Why I’m Voting the Way I’m Voting – 2016

Posted on October 12th, 2016 in Commentary,Engineerboy,Politics by EngineerBoy

I’m With Her

First, a disclaimer: I am not a ‘true believer’ of any political party. No US political party fully represents my worldview, and I have significant objections to the philosophies and actions of them all. Over the years I have voted for Republican, Independent, and Democratic candidates, and I am willing to vote for any candidate that I feel is best for the job.

All that being said, in recent years I have primarily voted Democrat. My basic political underpinnings are as follows:

The entire US election and campaign system needs to be completely overhauled to insure modern, free, and fair elections at every level (local, state, federal). This includes getting the current obscene amounts of money out of the system and eliminating gerrymandering. This, to me, is the single most important issue of our time, because solving all the other issues depends on first solving this one.
The level of destructive animosity and hate in politics needs to be dialed way down, and the level of constructive, civil discourse needs to be dialed way up.
We need to return our focus to a fact-based, science-based government.
Governmental fraud, waste, and cronyism needs to be ruthlessly ferreted out and punished to the point where it is no longer a profitable risk to undertake.
While every person is entitled to their own spiritual beliefs, no one is entitled to impose those beliefs on others.
Our tax system needs to be simplified and rationalized, and the overall tax burden reduced.
Peace and diplomacy are better alternatives to war, except in the most dire circumstances, which in my opinion we have not experienced since World War II.
The US is a wealthy nation, to the point where none of our citizens should be homeless, hungry, or lack basic health care.
Institutions that are necessary, but whose goals are to reduce or eliminate their need to exist (health care, prisons, national defense, police and fire departments, etc), should not be for-profit.
Capitalism is a great system, unregulated capitalism is a disaster, and over-regulated capitalism stifles progress. There needs to be a balance, and there needs to be non-partisan system created to achieve and maintain this balance.

To make a long story short, in the 2016 election there has been only one candidate that I have seen as viable, and that is Hillary Clinton. Do I love her? No, she’s done some questionable things, but so has every single other POTUS candidate in my lifetime, and my take is that her mistakes have been amplified by a multi-decade witch hunt by her enemies. Would she be my first choice? No, and I’m not sure who would be, at this point, because virtually every single candidate at the national federal level is tainted enough, in my opinion, to be unworthy of office.

The one exception to that is Bernie Sanders, and while I think Bernie is the cleanest and most honest national politician of my lifetime, I also think that he would have been unable to get anything

30,000 Emails, That’s a Lot! Or Is It?

Posted on October 10th, 2016 in Commentary,Engineerboy,Politics by EngineerBoy

How About 600,000+ Emails?

My wife and I have a private email server at home that we don’t use for our primary jobs. We use it to run our lives, hobbies, and side projects. Over the years, between us, we’ve managed to accumulate 600,000+ emails in our two email boxes.  Note that we’re both in the technology business, and we run fairly sophisticated cloud-based commercial spam filtering, so it’s not like our inboxes are filled up with V1agra ads and phony IRS/Apple gift card scams, or something.

So, my wife and I, a couple of the normalest normals who ever normalled normally, have managed to accumulate 600,000+ personal emails on our home servers.  Yet we hear Trump repeat the mantra of “30,000 emails” over and over again, as if it’s some kind of travesty of a mockery of a sham, when what it actually is is a MacGuffin with no context and no concrete meaning to many who hear it. He repeats it as if it were the most salacious thing imaginable…”30,000 emails”…”THIRTY THOUSAND EMAILS!”

The Clintons have much higher profile lives than we do, to say the least. They’ve been Governor, Senator, Secretary of State, and President of the United States. If it’s accurate that 30,000 personal emails were scrubbed from Hillary’s private email server, the only thing that surprises me is that it was so few. Maybe that’s Trump’s point and we’re all missing it? Maybe he’s calling Hillary out for being a Luddite who only has 30,000 personal emails when she should have millions?

