Octopodial Chrome

Stuff that Made Sense at the Time

The Personal Weblog of Bob Uhl

Thursday, 30 March 2006

The Tuttle Twit, cont.

Y’all may recall my article about the city manager of Tuttle, Oklahoma threatening CentOS developers. Well, he’s back, proving everything I’ve ever said about Okies is true. I hope he keeps at it—this could get good.

Wednesday, 29 March 2006

Organ Donation is Barbaric

CNN has a heartwarming article about how recipients of organs from the same donor form a kind of extended family. Do families realise what organ donation entails? Their loved is slit open and dissected like a frog; he is eviscerated like a butchered animal. This is disgusting; it is barbaric. We rightly condemn the savages of New Zealand for eating their dead, but are we any different? If some cannibal ate my grandmother, I would not invite him to my wedding—and yet this family did exactly that! Have we so far lost our moral compass that this seems normal?

Organ donation should be legal; I have no quibble there, for donation is a private matter between consenting parties. But it should be condemned from every pulpit; it should be derided; it should be socially unacceptable. I very much hope that should I ever be faced with a failing body that I resist the temptation to receive a transplant from a corpse. Donation by the living is an entirely different matter, of course—I’d cheerfully give a kidney if needed.

Tuesday, 28 March 2006

The Swirling Vortex of Doom

In 1980 a miscalculation caused an 11-foot deep freshwater lake to become a 1,300-foot deep saltwater lake. Now that’s just cool.

Real Signs of a Tech Shortage

Paul Knapp describes what signs of a real tech shortage would look like—and points out that we’re seeing none of them. In short, the much-ballyhooed tech shortage doesn’t exist.

The Twit of Tuttle, Oklahoma

The city manager of Tuttle, Oklahoma discovered that his web sites were displaying the vendor default web page, so he did what came naturally to him: he accused the vendor of cracking his site. This man is an insufferable twit—surely he can be removed from office!

Sunday, 26 March 2006

All Grain

This afternoon and evening I brewed my first all-grain batch of beer, five gallons of a mild ale. The term all-grain means that I brewed it using raw ingredients rather than malt extracts. To make beer, one steeps malted barley (and other grains, if desired) in water of a temperature sufficient for the barley’s enzymes to convert all the starches to sugar (mashing), then strains out the grains (lautering) and washes off any residual sugars (sparging), then boils the wort produced thereby (brewing) along with hops and other adjuncts as needed for the recipe in question. A quick way to brew is to use malt extracts, where someone else performs the mash, lauter and sparge steps for one; that’s the process I’ve used up until this point. But now I’m a true brewer, and that’s pretty cool.

Siebel Institute Offer a Homebrewing Programme

The Siebel Institute of Technology, one of the great brewing schools of the world, are offering an advanced homebrewing programme this July in Durango, Colorado. I’m giving some strong thought to attending—it would be an excellent chance to learn more about my favoured hobby, and maybe even get a head start on going pro someday.

Friday, 24 March 2006

The Curious Duel of Decatur v. Barron

On 22 March 1820 Commodores Stephen Decatur & James Barron faced off to fight; W. Thomas Smith relates the odd tale.

Tips for Cross-Country Cycling

Some time ago I posted about Calvin Woodward’s trans-America ride; today he has some tips for the cross-country cyclist. I really would like to do this one day.

Thursday, 23 March 2006

Texas Arrests Drunks...in Bars

Yet another reason I don’t live in Texas: the state is arresting people for being drunk in bars. I don’t mind public intoxication laws in principle, but the police should not be looking for people to harass. If someone is causing trouble and citizens feel the need to call for the police, that’s fine—but to go undercover and arrest people for drinking is absurd.

Computer Games, Then and Now

Found some comparison screenshots of video games from twenty years ago and today. Pretty impressive how much graphics have improved! I didn’t realise that games were this good—I might need to get a system one of these days.

Sunday, 19 March 2006


43 Folders has a way to avoid procrastination: dedicate ten minutes to the job at hand, working straight through with no breaks; then spend two minutes goofing off, then repeat four more times to get through the hour. I’ll have to try it tomorrow at work.

Myths about Islamist Terrorism

Christine Fair & Husain Haqqani dispel some current myths about Islamist terrorism: Isræl’s not the big deal; poverty doesn’t lead to terrorism; young men are the most likely terrorists; and madrasas aren’t terrorist factories. Thought-provoking reading.

The Little Coder's Predicament

A blogger named why the lucky stiff argues that we need more little languages for kids to play with. When we were young, every computer system had an included programing language which let one play around. I myself was inspired by the Basic available for our TI-99/4a; it’s no doubt a large part of the reason that I’m now a Unix syadmin, and that I have such cool things available as my beer tasting notes.

