunt. You wish you could make them understand that the reason we're going so slow is because of stunts like that. That if they would just hold their places, we would all be moving faster.

Of course, going home last night, I was cruising down I-80, when a pickup came zooming up from behind, cut in front of me, accelerated past the truck inthe next lane, ducked back over, and dashed on down the road. My first thought was that maybe I had been daydreaming, and unthinkingly had eased up on the accelerator. But a glance at my speedometer showed this was not the case. If anything, just the opposite. The speed limit there is 60, I was doing nearly 70, and this IDIOT came screaming by me, like to blow my doors off. I saw him as he went by, and he didn't seem to be in a particular hurry, his speed notwithstanding. He was just casually driving, at 20+ mph over the limit.

I have come tot he conclusion that much of this behavior is pure selfishness. "I am more important than you. My need to get to work/home outweighs yours." I can only shake my head, and somtimes smile when I see something like I did a few months ago. I was on the entrance ramp to the freeway, doing the speed limit. The guy behind me obviously thought it was too slow, and the instant there was pavement beside us, he popped out and around, hitting the accelerator all the way, right into the arms of the police, who had a speed trap set up just around the bend. :-D

Monday, September 15, 2008

Is PCLinuxOS Stale?

Recently, I’ve been reading posts talking about how PCLinuxOS is “stale”, “going downhill”, or even “dying”.

Read more....

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Camping Can Be Hazardous To Your Health

I went camping this weekend with the Boy Scouts. It was a special "Family Camp" weekend, so parents could see what their children do an a camp out. We already know what they do when camping, but we enjoy camping, and it was an excuse to take the rest of the grandkids along.

Friday night was chilly, but that was not unexpected. Getting the two-year-old to sleep was another matter. I finally went into the tent and lay down with her, so she wouldn't feel alone. I evidently dozed off, because a while later my wife brought her back to the tent. The little sneak had figured out how to work the tent zipper, and slipped out the door into the dark. Fortunately, one of the boys saw her and reported her escape to my wife.

Finally, at "Lights Out", when everyone went to bed, she started crying. Loudly. To quiet her, my wife brought her to our bed and put her between us. After fussing for a while, and doing her best to make us to uncomfortable to sleep, she finally drifted off. I carefully re-deposited her in her own bed, and crawled into mine. About a half-hour later, I was jolted awake by her screaming. She was having a nightmare. Back between us she went, with my wife cuddling and quieting her. After she was once more soundly asleep, my wife disengaged her arm, and rolled over to sleep, herself. Immediately, the baby started screaming again. Back to cuddling. Between the nightmares and the little one's "anti-social" behavior (pushing, kicking, etc.), my wife figures we got, maybe, two hours of sleep.

Morning dawned cool and gray. After a nice breakfast of biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs, and fruit, I needed to head back to the house to let the dogs out. I took the little one along, just to keep her out of my wife's hair. Thirty minutes later we were back, and as we walked from the parking lot to the camp site, another adult asked if I could give him a hand with a car problem. I said sure, and took Haley down to the camp site. I pointed her towards my wife, said, "Go play with Grandma", and went back up to the parking lot.

As soon as I was out of sight, Haley spun around and headed after me. My wife immediately gave chase, and caught her before she reached the parking lot, but not before my wife missed a step and fell down on her left shoulder, hard.

The rest of the day went pretty well. We had to keep Haley and her five-year-old cousin from running off in to the forest. Then they found the latrines, and were fascinated by the smells, and the noises things made when they "fell" in. (We rescued toys before they got that far.) And, of course, Haley found the soap at the washstand by the latrine, and was pleased to find that if she played with it, she would get to play in the water, too. (She adores "washing her hands".)

There were the usual mishaps. One Scout fell and got a shallow gash on his hand from a nail, or something. Another bunch accidentally ran into some "disgruntled" hornets, and got back with only three stings among them.

After dinner (ravioli, salad, and garlic bread, topped off with peach cobbler -- you really can eat well when camping, but that's for another post), I took Haley with me to go back home and let the dogs back in. By then it was dark, and as we got back to camp, it started raining.

Now my wife and I started talking about heading home for the night. Neither of us had gotten much sleep the night before, and both Haley and her cousin were getting crabby, and were threatening to to make it an even worse night than last. We finally agreed that we would take the little ones home for the night, so they (and we) could sleep, and bring everybody back for breakfast in the morning. But first, I needed to grab the little cooler from our tent, that had the baby's milk and bedtime bottle in it.

I grabbed a flashlight and headed to our tent, pausing a moment when I got there to grouch about my oldest granddaughter not zipping up the tent when she had been in it earlier. She had left the door unzipped at the bottom, so the rain that was pouring down was running down the door and into a nice puddle, right inside the tent.

I grabbed the few items I had come for, and then went to leave the tent. But as I stepped over the bottom edge of the door, my foot caught. My other foot was in the rain puddle, and starting to slip. I grabbed at the side of the tent, but it was slick with rain. In a fraction of a second that seemed like an eternity (I distinctly remember trying three times to get my foot over the door edge), I fell out into the rain, with the cooler landing under my right chest, and me striking it with the full force of my body being pulled down by gravity.

I remember rolling off the cooler, because it was too painful to be laying across it. I remember lying on my back in the rain, trying to convince my diaphragm that I really really, did need to breathe. After I had lain there without moving for a [probably short time, but felt like forever], one of the other adults came over to see if I was okay. My wife stayed under the dining shelter, because she didn't want to communicate her worry to the little ones. (She said that when I fell, Haley called out, "G'ampa! You OK?") By then, I had taken quick stock of myself. My heart was still beating. I was still breathing, albeit raggedly. I didn't feel any broken bones grating in my chest as I breathed. So I told him I thought I just had the breathe knocked out of me, rolled to my side, and got myself to my feet.

We picked up the stuff I had dropped, took the kids home, and crawled into bed. Sunday morning we went back to the campsite and packed up our gear, and assisted with the general teardown of the camp. I was moving very slow.

When we got home, I called the base clinic emergency number. The Urgent Care Clinic was closed, being Sunday, but if I was in unbearable pain he could route me to a civilian ER for treatment. Otherwise he could make me an appointment for Monday. I took the first appointment he had. (I've had kidney stones - considered to be more painful than childbirth. While I hurt, this was not unbearable.)

Monday morning, the doctor checked me out, and said that the fact that I wasn't coughing up blood was a good sign, and that indications were that I had cracked a rib. At the very least, I had stretched and strained all the connective tissues that held the ribs in place. The only way to verify a crack would be an X-ray, but that wouldn't change the treatment any, and only subject me to unneeded radiation. So now I'm on 800mg ibuprofen 3 times a day, with a tablet of Vicodin (narcotic) at bedtime if pain keeps me awake.

My wife and I don't think we're taking toddlers camping again any time soon....