Chris X Edwards lacks a way to translate Shakespeare, Chaucer, Bacon, Wycliffe, W.of Occam, Mallory, Caxton, or the KJV etc.
2021-07-12 09:20
The last execution by guillotine in France occurred in my lifetime. And 20th century Germans killed as many with one as the Reign of Terror.
2021-07-10 13:50
In the parallel universe I choose to live in, your blog does have a comment section. And it is called the world wide web.
2021-07-08 11:30
So much plastic packaging! The main notable exception is the inadequate leaking paper flour bag, unchanged since waterwheels milled it.
2021-06-22 19:59
It's as easy to buy metric screws at HD/LOW as it is to buy gringo screws on AMZN. USA's idiotic units intransigence may have met its match.
2021-06-04 09:30
Blah Blah

Ice Skating Is Cool

2021-07-14 15:34

Though categorically better than alternatives, there are not many fun parts of dying of old age. But one I’ve found is that the ice skating session at my local ice rink reserved for "seniors" is open to me! Just having a "local ice rink" would be awesome enough, but sharing the ice with only 0 to 5 people is extremely awesome!


I was given a pair of second hand hockey skates last year and that’s when I discovered the opportunity at the rink. I had just skated a couple of times and had the skates sharpened because I was committed to going regularly a couple of times a week and… Closed for the year. Thanks Plague, for nothing.


Well, it’s open now, and I am skating for about 80 minutes two times per week. And I love it!

As a triple bonus, I can ride my bike there along very nice bike paths — here is a video of me skating to the rink back when it was closed.

Here are some more poor quality videos I took while on the ice.

Here is what I look like skating.

Here’s what it looks like to be me skating.

Here’s a weird video of my feet.


Here are some more videos of me skating just to get the links in a coherent place. Unless you’re me, best to ignore.

And some wheel skating in San Diego.

Why I Play The Lottery Every Day

2021-07-08 09:52

ADS is often a thought provoking blog and I just read the post advising us all to become billionaires. Uh huh. Inescapable logic. On it!

I thought it would be a good time to explain my lottery tactics which also feature inescapable logic. Most people who know me know I’m courageous but cautious — fear itself does not impede me, but the possibility of bad luck does. Surely the engineering (IE FTW) that goes into lotteries which is designed to make you poorer must be respected, right? Yup.

Not only do I play all my state’s crazed lottery offerings, I play every state’s. And lotteries from around the world! How do I manage this administrative tour de force? The strategy is simple.

Instead of buying the lottery tickets, the optimal strategy is to find the winning tickets lying on the ground.

You may object that the chance of finding a lottery ticket of any kind is rather unlikely. Note however that this objection does not apply to serious lottery players like me.


Extreme Grocery Shopping

2021-06-30 12:10

Oh the stupidity! The response to this pandemic has been complete shit. Well, what I can I personally do about it? Not much. But one thing I realized I could do is minimize my exposure to places that were a nexus of interaction. That sounds obvious and most people did stop going to concerts and sporting events, etc. However they did not stop sending a household representative to the grocery store.

It was widely believed that groceries were "essential" and therefore it was impossible to not suppress this obviously problematic activity. I did not completely agree. I won’t bore you with the long list of industrial engineering recommendations I thought of, but I’ll share the one I got to test out personally — eliminating half of my grocery store contact by eliminating half of my trips to the grocery store.

Here is a plot taken from my credit card records showing the time and amount of my purchases at the grocery store over the last 750 days.


The horizontal axis starts at the beginning of June 2019 which is far enough back to get a bit of a baseline for what was previously normal. The purple line shows how many days it was since I last went shopping; this is measured in days shown on the right and the horizontal lines are weeks. The green line was how much money I spent on food.

The interesting thing here is that at around the end of March 2020 (day 300) my shopping habits changed radically as I started to push the limits of how infrequently I could get away with buying food. As you can see, I pretty much was able to get my food resupply down to about the same level as a 19th century trans-Atlantic sailing ship.

Since one of my religious commandments is to not waste food, it took some pretty careful management to not waste anything and also not suffer from scurvy. At the beginning of each cycle I’d cram salads and fresh fruit, but by the end of the cycle I was down to pasta, nuts, and dried fruit. To me this was an interesting test run to see if I could live somewhere very remote where resupply might be quite an operation. The answer is yes. And if I lived in some remote place, I probably would be able to grow much of the perishable food that required more frequent restocking.

