Day 95: Chutes and Ladders

(Author’s note: Something’s happening soon which might make me vanish for a few days, so I’m going to quickly get the past couple days posted.)

Most of today was spent writing telescope software for Secret Plan 174.

Geek details: I moved the code over to Linux, since that’s what the actual telescope computer will be running. I’m using Xubuntu (chosen via bake-off for simplicity and fast boot time), but found a flaw in it (light-blue screen of pain and immobility). It took a few hours to figure out a workaround (deleting all of my .* files). If you know the real solution to this one, I’m interested.

The cats are excited and thrilled by all of this.


I haven’t got the actual telescope computer yet, so I’m using VirtualBox (thanks to brilliant muse!) which is making things very easy.

Since Mom, Dad and Chuck are back from Alaska, I’ve sent the telescope code down to them. Dad, never having seen the code before, got it compiling and running the same day. My folks are crazy-smart that way.

It’s overcast today, but pretty warm. Perfect to blow off Linux and dot-files and telescopes and go read some sci-fi in a café.

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Stairway shortcuts are all over the city, just like a game of Chutes & Ladders. They’re super-handy when you need to vanish.

The muse is going to be home late tonight (I can hear what sounds like a cutting torch in the background, so she’s almost done with the job). So I head to Fattoush.

She and I are regulars here. Abed, the owner, greets me with a glass of wine and some great stories. He runs a fantastic operation, and it’s an easy walk from our place. Even better, he’s building a brand new wine bar in the back. It’s almost done.

If you want a hot tasty meal, I recommend the Barhoumi, Tabsi, and Mansaf.

Walking home, I realize the sky has completely cleared except for a cool-looking strip of cloud over downtown. I love this place.


Random assertion: In nine hundred years, when everyone has forgotten what computers are, religious wars will be fought over differences which can be traced to Mac, PC and Linux.

Steganographic data: 1798/4.4

Days remaining in Secret Plan 158: 14

Published in: on August 23, 2008 at 10:11 am  Comments (3)  
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Day 66 and 67: Focus and the Predator


I’m spending a couple of days making some serious progress on Secret Plan 174 (the 100-year-old telescope), and also finishing the wiring diagrams for SP161.

When you want to get some work done in the city, there are plenty of good places downtown. If you haven’t got time to walk, the Market Street Railway has a whole fleet of restored streetcars from various cities. As 10-minute commutes go, they’re pretty cool.


One of my favorite desks is the window table on the third floor of the Virgin building. It’s usually not crowded, the staff is friendly, the grilled sandwiches are good.


…and when you’re not in the mood for a quiet place, you can park in several different spots abound Yerba Buena Gardens, just a few blocks away.

Don’t come here to get work done on Friday night.

With some time to Focus, progress on the telescope is good. It’s being written to run for a very long time, on just about any operating system. Here’s an early version of the control screen (the red-on-black is so that astronomers can read it without messing up their night vision):

One of these numbers is wrong.

Yep, the calculation for sidereal time isn’t correct yet. I have to come clean about that, because there are math and science experts reading this. (You know who you are.) If that number is even slightly wrong, the telescope won’t work. My current cheeseball placeholder equation is “SIDEREAL = UT – 11.3”.

At night, my muse and I get a very tasty dinner from Tao Cafe. The price of dinner includes a promise that I’ll bring the owner some plums from our tree.

The 2-year-old cat isn’t just playing with her stuffed fish. She’s kicking the stuffing out of it like a crazed puppy. We’ll need a new fish for sure.

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The 18-year-old cat is keeping safely out of the way, but his plan falls apart when she comes leaping down the hall and knocks the bag over. Sigh.

Random assertion: The predators who enjoyed hunting are the ones who survived.

Steganographic data: 1848/6.8

Published in: on July 25, 2008 at 8:33 am  Comments (5)  
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Day 56: High Wires and a Good Trade

Dad and Chuck may be getting themselves involved in a really interesting computer project for the Mt. Wilson Observatory. They’ve asked me to help out as well, so look for pictures of a really big telescope soon.


The cats look like they suddenly fell asleep after a high-speed collision.

The wires above Muni trains are dangerous and carry extremely high voltages, which is why they’re high off the ground. Going anywhere near them is strictly forbidden, for very good reasons. If you did, though, it would look something like this:

First stop today is Tartine Bakery. Everyone who lives nearby knows where it is, if only from the line out the door.

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A lot of cute women running an excellent bakery and coffee shop. What’s not to like?

I need some information about operating systems for Dad and Chuck’s telescope project. Luckily, I’m having lunch with Ben today at Zazie. If anyone has (or can get) the information I need, it’s him.

…but good information always comes at a price. Luckily, I still have a chocolate chip cookie from yesterday’s shenanigans, so I trade it for what I need.


…and yep, his answers are just what I was looking for.

Later on, I’m meeting my muse high up in a cool old building downtown. We’ve got evening plans with Christine and Shannon involving something we’ll probably need earplugs for.
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Random assertion: Cookies can be traded for almost anything.

Steganographic data: 1866/4.2

Published in: on July 13, 2008 at 3:29 pm  Comments (1)  
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Day 35: Plums and the Salt House

My muse is working from home today, so I spend the day around the house as well, mostly working on the irrigation robots in the yard.

Remember I mentioned Plum Day was coming? Check this out.

They almost look like bunches of grapes, but they’re massive clusters of ripening plums.

When the day comes, we might invite a bunch of the nieces and nephews over and let them help (read: run amok).

It’s hot today (92 in the city), so the cats are training for the day when synchronized napping becomes an olympic event.

Late at night it’s still 82 degrees, so we head to Salt House. Not for dinner (though their food is awesome), just drinks and little cold dessert, and so my muse can flirt with Rory, the bartender. He takes good care of us.

Random assertion: The three all-time greatest inventions of mankind might be fire, penicillin, and minimalist summertime fashions. Hooray for all three.

Steganographic data: 1868/1.4

Published in: on June 21, 2008 at 11:19 am  Comments (1)  
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Day 15: Time for Projects

Speaking of sci-fi (weren’t we?), if you like intelligent analyses of good films, take a look at Haden’s blog. I’d swear he and I grew up in the same house.

So there’s a hopping-night-spot-which-also-serves-breakfast place nearby, Cafe Flore. My muse and I have never had breakfast there, so that’s where we go.

This bar also serves coffee.

This place gets crazy-busy at night, but for breakfast it’s mellow and tasty.

After food and a walk, we spend most of the day at home, working on projects. She’s building something, and I’m not allowed to say what it is, but it’s cool.

I’m working on Secret Plans 18 and 159. SP18 is a geek-book for programmers, and SP159 (which I’m hoping will make a worthwhile contribution to BQIC) deals with using a bunch of crazy-huge computers to simulate a type of quantum computer which doesn’t exist yet.

I don’t have any crazy-huge computers at home (just this small slow one which I love using), but that doesn’t matter. If you know where to find them, the folks who run them are usually nice people who like logic puzzles.

It’s a quiet and productive day, except that these two slackers hardly got anything done at all.

She’s 2 years old, and he’s 18.

In the evening, we walk down to the Castro Theatre to see Indiana Jones. Remember I mentioned there’s an organist? His rendition of the Indy theme was excellent.

Random assertion: Cats can’t type, though they try.

Steganographic data: 1888/2.9