01.Nov.2009 .... November starts out pretty, but ...

jpg November is tough because you need to get all the leaves up before it snows (3rd - 4th week) or else Spring cleanup will be really awful, and get all the firewood under wraps away from rain and snow.

just thinking about these things is making me grumpy.

by the end of the month (see below) we'll have just 9 hours of sunlight .... but 14 hours of moonlight , and 2 hours with no moon or sun !!! (source)


Closed Captioning on HDTV

jpgclosed captions were once easy to turn on and off (by the remote), but we got a new HD cable box and, those days of innocence are gone .... after an hour and a half of this and that, i found an internet discussion that helped greatly ..... turns out that there are too many alternative ways for broadcasters, cable companies, cable box manufacturers and TV manufacturers to deal with CC's, and none of them need to be consistent (and they are not). to shorten the story .... the CC menu on my particular system is only accessible by turning the cable box OFF , holding the "menu" button in for 3 seconds, then releasing it then pushing it again briefly, and this menu will appear on the TV screen. use the cable box remote to make your choices (very important to get the 2nd and 3rd line options "correct" for your TV) .... after you are done be sure that the bottom "settings" line is set to "user" (it defaults to "auto" which will ignore all your menu choices and will not display CC's)..... then turn the cable box back on.

note that none of the buttons or options on any remote you own will now control CC's .... only going back thru this process will change or turn them off.

seems to me that it should be simpler than that, but it no longer is.

Glossy Brochures from GE Insurance

jpgwhenever i get a glossy brochure from GE, i know that the quality of my life is being downgraded while they feed me the verbal narcotics to keep me ever delusional that GE is my very best friend (remember "The Matrix" ?) ..... this month's brochure regarded my health insurance and how GE is making me a "more active participant in health care" (translation .... my premiums are going up and my coverage is going down, but one thing for shytt f%$^ing sure is GE profits and health care industry profits are relentlessly and uncontrollably rising).

so, being retired and also tired from raking leaves, i spent an hour with the numbers and on the recommended GE website that, at every important fork in the decisional road, linked me over to another web page, so after an hour i was so lost in the dark tunnels of the GE cave it was hopeless even to remember why it was that i logged in .... so .... back to the glossy brochure.

two advil later .... i taped the brochure to the wall and, using my favorite pellet gun, closing my eyes, i pellet-selected GE insurance option 1 (and scared the shytt out of poor zach who was sleeping just below the target but i hadn't seen him).

in a way, my life did get better today, as i always enjoy shooting pellets at stuff and, this being GE stuff, it was unusually pleasurable.

jpg i enjoy autumn enormously and actually like raking leaves (on a nice day) once i clear my head and realize it can't all be done in one day. what makes leaf cleanup a major task for me is bending to pick up the leaves .... i just can't do it safely or for very long, and the other day i seriously thought about a lawn vac, but dropping $800 on one and reading the internet complaints, i bet against it.

so this morning i screwed a dust pan onto a short broom handle and then loosely bolted that to a small rake and made, basically, 3 foot long salad tongs for picking up leaves withouth bending, and i'll spit but they work great and i got a lot done in 4 hours.... then i screwed around with the GIMP to make that film-strip image there, and am now heading up to the porch to read James Joyce's "Dubliners", which is a very very nice set of short stories and i try to patch the faces that i saw in Dublin a few weeks back to the characters in the stories.

God Said "Ha"

Julia Sweeney delivers a very personal, funny, tragically sad monologue that is really wonderful.....
God Said "Ha" !

#38 and still bagging

we hit bag #38 today (those are all compressed bags there) and i am thinking we will pass the 50 bag mark by the weekend .... every year i swear to take these trees down next year.


png png in the USA, the Republicans (when in power) have the moxie to do whatever they desire to do, which is an idea not only despicable, it usually does evil to most Americans (who are sadly too stupid at this point in history to realize they are not getting kissed they are getting f%^$ed and they are also too stupid to care about the difference !) ..... and when the Democrats get into power, they don't have the moxie to do jack shytt and they choke themselves to death waiting for a consensus agreement that will never come because the R's don't want a consensus they want a win for their team (not a win for everyone .... a win for their team !!) and the D's don't have the moxie to score the f%$^& touchdown unless the R's help them do it ?!?!

all is lost .... we are a lost ship of fools.

