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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in apthorpe's LiveJournal:

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Friday, July 20th, 2012
5:23 am
Review: The Conundrum by David Owen

For as long as there have been humans, there has been the Law of Unintended Consequences, the sad and unavoidable fact that for every problem humans solve, new unforeseen problems crop up. The taming of fire gave early humans light and heat but singed more than a few Neanderthal eyebrows. Humanity’s use of energy changed over the millennia and as wind, water, fire, and the atomic nucleus were mastered. Human life became easier, even comfortable, but at the cost of ever increasing energy use. It is energy use that is at the center of David Owen’s book “The Conundrum”, in which he shows how in our modern attempt to reduce the cost and waste of energy, we may be doing more harm than good.

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Wednesday, May 19th, 2010
10:20 pm
Trackless - Draw Muhammad Day 2010

Thursday, My 20th 2010 is “Draw Muhammad Day”, a protest in support of free speech, liberty, and the Enlightenment values we should and do enjoy in a liberal industrialized Western democracy.

My entry is “Trackless”

“Trackless”, for “Draw Muhammad Day” 5/20/2010

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Wednesday, April 21st, 2010
10:41 pm
Father Jerry

So I was raised Catholic. I went to Catholic school from first through fifth grade at St. Colette’s in Rolling Meadows, IL. I was confirmed in Newtown, PA. And that’s the end of my Catholicism. I wasn’t raped, I didn’t develop any sexual or guilt hangups, or fetishes involving school uniforms. About the worst I can recall is being forced to wear a scratchy yellow polo shirt with brown slacks as a school uniform. I looked like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup or something in a truckstop restroom. Regardless, I can’t wear those colors together. My memory of Catholicism is the utter boredom during Mass and bad fashion sense.

The thing is, most of my mom’s family is Polish Catholic, good people. About the worst I can say about them is that my aunts & uncles never seemed to push their kids toward greatness, and not that my mom was any better about it. Of all my cousins and siblings, my brother, sister and I are the only ones without kids in the whole batch (my sister’s excuse is that she’s not married. Yet.)

Now most of my mom’s family lives within walking distance of each other; it’s a 10 minute drive to my Uncle Bill & Aunt Brenda’s place. My mom was the only one to get out of that dying town in western New York. It’s been in a slow decline since WWII – there’s just not a lot to do there or to keep people there aside from family and habit.

There are two Catholic churches there – the italian church and the polish church. This is an old-school town with ethnic ghettos. My grandmother would sit on the back stoop of her house, smoke cigarettes, and talk in Polish with her friends. They’re all gone now. My cousin David lives in her old house and has done a great job refurbishing it.

Recently the diocese decided they don’t have enough money to support two churches and is in the process of ratcheting Transfiguration toward closure. The priest there, Fr. Jerry, is a really nice guy. He officiated my cousin Tom’s wedding. He did the service for my grandmother. He’s really pulled the community together to renovate the church and reinvigorate the laity in a small dying town. And while I don’t believe the dogma and I oppose most of the political and social positions of the Catholic Church, I really respect Fr. Jerry for strengthening his community and taking care of my family. Contrary to what you might expect from me, I’m not always hating on the clergy. Despite our theological differences, I respect him for his humanism and his positive influence. And despite our theological differences, I’m glad my extended family has a positive community to hold them together.

So when I read about the vast number of incidents of child rape by Catholic clergy and the decades-long conspiracy at the highest levels to cover it up to protect the offenders and the reputation and assets of the Church, I get furious. Not just because kids are getting raped. Not just because the Church hierarchy straight up to the sitting Pope has conspired to evade the law. Not just because the Church prefers to blame everyone else for their misdeeds and play the victim rather than making a clean breast of it and apologizing for the conspiracy. All that makes me furious, but the icing on my cake of fury is that the spin doctoring and diversion and the wheeling out of that bilous anal pustule of a man, Bill Donohue, makes Fr. Jerry’s job more difficult. The money the diocese burns on trying to blame Teh Gays, Teh Jewz, Lady GaGa, Victoria’s Secret, Big Media, and anyone but the corrupt assholes in the Vatican is money that they’ll siphon off my family and my family’s church.

