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Archive for May, 2011

May 31st, 2011

Geek Survival Skills

[Geek Alert…]

I’ve been on a roll fixing up and beautifying the front and back yards here at Casa del Garrett.  Among other items, I bought four solar powered Tiki torches for the backyard.  They’re pretty simple devices consisting of a solar power cell and two led lights that flicker alternately inside a plastic cup.  The effect mimics a lighted torch well enough and I think they add a nice touch to the backyard.  The other day one of them failed.

It was always the last one to come on at night and I wondered if the rechargeable batteries in it just needed replacing.  So the first thing I did was put some alkalines in it as a test.  Nada.  I checked its internal wiring.  The things were Very inexpensive to buy and inside it showed why.  Just a postage stamp sized circuit board, a double-a battery compartment, a nice looking solar power cell and a smaller cell that looked as if it were a CDS light sensor for switching the torch on and off.  The parts were simply hot glued into place and the wires connecting everything were a gauge somewhere between hair and paper width.  I got out a magnifying glass and looked the connections over with some difficulty as it was hard to see how good they were under the hot glue globs.  But nothing seemed obviously broken.

As I said, they were cheap.  So I figured I’d go buy two more (they come in pairs) and then I’d have one spare in case one of the others failed.  Having bought the last two boxes of these on the shelves at the Lowes in Cockeysville, I figured I’d need to try one of the other stores.  So this evening after work I drove to the one in White Marsh so I could swing by Costco for some gasoline.  But that Lowes was out of stock on those particular Tiki torches.  So I began to wonder if each store only got a couple boxes of those at the start of the season and was I chasing an item that was sold out all over the area by now.

I came back home and considered ordering new ones online. But the ornery techno geek in me nagged at me to look inside the broken torch one more time.  It’s a simple device dammit…I ought to be able to fix it… So I brought it in and took it to the art room drafting table and opened it up.  I got out the multi-meter (you have one of those…right?  Every home should have a multi-meter…) and fairly quickly determined several things.

First, the rechargeable batteries were in perfectly good shape, as I’d expected since replacing them with some stock alkalines didn’t make any difference.  Second, the solar power cell in those things, cheap as they are, are Very Nice and were putting out more then enough voltage to keep the batteries charged.  After the batteries, my suspicions fell on the other small cell that looked like a light sensor.  Here was where I reached way back into my past for knowledge of how camera light meters work.  It looked to my eye like your basic CDS cell…Cadmium-Sulfide…a photo-resistor.  Unlike the older selenium cell meters, which generate a precise voltage based on the amount of light falling on them, CDS cells change in resistance.  Their advantage was they worked better and more precisely in lower light conditions.  What was extra nice about them back in the day was if you forgot and left the camera’s light meter on, putting the lens cap on or just putting the camera away in darkness somewhere would protect the battery because a CDS cell goes to maximum resistance when there is no light falling on it, so it’s basically turned the circuit off.

…which is pretty much what makes them useful as light sensors for turning off and on stuff when night falls.  They can act like a simple on-off switch.  The leads coming off the CDS cell in my Tiki torch were buried under a glob of hot glue so I traced the wires back to the circuit board and took an ohm reading there with a piece of black electricians tape across the cell blocking the light out.  It should have read max ohms but it read like a short.  So the cell was defective.

I clipped the wires leading to it and the torch lit up.  I stripped the ends and touched them together and the torch turned off again.  So now I can either put a micro-switch in place of the CDS cell or see if I can find another CDS cell to replace the failed one with.  This thing is so cheaply built you just know the concept it represents is throw it in the landfill when it breaks or you get tired of it whichever comes first.  Had I found a replacement I’d have probably just scavenged the solar cell and the LEDs and tossed the rest out.  The solar cell is a nice one.  But fixing it leaves me with a degree of geeky self-satisfaction.  In a world of cheap mass-market throw it away goods I am not completely helpless.