the inspired framers of our Constitution were gifted enough to deliberately exclude political "parties" from the Law of the Land (there is no mention of "parties" in the Constitution)..... but somewhere along the line, We, the People decided to ignore that wisdom and split the country into two teams (like football or baseball .... something simple that is not too complex for us to understand .... heads / tails .... up / down .... right / left .... right / wrong ... conservative / liberal .... republican / democrat ... bad / good .... black / white ) so we could be sure that 50% of everyone in America always gets f#$%ed (not kissed, f^%$ed .... there's a difference).

never mind that we are 300,000,000 people with 300,000,000 lives and 300,000,000 opinions and 300,000,000 sets of needs and values and desires and hopes and cares and most of all we are 300,000,000 souls...... flip that coin and let's see if it comes up heads or tails and which 150,000,000 get f$%ked this time around.

all is lost .... we are a lost ship of fools.

Link to Mike's Italy Trip Notes

these are Mike's unformatted, day by day text notes .... click each one to open in your web browser..... they are very interesting because they are unedited and not "polished" up like mine are, so those were his actual momentary thoughts.

V: Evey, do you know what day this is?
Evey: Yes .... November 4th.
V: .......... Not any more.

The 5th of November

Remember, remember the 5th of November.
The "Gunpowder Treason" and plot.
I know of no reason the "Gunpowder Treason" should ever be forgot.

from cugina Lucia (who lives where it's nice to live) ..... "yup, it's definitely warm and dry and cozy out here......get your a_ _ out here and see for yourself........i can be at the phoenix sky harbor airport in 20 mins. call me when you land........."

she is a most funloving person to be with .... i laugh all the time with her..... which begs the question "why aint i on a plane headin west?"

La Dolce Vita

a comparison of my shot of the Trevi Fountain (Rome) last month,
compared to Federico Fellini's shot for La Dolce Vita (1960)
with Marcello M. and Anita E.
(i think he .... "he" being Marcello in the picture ....wins)


"Lights ..... Cameras ..... What?"

ever since they put light meters in cameras, we have been confused..... in the olden days, we used separate "ambient" light meters and it was so simple to get perfect exposures every time .... but life happens now faster than it did back then .... we can now get 10 shots with the wrong exposure in the same time we used to get one shot with the right exposure.

these are from a discussion i got in at the leica forum .... it's an experiment i did in the basement, with black felt on white posterboard, using my camera meter on 3 settings and the old way on the last shot ..... only in the last shot is white correctly white and black correctly black..... the cameras spot meter makes black = gray ..... the other 2 in-camera schemes "correctly average the whole scene to 18% gray" .... but that is the wrong answer for many many photographs.


jpg jpg

in the heated debate over health care reform, i stumbled upon a comment made by a person who wants to reform the US health care system, to a person who objects to doing that .... the comment was ...."I'm a better Christian than you are, and I'm an atheist! "

that's pretty much how i feel about most conflicts i have with allegedly "religious" people .... by their reckoning i am a "damn heathen" but i care more about humanity than they do .... go figure?

png as usual, the CSM nicely captures the key "flash points" of finalizing health care reform.....
here is their take on the subject.


lost track of how many hours i've spent raking leaves .... the glamour of Autumn has very seriously soured .... but i am mostly done almost, kinda, sort of.

went on the leica website and watched the leica-weenies punch themselves to death over the various new panasonics and olympus cameras that just came out.

went to the craft store and got some construction paper, glue, sticks and string and invented a new torture for my junior engineer's class at the local middle school. .... design a bridge TO-SCALE


we bribed this (after-hours) class and told them if they finish all the stuff they get to keep their calculators .... a shallow trick, but i think it's working.

(my own personal torture was going to the craft store which is populated by generally older women who think shopping for shytt should be a social event wherein they meet old friends and also take the opportunity to make new friends who are generally grandchildren of their old friends ..... i, on the other hand, desire to get the ^%$#%^ home with my new-bought shytt as soon as possibly %$^#$% can, so lady please shut the %^$#%$^ up and keep the line moving, thank you enormously.)

from the news ....

It says much about the transformation of the Republican Party that even Newt Gingrich is now carrying the cross.

When Gingrich came to power 15 years ago, his Contract With America was a document of fiscal conservatism that mentioned God only in passing. When he led the impeachment of Bill Clinton a decade ago over the Monica Lewinsky affair, Gingrich was involved in his own longtime extramarital relationship with a former aide, who is now his third wife.

"Newt," Christopher DeMuth put it gently as he introduced the former House speaker Monday to a forum at the American Enterprise Institute, is "a politician who in his private life is a seriously religious man but who does not make religious belief an upfront part of his political platform."