“Sorry, we have to close your church. We have to pay out for some pederast in NYC that Ratzinger & Co. couldn’t pawn off on a different diocese.”

And the longer this debacle plays out, the longer that priests and pederasts are going to be considered synonymous in the public consciousness. There will always be this lingering doubt about Fr. Jerry, a hard-working priest in a small parish, whether he’s … you know … one of them. His job is difficult enough; does he really need his management making things worse? Because I’ll bet you a million dollars they get more out of him than he gets out of them.

This doesn’t mean I’m going soft on religion. Catholicism is stupid. It’s run by corrupt and criminal old bigots hellbent on promoting destructive, deadly, socially-regressive policies while using every tax and governmental loophole to make sure they have undue influence in secular affairs. If the Church failed tomorrow and Vatican City was turned into a museum or casino I wouldn’t shed a tear, the same way the Vatican doesn’t shed a tear for the victims of AIDS in Africa or for all the kids they raped all around the world. But I feel bad for what my family is probably going through, and that goes double for Fr. Jerry. He seems like a pretty good guy and I think he deserves better.

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Wednesday, April 7th, 2010
8:29 pm
To the Kids of Fulton, Mississippi

The following is a minor edit of a comment I left on Stephanie Zvan’s blog Almost Diamonds regarding the ongoing trainwreck of a small Mississippi community willing to cancel (or at least hide) their prom, lest two lesbian students attend.

Stephanie kicked it off with a wonderful open letter to the kids who attended the ‘secret’ out-lesbian-free prom. Herein, I add my bit as a forty-something whose politics and outlook have changed with time, experience, and trauma:

This is directed at the kids who snuck off to the ‘real’ prom; to the other seven kids: stay in school (though not necessarily the one you’re in), work hard, be good to yourselves and others, and never, ever, ever let the bastards win or give them an even break.

Dear Kids from Fulton,

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Thursday, February 25th, 2010
1:56 am
Answers to Yesterday's PowerShell Quiz

So yesterday I asked how to do this bit of zsh:

foreach dn (CONT* SETT*) {

  cd $dn && run_cmd.sh ;


in Windows PowerShell. The answer I came up with is:

$a = Get-ChildItemFilter “SETT*”

$a += Get-ChildItemFilter “CONT*”

$a | ForEach-Object {

  set-Location $_ ;

  & run_cmd.cmd ;

  set-Location .. ;



Things to note:

  • I can’t find any documentation on the argument to -Filter and none of my experiments let me specify multiple filters so I’m reduced to catenating multiple arays of file objects together, then looping over them.

  • cd is an alias to set-Location so I use the canonical cmdlet name. Is cmdlet even a word? What was wrong with ‘script’ – it couldn’t be trademarked?

  • Ideally I’d stuff the current work directory into a variable at the top of the PowerShell script and use ‘set-Location $basedir’ instead of ‘set-Location ..’

  • $a behaves like an array here and += is the equivalent of push(). If $a is a string, += behaves like catenate. That probably means variables are weakly-typed and operators are overloaded. It also means that creating an array of strings is not done with a scalar variable containing a string and the += operator. In fact, since you don’t know what $a is, you can’t know what += does. This is one reason why operator overloading is a goddamn nightmare, especially if your language doesn’t apparently have a Language Reference Manual.

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Wednesday, February 24th, 2010
12:13 am
Windows PowerShell, Radioactive Sludge, and Documentation Failure

Summary: While trying to automate the creation and execution of a bunch of nearly identical command-line tasks, I attempted to learn Windows PowerShell. The code didn’t fail me, the massive quantity of unreadable and disorganized documentation did.

It’s a long story so go get a beer before continuing.

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Sunday, February 14th, 2010
6:25 pm
A Burning Stupidity

Parked as I was last week at a table in one of Austin’s many fine non-corporate wifi-enabled all-hours coffee shops (note to Chicagoland – you suck at this; get your shit together), I could not but overhear a pair of UT’s best and brightest working on a business plan. I’m assuming the pair were business majors working on homework.

I’m an engineer and (so) my contempt for business majors runs broad and deep but I do value decent business planning and (gasp!) marketing as vital to a business’ success. So while I’m biased, I admit it and I do try to work past it.