[Edited a tad…]

[Update…]  I see from their online catalog I can buy little CDS cells in packs of five for a little less then four dollars at Radio Shack.  So tonight I’ll check the one in my neighborhood.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Geek Survival Skills

May 21st, 2011


That’s great, it starts with an earthquake, birds and snakes, an aeroplane –
Lenny Bruce is not afraid…

-REM, It’s The End Of The World As We Know It

So according to both REM and our latest End Of The World prophet Harold Camping, the end of the world will start with an earthquake.  The scriptures agree!  As I write this, Raw Story is currently live blogging the rapture

At 6 pm local time on the International Date Line, Harold Camping of the Family Radio Network believed the Rapture was supposed to begin with a tremendous earthquake and destruction the likes of which humans have never seen. Rolling westward, it was set to hit Tokyo — which has already witnessed its share of destruction this year — at 6 pm local time, or 5 am ET. Since that’s the most reasonable unreasonably early hour I was willing to get up, that’s when this liveblog began.

I feel as if I should take time out of my busy day to relax and enjoy this once in a lifetime spectacle, since according to Camping it’s folks like me who made it all possible…

Q: Why May 21?
A: Camping calculates May 21 is exactly 7,000 years from the date of the Noah’s Ark flood. In his book “Time Has an End,” Camping writes. “The year 391 B.C. is the year when the Old Testament was finished, and 2,011 + 391 – 1 = 2,401, or 7 x 7 x 7 x 7.” There you have it.

Q: Any other reason?
A: Yes. Gay Pride and same-sex marriage. Camping says God will punish America and the rest of the world for Gay Pride and same-sex marriages, just as Sodom and Gomorrah were punished with fire and brimstone in the Old Testament.

Of course, the gays are responsible.  The gays are always responsible.  A friend of mine in Kansas suggests we all leave articles of clothing here and there on the streets of our towns to mark the occasion.  Perhaps instead, it’s time for The Rapture to be reclaimed.

I have a scenario:  Instead of rapturing the one or two percent of the world’s right wing christianist nutcases, suppose God really does rapture His Own on that day and hour no man knows, not even the Angels.   Suppose He takes all the good people away.  No…the Good people.  The Really Good people.  The ones who gave a damn about this good earth, and their neighbors…all the ones who cared enough to struggle, give their lives even, to make this world a better place for all of us…all the ones who couldn’t let an injustice go past without raising their voices…all the ones who never let a friend down, even if it meant taking some personal risk…all the ones who were trustworthy, who wouldn’t cheat a stranger, let alone a friend…all the lovers…all the dreamers of a better tomorrow.  Whether they were Christian or Muslim or Jewish or Buddhist or Atheist.  All the good people…which would be a pretty large portion of the human population, but alas not hardly all of it.  Suppose in one sudden instant God snatched them all away.  What would be left behind?

Why…all the assholes.

And there’s your Tribulation right there.  Never mind the seven seals and judgement day….every day is judgement day.  The antichrist isn’t a person, it’s a mindset.  It’s living for what you hate instead of what you love.  It’s cheating someone weaker then you just because you can and assuring yourself that the weak deserve it.  It’s bullying your way though life and then whining that you don’t get the respect you deserve.  It’s scapegoating your neighbor instead of taking responsibility.  It’s looking at life with zero-sum glasses that are always telling you that whenever someone else is happy it’s because they’re taking something away from you.  It’s resenting human joy so much you just have to strangle it wherever you see it in the eyes of others.  Suppose the world was suddenly left with nothing in it but people like that.

Seven years of tribulation?  Oh, no…my guess is less then one or two months before they’ve all managed to slit each others’ throats.  Judgement.  The joy we bring into the world, or the pain and suffering we inflict upon others, is our judgement upon the world, and ourselves, and this good earth, and some people hate everything so much they pray for the world to end soon, and some of us wish it never would.  Some live in rapture, and some in tribulation and every day is judgement day.

To paraphrase Jesus of Nazareth, the jerks will always be with you…try your best to deal with it.  Later today I’ll pour a little glass from my bottle of Don Julio 1942 and toast the rapture that happens whenever I am happy and realize that for all its pain and struggle, life is good.  And when 6:30 comes along and the universe is just going on about its usual business I’ll be sitting on my front porch savoring a very nice tequila, and listening to the birds in my maple tree chirping like they don’t believe the world will ever end.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Rapture

May 19th, 2011

The Immutable Laws Of Physics…

So it occurs to me while having to restart both the iPad and iPhone this morning to get them responsive again, that either Murphy’s Law applies to software systems too, ie: software increases in complexity to its level of incompetence, or the 2nd law of thermodynamics applies to software, in a sense: with every upgrade, chaos always increases…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Immutable Laws Of Physics…

