Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Happy Popcorns Days

Popcorn, done the Nebraska way!

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The Myth of the Lazy American

With obesity numbers on the rise in the U.S. I've been hearing more snide comments from international posters in the Usenet groups I frequent decrying the 'lazy American'. I have a gut feeling that obesity in American is due to Americans working too much.

How can this be? This seems like a contradiction.

The average American takes 13 days of vacation every year. This is time to recreate, have fun and excersise. For comparison the average French worker takes 37 days off a year. Even the notoriously industrious Japanese worker takes off 25 days a year. In that year the American worker produces almost $45,000 per citizen (man, woman or child). The French worker only produces about $28,000 per citizen. (Not that I'm picking on the French, but their numbers were easy to find.) Americans are certainly working, but is it work that will make them healthy7

The modern American has very little truly physically demanding job opportunities to choose from that will earn them the money needed to have the quality of life most Americans desire. There is certainly a monetary incentive to become 'white collar'. This leaves a large percentage of the population sitting in front of computer screens doing various tasks. After typing away for 8 hours, stopping only long enough to gulp down a 600 Calorie Big Mac, 450 Calories of Fries and 1 Calorie of diet cola, the common worker retires to their domicile to indulge in a form of entertainment that requires little more than an occational thumb press. Then its off to bed for 6 hours of restless sleep so they can get up early enough to make their long morning commute.

Its no wonder that Americans are fat and crabby.

Things that would improve the American health spectrum:
a) More vacation to encourage physical activity.
b) Longer lunch breaks to encorage healthier choice at lunch time.
c) Compensating a worker for excersising on the job, maybe with pay incentives or extended health coverage. Places to excercise should be readily available.
d) Health insurace coverage of gym memberships. (Ok I'm reaching now.)
e) Penalties for unhealhty lifestyle choices (including smoking and drinking).

I can't believe that it would cost more to implement the above and have a healthier populace than to deal with the cost of the health problems that arise from obseity.

Its true that Americans are getting fat. Its not because we're lazy, its because we are almost encouraged to work too hard and pay too little attention to our physical well being.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Old Journals and Letters

I was looking through some of my stuff the other day to see if it needed thown out or sold at our garage sale. I came across a journal I kept during my first year of graduate school. Along with a bunch of pointless ramblings it contains a bunch of letters I had received over the years from various people. I read through most of the letters and then read through the journal. I came upon this old gem from Oct 16, 1993, 12:50 am (although it was at the end of a long entry, so it was probably written closer to 3:00 am):
It was a night like this many years ago when the dark lord came to sit before me. He looked at me from behind ancient spectacles, their bright silver frames reflected the red light which emanated from his eyes. He was a small man, his hair dark black with flecks of grey. He smelled of tar and coal.

Shuffling slightly he looked me over, “Young man, what would you want in trade for your soul?”, he rasped. His voice sounded like a pile of dry leaves rustling in a cold autumn wind.

“Give me fame and glory. Give me power over others. Let me be beautiful in the eyes of the young. Let all men fear me. Let everyone tremble at my name. Let me have a dominion with many servants and slaves. Give me this and I will forfeit my soul.” He stared at me long and hard, then slowly he smiled. “That's exactly what I wished for as well.”


Wednesday, August 24, 2005

School On!

I'll post a new entry tonight. I'm a little overwhelmed with the new semester right now.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Go Big Red!

Our compute nodes arrived last week (while I was on vacation)).
Machines Owner Claimed Unclaimed Matched Preempting

X86_64/LINUX 260 4 0 256 0 0

Total 260 4 0 256 0 0

1.9T 263G 1.6T 15% /home
256 computer CPU cores, doing nothing right now.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Spare Parts (part deux)

I took off work yesterday and today to collect my thoughts and sit on my ample posterior. I spent yesterday afternoon with a kitchen designer. Hopefully we'll get a new kitchen soon. I spent today working on my cluster since all my parts are now in. In short no joy.

I tried to power up the first motherboard. Nothing. Nothing. (Switch wires around.) Nothing. (Cuss loudly.) Nothing. Exam the capacitors on the motherboard, curse even louder. The capacitors on the motherboard have all gone bad (yeah it happens, motherboards of a certain run shipped with bad caps). They've weeped dielectric like an old battery weeps acid. CRAP. I wish I'd noticed that before I started this project.

