Amazon continues downward spiral

Head’s up. Amazon Seller Central now will cancel your account if you have not sold anything in 30 days. You will not get a notice of your account being closed. If you have inventory stored with them, they will not send it back to you. When that inventory sells, you will get an email, but they keep the money since your account is closed.

The normal Amazon helpdesk cannot help, but also doesn’t tell you they cannot help. My rep told me “that order number isn’t registered to your account. If you need help, use the contact us link.”

After multiple tries, a chat rep was able to send me to a voice robot for Seller Central. I was not given the phone number. They had it call me. I got someone who was willing to at least submit a request for my account to be reopenned, but “it will take a while.”

I had asked to escalate regarding the whole situation, because it’s not just about fixing my one issue today. It’s about preventing this issue at all. You cannot silently steal someone’s inventory.

I was told by Amazon main helpdesk if I had a problem, ask to escalate. I asked the Seller Central rep to escalate, and was told to fill out the web form instead.

The Seller Central help form is available if you log out of the error page, go the front login page, click help next to the sign-in button, then middle-right, you can click on “Contact Us”.

However, all of the support people believe this is acceptable behavior. There is no escalation, and your only recourse is to make a new account and sell more items.

You cannot reply to messages from Seller Central via email. You can just fill out a whole new request, and get a whole new case number.

Obviously, someone is paid on the number of cases they open, and not customer satisfaction. I say this because also, each reply has a “did we solve your problem?” The link requires you to be already logged in. You simply cannot report to them that they did not solve your problem, unless you can log in.

Every time I get upset at Amazon, I go pull a report on what I have spent with them. My first order with Amazon was 6/23/1999. Since then, I have spent roughly 1 year’s salary with Amazon. (I made a little less back then, and make a little more right now, but it averages out.)

That excludes the Seller Central stuff I’ve sold, from which they have made money on their FBA services.

Dangerous Car AC in the heat – FALSE

Starting your car A/C / benzene chain letter has popped up in several places again recently. That letter is FAKE. No need to worry.

It’s a rewrite of a 2009 chain letter, which is false, and based on cherry picked information out of a 2001 report on automobiles in Korea, and a 2007 article on new cars in Germany.

The article claims benzene exposure is related to the A/C, and that is false. Benzene levels are related to combustion engines, because gasoline contains benzene. A properly maintained car will emit very little benzene. A poorly maintained car will emit more while the engine is running. It does not build up or accumulate when the car is off, unless you have a fuel leak.


The article claims the benzene comes from plastic, which is false. All plastics DO offgass, and usually that is formaldehyde. This is more of an issue for new cars, and has nothing to do with the A/C itself. If the car stinks like new car smell, then air it out. The only observed risk was for people with allergies, it increased those temporarily.


A more detailed write-up about this chain letter is here:


When did “millennials” get redefined?

“Generations” for grouping (vs ancestry) have been roughly 15 year spans. Generation X was the 1970s through about ’85. After that was Generation Y. Millennials, by definition, were people born at or after the turn of the millennium. Being generous, that could be as early as ’98.

Now, people are trying to say Gen-X included the ’60s, and that Millennials are in their 30s.

Nooooo! That is inaccurate. Labels matter, and some media or researcher does not get to redefine people after the fact to fit their narratives!

Dreams of Heroes

Ending fragment.  Guy like a cross between The Punisher and Star Lord.  I was his friend.  He was having some struggles, and his car would not start.  I looked at is, spotless under the hood, cavernous even, and all simple.  There was not enough under the hood to go wrong.  It was just a matter of running way too rich, so it would not even start.  Clouds of half-burnt fuel would spurt out of the intake, sputter, lop, die.

He wandered off, comfused and conflicted, while I troubleshot it.  There was a small, compact, spark control computer as part of the distributor.  I figured that had failed, but maybe if we opened up the throttle, it would at least stay running.  There was not a usual air filter, rather a yellow box, with a key on it.  Again, spotless, shiny.  Far too small to filter that much airflow, it must be an EM field generator that actively cleans the air.

I went to find him to get the key, and he’s wandered out back, hood pulled up.  I followed, and he’d gone to track someone down.  Through some alleyways, etc I followed.  The dream is faded as to whether he kicked some ass, or could not find them.  But, I followed him to the back gate, put my gand on his shoulder, and someone else spun around.

She was a shapeshifter.  She had been drawn to our place.  Others came, a green woman, a woman who’s skin looked like a concert hall inside out.  She traveled by playing a violin.   The feeling and nuancel directed her vehicle.  Ther were many others, but I walked past as they mingled, up to the small shop that was my friend’s home.

