New BioDiesel Feedstock found.

Saw this link on I love the idea that alternative feedstocks are being found. I’m not too thrilled that the industry is looking to agriculture as a primary source. I would think that the secondary source of WVO would be more logical, and more in tune with a conservation ethos. Sadly predictable Sadly predictable

I’m linking to John’s reasoned and logical analysis of the political fallout from the Virginia Tech shooting. Go read it. There is no need for me to comment other than… yeah, I agree. I don’t have anything to say, but if I did, it would be something akin to what John said, just with less “John-ness” to it. 😉

So I’m linking so he’ll get some traffic and/or technorati rankings. Well done John.

How I spent my Sunday

If you recall, last December we had a huge windstorm that felled a 103′ tall Douglas Fir tree in our back yard. This happened literally days after we finished the cleanup from the big snow storm a few weeks before. That storm had most of our trees breaking branches off and falling (due to the weight of the snow) and we hired a landscaper to come saw them up and put them into a huge pile. We tried to do it ourselves but it was just too much work and we are short on time and the tools required.

The tree was another matter. My friend and coworker Shawn Hammer came and sawed up the tree into manageable chunks a couple of months ago. The remaining work is to just split and stack it to dry for use as firewood (for next time we lose electricity for a week!) I can do this job myself. But unlike other jobs, where it was important for issues of safety or whatnot to get it done swiftly, this job can be done at a leisurely pace.

An odd fact about me is that I don’t really like power tools. I’m not a luddite by any stretch of the imagination, I just don’t really mind using hand tools for a task like this. I was thinking about this while I was splitting these very heavy logs with an axe, a splitting wedge, and a 5lb short sledge hammer; we invented power tools to make human effort scale to meet commercial need. Power tools enabled us to get things done more efficiently. In this case, efficiency would be a luxury, not a NEED. I don’t have to have this wood split and stacked anytime soon. It could literally wait forever. My family might not want to have this stuff littering our yard, but in reality there is no pressing need to get it done. So why haul in some gas-powered splitter or something? The physical act of using hand tools to do the job is so much more engaging for me mentally. Looking at the wood grain, and knots and finding the just right spot to place the wedge. That moment of Zen-like calm as I relax, adjust the grip on the handle of the Collins Axe as it dangles behind my back… concentrating on the spot of wood that I wish to strike, before snapping it through the arc and (hopefully) through the log just right. The rhythm of the hammer on the wedge, and the tell-tale changes in pitch as it digs deeper into the wood, and then changes again as the pressure releases and the splitting starts. You cannot get this sort of VARIABLE connection to a task when just feeding a machine. The rhythms of feeding machinery can be theraputic, but it isn’t quite the same as doing the work by hand.

So I wandered out after breakfast and spent the better part of the day splitting wood. After I started I thought it would be fun to capture it in a timelapse; so I went and set up my laptop and iSight camera on the deck and fired up iStopMotion and got what you see above. That is about four and a half hours of work, condensed into a few seconds. Sorry about the out of focus-ness about it, but the iSight is obviously not really meant to be a long-range lens! My duct tape “tripod” also failed me, as you can see the camera shifted over time.

You can see the logs vanishing from the lower right and the pile of split wood growing in the upper right as the day goes on. Each log segment would yield about eight bits of firewood after splitting. I vanish about a third of the way in for a while… off to the barn to sharpen the splitting wedge (with a Dremel tool… see I’m not completely averse to power tools!) I’m also joined by Nick & Sue later in the day, and eventually they convince me to stop and go inside (but not until I split two more logs!) Sue brought me some iced tea at one point, and she runs the mower for a while too. Nick helps collect and stack the wood for me. The dogs just wander around being useless… and occasionally steal bits of wood to chew on. Christopher is no doubt very happy to be six-thousand miles away right now, or he’d be helping me too!

I managed to get over half of it done, so maybe next weekend I can wrap it up. Then we’ll have to stack the big pile.

The camera is pointing SW.

You would think that I’d be really sore, but I’m not. We’ll see what tomorrow brings! It helps that I’m ambidextrous (another little known fact about me: I can do just about everything with either hand. I write right-handed, as for some reason when I write left-handed I write backwards. The handwriting looks pretty much identical, but just backwards. I can draw, paint, play sports, swing a hammer or use other hand tools, operate a mouse, etc with either hand just fine. I usually go months at a time using the mouse with one hand or another… then suddenly switch. Lately I’ve been mousing lefty.) For me there is a sort of mental switch of gears when I change hands… it is really an adjustment to how I SEE things more than concentrating on my arms and hands. This allows me to work longer at things like swinging a hammer as I can just swap hands if I get tired. I never told my dad that when I was a teenager though. Funny how that works. 😉


OK, so the sharp-eyed among you may have noticed a bit of a shake-up in the blogroll.

I’ve removed a couple of links. Bill Dickson’s server died, so he’s gone 404. I also removed Peter Lalor, since he actually died last October. I figured it was time to retire his link. Not that I’ll forget him or anything, just that his website is for all intents and purposes static. On that note I was staring at my iChat buddy list today and realized I have three dead people on it. 2006 was a hard one for me in that respect as I lost three good people. I don’t know why I chose today to remove them from my binary interfaces… it just happened. Oh well.

Anyway, I added some other links. Other friends, other websites I read, etc. Car stuff of course. Some datacenter links too. I read this stuff every day as it is the industry I live and work in. Some of you may find it interesting… or not. Just more stuff that when concatenated is chuck goolsbee.

A good quote

I don’t recall who steered me towards this movie, but I watched it last night. It was a “not bad” flick, well worth the slot in my netflix queue.It contained a quote that sums up well my issue with “Reasoned Discourse, or the lack therof.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re selling Jesus or Buddha or civil rights or ‘How to Make Money in Real Estate With No Money Down.’ That doesn’t make you a human being; it makes you a marketing rep. If you want to talk to somebody honestly, as a human being, ask him about his kids. Find out what his dreams are – just to find out, for no other reason. Because as soon as you lay your hands on a conversation to steer it, it’s not a conversation anymore; it’s a pitch. And you’re not a human being; you’re a marketing rep.”

Bingo. People are wary, and have grown quite weary, of being sold to. It isn’t that they are interested in your ideas, so much as SELLING theirs.

Reasoned Discourse.

OK, so it is unedited, and over half an hour long, but well worth the listen.

Here are two grown men, with diametrically opposing viewpoints, having a reasonable discussion. One is an official of the Anglican Church, the other a noted Atheist and author. Note how they allow each other the room to state their viewpoints without interruption of condescension.

Here in America, land of the 1st Amendment, this sort of thing just doesn’t happen on TV. Instead our short attention spans and W-inspired “you’re either with us or against us” mentalities demand shouting matches and near, if not actual, fisticuffs. With everything wrapped up but no real progress made before the next commercial break. Witness the three-ring circus that has become of the 24-hour “news” channels. Sigh.

I wish I could discuss “big issues” with people I know. Unfortunately I can’t, since reasoned discourse is practically dead these days. I prefer to engage in discussion, not argument. I don’t want to raise my voice to be heard, nor be shouted down by those I know, even know and love. Therefore I choose to remain silent and not share my views very much. It is a shame.