The big room

night sky, July 2016

About a half an hour after we went to bed I awakened in a fit of reflux coughing and knew I would need to relocate for the night to respect Viv’s sleep needs. About an hour later I’m snug in the collapsible hammock under a couple blankets on the rear deck.

In lying here grumbling at my biology it strikes me that I cannot ever remember actually sleeping in an environment where I can directly see the sky, not through a tent’s mosquito netting or a window or whatnot. A mosquito just landed on my nose, so it’s not clear to me I’ll break the streak.

Mower hub

The front-wheel drive on the mower went out when I mowed on Thursday. I have mowed the lawns, when extant, of every place I have lived since I was 11, and hated every minute spent on it: it’s just not my bag. I would never in a lifetime pay someone to do it. Pondering. I am tempted to take the mower apart in order to repair it or lay it to rest, especially because I know nothing about internal combustion engines.

I decided against an electric mower when we bought this one a decade ago for a couple of reasons:

one, a cord attached to cutting device and in my control inevitably means I will cut the cord (no, really, I have done it with both a chainsaw and a hedge trimmer)

two, rechargeable batteries and power equipment had a bad track record at the time and may still – for example, I borrowed my neighbor’s rechargeable circular saw last summer and it was basically unusable due to battery fatigue.

Jeannette, in order to be true to my cheapskate nature I will be deblading the mower this afternoon and taking the housing off the drive. It’s a belt drive to what must be a worm gear. The wheels still turn when it’s engaged, just much more slowly than they should, giving the effect of a brake and dramatically increasing the drag of the mower – it feels somewhat as if someone is sitting on the mower deck.

the engagement lever seems to work properly, but I noticed that when I pull the cam on the housing, the entire lower housing rotates slightly. So I think the housing dropped a bolt and the engagement mechanism is not rotating into the fully engaged position. I did not notice the wheels stutter-stepping, though, which is what I would expect from gears not quite meshing. I also noticed what seems to be a broken axle housing.


The drive belt had indeed hopped the hub.

Well, I am mostly pleased. No local hardware or mower repair places had the specific belt in stock but I just went to a nearby auto parts place and got the equivalent part, a 33 inch by 3/8 inch fan belt, for about $30, which is an outrageous price – the actual part itself was on Amazon with free shipping and Sunday delivery for $8, which is outrageous in another dimension.

It took a few hours of searching and about 30 minutes of mower disassembly/reassembly.


Finished my long-stalled-at-s07 DS9 watchthrough the other day and was taken aback at the self-indulgent flab larding the finale. Vic Fontaine! Clip montages of not one, not two, but THREE – no, FOUR – character relationships in the final, post-plot twenty minutes! Good Prophets, how terribly lazy and disrespectful of your actors, your characters, and your fans!
I will say this: clearly the end of the Dukat/Nurse Ratched/Pah Wraiths plot, in conjunction with the endless endings and clip montages, convinced Peter Jackson to follow suit over the last, oh, TWO HOURS of his LoTR films.

To be sure, the final season of TNG was a mix of bad scripts sloppily produced and payoff material reflecting expertise and experience. The final season of DS9 doesn’t even rise to the level of hot mess: it’s all about fanmilking, stem to stern. What a goddamn shame, and what a disrespectful thing to do to the actors, writers, crew, and fans of the show.

I gave up on the watch-thru last year at the top of s07 when the Space Jesus stuff kicked into overdrive. Then I nudged it along a bit at a time but when they started cramming Vic Fontaine stuff into every third episode for a while, with full-length songs that didn’t advance the plot or convey character information, I started yelling “LAZY!” at the screen.

I guess you made it through the baseball episode without losing your mind.

And killing off Jadzia Dax at the end of s06 over the actress’ reasonable contract request for pay parity! Christ! The whole season is an outrage.

they have a thoughtful man – soon to be a father – throw himself and what appears to be an actually supernaturally resurrected being into a lake of equally supernatural fire in the final episode. because that’s what Starfleet’s all about.

Now that I think about it, I remember that this was Ron Moore’s show. He has a problem with stupid supernatural plotlines and finales, apparently.

Actually, the *whole* season’s not an outrage. Major Kira finally gets to wear something that is not a space leotard.


Sudden flashback to hosting a bunch of websites out of our old apartment on a rickety old Mac via symmetrical fixed-IP DSL. My ISP allocated an improbably large set of addresses at first, possibly a full 255. Good lord. I think it may have been a Mac II with an Ethernet card running System 7. I ran a Mac-only server application (which was developed independently of Apache) and Mac ports of DNS and sendmail. Then eventually I put it on a series of parted-out Powerbook 540c machines which I had somehow figured out how to run a full Apache stack on. Not LAMP exactly but something like MacAMP, some sort of Unix-like environment running within System 7. I think. Possibly Apache came in with Mac OS X, but I have pretty clear memories of editing Apache config files on that Blackbird. I definitely remember the first time I started digging into Mac OS X and realized all that stuff came built-in and I could cut it out, more or less, with pulls and builds.