May 16th, 2011

Who Knew The Wedding Altar Was Also A Sacrificial One…(continued)

Joe Jervis over at Joe.My.God posts what looks like the cover of NOM’s current mailer…

So it looks like NOM is doubling-down on their The Homosexuals Are After Your Children card that worked for them so well in California.  How…unsurprising…

When you have reduced your neighbor to the status of a scarecrow that drives voters to the polls, or a scapegoat for every failure of moral character you would rather not be held accountable for, when you cannot see the people for the homosexuals, then threats to their lives become meaningless abstractions. They’re not your neighbors, they’re not people, they’re things…and the safety of things isn’t something that often crosses the mind. It’s not hate exactly…it’s what hate does to the heart eventually.  That may look like a photo of a cute little boy with his daddy’s glasses on, reading a book about two kings who fall in love, but look closer. That is a photo of human souls in free fall.  To win elections, to prevent loving same-sex couples from having access to marriage, NOM is belly flopping into the gutter, and they know it, and they don’t care.  Not honor, not morality, not any shred of basic human decency left within them matters to them any more.  All that matters is striking out at the Homosexual Menace.  This is what hate does to the heart, eventually.

The Homosexuals Are After Your Children!!! It’s a message that gets attention and, for now, wins elections. The trump card you can play when it looks like too many voters are starting to view the homosexual as their neighbor. It also gets people killed. But for that to weigh on your conscience, you have to see gays as people, not things.  You have to be able to see the people for the homosexuals.  Bigots can’t.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Who Knew The Wedding Altar Was Also A Sacrificial One…(continued)

May 15th, 2011

Who Knew The Wedding Altar Was Also A Sacrificial One?

Apparently Maggie Gallagher and Brian Brown believe that gay people have to die so that marriage can be sacred.

Joe Jervis over at Joe.My.God has a post up containing a video of Brian Brown speaking at Sen. Ruben Diaz hate rally in the Bronx this afternoon. It’s worth a look to get a feel for the heated atmosphere Diaz, Brown and company feel is appropriate for addressing the place of their gay neighbors in society. At the 2:55 mark, Brown shouts the following out at the crowd:

“It changes what is taught in the schools. Kids as young as kindergarten are taught in Massachusetts that their parents are bigots because they believe marriage is the union of a man and a woman.”

It just isn’t possible by now, that Brown and Gallagher don’t know their claim that the curriculum of kindergarten in Massachusetts has anything to do with same-sex marriage is false. But the smear that The Homosexuals Are After Your Children has a long history, even before Anita Bryant embodied it with her Save Our Children campaign, which was not so much about saving children (certainly not any gay ones at least) then it was making sure gay citizens could loose their jobs simply for being gay. But if it’s not possible that Brown and Gallagher don’t know that Massachusetts isn’t teaching kindergarteners about same-sex marriages, it’s also not possible that they don’t know how useful it is to say that it is.

So here is Brown doubling-down on it. Not only is Massachusetts teaching kindergarteners about same-sex marriage, but their teachers are telling them that their parents are bigots. And he’s doing it in a community that’s already had some pretty spectacular anti-gay violence recently…

Bronx gang accused of torturing gay man and 3 others make first court appearance

Eight gay-hating Bronx gangbangers accused of one of the city’s most savage crimes in years appeared in court Sunday to face charges in what Mayor Bloomberg called an act of “pure evil.”

They stand accused of torturing and terrorizing a gay man, his older brother and two teenagers over the course of many hours Oct. 3 in Morris Heights.

“Is it true you’re a fag?” ringleader Idelfonso (Cheto) Mendez allegedly demanded of his bound victims before punching them in the face.

Prosecutors said he repeated the query and the punch over and over again.

Straight Teen Killed in Queens Gay-Bash Attack

Anti-gay bias attacks don’t always target gays. Sometimes violent perpetrators screaming anti-gay epithets target straight men instead. Such may have been the case in the March 12 beating death in Queens, New York, of 18-year-old Anthony Collao, a heterosexual recent high school graduate, reported the New York Daily News on March 15.

Several young men who reportedly broke windows, scrawled on the walls with red markers, and made hand gestures associated with gangs invaded a party hosted by two gay men. The men also reportedly attacked and beat Collao while hurling anti-gay epithets, the article said.

