Sunday, January 23, 2022

I think time reset today?

 The strangest thing happened today. I was doing my laundry and I remember looking at the clock, it was 2:38 PM, thinking, the dryer should be done at 3:20 PM. I continued to read my book, Round House by Louise Erdrich if you must know, and a few minutes later I felt a bit dizzy. I took a breath and closed my eyes for a moment, just resting, it was nothing bad, just a bit of light headedness. I then opened my eyes and started reading again, I then got a sense of deja vu, like I had read this chapter before. I looked at the clock, and it was 2:15 PM.

Don't get me wrong, I do not believe I actually traveled back in time. I am pretty sure I just misremembered the time when I looked at it the first time and we have feelings of deja vu all the time, it is not really that big of a deal. However for a few minutes, it did throw me off, the experience made me doubt reality, or at least my perception of reality for just just a few minutes. It was just weird, that's all.

Friday, December 31, 2021

My last word of 2021

 Unquote

The Ends Times are here!

The death of Betty White could possibly be heralding the end of the world, because if 2021 got Betty White, then what hope do the rest of us stand!

Happy New Year! I guess

 Well this is it, the closing day of 2021. Really it has not been a terrible year. Sure we are still in the middle of COVID, but lets be honest, we were always going to be dealing with this for 3-5 years, we just did not want to admit it to ourselves. But really, 2021 did not turn out too bad, we got vaccines, so we could start going out again, businesses opened up and we got a little normal back. Things got reorganized at work and I have found myself doing more interesting work with actual challenges instead of just bullshit busy work. I spent more time with Shannon, we actually got out of town a couple of times to have some fun. My visit to Billings was far less stressful than it was in 2020. Over all, 2021 was a good year and I am fairly optimistic about 2022.

Happy New year everyone!

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Crypto Currency

 Over the last couple of days I have entered into Crypto mining. No I have not bought a $12,000 Bitcoin miner, I am not that crazy. No, I joined a Monero mining pool, which allows me to put low powered machines to work mining the Monero crypto coin and still some small amount based on how much work these otherwise idle machines do, everyone who contributes CPU cycles gets a cut. I put 2 Raspberry Pi 4's to work along with 2 Optiplex 3050 mini's to work on this project. The 2 Pi's are averaging about 90 hash's per second, the two Optiplex's are averaging around 600 hash's per second. Over the last couple of days as I put my mini farm to work I have acquired 0.0003 Monero or about $0.05. Yeah, I know, its not much, but hey, if I eventually get 1 complete Monero, at its current price of $190, That will pay for every penny of what I have sunk into this equipment over the last 2 or 3 years, then of course I can start paying off the power this sucks down.

I am not a big believer in the whole crypto currency thing. Frankly to me it is like gold in World of Warcraft or maybe even Monopoly Money. It have no real value except what people attribute to it and eventually all those big mining operations and hedge fund managers who are hoarding all this crap are going to cash out and it is all going to come crashing down. There is no way I would ever spend $190 of actual cash on buying a Monero or god forbid $47,000 for a Bitcoin.

So why then am I putting effort into mining it? Well for one thing it is an interesting technical challenge setting up the hardware, compiling the code, getting everything working. Second, though eventually this is all going to come crashing down, until then there are some uses for crypto currency, especially Monero, which has some extra security features on it that make tracking it much more difficult. While I have no intention of doing anything illegal, you just never know when you will need a stash of untraceable money at your disposal.

Anyone interested in getting started should watch this video, it is a great starting place.



Monday, November 22, 2021

November, November, Sweet November!

 Well it has certainly been a good long while since I lasted posted. I have been spending my time reading and doing a bit of writing elsewhere. It is National Novel Writing Month, while I decided not to write a 50,000 word novel, I did decide to get a couple of short stories I have been thinking about out of my skull. Those are now done, one story came in at about 5,000 words, while the other 10,000 words. Both along with light revisions, took about 2 weeks in total to write, with most of the work, individually took 2-3 days. I doubt I will revisit either, but I may sit down at some point and do a rewrite on them. I probably need to tighten the stories up and add some details. Both at this point are only slightly better than stream of conciseness writings.

My birthday is this week, I am going to be 58. Aging does not seem weird to me anymore as I slip from middle age into old age. I know I am a few years off from actual old age, but as time goes by, the years seem to go by faster, so 65 is really not all that far off. When I was transitioning to middle age, I was very uncomfortable about it. The problem with middle age is, it is the time in your life when you realize you have not done everything you really wanted to and you start to regret it. Old age is the time when you realize, you will probably never get a chance to do those things, but you accept it.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Review: Mythology, by Edith Hamilton

MythologyMythology by Edith Hamilton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this book as a Junior in High School as part of an English literature class. It was one of the books that fired up my imagination and influenced me when playing Dungeons and Dragons. Recently, I finished the first 5 books of the Percy Jackson series, this brought back a lot of memories of reading this book and being enthralled by the gods and heroes of Greek mythology, so I decided it was time to reread it.