I finally moved to remote hosting when Gallery, an open-source PHP-based image-management web application, began to bog down on back-end tasks when my image base exceeded a couple thousand pics. By then the local hardware was out of spec for the app simply based on processor speed. Let’s see, I started running the Perl-based Movable Type around six months after 9/11 on that laptop setup, so I must have retired the local rigs after another couple years. So I’d guesstimate that stack lasted from around 1996 or 1997 until around 2003 or so.

I still have many of these machines, including the Blackbirds (such great axes!), stacked up awaiting my inner eBay daemon. Seems to me I probably have some old blog posts still up from the era, for that matter.


Finished our (necessarily short) backlog of Star trek Continues, which I have shared my admiration for in the past.
Their sixth episode, “Come Not Between the Dragons,” was written and features creature design and direction by midlevel Pixar veteran Greg Dykstra. Any relation? Unknown.

I have to say, this episode is very strong, with nearly zero offbase production choices or technical faults.

As I watched it I wondered if they’d returned to their early production model of producing old pitches from TOS and TAS – the story has elements that reflect aspects of saturday morning cartoons and classic Japanese kaiju films.
If this does prove to be the last work from this team, it will be a tremendous shame. They have hit their stride and are just now ready to truly grow.

Go M’s!

My mom just related getting a “Go Mariners!” from unknown rando while walking around Reykjavik in an M’s hat. I assume she’s referring to the white bucket hat I bought for her a couple years ago when I dragged them along to a game. She sounded happy about it.

Google Forms date and time lookups

(Originally written as a Google Docs Forum post)
I have a google form that records data such as
2/2/2015 12:41:49 179.2 0.81 140
2/3/2015 14:34:24 177 1.06 147
2/4/2015 12:59:45 179.2 1.21 153
2/5/2015 11:15:26 177.2 1.14 148

I am interested in performing a lookup on the *date only*, with the intent of recasting the data in another tab within the same sheet.

The destination tab has a prepopulated date which can be used to perform a lookup. However, as it is the date only the underlying numeric date value is distinct from the underlying date value populating the datetime stamp field in the form data. That combined with the way that VLOOKUP performs fuzzy matching means that the data retrieved is generally associated with the previous date.

Here is an example showing that exact issue.

The formula used to perform the lookup is


What is needed is for the source datetime column to be evaluated for just the date part, or to evaluate for a matching substring. I don’t think hlookup and vlookup can do this.

One possible way to do it is to add a column in the form’s sheet that performs the =INT(datetime stamp) operation and then point vlookup at that column, but I am reluctant to prepopulate the spreadsheet with that data because in my experience adding data to a form-derived spreadsheet causes the form to populate the next blank row beneath the data stored, and thus defeats my purpose.

Writing this, I wonder if I can add a hidden field that performs this operation at submit, splitting datetime into date and time columns in addition to the datetime column.

Beyond that, I was interested in learning how to perform the date extraction algorithmically anyway. I have seen similar questions posed that reference array formulae and the use of QUERY. I had thought given my desire to recast the data in a given additional tab with various hardened formatting features an array formula is not what I want, but I was open to suggestions.

I resolved this on my own.

The solution was to add two columns in the form’s destination sheet, DATEINT and TIMETEXT. I have placed them as column B and C.

Then, I added the following array formulae to the first row beneath the new columntitles:


= ArrayFormula(INT( A2:A ))


= ArrayFormula(TEXT( A2:A , "H:MM:SS" ))

An unused approach was to convert the date to text as well:


= ArrayFormula(TEXT( A2:A , "M/D/YYYY" ))

The array formula autofills down the sheet on the populated rows and will extend as data is added to the field. It does not impede form data collection.

This answer on the forums was helpful.

Researching this solution, implementing it, and writing about it took about an hour and a half.

Late dinner

It’s solstice. My dinner plan was delayed, so food will be up after sunset, like 10:30 or so, in the bleak just-summer.


This gig, doing print layout, is totally fun. I spent years doing this stuff, beginning literally before the advent of desktop publishing when the Mac first came out in 1984. I was somewhat unsure if I would be at sea or what but given my even-longer-term familiarity with Adobe’s tools, this gig is somewhat like falling off a log. I’m even working at home, on my own gear – a lesson learned from Steve M., who emphasized that smallholder skilled workers could, in fact, control the means of production. I’ve never lacked a computer at home since that conversation.

The upgrade-go-round fiasco seems to have mostly ended, one laptop to the bad. I suppose I will source a mobo on eBay and revive the thing as I did with the MPT I killed last year.

I suppose I should excavate stuff of FB from the past six months as I did last post flurry.