“It’s an honourable intent lockout,” I said.  He had been conflicted, and had decided to seek revenge.  The car could not support that.

He was frustrated, almost indignant, but he knew it made sense.  He felt hopeless about it.

“I’m your sidekick.  I’m here to help you through this.”  He was my friend, and it would take time.  The others who came would help.  We were not looking for trouble.  We just wan to help when situations arise.

Weird dream

Middle of the dream… family and I were meeting up for dinner. The place was similar to a Cracker Barrel, except it was upscale. Lots of wood, but more open space, different kinds of goods, and I think there was a Casino off the other side.

The waiter was someone we know. He called me by name, and I recognized him. I think he was an uncle. I think he was also Gene Hackman.

The table we were seated at, the four of us, was about 2 feet on a side. Basically, food came out one person at a time, except drinks and desserts. Khai had trouble deciding, and I ended up with the grilled salmon because of some change I wanted or would want, was easier on that.

After, we ended up at a Christmas partly. Lots of people, drinking, etc. And then someone died. Cue murder mystery, and before the police arrived, someone figured out the guy’s wife had poisoned him. There were $6m worth of $125k bearer bonds or similar in the stocking, and she wanted them. Except, in the process of explaining this, whomever figured out what happened lost track of the wife. Police showed up, and the wife had slipped away, with the bonds.

At the end, I was unpacking my own stocking. About 20 things in there, including what looked like a small Champagne bottle, with a plastic nozzle on it. It was Chilled Baby Wash. Also, a bottle with what looked like a thin roll of toilet paper on it. It was liquid toilet paper, or butt wash. Several other things in there, but the last present I opened was a phone call. Not a phone. Not a recording of a call. The call itself.

Anyway. I know there was a bunch more I missed. Lighting was dim, and colors were subdued, leaning towards blues, greys, but not exclusively.

Gym Workout Routines

I was talking with a friend about my Gym routine, I thought I’d share some of that here. It’s kind of a wall of text, soI tried to organize it for easy skimming.

I keep a notepad on my phone to track what I did and what’s next. End of workout, I add the updated list to MyFitnessPal in the exercise notes. This keeps me from twiddling my thumbs during rests.

#### Warmup is cardio:
* About 10 mins or 200 calories warmup on the recumbent bike. I’ll start at about 50%, and crank it up to 100% a couple of times. I try to vary my RPM, but tend to hang out around 70. I have long legs, so momentum is a factor. I make sure I clear 160bpm, but I never get to max HR. Sometimes I try to draw pictures with the hill profile.

#### Safety warmup for exercises I’m not sure about:
* 10-20 reps at 50-60% just to make sure everything moves right, especially for heavier weight exercises.

#### I usually go for strength
* Target is 2-4 sets of 6-10 reps per exercise.
* If I make it to 16 reps, I bump up the weight on the next set.
* Sometimes I’ll do 8 reps, then drop 40% and do another 8.
* If anything pinches or doesn’t feel right, I’ll back off the weight.
* Not so worried about cardio since I average 75 miles per week on a road bike.

#### I do circuits for time efficiency:
* Whole Body Days: alternate upper/lower, front/back, with 30 second rests between circuits.
* Upper OR Lower Only: I’ll do 2-3 exercises with a 60-90 second rests.
* I average almost one working set for every 2 minutes. That includes the set, equipment setup, walking between machines, updating my notes, and any rest/cooldown time. That excludes the warmup time at the start. (eg, a 2 hour workout has 20 mins of warmup, and 40-45 working sets. A 1-hour workout will have 10 mins warmup, and 18-24 sets.)

#### With a workout buddy:
We could alternate on the same machine with 60-90 second rests. This is less overall workouts, but more social. We could also do the circuits, and just be one machine off from each other. Less social, but more efficient.

#### Workout Duration:
I prefer a longer, whole body workout every 4 days. I get better results, and less wasted time. My goal is to grow muscle mass, and I’m missing the sprinter gene, so recovery time is usually 3-5 days instead of 2-3 days for most people.

If I have only 1 hour, it’s best if I stick to only upper or only lower, because exercises always pull in a other muscles a little. I don’t feel I get quite as good of a workout this way.

#### Upper Body Exercises:
* Freeweight bench row (Low-Back sparing vs seated)
* Chest Press (like a bench press)
* Lat Pulldowns
* Seated dips (because I’m too heavy to do real dips yet)
* Chest fly & rear deltoid fly (same machine, diff settings)
* Biceps curls (cable or dumbell)
* Triceps extension (Slow to improve)
* Sometimes I do a shoulder press or a vertical row, but those are not so great on my shoulder sockets.
* Lateral dumbell arm raises.

