Larry Hosken: New

Book Report: Stolen Skies

It's another novel by Tim Powers, who writes speculative fiction with the plotline What if this weird real-life event because that silly legend is true? They're good books. But when reading this book, I found myself thinking Yes, it's a thrilling adventure tale but pulling in flat earth theory to explain the crop circles was probably an overreach.

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2022-05-24T20:50:02.656699

Eric Harshbarger made another desk out of Lego. There are pictures and progress videos. One of the videos also has a cat.

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2022-05-16T19:02:13.754829

Wow, that's the fifth email from the San Francisco Department of Elections asking me if I'll volunteer at the polls June 7th. Usually they email me just once per election. When someone from the department called me to ask about my June 7th availability (called on the phone, also unusual), I said I was willing to work just one election this year and asked which would be more helpful: June or November. The guy said November. So… are they anticipating being even more despera eager for November poll workers?

Anyhow, if you're in San Francisco and want to volunteer at the June 7th election, some nice folks would love to hear from you soon.

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2022-05-15T17:58:38.032352

I got my second COVID-19 vaccine booster today.

shoulder with a band-aid with an upside-down Walgreens logo. If you're designing a logo that might be used on a band-aid, design an ambigram

I didn't get this second booster as soon as it was available; I waited a bit. UCSF medical smartie Bob Wachter advised older folks to get their second booster ASAP, but advised semi-older folks to wait until we thought we were heading into a surge. This advice seemed strange: if we expect a booster's "oomph" to last about four months, shouldn't I get my second booster four months after the previous one?

Attempting to telepathically interpret Wachter's reading of CDC tea leaves: I guess that he guesses that the CDC will keep periodically issuing boosters to seniors; but might be slow to boost not-yet-seniors like me. As I write this, I only qualify for my second booster because I'm >50 years old. My forty-something youngster friends mostly don't qualify… and lately the new-case rate has made one think Oh gee whiz a booster would be a good idea right about now.

tl;dr I tried to time the start of a surge, something I'm definitely not medically qualified to do, and so today I got my second booster. Here's a selfie.

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2022-05-11T19:00:25.321718

Book Report: Unix (a History and Memoir)

Brian Kernighan wrote some remembrances of his time working on Unix-y things at Bell Labs. Some of it was new to me; some I'd already read elsewhere. (When I think about the timing, I suspect that the reason I'd read about some of this stuff elsewhere is that Kernighan was asking other Unix-folks for their stories as research for this book. And they wrote down their memories to pass along but also posted them publicly? Maybe?)

Much of the new- and interesting-to-me info was context. E.g., I already knew that Unix's "everything is a file" approach was important. It's darned handy if you can use file-reading tools to read data from a something peripheral device by reading a fake file in the /dev/something1 file. But the book points out that "a file is a file" was already kind of a bold move at the time. Systems back then would treat different files differently; the OS "knew" that Prolog program source files were special and kept them in their own area. But that meant you couldn't use some general-purpose programs on all files; you had to handle those Prolog files differently; and other "special" files differently. After a while, those system-provided shortcuts for Prolog didn't seem like shortcuts; they seemed like not-worth-it complexity.

Kernighan mostly worked on document-preparation tools; there are ~15 pages of memoirs about that. That section was kinda in one ear and out the other for me. I never used those tools, so there wasn't a section of my brain ready to grab onto new-to-me facts. But if you were into nroff and such, I bet that material would be especially interesting.

If you're into Unix or C or grep or compiler-compilers or other Unix-y things, this is a fun, quick read.

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2022-05-06T14:33:34.709087

The handy service that automatically tweets my blog posts failed to authenticate to Twitter last night. So I took some time this morning to blearily poke at settings. Maybe it works now? I guess to find out, I should blog something. Please endure this gratuitous debugging selfie.
picture of a sleepy nerd wondering where it all went wrong

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2022-05-02T13:08:56.922765

If your memory is very good, you might remember there was a TV crew getting footage at the 2020 MIT Mystery Hunt. Specifically, I dodged around that crew as I carried pancakes at the Pancake Pictionary Character Breakfast event.* Now a TV Show, CBS Sunday Morning, has aired a feature using that footage. Thus you can now see some video of the pancake event. Also, they show folks milling around spots on the Rumpelstiltskin's Cottage mini-runaround puzzle that I wrote: staring at a giant periodic table, rubbing George Eastman's nose, etc. Yeah, that's right: I made an especially telegenic Mystery Hunt puzzle (albeit by piggybacking on scenic MIT spots).

Anyhow, you can take a look. It starts out with stuff from the 2020 MIT Mystery Hunt and then gets into other puzzly interests of author A.J. Jacobs.

still frame from video. some nerds stand before a large periodic table of elements. Closed caption reads: over 50 teams so it's like iron man triathlon for the brain. silly, you say? all right, so a.j.

*The TV crew was there to follow an author around. When I wrote about it, I got the author wrong, relaying a false rumor, d'oh. The correct author was A.J. Jacobs.

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2022-05-02T02:24:14.746728

Maybe the real horror was that Alien was inspired by terran lifeforms.

photo of seed pod by A.E. Graves, lookin' like a facehugger just left

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2022-04-30T13:09:57.182585

Your search "ano trespassing sign" retrieved about 365 results (0.33 seconds)

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2022-04-20T13:32:56.382382

It's election day in San Francisco again, the second of four this year.* I wore my "I Voted" sticker today. I didn't see anyone else with a sticker. Now that California's a 100% vote-by-mail state, maybe the stickers are kind of silly; although today is election day, I sent in my ballot weeks ago.

an I Voted sticker affixed to a shirt

*Maybe half the city only has three? Today's election was a run-off for a state assembly district that covers roughly half of San Francisco; I don't know that the other half has an election today.

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2022-04-19T19:13:10.759553

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