Flaky Internet Connection? Gather the evidence first

So the home internet connection has become poorly this last month. Seems like a few times daily that everything just freezes up. Facebook posts don’t load, chrome just hangs, and within a minute my son is complaining that his xbox is down. I look at the AT&T router flashing its green lights, and then see a hiccup as the lights go out, the box makes an audible click, and the system reboots. A minute later and all is well.

Call the internet service provider and ask if anyone else in the neighborhood is having problems? Who isn’t? Have the service guy come out and poke around? It’ll work perfectly when he is here.

First things first. Gather the evidence. How often does the internet go down?

Should be a free program for that. I can launch a command line, type “ping -t 8.8.8.8” (see here), and see how things are going. Just need a timer (do it once every 30 seconds), and write to a log file so I can check it daily and see what it happening. 10 min to write a script for this, right?

But someone should have already written something like this. However, a google search for something ran into all sorts of problems. Lots of programs out there, but they charge? What? Or a free download and 30 days trial? No thanks.

Oh here is a free tool from a reputable site. Got all the right names, “Internet Connection Monitor”. But I installed this pita and the icon just sat there in my taskbar and wouldn’t load a window. Tried to uninstall it and windows locked up for about 5 min. Even revo-uninstaller is spinning its wheels. May have to reboot before deleting this poc. But enough about that.

Try Internet Connectivity Monitor. Does exactly what I asked for, doesn’t install anything (just run it out of the downloaded/extracted folder), and there you go.

An Accurate and Efficient Procedure for Estimating Process Design Reliability

My PhD thesis has been languishing on my computer in Word format since 1993. Every once in a while I’d mess with converting it to pdf, but my computer horsepower was a bit weak and the conversion had problems. Well I finally tried again and the result is good enough to release. There are lots of little problems: (1) The page numbers in the Table of Contents aren’t quite right. The chart symbols are screwed up (you’ll see letters when you should see shapes), and some of the complex pictures are off. But hey, good enough.

The subject is designing distillation columns with optimum safety factors.

Download the pdf here

Farewell to cabins 7 and 8

We got the call we’d been dreading: Steve had sold the land next to Sebago Resort. Worse, demolition of cabins 7 and 8 was to begin within days. Nothing to do but gather the troops, dash to Nisswa, and salvage what we could. Doug bought his “awesome set of tools”, fun was had, and nobody got hurt.

We extracted the hard wood floors in cabin 7. Original 1920s flooring. Pieces up to 21 foot long. Impossible to get anything like that today.

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Below is the interior of cabin 8 with the flooring removed.
Interior of cabin 8 with flooring removed

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Buying an electric pressure cooker

I decided to buy a pressure cooker. The initial research showed that I had to choose between electric and stovetop. The stovetop is better, but it makes me nervous to leave an unattended stove, so I picked electric.

The first review websites I ran into showed the Emeril CY4000001 ($120) and the Cuisinart CPC-600 ($100) as the two best units. The Emeril was a little better because it did not lose as much liquids from evaporation, but the difference is small (3% vs 2% or so). Now the Cuisinart can be found in local stores, but the Emeril has to be bought online, and it actually seems to be out of stock in some cases.

Then I found the “Instant Pot”. Made by Canadians, and the reviewers say the company is very responsive and always improving the product. You have to buy it off amazon, and it can be delivered for about $130.

Their current model is the Instant Pot IP-LUX60, but check their website at Instant Pot.

So either get the Cuisinart from a local store or the Instant Pot from Amazon. I went with the cuisinart because I wanted it now. Got it from Dillards.

Recommend Bill the treadmill guy in Kansas City

Just wanted to leave an internet trail to recommend Bill the Treadmill Guy in Kansas City. His website is . If you need in-home service for your treadmill, I highly recommend him.

He was fully booked when I called, so it took a couple weeks to schedule a visit. His price was $95 minimum for the visit, plus parts. He saw that our old treadmill (I bought it for $50 off craigslist) just needed a new belt, so he replaced the belt and gave everything a clean and tuneup. Total price $140.

Can’t beat that. Nice guy and professional work. Highly recommended.