Sadly, Trump’s focus on this will play strongly with those whose lives aren’t wrapped up in technology, because it’s difficult to have a frame of reference for something like this. The younger generations tend to have skipped over email and focus on texting and other forms of messaging. Older folks tend to be minimal adopters of technology – using Facebook to keep up with the family, texting to have some form of communications with the grandkids, etc. There are exceptions, of course, but most people don’t have the exposure to technology to put the “30,000 emails!” accusation in a realistic context.

So that’s what I’m trying to do here – show that a couple of normal, if technologically-enabled, folks can generate far more personal email than what is being bandied about by Trump. And just to put this in perspective, JFK was still alive when I was born and I watched the first moon landing on TV, so it’s not like I’m some kind of outlier child of the technology age.

CleverDonkey’s 2016 Rio Olympic Power Rankings

Posted on August 22nd, 2016 in Commentary,Engineerboy,Politics,Sports,Television by EngineerBoy
2016 Rio Olympics

2016 Rio Olympics

2016-08-21 Final Standings – Congratulations New Zealand!

The 2016 Olympics are history, and congratulations to New Zealand, who squeezed out a one point win to take the Olympic Power title this year! Hungary was a close second, with the Netherlands taking third, and with Azerbaijan, Great Britain, Jamaica, Denmark, Australia, Croatia, and Sweden rounding out the top ten.

The standard sortable chart is below, and I’ve added a graph of power ranking by total population below that here.

The purpose of these charts is to look beyond raw medal count – who cares if countries with hundreds of millions (or even billions) of people win a lot of medals?  They should win a lot of medals, right?  The big question is, which country is kicking ass, pound-for-pound?  The answer is in the table below.

The 2012 London and 2008 Beijing final rankings are also available, and are included as right-hand columns in the table below.

For reference: This table creates a weighted medal score by giving every country three points for each gold medal, two points for each silver, and one point for each bronze.  The country’s Power Rating is calculated by determining how many weighted medal points each country wins per 10,000,000 in population.  And to factor in economics, the population only includes those living above the poverty level (according to CIA poverty estimates).  Also, to eliminate the impact of outliers, countries with excessively large populations are capped at 300,000,000 and countries with exceedingly small populations have a floor of 10,000,000 for the purposes of calculation.

Come back here in four years when we’ll (probably) be doing this again!

CleverDonkey’s 2016 Rio FINAL Olympic Power Rankings
click column headers to sort up/down

