Buy direct — from China

If Home Depot, or any of the other local “hardware” stores, carried this exact thing, it would cost about one dollar for two pieces. They have some very similar items that I would have been willing to use if I could have.

Package from China
Direct from China and 15% of the price.
Because they don’t have anything close enough I had to order direct from China, using eBay. It cost $6.76. For 100 pieces. There were a couple of U.S. source, but I would have needed to buy 5,000 and I really only needed one.

Can somebody please explain why it’s $1 for two at a local store and $6.76 for 100 from China?

Hummingbird rocks!

Hummingbird is a hiking trail that begins at the east end of Simi Valley. That’s Simi in the background of the picture.

The trail takes you up and to the east along a route just north of the 118 freeway. It rocks, and it has rocks, or as says, it has “some very interesting rock features including giant boulders, unusual caves, and various huge rock outcroppings.”

It is nearly impossible to convey the size of these rock groups from a single photo. After looking at 50 or so shots that I recently took, I thought it might be possible to give a better idea of it through a series of related pictures.

A short look back


The series starts on our way back to Simi. We’re going to turn around under the split rock and take a look at where we’ve been. Continue reading “Hummingbird rocks!”

Nerd or pack rat?

Does finding this file on my computer make me a nerd or a pack rat? I’ll assume it’s both.

Hint: the file date is 1996. As far as I can tell, the Netscape Navigator version that the text references was released in August of 1996; it was updated to a newer version in November of that same year.

The landscapers must be crazy

I have some really old sprinkler valves. They’re not ancient, but the last time they started to leak I found out that the parts were no longer made. That time the parts were available, but I knew that the next time there was an issue the sprinklers would need to be replaced.

Your standard sprinkler valves
Your standard sprinkler valves

Recently one of the sprinklers started watering on its own. It seemed random, but it wasn’t. The short summary of a long investigation is that even with the timers disconnected, the water was turning on when some of the front yard sprinklers would turn on.

I had been thinking of making some backyard changes, but wasn’t ready to start them so I thought I would just do a quick fix. I’d do nothing more than dig down just enough to cut the pipes to be able to put in new valves. Of course the new sprinklers had different spacing than the old, so I had to dig down enough to get some flexibility in the pipes so the new spacing would work.

Yards in this area consist of rock and clay. It’s difficult stuff to dig in and you pretty much have to soak it down to dig at all. Soak, dig, and after going down about six inches I started hitting rocks.

Continue reading “The landscapers must be crazy”

Quicken data corruption and 2011 end-of-life

Quicken 2011 has an ongoing problem with randomly losing data from stock quotes. The symptom is that one or more of your securities suddenly has zero value. All of the price history is gone and Quicken won’t download any new quotes for it and it won’t let you manually update any of the price history.

Later in article, I’ll show you how to recover your data, even if you no longer can download quotes.

It’s been written about many times on the Intuit message boards, and has been since 2011. Intuit’s solution to this, like most issues, is to tell you to upgrade to a new version of Quicken. This bug fix, of course, isn’t free. Often the new product is more bloated with useless features that Intuit is trying to sell you. And to really make you glad you upgraded it sometimes removes features that actually were useful. Those can sometimes be restored by moving up to the next higher type of Quicken, but it will cost you a little more.

Intuit to the rescrew

Partial solutions have been offered By Intuit, but they only restore a partial price history, and the history only goes back for a maximum of 5 year. One more minor detail: if the stock is no longer listed, for instance if the company was sold, you’re SOL because there is no place to download the quotes.

I may have encountered this data loss a long time ago, but not noticed. If you’re not actively tracking a stock, or don’t currently own any shares, it’s easy to miss that the share price has dropped to 0.

I’m sure this is a coincidence, but recently it happened to a stock that I was holding. And then it happened to another and I started having to try to find out what was going on. Why is it a coincidence?

