Daily Thoughts

Self-Portrait of the author Kids are so annoying. They yell. They say thoughtless things. They play the same cartoon with squeaky voices again and again and then imitate the voice and laugh when you ask them to stop. And yet, if something was to happen to your child, you’d give anything to hear them make noise again.

This morning I got the chance to go out with Xander and watch him have a blast sledding down our little hill in the rain. Between the rain and warmer temperatures the snow is nearly gone already, but we still had that moment.


Cover art for Teach Your Kids to CodeI’ve also enjoyed talking to Xander recently about coding. I’ve asked if he’ll help me with the Scratch programming I’ll be doing in my class this spring, plus I have some books (and another surprise for him) on coding. This evening I went through the first chapter in Teach Your Kids to Code by Bryson Payne. I love that these books use Python. I have some other, more advanced books, on Python as well since it’s a language I wanted to master.

I’m going to review this one, and Learn to Program With Minecraft, before we get too much into doing some coding. The first chapter was a quick introduction to simple variations on the ‘Hello, World’ concept and a simple form of mad libs.

Example of Python coding

Final Days!

I’m off tomorrow and plan on finishing up my final reports in the next couple days. Then the winter break starts!

Daily Thoughts

Author's Self-Portrait Went out tonight to lock up our surviving chickens, and only Patty was in the coop. I put on boots and tromped up and around through the woods looking for Third without any luck. No sign of her. Nothing visible in the snow to show any sign of intruders. I got back to the coop, knocked the ice out of the water and took the empty bowl to the house to get it filled.

On the way back my light flashed across something by the back corner of the house—wait, what was that? Third!

She’d roosted on a tomato cage leaning against the wall. Snow covered her back. With the black and white feathers, in the dark with the snow, she was nearly unnoticeable.

Kate said that they’d been hanging out by the back door. We figured that when it came time for them to go to the coop it was already snowing hard. They probably walked along the back of the house until they were close to the coop, at which point Patty walked on through the snow and into the coop. Third, having never been in snow (she’s several years younger, we haven’t had snow like this since she’s been around), must have chickened out. Instead of walking through a few inches of snow she decided instead to perch on the very thin—cold!—wire tomato cage.

I picked her up and carried her to the coop and put her inside to keep Patty company. Crazy chickens.


Cover art for Definitive XML SchemaI’m finishing up my final for my XML class tonight. Nearly done with the test, but not the subject! Comments aside about the class (I’ve submitted my evaluation), I have much more to learn. Next up on this topic is a big book, Definitive XML Schema by Priscilla Walmsley.

Daily Thoughts

Author showing book Pulp CultureDark chocolate covered blueberries taste fantastic. So do dark chocolate covered banana chips. Or apricots. I have to be careful or I’ll just sit and eat the entire bag! Still, it’s a nice treat to have sometimes and I’m lucky enough to get to enjoy such things.


Cover art for Pulp CultureI checked out a book from my library Pulp Culture: the art of fiction magazines by Frank M. Robinson and Lawrence Davidson. It’s a great overview of the different sorts of pulp magazines and reproduces many examples of the fantastic cover art. 

The cover art on the hardcover 1998 edition I checked out doesn’t match the cover shown here (or in the library catalog).

This book is definitely going on my wishlist. I plan to study pulp art as time allows while working on my MLIS, and definitely after I finish. I want Drive-By Stories to have artwork inspired by the pulps and I can imagine some influences coming into some of my other work.


Last few days of finals. I have an exam due on Friday, a research proposal due on Sunday, and another final report and project demo due on Monday (includes some of the data visualizations I’ve shared).


Daily Thoughts

Self-portrait of the author I’ve been having trouble with the website lately, hopefully, it’ll get resolved. I’m getting 504 Gateway Timeout errors doing normal functions, like trying to access the dashboard and create a post. I’ve tried a few different hosts and I’d rather not switch again! Thanks to SiteGround’s excellent support I have a number of things to try out for improving the site. For now, I’ve disabled just about all of the plugins and will work on other options from there.

Earthquakes in Oklahoma

Waste water injection in oil wells in Oklahoma has apparently contributed to an increase in the incidence of earthquakes, as well as stronger quakes.

Graph of Earthquake magnitudes in Oklahoma

This graph summarizes both the increase in earthquakes and the increase in the magnitude of quakes. I’ll have a lot more in my final paper for this class.

Glittering Throng Press

Since I don’t have content right now at Glittering Throng Press, I’m going to use it as a test case for some new website work.

Daily Thoughts

Self-portrait of the author Errands take time and energy. It’s easy to forget that sometimes. I woke up this morning at 3:30 AM and went back to sleep until 5:30 AM because I’m off work today. I went for my walk in a slushy rain/snow mix. After recognizing and dealing with my depression, I started exercising each day. It’s easier when the element of choice is removed. I listen to talking books and use Zombies, Run! and generally look forward to my walk.

Later, after breakfast, we ran errands in town and that also included getting our flu vaccinations. After the shot and his initial panic, my son decided it wasn’t really too bad after all. Still, with shopping, doctor’s visit, and a quick trip to Olympic Cards & Comics, I was a bit worn out—and well over my step count goal for the day!