Setting the scene, the pair was a guy and a girl. They started in on describing the business case for their proposal, looking at American spending trends and the increase in spending on personal care, specifically alt-med.

Uh oh.

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Friday, January 29th, 2010
11:07 pm
January 2010 One-Liners

I discovered a great cocktail at The Berghoff – the Angel, Second Class.

Between the Sheets and the venerable Harvey Wallbanger are very good, but my go-to drink right now is the Mai Tai, followed up closely by the Caipirinha and, of course, the Pimm’s Cup.

I’ve been surprised that I can talk about race and religion with people in Chicago, especially talking religion with people who don’t agree with me.

What is it about religion in Texas that makes believers such fucking assholes?

Failing to stir beans cooking on the stove results in a local dryout, the exact problem I’m trying to avoid when analyzing radioactive sludge at work.

I simply cannot explain what it is I find so compelling about Tyson Meade/the Chainsaw Kittens.

Shopping alone at IKEA is problematic because there’s nobody to watch the cart or help you load 200# of flat furniture boxes into the car, not to mention carting the crap upstairs.

Statistical mechanics makes a lot more sense now that I’m under absolutely no pressure to understand it; understanding information theory helped a lot, though ironically it appears that information theory was derived from statistical mechanics.

Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson both deserve to die in a vomit fire, whatever that is.

My life resembles that of my character in Fallout 3 except I own neither guns nor dog.

I know it’s irrational but I’m still gripped by the fear of Daleks, especially since they are no longer are thwarted by stairs.

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Sunday, November 29th, 2009
1:05 pm
One Ping Only

I’m not very good at this ‘blogging’ thing. Fact is, when I make it a priority I can actually write short posts on a regular basis unlike my normal “Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” treatises. Not to get all navel-gazey (too late) but I’ve been spooting out regular updates to Twitter instead; I think the 140-character limit helps a lot.

Anyway, Thanksgiving was good and I neither ate, drank, argued, or shopped too much. I napped a fair bit, but not so much that I missed anything. Yadda yadda – I’ll see if I can crank out the obtuse, bitter, angry, tech-laden screeds that you’ve come to expect every three months or so, just at a more reasonable frequency.

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Friday, September 18th, 2009
1:55 am
From the Bar: Oh, Gosh!

She’s left for Texas.

I feel like I should get some groceries, some peanut butter, to last a couple of days. While I’ve been avoiding the windows, I have not yet started tapping phone lines or burning notebooks. Regardless, I am living like a man on the run, some combination of the Kevin Mitnick “Player’s Club” lifestyle and the Pripyat, Ukraine squatter lifestyle. Boxes, folderol, electronics, books, computers, and a respectable liquor selection. There’s a futon. Luggage, clothes, passport. What you call toys, I call friends.

Work has me in a vice, documenting code, databases, methodology. I think I have a handle on it but it needs to get done two weeks ago and I haven’t been eating or waking so well lately. Surprise. I lie to myself and everyone else it’ll all be okay.

There is good news, though. I had a great time at the Oak Park Tweetup tonight – Becca totally rules for setting it up and doing everything right to bring together normal-yet-atypical-for-Oak-Park (read: well-adjusted youngish mostly kidless people who spend a lot of time online) people. It’s really hard to meet people in OP if you don’t work there or have kids – there’s no real nightlife or many places for adults to hang out.

Hint: if I go into a bar or coffee shop, please don’t shove a menu and roll of flatware in my face – I may be there to park, work, and pay “table rental” in drinks and tips. I’m an adult, I understand the economics of it. Get in my face and I’m gone – for good, Buzz Coffee, this means you. This might be a problem caused by City Hall (Eek! A TAVERN! KILL IT!!! KILL IT!!! THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!!1!!BBQ!!!)

I missed MTX’s Dr. Frank at the OPPL and that makes me sad, but in the grand scheme of things, meeting fun new people trumps most everything else. I’m an introvert but I work against it. This is where I differ from my wife, I believe, but the less said about that, the better.