#### Lower Body Exercises
* Freeweight seated calf extension (Soleus Muscle)
* Rotary Calf Extension (Gastroc Muscle)
* Inner/Outer thigh (adductor/abductor)
* Leg Curls (Hamstrings)
* Leg Extension (outer and inner quads, nearer the knee)
* Leg Press (because it doesn’t load my low-spine like squats & deadlifts do.)

###### Back Pain avoidance (Chronic and Acute)
* Nothing with a torso twist (wood choppers, obliques) – always causes days of increased pain.
* No abdominal crunches – Still hurting from 2 weeks ago when I let my form get sloppy.
* No back extensions – Same as with crunches, though a 45 degree bodyweight back extension bench would be fine if I could find that at my gym.
* Backed off of seated rows, just to be safe. I’ve moved to bench rows, though bent-over single-arm dumbell rows are okay too (off-arm is on the bench, so no low-back load).
* I should be doing planks and leg lifts at home, but I keep forgetting. This gets core without abusing low-spine.
* I should do more stretching on non-workout days, but I keep forgetting. This helps keep from putting too much strain on low-back when moving around.

#### Preferred Machines
I like the Hoist machines my Gym has best, but I’ve maxed out the leg press. Not sure I want to use the freeweight leg press without a big spotter. I like most of the Precor machines, and use them for things missing from the Hoist line-up. Last are the Life Fitness for a couple things, but they use bigger weight stacks for the same effort, and just seem to be on a different scale from all of the others.

Three Dinosaur Giraffe Butts, and a shovel

Phrase for 2017-2018 school year is “Three Dinosaur Giraffe Butts”.

The mantra is “Shovel” from grovel from gravel from gratitude.

The shovel head is the size of a spoon, and the handle is 35 feet long, and at a sharp angle. It is designed to move a piece of gravel weighing 18 tons, and about 2cm in diameter.

This is the result of lunch with Khai and Erica.

Insurance and Purchases

First insurance check arrived. Can’t print lender forms to get it endorsed because printer died the rest of the way today.

Ordered a new printer, but their “get it today” on the order page turned into “get it tomorrow” in email. *sigh*. This is not covered by insurance nor warranty, sadly.

Ordered new grill, just a propane cart with 4 burners, and submitted cost to insurance for replacement cost supplement. Downgrade from our cabinet style, but I’m not going to complain. The old one was getting near end of life anyway. This one is the same size/guts, though I’m sure there will be some fastener and wheel issues eventually.

Ordered seat planks for my bench, and submitted the replacement costs to insurance. Picked Cherry, which may seem weird for outdoor, but Cherry, Walnut, and Cedar are the only USFS highly resistant boards available from Home Depot. Walnut was too expensive, and cedar is a little soft for a 4-foot span and my heavy butt. Pine is not resistant, thermo-poplar is brittle, composite decking is too flexy, and pressure treated would need rip sawn as well as painting vs sealing.

Ordered a gas powered pressure washer, because my electric one died 10 days ago. I’ll use this to finish stripping the back porch, though I want to have the open deck area sanded before repainting. This is not covered by insurance at all, but kind of needed.

Tomorrow, I’ll pick up some spar urethane and a couple cedar planks to use on the other bench which was not covered by insurance (old, no hail damage). Well, maybe tomorrow. I’m running behind on all the work things, and tomorrow is gym day.

Also, tomorrow, check 2 shows up. If the printer shows up in the morning, I can send both off to the insurance company for endorsement and return. Once back, I can deposit, and then re-issue to my roofer to begin work.

SO MUCH MONEY SPENT TODAY! That’s all of my fallback spare cash. My emergency buffer is really not that big, only about a month before I have to pull from uncomfortable places. (Not my butt!)


Imported hedgie, except the very first post, but it was just dorky.
Imported all of it to DreamWidth with their tools.
Claimed that openid.
Deleted hedgie posts with lj-sec

Posted in xaminmo, xaminmo1 | Comments Off on Merged

Insufficient Federal Withholdings

Our 2016 tax liability was about $400 less than for 2015.
I also set my W4 withholdings to 3 from 4 in March, 2016.
My company withheld $1300 less for 2016 than for 2015.
For the first time in 25 years, I OWE the IRS during tax reconciliation.

It looks like my utilization checks had insufficient (sometimes zero) federal withholding.
Also, through August 15, they withheld about 0.8% less than later in the year.
Also, I didn’t have pre-tax savings in the first 3 months, but they only withheld an extra 0.25% for that.

I am quite irritated.
This is not something I should have to check every paycheck and compare.
If I wanted to do that, I would work for myself.

On the bright side, we HAVE money set aside for this sort of thing.
I went ahead and dropped W4 allowances to 2, but that doesn’t really fix the problem.

