News for September 2007

Radiation tri-blade 30.september.2007 » My rock-climbing buddy, Tom, called yesterday afternoon. "I'm coming over to pick you up," he said. "I'm taking you shopping for a new mountain bike."

Rad's new mountain bike » GT Avalanche 2.0"I can't afford a new mountain bike right now," I said.

"I know," he replied. "Don't worry. My treat." I thought we were gonna look at some used (cheap) bikes. Not so. He took me to a store.

Tom is not rich. On the way over, he told me a story, how many years ago, while in his early 20's, his landlord informed him waterbeds were not allowed, and that he'd have to get rid of his waterbed.

"I don't have the money to buy a new bed," he complained. "You should have told me before I moved in."

One of Tom's neighbors overheard the conversation. The next day Tom found $350 cash in his mailbox. (Back when $350 was a lot of money.) Tom confronted the man (a Muslim, working 3 jobs) and asked if he were responsible. "It's from whoever you *want* it to be from," the man replied.

"I'll repay you," Tom said, "with interest." The Muslim explained how it was against his religion to make money off money. He told Tom he should simply "pass it on," and that he'd know when the time was right.

Today's entry continues in Ye Olde Rad Blog .. see here » New Mountain Bike » A Gift Passed On

Radiation tri-blade 24.september.2007 » Back in February, Google released a report titled » Failure Trends in a Large Disk Drive Population (13-page PDF, 242-KB), which detailed their findings regarding the failure rates of hard disk drives they own.

Since Google uses so many hard drives (over 100,000 were used in this study), their findings were of great interest to those of us who've had trouble locating reliable data on the topic.

Hard Disk DriveMoreover, their report was of special significance because it contradicted many commonly held beliefs, such as:

  1. cooled drives fail less
  2. the harder a drive works, the more likely it is to fail
  3. SMART monitoring is a reliable predictor of drive failure
  4. Mean Time Before Failure (MTBF) is a meaningful spec

Personally, I think drive failure has a lot to do with how the drive was handled en route (by the shipper) » from the manufacturer to the reseller, and » from the reseller to the end user (you & me).

Hard drives aren't designed to be tossed around like fish at the market, or dropped like a hockey puck. And these are factors no one will ever know (except the carrier).

What the survey *did* confirm, however .. was something we already knew » hard drives fail more than we'd like.

The Google survey reported that ~2% of their drives failed during the first year of operation, and ~8% every year thereafter.

So how do you protect yourself against the devastating effects of hard drive failure? There are various ways, with each method offering a degree of protection. But the *best* way to protect your data and your operating system is with an imaging/cloning program .. such as Norton Ghost (distributed by Symantec).

Today's entry continues in Ye Olde Rad Blog .. see here » 5 Reasons Why You Should Back-up Your Hard Drive with a Cloning Program such as Norton Ghost

Radiation tri-blade 23.september.2007 » Today is the first day of autumn (or spring, for those of you living south of the equator) .. otherwise known as the equinox, a latin-term meaning "equal night," when hours of daylight equal those of night.

Autumn leavesAt exactly 2:51 AM (for those of us living here on the left coast), the sun crossed the equator, entering the southern hemisphere, where it will remain for the next six months. ("Adios, amigo. Say hi to our friends down under.")

Today also marks the end of summer. Our days will continue to shorten .. until the arrival of the winter solstice (around Christmas) .. as we continue our trip around the sun.

Pretty cool how they can determine the exact moment.

Some of the guys who frequent the Rad forums live in Australia & New Zealand. When it is day here, it's night there. And when it's summer here, it's winter there. Everything is opposite. The idea of that torques my brain a little (in a good way).

Radiation tri-blade 20.september.2007 » Quick update to let everybody know that .. regarding the previous entry (and this one) » I'm doing everything I possibly can .. to remain in the Bug's life.

When you can't afford an attorney, there are only so many levers you can pull, and buttons you can push. But I'm pushing & pulling the best I can. (Couldn't live with myself if I didn't at least try.)

And as you know, lawyers can definitely help, especially good ones. If my efforts fail .. ugh .. I'll have to deal with that. But I can't not try.

I'm probably in denial, but I actually have a sense of hope & optimism.

Serious emotional stress here. Whew! This is the worst emotional stress I think I've ever experienced. [Funny that this comes right after the worst *physical* stress I've ever experienced .. just a few weeks ago.]

