Around, oh, maybe 1550 today I took one of my mini-breaks from slaving over the workbench, and figured it was about time to close the bedroom window, what with the warm part of the day being at an end.
Huckleberry was on the headboard, looking out the window in a worried manner.
There was smoke out there. Rather a lot of it.
Someone got over-enthusiastic with one the the barbecue pits in Orchard Gardens Park?
Um. The next-door neighbor's back fence is in fact on fire. Sounds like he's aware of it. Surely the fire department has been called... but I don't hear sirens yet.
Looks like someone's passed the neighbor's hose out to a passerby in the park, who's attempting to douse the fiery side of the fence.
So I amble out to my back yard, grab the hose, and make my little contribution. After a couple of minutes (and with sirens audible in the distance now), I bring my ladder over so I can see what I'm doing, and resume hosing down things that seem to need it. A crowd of spectators has gathered in the park.
Then the official Sunnyvale firemen arrive; appearance of a Gen-U-Wine Fire Hose (with a qualified operator, yet) is my cue to get out of the way.
With aggressive application of water (plus various demolition tools), the conflagration is soon extinguished, and I wander back indoors.
Then, as seen through the bedroom window, the firemen are sending a stream of water arcing over the fence toward "a small fire" (as one of them remarked) in the park proper, just about at extreme fire-hose range from the neighbor's yard.
Out to the park to play looky-loo....
First observation: the BBQ pits by the fence aren't there anymore, courtesy of the two-doors-down neighbor whose fence was ignited a couple of years ago by stray coals.
Said neighbor is there, and reports that the distant fires (2 ea.) had spring up in a barbecue pit and in a garbage can, after the fence fire was well underway.
So, firebug. Perhaps randomly-irresponsible kids and/or druggies. A cop was arriving on the scene just as I wandered off, but, not having any information to contribute that he couldn't get closer to first-hand, I didn't stick around.
This was the season's first really nippy morning, worthy of breaking out the long pants and ushanka, and it was the first morning for something else, too:
The frosty windshield! De-icing it with warm water worked temporarily, but it re-froze as I was driving off, and I had to pull over and wait for the defroster to do its job.
Last winter, when frosty-windshield season started, I went looking for winter windshield washer fluid, which I was quite certain I'd seen in stores before. 'Twas not to be found.
This morning, I had a suspicion about that, and, after the morning drive, a quick Internet search confirms it: windshield de-icing fluid is generally banned from sale in California, by order of the CARB. Because Volatile Organic Compounds.
I'm sure our esteemed and benevolent masters could suggest alternatives, such as:
Always park your car in a garage, where it won't get frosty.
Upgrade to a fine European car with a powerful defroster.
Have your valet start the car early and run the defroster for a while.
Don't drive early in the morning; start your work day after 10 AM.
These work for all of us, right?
Mutter mutter isopropyl mutter... hey, the Sierra Club seems to think using isopropyl alcohol in the windshield washer is a good idea, so it must be legit, right?
The work day having come to an end (not that the task at hand is actually completed, but I kind of ran out of focus, and it was well past Tinga's usual bedtime), I headed over to my parents' house to investigate a TV issue: the little old usually-dependable analog/CRT set had stopped working usefully, leaving only the big fancy modern set that's forever getting into some wrong mode.
My mother is non-technical, and, while my father is of the technical persuasion, he steadfastly refuses to learn how to operate a TV set, preferring the classic user interface of a book. Ergo, I'm the family TV-figure-outerer.
I carried along a Raspberry Pi (source of composite video) and a portable DVD player (source and sink of composite video)... just in case it was actually the cable box that had gone wonky, 'twould be nice to be able to isolate the problem.
So, turn the TV on, and get what looks like it's trying to be a video signal, possibly the home screen of the cable box, but fuzzy, snowy, and with terrible horizontal hold. This Does Not Look Good.
Hmmm. This thing's so downmarket it doesn't have a composite-video input. What to do, what to do... what the heck, push the MENU button.