I had to play sysadmin and DBA tonight which I totally did not want to do (I have day job work to pound on) butlly it was either fix it right, once, now, or deal with it as an ongoing pain in the ass for days, months, weeks until I made the time to do it right, once. This reminds me again why I don’t want to return to the world of IT. I’m not happy about the day job work, but at least it doesn’t blindside me like a bed-shitting server. I don’t currently carry a pager and I appreciate that.

And to change topics, tonight’s drink is the “Oh, Gosh!”, a stupid name if ever there was one.

1.5oz light rum

1.5oz triple sec

1 oz lime juice

Shake with ice and pour into chilled cocktail glass, garnish with lemon peel.

No lemon peel tonight. It’s what you’d expect, a bit sugary but tasty. Very drinkable. I had one and now I’m done for the night, far more from the lateness than the alcohol. I only wanted one, I got one, and that’s that.

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Friday, September 11th, 2009
11:15 pm
From the Bar: Mojitos!

This week has been pretty hellish, all things considered. I packed up most of my books. Movers took a bunch of my stuff and all of my wife’s gear, leaving a semi-barren shell of a place. I’ve been busting my ass to finish the cable analysis for my Swedish clients, leading to a stressed boss and a lot of data entry and very tedious review (and thankfully, no coding.) Upside on that: I solved a circuit analysis problem and eliminated a few cables from the big list of important ones. The TMJ is still plaguing me and between trading the Sealy for the futon, I’m not sure what part of me doesn’t hurt.

But things are looking up: the final master lists of all important cables have left my desk (three days late, but still – the lists are really final.) I write a security deposit check and sign a lease on the new garret apartment in lively, schwank Forest Park IL tomorrow. I got my Apple I replica kit from Briel Computers – I am so looking forward to moving and setting up a dedicated workbench so I can put it together. Mainly, I’m looking forward to the end of the major stresses right now.

Tonight’s drink is a modern classic: the mojito. It’s a little labor-intensive but fresh ingredients make all the difference.

4 sprigs of mint

2 tsp. sugar

1 lime, halved

2 oz light rum

club soda

Muddle the mint and sugar in a beer mug. I used a highball glass because I have no beer mugs – I drink beer from imperial pints or from the bottle. Muddling requires a muddler, essentially a bartender’s pestle – grind the sugar and mint until it’s roughly pasty or mashed. Juice the lime into the glass and drop one half of the rind into the glass – this adds essential oils from the rind, the same way a bit of lemon peel is used. Add the rum and stir, then fill with ice and top with club soda. Make sure to stir before the ice goes in so the muddled mint doesn’t get into the ice – this is purely an aesthetic and ‘mouthfeel’ issue. You want the mint under the ice so your guest is only drinking the fluid and isn’t picking crushed mint out of their teeth. Garnish with a sprig of mint.

Observations: Fresh ingredients make all the difference. If you’re making a bunch of these, get a lot of limes and mint. Superfine bartender’s sugar may have a foaming agent in it which damages the aesthetics of the drink – my second try I used plain Domino granulated sugar and it worked out great, leaving no disturbing foamy head on the drink. Plan ahead and get a muddler – it looks like a tiny baseball bat or blunted hot dog. I understand Don Draper uses a muddler on a recent episode of Mad Men. The time spent muddling the mint is best used to talk to people; it’s a mindless activity and your guests are impressed that you aren’t just dumping mojito mix out of a jug (aside on premixed mixers – don’t. Don’t argue. Just don’t.)

Finally, the mint garnish adds a nice bouquet to the drink – don’t underestimate the value of aroma and presentation to the finished drink. A simple sprig of mint separates a $4 mojito from a $8 mojito; your guests are worth it.

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Wednesday, September 9th, 2009
11:02 pm
From the Bar: Cuban Special

It’s been a while.

I went to Sweden. I met up with Skepchicks in Chicago. I packed up some of my crap for shipment back to the Texas homestead. I started Level 3 at The Annoyance. And I picked up a new hobby: mixology.

Tonight’s fare is from the Mr. Boston guide – the Cuban Special!

1 oz. rum

1/2 oz. triplesec

1/2 oz. lime juice

1 tbsp. pineapple juice

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail (“martini”) glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry & pineapple slice.