What is a friend?

One of my buddies just got riffed from his company. I know he’ll be fine. He’s one of those kind of people that just make things work. He’s good with people, and knows how all the parts fit together within a big company. More importantly, he’s good people. You can tell he’s got a big heart.

It got me to thinking about the layers and components of friendship. I might have passed 100k people, met 10k, have 1k as friendly acquaintances. How many people are your active friends, vs inactive friends? What level of friendship and trust do you have with them? Some people just shine, or we feel an attachment towards. Where do celebrities fit in here?

Then you get into the obligation factors. Some, you know want or need help all the time. There’s a distance there, because it’s a hassle. Others, you would help out any time because you know it’s just simple, convenient stuff, or the scales will always balance out. Others, you know would never ask for anything, so if they actually needed something, it would be major, and you’d step right up and help.

Then the time factor. This varies by people, both sides, but sometimes, you want to spend time with people, and sometimes you don’t. Sometimes, it’s to *do* something, and sometimes, it’s to do nothing. Maybe a movie, or video games, or sports, or drinks and cards. Or maybe it’s just being in proximity of someone who’s easy to hang around. One person reads, another person works, another person naps.

And then, Family comes into play. Blood relation is one type of family, but then there’s “non-people”, or chosen family, as well.

Anyway, I’m not going anywhere with this. Just, caffeine, plus recent events got me thinking. By will alone I set my mind in motion.

Dream in a castle

I was in a medaeval village, maybe in a computer game, not sure. I had a German Shepherd as a familiar. We were trying to help protect the village from an evil sorcerer. No one could help us, because everyone was busy preparing to defend the castle.

The inside of the castle walls had multiple levels that spiraled down from the ridge to the courtyard, plus below. There were wooden awnings, and so many people. The dog and I were working our way down to the bottom floor. Somewhere along the way, a friend encouraged my dog to climb into her shirt from the top. Strange, but snuggly. Everyone was either preparing weapons, making food, supplies, etc. She was making bedrolls for people.

When we got tho the bottom, the only people available to help were Dolph Lundgren, Jamie Foxx, and several other big name actors who were in a group of 8, kind of a glamor shot going on, one level below the courtyard. Dolph comes up to me like an old bud and exclaims “CRASHY JOSH! What’s up, man?” I couldn’t tell if this had to do with something like cart crashes, or computer crashes.

Apparently, we had a legal agreement that we couldn’t drag people off for other quests/raiding parties. We had to just do whatever was right there. So I was about to join them in whatever it was they were doing, when I woke up.

There was tapping outside, and a utility pipe truck is doing stuff outside. It’s always waking up from weird sounds that make the best dreams.

Zero Momentum

If time slows to a near stop for objects travelling close to the speed of light, what happens to time when all momentum is at a dead stop?

The short answer is, with true zero momentum, you would cease to exist. If you had very small momentum, then time would pass very very fast for you. This is because relativistic momentum is much more complicated than just a car on a highway.

Can you be relative to nothing?

Every mass affects every other mass in the universe via gravity. There is no point of zero *inside* the universe. That would be past the margins of the expanding universe, which doesn’t have spacetime, so we can’t exist there. *There* doesn’t even exist.

At what point is a body its own body, and not part of the big thing with gravity it’s sitting on top of?

When/where do you want it to be? This is not a binary transition. It’s gradual, from the center of a black hole, out to two photons spiraling across the universe in opposite directions.


Everything is energy.
* Mass is a 4-vector, and relates directly to energy.
* Energy is a 4-vector, and relates directly to momentum.

Because of this, time is affected by both:
* More velocity = slower time, shorter length in the direction of travel
* More mass = slower time, shorter length radial to the mass.

Spacetime is a foam.
* The speed of time, like the size of space, is the size of the bubbles.
* The stretch of the foam is gravity.
* The more energy/mass on the skin of a bubble, the smaller it gets (and the more it pulls on its neighbors).
* Less energy (and mass) means bigger bubbles (ie, more time and space).

Bosons are energy carriers, and they live on a bubble.
* To move a boson, you have to input energy.
* When they have enough energy to move, they move at the speed of light.
* Photons are the most familiar bosons.

Speed of light is actually “speed of light in a perfect vacuum”.
* Put light into a ceramic crystal, and it’s slower.
* Spacetime foam is more dense, so more bubbles to transit.

To travel faster, you have to input more energy.
* More energy means you compress the foam.
* That means more bubbles to transit, which means more energy.
* As a baryonic mass approaches the speed of light, the energy inputs approach infinity.
* Infinite energy (and mass and spacetime) do not exist, so we are constrained.