I gave this book 5 stars because of the nostalgia factor, I just have too many good memories of this book to be unbiased about it. I love these stories, the ancient Greeks had imaginations like no other, their religion had colorful characters doing outlandish things. Every hero was the greatest hero of his time, every woman was so beautiful some god or another fell in love with her and wars were fought as much by gods as they were by men. Reading this book, it becomes clear how the ancient Greeks defined the "Heroes Journey" trope and how influential they are even in the modern age, these stories are told over and over again, being given new spins and alternate points of view.

Having said all that, I have to say Edith Hamilton did take a rather dry, analytical approach to retelling these stories. I am sure much of this had to do with the source material being handed down orally for a thousand years before being written down in Greek or Latin and then translated a dozen times after that. None the less, this is a good read and an imporant part of everyones cultural education.

View all my reviews

Friday, September 10, 2021

Thoughts on Time Travel and the time line.

   Time travel is very likely possible, we know that time is relative to speed and moving at extremely fast speeds, slows down the progression of time for the object/person who is traveling. We also know that time can be dilated around singularities such as black holes. What this tells us is time is mutable, and if time is mutable, it is likely time travel is possible. I am not going to get into the specifics, all I care about at this moment is that time travel is possible and if what we think we know about the universe is true, then time travel is possible.

  The popular hypothesis on time travel is if someone travels back in time and changes the events of the past, this creates an alternate timeline, nothing changes in the original time lin. The person traveling forward to their original time, would find nothing had changed. If the person travels forward in the alternate time line, they would find an alternate version of themselves  who lived the alternate life. This is a convenient, clean method of discussing time travel.

  Another hypothesis is changes to the time line directly impact the future, this was best shown in the Back to the Future movie series, where the protagonist accidentally interferes with his own mother and father getting together, which causes him to start to fade from the time line. Under this premise, if time travel is ever actually achieved and people are going back in time to alter things, this would mean the time line is in flux.

  The first  hypothesis does not interest me much, it is basically “Nothing changes” idea. The second  hypothesis does interest me. The idea that the time line is in flux would mean things as we remember them may not actually have been true a few minutes ago. Our whole perception of history could be changing from moment to moment and we would have no idea, or would we? The human brain is a complex organ and so is the nerve system that make up or sensory inputs, seeing, hearing, smelling, taste and touch. We can perceive things and not know conscientiously that we are  perceiving. For instance very low or very high pitched sounds can affect humans emotionally, even though these sounds are outside of our range of hearing. We see and hear things all the time that we do not notice at the time, but remember them later. What if we can perceive these changes in the time line but only on a subconscious level?

  Think about it, we all have had a sense of deja vu, the sense that we have been here before, but don’t remember it. We have all just met people that we feel like we have known all our lives. We all have these strange memories of events that never happened, parties we never attended, conversations we never had, TV shows that never actually aired. You can find reports of these things all over the internet. Memory is a funny thing and plays tricks on us all the time. On top of that, think about past life memories and premonitions of the future, rather than being just general weirdness, perhaps it is our brains dealing with alterations in the time line.

Mind you, I am making no claims here, I am not saying that feelings of deja vu are proof of time travel. All I am doing here is speculating, asking myself questions and considering possibilities. Let me ask this question, have you ever had a day dream that seemed to be out of your control? A day dream where your mind generated exacting details about events that never happened and places your have never been? A day dream where you are having a deep conversation with someone you only met once or have not seen in years or never met at all? Sure this could just be an over developed imagination, but maybe it is your mind remembering events that were take from the time line.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Thoughts on 3D Printing

 I finally decided to buy a 3D printer. Not really because I needed one for anything in particular, but rather because the price finally fell down to a point where I thought it was worth it. You can now get a decent printer for under $100 and if you wait for sales, you can get the for $60-$70. With some filament and shipping, I was in for about $120. The reason I waited for this price point, is because i have always felt 3D printing was at best mildly amusing and slightly useful. Seriously, these things are about as useful as a CNC machine, if you do it for a living, great, if not, well it collects dust, so spending $300 just seemed a bit expensive for something I might conceivably only use 2 or 3 times a year. At the sub $100 level, they become more practical, even if I end up only using it to print D&D miniatures and Raspberry Pi cases.

So first things first, I bought the EasyThreed K1, shop around and you will find them for $80, the company also sells the X1, which you can find for as low as $60. This printer was amazingly easy to get up and running, it took me less than 5 minutes to put it together and I started my first test print 5 minutes after that. The test print went well and the little rocket printed perfectly without doing anything other than leveling the bed, which is honestly what took the longest in that 10 minute time frame. This thing is easy to learn to operate, I would even trust a 10 year old with this printer it is so easy to operate. Mind you, this is just the hardware, not the software. The test print was already there and ready to print. Getting into designing and preparing a file for printing is far more difficult, but the upside is, there are a ton of files out there on sites like Thingiverse that you can download and print with little effort.


