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”

Battle For The Net

Battle for the Net

If you woke up tomorrow, and your internet looked like this, what would you do? Imagine all your favorite websites taking forever to load, while you get annoying notifications from your ISP suggesting you switch to one of their approved “Fast Lane” sites.

Think about what we would lose: all the weird, alternative, interesting, and enlightening stuff that makes the Internet so much cooler than mainstream Cable TV. What if the only news sites you could reliably connect to were the ones that had deals with companies like Comcast and Verizon?

On September 10th, just a few days before the FCC’s comment deadline, public interest organizations are issuing an open, international call for websites and internet users to unite for an “Internet Slowdown” to show the world what the web would be like if Team Cable gets their way and trashes net neutrality. Net neutrality is hard to explain, so our hope is that this action will help SHOW the world what’s really at stake if we lose the open Internet. If you’ve got a website, blog or tumblr, get the code to join the #InternetSlowdown here:

Everyone else, here’s a quick list of things you can do to help spread the word about the slowdown: Get creative! Don’t let us tell you what to do. See you on the net September 10th!

via Battle For The Net.

Simi Cajun and Blues Music Festival 2014

It was nice to have Saturday’s headliner at the Simi Cajun and Blues Festival sound like a headliner. Some years it seems that the players are getting by just on their names and songs they did 25 years ago and it’s the early bands that are the best.

I don’t normally bother with reviews, but at this show I was gifted by the twin gods Timing and Slol (Sh!t load of luck) with a bunch of good photos. It’s a surprise any time I like 10% of my pictures from a concert, mostly due to the lag time between clicking and saving on a digital camera. Since the pics are going up, some explanation is in order. Sorry for all the watermarks, but people photos tend to get stolen and it was easier to modify them all at once instead of just marking the ones I really liked.

Continue reading “Simi Cajun and Blues Music Festival 2014”

Letter from Al Franken

Every now and then I’m briefly and happily surprised that the famous comedian Al Franken, formerly with Saturday Night Live, is writing to me. Then I realize that it’s just Senator Al Franken. And it won’t be funny, at least not on purpose.

I know that it is the same person, you don’t have to inform me of that.

2014 Upcoming Events page updated

The majority of updates on my collection of (mostly) free music in the Conejo Valley area is done. What makes this list different? The events are in chronological order, so the ones at the top are always the next event to occur. Items that have already happened aren’t visible so they don’t clutter the listing.

Upcoming Events for 2014

The list is primarily free musical shows put on by local parks districts and shopping centers, but there also some of major events that charge admission. I don’t cover clubs (unless it’s a band that I really like a lot.)

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.

Local music event list

I finished this year’s local music events list and there are a lot of shows. There are already over 60 events, and The Oaks, Janss Marketplace and the Simi Town Center haven’t announced anything yet. I’ll update the list when they do.


The list is primarily free music events in the Conejo area, but there also a couple of major shows that charge admission. None of the Civic Arts Plaza events are included unless they’re free. I also don’t cover clubs (unless it’s a band that I really like a lot.)

What makes this list different? You’ll see the events ordered by date with the closest ones at the top. Events that have already happened aren’t visible so it’s easy to see what’s happening in the near future.

Posted in categories music

Fact checking websites

PC Magazine’s article Election 2012: Fact-Checking the Candidates
provided a great list of places to check the veracity of what we’re being fed. Most of the article is consolidated here on one page rather than being spread over 6 pages in its original form.