His first two wives might have quibbled with the description of Gingrich as a seriously religious man in private. But after Monday's performance, nobody will ever again say that he "does not make religious belief an upfront part of his political platform." His talk was titled "The Victory of the Cross: How Spiritual Renewal Helped Topple the Berlin Wall."

The former speaker, his eye on a 2012 presidential run, said that as he thought more about the felling of the Wall 20 years ago Monday, he began "to understand a message of faith, a message of salvation, the centrality of the cross in this whole fight."

i will comment on this toxic drool when i stop vomitting..... be patient, it will be a while...

upgrades .... i upgraded the operating systems on the laptop and netbook to Ubuntu 9.10, with not a single glitch or bump in the road .... also upgraded every software package on both computers .... all free, forever......
why people pay for personal-use software beats the hell out of me.

feeding time

jpg as february is my birthday (i'll be 29 or 39, i forgot) i have a table full of letters from soc sec, GE health insurance, soc sec disability, GE savings program, GE retirement fund, GE elfun insurance, and medicare, not to mention a flood of mail from companies wanting to sell me supplemental medicare and/or long term disability insurance.

i feel like everyone wants me to come to the party, but .... why....? ..... my dancing skills ? ..... my charm ? .... my good looks? .... my impending death?

a funny movie .... "Romie and Michelle's HS Reunion" .... i have seen this a few times ... Lisa Kudrow and Mira Sorvino (who i love to watch dearly) in a dumb-blonde-revenge movie that is too funny .... the irony is that Ms Kudrow is reputedly a very intelligent and gifted actress cast into a hollywood stereotype and Mira i can attest to is a wonderful actress (watch The Great Gatsby !!!)
(.... and i am deliberately glossing over the fact that they are wicked good looking.)

By the way .... The Great Gatsby (by F. Scott Fitzgerald) is the finest piece of writing i have read in my life ... some other things come close (and of course, i have not read everything ever written ! ) but TGG is the best thing i ever read. .... this has nothing whatever to do with Romie & Michelle's movie except that Mira is in both

jpg Veteran's Day

"how come everybody has off today ....
except us veterans?"


Leica drops the ball (again)

in its relentless quest to drive itself out of business (despite an insanely loyal customer base) , Leica has produced a very expensive ($US2000) single-attached-lens, non-zoom, no-frills camera (the X1) that is almost as good as everyone else's $US500 point and shoot cameras.

on the other hand, the panasonic LX-3 is radical (24mm-60mm / f2.0-f2.8) .... has superb image quality ..... and you can buy 4 or 5 of them for the price of the leica and they are in great demand

(which explains why mine was so hard to find).

$10002009 = $711945

the bureau of labor statistics shows that the overall consumer price index (CPI), since the year i was born, has risen an average of 4.22% / year.

that means that $1000 in 2009 buys the same amount of stuff that $71 bought in $1945.

jpgover the same time period, the stock market (DJIA) went up an average of 6.8%, which, discounting inflation, nets out to 2.6% (net real growth). .... that means that your average $71 investment in 1945 would now be worth $367 in 1945 dollars, or $4784 in 2009 dollars. (but of course that $71 in 1945 was as hard to come by as $1000 is today, PLUS you lost out on whatever lifestyle goody you could have purchased with that money!)

conclusion: i love generating accurate (but utterly useless) numbers while i have my morning coffee, waiting for the sun to warm up.

(i just can't wait to see what i think up tomorrow morning !!)

jpg Jason and the Argonauts (1963)

Ray Harryhausen at his very best .... stop motion, rear projection ..... decades before anyone ever heard of computerized movies..... i am watching it now .... everyone's favorite seen has to be "the fight with the skeletons" (actually "The Children of the Hydra's Teeth") .... but there are lots of other great shots in there.

acting? .... acting? .... o well..... we must make some compromises i suppose....

yikes.... i am reminded now that one of my 2009 resolutions was to shoot a short movie or animation of some sort..... now what? .... i need a plot ..... yikes..... only 8 weeks left.....

postscript ..... the "plot" came to me while sleeping last night .... now i must get to work.