The news account said that Collao tried to avoid violence by leaving the party once the four intruders entered. The gang chased him down, the article said, threw him up against a car, and pummeled him mercilessly. Collao was reportedly was reportedly punched, kicked, and stomped. One assailant was said to be carrying a pipe.

Four suspects were later placed under arrest. One of the young men was wearing Collao’s baseball cap, and the other three were “covered in blood.”

Do you really think that Ruben Diaz doesn’t know about any of this? Or Brian Brown?

“Kids as young as kindergarten are taught in Massachusetts that their parents are bigots because they believe marriage is the union of a man and a woman…”

The homosexuals are coming for your children!!! This is the kind of thing that gets people gay bashed and killed. And NOM’s utter indifference to the climate of violence this sort of rhetoric can enable speaks volumes. Perhaps it’s true that Maggie Gallagher and Brian Brown do not hate gay people. Perhaps. Clearly they regard hate as a useful tool. It gets people to the voting booth. It gets their checkbooks opened up.

A few months ago Maggie, you asked, rhetorically, “Do I have blood on my hands?” And you know, I’ve been wondering why you didn’t bother wearing your wedding ring to the DOMA hearings a few weeks ago. They say the wedding ring embodies the continuous flow of love, a never-ending circle symbolizing eternity, where there is no beginning or end, the gold symbolizing purity…gold being one of the noble elements that are said to be incorruptible. But the spilling of innocent blood corrupts everything it touches. That simple, elegant and beautiful symbol of eternal love…you’re turning it into a thing of shame Maggie. I don’t think very many couples want their wedding vows sealed with a ring of blood.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Who Knew The Wedding Altar Was Also A Sacrificial One?

May 11th, 2011

Love Comes First. Right After Dogma.

The thinking is that it’s the religious right pushing more and more young people into questioning their faith.  But some poisons require much smaller doses…

How Liberal Christians Nixed A Gay Rights Ad

For Mother’s Day, an interfaith social justice group created this ad urging churches to be accepting of gay families. But one Christian website wasn’t so accepting of the ad. According to the Huffington Post, the group Intersections International pitched the ad to the progressive Christian organization Sojourners, hoping to place it on their website and e-mail list. Sojourners turned it down, issuing a statement reading, “I’m afraid we’ll have to decline. Sojourners position is to avoid taking sides on this issue. In that care [sic], the decision to accept advertising may give the appearance of taking sides.”

This prompted some outrage…

I can’t imagine why.  The article goes on to mention Tim King, Sojourners public spokesdroid, blogging the issue…roundaboutly, in a post titled “Love Comes First”….

God worked in my heart. I realized that my primary job as a follower of Christ wasn’t to try and answer the question, “Is it okay to be gay?” and then enforce my answer on others. My job was to love my neighbor as myself. I knew I didn’t want to be a part of those actively hurting or “accidentally” ostracizing anyone who identified as LGBTQ. My time was much better spent hearing the stories, listening to the struggles, and learning from those in that community. My responsibility was to speak out on issues of civil rights for the LGBT community and actively work to make the church a more welcoming place. I learned that “How do I love?” must come before, “Who is okay?”

If you listen carefully you can hear the mantra of the religious right: love the sinner, hate the sin.  What King gives us here an example of the liberal version: Love the sinner, let’s agree to disagree about the sin… It is every bit as indifferent to the humanity of gay people, just more cowardly, less willing even then the outright hater to examine its own evasiveness.  How seriously do you speak out for the civil rights of your gay neighbors when you don’t under any circumstances want to have to answer the question of their being “okay”?  How deep is the love that doesn’t care one whit whether the homosexual is your neighbor or an abomination in the eyes of god?  If homosexuality is the love that dare not speak its name, Sojourners is the Christianity that dared turn love into an empty slogan.