Mike Royko on Doctor Salaries

Mike Royko was the best newspaper columnist in the country in my lifetime. He had no tolerance for stupidity. This was one of his best pieces:

Poll about doctors’ earnings reflects a sick society

Mike Royko

ON A STUPIDITY scale, a recent poll about doctors’ earnings is right up there. It almost scored a perfect brain-dead 10.

It was commissioned by some whiny consumers group called Families USA.

The poll tells us that the majority of Americans believe that doctors make too much money.

The pollsters also asked what a fair income would be for physicians. Those polled said, oh, about $80,000 a year would be OK.

How generous. How sporting. How stupid.

Why is this poll stupid? Because it is based on resentment and envy, two emotions that ran hot during the political campaign and are still simmering.

YOU COULD conduct the same kind of poll about any group that earns $100,000-plus and get the same results. Since the majority of Americans don’t make those bucks, they assume that those who do are stealing it from them.

Maybe the Berlin Wall came down, but don’t kid yourself, Karl Marx lives.

It’s also stupid because it didn’t ask key questions, such as: Do you know how much education and training it takes to become a physician?

If those polled said, no, they didn’t know, then they should have been disqualified. If they gave the wrong answers, they should have been dropped. What good are their views on how much a doctor should earn if they don’t know what it takes to become a doctor?

Or maybe a question should have been phrased this way: “How much should a person earn if he or she must (a) get excellent grades and a fine educational foundation in high school in order to (b) be accepted by a good college and spend four years taking courses heavy in math, physics, chemistry and other lab work and maintain a 3.5 average or better, and (c) spend four more years of grinding study in medical school, with the 3rd and 4th years in clinical training, working 80 to 100 hours a week, and (d) spend another year as a low-pay, hard-work intern, and (e) put in another 3 to 10 years of post-graduate training, depending on your specialty and (f) maybe wind up $100,000 in debt after medical school and (g) then work an average of 60 hours a week, with many family doctors putting in 70 hours or more until they retire or fall over?”

AS YOU HAVE probably guessed by now, I have considerably more respect for doctors than does the law firm of Clinton and Clinton, and all the lawyers and insurance executives they have called together to remake America’s health care.

Based on what doctors contribute to society, they are far more useful than the power-happy, ego-tripping, program spewing, social tinkerers who will probably give us a medical plan that is to health what Clinton’s first budget is to frugality.

But propaganda works. And, as the stupid poll indicates, many Americans wrongly believe that profiteering doctors are the major cause of high medical costs.

Of course doctors are well compensated. They should be. Americans now live longer than ever. But who is responsible for our longevity–lawyers, Congress, or the guy flipping burgers in a McDonald’s?

And the doctors prolong our lives despite our having become a nation of self-indulgent, lard-butted, TV-gaping couch cabbages.

AH, THAT IS not something you heard President Clinton or Super Spouse talk about during the campaign or since. But instead of trying to turn the medical profession into a villain, they might have been more honest if they had said:

“Let us talk about medical care and, one of the biggest problems we have. That problem is you, my fellow American. Yes, you, eating too much and eating the wrong foods; many of you guzzling too much hooch; still puffing away at $2.50 a pack; getting your daily exercise by lumbering from the fridge to the microwave to the couch; doing dope and bringing crack babies into the world; filling the big city emergency rooms with gunshot victims; engaging in unsafe sex and catching a deadly disease while blaming the world for not finding an instant cure.

“You and your habits, not the doctors, are the single biggest health problem in this country. If anything, it is amazing that the doc’s keep you alive as long as they do. In fact, I don’t understand how they can stand looking at your blubbery bods all day.

So as your president, I call upon you to stop whining and start living cleanly. Now I must go get myself a triple cheesy-greasy with double fries. Do as I say, not as I do.”

BUT FOR THOSE who truly believe that doctors are overpaid, there is another solution: Don’t use them.

That’s right. You don’t feel well? Then try one of those spine poppers, needle twirlers, or have Rev. Bubba lay his hands upon your head and declare you fit.

Or there is the do-it-yourself approach. You have chest pains? Then sit in front of a mirror, make a slit here, a slit there, and pop in a couple of valves.

You’re going to have a kid? Why throw your money at that overpaid sawbones, so he can buy a better car and a bigger house than you will ever have (while paying more in taxes and malpractice insurance than you will ever earn)?

Just have the kid the old-fashioned way. Squat and do it. And if it survives, you can go to the library and find a book on how to give it its shots.