Since I didn’t really eat out at all for most of this time, this is pretty indicative of how much it costs to feed myself exactly what I like to eat. It works out to about $6.72/day. (Compare with my 2016 analysis of my finances which found groceries to be around $4/day. That makes sense since I was eating out more — probably a greater total expense.)

You can see around February 2021 (day 600) where my interval stretches to a record 6 weeks and the expenditure actually goes down. This is the interval when I was in Colorado some of those weeks and eating my dad’s food (thanks BTW!).

Note that I do my own shopping for just me — my wife has her own grocery agenda that is different. Of course that would be double the plague risk, negating the beneficial effects of my extreme shopping regime. But not to worry! My effects are probably not important in the real world anyway. Though most humans seem to weirdly disagree with me (based on insistent questionable vaccination recommendations), I suspect I was largely immune to The Plague well before March 2020 when normal people started freaking out about it.

The skeleton on the plot shows roughly the time span where I was clawing my way out of the grave while suffering a severe case of Covid-19. The long interval just before that was when I was using up everything before going on the airplane trip that likely exposed me to a C19 early adopter. One of the classic symptoms of the disease is anorexia — the inability to have an appetite and eat enough. As you can see, while starving to death (was down to 134lbs/61kg) I did go buy food when I didn’t think I was too infectious. Sorry about that. Hope I didn’t kill too many people! This is a reminder why the grocery store should be taken seriously as a transmission nexus and sick people should have "other options" to not starve. But they don’t.

At least I was able to demonstrate a way to (presumably) cut grocery store transmission substantially. And, perhaps more practically, demonstrate that something I don’t like doing can be done a lot less often than is typical.

Review: Past Master

2021-06-15 18:54

Have you ever been to an art museum and you wander into to the "modern" "art" section and you see some giant work that fills you with emotion — that emotion being WTF? That happens to me a lot. Don’t get me wrong. I can appreciate weird modern artsy stuff, but I have too much appreciation and respect for classical art to write off its style, craftsmanship, and heritage as non-essential.


Of course critics of my criticism will point out that I’m probably just an uncultured philistine who is too dense to understand these rich and complex works. And that is undoubtedly true. Sometimes. But if you make art that is unapproachable by the vast majority of people, even people who quite like art, there may be room for improvement.

I heard about this book, Past Master by R. A. Lafferty, in some forum where clever people try to signal their cleverness by saying how much they like things that most people really don’t like. Or something like that. Not having heard about this book, I figured the glowing praise heaped on it combined with its apparent unusualness made it worth taking a look at.

The book is set in the year 2535, exactly 1000 years after the execution of Saint/Sir Thomas More. Well, that’s certainly a weird factoid to include, you’re thinking! The book is set on some not-Earth planet — like the kind Kirk’s Enterprise would visit — and the people there are having some kind of problem. The exact nature of the problem was kind of nebulous but there should not be any problems because the society is supposed to be a utopia.

Anyway, to solve the problem the rulers there get the great idea to go back in time and snatch up Sir Thomas More! Brilliant! No need to use time and space travel for more sensible purposes when you’ve got a 16th century lawyer in the house! Look, he was really good. Not only that, it turns out that Sir Thomas wrote the book Utopia in 1516 and coined that word itself therein. So he’s kind of an expert on utopian societies.

At first there is a little bit of plot intrigue as the elites who scheme to bring Sir Thomas in from the past reveal to the reader that they’re really just doing it for the optics. They have no intention of letting this old relic actually have any power.

Sir Thomas duly reports for duty and, uh, I think R. A. Lafferty then proceeds to drop a lot of acid. Ya. Really. And the story is just weird in a hard to read way. I was surprised that this short (190pp) book took me a couple of weeks to slog through. When I read it I often became very sleepy almost immediately. And that’s the problem with a near random level of arbitrary chaos; it’s a bit like reading the digits of a trigonometry table.

Again, maybe I’m just too dense to "get it" but… well, I didn’t.

Let’s run through my checklist.

  • Style - It was ok really. It was kind of baroque and literary, sort of like Gene Wolf, but not quite.

  • Organization - Also ok. Reasonable chapter lengths. Divided in to sections sensibly. Fine.

  • Character names - Mostly ok. Sometimes they were pretty weird but generally pronounceable for English speakers. Some examples: Proctor, Evita, Father Oddopter, Pottscamp.

