Sat, 28 Feb 2009

Using Remind

I heard of the calendaring utility remind a while back, and always kept wanting to get around to using it, because my system for remembering when to do things is some combination of scraps of paper, datebooks (used for a while until about March each year), notes taped to the back of the apartment door that I stare at when stumbling out to work each morning, random text files and relying on my leaky and sieve-like mind tends to work about as much as you would expect.

A co-worker working on getting a frontend to remind called wyrd installed on machines at work prompted me this lazy Saturday morning to finally sit down and get it installed at home. In short, I'm impressed, because with about 10 minutes of looking at it after getting it installed I've managed to start doing useful things with it. Sure, I'm not using any of the more fancy features of it, but I've got a simple way to do about 99% of what I'd need to do.

Of course, dealing with my environment, I wanted something that would read my remind file out of my AFS home directory and send me an e-mail every morning at 6am with various reminders. This incantation works fairly well:

/usr/pkg/bin/k5start -f /local/kula/keytab.kula.cron -k `/usr/bin/mktemp /tmp/krb5cc_cron_XXXXXX` -q -t -u kula/cron@TPROA.NET -U -- /usr/pkg/bin/remind -q -g /afs/ | mail -s "Today's Reminders"

Which uses the ever helpful k5start to get credentials that are allowed to read my .reminders file out of AFS, running remind and then sending me mail. Call this out of cron at 6am and it seems to very well.

Posted at: 11:54 | category: /computers/nifty | Link

Mon, 16 Feb 2009

2009 Coffee House of Record Report

Ever since May of 2005 I've had the habit of designating a local coffeeshop as my "Coffeeshop of Record" — it's the place I always hang out at, and my favorite local caffeine establishment. Or, as I sometimes put it, "my drug dealers". Because I'm also that kind of person, I keep statistics of how much I spend there.

Shortly after moving to Ypsilanti I designated the Ugly Mug Cafe as my CHoR. This previous year's statistics (16 February 2008 - 15 February 2009) are:

It adds up, doesn't it? (This is the reason I keep track of it). But, the way I figure it hanging out at the Ugly Mug is my primary form of entertainment, and $11 a week is relatively cheap as those things go.

Notes for those who care: supplies I purchase at the CHoR do not count, e.g. beans I purchase at the Mug for use at home or at work are not counted. Last year I did come in one evening to be a volunteer judge when a couple of the baristi were practicing for a competition, the six drinks I had (two espressos, two cappuccinos, two signature drinks (!)) were counted as items of zero cost.

Posted at: 21:22 | category: /random | Link

Sat, 07 Feb 2009

Specific Heat of Bacon

I posted this in responce to a discussion here, and I just had to preserve it here.

Using some rough values I found on the Intertoobes [1], one slice of bacon weighs 29 grams and has 12 grams of fat. Those 12 grams of fat will produce 444 kJ of energy. The specific heat of bacon is 1.51 kJ/( kg deg C ), so those 12 grams of fat, if converted perfectly to heat, could raise 294 kg of bacon 1 degree C. Going from room temperature (20 deg C) to the safe temperature for consuming pork products (70 deg C) is a change of 50 deg C, so that energy could move about 5 kilograms of bacon from room temperature to a safe eating temperature.

I'm slightly not sure about this answer, but I suspect that the problem is that in the messy real world no burning process would turn the energy in the fat in the bacon perfectly into heat that could cook bacon. So there's likely some sort of fudge factor there, and also this assumes that my brain can do calculations like this on a Friday evening --- corrections are welcome. And, of course, depending on your desired outcome you may only care about getting the fat liquid enough so that it could flow and serve as a fuel, or you may care about getting the bacon to the desired crispyness level (which may require a higher temperature).

Of course, what you are doing here is not making a perpetual motion machine, since you are constantly putting in energy in the form of supplemental bacon (that is, if you stop putting bacon in, you eventually will stop getting energy out). What you really have is a rather inefficient (but delicious) long-tail solar power generator: the sun provides the energy to grow crops which provides the energy to make pig which provides the energy to cook pig. There's probably some renewable energy grant you could get for this.

[1]: Goddess bless America that I can think "I wonder what the specific heat of bacon is" and *find* an answer online.

Posted at: 08:45 | category: /random | Link

Mon, 02 Feb 2009

The Ghost from the Grand Banks by Arthur C. Clarke

Back in 1990 Arthur C. Clarke had read about a lot of really neat things and really wanted to have a long chat with someone about them. What he did instead was write a novel, and a not very good one at that.

In general, I like Clarke's books — the 2001 and Rama series are some of my favorite sci-fi, and favorite books ever. But this really falls short. The idea is a good one, the raising of the Titanic, but it never seems to go anywhere. And the entire sub-plot of fractals doesn't even seem connected to anything else in the book (seriously, I mean, I did read this over a couple of nights right before bed, so maybe I missed it, but what the hell did that have to do with any of the rest of the book).

In general, if you are looking for some good Clarke, steer clear of this one. If you want sci-fi, go read the Rama series, especially the later books. If you want non-sci-fi, read Glide Path.

Posted at: 22:55 | category: /reviews/2009 | Link