The TV's internal menu comes up fine. Ergo, everything associated with the CRT is fine, and the issue is somewhere in the input path.
Poke, poke. Hey, what happens if I play with the channel buttons?
It was on Channel 2. The cable box puts out Channel 3.
Apparently the Obamacare website has odd, and poorly explained, constraints on both.
One company with which I've done business has very narrow constraints on allowable passwords (small character set, small range of acceptable lengths).
I mean, seriously: if you've taken the slightest precautions - sanitizing inputs against Bobby Tables, for example, and storing passwords as hashes - what constraints are really appropriate here?
Technically speaking, both fields need to contain only characters which will be consistently transmitted by a variety of Web browsers, and consistently handled by any server. So, no control characters nor rubouts. The username should presumably be made up entirely of graphic characters, anyway, and of somewhat limited length.
Apart from those considerations, why not just allow any dang UTF-8 string that passes basic sanity checking and is not unreasonably short (password) nor unreasonably long (username, just in case you get some wisacre wanting a name that's 972 letters in Sanskrit)?
If I want my username to be "G'rig𓀙/42Ѿd^𐇑 Mc🍩", and my password to be "President Chauncey Gardiner is a stuttering cluster@@@~X|~~ NO CARRIER", what business is that of anyone else?
... a proper camera this morning, for one of those situations where a cellphone Just Doesn't Get The Job Done.
As I was finishing up my 5-mile morning walkies, I noted a tightly-clustered flock* of turkeys at the end of the big field nearest the parking lot (but nearer the side opposite the footpath). All a-gobblin' and a-yippin' and a-howlin'...
Wait. Those aren't normal turkey noises. What's going on here?
Well, a little ways from one end of the flock, there was a coyote, having a bit of a showdown with them.
As I watched (and ambled closer, hoping to get within cellphone-camera range), the coyote retreated a little at a time, limping badly. I don't know if he'd been injured by the turkeys while trying to catch one, or if he'd been injured earlier and was just there in the field trying to sneak up on ground squirrels when the roving gang of poultry attacked, or what.
He gave the audience (i.e., me) a classic Wile E. Coyote defeated look as he hobbled off.
* The reader may be forgiven for misreading this as "total cluster-flock" or similar.
Strictly from an economic standpoint, a hospital is a frightfully expensive place to keep patients. Surely home care, for those who don't need to be in hospital, ought to be less expensive, no?
And then: it's been rather forcefully brought to my attention (at second hand, thankfully) that a hospital is a very unhealthy place to be. Apart from endemic MRSA, the place is full of sick people, many of whom have communicable infections. If, for example, your immune system is weakened for some reason, and you don't have a compelling need to have a room full of specialized equipment and a doctor available on a minute's notice, you're better off almost anywhere but a hospital. (Note: almost. An airliner is possibly worse.)
So, intuitively it seems that home care should be both less expensive and better for the patient's health than a hospital stay, in a lot of cases.
But when decision-making is centralized, and driven by lobbyists, what can you expect?
So it seems the Obamacare website (the easy part, remember) still isn't up to the "works 80% of the time" standard.
Let's review reliability numbers, shall we?
99.999%, five nines: about the minimum you can get away with selling to a serious business that depends on your product or service (but where no lives are at stake).
99.9%, three nines: OK for many non-critical uses. Don't try to sell it for serious uses unless you have an effective monopoly.
99%, two nines: possibly acceptable for cheap consumer goods.
90%, one nine: broken.
80%, zero nines: not even broken.
Then, at the high end, we have the wonderful world of aerospace and medical equipment, where... well, how many failures are acceptable over the 30-year working life of an airliner or a deep-space probe, or during open-heart surgery? The teams that work on that stuff need to live reliability.
Of course, all these numbers really apply to hardware, even if there's also software involved. For software, if it ever fails, it's broken; we just put up with a certain amount of brokenness in the software that we use day to day (e.g., any known word processor or web browser). The question becomes, is it so broken that it's positively unusable, or is it merely inconvenient and infuriating on rare occasions?
Update: The Administration is positively boasting of one-nine availability.