Ranch carvings

I spent last weekend at my friend’s ranch in Ranger, TX.  For the most part, we just sat around under the awning, laughing at the antics of the guineas as they wandered around looking for grasshoppers and other delicacies.  And, of course, I did a bit of carving.

First was this little basswood bear that we named Whiskey Bear.  He guards Mike’s whiskey.  We finished him with ashes from the fire.  Whiskey Bear is standing on the back of a spoon that I started but wasn’t able to finish because I dropped my gouge and boogered up the edge.


The spoon is carved from a piece of the apple tree that died on the property.  The whole thing is about five inches long.


The owl below is about 2 1/2 inches tall, carved from a piece of oak.  I started this at home a couple of weeks ago and set it aside.  Found it in my carving box on Saturday and decided to finish it.


A small change?

I’ve been programming computers for a long time.  Getting paid to write computer programs, even, which I thought was pretty darned funny when I first started.  People were paying me to do something that I loved.  But I digress.

After 30 years, you’d think that I would have learned that there’s no such thing as a small change that you can push into production code without having to test.  You might get away with it from time to time, but eventually that arrogance is going to cost you.

But, hey, it’s a simple change!  What could go wrong?

When you hear yourself say that, think about what you’re saying.  And then spend the few minutes it will take to test your assumption.  If nothing else, you’ll save yourself the embarrassment of explaining to your business partner that you made the kind of mistake that you’d reprimand an employee for.

Fortunately, all it cost me was a little embassassment, a few hours’ lost sleep, and an additional hour of down time for the crawler.  I got off easy.

Disk space is (almost) free

Today you can buy a one-terabyte Seagate drive online for $80, shipping included.  That works out to about 8 cents per gigabyte.  In August of 2003, I paid 80 bucks for a 120 GB drive:  about 67 cents per gigabyte.  If you adjust for inflation, I got eight times as much storage for about $10 less money.  According to The Inflation Calculator $80 today is about the same as $70 in 2003.

So how much is a terabyte, really?  If you’re into music, you can get one million minutes (694 days) of music on a terabyte drive, assuming a megabyte a minute (reasonable quality MP3).  VCR quality video is about 10 megabytes a minute, so you could get about 70 days of video.  DVD video is quite a bit more expensive, but you could still store 500 two-hour movies on your terabyte drive.

So what else can you do with a terabyte?  Consider:  human speech is historically recorded at 8,000 samples per second, requiring about 64 kilobits per second.  Current compression techniques can drop that to 8 kbits/sec with almost no perceptible loss in quality.  Figure one kilobyte per second.  A thousand seconds per megabyte.  A billion seconds in a terabyte.  How long is a billion seconds?  Google calculator says 31.69 years.

Imagine somebody with a voice recorder that’s always on.  Everything he says or hears is recorded and stored.  Furthermore, he has a program that can go through the recordings and create a phoneme transcript of every conversation.  That’s possible with current technology.  It’s even possible (with some errors) to identify individual speakers (i.e. Speaker 1, Speaker 2, etc.)  With a little human input, the program could identify speakers by name.  A little more work, all with technology available today, and a person could have a database of tagged transcripts containing every conversation he’s had.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a little uncomfortable with the idea that everything I say is subject to being recorded without my knowledge and reported at some point in the future.  Worse, given enough samples, a person with evil intent could easily construct a very convincing version of me saying things that I never said.  I don’t think I’m worth all that trouble, but there are plenty of people who are, and who perhaps should be somewhat concerned by the possibility.

Facebook is broke!

Checking Facebook tonight, I got a notification that I had hidden some applications from my news feed.  Thank you very much, Facebook, but I didn’t need reminding.

So I canceled the notification and clicked on something else.  It reminded me again.  Okay, so I added those applications back to my feed.  Won’t let a little bug stop me from posting a comment on a friend’s wall.

Except now I keep getting this:


I can still post comments (the dialog is not modal), but it’s just … weird.

Later:  Closing the Facebook tab in my browser and re-loading fixed the problem.



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