Shallow Thoughts : : misc

Akkana's Musings on Open Source Computing and Technology, Science, and Nature.

Sat, 14 Feb 2015

The Sangre de Cristos wish you a Happy Valentine's Day

[Snow hearts on the Sangre de Cristo mountains]

The snow is melting fast in the lovely sunny weather we've been having; but there's still enough snow on the Sangre de Cristos to see the dual snow hearts on the slopes of Thompson Peak above Santa Fe, wishing everyone for miles around a happy Valentine's Day.

Dave and I are celebrating for a different reason: yesterday was our 1-year anniversary of moving to New Mexico. No regrets yet! Even after a tough dirty work session clearing dead sage from the yard.

So Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! Even if you don't put much stock in commercial Hallmark holidays. As I heard someone say yesterday, "Valentine's day is coming up, and you know what that means. That's right: absolutely nothing!"

But never mind what you may think about the holiday -- you just go ahead and have a happy day anyway, y'hear? Look at whatever pretty scenery you have near you; and be sure to enjoy some good chocolate.

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[ 15:01 Feb 14, 2015    More misc | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Sat, 31 Jan 2015

Snow day!

We're having a series of snow days here. On Friday, they closed the lab and all the schools; the ski hill people are rejoicing at getting some real snow at last.

[Snow-fog coming up from the Rio Grande] It's so beautiful out there. Dave and I had been worried about this business of living in snow, being wimpy Californians. But how cool (literally!) is it to wake up, look out your window and see a wintry landscape with snow-fog curling up from the Rio Grande in White Rock Canyon?

The first time we saw it, we wondered how fog can exist when the temperature is below freezing. (Though just barely below -- as I write this the nearest LANL weather station is reporting 30.9°F. But we've seen this in temperatures as low as 12°F.) I tweeted the question, and Mike Alexander found a reference that explains that freezing fog consists of supercooled droplets -- they haven't encountered a surface to freeze upon yet. Another phenomenon, ice fog, consists of floating ice crystals and only occurs below 14°F.

['Glacier' moving down the roof] It's also fun to watch the snow off the roof.

It doesn't just sit there until it gets warm enough to melt and run off as water. Instead, the whole mass of snow moves together, gradually, down the metal roof, like a glacier.

When it gets to the edge, it still doesn't fall; it somehow stays intact, curling over and inward, until the mass is too great and it loses cohesion and a clump falls with a Clunk!

[Mysterious tracks in the snow] When we do go outside, the snow has wonderful collections of tracks to try to identify. This might be a coyote who trotted past our house on the way over to the neighbors.

We see lots of rabbit tracks and a fair amount of raccoon, coyote and deer, but some are hard to identify: a tiny carnivore-type pad that might be a weasel; some straight lines that might be some kind of bird; a tail-dragging swish that could be anything. It's all new to us, and it'll be great fun learning about all these tracks as we live here longer.

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[ 10:17 Jan 31, 2015    More misc | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Thu, 12 Jun 2014

Comcast actually installed a cable! Or say they did.

The doorbell rings at 10:40. It's a Comcast contractor.

They want to dig across the driveway. They say the first installer didn't know anything, he was wrong about not being able to use the box that's already on this side of the road. They say they can run a cable from the other side of the road through an existing conduit to the box by the neighbor's driveway, then dig a trench across the driveway to run the cable to the old location next to the garage.

They don't need to dig across the road since there's an existing conduit; they don't even need to park in the road. So no need for a permit.

We warn them we're planning to have driveway work done, so the driveway is going to be dug up at some point, and they need to put it as deep as possible. We even admit that we've signed a contract with CenturyLink for DSL. No problem, they say, they're being paid by Comcast to run this cable, so they'll go ahead and do it.

We shrug and say fine, go for it. We figure we'll mark the trench across the driveway afterward, and when we finally have the driveway graded, we'll make sure the graders know about the buried cable. They do the job, which takes less than an hour.