Ok, next board. Install the next board into its case. Hit the power button. Fans come on, then go off. Frell. Hit the power button, fans come on, fans go off. No beeps, no boops, no joy. "Hmmm, maybe this power supply is bad." Switch out power supplies, since its easier than removing the board. "Hmm, this power supply has a rattle to it. What could that be. No worries." Switch out power supply. No joy. Wow. This power supply is really bad.

Back in with the other supply, at least it makes the fans move. Hit the power button...BANG!!! SMOKE! WHOA!! SHIT! The rattle? A diode fell out of the power supply. Utter garbage. A quick call to Tigerdirect and these crappy power supplies and cases are on their way back to Illinois. You get what you pay for.

So now what? I'm down to one board that may or may not have been fried when ol' smokey went off and now I'm out of time before the school year starts.

I hate it when a plan doesn't come together.

Friday, August 05, 2005

What was I thinking?

So my wife asked me what I wanted for my birthday (beside plastic models). Well, my brother-in-law is an accomplished guitar player and I thought "hey, that'd be cool".

I don't know if it was John Denver, Dave Matthews, Tim Reynolds or Vertical Horizon but in the midst of all my music listening I decided I could play the guitar so that's what I asked for. After much delay (my wife asked my brother-in-law to pick out a good model) my guitar came in two weeks ago. A real sweet guitar, a Washburn D30S Dreadnaught. (Which makes it sound like a spaceship to me, which is cool too. "Han, you can't outrun that! Its a Washburn D30S Dreadnaught!" "Well, they're in for a surprise, Punch it Chewie!")

Well, trying to learn to play is frustrating as hell. Just once I'd like to try something that's "as easy as it looks".

(Any advice from Mr. York? I recall he was a hell of a guitar player in college.)

Spare Parts

I was looking around my oh so messy office at home and I noticed that I had a couple of AMD Athlon XP processors, motherboards and memory left over from various upgrades over the years. Digging deeper I found a 17 Gig harddrive I got at Nebraska Bookstore for $15 during a close out and a DVD Rom that I had pulled from my computer at home when I got my DVD Dual Layer burner. What to do...what to do?

I've decided that I need (ed: 'need' is such an interesting word to use here) to build a small cluster out of these processors and my workstation at my work office. (I'm not going to rewire my house just for the cycles of a couple of aging Athlon XPs.)

There were still some parts missing that I needed. Not to fear, Tigerdirect and are here! I ordered some more memory from Tigerdirect (which I ended up ordering incorrectly and had to send back...correct memory on the way, 2x256 Megs at $22 each) and some network adapters from Overstock. Overstock had Intel GigE cards with Boot Agent for under $30 each, which I thought was a good deal. You can never have too many GigE cards. An 8 port switch (I could only justify a 100 Mbit switch, $19 -- I recall a time when these were $100+) and two of the crappiest cases (with power supplies) you've ever laid eyes on ($29 each from Tigerdirect) and I'm almost ready to go.

I had orginally planned to build some FrankenCase out of plexiglass and bailing twine, but who has time for that? Besides I couldn't find powersupplies cheaper than what I paid for these craptacular cases. The extra screws will be helpful if nothing else.

So far I've installed the first motherboard into its case. The second will have to wait. Its amazing what little things you need to get this stuff going. I need a dang IDE cable. Scrounging time since I refuse to pay $4 for a cable that I should be able to find in any geeks junk drawer.

A quick raid on my former office netted me two IDE cables and a 4 Gig Harddrive. The machine they came out of hasn't been used in over a year. :)

I'll keep everyone updated on my progress and a final budget. I'll also invite suggestions as to what I should do with my new found CPU cycles. I was hoping to do some DVD encoding since that takes forever, but I'm open to intelligent suggestions.


Thursday, August 04, 2005

Actor's Nightmares

As the summer winds down and the semester starts to creep up I've be plague by actor's nightmares and night terrors. I think a part of me doesn't want to go back to lecturing.