2016 Rank IOC Code Country 2016 Power Ranking Gold Medals Silver Medals Bronze Medals Total Medals Weighted Medals Population (above poverty) 2012 Final Power Ranking 2008 Final Power Ranking
1 NZL New Zealand 35.0 4 9 5 18 35 4,709,044 26.0 16.0
2 HUN Hungary 34.0 8 3 4 15 34 8,359,373 37.0 21.0
3 NED Netherlands 27.1 8 7 4 19 42 15,475,907 25.4 23.8
4 AZE Azerbaijan 27.0 1 7 10 18 27 9,146,670 16.0 11.0
5 GBR Great Britain 26.0 27 23 17 67 144 55,343,500 26.2 18.8
6 JAM Jamaica 26.0 6 3 2 11 26 2,273,910 24.0 26.0
7 DEN Denmark 25.0 2 6 7 15 25 4,950,934 17.0 13.0
8 AUS Australia 23.2 8 11 10 29 56 24,141,810 28.7 41.6
9 CRO Croatia 23.0 5 3 2 10 23 3,373,489 13.0 7.0
10 SWE Sweden 21.0 2 6 3 11 21 8,509,604 14.0 9.0
11 CUB Cuba 20.5 5 2 4 11 23 11,239,004 24.0 34.6
12 KAZ Kazakhstan 16.7 3 5 9 17 28 16,812,280 18.2 15.8
13 SRB Serbia 16.0 2 4 2 8 16 6,425,346 6.0 4.0
14 BLR Belarus 15.0 1 4 4 9 15 8,900,282 24.0 32.0
14 SUI Switzerland 15.0 3 2 2 7 15 7,707,638 10.0 10.0
16 CZE Czech Republic 14.0 1 2 7 10 14 9,650,491 21.0 14.4
17 ITA Italy 13.2 8 12 8 28 56 42,526,551 8.7 9.1
18 FRA France 13.0 10 18 14 42 80 61,330,384 10.9 11.6
19 GRE Greece 13.0 3 1 2 6 13 6,949,132 2.0 5.4
20 GER Germany 12.4 17 10 15 42 86 69,096,411 12.3 11.3
21 BEL Belgium 12.0 2 2 2 6 12 9,612,950 4.0 5.0
21 GEO Georgia 12.0 2 1 4 7 12 3,378,123 12.0 12.0
23 KEN Kenya 11.6 6 6 1 13 31 26,744,066 8.9 15.4
24 CAN Canada 10.1 4 3 15 22 33 32,756,871 7.9 11.1
25 SVK Slovakia 10.0 2 2 0 4 10 4,742,544 5.0 14.0
26 KOR South Korea 9.7 9 3 9 21 42 43,226,956 15.0 16.3
27 ESP Spain 9.6 7 4 6 17 35 36,639,915 8.9 10.3
28 USA United States 9.1 46 37 38 121 250 275,233,065 22.5 8.2
29 ARM Armenia 9.0 1 3 0 4 9 2,036,668 4.0 6.0
30 UZB Uzbekistan 8.7 4 2 7 13 23 26,399,810 2.8 5.5
31 RUS Russia 8.6 19 18 19 56 112 130,180,075 15.5 11.6
32 SLO Slovenia 8.0 1 2 1 4 8 1,784,816 7.0 9.0
33 JPN Japan 6.9 12 8 21 41 73 106,544,610 7.0 3.8
34 UKR Ukraine 6.2 2 5 4 11 20 32,389,498 12.5 16.0
35 POL Poland 5.7 2 3 6 11 18 31,787,597 5.0 7.0
36 RSA South Africa 5.6 2 6 2 10 20 35,673,992 5.5 0.8
37 PRK North Korea 5.5 2 3 2 7 14 25,281,000 5.7 4.6
38 ROU Romania 5.2 1 1 3 5 8 15,412,136 12.0 10.6
39 BRN Bahrain 5.0 1 1 0 2 5 1,404,900 1.0 3.0
39 LTU Lithuania 5.0 0 1 3 4 5 2,754,902 10.0 7.0