But most devices these days lack such accessible tools, and hence kids are much less likely to get drawn into programming. This could hurt in the years to come. And besides, wasn’t one of the great ideas of the personal computer revolution that everyone would be a programmer someday?

Afghani Christian Faces Execution for Conversion

An Afghani man, born a Mohammedan, faces execution for conversion to Christianity. And now we find out if our invasion and toppling of the Taliban was worth it after all…

How Aeroplanes Really Fly

We all learnt in school that æroplanes fly due to the Bernoulli effect—but as it turns out, this isn’t actually so. The late Jef Raskin explains that flight is due to the Coanda effect, as can be demonstrated with a spoon and tap water. Very cool example of how common knowledge isn’t always correct.

Crichton on Patents

Famed author Michæl Crichton points out the absurdity of the current US patent system. A must-read for anyone interested in intellectual property issues.

Saturday, 18 March 2006

The Real Cost of Ethanol

Writing in Slate, Robert Bruce does a bang-up job of debunking ethanol’s utility as a fuel—at least for vehicles (it remains a fine fuel for men…). He points out that we’re spending $37.3 billion on ethanol subsidies. He notes that a gallon of ethanol made from corn yields about 76,000 BTUs, but costs 98,000 to make. Even soy, the cheapest way to produce ethanol, still costs 27% more to make than it yields. Bryce also reports that switching to ethanol involves expensive technical issues (e.g. it absorbs water and affects the evaporation rate of gasoline).

The Three-Headed Frog

The BBC report that a three-headed frog was found in Weston-super-Mare. Strange looking creature!

Sushi Eating HOWTO

Eugene Ciurana has written a very cool guide to eating sushi. I need to run this by the Japanese I know, to make sure he’s got it correct—but if so, then I’ve some great new things to try out next time I eat the wonderful delicacy.

Friday, 17 March 2006

The Return of Tasting Notes

My Tasting Notes database is—after a very long hiatus—back online, albeit in very primitive form. I expect to be improving it rapidly, though.

DRM Hurts Battery Life

From C|Net comes news that digital restrictions management hurts audio player battery life. Yet another reason to avoid that particular pox.

Wednesday, 15 March 2006


Today my kid brother & I went up to the mountains outside of Bailey to go shooting in the backyard of one of my fellow parishioners. We shot my Beretta Model 96 (.40 calibre), our brother John’s Chinese SKS (7.62x39), my buddy’s Ruger .22 automatic, his (Smith & Wesson?) .45 revolver and his Russian SKS. It was a blast! Afterwards we’d a late lunch, then sat around talking for several hours, then had dinner, then sat around talking for a few more hours. The folks whose land we were using are such nice folks, very friendly & welcoming.

And a day spent shooting beats a day at the office any time…

Tuesday, 14 March 2006

Robert Victor Uhl, USMC

Today marks the 61st anniversary of the death of my great-uncle Robert Victor Uhl; he fell in the battle for Iwo Jima.

Monday, 13 March 2006

The Saga of the Shoes

Those of y’all who know me, know also that I don’t pay much heed to what i wear. I’ve a few articles of clothing which date back to high school, and possibly one or two which date even further back—clothes just aren’t something which concern me all that much. To tell the truth, I’d be happy if there were magical Clothing Fairies who would replenish my closet and dresser every decade or so.

Well, the stitching on my belt is falling apart, so I decided to get one of those solid leather ones—nothing to fall apart, and thus nothing to replace in six or seven years. And today at lunch I was actually ashamed of my shoes; and if I am ashamed of a pair of shoes, then they must be truly rotten.

So I went to the nearest mall to rectify the situation, found a belt and then found some shoes. I asked the shoe guy if I could ring up my belt too, signed the receipt and then headed back—as I neared the exit he caught up with me; apparently he’d forgotten to ring up the belt! Good thing he caught it, as that would have been awkward to explain to the store detective. Although now I rather wonder if this could become a wonderful new method of shoplifting…

Anyway, the upshot is that I’ve a new set of leatherware: new shoes and a new belt. I’m practically a new man, now. Although I still wish that the Clothing Fairies would visit—I do so hate shopping for clothes…

Oceana F-14 Tomcat Fly-In

Twenty-two Tomcats recently flew into Oceana, the last time in such numbers. I grew up near there, and always loved watching the planes fly overhead.

Saturday, 11 March 2006

Consensus Web Filters

Kevin Kelly has a great piece on what he calls consensus web filters—that is, site which rely on their readers to submit & rank items of import. This is a category which will become only more important with time; the ability to filter out items in which one is interested out of the millions generated daily is highly useful.