‘Out of Print’ Still Exists?

In today’s era of print-on-demand and electronic access, I find that I tend to assume the content I want is available to buy. Not always so! I enjoyed an older episode of Tabletop the other day and went online to find Unspeakable Words (hence the visit to Gabi’s today).

Unfortunately, it seems that the game is unavailable except from folks that are selling it at a premium. It looks like fun―just not that much fun!

This isn’t the only case of something being unavailable. There are plenty of older science fiction titles that Open Road Media hasn’t republished yet.


While I’m tackling the big questions, how did life begin? Evolve? That’s the topic of two books I’ve been enjoying lately from Audible and Overdrive.

Cover for The Vital Question by Nick LaneThe Vital Question: Energy, Evolution, and the Origin of Complex Life by Nick Lane

Lane tackles the “black hole at the heart of biology,” the questions of why life is the way life is and what powers it. I haven’t finished it yet, but I’m enjoying this interesting take on big questions.

Cover art for The Story of Earth The Story of Earth: The First 4 Billion Years, From Stardust to Living Planet by Robert M. Hazen

Hazen explores the complex co-evolution of the mineral world and the living world. He paints a compelling scenario that covers the history of the Earth, the cycles of change, and speculations on the future evolution of the planet. I’m just about done with this one.

The origin of life interests me. Science fiction speculates endlessly on the question of life elsewhere, imagining numerous potential scenarios. Hazen’s book calls into question some of those speculations. If, as he indicates, so much of Earth’s mineralogy depends on life and vice versa, in a sort of feedback loop that includes the geographic evolution of the planet, then it calls into question if life could develop beyond an initial form on a world lacking such features. For instance, how would life develop in temperate cloud layers in a gas giant without access to the vital minerals necessary for life? We tend to focus on water, but Hazen’s narrative suggests much more is required.

What Hazen doesn’t answer (I don’t know if Lane addresses the question), are my core questions about the origin of life. Assuming life formed out of regular chemical interactions, how often does it happen? What, precisely, is required? Do the conditions for life arising still exist on Earth? If not, when did that stop? What prevents those conditions from existing now? Where else in the solar systems might those conditions exist?

Clearly, we don’t have all of those answers yet. Even so, life did develop here. Do we know for sure that it didn’t happen multiple times? Although we can point to evidence that shows all living things (that we’ve tested) show a common lineage—what if that is because there is only one way for life to evolve? Does life always arise with the properties we see here on Earth? Or are the speculations of other biochemistries in science fiction plausible and possible? Or will we find that all life, everywhere, has the same sort of DNA, molecular handedness, and building blocks for proteins, cells, etc.?

If life is the inevitable outcome of natural processes, then maybe it is as predictable as fusion in the stars that created our basic elementary building blocks.

Daily Thoughts

The Conjuring

I took a break from data analysis this evening to watch The Conjuring again. I enjoy this sort of spooky film. When it comes to horror, I usually prefer spooky, ghosts, hauntings, etc., to non-supernatural horror.

Shaking Up Data

Graph of earthquakes

I spent a good part of the day working on a final project for my Big Data Analytics class. I’m looking at the last 10 years of earthquake data. This visualization shows quakes with a magnitude of 3.0+ in 2006. The larger circles represent the correspondingly greater energy release in larger quakes. I also like how mapping the data traces the plate boundaries. It makes it really clear just how active our world is, and how many earthquakes happen in a single year.

I still need to finish my report and a demonstration of the project. In addition to the data, I’m also looking at media responses, and data gathered which shows the reactions to—or lack of reactions to—earthquakes. Why is it that so many of us are unprepared for a major incident?

Daily Thoughts

Con Man Season 2. Can’t wait! I’m rewatching the first season now.

In line with my massive reboot, I’m going to start posting daily to the blog. I’ll cover things that are going on, thoughts, and progress on the massive reboot™.

Semester Count Down

Trello calendar

I’m into the final days of the semester! I have the next few days off, giving me more time to work on my final projects before the semester ends. Most everything is due by the 11th, and I plan to have it all wrapped up by then. Assuming I’m done we’ll go see Fantastic Beasts on the 12th (is it still out? I haven’t checked.). Also looking forward to Rogue One!

Sites and Apps

I’m planning to relaunch Books Are For Use as a Chrome extension along with the website. Years ago a tweaked a GreaseMonkey script to add a bit of code to Amazon’s pages to show whether or not the item displayed was available through the library. I didn’t create the original script, just modified it to work with my library.

This time around I want to do something more interesting that will recognize books on the page and show availability based either on geo location or a user’s selection of their favorite library.

First step, delete the existing site and reload a temporary site. Then I plan to use the site as a test environment as I study and develop more skills. I have a lot of work to do! The courses I’ve been taking have helped build a foundation, but I’ve got more work to do.

I have a bunch of other projects to tackle, but this will be an interesting place to start.

New PC

AVADirect ComputerI’m also looking forward to the arrival of my new computer in the next couple weeks. My current computer is eight years old and doesn’t have much time left. It can’t keep up with the demands that I put on it. I’ve upgraded as far as I can without rebuilding it. I didn’t want to do another build myself, so I’ve gone with this mid-sized PC from AVADirect.