Bosons and some small particles can seem to violate this on very small scales (tunnelling).
* This is because they can slide through the skin of the bubble rather than having to compress the bubble.
* You cannot do that as baryonic mass, but maybe if your pattern was translated into bosons.
* That high of an energy density would probably condense AND dispese, so you’d lose the pattern along the way.

Special relativity covers “objects at rest”:
* energy-momentum relation: E^2 = (pc)^2 + (m0c^2)^2
* energy-mass relation: E = mc^2 (p is zero, so you have E^2 = (mc^2)^2) which becomes E=mc^2

So, if you were to come to a complete rest relative to the fabric of spacetime,
* the passage of time is still affected by your own mass/energy.
* You could decreate your energy, reduce your mass, dispurse your mass, and you would expand the bubbles.
* This would cause time to pass more quickly for you, if “you” could exist that way.

At zero energy, the bubbles would be infinitely large.
* How do you pump energy out of the bubbles (vacuum fluctuations).
* Time would pass at infinite speed (same issue as photons at infinite velocity).
* Just as there is not infinite energy, there is also not infinite time velocity.

Imaginary mass/energy is described by tachyons.
* They do not travel faster than light,
* nor do they travel backwards in time.

To travel backwards in time:
* You need negative energy.
* This is also the principle behind the Alcubierre Warp Drive.
* This would cause spacetime to move around an object, instead of the object through spacetime.
* There is no known way to form negative mass/energy:

This is not the same as antimatter, which is just opposite quarks.
* Basically, you’d have to pump energy out of the bubbles.
* The excess energy generated would accumulate at the margins of the bubble, trying to get back in.
* When the bubble is allowed to collapse, it would be a giant explosion of radiation.
* If you had a way to direct this to one side, perhaps travel would be possible, leaving a radiation wake.
* Perhaps it would lead to a spike of radiation that pierced the ship, or whatever was in front of it.

That’s a theoretical exercise, which I don’t believe is likely to happen.
* We’re more likely to find a way to connect the quantum foam in different places (wormholes).
* Would a wormhole unravel spacetime, or collapse instantly?

Other thoughts:
* The margins of the universe are probably expanding at the speed of light.
* The volume grows more rapidly as time passes, even though the mass/energy is constant.
* Eventually, the universe will be so dispersed as to be useless (heat death = cold death).
* Even solid matter will disperse given enough time. Bosons trickle away, and atomic forces will decay.


This is what SEEMS to make the most sense for me. No *way* is easy, but this seems the least hard.

Energy Plans:

  • Defer first meal until actually hungry (9:30a-12:30p for me)
  • Keep each meal before 3:30pm around 12% of my daily intake.
  • Eat before I get ravenous (around every 2 hours).
  • Try to keep a reserve of about 25% of my calories for the evening.
  • Don’t be TOO aggressive (20% deficit is okay, but 40% is not).


  • Keep extra servings away from my plate/bowl.
  • Split up snack/mini-meals when I’m not hungry.
  • Stay busy (yay computer!)
  • You have to exercise, because your body will reduce your BMR to keep from losing fat reserves.
  • Hungries are worse the day AFTER exercise, so save your calories for tomorrow.


  • Lots of broths, leaves, fresh veggies to add bulk, and fill in when I’m STILL HUNGRY!
  • Make sure I get the food groups and vitamins daily / weekly rather than every meal.
  • UMAMI: Your tongue creates Peptide YY it detects meat, glutamate, etc. Reduces hunger by 30% in the lab.
  • VITAMIN A: Hunger hormones are produced by fat cells. Empty fat cells do not get recycled without Vitamin A.
  • VITAMIN D: Vitamin D is blocked by Vitamin A, and is deficient for many indorsy people.
  • CALCIUM: Requires Vitamin D to be absorbed. Prevents brittle bones.

Some days will be better than others. Don’t give up. Keep tinkering.

Patching Drywall

I’ve got reasonable experience with it, but nowhere near pro level. I’ll fix things in my house, though I don’t like the painting part. It’s just… it takes longer than I want it to, so small jobs suck. Big jobs are fine, because you do all the first-pass things, then come back for second pass without having to wait too much.

Anyway, here are some things that come to mind when I think about doing this.

0. Preparation! Scrape, clean, and mask the area with twice as much effort as you think it deserves. Also, um, those clothes that “you probably won’t get anything on” will totally have splatters.

1. Don’t be afraid to peel back some of the paper backing to keep it from being humped too high.

2. Finding a way to do the inside of the wall when it’s a big patch is really helpful for stability. Strings tied around things can help press from the inside, and hang a weight on the outside. You can also mount a support (paper tape, mesh tape, wood strips, whatever as appropriate. Don’t just mount tree branches in there though) inside of a large hole (can you fit your hand and a putty knife through the hole?), and let it dry, then use that as backing when you come back to put in the plug.