The Baker Bun Run

Back when I was at Austin College, I lived for three years at Baker Hall. One of our dorm traditions was the annual Baker Bun Run, in which the fellows would run a lap around the campus dressed in nothing but their boxers (a relic, I imagine, of the streaking phenomenon of the 70s). I never participated, considering such things beneath my dignity, but now that I’m older I really wish that I had. It would have been fun, and harmless. And—in keeping with my tweed-tie-and-sweater-vest persona—I could have worn boxers with a tie, and nothing else. It would have been amusing, and it would have been an amusing memory, but due to my reticence it’s naught but a regret now.

Yankees are Insane

A Yankee has posted text messages found on a cellphone. How can any human being write such drivel? You know, it galls me on a daily basis that they beat us in the war.

Negative-Calorie Foods

At last, a simple listing of negative calorie (or negative BTU, for those of us still hewing to a sane standard) foods is available at http://life.currenttoday.com/index.php/2006/03/12/negative-calories/. Interestingly, one could make a good Lenten diet from the listed foods.

Friday, 10 March 2006

Walter Cronkite Speaks Out

Walter Cronkite has spoken out about the absurdity and injustice of the War on Drugs. The man has been gravely mistaken about many things, but on this particular issue he’s spot-on. Will anyone listen?

Flesh-eating Bacteria Kill Woman in Three Days

A North Carolinian nursing assistant was slain by flesh-eating strep bacteria in the span of three days. What’s peculiar is that someone she knew also contracted the same strain—and that the physicians are not certain whether one of the two passed it to the other. Ummm…it’s a rare infection, and two people, familiar with one another, contracted it. You think that just maybe one got it from the other?

Even more worrisome are the emergency measures they took trying to save her life: amputating her arm at the clavicle and removing all the muscle and tissue around her left breast, torso and thigh. Lord save me from such physick!

The Geopolitics of Sexual Frustration

Twenty years ago the ultrasound machine started being widely used in East Asia—and twenty years ago the people thereof started to murder their girls in the womb. Now, the male-to-female ratio is grossly out of whack—what will the result be of having too many young men competing for too few young women? History suggests that the status of women may rise, but that it could also be a time of wars, banditry and other adolescent behaviour. It’s going to be an interesting century.

How Should We Study Religion?

Daniel Dennet (an atheist) and Richard Swinburne (a Christian of one sort or another) debate how we should study religion. A very interesting exchange, making some interesting points about scientific enquiry and the nature of thought.

What if You Never Washed Your Hair Again?

Jason Headley asked himself that question, and decided to see what happened if he stopped washing his hair. The answer: not much. It turns out that shampoo doesn’t really do much for one.

My Recent Quietness

My frequent readers (do I actually have any frequent readers?) may have noticed that this blog has been especially quiet of late, even more strikingly so when one considers that the month just past was my most prolific to date. Well, ever since January I have been busy at work—they’re actually getting their money’s worth out of me! And thus rather than spend my time browsing the web and blogging about neat stuff, I find that my time is spent working rather hard.

But now it’s the weekend, I’ve no films from Netflix, and I’ve time to catch up. So buckle your seatbelts, folks—we’re in for quite a ride!

One Thousand Miles

Today my bike’s odometer rolled over to 1,000 miles! That’s 63,360,000 inches, every one of which was powered by my two legs. That’s also 1,000 miles not on my car—at my rate of 34½¢/mile, that’s a savings of $345. Still not break-even, but getting there. And of course I’m healthier too.

One thousand miles! One thousand miles! (I’m doing my victory dance, which is a sight no-one should be subjected to) One thousand miles!

Wednesday, 08 March 2006

Hairy Lobster Discovered

A hairy lobster has been discovered in the Pacific. A truly strange looking creature.

Ben Stein's Final Morton's Column

Ben Stein has just written a remarkable column at E! Online, his final under the Monday Night at Morton’s tagline. It is a profound reflection on the nature of celebrity and human worth, and is quite unusual for normal entertainment fare. You need to read this, now. Some quotes:

Real stars are not riding around in the backs of limousines or in Porsches or getting trained in yoga or Pilates and eating only raw fruit while they have Vietnamese girls do their nails. They can be interesting, nice people, but they are not heroes to me any longer.

A real star is the soldier of the 4th Infantry Division who poked his head into a hole on a farm near Tikrit, Iraq. He could have been met by a bomb or a hail of AK-47 bullets. Instead, he faced an abject Saddam Hussein and the gratitude of all of the decent people of the world./p>


We put couples with incomes of $100 million a year on the covers of our magazines. The noncoms and officers who barely scrape by on military pay but stand on guard in Afghanistan and Iraq and on ships and in submarines and near the Arctic Circle are anonymous as they live and die.

I am no longer comfortable being a part of the system that has such poor values, and I do not want to perpetuate those values by pretending that who is eating at Morton’s is a big subject.