Today's entry continues in Ye Olde Rad Blog .. see here » Everything I Can Possibly Do .. to Stay in the Bug's Life

Radiation tri-blade 15.september.2007 » My mom died more than 20 years ago. Cancer. It was over within a matter of months. ("Mercifully," some say.) Yet still too horrible to contemplate.

Steinman Park » Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in the heart of downtownI was living in Pennsylvania at the time. Mom lived up in Connecticut (4 hours away).

Exactly one week before we learned the news, she and my aunt (her sister) drove down to visit for the weekend. (Something which had never happened before.) They rolled into town Friday afternoon, and returned home Monday (leaving as I left for work in the morning).

It went fast, but we had the best time. (Ever!) Downright magical. [Again, this was just a week before we learned the news. I can still remember the phone call...

.. which came unnervingly early Saturday morning » "Honey, I got bad news," my aunt said. "Are you sitting down?" .. the question which always harbingers the worst kind of news.]

Call it what you want » "God," "the Universe," "Destiny" .. whatever terminology you're comfortable with .. but that weekend felt like (and *still* feels like) a special gift .. one which I can always return to (in my mind) .. whenever I miss her.

Who knows why she decided to come down that particular weekend? Maybe she had a premonition? .. or intuition? .. or just pure coincidence. "Spur-of-the-moment idea," she claimed. But certainly, the timing was good as it gets. The following week, she went in for a check-up. (That was the beginning of the end.)

The height of our weekend came during dinner at a fancy restaurant » Windows of Steinman Park (situated to your left in the picture, just out of view). The place had a wall of huge floor-to-ceiling windows (hence the name), some two or three stories tall, overlooking the park below (located in the heart of America's oldest inland city).

An old black man, wearing a red beret, sat playing a grand piano there. His gentle music carried softly throughout the multi-tiered restaurant. My girlfriend at the time (a sharp-dressing manager of a woman's clothing store) had to work that night, so it was just the three of us.

Sitting around an oversized round table, with an envious view of the park below, we had a glass or two of Chardonnay with our appetizers. The conversation was scintillating. We even befriended the kindly, old piano player (Fess), who played many beautiful songs for us.

Something definitely felt different that night. She didn't even feel like my mom, but rather a close friend. All barriers had vanished. These things are difficult to describe. (Maybe impossible.)

Today's entry continues in Ye Olde Rad Blog .. see here » Memories of Another Day.

Radiation tri-blade 12.september.2007 » During my college days, I happened to take (by pure chance) both Sociology and Economics (Macro) in the same semester (while working full-time).

Chris McCandless -  Into the WildWhat I learned during that semester (tho neither professor came right out and said so) is that the socio-political system (of a nation) is defined by its economic system (and vice versa).

Many of the weekly classes mirrored one another. For example, I would go to my Sociology class one night, where the professor would talk about "Karl Marx, the great social scientist." The next evening, sitting in Economics class, I'd hear all about "Karl Marx, the great economist."

Communism is both a socio-political and an economic system (which precludes private ownership). The same goes for Capitalism (which is founded upon private ownership as one of its central tenets).

It's worth mentioning (as a side note) that professors in both classes were quick to point out that the version of "communism" practiced by countries such China and the old Soviet Union bears little resemblance to the socio-economic (political) system espoused by Marx & Engels. (I got an A in both classes, which was all that mattered to me.)

Here in the States, where the notion of capitalism is so ingrained that it has become part of who we are, we walk around largely unaware that other systems exist. We know only that Communism is bad. But in reality, no system of government is perfect. All have flaws. (Cuz they're all run by flawed, imperfect people.)

But here's my point » how we approach money (capital) speaks *volumes* about who we are, both collectively (as a people) and individually (as a person).

In a capitalistic society (such as the one in which you & I live) it's rare to find someone who does not esteem capital. I mean, even the panhandler prizes your loose change. The lives of those at all levels of the socio-economic ladder seem to revolve - to some degree - around capital. How many people have been murdered for money? Now I said all that to say this.

Regulars may recall how much I enjoyed reading the book » Into the Wild (by Jon Krakauer). Here's a snippet of what I wrote back in October (on the 5th) 2005.

Been enjoying this new book: Into the Wild (refer to yesterday's entry). Feels like I'm sucking the juice out of every word. Fascinating reading. Read the first chapter twice .. so the book would last longer.