3. Fiberglass mesh tape is sometimes so much better than paper tape. It’s strings! It takes several coats to cover up though.

4. Once it looks dry-ish, stop messing with it. Once it starts peeling up or crumbling, you really just have to scrape it all out and start over. You can spritz it with water before and during to keep it from drying too fast if needed.

5. Sometimes you have to do a little, let it dry for half a day, then come back for the next part. There are limits to how much can be done at once and not have it crack.

6. Use as wide of a putty knife as you can. If you have a 3mm hump spread over 2″, you will notice it. If it’s spread over 6″, maybe not. I have a 12″ mud knife, and have actually used it before.

7. Texture often needs to be thinned. Paint works better than pure water for this, because it’s sticky, and not as thin. 50% paint+texture is a good starting point for a crow’s foot brush.

8. Overlapping is your friend. When spraying orange peel texture, I start small, and adjust until the blob sizes look just a little smaller than I want. Then, I go back and forth, overlapping the edges, until I cannot see the true edge anymore.

Italian Cream Cake

Sharon ran across a recipe that looks amazing. It is very similar to my mom’s recipe, except they use melted butter in place of the oil+butter_flavoring; and they use twice as much icing.


Italian Cream Cheese Cake Recipe

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening…
2 cups sugar
5 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1-1/2 cups flaked coconut
1 cup chopped pecans


2 packages (one 8 ounces, one 3 ounces) cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup butter, softened
6 cups confectioners’ sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup chopped pecans

In a large bowl, cream the butter, shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg yolks and vanilla. Combine flour and baking soda; add to creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk. Beat just until combined. Stir in coconut and pecans.

In a small bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold a fourth of the egg whites into batter, then fold in remaining whites. Pour into three greased and floured 9-in. round baking pans.

Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and butter until smooth. Beat in confectioners’ sugar and vanilla until fluffy. Stir in pecans. Spread frosting between layers and over top and sides of cake. Store in the refrigerator.

For reference, Here is my mom’s recipe, slightly annotated by me. She kept it on a 3×5 card in her recipe box, but it might have been something she got from her mom.

Mom’s Italian Cream Cake Recipe


Set oven to 350 (preheating)

Cream well:
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup oil
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp butter flavor

Add 5 yolks (emulsifiers), one at a time, and stir after each one.

Once it’s all creamed, add:
1 cup buttermilk

Then, add the dry team
2 cups flour
1 tsp soda
1 cup Angel Flake coconut (Canned is better than dry bagged)

Add the whites
Beat 5 egg whites until stiff
Fold egg whites gently into batter

Bake the cake
Pour equally into 3 round 8″ cake pans.

Bake for 20-25 minutes at preheated 350 degrees F.

Melt and mix the icing in a double boiler
8oz cream cheese
1 stick margarine or butter
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp butter flavor

Once melted, add:
1 box powdered sugar

Once smooth, add:
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Cool icing by placing pan/bowl in cold water.

Once the cake is out and cooled, spread the icing between layers, then on the top and sides.

Let set up overnight in the fridge.

Note: Individual slices freeze very well and are extremely tasty while still frozen.

Orbital Mechanics and Friends

I had a dream that I was on a space station, and our old van was a shuttle. An escape pod failed as we were leaving the station, and my dream went into orbital mechanics ala Kerbal Space Program. On waking, I pondered orbital mechanics, and realized it’s just like people.
Community is like orbital space. Each person is a satellite. Your interests, drives, life and death all define your orbit. Your location is the barycenter of your orbit, the focus of your ellipse.
Along your path, you will pass near other satellites, people. If your orbits are not close, it may be a single encounter. Maybe your orbit lines up repeatedly. Maybe not. Communication tech is better mowadays, and you can talk to someone orbiting Jupiter with a little lag.
But, you only have so much fuel (drive) to change your orbit. And if you aim for someone not on on a very similar path, you almost certainly guarantee that your paths will diverge more widely.
Unless you grab on and become one peice in a new, combined orbit, a risky maneuver. Instead, it’s less disruptive to adjust your orbit on each pass. Move your center when you can, and look for other satellites near you.  
Which satellites seem familiar. Is there a shared mission or purpose. Can you benefit? Are they from a friendly nation, or do you need to be on guard? If they are new and suddenly there, are they a risk for knocking you out of your planned orbit, or dragging you down the gravity well? If you join up, they be too big of a mass or too tightly coupled for you to change your orbit later? Or are they a whole new anchor in space to orbit freely, yet still taking you for a ride?
The best are when you orbit the others who orbit you, or you share closely overlapping orbits. If inclination matches, you meet more often than every orbit.
I have lots of acquaintances in unmatched orbits. *waves*
I have several friends in harmonic matched orbits. Hi Hi Hi Hi Good to see you again.
I have a few people that I try to keep my orbit matched with. I definitely have my own mass and velocity that makes this difficult sometimes, but I appreciate those on similar missions burning their limited fuel to help us stay in sync.