  • Believable characters - Er, hard to say here. What do people, or worse, aliens really do when they’re tumbling through a drug trip? I never identified with any of the characters and just found all of their actions weird.

  • Natural dialog - No. It was stilted (perhaps deliberately) and weird. Right out of the gate you’ll be wondering how well Sir Thomas' pre-Elizabethan English holds up a millennia later; glossed over.

  • Plot complexity - I’d have to say, low. Maybe there’s a lot going on in the second half of the book. But I’ve really divulged most of the plot as near as I could discern it.

  • Plot resolution - Probably. I don’t know. The climax would be Sir Thomas maybe getting beheaded (mirroring his life on Earth) or maybe getting rescued. The text was so gloopy and distorted, I actually can’t remember the outcome despite reading it less than an hour ago! And worse — I don’t care.

  • Erudition - Good. There were probably obscure subtle references to Thomas More’s life, the House of Tudor, 16th century politics, etc. but of course I’m no expert in such things and I would miss that.

  • Gems - Very few if any for me.

  • Immersion/world building - Certainly this was a goal of the book. It definitely had a go, but everything was so weird and unpredictable, you could never know if a city was a city like you imagine when you hear that word or the intestines of some giant whale or some other incongruous thing.

  • Believable tech - This story was pretty low on the tech. Much of it was just taken as given with no explanation. The assassin robots that were very good but not too good — their inner workings never explained. The time and space travel to bring back a guy from 16th century Earth, also never fully explained.

  • Imagination/creativity - It’s easy to credit this kind of story with a lot of imagination, but really a computer can write stories that make no sense and are filled with random elements. Here, I’ll show you what I mean: "Corolla sabotaged the treaty, dispensed with stashing the immigrating dullards. Laurel’s internment’s antics catalyzed the Delphic nicknacks." That came from choosing words at random from my spelling dictionary. That is how much imagination and creativity this book had for me.

$ shuf /usr/share/dict/words | head

I usually don’t review books that I find lacking but this one was nominated for both a Nebula and a Hugo award. In some ways, I’m really reviewing those accolades. Maybe another kind of reader would appreciate the drug trip incoherence of Lafferty’s writing but I need a more cogent and clever plot.

I’ll end with a fiction writing tip: Never ever have a character remark on how unbelievable the fantastic situation is. This is like having characters in a movie, or especially a stage play, yawn. The example that reminded me is from p141.

"It is beyond belief that this world should be true," he said again to himself.



2021-06-09 10:08

One of this week’s projects was to make a cover for my basement sump. When I moved into my house I was pretty nervous about the whole idea of a sump — what if the power goes out or there is a malfunction? And I was especially nervous about the one installed — it looked ancient, decrepit, and, in the style of my entire house, like it was installed by a very clever trained animal.

I had some plumber guys come in and put in a working main shutoff valve (!) and a new sump system with a functioning check valve (!). This new system also included a water powered secondary pump with a separate drain system which is designed to operate in the absence of electricity.

This work meant that the old sump cover no longer fit and I’ve lived with an uncovered pit of water in the corner of my basement since then. That was less than ideal so it was time to fix it.

Some time in the past I ordered a piece of furniture and was delighted to find it packed in a giant sheet of solid 3" thick expanded polystyrene foam. Like a kid, I honestly thought the foam packing was as cool as the contents. Anyway, there was some debate in my household about whether we should keep it. A debate I have finally resolved!

With my table saw blade at 45 degrees, with about 26 cuts, I was able to make a kind of acoustic foam shape by moving the fence 3" every cut.


Here is the old sump cover which no longer fits. I used it as a template to trace the sump circumference.


I used a long razor knife to cut it to shape.


Then I cut a board into three pieces and custom fit them. I painted them with the same marine paint I used in this project. Here I’m laying them out with the foam.


This allowed me to cut the foam just right. I was careful to vacuum up all those little pieces.


I used hot glue to attach the foam to the wood.


And here’s the final result!


I also couldn’t stand looking the terrible job the plumbers did with the cable routings. Yes, that’s more my specialty than theirs — now fixed. There is actually a 1/4" gap in the front for water to enter in the event of flooding. And if the sump fills up for some strange reason, the foam will lift the boards off like a dock. Hopefully covering this small open well will help reduce the humidity in my basement. And the whole point of the foam is to greatly reduce the noise when the thing kicks on in the middle of the night.


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