By the way, has anyone ever done a poll on how much pollsters should earn?

Liese Ridgeway Vanatta

I was at a remarkable funeral yesterday for my friend Liese. Remarkable for far more than the fact that I heard a Metallica song played by a string trio. Remarkable because so few people contain a glimpse of sainthood. And she did. Always a sparkle in her daily activity. In her gladness to see you and give you her full attention. In her eternal optimism. She was one of the people you don’t believe exist until you meet one in person.

Her friend Gar Demo asked her how she wanted to be remembered. She answered:

Tell them how much faith I have.
Tell them how much I love God and I love creation.
Tell them how much I love my Husband. And my children. And my parents. My family.
Tell them how much I love them…And then tell them to live.
Tell them the gift that they have.
Tell them the light that is dwelling within them.
Tell them to rock on.
Tell them to celebrate.
Tell them to root for KU.

 

Audio transcript

 

Selling the bike roof rack

With the new car, we went to a rear mount rather than a roof rack, so I’m selling the latter.

Thule 599XTR Big Mouth, which I bought back in 2000 and ran a few trips back and forth to Minn. It holds 2 bikes, including mountain bikes.

Thule website

Cost me something like $200+. I’m selling for $60.

You’ll need an existing roofrack. The fitting components were for a Mazda MPV 2000, but it should work for a variety of frames. This unit attaches a new crossbeam in the front.

 

There are rubber “cushions” for the wheel tie-downs. You need four, but I lost one and so only have three. Some rolled up cardboard does a fine job protecting the wheel. Can always order a new part from Thule if aesthetic requirements are important.

UPDATE: SOLD

My internet reading list

I subscribe to a variety of reading material. A good cross-section of newspapers from around the world, and a just basic good readings lists. Here is my current main list of links.

Even better than newspapers are RSS news feeds. These are internet-based sites that will “feed” a list of articles to your “inbox”. I find these much more efficient.

I use google reader as my reader. It is all you need.

(*) for links I really like
(RSS) for news feeds

Local
KC Pitch. Kansas City underground paper
KC Star
Concert reviews. Music scene
Concert reviews. Music scene (RSS)
Gary Lezak weather (RSS)

International News
NY Times
Google news (great streaming. Also check each country’s front page)
Time magazine
Christian Science Monitor
Jerusalem Post (liberal)
NPR
The guardian
Spiegel (German) (*)

Economics
Fortune mag
The Economist  (*)
Financial Times
The weekly standard
Emanuel Derman (quant thinker)(RSS)
Pileus (conservative, not right-wing)

Opinions
Slate. (Liberal but analytical)(*)
The Atlantic(*)
National Review Online (right-wing)
David Gergen (best opinionator *)
The New Yorker (*)
Reason foundation
Daily caller
Ill Doctrine (intelligent black male) (RSS) 

South Africa
Cape Town daily newspaper
SABC
Durban newspaper
news24

KU / Lawrence
The UDK
Lawrence journal world
KU Sports
Lawrence.com

Science / Computers / Tech
Scientific American
CNET (computers)
Wired
Danger room (great military blog RSS)
Techmeme. (Computer link gatherer)
Cocktail party physics: Personable and cool (RSS)
CSS Tricks (only if you know what CSS is)(RSS)
Dead reckonings (obscure math)
Discover magazine (*)(RSS)
Paul Graham (tech thinker)(RSS)

Link Gatherers
Slashdot. The original
Digg
Boing Boing
Daily Beast
2leep (the best trashy stuff)
Anarak (even better trashy stuff)
Metafilter (*)
Mashable (RSS)
The Browser (general interest reading (*)(RSS)
Longform.org (general interest reading(*)(RSS)
Longreads (general interest reading(*)(RSS)

Toons
Doonesbury
Dilbert
PhD. Piled higher and deeper

Misc
Joe Posnanski (sports)(RSS)(*)
Lifehacker (DIY lifestyle)(RSS)
Playbook (techs sports)(RSS)
Dan Savage (sex advice column)(RSS)

 

UPDATE 8/21/2012
Removed Newsweek. If Tine Brown is going to turn it into the daily beast, might as well read the daily beast. One week Romney is a wimp; the next Obama is no good; the only common factor a magazine desperate for attention.