Verdict: Good mix of sweet & sour, and lower in alcohol so you stay upright longer. I didn’t have any fresh pineapple and I left off the cherry, though I think the cherry would balance the tart out a little better and make for a nice finish, plus add visual contrast. Overall, I’d make an effort to serve this to guests. Tasty, not too sweet, not too overbearing. Fruity, but not a Girl Drink Drunk kind of drink.

Note that the general rule is to stir clear liquors and mixers (Mr. Bond, this means your martini) and to shake anything opaque like citrus juices (lemon, orange, fresh lime), pineapple juice, or cream. The pineapple juice is a dead giveaway this is a shaken drink. There are exceptions of course. Please Mr. Bond – put the Walther away. I’ll shake your precious martini, you big crybaby.

Also notice that the portion is relatively small and there’s no ice in the drink. A chilled cocktail glass and a small portion keeps it cold enough to finish before it gets warm. Maybe that’s to encourage pauses in the conversation to listen and drink. Improv is far more than just being funny and bartending is far more than just mixing drinks. Being able to mix is just the beginning; being a genial and attentive host, putting people at ease, and helping them enjoy themselves and their company – that’s the real trick.

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Sunday, July 19th, 2009
4:38 am
The Baby And The Snowblower

Unscientific America from Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum has been getting a bit of buzz and has opened a few discussions about religious accommodationists in the pro-science and pro-secular communities. Here’s my take, with one bad metaphor and minimal vulgarity.

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Monday, June 1st, 2009
12:27 am

I was passed the following note tonight:

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Sunday, May 24th, 2009
11:16 pm
Twitter, Me, and You

The Big Gin and Tonic told me to rewrite this blog post since the fucking browser ate it, even with autosave on. Aside: Don’t write anything you care about in a web browser; it will just break your heart.

Anyway, I’m going to school you on my rules of Twitter. Not rules that apply to you – rules that apply to me. The former would be presumptuous, ineffective, and would make me look like that bossy rules-oriented control freak you knew in middle school who is now making people’s lives miserable as a marketing director or homeowner’s association president. Sorry you lost that student council election in ’82, Teri.

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Thursday, May 21st, 2009
12:12 am
Wherein the Author is a Douchebag

So poking around further, it turns out that the winsome lass from the day before trumps my sorry ass. And anyone who, in pursuit of an MS in EE at MIT, inadvertently irritates campus police with art is WIN in my book. The depths of douchbaggery to which I submerged was not fully known at the time of the dive so I’m dragging my dysbaric self over to the recompression chamber to set a spell and think about what I’ve done. I’ll cool my heels in here until my order from Adafruit Industries arrives.

Now to get a logic analyzer; lord knows I need one…

Aside: What the hell is wrong with the Boston constabulary regarding modern electronics? Are they afraid a few blinkenlights will unsettle the Brahmins’ carriage horses? It’s not like it’s something deadly… Sheesh.

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Sunday, May 17th, 2009
10:03 pm
Sexism, Neckbeards, and Progress

I have to hand it to Nigel Warburton and his Philosophy Bites interview with Miranda Fricker on (of all things) epistemological injustice. It’s one of those episodes that back in my philistine undergrad days would have made me furrow my brow and make a face like I had smelled something in a barnyard. I find now that I can listen for a whole 5-10 minutes without making a judgment and happily, I often find great value in ideas that initially filled me with suspicion.

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Friday, May 15th, 2009
1:25 am
Jenny & her Goat Blowing

Another video instead of a real post:

Crap, I’m lazy. At least I’m not a disease-promoting bimbette.

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Wednesday, May 6th, 2009
11:19 pm
Listen and Learn

I am a great fan of Philosophy Bites and you should be too.

As the large ruby vowel in the northeast corner of this web page indicates, my ideas on ethics, truth, consciousness, the self, justice, and the nature of life, the universe, and everything are not supplied by tax-exempt fans of desert nomads, pedophiles, polygamists, and incompetent science fiction authors. I got my first taste of philosophy in college and unlike my father’s experience at the hands of Jesuits, I actually enjoyed it. I didn’t take any beyond the intro class, but that gave me enough background via a survey to see a bit of the breadth of the field.

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Monday, April 13th, 2009
10:06 am
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