Cleaning up Google space

If your Google quota looks to be filling up, and you’re considering buying more space, check your usage first.

Drive and Mail has Trash folders, but they count against your quota. Drive doesn’t automatically delete things either. I found 3 year old cruft in there. YMMV

See your Google usage here:

Drive Trash is here:

GMail trash is here
Alternate accounts will be /u/1, /u/2, etc.

Jumbo non-trash emails are here:

Videos and Movies in “Photos” are here:

You cannot sort Photos by size,
but you can find them in your drive, sorted by size here:

Tesla 3 Solar Roof

Not much detail yet, but my guess is it’s something like this:

Imagine this:

  • Center layer contains IR fluorescing organic salts
  • Refractors bend the new IR out to the edges
  • Edges are high efficiency NIR photovoltaic cells.
  • Inside layer would be reflective coated on the outer face.

This would reduce IR ingress during sunny days, and convert IR and UV to electricity.
The black edges could also be monocrystalline PV cells in the visible spectrum.

I think you could expect a few hundred watts during a sunny TX day, which would be enough to keep things topped off between short commutes.

Bad Subnet Kills DHCPD

One, single bad IP in DHCPD config will kill the entire config file. :(

On an EdgeRouter, and probably anything with Ubiquiti, and maybe anything using the same config style (Brocade and others have the same command set)….

If you add a static reservation outside of the DHCP server’s subnet,
as in, if you typo one octet, or decide to do another subnet just because,
your DHCP server will be offline after reboot. No errors, just silently not serving.

It can be outside of the start/stop range, and that’s fine.

Really, this should give you a warning from the webUI, or it should just say “OKAY, We’ll let you hand out stupid IP addresses.” I mean, what if I wanted this to be my DHCP server, but I had a different router and subnet on the same segment?

From command line, you’ll see the error though:

admin@gw1# commit
[ service dhcp-server ]
Static DHCP lease IP '' under mapping 'CustomerLaptop'
under shared network name 'LAN' is outside of the DHCP lease network ''.
DHCP server configuration commit aborted due to error(s).


Ooof. Our little media computer in the living room was 10 years old. I swapped it out with a NUC5. Technically, the CPU is the same performance, but it’s 6 watts instead of 75, and it’s spread over 4 cores instead of 2.

In reality, the integrated graphics is double the perf, plus there’s 12x hardware acceleration for video and encryption. It should be WAY faster. Also, it’s tiny, the size of a box of 250 business cards. It’ll pay for itself in 2 years, just on electricity alone, though the decreased frustration from LAG will help too.

There’s no DVD/CD/BD drive on it, though I have a USB DVD drive I rarely use. If I really needed to, I could swap the guts for my BD drive I never use.

Our HTPC has been moved from a 225W small PC to a 25W mini-PC. This is equal CPU, slower single thread, double graphics, and 10x video/encryption processing power, for about the cost of a mid-level video card.

Our HTPC was a 2006 Thinkcenter M55, and has been chuggy for some video for years. The real reason for swap out is because it finally lost the CMOS battery. This is annoying, because Windows 10 updates ALL THE TIME, and reboots ALL THE TIME. So, it would always hang at full CPU, full fan, waiting for a keypress.

When I replaced the battery, I found 2 FETs have been cooking a little bit of the motherboard. Searched around, and 3 K-stamp capacitors (they look Panasonicky) are bulged.

I thought I’d inventory it and see if it’s worth fixing, or whether it is worth even parting out. Radeon 6570, Core 2 Extreme X6800, 2x 2GB DDR2 DIMMs, LG Blu-Ray Rewriter, and a 128GB M.2 SSD in an adapter. PSU is 255 Watts, and the CPU is rated at 75 Watts. CPU passmark is just over 1800, and video passmark is around 768.

The cheapest quad-core mini-PC i could find was a battle between Gigabyte GB-BXBT-1900 (J1900), and an Intel NUC5PPYH. The N3700 Braswell supports AES acceleration, and overall is just a better tech. Not new and shiny, but really at the sweet spot. The unit has built in IR, USB3, and SD slot vs the BRIX. There’s actually a wifi card in there too, but I don’t need that. I could pull it and put the SSD there I suppose, but whatever. The Gigabyte was 25% less, but the J1900 BayTrail CPU still has power-state issues in some versions of Linux, and I like USB3.