End of life

On April 1, 2014, the version called Quicken 2011 will no longer be able to download quotes or access any online data. This gives me a bit of a dilemma because I have heard a lot of horror stories about the migration of 2011 data, shall we say, not going smoothly. I don’t dare update until my taxes are done. (Great timing on the planned obsolescence date, Intuit.) But I digress. This migration failure is often blamed (as has happened in past versions) on the Quicken database being corrupted before the upgrade was done. Sorry, there’s nothing that can be done to help you, better luck next time.

Continue reading “Quicken data corruption and 2011 end-of-life”

Maps showing dialect differences in the U.S.

A bubbler?

What do you call the thing from which you might drink water in a school?

  • a. bubbler (3.84%)
  • b. water bubbler (0.30%)
  • c. drinking fountain (33.16%)
  • d. water fountain (60.97%)
  • e. other (1.74%)

This map will let you see how over 10,000 people responded:

There are 121 other questions in the survey. If you’re in a fairly large city you can see how it responded, too. It’s all at Dialect Survey Results.

30 years of Earth’s changing surface

Movie of Las Vegas urban growth, 1986-2012

Google and Time magazine recently teamed up to create time-lapse videos from the images taken by the Landsat program over the last nearly 30 years at Time’s website on their Timelapse page.

The Landsat program, an effort by the U.S. Geological Survey and NASA, captured high resolution pictures of the Earth’s surface starting in 1984.

Beer Launcher

John Cornwell made it onto Letterman by making a refrigerator that will get you a beer. Two links to the Letterman appearance on YouTube (always make a backup, right?):

If you don’t have 2 1/2 minutes to watch the video you can read a little more at

Conwell’s home page,, was last updated just before he went on the show. I guess he either graduated or no longer has time for a website because he’s so busy making Beer Launchers.

Beer Launcher

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When Does Spring Start?

I was expecting the first day of Spring to be today, March 21, but it turns out it was yesterday. That got me wondering, what is the definition of the first day of Spring. This year, according to National Geographic, in the Northern Hemisphere spring officially begins at 7:44 a.m. ET on Friday, March 20, 2009—the vernal equinox, or spring equinox.

So many interesting tidbits!

The word equinox derives from the Latin words aequus (equal) and nox (night); in reality, the day is longer than the night at an equinox. Commonly, the day is defined as the period when sunlight reaches the ground in the absence of local obstacles. From the Earth, the Sun appears as a disc rather than a single point of light, so when the centre of the Sun is below the horizon, its upper edge is visible. … The date at which the time between sunset and sunrise crosses 12 hours, is known as the equilux. Because sunset and sunrise times vary with an observer’s geographic location (longitude and latitude), the equilux likewise depends on location and does not exist for locations sufficiently close to the equator.

But when is it?

Currently, the most common equinox and solstice dates are March 20, June 21, September 22 and December 21; the four-year average will slowly shift to earlier times in coming years. This shift is a full day in about 70 years (compensated mainly by the century “leap year” rules of the Gregorian calendar). This also means that in many years of the twentieth century, the dates of March 21, June 22, September 23 and December 22 were much more common, so older books teach (and older people may still remember) these dates.

And finally:

It is perhaps valuable for people in the Americas and Asia to know that the equinoxes listed as occurring on March 21, which occurred frequently in the 20th century and which will occur occasionally in the 21st century, are presented as such using UTC, which is at least four hours in advance of any clock in the Americas and as much as twelve hours behind Asian clocks. Thus, there will be no spring equinox later than March 20 in the Americas in the coming century.

Read lots more, complete with illustrations, at

When Does Spring Start?

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doPDF free PDF Converter

Free PDF Creator, doPDF

There are a lot of PDF converters out there, but most have nag screens, add information to the conversation, of just plain don’t do a good job. I finally settled on doPDF because it fixes all of that stuff. It just works as expected. The description from their website:

doPDF is a free PDF converter for both personal and commercial use. Using doPDF you can create PDF files by selecting the “Print” command from virtually any application.


