Friday, August 04, 2006

Plat du jour


Your tax dollars at work--doing something useful

When I was on vacation in Barcelona, Spain last spring I lost my wallet to pickpockets. So when a fat envelope from the US Department of State Consular Section showed up in the mail today (well, yesterday) I didn't have to have to open it to know what was inside--the non-cash contents of my wallet. There was a form letter from the Barcelona consulate that said they had received my property from the local police, and would forward any more of my property if they acquired any.

Mostly it was cards that I have long-since replaced--ATM, credit, memberships, and my driver's license. But there was also a picture of my wife in her wedding dress, that I was very glad to get back.

I'm guessing the pickpockets just quickly took the cash (not that there was very much) and threw the wallet away, and someone turned it in to the Barcelona police. When nobody claimed it they sent it to the consulate, which sent the contents to Washington (ironically, the Consular Section is on Barcelona Street there), which forwarded it on to me.

Which is all a little amazing.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Still about 10:1

Associated Press:
At least 524 people have been killed in Lebanon since the fighting began, according to the Health Ministry. Fifty-one Israelis have died, including 33 soldiers and 18 civilians who died in rocket attacks.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Talking back at the headlines

From the Associated Press "Top News:"

Ailing Castro Gives Power to Brother
Keeping Cuba in the family.

Israel Approves Wider Ground Offensive

Bush Looks to U.N. for Mideast Solution
Since he can't figure one out.

Soldiers From 2 Koreas Exchange Fire
Did either side hit anything? Nah.

Gitmo Guards Often Attacked by Detainees
Gee, I wonder why.

Paper: Landis Had Synthetic Testosterone
Doesn't look good for Floyd.

UK, Calif. to Strike Global Warming Deal
Is this constitutional?

Deputy Hopes Gibson Thinks About DUI
The DUI is the least of his problems right now.

The project, redux

Late last February I started a new project: cleaning up my office. My main strategies were to minimize my weekday social and entertainment events, and to turn off this computer from 9:00am to 9:00pm. I did make some progress, but it came to a complete halt when I started packing for my trip to Spain in late April. I did not go back to the project when I returned. I had to unpack, and there was a lot of mail that came in while I was away, both snail and e-. Then came June, and a ton of Pride events. July was Wimbledon and Le Tour de France. And this last week I couldn't turn off the computer because it was getting backed-up. The result is, as you can see, that my office is almost as messy as it was before I started.

Now that I've run out of excuses, I will be resuming the project. Tomorrow morning the computer gets turned off at 9:00am. Obviously I will be blogging less. While I hope to post something every day, I'm not going to go crazy if I can't.

Living with bears XV

Massachusetts: Bear mingles with shoppers
Canada: Bear lumbers into B.C. day care

Backup to go forward

Like most computer users, I haven't been very good at backing-up my hard drive. Actually, I've been just plain lousy--I think the last time I did it was several months ago. And if my office burns up it wouldn't matter, because the backup disks are here in the same room anyway.

So when I read an AP article (later published here) about online, automatic, fairly cheap backup services it sounded just right for me. The Carbonite service seemed the best, and I decided to give it a try--especially since they give a free, 15-day trial, without even asking for a credit card number. If I decided to continue it would be $50 for a year (they haven't implemented their $5/month subscription yet, but I don't think I would have chosen that even if it were available).

I downloaded their software, and chose a "full" backup--not just documents and such. "Full" doesn't include the operating system, which isn't really necessary. The Carbonite program scanned my hard drive, and found nearly 5 gigabytes to back-up. This would require about three days to backup, according to their estimate formula--three 24-hour days. This is the biggest drawback of online, internet-based backup--even using a broadband connection, upload speeds are pretty slow, and the initial backup can take a very long time (other, more expensive services give you the option of mailing it to them on disks).

It actually took closer to four days. (UPDATE: I got an e-mail from Carbonite, apologizing for the slow upload times. They said the response from the article has been huge. They are adding bandwidth, and things should be back to normal by Thursday.) I tested it out restoring a file--it was easy. Meanwhile, Carbonite was running in the background, periodically scanning for new or modified files to backup, and then automatically uploading them. I decided to go for the one year subscription--and got an extra 2 months bonus.

There is no particular limit to the amount of data they will store for you, and you can even backup more than one computer--it's backing-up my wife's computer right now, at no additional fee. UPDATE: I was misled by their poorly worded FAQ. You can only backup one computer per fee. I'll have to pay another $50/year for my wife's computer--it's still a good deal.

It's all one less thing to worry about. And even if I never have to restore anything, sooner or I'll be replacing my computer. With Carbonite I can download all my files to the new one--I shouldn't have to use PC Replicator or anything like it.

Plat du jour


Sunday, July 30, 2006

Bears--just watching them

I've been posting a bunch of links to news stories called "Living with bears," which show how widespread occurences of bears coming into residential, even commercial, areas are. I haven't posted links to the many articles about people encountering bears while camping, hiking or even once while competing in a triathlon--I figure it's not surprising to run into a bear when you're in their territory.

But if you are interested in viewing bears in the wild, without leaving the comforts of home (let alone risking life and limb) there is a way. On the National Geographic website you can see a bearcam (they call it a "wildcam"), a solar-powered hidden camera focused an a bear gathering-place at McNeil River Falls in Alaska. This is live--these bears are there right now, looking for salmon to eat. Sometimes there is an camera operator working the thing (remotely), zooming in on the action.

At the moment the fishing doesn't seem to be very good. None of the bears have caught anything in the ten minutes or so I've been watching. But it's still morning there.

The man who wouldn't die

Back in March I posted an article, Art Buchwald is dying. It told of his diabetes and leg amputation, kidney failure and his refusal of dialysis. He went into a hospice to die.

Except he didn't. Somehow his kidneys worked enough to keep him going. He held court in his hospice room, entertaining visitors, waiting for the end that didn't come. He resumed his column in the Washington Post.

Earlier this month Buchwald left the hospice for his beloved summer home on Martha's Vineyard. He's still holding court, still planning his funeral. But he stopped writing the column, so he can work on a book about his stay in the hospice, Too Soon to Say Goodbye. It's due in September, and it sounds like he might just be able to finish it. I really hope he does.