41 CHN China 4.7 26 18 26 70 140 1,293,840,725 19.0 7.4
42 COL Colombia 4.5 3 2 3 8 16 35,236,270 5.0 1.3
43 BAH Bahamas, The 4.0 1 0 1 2 4 342,882 3.0 3.0
43 BUL Bulgaria 4.0 0 1 2 3 4 5,594,259 3.0 8.0
43 IRL Ireland 4.0 0 2 0 2 4 4,496,287 8.0 4.0
43 NOR Norway 4.0 0 0 4 4 4 5,223,256 9.0 21.0
47 ARG Argentina 3.6 3 1 0 4 11 30,513,280 2.5 3.2
48 CIV Ivory Coast 3.0 1 0 1 2 4 13,149,372 0.0 0.0
49 FIJ Fiji 3.0 1 0 0 1 3 598,230 0.0 0.0
49 JOR Jordan 3.0 1 0 0 1 3 8,178,209 0.0 0.0
49 KOS Kosovo 3.0 1 0 0 1 3 1,285,885 0.0 0.0
49 MGL Mongolia 3.0 0 1 1 2 3 2,429,106 7.0 10.0
49 PUR Puerto Rico 3.0 1 0 0 1 3 3,474,182 2.8 0.0
49 SIN Singapore 3.0 1 0 0 1 3 5,535,000 2.0 2.0
49 TJK Tajikistan 3.0 1 0 0 1 3 5,534,278 0.8 3.0
49 TUN Tunisia 3.0 0 0 3 3 3 9,425,468 5.8 3.0
57 MAS Malaysia 3.0 0 4 1 5 9 30,243,294 1.1 0.8
58 BRA Brazil 2.4 7 6 6 19 39 162,129,063 3.0 2.0
59 IRI Iran 2.3 3 1 4 8 15 64,587,566 4.1 0.7
60 TPE Chinese Taipei 2.2 1 0 2 3 5 23,155,737 0.0 1.8
61 THA Thailand 2.1 2 2 2 6 12 57,112,047 1.0 1.8
62 BDI Burundi 2.0 0 1 0 1 2 3,236,642 0.0 0.0
62 GRN Grenada 2.0 0 1 0 1 2 64,063 3.0 0.0
62 ISR Israel 2.0 0 0 2 2 2 6,661,980 0.0 1.0
62 NIG Niger 2.0 0 1 0 1 2 7,664,550 0.0 0.0
62 QAT Qatar 2.0 0 1 0 1 2 2,477,113 2.0 0.0
67 TUR Turkey 2.0 1 3 4 8 13 65,433,815 1.8 2.5
68 VEN Venezuela 1.9 0 1 2 3 4 21,068,487 1.5 0.6
69 ETH Ethiopia 1.8 1 2 5 8 12 64,913,028 2.4 3.3
70 MEX Mexico 1.4 0 3 2 5 8 58,324,447 1.3 0.8
71 ALG Algeria 1.3 0 2 0 2 4 31,108,000 1.1 1.2
72 AUT Austria 1.0 0 0 1 1 1 8,376,894 0.0 4.0
72 DOM Dominican Republic 1.0 0 0 1 1 1 5,934,202 4.4 5.0
72 EST Estonia 1.0 0 0 1 1 1 1,031,700 3.0 5.0
72 FIN Finland 1.0 0 0 1 1 1 5,491,817 4.0 7.0
72 MDA Moldova 1.0 0 0 1 1 1 2,814,055 2.0 1.0
72 POR Portugal 1.0 0 0 1 1 1 8,407,501 2.0 4.7
72 TTO Trinidad and Tobago 1.0 0 0 1 1 1 1,120,224 0.0 0.0
72 UAE United Arab Emirates 1.0 0 0 1 1 1 7,934,080 0.0 0.0
80 VIE Vietnam 0.6 1 1 0 2 5 82,224,900 0.0 0.3
81 EGY Egypt 0.4 0 0 3 3 3 68,344,077 0.6 0.2
82 MAR Morocco 0.3 0 0 1 1 1 28,904,250 0.4 1.1
83 INA Indonesia 0.3 1 2 0 3 7 229,471,335 0.3 0.4
84 PHI Philippines 0.3 0 1 0 1 2 77,356,514 0.0 0.0
85 NGR Nigeria 0.2 0 0 1 1 1 56,096,400 0.0 1.1
86 IND India 0.1 0 1 1 2 3 907,680,100 0.8 0.2