Today's entry continues in Ye Olde Rad Blog .. see here » What Drove McCandless "Into the Wild"? » A Film by Sean Penn, based on the book by Jon Krakauer

Radiation tri-blade 08.september.2007 » Last week I mentioned how the Bug cried when I brought him back to his mom .. and how that threw me for a loop, seeing it was a new development.

SkunkThis week wasn't such a shock, tho yesterday, again, brought more goodbye tears. (The Bug rarely cries. Tears are rarer still.) Yet surprisingly, I'm still struggling to get a handle on this new twist.

Everybody says it's normal, nothing to be concerned about. Intellectually, I agree. So why does it still have such a haunting effect on me?

My rock-climbing buddy (Tom) says it's due to the trouble that kids the Bug's age have understanding the concept of time, and that when you leave, they don't understand they'll see you again in only a few days. For them it feels like forever.

"I'd like to tell you it'll get better," Tom said, "but it's likely to get worse, first."

Yesterday I had all these cool plans for the evening, after the Bug's mom came to pick him up. After they left however (after the tears), I found myself disoriented, depressed, feeling waylaid, staring off into space .. struggling to get a handle on how to deal with this... Ugh, I don't even know what you'd call it.

"It rips you apart," Tom said. "That's exactly how it feels," I said. It felt good to know I'm not the only one who has felt this way.

Amid the anguish, it's easy to feel like we're the only one. But in reality, any parent who has ever had to drop off a kid at daycare, and leave while they're holding out their arms, crying, "Don't go," knows what I'm talking about. It's a horrible feeling. Emotionally paralyzing.

Today's entry continues in Ye Olde Rad Blog .. see here » More Goodbye Tears + "Dada's poops are stinked up!"

Radiation tri-blade 03.september.2007 » At the coffee shop yesterday, I let my rock-climbing buddy (Tom) talk me into a mountain bike ride (my first ever). Unfortunately, yesterday brought a record-breaking heat wave.

Mountain BikingIt was sooo freakin' hot. Tom estimated 105 degrees on the trails where no breeze blew. We didn't get started until after noon, finishing 3 hours later » smack dab in the heat of the day. (We stopped twice » once to fix his broken chain, and again later to repair my flat tire.)

This was the most physically stressed I've ever been. I actually noticed myself suffering impaired cognitive function. For example, while Tom fixed my flat, he told me to drink more water. So I walked over to *his* bike and picked it up, thinking it was my own.

Wasn't until I pulled out his water bottle from the holder that I realized I had the wrong bike. (Our bikes look nothing alike.) I mean, this was obvious .. to anybody with an IQ above 60.

I also had trouble recalling simple bits of info, that would normally be second-nature. So my memory was affected. But at least I was aware of my impaired condition. In a way, it was cool .. cuz I learned something about myself (and my limits).

The *hills* are what killed me. Seemed like they'd never end. We climbed one after another. Relentless. Punishing. Brutal.

Today's entry continues in Ye Olde Rad Blog .. see here » First-ever Mountain Bike Ride during Heat Wave Impairs Cognitive Function

Radiation tri-blade 01.september.2007 » Received a certified letter from the bug's mom, saying she is moving to Michigan. (A few thousand miles away.) Such threats are nothing new, but this is the first time I received an official notice (as required by law).

Hasta La Vista, BabyIronically, I have a sense of peace about it. Perhaps it's just a defense mechanism kicking in. (I don't understand it, myself.)

Or maybe it's the new vitamins I started taking, but this is the best I've felt in a long time. Weird, huh? I actually have a sense of optimism about the future I didn't have before. (So maybe this is a good thing in disguise.)

Of course, I've had feelings before I couldn't understand, so this is nothing new. Still, it surprises me, cuz I thought I'd feel devastated.

I mean, if you consider I can no longer afford an attorney, since my last trip thru the legal system wiped me out financially (I'm still trying to recover), it's not likely I'll have much luck fighting this in court, representing myself, against her lawyers.

(Speaking of which, I don't know how these people can sleep at night, taking kids away from their loving fathers. Is it the money? Can somebody explain it to me? I could never do that .. no matter how much money was involved.)

Of course, that won't stop me from trying. But you know how the courts tend to favor the mom. And few people I spoke with had anything encouraging to say. "Unfortunately, there's not much you can do," they said.

Today's entry continues in Ye Olde Rad Blog .. see here » Hasta la Vista, Baby