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From a geek entertainment standpoint, this has to be the stupidest thing ever.

“Mixing the classic VIC-20 text-adventure games’ style with the enthralling plot of Pac-Man for the ultimate in retro gaming action, we present Pac-txt.”

Play Pac-Txt. You’ll be bored in about 1 minute.


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The “Latin Guitar World Fusion” band Incendio played last weekend in a great free outdoor concert at Gardens of the World. There wasn’t much information available, and the local ads listed the band’s style as “latin fusion”, which didn’t really motivate me to go. But the day of the show I was listening to Al Di Miola, and realized that the his music could be described that way, so let’s give it a try.

The music was a nice blend of a bunch of styles, with no one of them overpowering the others. The sound was great (and even mixed well) and they’re playing was excellent. Give them a try if you get the chance. I’ll be picking up a CD soon.

For more, check out Incendio’s website and MySpace page. Both have music streams.


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China Bans Reincarnation in Tibet

The entire story is quoted below because it’s short and news links tend to go away after a couple of weeks. Google the headline to get source links — lots of them will show up (over 1000 as of this writing).

Published: Aug. 3, 2007 at 7:26 PM

BEIJING, Aug. 3 (UPI) — China’s communist leaders have forbidden reincarnation without government permission in largely Buddhist Tibet.

The reincarnation ban is part of a 14-part regulation issued by the Chinese government in an attempt to limit the influence of the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan religious leader, the Times of London reported Friday.

The People’s Republic of China invaded Tibet in 1950 and has attempted to consolidate its control of it since, designating it an autonomous region.

Since the 12th century, Tibetan Buddhists have believed that reincarnated important religious leaders, known as tulkus, can be identified in young boys.

Because tulkus have a large influence in the Himalayan region, the Chinese government has frequently sought to control the process of identifying the boys.

The new regulations, which go into effect September 1, 2007, will make it illegal to identify the child reincarnation of the Dalai Lama without the approval of Chinese authorities.

China bans reincarnation

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Alchohol Sites

Yeah, I know it’s not spelled right. I was searching for a nice quote to open this up, but spelled it like that. There are quite a few “drug treatment and alchohol abuse” websites. You would think they would bother to spell it right if it’s their business. I’m easily sidetracked; sometimes it’s best to just get it out of the way first. We’ll have to settle for this old quote from Homer Simpson: “I would kill everyone in this room for a drop of sweet beer.”

I received a slightly used Wacky Web Sites calendar for my birthday, and that’s what got me started on the quote search. Here are a couple of quote-related sites from it.

First Drink of the Day is an animated manic-monkey-musical about the hair of the dog. Their main page is rather good.

Once again we learn that websites keep moving. The calendar offers up a page that no longer exists, but at least they left a forwarding address. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has a typically useless government page called Drug Calculator that will actually do multiplication and addition for you! Once you confess your sins to it, it lets you know how much you spent and what you could have bought instead. It let you know that for the $7,200 that you could spend on beer every month (100 drinks per “setting”, 9 times per week) you could instead have had both a wildlife safari in Africa and a trip from NYC to London on the Concord.

Oops, there are no more Concord flights. And there was no place on the form to include champagne brunch.


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Bits of Skits

There are no instructions. Anywhere. Just click on one of the pictures to get a short Monty Python video at the Wall of Python.

The site has more stuff hidden away on their main page, also without instructions, including a few categorized walls of pictures and Photo Soup, where you can stir the soup by adding words.

Bits of Skits

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California Traffic Law Email

Lots of people have received the bogus email about new traffic laws going into effect in California. The biggest concern seems to be the requirement to use a hands-free phone while driving. The law did go into effect July 1, 2007, but won’t be enforced until July 1, 2008.

Urban Legends details some of what’s right and what’s wrong with the email. The fine for not using hands-free, when it goes into effect, is only $20. According to an article in a local paper, “The CHP said it plans to launch an educational campaign as the true deadline approaches.”