Note: I got curious as to whether the Power Ranking distribution was skewed by population, meaning, for example, did smaller countries tend to have higher rankings, or vice versa. So for my own curiosity I ginned up a chart that shows all countries that medalled from smallest to largest population (orange line), with their corresponding Power Rankings (blue bars). It appears to my half-trained eye that the distribution does not seem to trend along population lines, and confirms that the Power Ranking algorithm, while crude, appears to remove the advantage of population, which is one of the primary goals of this excercise:

Olympic Power Ranking by Population

Olympic Power Ranking by Population

Oat Flour Swedish Pancakes Recipe (gluten free and FODMAP friendly)

Posted on August 19th, 2016 in Engineerboy,Recipes by EngineerBoy
Oat Flour Swedish Pancakes

Oat Flour Swedish Pancakes

I’ve been making Swedish pancakes for years, but my wife has started leaning towards FODMAP friendly foods for health reasons, and wheat is definitely a no-no. I hated the thought of giving up on our traditional Sunday morning Swedish pancake family breakfasts, so I did some experimenting and came up with an alternative using oat flour, and, quite honestly, they taste even better than the wheat ones.

The key is getting the oat flour, what we do is buy Bob’s Red Mill Steel Cut Oats at our local grocery store, and then pulsate them in our Vitamix blender until they are of flour-like consistency. The steel cut oats are about the size of smallish rice grains, and blend into flour nicely. Some places also offer oat flour directly, so choose whichever works for you.

One note of personal preference in preparing these pancakes, I like using a 9.5″ crepe pan like this one. They’re made from iron, but aren’t as thick or heavy as a cast iron pan. They heat well and release easily with a little butter. And, full disclosure, I like that pan so much I bought a second one, and now I cook two pancakes at a time, which cuts prep time in half.

Now to the recipe, the ingredients are pretty simple:

1 cup oat flour
10 eggs
4 cups whole milk
splash of vanilla
2 tsp salt
butter for the pan

That’s it! Preparation is similarly simple, as follows:

Heat the crepe pan – it doesn’t have to be super hot, but you want to let it fully heat to get even cooking. On my stove I set it at the third notch up out of seven total, and let the pans heat while doing all the prep work.

Also, and this is optional, put an oven-safe plate in the oven on it’s lowest setting to begin heating. This plate will be used to hold the pancakes and keep them warm on the table.

Combine the oat flour and milk and blend them on medium high until fully combined. Note that the oat flour takes longer than wheat to combine, so make sure to give it enough time. If it doesn’t fully combine, you may end up with some oat silt leftover in the bottom of your bowl after making your crepes, it won’t really hurt anything, but you may have to experiment to get the blend time correct here.

Once the oat flour and milk are combine, add all of the remaining ingredients (not the butter, that’s just for cooking) and blend for a minute or two on medium-low, just to combine them.

Put a pat-and-a-half in the heated pan, let it melt, and swirl it to cover the entire surface of the pan.

Use a standard soup ladle to put one full ladle of batter into the pan – it should spread out over the entire pan to between about 1/8″ and 1/4″ in thickness, about half the thickness of

Life on Mars (!)|(?)

Posted on September 28th, 2015 in Commentary,Engineerboy,Science by EngineerBoy
What's up with water on Mars, Doc?

What’s up with water on Mars, Doc?

Back when I was in college, I had a professor who had worked peripherally on the Viking Mars lander project in the 70’s. He said that before the probe was launched, the teams had decided that if the chemical and biological tests came out a certain way, that would be declared a positive test for ‘life’ on Mars. Lo and behold, the tests came back with the positive result. They all rocked back on their heels, told the White House, and were told in no uncertain terms to not release a statement saying there was life on Mars until there was absolute certainty – a prudent response.

The team went back over their protocols and said, hey, look, the test was positive, what do you want us to do? The powers-that-be then asked for some details, and it turns out that there were three separate and distinct experiments to test for ‘life’ using different methods, and the scientists had agreed that if any one (or more) of them came back positive, that was ‘life’. Well, what had happened is that only one had come back positive, so the powers-that-be said, nope, you only got one positive result out of three so that’s not enough to make such a momentous call.

Over the intervening decades, further analysis of the ‘failed’ tests resulted in a hypothesis that they had failed because at that time we didn’t know that the Martian surface contained a certain substance…my feeble memory wants to say some kind of chlorate? In any case, when the two failed tests were re-modeled taking into account the now-verified existence of this substance in the Martian soil, the two tests also came back positive.

So, for me, my original early 1980’s college class sowed the seeds of doubt for me, and I felt that there was a pretty good chance there was at least some kind of microbial life there. The intervening re-analysis of the two previously-failed experiments solidified this belief, for me, but again who was I to think I knew better given the lack of any unambiguous confirmation from the powers-that-be. However, from the late-80’s on, I have been pretty sure that a) there was life on Mars and b) the powers-that-be knew it but didn’t want to unleash the sociological impact that such an announcement could potentially engender, and so figured they would gradually work up to the announcement, and hopefully keep the info ambiguous enough to delay things long enough for it to become someone else’s problem.