Boundary Layer Theory

way back in the olden days in college i loved fluid mechanics, and especially the navier-stokes equations and boundary layer theory .... they are not subjects that warm everyones heart, but they warmed mine (so to speak).

in the real world, i never actually worked in these areas, although heat transfer (which i did work in and do teach) relies on boundary layer theory underlying all the heat transfer equations ..... the point being that the small layer of gas or liquid that flows over a solid surface has a major effect on the heat transfer, by way of the convection coefficient, H ("H is everything" as we say), and H depends on the boundary layer.

for decades a question has been in the back of my mind regarding these issues and today right in the middle of class, i let myself get on the train to wherever this answer was .... and my students (not having the slightest clue where we were heading) got on with me (as passengers) and watched me navigate a mess of equations on the board, not actually sure of what it was i was looking for in the back of my mind all these years.

happily, i found it .... grabbing the equations for boundary layer thickness, H, and overall thermal resistance, i found what i was looking for, and then proceeded to tell my students what it was, and showed them how to calculate it step-by-step and told them that their final take-home exam would be to run some numbers through this set of equations.

they have no idea how much they learned today .... but someday (in my dreams) they will.

Lois & Lou and their Wonderful Cookies

jpg In the mail today we got our holiday season mailing from Bellows House Bakery which is known to us insiders as "Lois and Lou's Bakery". L&L being two wonderful people we knew a million years ago at GE and who "dropped out" of the GE-world, moved up to the NewHampshire-Vermont border and opened a Bed & Breakfast and a Cookie Bakery. We all wished them well and tried to hide our envy of people with such moxie.

We order a few cookie packages every year to send out as gifts, and today I logged into their web page and noticed that Business week interviewed Lois back in 2006, and if you would like to read some hard-boiled facts about starting a cookie business here's what you want to read.

Lois is an incredibly smart person who is charming and Lou is an incredibly charming person who is smart. Lois never sleeps more than 4 hours a night, and she does nothing but work the remaining 20. I worked with her (unfortunately during a very dark time in my life) and she is a remarkable person. (I have always admired her enormously.)

And she bakes cookies ( Lois ! ? ) to kill for.

Leica's $2000 Snapshooter Getting Snapped Up ?

This is an update on my previous comments (see above) about the new Leica X1.....

The new Leica X1 is a $2000 point and shoot snapshooter that is scheduled for release Jan 2010, and has been beaten up mercilessly (sp?) for its few (but important) shortfalls, by the Leica-weenies on their web forum. Most of them will not drop $2000 this version of the camera for one flaw or another. But ....

Word is getting around (Wall St Journal, Popular Photo, DP Review) that the camera is winning the hearts of (YIKES !) amature photogs who want to ditch their overly complicated Canons and Nikons and upgrade to the elegant simplicity of the X1, even if it costs them $2000 and the L-weenies snub it.


jpg when D comes home from work tonight and finds me convulsing on the floor, i am certain it will have something to do with what's in that pot.

The Wrestler (the movie) .... mickey rourke & marisa tomei (hollywood outcasts) .... this sure ain't a new version of "Rocky" .... dark (should have been filmed in B&W) .... they both deserved "oscar" nominations for their work .... definitely worth your time, but don't wait for the happy ending.

St. Francis and me

jpg despite my protestations (that's not a word you here a lot, is it ?), St. Francis's statue found it's way into my back yard a few years back, and i have made a number of cynical remarks on that topic over the years, so, when his head got dislocated from his body, foul play was suspected, and i was the prime suspect.

under torture i confessed to possibly having knocked his head off with a rake, and i could tell by Debbie's eyes i was going to hell .... even before i would die (which was going to be soon and painful).

so .... today i worked hard to save my soul, using a bag of concrete patching stuff, and damn (oooo .... sorry) if it doesn't look like it's going to work !!..... but my conscience was really bothering me and i wasn't too sure if the gods would be pleased with my attempt at redemption, so i went over to my work bench while the cement was drying and was about to ask Frank .... (that'd be St. Francis, to you) ..... if we were squared away with the violence - repentence - salvation process, when this kind of soft glow, or warm luminence or hovering soft cloud of grace filled the room ..... happily i had the leica with me and captured the moment, and i knew from that heavenly glow........ Frank's back and i'm fu%^ed

where did you hear that?

png or "where did you read that?" .... or "where did you get that idea?"

could drive me crazy, people asking things like that ..... it's like asking me "what did you eat for breakfast last tuesday?" ..... or "if you can't tell me where you heard that, i won't believe it" ..... or "i can't believe anything you thought of yourself, but if some guy on TV said it, okay, maybe i can believe it... so who thought of that and told you?"