  • Run by the Annenberg Public Policy Center and staffed by journalists and academics, calls itself a “consumer advocate” for voters. Readers can not only check up on the ads, speeches, and other comments of the candidates and their campaigns, but also post a question to Ask FactCheck, become Spin Detectors by sending in campaign materials they believe might contain false claims, find out who’s funding the campaigns in the 2012 Players Guide, and make sure chain emails they receive from friends and relatives aren’t part of the Viral Spiral.
  •, a Pulitzer Prize-winning offshoot of the Tampa Bay Times, susses out the truth in national and state elections and monitors how already-elected officials are living up to campaign promises, with an Obameter and GOP Pledge-O-Meter built into the site. PolitiFact’s most famous meter is the Truth-O-Meter, which has settings that go from “Truth” to “Pants on Fire.” Lest flip-floppers think they can walk away, candidates are tracked for when they “Half Flip” and “Full Flop” on earlier sentiments and positions. The Truth-O-Meter is available to-go as an app.
  • Super PACs (political action committees) number in the hundreds and go by generic or just flat-out odd names, making it hard to distinguish them, not to mention determine where they stand. The Super PAC App works like Shazam for super PACs; download the TuneSat-powered audio-recognition iOS app, open it during an ad, and get the name of the super PAC, how much funding it has, how much it’s spent, and the facts behind the ad. Super PAC App got its start in the MIT Media Lab and is now housed under Glassy Media, a company founded by former management consultant Dan Siegel and journalist Jennifer Hollett.
  • Nobody owns the truth, especially when everybody owns it. TruthMarket aims to crowdsource what’s factual and what’s fictional. The site’s users put their money where others’ mouths are; when a user hears a questionable statement, he or she can start a campaign and stake money on disproving it. The TruthMarket’s “jury of neutral, professional, scientifically trained adjudicators” then weighs in and the bounty gets divvied up depending on where the truth lies.
  • The Washington Post has a somewhat whimsical take on political truth-telling. Its blog, The Fact Checker, run by in-house fact-checker Glenn Kessler, doles out a check mark for factual accuracy or up to four Pinocchios for fallacy from candidates and Congress. Readers can submit statements for scrutiny by email, a form, or via Twitter using #FactCheckThis.

Leon Russell on SNL

I got curious about Leon Russell’s appearance with Elton John on the 4/2/11 episode of Saturday Night Live. Something seemed wrong. You could barely hear Leon, and it didn’t look like he was fully there. And why was he on SNL with Elton in the first place?

It turns out that there is a reason for both his appearance and his appearance. Leon has been sick, and Elton had earlier decided to bring him back from his recent obscurity by doing a joint album and tour. Well, sick is a bit of an understatement: he had brain surgery last year.

For a refresher, I decided to look back at some of Leon’s history. I knew he did a lot of session work, but no idea how much. There’s more than enough to inspire awe on the Wikipedia article about him. There is also this info from for a little of the variety of what he did:

As a member of Spector’s renowned studio group, Russell played on many of the finest pop singles of the 1960s, also arranging classics like Ike & Tina Turner‘s monumental “River Deep, Mountain High”; other hits bearing his input include the Byrds’ “Mr. Tambourine Man,” Gary Lewis & the Playboys’ “This Diamond Ring,” and Herb Alpert’s “A Taste of Honey.”

And finally, don’t forget about Russell’s “This Masquerade”, which earned a Grammy Award for singer George Benson.

Goodbye Blogger…

…and hello WordPress.

Blogger is about to quit supporting ftp and wants to have all blog sites hosted at Blogger. That doesn’t work for me. So I started working on the conversion to WordPress about one month ago. None of the processes or tips I found online worked for me — it seems that my setup was different from what everybody has.

I had to write a conversion program to get the posts to look like they should because WP wanted to insert all sorts of extra line feeds. Then I found out just how complicated WP is. I sure learned a lot, and finally today took the plunge and redirected the old blog links to these new ones.

Now it’s done unless I find some other gotchas that I haven’t noticed. And all of this in spite of the news that blogging is dead.

83 Optical Illusions

83 Optical Illusions & Visual Phenomena can be a somewhat technical website. It explains why your eye does the things it does following many of the images. A lot of its illusions are interactive, allowing you to remove the part that makes it an illusion and see that, for example, the lines really are straight. In some of the more difficult to see images, it talks you through how to see it and tells you what to look for.

83 Optical Illusions Technorati tags: , IceRocket tags: , tags: ,

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

Technorati tags: , ,

IceRocket tags: , , tags: , ,

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?

Technorati tags: , ,

IceRocket tags: , , tags: , ,

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.


Technorati tags: ,

IceRocket tags: , tags: ,