A few months back I showed my friend Heather Leah around the ruins of Isaac Hunter’s Tavern for a story she was writing for the WAKE Living magazine. The story just ran in the Fall 2018 issue and included a few quotes from me. Not only that, it announces that plans are afoot to better memorialize the tavern that helped put Raleigh on the map! Heather also added some photos of some artifacts associated with the tavern which really brought the story to life.
It was a great story and tells of an even greater future for Isaac Hunter’s Tavern!
Yesterday, legendary actor Burt Reynolds died. The star of Smokey and the Bandit, Deliverance, and other films was 82.
I got the chance to briefly meet Burt when he gave a pre-game speech to Florida State alumni on November 10, 2001 when N.C. State was the visiting team. He was of course mobbed by FSU well-wishers that day but kindly took a moment for me to take a photo of him with my starstruck mother. Meeting him meant a lot to my mom but what always struck me about the photograph is that Burt truly looks like it meant a lot to him, too. It wasn’t a faked smile, or a pained look like he had somewhere else to be. He truly seems like he enjoyed the moment, like he had known my mom forever.
You often hear of celebrities who seem nice in public but turn out to be jerks when the cameras aren’t around. Burt Reynolds was exactly who he seemed to be: just a funny, kind, down-to-earth guy.
Rest in peace, sir.
Yes, I do have a brain.
I took the day off yesterday to travel to Boston University to participate in a Gulf War Illness research study.
The study is looking to identify biomarkers that might indicate Gulf War Illness. It cost me a day off of work and paying for my travel expenses but I was able to add my information to the pool of data so that it might help other Gulf War veterans.
Part of yesterday’s tests included a structural MRI, after which I was sent home with a copy of my imaging data. Being a data nerd, this thrilled me and I couldn’t wait to check out what was on my CD. While the typical image tools available for Linux like GIMP were able to view the images, it wasn’t until I installed the MRIcron application that I was able to view my imagery in three dimensions. MRIcon converts the DICOM files that the MRI generated into an open format that can then be manipulated by MRIcron.
Pretty cool, although a bit disconcerting to realize I’m looking at tiny slices of my own head. There’s a strong part of me that keeps thinking “man, you’re not dead yet! You should not be seeing your brain!” Coupled with my image data, MRIcon is a really captivating tool for exploring the structure my brain (and my head as well).
Looking closely at the third image you can clearly see that my eyeballs are shaped completely differently. This probably accounts for my unusual combination of nearsightedness and farsightedness. Good times.
As most residents are now aware, a few weeks ago the city of Raleigh become one of the few lucky (?) municipalities to get rentable electric scooters. These scooters (mostly of the Bird brand at this point) have been zipping merry residents from one end of town to the other for a small fee. While many are pleased that this new mobility choice has possibly decreased the number of car trips, others have pointed to the dockless nature of the scooters and how this inevitably leads to the scooters blocking sidewalks.
The City Council has not yet weighed in on the legality of scooters making their home on the sidewalks without having first been given official permission. Thus, they are operating in kind of a gray area. I decided to look into the Raleigh Municipal Code to see what laws we have on the books regarding sidewalks and motor vehicles.
It didn’t take long to find the relevant section in the Raleigh Municipal Code (and conveniently linked to from the links page of my EastRaleigh.Org website – I am awesome). Emphasis is mine:
Sec. 11-2171. – PARKING PROHIBITED IN CERTAIN PLACES.
(a) Obstructing traffic.
It shall be unlawful for any person to stop, stand or park any motor vehicle upon a street , or alley, in such manner or under such conditions as to obstruct the free movement of vehicular traffic, except that a driver may stop temporarily during the actual unloading of passengers or when necessary to obey traffic regulations or signs or signals, or signals of a police officer .
(b) Designated places.
No person shall stop, stand or park a motor vehicle (attended or unattended) except when necessary to avoid conflict with other traffic or in compliance with the directions of a police officer or traffic-control device in any of the following places:
(1) On a sidewalk, in the area between the roadway and the sidewalk, in the area between the right-of-way line and the roadway or in the median area of a divided roadway
I’ve been reading through Adam Fisher’s Valley of Genius book and got to the chapter about The Well, one of San Francisco’s first online communities. It reminded me that I, too, was online as early as 1982, dialing up BBSes from my family’s 300-baud modem. I think the first BBS I called was run by a guy at the University of South Carolina.
Of course, a few years later in 1986 I had set up my own BBS in Great Falls, VA called the Basement BBS. At its peak it had 350 members, two high-speed (19.2 Kbps!) modems, and an early consumer hard-drive (10 whole megabytes!). Good times.
Valley also reminded me of my occasional hobby project of figuring out how to get the Basement back online here in the age of the Internet. This has proven to be more challenging than I expected, because:
1. DOS is a strange world, indeed, with lots of obscure drivers, configuration files, and confusing syntax.
2. I have forgotten 90% of the DOS secrets I once knew.
3. Modern virtualization systems were not designed with DOS virtual hosts in mind.
4. Virtualized DOS systems run far faster and with far more memory than their 80s era computers ever had, which causes problems.