Which brings us to today, when NASA announced the confirmation of flowing liquid salt water on the surface of Mars. The scientist releasing the findings (Lujendra Ojha of the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta) had this to say:

“If the water is completely saturated with perchlorates, then life as we know it on Earth wouldn’t be able to survive in that

Goodbye, Ruckus

Posted on April 6th, 2015 in Commentary,Engineerboy by EngineerBoy
Ruckus considering a squirrel

Ruckus considering a squirrel

Today we said goodbye to Ruckus, our beloved rescue. We had him genetically tested and it came back that he was 75% Rottweiler and 25% Standard Poodle. I’m not sure how accurate those things are, but it fit. He was strong, smart, and handsome, and he was a great, deep soul.

Figuring out the smart part took me a while. Rux was cool and calm almost 100% of the time. Yes, as a puppy he was a galloping galoot who loved to get into mischief, but when Weagle passed away and Rux became the alpha, he matured almost overnight into a gentle guardian. What I had initially interpreted as him being a goofus was actually just him having fun while there was fun to be had, while it was not yet his job to maintain the safety of the pack.

But once he took over he developed a regal bearing. Not superior. Never menacing. Cool, calm, collected, and capable. He was benign with visiting dogs even when they misbehaved. He was an angel with children, and we never for one second had any concern with him around Avelynn when she was a baby – he loved her from the moment she came home.

He was also at his happiest when Annalisa was at the house, and the pack was complete – he would greet her enthusiastically each visit, then snuggle in next to her for as long as he could.

He was brought down by a 1-2-3 punch over the last few weeks. First, we learned he had Addison’s Disease when he collapsed in the throes of an Addisonian Crisis. As we nursed him back from that they discovered a splenic tumor. And, finally, his hind legs simply stopped working to the point where he couldn’t even get up.

Sadly, prior to his decline we had recently made the decision to get a new puppy that we could bring in for Rux to train up to become the new security chief of the house. We had just gotten to the point of making a choice of pup when Rux’s health started to fade, so we held off on introducing a new puppy into his convalescence. So, speaking selfishly, we have lost out on having Rux pass down his teachings to a new pup.

But, he did confirm that we love Rottweilers, particular after how great Weagle was, and our next dog will almost certainly be mostly or all Rottie. They are marvelous dogs, and any issues with Rotties will almost certainly be issues with the owners, not the breed itself. On the rare instances when I had to travel solo, it was comforting to know that Ruckus was at the house protecting the family.

He was a good dog. He almost never barked, except in extreme instances. He never snapped or growled, again, except in extreme circumstances. He had a built-in genetic drive to hoooooooowwwwwlllll any time he

Scott’s Perfect Popcorn – Updated!

Posted on January 15th, 2015 in Engineerboy,Recipes by EngineerBoy

Get Thee Away From Me

Note that this article has been updated to reflect refinements that have been introduced to our popcorn process over the years. They are tweaks, but make the popcorn even better!

First and foremost, we have switched from Orville Redenbacher popcorn to Kernel Seasons. It tastes better, and also is GMO free.

Second, we pop our popcorn in coconut oil now, which lends a fantastic taste element which will also be familiar, because many (if not most) movie theaters use coconut-based oil for popping.

Third, we use clarified butter instead of just melted butter. This makes a *huge* difference in taste and texture. The clarified butter contains virtually no moisture, so the popcorn stays perfectly crisp, and the butter flavor is concentrated as well. See the sidebar on the right below for tips on how we make clarified butter for popcorn.

Below is the original article, with edits made to reflect the above three changes:

My favorite food is popcorn. I have loved it since I was young, and I have spent a large portion of my adult lifetime refining my recipe to the point where it is perfect to me, and it seems to be popular with those to whom I serve it. There is nothing magical or difficult about the making of this popcorn, nor are the ingredients exotic or hard to find. Any reasonably handy kitchen person should be able to make it with no problem. However, the exact combination of process and ingredients has been perfected through almost 20 years of refinement, and I wanted to share it with my fellow popcorn lovers (and also maybe win a few converts to the manual process).