And finally:

We are not responsible for the operation of the universe, and what happens to us is not terribly important. God is real, not a fiction, and when we turn over our lives to Him, he takes far better care of us than we could ever do for ourselves.

In a word, we make ourselves sane when we fire ourselves as the directors of the movie of our lives and turn the power over to Him. I came to realize that life lived to help others is the only one that matters. This is my highest and best use as a human.

I can put it another way. Years ago, I realized I could never be as great an actor as Olivier or as good a comic as Steve Martin–or Martin Mull or Fred Willard–or as good an economist as Samuelson or Friedman or as good a writer as Fitzgerald. Or even remotely close to any of them.

But I could be a devoted father to my son, husband to my wife and, above all, a good son to the parents who had done so much for me. This came to be my main task in life.

Ben Stein is—as though anyone needed to know—the actor most famous for Bueller…Bueller.

4th Amendment Tape

A fellow has designed Fourth Amendment Shipping Tape; it has the entire Fourth Amendment printed on itself, and every time the jackbooted Homeland Security thugs open your luggage, they have to literally slice the fourth amendment in half to perform their unconstitutional search (and possible seizure). Certainly, the animals who perform the work won’t care, but at least we can feel somewhat better as our personal belongings are illegally pawed through and stolen.

Monday, 06 March 2006

Mac OS X 0wned in 30 Minutes

A Swede set up his fully-patched Mac Mini online and challenged all comers to try to crack into it. It took a single cracker 30 minutes to do so. Doh!

Persian Student Attacks Fellows

A Persian graduate student in North Carolina drove his car into a group of his fellow-students, injuring nine. Apparently the attack was religiously-motivated: he is a Mohammedan, and wished to commit this terrorist act in retaliation for supposed slights.

Thursday, 02 March 2006

Free Software in the Rockies

The little town of Steamboat, Colo. has switched to free software. Ever onward, Colorado!

McCarthy on Communism

John McCarthy—of Lisp fame—writes about the reasons that Marxism was so attractive. Something for us all to learn from.

Man the Altruist

A comparative study of 3- and 4-year old children & chimpanzees has found that man is altruistic even at a very early age; tots will do their best to help out, even at great cost to themselves, whereas the beasts only help if it is easy.

Are the Marines Censoring the Web?

There’s a rumour going ’round that the Marines are censoring the web, forbidding certain websites and access personal email. I hope that this is false, but fear that it may be true. Perhaps the full story is untold? Still, it sticks in one’s craw something fierce.

Why News Sites Shouldn't Demand Registration

Brainshrub argues against the widespread practise of news sites requiring registration. They’re only hurting themselves, after all: how many of us bother to fill out Yet Another Intrusive Subscription Form, and how many of us just skip it? Count me in the latter group most days…

Don't Taser Yourself

Did you know that it’s a bad idea to taser yourself? I could have guessed, but never thought the tale would be quite so hilarious…

The Importance of Friends Who Disagree

Just found a blog entry on the importance of having friends who disagree. It raises some good points; in some ways I am most indebted to those of my friends with whom I disagree most strenuously. OTOH, my best friends are those most alike whom I think (does that sentence parse properly?). There’s a place for both, methinks: on the one hand there are those who challenge one, and on the other there are those who affirm one. Both are necessary.

Programming Languages and Relationships

An excellent LiveJournal post examines programming languages in terms of sexual relationships. Extremely funny if you know what it’s about; beyond opaque if you don’t. I get it, so I loved it!

Microsoft Sells with Sex

Oddly enough for a firm whose name means small & limp, Microsoft were at one point shilling their product with sex. Is anyone really surprised?

Wednesday, 01 March 2006

Don Knotts, RIP

My friend John posted that Don Knotts passed away a few days ago. It’s the end of a legend. He may not have been great, but he was funny.

Black and White Twins

A woman has given birth to two girls, one white and one black—and yet daughters of the same father. Both she and her man are mulattoes, and by a freak chance the genetics worked out this way.

The End of Income Tax

Thomas Frey believes that the end of income tax is nigh. Would that he were right!

gcc 4.1

The GNU Compiler Collection 4.1 has been released, with some exciting new changes. Given that gcc is at the heart of almost everything running on my system, it’s good to see the development is continuing and improvements are being made.

And to think that once upon a time people charged huge sums for compilers!

Women in Science

Philip Greenspun has an interesting theory on why there aren’t more women in science: because science is a very poor career decision. An interesting point of view, although I don’t know enough about the matter to comment intelligently.

Food Not as Nutrient-Rich as Previously

A recent study suggests that fruits and vegetables aren’t as vitamin-rich as they once were. Of course, the natural-foods folks have been going on about this for quite some time now…

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