Building a virtualized DOS environment is akin to assembling a ship in a bottle. You’re building a replica of an ancient artifact using very limited tools. All this, and I haven’t even gotten to the magic of modem emulation that will connect my BBS to the larger Internet.
This is the perfect geek project, though: a completely useless exercise in technology exploration. I hope, though, that at the end of it I have something to show for my trouble. But if I don’t that’s okay because I will have learned something anyway.
As usual, I’ve had a ton of irons in the fire, squeezing as much out of the waning summertime days as I can. That hasn’t left much time nor inspiration for blogging but I’m hoping to get back on track with this.
Major stuff I’ve been doing around in my free time includes replacing the falling-apart wooden steps on my back deck with composite decking. This project took two sweltering Saturdays to complete but I’m very pleased with how the steps came out. Next up is the deck surface itself which, frankly, will be easier than the steps since there’s far less cutting needed. After that I’ll have to dream up a good plan for replacing the wooden railing but I’ve got a little time to figure that out.
I hope the whole project will be done by fall. Then I’ll combine the scrap wood from my deck with the scrap fencing from my fence job and haul it all away for a clean yard again. Yay!
Full of fake news! Click to see the reassembled full page, scaled down for your bandwidth’s pleasure.
Got an email yesterday from Google, saying it was time to renew my Google Adsense account. I took Google ads off my page so long ago that I forgot all about them. Fortunately, my blog is a labor of love and expenses run around $20/month. It’s not exactly a high-volume website like the websites of the local media.
I looked up a story today on the website of WRAL, a local television station. It was a story on a robbery and was a bit short on facts. Looking for more information, I began scrolling the page.
And scrolling … and scrolling … and scrolling.
The page went on and on, but it wasn’t more news stories; it was that dreaded garbage known as “sponsored content.” These are paid advertisements that masquerade as news stories, often using lurid, click-baiting headlines. Intermixed with these tabloid-esque stories were occasional links to WRAL’s content.
I got so outraged at the dreck WRAL was serving up to me that I spent over an hour just capturing screenshots of the page and reassembling these shots into the original page. I had to do this because the page was far too lengthy to fit onto one browser screen, crazy as it might sound. So that’s what you see above.
The Russian woman arrested this week on charges of being a foreign agent has ties to Russian intelligence operatives and was in contact with them while in the United States, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.
Maria Butina, 29, also cultivated a “personal relationship” with an American Republican consultant as part of her cover and offered sex to at least one other person “in exchange for a position within a special interest organization,” according to a court filing.
After a hearing on Wednesday afternoon, U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson denied Butina’s request to be released on bail, finding that no combination of conditions would ensure her return to court.
Prosecutors with the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington had argued strongly against her release, noting “her history of deceptive conduct.” They said Butina could slip into a Russian Embassy or a Russian diplomatic vehicle and get out of the country, and had connections with wealthy business executives linked to the Putin administration.
Source: Alleged Russian agent Maria Butina ordered to remain in custody after prosecutors argue she has ties to Russian intelligence – The Washington Post
In the middle of Tuesday’s presidential walkback about Russian election interference, I couldn’t (or maybe I could, I’m not sure) help but think of a scene from the 1997 comedy “Excess Baggage.” In the scene, would-be car thief but inadvertently-turned-kidnapper Benicio del Toro asks his unexpected victim Alicia Silverstone, who had been hiding in the trunk of her dad’s expensive car, “How stupid do you think I am?” To which Silverstone replies, “How stupid is there?” To my mind, that just about sums it up when it comes to the president’s view of the American people.
To review the events this week, for the benefit of anyone who until recently has been hiding in the trunk of their own car, President Trump was attempting by the addition of a contraction to rectify what CNN’s Anderson Cooper rightly described as “one the most disgraceful performances” ever given by an American president at a summit.
Source: American government will keep on fighting to state the truth on Russia | TheHill
In Helsinki on Monday, US President Donald Trump touted the “direct, open, deeply productive dialogue” he had with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
And experts warn Putin played Trump like a fiddle.
That was the broad consensus of national-security and intelligence veterans following a bizarre press conference during which Trump stood next to Putin and spent more time denigrating his political opponents and intelligence agencies than he did a hostile foreign power.
Asked by Reuters’ Jeff Mason on Monday whether he held Russia accountable for anything, Trump stunned observers when he said he held “both countries responsible” for the deterioration in US-Russia relations.Trump failed to mention Russia’s aggression toward Ukraine, its annexation of Crimea, its involvement in Syria, and its aggressive cyber operations around the globe, as well as allegations that it has poisoned former Russian spies abroad, that it played a role in the downing of a Malaysian airliner in 2014, and, above all, that it interfered in the 2016 US election.
Source: Trump’s behaving like a ‘Russian asset’, intel and natsec experts warn – Business Insider