The software is a bit more complicated, if all you plan to do is download things to print, all you need to learn is the slicer software, which is pretty easy, it simply lets you adjust size and positioning on the printer and then converts it to code the 3D printer can understand. If you are going to design your own projects, then you need to learn how to use a CAD program. This printer comes with both a slicer and a CAD program, I am not going to get into it, since I am a Linux user, neither was useful to me. However, Linux has several choices for both of these, and I had no trouble finding something that worked for me. I sat down and learned FreeCAD in a weekend, it is kind of a pain in the ass, but has all the bells and whistles. If you do not want to dedicate a sleepless weekend to learning CAD, TinkerCAD is a free online CAD program that does lack some features, but is easy to use and will do for most projects. I am not going to go into any more detail, there are plenty of websites and YouTube video out there that will teach you how to use CAD and the slicer of your choice.

Now, onto my thoughts on 3D printing. Someday we are going to be able to but a 3D printer for $50, connect it to our phone with an app. The app will allow us to choose what we want to print, and send it to the printer with no fuss. We are not there yet. You can connect most printers to your computer and control it from there, you can also use a package like OctPrint which lets you remote control the printer through a Raspberry Pi. The problem I found is, all this adds layers of complication and points of failure. I got the best results when I simply put the final code on an SD card and manually inserted it into the printer and printed it directly from the printer, my advise, just let the printer print, no need to make it more difficult than it has to be. On the software side, getting things ready to print can be really simple, meaning I have a compatible CAD file (*.stl file), I load it into the slicer software, make one or two minor adjustments for my printer, then export it to a gcode file for the printer. It can also be a seriously fucked up process requiring several days of work, ending in a failed print. I really do not understand at this point why CAD programs do not have the slicer program integrated into it.

So the real question here is, what are these things food for? Well, if you are a serious DIY maker, these things are useful for many things, customer mounting plates for electronics, cases for finished projects, quick and dirty prototyping  of things you will eventually send to a machine shop to be built. If you are looking to start a side hustle, there are people who make a living selling 3D printing services on Etsy. If you are simply a hobbyist looking for a tool, like making D&D miniatures or making one off tools for your garage shop, this could be useful to you. If you do not really fall into one of these categories, you probably do not need a 3D printer. I purposely printed out some common items, mostly because I was teaching myself CAD and needed some easy and straight forward things to design, I did not have to do this, I could have just downloaded the stl files and printed them, but is the fun in that. I made a comb, a tea cup and a coffee cup. While it was fun to design these things from a learning perspective, from a practical stand point, even if I had just downloaded the files and printed them, it would have been far easier for me to go to the dollar store and buy these items and it would have cost me like $2 for all three items and I would have ended up with slightly better plastic crap.



Tea Not Included

I believe in spite of my criticism, that I will continue to use this 3D printer, I am also pretty sure I will eventually get a better one, more expensive model, this one is pretty limited in its uses, primarily due to the size of the objects it is capable of printing, but also because it is missing features that would make the prints better quality and less likely to fail. One of the things I think would be really fun is to print one Christmas decoration a week for an entire year and then decorate a tree only with those decorations. Most of the decorations would probably be standard stuff, but a few of them would be unique, representing an idea either myself or my wife came up with or perhaps representing an event in our lives. It could be seriously cool.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

$20 Dollar Computers

 I picked up three Optiplex 3050 mini computers for $20 each. They came sight unseen, untested and without power supplies. I would have offered more, had the systems come with power supplies and I could have tested them. I purchased a single power supply so I could test the three system. All three are working and took a Debian install, so now I need to buy two more power supplies, which only cost about $17 each, so I am still under $40 for each of them.


Where I am now, is what to do with them. They each have i3 processors, 4GB of RAM and a 500 GB hard drive (not SSD's) and they are less than 4 years old. I am tempted to build a Beowulf cluster, doing this would allow me to do some interesting projects, like find out just how long it would take to break a Windows password or perhaps experiment with machine learning and unleash a Twitter Chatbot on the world just for the LOLs.

Two of them would also make pretty good media servers, as you can see, the middle one in the stack is pretty beat up and probably will not clean up well, having that sit next to a TV would just be unsightly. I am also not sure if the Intel graphic would be up to 4K video playback and there is not much I can do about that.

There are other options for using these machines, but really, I think the Beowulf cluster is the most interesting of ideas. I have a laptop that I use for testing different operating systems and such, I think I will use it as the master node in the cluster. This would remove the need for any keyboard, mice or monitors, since the three nodes would be headless and the laptop would be used to manage the cluster. The laptop also has both an Ethernet connector and wireless, so the Ethernet connector can be used to communicate with the nodes, while still having access the rest of my network and the internet via wireless. I can also setup network sharing on the laptop to provide access to the nodes for updates and such.

At the moment, I am waiting on the 2 power supplies and a network switch. I expect to have those by Wednesday and after that I will begin setting up Skynet.