The Gear

To make Perfect Popcorn, you need the right equipment. First and foremost, do NOT use a popcorn popper of any kind. They all trap too much steam, which makes the popcorn soggy instead of crispy. Even those with vented tops still have slant-side domed lids, which increase the condensation of steam inside the popper before it can vent. Perfect Popcorn is made in a pot on the stove, using a manual process. Trust me, it’s worth it.

The pot I use is a heavy, expensive 9.5 quart stainless steel pot from Dansk, which I got as a gift from my in-laws, and have used several times a week ever since (thanks Sherry and Bill!!) The bottom is heavy, and contains a copper disk sandwiched between the inner and outer stainless steel layers. The pot you use should be as thick and heavy as possible to ensure even heat distribution and to eliminate scorching. Scorching is the kiss of death to popcorn, as even a few scorched kernels will assault your nose and taste buds, busting your popcorn eating groove. Also, if you can, stay away from non-stick pots, as their surfaces also promote the condensation of steam, and most are not heavy enough to ensure proper heat distribution.

Next, you need a tiny metal saucepan

How I Fixed My Overly-Sensitive Car Remote With Plasti-Dip

Posted on June 23rd, 2013 in Engineerboy,Product Reviews by EngineerBoy
Plasti-Dip Car Remote

Clear Plasti-Dip Car Remote

DISCLAIMER: I have no specific knowledge of car remotes nor the short or long term effects of coating them in a rubberized substance, and the consequences could be dire (void warranty, damage, remote-freak-out, etc).  This post represents steps I took for my own remote.  They may not work for you and may have unintended consequences, so if you decide to try something like this it is at your own risk!!!  

We recently purchased a new vehicle (2012 Toyota Sienna), and I found that whenever I had my key chain in my pocket (which is always), I would regularly activate different, random remote buttons on the fob.  Some mornings I would go out and find the car unlocked (when I knew I had locked it), other times I’d find one (or both) of the side doors slid open.

I’ve had car remotes on my key chain for decades, and while on some rare occasions (like climbing under the sink to fix plumbing) I might incidentally have activated the remote, it was only once every great while (e.g. every year or two).

But with the Sienna remote it happened multiple times a week, sometimes multiple times a day.  Something as simple as getting up out of a chair or even just putting my keys in my pocket would result in an unexpected (beep) followed by a slow (and, seemingly, mocking) mechanical response from the van.

I searched the Web and also solicited advice in related forums, but the universal feedback I got was ‘take your keys out of your pocket when you get home’.  Er, yeah, gee, I had never thought of that (rolls eyes).  The lone helpful suggestion I got was to try to find a silicone cover for the remote.  I searched online for one, with the thought being that adding some thickness around the remote such that the buttons were a bit more inset would reduce the frequency of unintended activation.

Unfortunately, while there are plenty of places that sell covers for Sienna remotes, none that I could find sold one with our particular button configuration.  However, I still liked the idea of somehow reducing the sensitivity of the remote with some type of rubberized coating.

It occurred to me that a potential solution was to use Plasti-Dip.  I’ve used the black version in the past for coating tool handles, and I even dipped a USB drive into it to block the blinking LED it had that bothered us in the car (it holds music and plugs into a port on the dash of our other vehicle).

I searched online and found that they also made a clear version.  I could picture in my head that dipping the remote in Plasti-Dip a couple of times would create a thicker protective rubberized coating that might reduce incidental button presses.

I’ll stop here and refer to the disclaimer at the top of this article.  Although I consider myself a handy guy,

Strange Bedfellows – Sequester and Marriage Equality Edition

Posted on May 9th, 2013 in Commentary,Engineerboy,Politics by EngineerBoy
The Birth of a New Political World?

The Birth of a New Political World?

Disclaimer: the article below represents the noodlings of a dumbass who is talking about things way over his head, but which he nonetheless found interesting as a mental exercise.