So, the NUC Gen5 won out. The CPU passmark is just under 1900, and the integrated video passmark is around 1430. Half the perf for a single thread, but equal overall, plus hardware decoding for video is a huge help.

Instead of being an SFF desktop (4″ x 12″ x 14″) with a 75 watt CPU, and a 225W power supply, the NUC is a 3″x5″x5″ block with a 6-watt CPU and a 25W power supply.

Amazing what 10 years will do for technology. Also, I just moved the boot drive over, and Windows spent 20 mins applying drivers. All’s well I think.

Dream of Pixels

In a lab, there’s a gold mine. But, it’s not a mine exactly. It’s a cylinder with rounded edges, about 18″ in diameter, and in length, flat faces up/down, floating about waist height in a room. There’s a pedestal under it. If you approach, you see down into the pedestal into an apparently infinite space. There is a lensing effect around the object, and there are suspended chunks of gold around it of varying sizes. They can be pushed and moved, but they bounce back to their original location. Sometimes they shift and change size on their own.

It’s all fairly industrial: concrete floors, computer stations around the edges, subdued lighting. I notice some primary color pixellation and difraction around the interface edges of the object as we head to a non-containment room, but just figure that’s normal. Through various brainstorms, the object comes to be thought of as aware. It responds to us, but not in a way we understand. Hands near it, and it changes. Time to head out, because we don’t know if it’s safe to stay around it for very long.

The lab manager is my ex girlfriend, or something like that. It’s complicated. She looks just like Gwyneth Paltrow, only a little taller, or maybe I’m a little shorter. I’m not me, but I feel like me. I was removed from the project lead for no real reason, or maybe every reason. But, she’s letting me in because it’s too amazing to keep to herself, and they need help. No one else is making any progress on these. Yes, there’s a second one in another room.

I’m really excited, but GP stops to remind me that everything has to go through her. This is a trial involvement, and I cannot just do things with it, nor make decisions on it. I’m excited, but the limitations are tough. I apologize, say I understand, and blurt out that my thoughts were that a machine could be used to just reach in and scrape out the gold. She completes the sentence with me, and kisses me.

I like it, but something is wrong. I see bits of colored static, smaller pixels than in the containment room, here now too.

I realize the device is a computer of sorts. It’s simulating the universe immediately around us, and so long as we are near it, we are affected by any errors in the simulation.

She sees it, and I ask about “shutting it down”, but no one knows how to. In fact, there’s no one around us. The elevator is open, lit, but does not do anything. There’s a window with curtains, looking out into… a warehouse? What? No, now it’s sunlight, but there are pixels around the borders.

I’ve been thinking about the device, and realize it can read my mind. I name it “Pixels” in my mind, and call out to it in fear and exasperation. Continued realizations, not sudden, gradual, as if I’ve thought of all of the possibilities, and realize it is alive, and our entire universe is a simulation. The simulator is crashing, and the device is trying really hard to preserve us.

Stray specks are showing up in the room. I imagine that they would hurt going through me, but I don’t seem to ever make contact with one. We try to open the windows, but they’re not real. We’re stuck. Only this one last room exists. We cannot even reach the simulation interface anymore. Yes, that’s what the objects are: an interface for controlling the simulation from inside.

We’re frantic, but there does not seem to be anything we can do. As I wake up, I realize we had all moved into the simulation when the universe was winding down for us. Not us, per se, but our many-great grandparents. The universe had finally wound down enough, and there’s no repairing. This was the end of the end.

Disable Strava Live Segments on Garmin

Garmin support says to disable individual segments on your device. Well, new segments show up still, and things get re-enabled. When Segments are enabled, it chews up more battery, just like following a course. Also, Garmin support takes DAYS to respond, and seems to send you to a level zero support queue first.

Strava support was awesome. I got a simple, exact response in three hours. To disable live segments, go to garmin connect. From the hamburger menu in the top left, click the arrow next to segments (way down in the list). Click the button to add it to your dashboard. Now, you’ll see the widget on your dashboard. From there, click the gear on the widget. Choose “Use Garmin Segments”. BLAM! You’re back to not using Strava Live Segments. You can toggle it on and off there, even though the initial enablement is on Strava’s webpage.

I wanted this disabled, because every time I would go near a segment, it would beep at me a few times. If I crossed over the start of a segment, it would beep no less than 15 times before it gave up. This is from an Edge 520 on version 7 code. Maybe it’ll be better in the future, but it’s just a distraction to me. YMMV

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