If they're right that this setup works, that means, of course, that this could have been done back in February or any time since then. There was no need to wait for a permit, let alone a need to wait for someone to get around to applying for a permit.

So now, almost exactly 4 months after the first installer came out, we may have a working cable installed. No way to know for sure, since we've been happily using DSL for over a month. But perhaps we'll find out some day.

The back story, in case you missed it: Getting cable at the house: a Comcast Odyssey.

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[ 15:48 Jun 12, 2014    More misc | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Wed, 21 May 2014

Comcast contractors showed up! but wouldn't do the actual job

There's a new wrinkle in our ongoing Comcast Odyssey.

I was getting ready to be picked up to carpool to a meeting when the doorbell rang. It was Comcast's contractor!

Dave and I went out and showed them the flags marking the route the cable was supposed to take. They nodded, then asked, in broken English, "Okay to dig under driveway?"

"Whaa-aa?" we said? "The cable goes from there" (indicating the box across the street) "to here" (indicating the line of flags across from the box, same side of the driveway.

They went over and pointed to the box on our side of the street, on the neighbor's property -- the box the Comcast installer had explicitly told us could in no way be used for our cable service. No, we don't know why, we told them, but every Comcast person who's been here has been insistent that we can't use that box, we have to use the one across the street.

We pointed to the painted lines on the street, the ones that have been there for a month or more, the ones that the county people left after inspecting the area and determining it safe to dig. We point out that digging across the street is the reason they had to get a traffic permit. We tell them that the cable under the driveway is why the cable was torn up in the first place, and that we're expecting to have our driveway graded some time soon, so they put a new cable there, it will probably just get torn up again. Not that any of that matters since Comcast says we can't use that box anyway.

They look at us blankly and say "We dig across driveway?"

My ride arrives. I have to leave. Dave tries for another five or ten minutes, but he has to leave too. So he finally gives up, tells them no, don't put the cable across the driveway, go back and confirm with their supervisor about the job they're here to do because that isn't it.

I guess they left. There were no signs of digging when we got back.

Later, I checked the dates. It's been 18 days since they applied for a permit. I'm pretty sure the county told me a permit is only good for 11 days, or was it two weeks? Any, less than 18 days. So they probably didn't have a permit any more to dig across the street anyway ... not that that necessarily has any bearing on whether they'd dig.

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[ 09:20 May 21, 2014    More misc | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Sun, 04 May 2014

Getting internet at the new house: a Comcast Odyssey

We finally have internet at the house!

Not through any success on the Comcast front, mind you. They're still stalling and dithering. We finally did what we should have done the very first time they failed to install, and ordered DSL.

I've been keeping track of the progress on the Comcast debacle, though, with the intention of blogging it. But as I updated it last week, I realized that it was up to nearly 400 lines already -- at least triple my usual maximum for a blog post -- and though we're over ten weeks in, it's still nowhere near over.

So I've decided to post what I have, as a running web page that I can add to as the odyssey continues, and just post a link to it here. It's a tale of woe, lies, misleading information, crossed wires, chopped-up wires, and about every other problem you could imagine.

If you're thinking of signing up with Comcast but you have any other options, it'll definitely convince you to look elsewhere.

Here's the tale so far: Getting internet at the new house: a Comcast Odyssey.

Now excuse me while I go enjoy my DSL some more.

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[ 19:13 May 04, 2014    More misc | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Sun, 06 Apr 2014

Snow-Hail while preparing for Montreal

Things have been hectic in the last few days before I leave for Montreal with last-minute preparation for our PyCon tutorial, Build your own PiDoorbell - Learn Home Automation with Python next Wednesday.

[Snow-hail coming down on the Piñons] But New Mexico came through on my next-to-last full day with some pretty interesting weather. A windstorm in the afternoon gave way to thunder (but almost no lightning -- I saw maybe one indistinct flash) which gave way to a strange fluffy hail that got gradually bigger until it eventually grew to pea-sized snowballs, big enough and snow enough to capture well in photographs as they came down on the junipers and in the garden.