When people ask me these days how I, raised in a pretty strict Baptist household, could have become an atheist, I tell them that it wasn’t because I have a grudge against religion.  Since I am a gay man and gay people are somewhere between human garbage and handy stepping stones to heaven in a lot of churches, you would expect I have some pretty bad feelings about the faith of my childhood, but it isn’t so.  I have some pretty bad feelings towards certain kinds of fundamentalism, but there are still a lot of things I value deeply that I learned sitting in the pews of my childhood, chief among them respect for the soul competency of others.  I came to this place simply because belief in god stopped making sense to me.  But I do not begrudge others who ask that same question honestly and get a different answer from mine.  The better part of both science and religion councils humility when asking the Big Questions.  Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the Earth…?  If we knew what it was we were doing it would not be called research…

But it is also a fact worth reflecting on, that had I lived in a less prejudiced time I might not have felt the need to pursue the big questions so intensely.  It wasn’t just the bottomless hatred of others that pushed me out of church and into the world.  It was seeing the cowardliness of those who knew perfectly well that there is nothing wrong with their gay neighbors, but who could not bring themselves to challenge the hatred of others, lest they themselves became hated too.  It was seeing so many, so horribly many, who could not bring themselves to challenge their own deeply rooted prejudices, lest they come face to face with their part in the persecution so many innocent people, so many couples whose only crime was to fall in love.  We have nothing against homosexuals as fellow human beings…but the Bible Clearly States…

Not the bottomless hatred of bigots, but the seeing with my own two eyes how quickly even good men and women of reason and faith would toss overboard their honor, their good name, and their sense of basic human decency when it came to their gay neighbors. What is truth, asked Pilot. Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes, asked Marx. While you’re wash, washing your hands of your gay neighbor’s struggle for a place in this world that doesn’t demean their humanity Messrs. Wallis and King, here is some truth: if love between a man and a woman is “okay” but love between same-sex couples isn’t then what comes first isn’t love.

As Elie Wiesel said, the opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.  Strangers can gay bash you, but only family can tear your heart out and eat it, simply by not caring.  Likewise, it’s the ones we think of as friends, who we trust, whose indifference cuts deepest.  Hate you can overcome, but betrayal you never forget.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Love Comes First. Right After Dogma.

It’s Such A Different World From The One I Grew Up In…

So…yes…I Twitter. I’m coming to find that the running Tweet list is a really great way to stay informed and pick up on interesting conversations. Of course, it all depends on who you’re following. Follow a bunch of vacant celebrities and you get nothing but vacant celebrity babble. But follow people like Atrios, Ezra Klien, Rachel Maddow, Krugman and such and you get a really absorbing mix of real time chatter. And there are celebrities who are worth following: George Takei, Eddie Izzard, Christopher Walken (Although he doesn’t tweet much anymore…)

So…anyway…I tweet. And I watch. Mostly I watch. And during last night’s nightly bout of insomnia I saw this from Myth Buster Grant Imahara…

…and the first thing that crossed my mind was Who are Lanikai and Mahalo and why haven’t I read their stories? I have tons of yaoi here at Casa del Garrett and I have never heard of these characters that are supposedly so popular.  However, the concept of “starter ukes” is…intriguing…

What a starter uke might look like…

What I don’t get is why Shuichi didn’t make the list.  In my opinion he’d make an excellent starter uke, provided you could handle his mood swings…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on It’s Such A Different World From The One I Grew Up In…

May 9th, 2011

To Clarify…I Am Not A Bigot, I Just Like Tweeting Like One

Le Dance Pathetique…as choreographed by Uptown Sports Management…


Very sad to read Sean Avery’s misguided support of same-gender ‘marriage…


Legal or not, it will always be wrong…


To clarify. This is not hatred or bigotry towards gays…


It is not intolerance in any way shape or form…


I believe we are all equal…


But I believe the sanctity of marriage is between one man and one woman…


This is my personal viewpoint…


I do not hate anyone.

Le Curtian…Applaus a vous…


Le Update Encore un Père skunk de pew…

“It’s sad. I mean, my personal position is that I do not support gay marriage, and I think it’s wrong, as well. It’s not politically correct to, I guess, give your opinion about a thing like that. It’s politically correct on the other side, for people to say, ‘sure, I support gay marriage.’ But the majority, I think, of Canadians would say that they don’t agree with gay marriage – that man and woman were created to be married, not man and man or man and horse, you know?” -Don Reynolds, father of Todd Reynolds, original tweeter and vice-president of Uptown Sports Management, as quoted in The National Post


Le Yikes! Le kittee quel terrible odeur!! Scram a vous!!!

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on To Clarify…I Am Not A Bigot, I Just Like Tweeting Like One

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