There’s an old saying that ‘politics makes strange bedfellows’, meaning that the alliances and enmities that occur in politics are often highly situational and transient, resulting in kaleidoscopic political theater where it’s difficult to tell the players without a constantly updated program.

When you add money to the mix, it tends to accelerate the wackiness even further.  I think that two recent political theater productions are both ultimately being driven by economics. There’s another old saying that if you want to understand something in the political (or business) world, your best bet is to ‘follow the money’, so here’s my decode based on that precept of two recent omnipresent political issues:

Issue #1: The Sequester
Remember a couple of years ago when the US faced a debt-ceiling crisis, and ultimately the compromise was to extend the debt ceiling, with the proviso that a ‘poison pill’ called the ‘sequester’ would kick in if the Executive and Legislative branches couldn’t come up with a mutually agreeable budget by 2013? Good times.

The sequester was essentially a set of automatic spending cuts that hit at the sacred cows of all the players, meaning the Republicans put the defense budget on the table, while the Democrats put entitlements on the chopping block, etc, and if the two sides couldn’t agree on a more rational budget, these automatic cuts would trigger. The goal was for the cuts to be so painful for both sides that they’d be forced to put aside partisan bickering and actually cooperate for the good of the country.

Well, that didn’t happen, and the sequester has begun to kick in, causing budgetary pain throughout the government. Each side is loudly blaming the other, but nobody seems to be doing anything meaningful to fix things.

But stop for a moment and consider, what if this was the exact goal from the outset? Think about it – we (the United States) needed to drastically reshape our governmental spending, and it needed to cause pain for areas which are staunchly defended by either the Democrats or the Republicans (or both).

If the two sides had cooperated and jointly passed a bipartisan budget that instantiated these sweeping cuts, they could be vilified by challengers in the upcoming elections because they were ‘soft’, and ‘compromised’, and ‘sold out’ the ‘core values’ of their own constituency.

But with the sequester, the cuts are getting made by some mysterious ‘automatic’ process, while both sides get to blame the other for being obstinate. So in the upcoming elections, the incumbents can say, hey, put me back in the ring to go another 15 rounds against those evil other guys who forced the sequester by being big dummies and hating everything that *we* stand for! I’ll show

Kay’s Cuisine for the Soul, Brenham, TX – highly recommended!

Posted on May 8th, 2013 in Brenham,Engineerboy,Restaurant Reviews by EngineerBoy
Kay's Cuisine for the Soul

Kay’s Cuisine for the Soul

We moved to Brenham from Houston over six years ago, and while we love it out here, one thing we have missed is a selection of fine dining establishments.  Houston is a cornucopia of restaurants, and after a while you get spoiled having multiple fantastic options for anything that you crave.  Not so in Brenham, where the fine dining pickin’s are slim (to say the least).

Enter Kay’s Cuisine for the Soul.  The location opened about six months ago, and tonight was our first visit there.  We had heard good things, but hadn’t been able to make the stars align on getting there until now, and we’re sorry we waited so long.  The restaurant is in an old Victorian house, with high ceilings, multiple rooms (presumably an artifact of the original home’s layout), and tasteful, subdued decor and ambiance.

The menu is short but sweet, with a fusion of Asian and Latin American themed selections.  We started with the pork dumplings and homemade egg rolls, along with soup for Avelynn.  We then moved on to our entrees – I got the tempura shrimp, which came with a cucumber-potato salad and a side of shredded onions and carrots, also tempura style.  Marie got a spicy rice bowl with fresh and pickled veggies, seared sirloin, covered with a fried egg.

It was all *fantastic*.  We gorged ourselves to the point that we passed on the tempting desserts, which Kay assured us were all made in their kitchen as well.

They’re less than half a mile south of the historic heart of Brenham, on Market Street, an easy jaunt if you’re downtown antiquing, and well worth the minute or two drive.  So, if you’re a Brenham-ite looking for an amazing and unique local dining experience, or a visitor from Houston or Austin looking for something with some panache and eclecticism, make sure to keep Kay’s in mind as an option.

You can find more information at their web site and Facebook page.


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