Then after about twenty minutes the storm stopped the sun came out. And now I'm back to tweaking tutorial slides and thinking about packing while watching the sunset light on the Rio Grande gorge.

But tomorrow I leave it behind and fly to Montreal. See you at PyCon!

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[ 18:55 Apr 06, 2014    More misc | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Thu, 27 Feb 2014

New house, no internet

[My new office] I'm writing this from my new home office in our new house, as I listen to the wind howl and watch out the big windows to see lightning over the Sangre de Cristo mountains across the valley.

We're nestled in the piñon-juniper woodlands of northern New Mexico. It's a big jump from living in Silicon Valley.

[The house is nestled in pinon-juniper woodland] Coyotes roam the property, though we don't catch a glimpse that often, and I think I saw a grey fox the first morning we were here. These past few weeks, Sandhill cranes have been migrating far overhead, calling their wild cries; sometimes they catch a thermal (once right over our house) and circle for a while, gaining altitude for their trip north.

And lightning -- summer thunderstorms were something I very much looked forward to (back in San Jose we got a thunderstorm maybe once every couple of years) but I didn't expect to see one so early. (I'm hoping the rain and wind will blow all the pollen off the junipers, so I can stop sneezing some time soon. Who knew juniper was such a potent allergen?)

And the night sky -- for amateur astronomers it looks like heaven. We haven't had a telescope set up yet (we're still unpacking and sorting) but the Milky Way is unbelievable.

[My new office, from the outside] We're in love with the house, too, though it's been neglected and will need a lot of work. It's by architect Bart Prince and it's all about big windows and open spaces. Here's me looking up at the office window from the garden down below.

Of course, not everything is perfect. To start with, in case anyone's been wondering why I haven't been around online much lately, we have no internet to the house until the cable company gets a permit to dig a trench under the street. So we're doing light networking by mi-fi and making trips to the library to use their internet connection, and it may be a few more weeks yet before we have a connection of our own.

I'm sure I'll miss the Bay Area's diversity of restaurants, though at the moment I'm stuffed with lamb, green chile and sopaipillas (a New Mexican specialty you can't really get anywhere else).

And of course I'll miss some of the people and the geeky gatherings, living in a small town that isn't packed with Linux and Python and tech women's user groups like the Bay Area. Still, I'm looking forward to the adventure.

And now, I'm off to the library to post this ...

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[ 19:36 Feb 27, 2014    More misc | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Fri, 07 Feb 2014

Early expirations: A surprise-a-minute with a ACA/CoveredCA health plan

I went to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription a few days ago. The pharmacist said "We don't seem to have any insurance on file for you." I said "That's funny, I just gave you my new insurance card about a week ago, at that window right over there." That would be my shiny new hard-won Blue Shield card with my Obamacare/ACA/CoveredCA plan number.

The pharmacist went into the back room and came back a minute later with a printout. "Looks like that insurance expired on 1/18. Was that a temporary plan number or something?"

"Well, if so, they sure never told us about it, and we've paid through the end of February."

He went to the back room again and got someone to call Blue Shield. And in 10 minutes (whew, I was worried they'd hit the same hour-long queue we individuals have to wait through ... I tried calling them with a billing question last week and had to give up when my phone battery ran out long before I got through the queue) they came back and gave me the prescription for $5.

Does that mean that the problem is solved and the early expiration date was just a mistake? Or did they do some one-time override, and I'll have to argue every time I go in using this card?

As it happens, I'll never know, since I'm about to leave the state. So I get to go through the ACA application process all over again (oh, joy!), this time in a new state using the federal Healthcare.org website, about which I've heard so many wonderful things. It'll be interesting to see how Healthcare.org stacks up now compared to the CoveredCA site back in November.

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[ 20:04 Feb 07, 2014    More misc | permalink to this entry | comments ]