Students will never change ....

there was a take-home test due today, and one student did not show up with his answers, and when i got home i found this in my e-mail ....

png Prof. Leo, my computer seems to have a virus or other serious problem. the web browzer that I was using kept crashing while I was attempting to send you my homework. stupidly i tried tor restart my computer to repair the problem and now i cannot get the computer to boot windows. my supplied recovery disk will only allow me to restore the computer to its original form (wiping the hard drive in the process) ............ I will get this remedied ASAP.

thank you.

P.S. i am using my phone to send you this message.

my response ? .... shytt kid, you should have used your phone to do your homework !!!


poem #1

me not like this stuff that's "art".
me is grumpy olden fart.
stands before me piece of trash
people bid with gold and cash.
"this is priceless" auction said
just because this artist dead.

poem #2

i am thinking ...
what if i was dead and gone
would my work be trash or treasure?
would it rot in some old barn
or spread about enormous pleasure?
what i said and what i did,
things i shared and things i hid,
when you add it up and all
will i fly or will i fall?

where do we Italian-Americans live ? .....

actually it kind of surprises me .... i thought there were many more of us.

red = 16% of the local population
dark blue = 4%
light blue = 1.5%

jpg jpg

my shop camera picked this up about midnight ....
these two are planning something, i tell ya'.


boiling water

lots of people don't understand (or don't want to believe) that the temperature of liquid water in a pot on your stove cannot exceed 1000C (2120F) .... which is why it takes so long to cook food by boiling than it does to cook food by frying (4000F) or roasting or baking (3500F).

i have a manila folder filled with equations, charts and stuff to show this ...... but i think ..... people just like believing what they want to believe .... this is not a big issue, it flashed into my head as i loaded a pot of vegy's onto the stove upstairs to boil and then realized i had at least 30 minutes to come back down here and instruct the world on this little tidbit of thermodynamics...... oooo ... do i hear a pot boiling over ?

Empire Falls (the DVD)

i loved the book and went into the DVD (of the TV mini-whatever) with a seriously cynical attitude, and came away humbled and pleased with how they treated it (the author, Richard Russo wrote the screenplay)..... the main character drives me nuts .... he is a great guy but definitely not the kick-ass, shoot-em-dead-now-and-ask-questions-later type hero .... so much like Archie of Monarch of the Glen (which i have every copy of) .... such a lovable, heroic, whimp !

no .... heroic is not applicable here .... he's just a nice guy with limited capacity and an unlimited sense of doing the right thing.

ummmm .... maybe .... heroic is a good word here, just not according to hollywood.

you can't go home again

this is one of the recurring themes in my life, and i thought about it again watching something on TV just now ...

i was talking to mom years ago about how i was sad that i lived far away all my adult life, and went on and on about career opportunities for aerospace engineers and this and that.

and she reminded me that their (her's and dad's) hopes would be that i would have a better economic life than they did, and when i winced at that idea she reminded me that Grandpa Fazio got on a boat at 13 years old and never went home again.

.... yeh, but i'll wager that he was sorry about that now and then, too .... truth is you can never go home again.

Nov.25.2009 ..... Happy Birthday Loretta !

jpg I am sure that L is out in the kitchen working and cooking hard for tomorrow ....
and I don't think her computer is working so she probably won't even
see this until she gets a new one ....
but it's her day today anyway, and I remember the real day
(30 years ago) like it was yesterday.

Kseniya Simonova - Sand Animation

jpgi don't commonly link to external videos, but this one is extra-ordinary
..... she is a Ukranian artist who is drawing in sand in real time, the history of her homeland during WWII
.... it takes a few moments to realize that she is constantly erasing and drawing .... much like a storyboard
.... and every scene is gone forever after she draws over it..... too beautiful.

A Thanksgiving Poster

(Larry, Moe and Curly)


Happy Anniversary, Bob and Ramona !!!

jpg Ramona: I'll have poached eggs on hash. And, Bob, what are you doing with your hands ?
Bob: I saw them do this on the "College Kids Gone Wild" video.
Ramona: Hmmmm..... I'll have to reset the TV parental controls again.
Bob: Go Yankees 2009 champs !!
Ramona: Hey Bob, you're on the internet in front of 7 Billion people and your shirt's on backwards ... nice work Yankee !
Bob: Hey, it was alright when I got dressed this morning ?
Ramona: Well, Dave probably turned the image around to make you look silly.
Bob: Why would he do that ?
Ramona: He's a Red Sox fan !!!!
Bob: Hey, man .... fix my shirt !!

(Dave : heh .... heh .... heh ...)

a dose of nostalgia from dad's old movies ...



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